Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Summer Yoga and Meditation Summary

Big thanks to all of you who attended my classes this summer at Yoga Within!

Here are a few links to past posts I mentioned in case you'd like to delve a little deeper.

In June: We practiced a Tibetan meditation of Taking and Giving known as Tong-Len which includes asanas and breathing to offer the six perfections or Paramitas for the benefit of others. (Ahem.. and ourselves!)

In July: We practiced a "loving-kindness" meditation and worked with the mantra Soham, I Am That.

And last Sunday: We practiced Sun Salutations, or Surya Namaskar.  I chanted the mantras as well as their translations and the affirmation poem my Mom and I composed a few years ago.  You can find it all here: Surya Namaskar - Salutation to the Sun.

I also introduced you to japa, or repetitive chanting of mantras using a mala, or string of 108 beads.  Curious about that sacred number?  Check out Kali's Kitchen's Post Number 108!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Twelve Minutes a Day Keeps the Stress at Bay

According to new studies, just twelve minutes is the answer to the question:

How much meditation do we need daily to combat stress? 

Isn't that awesome?!?

Yoga and Meditation, August 16, 2015

Origami Buddha: oneloveorigami
Yoga and Meditation at Yoga Within

Sunday August 16 from 10 am - 11:30 am

Move easily into stillness with postures that relieve stress and tension.

Rejuvenate and calm your mind with simple, powerful breathing.

Experience the synergy and support of meditating in a group.

Explore and fortify your own personal practice.

Start the week with keen insight and a fresh perspective.

All are welcome!

Ratha Yatra 2015!

Image Source: ISKON Edmonton Facebook Page

Monday, 20 July 2015

Raja Yoga Summer Camp: Annual Ganesha Festival

Image Source and More Photos from 2014
Join me on Wednesday, July 22 and Wednesday, July 29 anytime between 6 pm and 9 pm at Edmonton's beautiful Mahaganapathy Temple for the annual 10 day festival dedicated to the great Remover of Obstacles, Ganesha (aka Ganapati)!

Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of an authentic South Indian style temple complete with Pujas and Prasad!

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Raja Yoga Summer Camp: Japanese Taiko Drumming

Booming Tree: Japanese Taiko Drumming
Namaste Raja Yogis and Yoginis!

Tomorrow is Canada's Birth-Day, so I assume you all have loads of activities and celebrations already in the works.

Let's get together next week for a special event at the University of Alberta's Japanese Garden.

July 9 - Taiko Drumming Date Night

6 pm till dusk.

Take a mini taiko drumming workshop led by Booming Tree Taiko.

Sign up for the workshop in advance, or just come to watch. 

Purchase your admission ticket 
online here or call 780-987-3054 ext. 2227

Feel free to come early and wander the gardens, have a treat at the Patio Cafe, enjoy the butterfly house or some quiet outdoor meditation.

How to get there.

Coincidentally, Booming Tree is also performing at Strathcona County's Canada Day Festivities near the new REMAX Spray Park.  Looks like they will be there at noon and from 6:30 - 10 pm.

Hope to see you at one of these events (or maybe both!).

Happy Canada Day!

Om Bolo Canada Ki - Jai!!! 

Friday, 26 June 2015

The Benefits of Group Meditation

Windsor Castle

"Group meditation is a castle that protects the new spiritual aspirants as well as the veteran meditators.  
Meditating together increases the degree of Self-Realization of each member of the group by the law of invisible vibratory exchange of group magnetism."  

- Paramahansa Yogananda

Click here for more quotes from Yogananda on the Benefits of Group Meditation.

Yoga and Meditation at Yoga Within

Saleem stopping to smell the roses and mint.
Looking for ways to refresh your body and mind this summer?

Please join me for Yoga and Meditation Sunday, June 28 from 10-11:30 am.

Also Sunday July 19, and August 16, 2015.

$20 per class or all three for $50

Register at: Yoga Within

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

All The World's a Stage...

Coriolanus, by Soma Orlai Petrich,1869
Free for some outdoor live theatre this evening?

Join Raja Yoga Summer Camp tonight at 8 pm in Hawrelak Park for a "Pay-What-You-Will" preview of the Freewill Shakespeare Festival's presentation of Coriolanus!

So... what does a Shakespearean tragedy have to do with yoga?

Umm... haha... good question...

Maybe not much at first glance, but with themes of power and pride, class and character, virtue and action, pride and privilege, past vs. progress and friends vs. enemies, this play brings to my mind the Bhagavad Gita, and practically begs discussion on the Yamas and Niyamas!

Besides, it's going to be a beautiful, warm summer night, perfect for Shakespeare in the park.  Hope to see you there!

P.S. The famous (and very yogic!) quote in this post's title is not from Coriolanus.  But it is from As You Like It, this year's Freewill Shakespeare Festival comedy!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Dosas for Dinner Tonight?

Image Source
Did you know that dosas are considered one of the 50 tastiest foods in the world?

Join Raja Yoga Summer Camp tonight around 6:30 pm at Savoy's South Indian Kitchen.

Feel like doing some cultural exploration?  Come early for a little window shopping!

Monday, 8 June 2015

Happy 60th Birthday Swami Swaroopananda!

Swami Swaroopananda
Right now in the Bahamas, some extraordinary people are gathered to celebrate Swami Swaroopananda's 60th birthday.

Thank you Swamiji for all your wise teachings and kind mentor-ship.  I wish you all the very best on this auspicious occasion and for many, many, many years to come!

Happy Birthday!

Looks like you're in good company, Swamiji.

Best wishes to my dear friends Katharine and Brian who are also celebrating their 60th Birthdays this year!

And check out this list of celebrities turning 60 in 2015.  Some of my favorites:  Billy Idol, Eddie Van Halen, Bruce Willis, Bill Nye, and Yo-Yo Ma!

Thank you all for your stellar contributions to your fields and the world.

Om Trayambakam x 108!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Raja Yoga Summer Camp: 124 Grand Market

124 Street Grand Market
Yogis, Yoginis and Friends, you're invited:

Thursday June 4, 2015

4-8 pm (I'll be there around 5:30)

108 Avenue and 124th Street

Organic produce, fabulous food trucks, artisans, musicians and more!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Introduction to Meditation at Yoga Within

This Sunday, May 31, 2015

10:00 - 11:30 am

Please join me for an Introduction to Meditation at Yoga Within.

- Find the style of meditation that works best for you.

- Transform what captivates you into your personal practice.

- Open to anyone who wants to reduce stress, focus intention and quiet mental chatter.

Feel free to bring your meditation cushion, a blanket or bolster.

Meditation in 12 Steps with Sivananda Yoga

Image Source

10 Science-Based Reasons to Start Meditating Today

Image Source

Sunday, 24 May 2015

To Sum it Up: University of Alberta Lecture

Namaste to Deanna and all the students of Spring Term 2015, PAC 156 Introduction to Yoga Basics at the University of Alberta!

Thank you for inviting me to your class to share a sampling of the origin, history and basic philosophy of Yoga with you!

I've organized some links to previous posts here on Kali's Kitchen that you may find helpful as you go over your notes from last Thursday.

I hope our time together whet your appetite to find out more about the roots of Yoga and How Yoga Really Works!

One of the first things we talked about was the sound and Meaning of Om.  We chanted it along with my Shruti Box in a very meditative way, but there is also a popular form of devotional chanting known as Kirtan.

Check out this video featuring one of my Guru brothers from the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas and the mantra Om: Hari Om Kirtan with Narayan Jyoti.

We chanted The Teacher/Student Chant in Sanskrit.  Not easy, but it sounded great!

Regarding the history of yoga and its journey to the West, I mentioned two of the early ambassadors of Yoga who introduced the ancient, mystical teachings of India to North America:  Swami Vivekananda and Paramahansa Yogananda.

The Seven Chakras
I also mentioned a few of the westerners who significantly contributed to popularizing Yoga in the mid 1900's:

Swami Vishnudevananda and The Beatles

Bhagavan DasKali Kirtan with Bhagavan Das and Richard Alpert/RamDassRam Dass on Giving and ReceivingRam Dass Gives Maharaji "The Yogi Medicine"

Yoga was traditionally taught in ashrams or retreat centres with monastic teachers known as swamis.  

University of Alberta professor Neil Dalal recently released a film called Gurukulam that gives a beautiful "insider's view" of a modern ashram.  Don't worry if you didn't catch it at the premiere in March, it turns out they're offering an encore screening on May 31st!

Image Source
I gave you two classical definitions of Yoga:

The first was from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,  Sutra 1.2, "Yoga is the cessation of the mental waves."

For more about Patanjali and Raja/Asht-anga Yoga see:  Legends of Yoga: The Birth of Patanjali, and Yoga Sutras, Free Online Resources

The second came from the Bhagavad Gita,  Shloka 2.50, "Yoga is skill in action."

For an easy way to relate to the main characters, Krishna and Arjuna, check out this cute tribute to the original text: Love in the Bhagavad Gita.  It's part of a series of cartoons originally published in Ascent magazine that depict the entire text!

I mentioned several of the main Paths of Yoga:  Raja YogaBhakti YogaJnana Yoga, Karma Yoga and of course, Hatha Yoga the most widely practiced path of Yoga in the West.

We ended with the Chant for Enlightenment and wishes for Shanti or Peace.

May you all enjoy your studies and benefit the world with your wisdom!


Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Got Plans? Raja Yoga Summer Camp 2015 Begins!

Baby Ganesha, Blesses New Beginnings
Its that time again!

Raja Yoga Summer Camp is ready for its third year and we'd love it if you could join us!

Planning meeting:

6 pm on Wednesday, May 13, 2015 in the Food Court at Millbourne Mall in Millwoods, Edmonton.

Come share your ideas for classes, outings and events.

Enjoy a mango lassi, or chai and momos at the brand-new Nepali food-kiosk, Everest Cuisine.

Can't make it to the planning meeting?  Have a suggestion?  Want to get on the evite list?

Send me an email at:

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Sensitive as an Eyeball

Image Source Unknown
Sometimes when we hear of disasters in the world or are faced with our own crises closer to home, a feeling of being overwhelmed can paralyze our ability to act.  When tears and fears become our primary reactions, yoga can help.

My dear Teacher Swami Swaroopananda has described it this way:

He says, "The yogi is as sensitive as an eyeball."

Meaning, when you take a piece of cotton and rub it on your arm it feels pleasant.  On your cheek it is also pleasant.  Rub that same piece of cotton on your eyeball and it is irritating at best, likely even painful.

Many practicing yogis and yoginis will relate to this description.  You may find yourself so acutely sensitive to suffering that at times it becomes debilitating. 

If you're feeling too small to make a difference today, your yoga practice itself may offer some encouragement.

Here are a few suggestions:

Watch this video by Pema Chodron called Loving Oneself and Others:

Read this 3HO Tantric Numerology Forecast for May 2015

Chant these mantras by Deva Premal and Miten or listen to the Hanuman Chalisa.

Finally, in life and in your asana practice, focus on what you can do rather than what you can't.

As it says in the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 40:

"Nothing is wasted on this yoga path.  Even the slightest effort saves one from the greatest turmoil."

Prayers for Nepal and Tibet

I continue to offer my loving prayers to all of the monks, nuns, residents, visitors and pilgrims in Nepal and Tibet, and their loved ones abroad shaken and un-grounded by the massive earthquake in April.

May they have faith, courage, and comfort in their suffering.

May all those who have left their bodies navigate bravely through the bardo and attain noble rebirths.

There seems to be a lot of confusion about how best to help financially, but you can certainly send positive prayers and energy right now with the meditation known as "Taking and Giving" or Tonglen.

If you're not familiar with the Tonglen meditation, please join Pema Chodron in this short video filmed in 2009 at the Omega Institute in New York.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Art of Yoga: Diane Woodward

Om at the Sivananda Ashram, Bahamas by Diane/Uma
There is no quicker way to brighten a room or your day than to add a little color.

Canadian artist and yogini, Diane Woodward takes it a step further than that... well actually, several steps further, and the result is spectacular!

Describing herself as a "maximalist" painter, Diane declares, "Hot pink is my neutral."

I first met Uma, as Diane is also known, at the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas.  She was my next door neighbor in the tent city we called home for a month during our Yoga Teacher Training Program in 1997.  Aside from being a fun and lively friend, she was, in many ways, my mentor.

Not only was Uma more familiar with Sivananda Yoga, her fearlessness and radiant creativity were just the influences I needed in those uncertain and intense weeks of headstands and sun salutations, plus the total immersion  into the traditional yogic lifestyle and philosophy and the sensory overload of colorful Hindu deities, exotic Sanskrit chants, and deep, deep self-reflection.

When I happened to catch this re-run on Steven and Chris featuring her beautiful and colorful home, I knew I had to share it with you!

Also check out Part One and Part 2 of this Comfort Country Interview.

I hope you find them as delightful and inspiring as I do!  Enjoy!

Natural Cleaning: Have You Tried Soapnuts?

Dried Soapnuts/Soapberries/Reetha
Spring cleaning can feel like a chore, or a breath of fresh air, it all depends on how you approach it.

Yogis think of housekeeping as an opportunity to practise saucha, or holistic cleanliness, and using earth-friendly, all-natural cleaning products is one way to practice ahimsa, or non-violence.

Practicing the yamas and niyamas, or virtuous restraints and habits, enhances physical health, encourages mental clarity and enlightens the spirit.

There are so many natural and earth-friendly ways to make all that scrubbing and sweeping easier and more pleasant.

Last year on Earth Day I tried soapnuts for the first time and I've been loving them ever since.  If you haven't tried them yet, it's time!

Soapnuts aren't actually nuts at all.  They are the dried fruit of a tree native to India and Nepal.  The berries aren't good for eating as they contain natural saponin, making them bitter-tasting, but a very effective natural cleanser.

For thousands of years they've been used for washing dishes, laundry and as an ayurvedic hair and body wash.  They are considered to be a safe, natural insecticide and even have mild contraceptive qualities!

How to use soapnuts:  

I like to put five of the dried berries in a small muslin cotton bag and throw it in the washer with my dirty clothes.  When I transfer the clothes to the dryer, the little bag goes with them.

The clothes come out clean, soft and unscented, and the towels are extra fluffy and absorbent!

The best part is, those same five soapnuts can be reused up to ten times!

Usually after 6 or 7 washes, I transfer the little bag to a pot of water on my stove and boil it to make a liquid all-purpose cleaner with the "tea".  I use it to wash dishes and windows, counters and surfaces.

Just remember to use the soapnut liquid up within a week as it has no preservatives and will spoil eventually.  No worries if it does, just dump it down the sink or in your garden, its totally biodegradable!

I get my soapnuts from Asian grocers, where they go by their Indian names of Reetha/Ritha/Aritha or from Eco Nuts or better yet, in bulk at Earth's General Store.

Give them a try and let me know what you think!

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Earth Day Love Stories

Beautiful Blossoms in the Bahamas
Do you love a good love story?

Here are three true tales of presence and passion to warm your heart:

First, this story about Will and Joan, a husband and wife eco-tourism team, founders of the Earth Preservation Fund, who helped make the very first Earth Day in 1970 a success.  They protect natural and cultural resources around the world, and this year's campaign helps endangered elephants in India.

Next, Alaffia is a skin and hair care company with the motto "Equality, Empowerment, Beauty".  They founded fair-trade coconut and shea butter co-operatives in West Africa to maintain traditional, natural methods of processing these raw ingredients and support the lives of the women who harvest them.

The story begins with Rose, an ethno-botanist from the United States and Olowo-n'djo, one of 42 children from a family in Togo who fell in love, and together they... well, its amazing!  Just watch the video.

Finally, Swami Kashi just shared a sweet and poetic essay titled "The Spiritual Path of Hope" by Peter Head reminding us to slow down and appreciate the glorious natural beauty around and within us.

By the way, the registration for Swamiji's second Himalayan Yatra is now open if you'd like to check out that magnificent sacred scenery for yourself.

Thank you yet again for visiting my blog, and for being my noble companions on this journey!

Lots and lots of love,

April 22, 2015 is Earth Day!

Saleem communing with Mother Earth
I'm excited to spend Earth Day outside and so is Saleem!

There are also plenty of local events to participate in:

Strathcona County is hosting a free screening of the movie "Just Eat It" and an information session about how organic waste is handled in the county on April 22nd.

The City of Edmonton, and Earth's General Store are hosting all kinds of events on the weekend, April 26 and 27th.  I hear my favorite vegan food truck Sailin' On is going to be there!

Online, you can visit the David Suzuki Foundation and enter contests to win prizes from the Queen of Green and IKEA Canada.

Even Value Village is getting on board, offering double stamps for discounts in-store when you donate your pre-loved goods on Wednesday, April 22nd.

How will you be spending Earth Day?

Friday, 17 April 2015

Relieving Anxiety with Yoga

Cat Pose (upward facing)
People of all ages can suffer from anxiety.  Even very young children and people who seem to "have-it-all".

If you're feeling like you could use a breather today, take it!

Find a quiet spot and practice your favorite breathing exercise, meditation, or yoga asanas.  Listen to your favorite music or spend time with a good friend.  Pick up your paintbrush, or your guitar or your walking shoes and take some time for you!

Cat Pose (downward facing)
Not sure where to begin?

Check out these tips, postures and meditations for managing anxiety from Yoga Journal.

Or these 9 tips from the Art of Living Foundation.

Or these 10 poses from care2.

Relax.  And let yourself enjoy it.  You deserve it.

I Missed Stress Awareness Day?!?

Stormy Seas and the Waves of the Mind...
OMG!  Yesterday was National Stress Awareness Day in the States, and I am currently FREAKING out because I missed it and I feel like it was my responsibility as a dedicated yoga teacher and blogger to inform and assist you in dealing with your stress and I missed it and I feel like a failure and I don't know what I could possibly do to help you anyway and my stomach is twisting and my jaw is clenching and my fingers are typing out of control and...

Ok, I'm exaggerating... a bit... but you know the feeling, right?

Studies show that millions and millions of North American adults describe themselves as "stressed", in fact, more than 40 million in the United States alone!

We've all gotten so used to "being stressed out", I'm afraid its become the new "normal".

Ironically, it seems like if you don't answer, "Busy, tired, stressed..." when someone asks you how you are, they think there's something wrong.

But you yogis and yoginis know how detrimental both acute and chronic stress are to our lives and well-being, and how important it is to relax.

So, no procrastinating!  (Cuz that's bad for your health too!  See:  Why You Shouldn't Procrastinate Reading This Post)

Instead of worrying about whether or not this post is "on-time" or "perfect", I'm just going to pass on a few links (like this one: Latin Times: 10 Best Ways to Fight Stress), post it as-is and head over to the Free People Blog to make some of this Essential Oil Blend to Relieve Stress and Anxiety!


I didn't have the Ylang Ylang Essential Oil called for in the recipe above, so in the yogic spirit of "Adapt, Adjust, Accomodate" (thanks Swami Sivananda) I substituted Thai Jasmine.

Jasmine calms the mind and the nervous system, balances the emotions and hormones.  It is said to be uplifting, intoxicating, soothing, revitalizing and even aphrodisiac!

The resulting blend is meditative, exotic and a slightly heady but I bet it would be great in a relaxing before-bed bath or massage.

What do you think?  Do you use essential oils?  What are your favorite ways to de-stress?

Feel free to share your most effective strategies in the comments below.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Wanna Go See a Movie?

Weather-wise, during March in Alberta anything can happen!

One day you are basking in the sunshine, snow melting merrily off the roof, and the next you're shivering, wondering how much longer 'til spring?!?  Sigh...

If you need something to do on one of those days, or if you're just excited to be able to get out of the house again, consider checking out one of these movies:

The Canadian premier of Gurukulam is playing at the Metro, March 29, 2015.  To celebrate, the event will also feature live music before the movie, and snacks and dialogue with the filmmakers and Andrew Gow, the director of the University of Alberta's Religious Studies Program afterwards.

The Metro also plays a ton of retro, foreign and independent films.  Check them out!

Christian Marclay's "The Clock" is playing at the Art Gallery of Alberta until April 12, 2015.  

I saw several hours of "The Clock" when it played in Toronto, and let me tell you, it is not your typical movie experience!  The exhibit features couch seating for your viewing comfort, but no snacks are permitted. (It is a gallery after all, and this, my friends, is art!)  

I know it seems weird to watch hours and hours of movie clips of clocks, but trust me, this is anything but boring!  Actually, I found it to be a riveting meditation on time, and a fun pop-culture puzzle.  I can't wait to see it again!  Super hard-core viewers, you can catch the last 24-hour screening on April 11.

And in case you didn't know, Cinema City Movies 12 plays Bollywood movies on a regular basis!

Is There Anybody Out There?

Wow!  I can't believe its already March!  So where have I been since December?

Oh, mostly snowed in as per usual, but its been productive!

I've been making lots of all-natural, earth-friendly beauty products and cleansers, jams, jellies and bowls full of stove-top popcorn.

I've been studying the works of great Yoga Masters like Paramahansa YoganandaSri Ramakrishna and the classic Upanishads. (More on all that coming soon!)

And I've been busy teaching yoga to some wonderful private clients and the awesome kids and staff of the Children's Psychiatric Units at the Glenrose and Royal Alexandra Hospitals.

Its been a great winter and now that the sun is shining and things are brightening up, I'm excited to share it all with you!  So stay tuned for recipes, events, tips, classes, workshops and more!

Namaste and Happy 2015!