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.