Finding Balance

Yoga thought for the day: “Finding balance with ease and joy, whether in life or in a yoga pose, is a constant state of adjustment and attunement. It is about replacing the knowing of the mind with the benevolent curiosity of the heart. It is about remembering, did I come to yoga to get it right and to be frustrated when I don’t? Or did I come to yoga to feel better, to practice loving myself more, and to enjoy the journey of learning? Additionally, can I use my yoga practice as a microcosm and a playground for understanding and transforming my life experience?” – Jenny Sauer-Klein, “It’s Playtime,” Yoga International, Fall 2012

Finding balance is so important to achieving a sense of peace and contentment. I think we can all agree that the question of balance comes up a lot in our diets – eating the foods we enjoy while remaining ever mindful of health and nutrition. This past weekend I did quite a lot of baking. I enjoy a little something sweet for dessert with my lunch. I am well aware of the supposed evils of sugar, but as with anything we eat, quantity and rate of consumption matter.  I keep my sugar consumption to a minimum, and when I bake I experiment with just how much sugar is necessary to give the desired sweetness. It’s a great compliment to me when people tell me that my baked goods are delicious, because “they’re not too sweet.”

I’ve also been experimenting with sources of sugar and with gluten-free baking. I myself do not have a gluten intolerance, but even I like to balance my consumption of flours, pastas and grains that contain gluten and those that do not.

These fabulous cookies are gluten-free vegan coconut almond “sugar” cookies made with stevia extract. Now stevia is not a sugar – it’s an herb that produces a sweet taste. I make this cookie in regular or chocolate. These cookies are also low in fat and are absolutely scrumptious.

My gluten-free vegan blondie brownies are made with coconut sugar from Indonesia. Coconut sugar is low-glycemic so it won’t cause an energy crash like other sweeteners. Coconut sugar has nutritionally significant amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B6, as well as potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. Coconut sugar does not add a coconut flavor at all – rather it tastes and looks a bit like brown sugar. But it has a more subtle sweetness. I did add vegan chocolate chips to my brownies so that’s some additional sugar. But, you know, if you look at other recipes you will realize that my gluten-free vegan blondie brownies have less sugar and far less fat than most brownies out there, and they are DELICIOUS!

Crunchy and light with a definite maple flavor, my gluten-free vegan maple oatmeal cookies are low in fat and the perfect morning, mid-day, afternoon, evening or night time snack.  They are made with organic maple syrup. Maple syrup is definitely a sugar, but it is not refined so it contains a more complex array of nutrients than refined white sugar. I’ve had things to say about white sugar and alternatives in other posts, but I will note again that most refined white cane sugar is not vegan, because of the process used to make it.

And then there are my vegan pumpkin muffins. I make all my muffins with one tablespoon of grapeseed oil and one tablespoon of organic unsulphured molasses.  Note that molasses is a good source of potassium, calcium and iron and vitamin B6. I’m afraid most people would find that my muffins are simply not sweet enough. But I love my muffins. I have a muffin every single day as part of my breakfast. They are truly a deliciously nutritious marvel.

There is plenty of information on the Web about all the different kinds of sugars from discussions about nutrition, baking characteristics, environmental impact, etc. If sugar consumption is an important issue for you, look into it. And then remember, it’s all about finding balance.

Yoga Bones

Yoga thought for the day: “Most Western exercise is contractive in nature. This means that it is designed to tighten, shorten, and harden the body. A muscle that is only taught how to contract will ultimately lead to short and contracted muscles. As the muscles continue to contract the surrounding fascia will shorten, harden, and dry out as well. . . . Yoga is different. Yoga is a system that is designed to be expansive in nature. The body is taught how to lengthen and expand with each and every practice. Muscles will lengthen through the joints and the surrounding fascia will also take on a longer shape. With yoga the body is transformed into a longer and more spacious creation, rather than a stiff and hard body, as exemplified by most Western exercise. . . . When it comes to your bones, yoga is the key to health and longevity.” excerpted from Jon Burras, “Yoga for Healthy Bones”

http://www.jonburras.com/pdfs/YOGA-FOR-HEALTHY-BONES.pdf

When it comes to the health of our bones, we tend to think in terms of our diet: are we getting enough calcium and protein in the foods we eat and the supplements we take? We may also have heard or read that weight training and aerobic exercise can help to keep bones strong. But too much weight training and aerobic exercise without attention to flexibility, range of movement, and mobility may wind up causing more harm than good.

Burras’s short article was a welcome reminder that our bones are alive, and led me to explore other sources of information about the skeletal system and the benefits of yoga. Usually when I think of bones I imagine the skeleton we use in anatomy class or the dry bones discovered in a shallow grave in some murder mystery.  But the 206 bones in the adult body are made of living tissue consisting of protein, minerals, and vitamins, and continue to be reshaped and renewed all the time.

Our bones serve us in many ways. They:

  • provide strong protection for the inner organs,
  • support the body against the pull of gravity,
  • produce blood cells,
  • allow us to move, and
  • store important minerals.

Yoga contributes to the health of our bones by:

  • providing weight-bearing exercise through the entire body, which stimulates bones to retain calcium,
  • enhancing circulation of blood, nutrients, and energy or prana throughout the body, and
  • improving our balance.

With yoga, we develop our strength, flexibility, and mobility over time so that the weight applied to bones increases gradually and safely. Our joints and muscles benefit from this incremental approach as well. Yoga postures also have a balancing effect on the endocrine glands, which secrete hormones that fuel the body’s growth, development, metabolism, and reproduction processes. Finally, certain yoga postures promote deep relaxation, helping to reduce stress levels. All good news for our bones.

Speaking of bones, I think we all know that many bird bones are hollow and that bird skeletons are lightweight to offset the high energy cost of flying. But did you know that bird skeletons do not actually weigh less than the skeletons of similarly sized mammals? It’s true. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100322112103.htm

I bring up the subject of bird bones, because Philip is a paraglider, a human bird. Paragliding is a recreational and competitive flying sport. A paraglider is a free-flying, foot-launched aircraft. The pilot sits in a harness suspended below a soft, fabric wing that once inflated has an elliptical shape. Paragliders launch from hills or mountains, or can be towed aloft. Philip says paragliding is the ultimate in anti-gravity. When he paraglides he sees the earth from a very different perspective, and it thrills and amazes him every time. I have long wanted to create a paraglider cookie, and this weekend I finally did just that.

May all beings have enough to eat. Namaste and Sat Nam.

Note: The yoga images used in this post are in the public domain.

Chocolate Cookies – A Bountiful Blessing

Yoga thought for the day: “May the long time sun shine above you, all love surround you, and the pure light within you guide your way on. Sat nam.”

These lovely words are the farewell blessing used to conclude a Kundalini Yoga class. Sat nam means “truth is my identity,” in Sanskrit and is a commonly recited mantra in Kundalini Yoga. It is frequently repeated three times at the end of a yoga session. These simple words gladden and energize me.

This short post is a follow-up to Monday’s blog. One of my readers asked whether my cookies could be made in chocolate. I’d never tried, but yesterday I did. They turned out great! Just as delicious as the blond versions and a gorgeous dark brown. And believe it or not, my cookie icings actually do work on the chocolate cookies.

 

 

 

As long as I was in the kitchen baking, I also came up with three new yoga pose cookies – dancer’s pose (natarajasana), wide-angle seated forward bend with hands in namaste (upavistha konasana), and sphinx pose (ardha bhujangasana). So now I have twelve yoga poses! So exciting! I’ve posted a photo of them, as well. They’re naked – that is, they have not been painted.