27 May 2012

Green Smoothie Recipes

I hope those of you following my "Yoga's Place in the Workplace" series won't be too disappointed if I digress this week and post two smoothie recipes. Although I am still waiting for my Vitamix, I'm having a lot of fun playing with these green concoctions. I know I've probably been influenced by recipes posted in the past by Rebecca Pacheco and Daniel Max, so thanks guys, for inspiring me to play! Also, a great big thank you goes out to Russo's, the best place I know to get a ton of fabulous produce at a reasonable price.

Recipe #1
2 c raw baby spinach
1 c raw watercress
1 c unsweetened almond milk
1/4 c chopped raw mango
1/2 banana
1 Tbsp ground flax seeds

~219 calories

Variations: One time I had some leftover parsley and threw some of that in too. It was lovely! I also substituted 1/2 avocado when I ran out of mango. This was a slightly thicker consistency but still very tasty.

Recipe #2
This is the one that just made me write this blog, since it was somewhat different but still came out yummy!

2 c raw collard greens
1/2 c raw dandelion greens
1 c unsweetened almond milk
1/2 banana
1 1/4 Tbsp raisin sauce*
1 tsp wheat grass powder

~181 calories

*The raisin sauce I used was actually to get rid of leftovers from a Kripalu recipe I made last week. However, I found this almost identical raisin sauce recipe online to share with you.

Instructions & Tips
Instructions: For both recipes, blend on low until you reach the desired consistency. Both are around the same, although I found #2 to be a little thinner.

  • Sometimes the banana I use is frozen because it was getting along and I tossed it in there to save it; I just defrost it in the microwave for a few seconds before chopping it up. 
  • Pre-wash and chop everything, and store in Tupperware / bags for easy access.
  • If you're really feeling a need to be efficient, put everything but the almond milk in the blender jar and store in the refrigerator until ready to blend. (I sometimes do this the night before if I want a smoothie for breakfast the next morning.)
If anyone else out there has a favorite green smoothie recipe, please let me know!

20 May 2012

Yoga's Place in the Workplace: Part 2

In last week's blog post, I talked about the different ways one could practice the first yama, ahimsa (non-violence / non-harming) while at work. This week, I'll focus on brahmacharya, or energy management.

(And I should have said this last week, but a special thanks goes out to the instructors of the Kripalu Yoga teacher training program, especially our guest speaker David, who taught us more about how to live the yamas and niyamas than any book ever could!)

The Basics of the Fifth Yama: Energy Management

Yes, I'm skipping to the fifth one because I believe it's so important. This yama is historically associated with chastity, but it applies to so much more than sexual energy. It's really about passion. "Bhrama" means "the biggest idea", and "charya" means "to follow". So essentially brahmacharya is about using one's passions wisely, and in a way that leads to personal transformation. What does personal transformation have to do with work? A lot! Read on....

Living to Work

First, the big picture question: do you know what you're truly passionate about? Second, does your work environment align with and support those passions, or are you expending unnecessary energy every hour you're in the office because it doesn't? Ask yourself the following questions to think this through further:
  • Is what you do for a living something you chose to do, or is it the result of others' expectations about what you should have done? If it's the latter, what is it you really enjoy doing outside of work that you keep returning to over and over again? Are there any possibilities of making a living out of this that you could explore?
  • What aspects of your past and present jobs really resonate(d) with you? Which responsibilities or tasks would you rather not have had to do? What about your hobbies and extracurricular interests? Do you see any themes?
  • Do you have a good sense of your personal values, not just at work, but in life? How well do the core values of your company align with your personal goals?

Expending and Directing Right Effort

If you know what you're passionate about and what you truly value--and are confident that your passions and the organizational goals of your workplace align--you can look more closely at where and how you're directing your energy on a daily basis:
  • Do you plan your daily or weekly schedule to allocate appropriate time and space to what really matters to you, or do you find yourself unable to stop putting energy toward activities that don't directly support your passions?
  • Have you been passionate about the same things for a long period of time, or do you go through phases where you're excited about something and then it falls flat? Or, do you get so wrapped up in your latest passion that it borders on addictive behavior? How can you hone your passions to be more evenly sustainable over time?  
  • Is most of your time and energy spent focusing on goals, tasks and projects that support you and your company's mutually agreeable passions? If not, how can you better prioritize and focus your time?
  • Do you continuously question the value of what you're doing, to make sure you're adding value and moving in the right direction? Do you escalate any discrepancies to your manager, or do you plug along and expend effort without verifying that it's really warranted?
  • Have you developed an understanding of when it may be more important to remain at the strategic, big picture level, and when it might be best to dive into the more tactical details?
  • Are you selective about the work activities you personally agree to take on, and do you delegate some to those who may have stronger skills than you?

Engaging in True Presence

Now let's get more into the people part of energy management, because after all, the successes (or failures) of an organization always come down to professional relationships, and how well people work together.
  • When you're having a conversation with someone--either one-on-one or in a meeting, where is the energy of your attention? Are you actively listening and fully with the person with whom you are interacting?
  • Are you aware of what kind of energy you're sending out when interacting with your colleagues? Do you set an intention before you communicate with someone?
  • Regardless of whether you're talking with others face-to-face or via some online medium like email, are you present enough to put aside other tasks, worries, and concerns as you communicate? Do you consider the tone of each virtual message you send, and how it might be received?
  • Do you focus all five senses on what you're doing NOW, gently noticing yet letting go of any other energies or urges that may flit about in an attempt to distract you from your current goal? 
  • Do you give 150% of yourself to everyone all the time until you hit a wall--feeling tired, run down, or even sick a good portion of the time? Or do you give just enough energy to help a colleague and still have some left for others?

Leveraging Witness Consciousness

So we've talked about the company, and other people. What about you? Witness consciousness is bringing the energy of awareness to what you are doing in each moment. It's your internal "watcher," who you can leverage to help you be more mindful of where you're directing your energy. That is, if you remember to ask!
  • Do you often stop and recognize that no unpleasant interaction or situation can really "make you" feel upset, overwhelmed, frustrated, stressed, drained, etc.?
  • Are you able to tell colleagues "no" when you feel you can't take on what they're asking, or help them find another way to get the job done because you're mindful of reaching your limit?
  • Can you identify when events or people are poking on your particular triggers, and direct your energy into deep breathing techniques before taking appropriate actions?
  • Are you familiar with any ingrained habits you have that might cause you to unnecessarily drain your energy, such as perfectionism, a strong need to people please, or self-criticize, and keep those habits at bay by recognizing that your energy is better directed elsewhere?

Daily Practice

As you start the new week, take a look at your work calendar with a closer eye, and see if where you're spending time is appropriately aligned with what you're passionate about doing. When you have interactions with colleagues, be mindful of where you are directing your energy. Sigh out a long, deep breath anytime you feel that someone (including you) is sending out negative energy, or expending more energy than is needed for a particular task or situation. Also, consider reserving some time over the next (long) weekend to get clear about your personal values and your true passions!

13 May 2012

Yoga's Place in the Workplace: Part 1

Upholding the philosophical yogic principles that Patanjali codified in the yamas and niyamas, particularly in the workplace, is of great interest to me. The yamas are the character-building restraints, the niyamas the character-building observances--the first and second "limbs" of yoga often overlooked as aspiring yogis focus primarily on postures. Given how much time we spend there, people in the workplace can be like a second family, presenting special challenges when we are trying to live according to these yogic principles. Even those who practice may not be aware of all the ways the yamas and niyamas make themselves evident in this context.

In a series of blog posts over the next few weeks, I hope to illustrate some ways for yogis to practice each yama and niyama while at work. I hope to hear about your own challenges and to be able to encourage each and every one of you on your journey. After all, it is a practice, so it's important for us to be compassionate toward ourselves, even when we have days (or moments) where we wished we'd behaved differently.

The Basics of the First Yama: Non-Violence

This week I'll talk about the first yama, known in Sanskrit as ahimsa. Ahimsa is generally translated as "non-violence" or "non-harming". There are some obvious implications of this yama, just by it's name.

Growing up in the Roman Catholic school system, for example, my first instinct was to relate this to the commandment: "Thou shall not kill." And yes, that's true. Don't kill anyone while at work. Check. (Sadly, in this day and age, killing at work sometimes does happen.)

But there are many, much more subtle ways this yama can impact our lives, and help us become people of real integrity, starting with the morning commute.

Getting to and from The Office

Even with a relatively easy commute, practicing ahimsa some days is challenging. Those who have longer distances to ride, more traffic to deal with, morning obligations prior to work, and/or apprehension about what's in store for them when they arrive will find the practice of non-harming even harder. Here are some examples:
  • Do you say (to yourself or aloud to others) hurtful things to other drivers when they don't behave as you would like?
  • Do you think judgmental thoughts about those you see on the bus or train, or while walking?
  • Do you chastise yourself for being late or not leaving enough time in the morning?
  • Do you replay an argument that happened before you left the house over and over in your mind, justifying why you are right and the other person is wrong?
  • Do you anticipate having a negative interaction with someone when you arrive at the office, before you even get there?
Interacting with Others

Many offices these days encourage collaboration, and that's great. And, it means you may be getting more "face-time" with your colleagues. Just as one spends a lot of time with family--and therefore often behaves in less-than-stellar ways toward them--it's important to be mindful of and intentional in your interactions. Adhering to ahimsa with office mates is not only advantageous for your career, but it is also important for maintaining your personal integrity with those who may frequently test your patience. Here are some ideas:
  • Do you give your colleagues your full attention when they're talking to you, and practice active listening skills? Do you wait for your turn to speak, or do you interrupt and speak over others?
  • Do you gossip or converse negatively about people at work to "friendly" colleagues, or do you engage in compassionate conversations directly with a person when an issue arises?
  • Do you respect your colleagues by not scheduling meetings during their lunch hour, starting / ending meetings on time (or ending early if there is nothing additional to cover), giving them breaks during longer meetings, not unnecessarily keeping them at the office late, etc.?
  • Do you exercise compassion toward others, anticipating that they may be overly busy, stressed, or distracted by personal situations, before harshly judging their work? Do you first give them the benefit of the doubt when your expectations or standards aren't met?
  • Do you make it a point to tell people positive, affirming things, or are you always focused on the ways they might improve? Do you smile and say "hi" to colleagues you see in passing?

It's easy to see how the principle of non-violence can relate to food--many yogis are vegetarians for this reason. (Watching some documentaries, such as Food, Inc., may help even the non-yogi move in this direction!) But vegetarianism aside, there are many other ways in which ahimsa applies to eating, specifically within the office environment. Ask yourself:
  • Do you listen to and honor your body's hunger and thirst cues when they occur, or do you ignore them and continue working, until you find yourself really starving or dehydrated?
  • Do you eat hastily during meetings or while working at your computer, or do you make time and space to allow yourself to mindfully eat and digest your food?
  • Do you make healthy choices in the cafeteria, or bring your own freshly prepared food?
  • Do you eat more than you should, particularly when you're stressed, tired, bored, or anxious?
  • Do you always partake in goodies when they're available, even when you know you're not hungry or they're not good for the health of your body? (Sugar can be challenging at the office, especially during celebrations like baby showers.)
Relating to Yourself

Lastly, it's critical to recognize that ahimsa isn't just about how you do violence or harm to other people: it's also about how you treat yourself. Do you:

  • Beat yourself up for saying something "stupid", or making a mistake? Or are you compassionate with yourself when you didn't act as you wanted to?
  • Refuse to step out of your comfort zone and take on a new project or task because you're afraid of failing?
  • Often tell yourself you're a fraud that your boss will eventually discover and fire? Or do you believe in yourself and your abilities, even when you're challenged?
  • Over commit your energy or time by saying yes to too many requests, sacrificing your physical and mental health as a result? (More on this when I write about the yama that deals with energy management!)
  • Know and practice techniques for keeping stress and fear at bay, such as deep breathing, going for a walk, or taking a brief Yoga Break?
Daily Practice

I hope this post has you thinking about new ways to practice ahimsa, or non-violence / non-harming, toward others and yourself in the context of work. Leave a comment or send me an e-mail to let me know how it's going for you, and stay tuned for next week's yama / niyama--I might even take requests!

06 May 2012

A New Way of Being

At the nearly 12-hour Baron Baptiste Immersion I attended with a friend (and her friend) yesterday, I spent the day in meditation, asana (physical yoga postures), and inquiry. Here I'll share one of Baron's inquiry techniques, and a few revelations I had about myself while working with it.

Sheila, Baron Baptiste, Jen, Sarah

The Inquiry & The Discovery
In the afternoon session, Baron asked us two questions:
  1. What would my future look like (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) if I did nothing different from what I'm doing now?
  2. What's missing from my life right now that I could bring in, which would make a huge difference in empowering me and bringing me new energy?
Here's how I answered these questions:
  1. Best case, nothing changes, or my life further contracts. All my striving, trying, and doing continues to add to my stress level.
  2. Lightness, joy, spontaneity, connection / contact, peace, courage, surrender / release, vulnerability, softness, openness.
Baron suggested we make a request to the Universe, and with radical faith take committed action toward making something that's missing into our new practice, both on and off the yoga mat. He talked about "presence-ing" this as our new way of being, and made us say it aloud as an affirmation--both during the inquiry and throughout subsequent asana practice. My affirmation is: "My new way of being is open" (vs. scripted and regimented to the point of strain and struggle).

He also suggested that the how was by simply "being a yes" (one of the three themes of Baptiste's training). "Being a yes" means discovering what's important to you, and then committing to making choices that align with that--i.e. observing yourself, saying "yes" to the thoughts and actions that support your "true North alignment, and "no" to the things that don't.

Fresh, Open Space: in Handstand!?
Over the years, I've been in several supportive yoga studio environments where people have encouraged me to try handstand. I never trusted another human being (or myself) enough to do it.

But that all changed yesterday, as opened to the courage I needed to face my fear, to the loving support of Sheila and Sarah, and to the possibility that I might actually be able to do handstand. Throughout the day, I must have done about 10 supported handstands! Not only did I enjoy it, but I felt empowered, and so proud of myself for such creating space and openness in my body and mind.

Now, It's Your Turn
How would you answer the two questions Baron posed? How might being more open in your life, right now, benefit you? I'd love to hear from you about your journey.

03 May 2012

Baron Baptiste Immersion

It's only two days until I attend the all day immersion with Baron Baptiste at the Weston Boston Waterfront hotel. I've no idea what to expect, and am getting just a wee bit nervous about them telling us to bring 2-3 changes of clothes for sweaty practice (only because it's from 9 am until 8 pm)! I hope to see some of you there, and I will be sure to write about the experience on Sunday. For more information and to register, check out http://www.baronbaptiste.com/events/event/all-day-immersion-with-baron-baptiste/.

And, if you miss him on Saturday, he'll be at the Yogathon on Sunday! (I decided not to be crazy enough to do both days. :-)