Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blankets and Bolsters and Blocks, Oh My!

Sometimes new students come into a class thinking that "props" is a dirty word! I, like many yoga neophytes, assumed in my first class that only people who didn't know what they were doing used the props. Being self conscious, I didn't want people to know that I was new to the practice, so I ignored the teacher's verbal cues to use a block under my bottom hand for support in Extended Triangle Pose or sit on the edge of a blanket while seated in meditation. I was so focused on what I thought I was "supposed" to look like in these poses that I was struggling to stay in triangle pose and was uncomfortable while seated. I was unable to realize that it was the people around me who had been practicing for a while who were taking advantage of the props! They knew that using props could deepen their poses and keep their practice safe. It wasn't until a teacher explained to me how to use props to improve my practice that I learned how a prop can be a yogi's best fried!

Some of the more common props you may run into in a class and a few of their applications:

Bolsters: Can be rounded or rectangular. Usually long enough to rest your entire torso on. Great for sitting on in meditation or any restorative poses.. Bolsters can gently help you open your chest by placing one along your spine in Savasana or allow you to sink deeper into a hip opener by placing one under your front knee in Pigeon.

Blankets: Perfect folded up to sit on the edge in Easy Pose during meditation. You can fold a blanket beneath your shoulder to create padding and add space for the neck during Shoulder Stand. Blankets can also be rolled up and used as neck support or cover you during savasana.

Blocks: Come in a variety of sizes and materials. Blocks can give you more balance by placing one under your bottom hand in Half Moon Pose or elevate and support your hips when placed under the sacrum in Bridge Pose. Interested in using the block for strengthening? Squeeze it between your legs in bridge pose instead!

Eye bags: Small bags, sometimes scented. Usually filled with rice or sand. Savasana is one of, if not the, most important poses in our practice. It can be very difficult for people to truly relax and eye bags are a great tool to use to block out the world and make the most of our precious savasana.

Straps: Long straps usually with either a plastic buckle or a D-ring buckle. The buckles can help secure the strap in certain poses, for instance, secured around your knees in Legs Up the Wall. Having trouble reaching your feet in twists? Just loop a strap around your foot and hold the ends to get the same benefits of the pose.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Comfort Food

Rainy days like yesterday always make me crave soup. In my mind, there is nothing better than curling up on the couch with a steaming bowl of soup and crusty bread! Usually, once a week my husband and I whip out the big spoons and bowls to enjoy one of our favorite comfort foods!
This is a delicious recipe from Vegetarian Times that serves 8. I make this with spinach instead of swiss chard and dried sun-dried tomatoes instead of oil packed.

Spicy Sun-Dried Tomato Soup with White Beans and Swiss Chard


  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced (1 cup)
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced (1 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped rosemary
  • 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 2- 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes
  • 1- 15 oz. can small white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped, plus 2 Tbs. oil from jar
  • 1/2 bunch (6 oz.) Swiss chard, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 cup torn basil

1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook 1 minute, or until garlic is fragrant. Stir in onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, and rosemary, and cook 10 to 15 minutes, or until onions are soft.
2. Add broth, 1 can tomatoes, and beans. Scoop 1 cup mixture into food processor or blender, and add remaining can of tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and sun-dried tomato oil. Purée until smooth, stir mixture into soup, and season with salt and pepper, if desired. Simmer 10 minutes.
3. Add Swiss chard and thyme; simmer 5 minutes more, or until chard is wilted. Remove pan from heat, and stir in basil.

If you have leftovers, this soup freezes very well and is just as tasty re-heated!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Yoga is for Every Body

    Your yoga practice is exactly that. A practice. As someone who believed that you had to look a certain way or eat a certain diet to be a true "yogi", it was a liberating experience when I leaned that I could be a yogi at my own level. I have been lucky enough to have wonderful teachers who encouraged me to experience yoga at my own pace and celebrate my body and it's abilities in every pose.

    Yoga class was the first time I attended a group class where I didn't find myself comparing my pose or ability level to everyone else's. Of course I noticed if someone was doing an impressive balance or a graceful Warrior III, but I was OK with where I was as well. I've learned that yoga is not about the final pose, but the journey towards the pose. If today your forward fold leaves you with your hands on your knees, that's great! Maybe after a week of practice you'll touch your shins. A month from now, your ankles. A year from now, your toes. Maybe your final forward fold will always be hands on your knees, and that's OK too! It is all about being empowered in your body and its abilities at any and every level.