Friday, April 15, 2011

Yoga and black bean fudge brownies? Yes please.

Favorite salad of late: chopped Swiss chard, topped with quinoa, orange slices, mushrooms, and homemade dressing

Ironically, I am writing this blog entry on wellness while battling a bit of a cold. Nevertheless, health and wellness are on my mind, and I've done some fun projects lately I feel like writing about here.

First of all: A little over a week ago, I hosted a "Wellness Wednesday" for a few friends. I invited them over early-ish in the day, and made green smoothies - pineapple, kiwi, mango, spinach, etc. - for all. Then we cleared the furniture out of my living room and rolled out yoga mats for a solid 45 minutes or so of gentle vinyasa yoga.

Back in Kansas City, I had a wonderful yoga teacher named Martha, who led yoga classes several mornings a week, for free (with a recommended $5 donation, but truly a no-obligation, contribute-when-you-can set up, most of which was donated to local charities anyway) in a neighborhood church. I think it was Lu who invited me the first time, and soon after, I brought my mom along, and Martha Yoga became tradition - 90 minutes, three times a week, of blissful stretching, muscle awakening, meditation, and fun, too.

Getting licensed to lead yoga classes costs upwards of $3500. Not in my budget for now, but I do feel pretty knowledgeable about yoga, pose modifications, proper form, and breathing techniques in general - enough to at least reasonably lead sessions for friends. I have always admired and envied what Martha was able to do for a community of people back in Kansas: grant us a space to come together with others, relax, reflect, and rejuvenate. She was able to give so much, and at so little cost. I aspire to do the same in my life...what more can we ask of ourselves but to share with others everything we have to offer?

Martha would always finish our sessions by having us gather in a circle, and by reading to us a passage from a book that had spoken to her that week - often some sort of meditation or anecdote intended to inspire self-reflection. Again, I always admired the effort that I knew she must put in every week to selecting meaningful passages to share with us. I knew I wanted to do the same for my trio of wellness-seekers last week, and I felt surprised the night before at what an incredible pleasure it was to comb through dusty books from my shelves...books on spirituality and wellness that I hadn't really looked at in a long time, but books, nevertheless, with the capacity to inspire truly transformative thoughts. Books are powerful.

I settled on a passage from Seyeon's favorite book, The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear - an excerpt from Mary Catherine Bateson's "Composing a Life Story." However, there was another passage that I came across in John Heider's "The Tao of Leadership" that I want especially to share here now on my blog. My mom gave me this book of 81 Taoist principles for my 18th birthday. #54 is The Ripple Effect.

Do you want to be a positive influence in the world? First, get your own life in order. Ground yourself in the single principle so that your behavior is wholesome and effective.
If your life works, you influence your family.
If your family works, your family influences the community.
If your community works, your community influences the nation.
If your nation works, your nation influences the world.
If your world works, the ripple effect spreads throughout the cosmos.
Remember that your influence begins with you and ripples outward. All growth spreads outward from a fertile and potent nucleus. You are a nucleus.

Amen. After yoga, we had tea, and I made a giant pot of quinoa porridge (recipe courtesy of Trail Runner magazine!) with diced apple, dried fruits, flax seed, almond milk, walnuts, and more yummy things. All vegan and gluten-free mouthwatering deliciousness.

I also made my favorite raw/vegan/gluten-free energy bar recipe ever, for my guests to take as to-go goodies:

So how, after all my greens and focus on wellness, did I wind up with this minor cold? A few things happened, I guess:
1. The virtual knock on wood must not have been good enough, when I wrote that blog entry on never calling in sick to work. The good thing about being friends with my coworkers, is that word gets out fast when you're sick, and friends come bring you pho at home. Friends are splendid.
2. I was on this pretty clean diet for awhile, but last weekend derailed me: the extravagant sushi and ice cream on Friday night, eating glutenous pasta Saturday night, rewarding myself post-half-marathon with a DQ Blizzard and more dairy over the course of a couple hours than I'd put in my body in the last month altogether, more ice cream (Molly Moon's salted caramel, yum!) after dinner with Ruth on Monday, and finally...late at night on Tuesday, baked deliciously scrumptious browned butter toasted coconut chocolate chip cookies, ala Joy the Baker, to bring to work the next day...

I halved Joy's recipe, and remembered to half everything except the butter. Whoops. Mine look nothing like hers, but an extra stick of butter, shockingly, didn't hurt the taste too much.

...but I popped a couple the night before and felt dizzingly drunk off the butter/sugar rush. Whew.
3. So when Seyeon came over Wednesday night with a bit of a cold, I think it just did me in. My poor immune system was down, from lack of the usual antioxidant-packed goods, and I woke up feeling not so hot.

Today, as I've been snacking away at home while trying to let my health make a recovery, I've been utilizing awesome recipes in my latest issue of Women's Running to pack in as many nutrients as possible. Below: homemade kale chips, a blueberry/chard/almond milk/flaxseed/pinapple smoothie, and an amaaazing fudge brownie made with black beans (!), Dutch cocoa powder, and sweetened purely with agave nectar. No refined sugar whatsoever. Incredible stuff.

Come on, body, work with me. I'd like to be able to run tomorrow.


  1. "I aspire to do the same in my life...what more can we ask of ourselves but to share with others everything we have to offer?"

    I have no doubt that you will. Beautiful entry as always, Yitka. I remember your love of Martha Yoga and how much that meant to you. Glad to hear that you are giving back in the same way to friends in your new home. Still missing you, though...

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