Home Rituals – Maple Coconut Pumpkin Pie

My friend Camilla introduced me to this pumpkin pie recipe when we were college roommates. She made a dairy-free, gluten-free version that was outstanding. Honestly, it changed my whole outlook on pumpkin pie.

I’m thankful that I don’t have any food allergies or sensitivities. But I picked up a few tricks while living with people who do. Like this Maple Coconut Pumpkin Pie.

I like the filling even more than the traditional recipe. It’s simple enough – just replace the sweetened condensed milk with coconut milk and maple syrup. I couldn’t remember the exact ratio so I looked up these recipes:

King Arthur Flour – Pumpkin Pie

Primally Inspired – Paleo Pumpkin Pie

I also did a little research on what pumpkin is good for. No surprise here – pumpkin is considered to be a superfood. Some of the many health benefits of pumpkin include:

  • High in Vitamins A and C
  • Boosts vision
  • Rich in beta-carotene
  • May reduce the risk of cancer
  • Prevents wrinkles
  • Balances electrolytes

Combining pumpkin with coconut milk and maple syrup takes this recipe up multiple notches. In The Skinny on Skin Care I talk about why coconut is so beneficial for your skin.  (Tip: eating coconut also nourishes your skin from the inside).

Maple syrup does wonders for the body too. I like to cook with a variety of natural sweeteners and maple syrup is one of my favorites. [Read: Home Rituals – Maple Pecan Pie]

Maple Coconut Pumpkin Pie

Filling:

1-15 ounce can pumpkin puree

1 cup full fat coconut milk

1/2 cup maple syrup

3 eggs

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt

 

Crust:

One 9-inch unbaked pie crust (I use a variation of this recipe: All Butter Pie Crust).

 

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk three eggs until well combined. Add pumpkin puree, coconut milk, maple syrup, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice and salt.
  2. Combine filling using an immersion blender.
  3. Refrigerate filling overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  5. Roll pie dough into a 13″ circle and transfer to a 9-inch pie plate.
  6. Pour filling into the unbaked pie shell.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake for an additional 30-40 minutes, or until a knife blade inserted 1 inch from the edge comes out clean.
  8. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Optional: Top with sweetened whipped cream or coconut whipped cream.

Create Your Own Sleep Retreat in 6 Easy Steps

I just completed a ten day sleep retreat. I didn’t plan it, it just happened. I didn’t realize how sleep deprived I was until I started sleeping 10-11 hours at a stretch.

Last month I struggled with insomnia. I’d wake up at 2, 3 or 4 in the morning and my busy mind would not let me fall back asleep. It was a rough couple of weeks, but it gave me a firsthand experience of what many people struggle with on a daily basis.

To share some stats about sleep disorders… according to the American Sleep Association:

  • 50-70 million Americans have a sleep disorder.
  • Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder.
  • 30% of adults suffer from short term insomnia.
  • 10% of adults struggle with chronic insomnia.

The average adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep. Approximately one third of Americans report that they get less than 7 hours of sleep during a typical 24 hour period. Sleep disorders have been linked to drowsy driving, obesity, and death (due to medical errors).

People are taking steps to address sleeping disorders. Many luxury hotels and resorts have started offering Sleep Vacation packages. In an effort to combat stress, many couples are choosing to sleep alone.

[Recommended Reading: British couples too stressed to sleep in same bed.]

The practice of Sleep Yoga also encourages practitioners to sleep separately. Sleeping alone increases relaxation and allows for a more individualized dreaming experience.

Sleeping alone is one of 6 recommended steps for creating your own Personal Yoga Sleep Retreat. If spending a couple thousand dollars on a weekend getaway doesn’t fit your budget, a DIY home sleep retreat is an affordable and effective alternative.

Step 1: Take a Stay-cation. Give yourself the gift of some quiet time at home. Clear your schedule, and resist the impulse to fill it back up again.

Step 2: Clean your bedroom. Wipe down surfaces, vacuum, wash your sheets. Sort through clutter and donate items you aren’t using anymore.

Step 3: Avoid caffeine. People have different sensitivity levels to caffeine. As a general rule, if your goal is to fall asleep by 10pm reduce your caffeine intake after 5pm.

Step 4: Minimize exposure to artificial lights (this includes screen time). Candlelight or low lights will help you wind down.

Step 5: Bathe before bed. Take a shower or (even better) a bath. Adding a cup of Epsom salts to your bath will relax your muscles and increase your ability to sleep. Put on clean sleeping clothes and relax in bed with the lights off.

Step 6: Sleep alone (if you have the option to do so). It makes a huge difference in the quality of your sleep.

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Retreat Musings

Intro to Pranayama Training Course

“When the breath wanders the mind is also unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still and the yogi achieves long life.” – Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Excerpt from the Intro to Pranayama training course:

My Story

I started practicing pranayama ten years ago. I spent two years studying the techniques and theories. Before then, I’d received a very brief introduction to pranayama through drop-in yoga classes. The intricate breathing practices were interesting, but I was much more attracted to the physical practice of yoga.

When I decided to become a yoga teacher I started learning basic pranayama techniques. Honestly, I didn’t want to do it! I didn’t have much patience and foolishly thought it was too easy for me.

The truth was that the idea of meditation was a little terrifying. I had been working with an anxiety disorder and the suggestion to sit quietly with my own mind seemed impossible.

[Recommended Reading: Up to 67% of People Would Rather Receive an Electric Shock than Meditate]

There’s a saying in yoga: That which you resist is the thing you need the most.

Hindsight being 20-20, pranayama was exactly what I needed. As a kid I was diagnosed with asthma, so my lungs were already weak. A solid pranayama practice would have helped immensely. But my ego was getting in the way of my ability to take care of myself…

My yoga teacher could see that I wasn’t breathing properly. He insisted that I learn the basic techniques. I went on learn the more advanced techniques and over time the theories began to take root. Eventually, I began to experience the more profound, subtle effects of pranayama.

What did I learn?

Pranayama training gave me a great appreciation for internal yoga practices. I also respect the many health benefits of asana practice. Americans have explored this facet of the yoga diamond extensively, due to our appreciation of the athleticism of the human body.

But I will say this…

If you never go beyond the physical practice of yoga you are shortchanging yourself.

The best analogy I can offer is:

If you take a bunch of vegetables, cut them up and put them into a pot, pour water over them but never turn on the stove… and somehow, you’re expecting that it will transform into soup.

Obviously, that’s never going to happen.

The way to light the fire of yoga practice is through comprehensive application and cultivation of the internal practices. It’s absolutely essential to have a well-rounded understanding of all of the branches of yoga in order to make real progress.

There’s a popular misconception that yoga can be anything to anyone, which is simply not true. Not in the traditional sense of what yoga is – a path to Self-realization and union with the divine.

So let’s begin…

For more information please visit: Personal Yoga: Intro to Pranayama Training Course

 

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Asteya: Yoga’s Answer to Hungry Ghost Syndrome

I met a hungry ghost at a dinner party. I know the type, but had never met one who was so far gone. We had an eye opening conversation that got me thinking.

The concept of hungry ghosts comes from Chinese Buddhism, Taoism and Chinese folklore. Hungry ghosts are lost souls, often depicted as having long, thin necks and huge swollen abdomens. According to tradition, evil deeds such as killing, stealing and sexual misconduct lead to becoming a hungry ghost.

“Defined by a fusion of rage and desire, tormented by unfulfilled cravings and insatiably demanding impossible satisfactions, hungry ghosts are condemned to inhabit shadowy and dismal places in the realm of the living. Their specific hunger varies according to their past karma and the sins they are atoning for. Some can eat but find it impossible to find food or drink. Others may find food and drink, but have pinhole mouths and cannot swallow. For others, food bursts into flames or rots even as they devour it.” – Hungry Ghosts: their History and Origin

This person was a living embodiment of the hungry ghost archetype. I soon realized that I was talking to a black hole of self-despair. I tried helping her but after a few attempts she became hostile so I let it go…

At the end of the night she had a flashback to a past trauma (poverty and starvation). She kept repeating:

“I was so hungry.”

One way she chose to deal with this was by directing her anger at the wealthy class. People she had never met or had any direct contact with. In her mind taxation was the solution to wealth inequality. She admitted that she lives beyond her means and has significant debt.

The interaction left me feeling drained and unsettled. One way I handle troubling situations is through research and contemplation (Jnana Yoga). My reflections led me back to the third Yama of Ashtanga Yoga: Asteya.

The Yamas are the universal ethical practices of yoga. Paired with the Niyamas (observances) these moral restraints form the foundation of Patanjali’s eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga.

Asteya means non-stealing. One could say that stealing is a response to a sense of powerlessness which stems from feelings of not being enough.

In this context, stealing extends beyond more obvious forms of theft (examples: pick pocketing, burglary, etc.). Stealing may also include:

  • Other people’s ideas
  • Disregarding personal boundaries
  • Having an envious state of mind
  • Taking up a person’s time or attention
  • Energy (succubi/incubi)
One thing we do know is this: many people who experience interactions with psychopaths and narcissists report feeling ‘drained; and confused and often subsequently experience deteriorating health. – The Psychopath: The Mask of Sanity

She had what I would call a hungry ghost syndrome. Somewhere along the way these people lose their connection to their personal power. It may be a result of abuse, resulting in any number of dependencies.

Asteya is a reminder that we are enough. Learning how to cultivate personal power is an excellent way to reverse hungry ghost syndrome. Building our energy reserves allows us to feel balanced, strong and healthy when we go out in the world.

Some ways to do this include: meditation, taking care of your body, self-love, and alone time. In my Intro to Pranayama course I teach people how to access their own complete, full source of energy.

Final thought from the Yoga Sutras:

Once non-stealing has been permanently established, all riches will be available.

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Practice, Practice, Practice Alone

Superhuman Healthcare – CranioSacral Therapy

This Independence Day I found new freedom in my body. I was blessed with an amazing gift of a CranioSacral treatment. It rocked my world, to say the least…

It’s been ten years since my last CranioSacral treatment. I can remember feeling very relaxed but was unaware of the subtle effects.

My awareness of my body is very different now. Meditation has played a big role in that. During this treatment I had a much better understanding and appreciation of the internal effects.

What is CranioSacral Therapy?

CranioSacral therapy is a gentle, hands-on treatment of the whole body. This method uses light, still touch to guide the body and nervous system into balance.

Sheila Hennessey is a licensed massage therapist and CranioSacral specialist. She provides treatments in Parker and sees private clients. She is a registered therapist with the Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America. From their website:

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapists understand how an optimally functioning healthy nervous system performs.  We are trained for years on how to use acute perception skills to perceive subtle physiological changes.  We also are aware of the energetic map that underlies one’s basic health and symptomology.  We believe that health is never lost no matter what the ailment.

What happened?

To say it was very relaxing would be an understatement. My nervous system had been on overdrive for months, from moving amidst a series of life challenges.

As the stress-induced body armor melted from the heat of the Bio-Mat I entered a parasympathetic state. This allowed my body to begin the healing process. With Sheila’s expert touch and gentle guidance the layers of tension began to dissolve.

A few highlights from this session:

  • Subtle shifts and tingling sensations in my body.
  • The healing effect on my neck.
  • Sweating and detoxifying.

Afterwards I felt very light and balanced. My alignment and posture improved a great deal. I felt calmer and more comfortable in my whole being. I enjoyed this enhanced state for days on end.

I recommend this therapy to anyone who practices yoga and meditation. Not only is it phenomenal for relieving the effects of prolonged stress, it does wonders for the central axis of the spine. This gentle process can also help expedite the development of the mind-body connection.

If you are considering CranioSacral treatment, I highly recommend you contact Sheila.

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Superfood Peanut Zucchini Noodles

Swift as the wind

Quiet as the forest

Conquer like the fire

Steady as the Mountain

– Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”

Can you feel it?

Things are heating up. There’s a buzz in the air, like we’re on the precipice of something big. It’s almost palatable, electric.

It’s not great for sleeping but it is good for getting focused. And whatever we focus on, grows…

Summer heat brings thunderstorms. As the storm approaches, sink down and root. Take slow, deep breaths.

Just stay cool.

Summer is a great time for detoxifying and introverted asana practices. It’s also the season for salads, juice, and other raw foods.

There are a few raw dishes in my culinary arsenal that have withstood the test of time. Zucchini noodles are one of them.

My love for zucchini noodles (zoodles) began with a simple salad of wide noodles (using a vegetable peeler), marinated for fifteen minutes in lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and Kosher salt.

Easy to digest = easy to absorb the prana of the food.

My brother sent me this spiralizer for Christmas. I’ve been waiting for the warm weather to try it out.

My first project: Peanut Zucchini Noodles. I found some inspiration here:

Crazy Good Peanut Noodles (Quick & Easy, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Paleo)

And here: Easy Healthy Dinner: Peanut Chicken Noodles

Zucchini is a superfood that has incredible health benefits. Peanuts and peanut butter are powerhouse foods too, especially for men.

A Word of Caution: Please read ingredient labels, avoid trans fats, and choose organic whenever possible (especially zucchini – avoid the conventional GMO variety). Toasting nuts adds flavor and kills mold. People with peanut allergies could substitute almonds/almond butter.

Superfood Peanut Zucchini Noodles

Makes 3 servings

Sauce

5 Tbsp peanut butter, smooth or chunky
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 Tbsp Sriracha (I like MM Local)

Combine in a saucepan and warm on low until peanut butter melts. Remove from heat and set aside.

Stir Fry

1 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 carrot, cut into 2″ slivers
1 bell pepper (yellow, red, or a combination), cut into 2″ slivers
1/2 c green onion, sliced (reserve green parts)

Preheat a large saucepan or wok on medium low. Add coconut oil, carrot, pepper. Gently stir fry for 5 minutes.

While cooking julienned vegetables, spiralize 2 medium zucchini with the wide, fettuccine blade. Set aside.

Add 1 Tbsp minced garlic and white parts of green onion to the stir fry. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until garlic is fragrant. Turn heat off.

Add zucchini noodles and green onion parts, fold in sauce. Finish with 1 tsp toasted sesame oil.

Toppings

1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 cup chopped, toasted peanuts
Himalayan pink salt

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Summer Skincare is Getting Juicy

Outdoor Fitness Classes – Parker Tai Chi and Qi Gong Club

Outdoor training season is one of my favorite times of year. Navigating the weather can be a bit of an adventure here in Parker, Colorado. We get flash hailstorms all summer and it can get pretty windy at times. Which is a big reason why I’m so grateful to have a new indoor training space.

On nice days it’s amazing to train outside here. The sunsets are gorgeous and the skies are incredible. And after a long winter it feels so good to soak up the warm sunshine while exercising.

One of my local outdoor training spots is the Parker Norwell Outdoor Fitness park. Park gyms are a very cool phenomenon. I’ve seen a few of them in my travels around the country. This one was designed by the Barkholt family from Denmark:

During travels in Asia, the family experienced how the public outdoor fitness parks everywhere offer easy access to exercise, and the perfect supplement to the family’s walking and running routines.

This experience inspired the Barkholt family to develop their own unique line of outdoor fitness equipment, expressing the very best of Danish Design: quality, functionality and aesthetics.

There’s one piece of equipment that I really like – the curved pull up/stretching bars.

It’s perfect for practicing a full range of strength and flexibility exercises. A few of my favorite exercises include:

  • Hamstring Stretches
  • Flat Back Stretch
  • Hanging Spinal Stretch
  • Leg Lifts Series (for core and leg strength)
  • High Bar Stretching

These exercises are highly beneficial for all levels of experience. If there was one thing I could recommend that people do for themselves this summer it would be to train outdoors 2-3 days a week.

I’ll be co-hosting a series of small group sessions at the Norwell Park Gym and other local outdoor training spots. Contact me if you’re interested in attending a free seminar on how to do these exercises.

For more information visit the Parker Tai Chi and Qi Gong Club’s Facebook page.

 

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When Life Gets Busy Your Practice is the First Thing to Go

One could say that moving falls in the top five life challenges. I’d say that’s a safe bet, just based on the volume of time and energy that moving requires. When life gets busy taking care of ourselves loses priority. Fast.

It’s been a week since I moved into my new home. It still feels like I have a thousand things to do and I’m juggling so many balls in the air. I’ll be so happy when I’m settled in and can get back on track with my practice.

As I’m unpacking I keep pausing in front of the window of my new training space. We just had a late spring blizzard and the beautiful pine tree outside is covered in snow.

I watch as the sunlight begins to shine through the clouds. I’m daydreaming about practicing in my new home.

I had to sacrifice my own training quite a bit this month. It happens. Especially when your home is under construction.

When life gets busy your practice is the first thing to go. – Garrell Herndon, Bodyworker and Yoga Instructor

At times like these I remember some wise words from an Iyengar yoga teacher that I studied with. They always serve as a good reminder to be gentle with myself during times of high output.

I know the work is worthwhile. I’m just so incredibly grateful to have a home training space. It’s a long term dream that requires very particular dimensions of space. I am not a fan of the tiny house movement. Or low hanging ceiling fans. Or big pieces of furniture.  I like to move!

I’m getting close to achieving my dream lifestyle: to have a job that I love, to be able to focus on my practice, and create Personal Yoga retreats. I can’t even begin to describe how happy this makes me…

Living my Dharma, one day at a time.

Self Teacher Study – Personal Yoga Training Chart

A Personal Yoga practice gives you the freedom to practice anytime, anywhere. Practicing at home sounds easy enough but it can take years to cultivate your own intuitive, organic practice.

Needless to say, it can be challenging to self-direct your own practice. Having too many choices can feel overwhelming. Without a clear road map you might start avoiding your mat altogether.

When I feel overwhelmed I get organized. I keep a wire-bound notebook on my desk at all times.

I love making lists. All kinds. Grocery lists, “To Do” lists, long-term goal lists, project lists, etc. I love the satisfaction of crossing things off and throwing lists away. I keep the best lists.

Six months ago I started developing my first Personal Yoga training chart (feel free to expand upon it). This organizational tool played an essential role in my recovery from a herniated disk.

Create your own Personal Yoga Training Chart

Step 1: Free Writing

Start by free writing a page of notes. Write continuously until you fill the page. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc. Write about your goals. Write about any challenges you might be having with your home practice. It’s okay to go off topic, just keep writing.

Step 2: Movement Vocabulary

On a fresh sheet of paper make a list (!) of exercises. Think about your movement vocabulary. Which exercises will help you reach your goals? What do you enjoy doing?

[The key word here is: Enjoy. One pitfall to avoid is too much structure. Too many have-to’s. Not enough want-to’s.]

How do you want to move?

The level of challenge is up to you. You could include one or two exercises that you don’t necessarily enjoy but would be good for you. For the most part include exercises that you genuinely enjoy.

Step 3: Training Chart

On a third sheet of paper make a chart. On the left side of the page list all of the dates for the next month. Across the top of the page create columns for each exercise that you listed in Step 2.

The number of exercises is up to you. I recommend anywhere from 3-12. Your personal practice can be as simple or as challenging as you want to be. The idea is to pick exercises that you can see yourself doing on a day-to-day basis.

Tracking your daily progress is very satisfying. And a training chart provides you with a record of your efforts over time.

Off Days

Gaps in your training schedule are okay! It’s bound to happen at some point. Life gets busy or takes an unexpected turn. Be kind to yourself on your off days. Trust that you’ll get back on track as soon as possible.

Could you use a little help with with your budding home practice? I’d love to hear about your goals. Book a free no-obligation consultation today.

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Personal Yoga Benefits

Sensory Deprivation Tanks – Pratyahara for Modern Day Life

Finally!

I’ve wanted to try a sensory deprivation tank for years. It’s been on my bucket list after hearing friends swear by them.

As luck would have it, Parker is home to the largest float spa in Colorado. I was delighted to find a Groupon deal for a 90 minute session at the Astral Float Spa.

…invented by John Lilly back in 1954, it is a lightless, soundproof tank inside which subjects float in salt water at skin temperature. The tanks are now also used for meditation and relaxation and in alternative medicine. The best thing you can do for your mind, body and soul. The only environment like it is in space or back in the womb. – Astral Float Spa

DEETS

  • The interior of the tank is about 4′ wide by 8′ long.
  • The water is approximately 10″ deep.
  • Each tank contains 800 pounds of dissolved medical grade Epsom salt.
  • The high salt content gives the water a soft and silky consistency.

So why would anyone do this? Modern day living has many people feeling desperate for relief. Our senses are bombarded constantly. The need to unplug is strong but few of us are able to get off-grid.

Sensory deprivation tanks can be an oasis for an over-stimulated nervous system. Modern day yogis can use them for practicing pratayahara, (sensory withdrawal) the fifth limb of Patanjali’s eight-fold path. According to Yogapedia:

Pratyahara is considered important in yoga because it forms a bridge between the external focus of the previous limbs of yoga and the internal focus of the subsequent limbs, which move the practitioner into concentration, meditation and, eventually, to the goal of samadhi (union with the Divine).

Fear Factor

To be honest I was a little apprehensive. Mild claustrophobia and concerns of being too cold crossed my mind. I wasn’t about to let fear stop me so I worked through my reservations.

This may sound morbid, but we all die eventually. I figured that a 90 minute savasana was a good way to practice for the big event. That’s what “Corpse Pose” is for anyway.

My fears dissolved the moment I stepped into the tank. The darkness was inviting and the water temperature was comfortable. The parts of my body that were exposed to the air were surprisingly warm.

Effortless Floating

The high concentration of Epsom salt made my body super-buoyant. I positioned myself in the center of the tank and moved into stillness. The only sensory input was from occasional contact with the walls or a random droplet of condensation.

I focused on my breathing and started to relax. Knots of tension began to unravel. First my sacrum, then my right femur, left shoulder, fingertips…

As the layers of modern day body armor began to melt a wave of sadness rose up my back (the storehouse of past memories). Much like the effect of healing bodywork, floating helped me release some grief.

Once the daily headlines and life soundtrack ran their course, past memories of floating began to surface. These dreamlike images of swimming or soaking all shared a similar feeling of freedom. I drifted farther into a state of bliss when all of a sudden…

BLAM

With uncanny precision, a single water droplet exploded between my eyebrows. Chinese Water Torture on my third eye. A current of awareness traveled up my forehead and the crown of my head began to pulsate.

After an hour of stillness I wanted to move again. I discovered that when I secured my heels against the floor I could slide back and forth, creating wave patterns with my spine. My joints cracked open as my hair floated around me like long strands of seaweed.

Aftermath

Afterwards I felt hypersensitive, similar to the effects of a two hour yoga practice. I felt disoriented, vulnerable, and eager to retreat from the world. I wasn’t so sure about the whole operating a motor vehicle thing, but I drove myself home.

If you ever want to try a sensory deprivation tank, my advice would be to arrange for someone to pick you up. Also be sure to go when the weather is warm. Best to avoid going into the cold with open pores or a wet head. Stay healthy!

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