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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Home Rituals – Maple Pecan Pie

I’ve had slow-cooked foods on the brain lately: French onion soup, barbecued ribs and pecan pie. Slow-cooked foods are ideal in the winter and when my body is craving certain foods, I listen.

I’ve wanted to make a pecan pie for ten years. My inspiration came from the Shoshoni Yoga cookbook, which I discovered after a day trip to the Rollinsville, Colorado center.

Even more outstanding than the high frequency of the beautiful mountain ashram or the gentle yoga class was the food…

The yoga class was held in the main hall next to the kitchen where I could hear the cooks chanting mantras (mantra: to protect).

The summer meal consisted of Mexican vegetable soup, salad with avocado dressing, and sopapillas with refried beans and cheese. I felt so nourished from eating these foods and left wanting to know more.

I studied every page of that cookbook. All great recipes (especially the desserts section) but the pecan pie was the most impressive. Why?

They use maple syrup instead of corn syrup.

I didn’t know you could substitute the two. Corn syrup is a standard ingredient in pecan pie. It’s also one of the sweeteners that I avoid.

Maple syrup is packed with nutrients and anti-oxidants. Combined with pecans’ massive health benefits this dessert is a phenomenal superfood.

“One saintly Ma from Bangalore tells us, “We need to eat a little sweet on occasion, so we stay sweet.” – Yoga Kitchen: Recipes from the Shoshoni Yoga Retreat

I’d been hesitant because I wasn’t sure how to do it. I didn’t want to mess up or waste good ingredients. But after a two week Personal Yoga retreat I felt more courageous and aware of my body’s messages.

It became clear that I needed more information. So I did some research which led me to this recipe. It’s similar to Shoshoni’s version and has more detailed instructions.

A Personal Spin

I used pre-shelled pecan pieces (slow food is great but ain’t nobody got time to shell 2 1/2 cups of pecans) and added a little nitrate-free bacon fat to the pie dough (bacon fat prevents the crust from burning). You could go straight butter – just keep an eye on the edges. [Is Lard Healthy?]

Maple Pecan Pie

Prep: 8 hours or overnight

Servings: 8

One 9″ Pie Crust

  • 3/4 cup white flour, chilled
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, chilled
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 5 Tbsp butter, chilled
  • 3 Tbsp bacon fat, chilled
  • 4-6 Tbsp ice water

Filling

  • 2 1/2 cups toasted pecan pieces
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup Grade B maple syrup
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 tsp Himalayan sea salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp Bourbon (optional)

Prepare the Crust

  1. In a food processor pulse to combine the flours and salt. Add chilled butter and fat and process until the mixture has the consistency of cornmeal. Add 4 Tbsp ice water and pulse until the dough gathers into a ball. Add 1-2 additional Tbsp of water if needed.
  2. Transfer dough to a piece of parchment paper. Form dough into a round disk, handling as little as possible. Wrap dough in parchment paper and place in a sealed ziplock bag. Place in freezer for 30 minutes.
  3. Unwrap dough and lightly flour a rolling pin. Roll dough into a 12″ circle. Transfer to a 9″ pie plate. Press rolled dough to fit pie plate. Shape edges into a fluted or decorative design of your choice.
  4. Chill crust for 30 minutes.
  5. Line pie crust with parchment paper and dry rice or pie weights. Bake crust at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, then remove paper and weights.

Filling

  1. Prepare the filling while the pie crust is baking. In a medium saucepan melt the butter, brown sugar and salt. Remove from heat and add maple syrup, vanilla, and Bourbon.
  2. Stir in the toasted pecan pieces. Option: to infuse the pecans add them to the vanilla-syrup while they are still hot. Let cool completely.
  3. In a small bowl whisk the three eggs. Stir into pecan mixture in three additions.

Pour filling into hot, pre-baked pie crust. Reduce heat to 275 degrees. Bake pie for 20-40 minutes. I recommend reading the Bojon Gourmet’s article for how to determine when the pie is done.

Let the pie cool completely and refrigerate. One hour before serving cut into slices and bring to room temperature.

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How to Plan a Winter Solstice Personal Yoga Retreat

Winter Solstice

 

“Winter Solstice”

No more hurry

hurry,

time now for firelight

and dreaming,

for church bells

mingling

with the cold, quiet sunlight.

And somewhere

deep

inside of you

a kernel of courage

unfurling –

each day, more light.

– Irene Latham


“If you want to make God laugh, make a plan.” 

A friend once shared this tidbit of wisdom with me, and it still rings true whenever my plans fall apart. I had every intention of focusing on my practice for the month of December but my immune system has been on the ropes from three consecutive colds.

Thankfully I’ve had a chance to regroup, just in time for the Winter Solstice. In some ways it’s better to start a Personal Yoga retreat now because I’ll have fewer distractions over the holidays.

Of course, the ultimate goal is to merge working life seamlessly with your practice. But according to the great Sage Patanjali, the first of 13 Obstacles on the Yogic Path is sickness. There isn’t much we can do until we’re feeling better. So incubation is key, which falls in line with the power and presence of the Winter Solstice.

Winter Solstice Retreat

I like to begin a Personal Yoga retreat with a few simple preparations. These are especially beneficial if you haven’t been feeling well or have low energy from holiday season burnout. I recommend starting with Saucha, the second Niyama (observance) of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga.

The Niyamas are foundational practices that relate to our internal world. Saucha means purity or cleanliness of our internal and external worlds. When we engage in Saucha on an external level (such as our bodies), we are also affecting the internal (mind and spirit) parts of our beings.

If my house isn’t clean I have a hard time focusing on anything. So I like to practice Saucha with a thorough and intentional cleaning of my home environment. A few of my Saucha materials include:

  • White Vinegar Spray: Great for counter-tops, bathrooms and floors (dilute 50/50 with water).
  • Baking Soda: Mix with vinegar spray to create a paste for sinks or tubs.
  • Essential Oils: Lavender and Tea Tree are powerful antiseptics. Add a few drops to a sponge or mix with grain alcohol for a DIY air freshener. (For more information, read Freshen Indoor Air Naturally )

I love the way burning candles and diffusing essential oils can lift the feeling of a space. [Fun fact: I recently learned that burning dried sage can reduce airborne bacteria.] Another nice touch is a vase of fresh flowers in clean water.

I like to conclude a meditative house cleaning with a hot shower and a fresh set of clean clothes. These simple steps clear my mind so that I can drop more easily into my practice and refill my “cup.”

I hope these tips spark your imagination with creating your own Winter Solstice Retreat.

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Hot Logic Mini

hot-logic-mini-parkDisclaimer: I am not paid to endorse the Hot Logic Mini. I am simply sharing my appreciation for the intelligent design of this product with my readers.

So I’ve never blogged about a product before, but this is one of the best things that I’ve come across in a long time. And it ties into past discussions about alchemical cooking, health, the Slow Movement, etc.

The Hot Logic Mini is a personal portable oven that uses what the company describes as a “low-slow conductive heating system.” According to their website:

The Hot Logic Mini is ideal for those of us who don’t like microwaves… busy people who don’t have time to cook… truckers / delivery drivers / travelers who don’t have a lunch room… food preppers & fitness enthusiasts… folks with food allergies or special dietary concerns who want to carry a safe, healthy, hot meal with them anywhere they go.

I can’t stand microwaves. Just the thought of ruining a good meal by wicking away all of the nutrients makes me feel pretty sad. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t like to eat out very much. I prefer to cook my own meals because I know exactly what’s going in them and how they were prepared.

When I go out into the world for work or school, microwaves tend to be the only available option. I am a firm believer in the necessity of eating hot meals. Hot food is as essential for good health as hot beverages are – especially in the colder months.

I am the kind of person who carries a toaster oven around with me. [Taoist Travel Tip: they do come in handy on the road.] But toaster ovens are bulky and can take up space, and it’s not so easy to be discreet with them. So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered my new favorite thing:

The Hot Logic Mini

I just spent a month playing with my new toy. I paid $40 for it on ebay and didn’t want to take the risk of having someone steal it. So I kept it my car and used a portable jump starter with a USB outlet and a 100 watt car inverter (the Mini uses 45 watts).

I use glass pyrex containers for food storage. Glass is preferable to plastic or aluminum foil, because glass keeps the food safe from harmful chemicals that leach into the food when it’s heated. Glass is also non-porous so it doesn’t absorb food or germs.

hot-logic-mini-quicheSo what did I make? I tried a bunch of different things. Indian food packets with rice are easy and delicious. Pasta dishes reheat super well. Any kind of stew (like chicken pot pie with a mashed potato crust) is ideal.

hot-logic-mini-chicken-pot-pieI don’t recommend soups with the pyrex containers because they’re not leakproof. And spills are kind of a pain in the butt. The inner seams of the bag are not so easy to clean. But that’s really my only criticism of the Mini’s design.

hot-logic-mini-pastaMy favorite discovery was the defrosted breakfast burrito. I did heat them in the paper wrapping but they reheat really, really well that way. I could probably unwrap the burrito and put it in a glass container. But convenience won me over on busy mornings.

hot-logic-mini-breakfast-burritoAs far as heating time goes, you’ll want to turn on the Mini 60-90 minutes in advance of when you’ll be eating. The burritos dry out a bit if they’re left in any longer than that. But any dish with moisture can sustain even longer heating times. It’s kind of like a crock pot in that way…

Which brings us back to the topic of slow food and yoga. Slow cooked foods are ideal for many reasons. The longer you slow cook certain foods (such as beans) the more chi or vital life force is infused into the food. It’s kind of like adding a bottle of fuel treatment to your gas tank. Slow cooking helps you increase the power, function and mileage of your body-vehicle.

If you’d like some recipe ideas you’re welcome to check out my Pinterest. If you enjoyed reading this article you might also like:

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mind-body-mandala-mums

Practice, Practice, Practice Alone

Practice Alone Do Not DisturbI just completed a month-long Personal Yoga retreat so I thought I’d share a few insights while they’re fresh in my mind. I still had my day-to-day responsibilities to attend to but I managed to raise the bar of my practice. I also did a social media fast (well, except for Pinterest – does that count as social media?)

Taking a month to withdraw gave me a much needed break. And it helped to raise my awareness of the challenges of being a modern day sadhaka. A sadhaka is a Sanskrit term for someone who follows a particular sadhana (a spiritual practice or way of life).

Practice Alone Flowers

According to B.K.S. Iyengar, one of the most famous yoga teachers of all time, a sadhaka uses yoga to gain knowledge, light and liberation. It also helps to purify the body and soul. – Yogapedia

Challenge #1: Practicing at Home

Some of the obstacles of maintaining a home practice are a result of, well… being at home. Home isn’t the gym, or the studio, or any other designated place for exercise. So we have to consciously make it into one, which takes work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started my practice only to have a “to-do” flash through my mind.

“Oh I forgot to change the laundry over, put the leftovers away, etc.” 

“Darn it, I meant to turn off my cell phone.”

“Oh man, I really need to shave my legs.”

It can be tricky to navigate the transition from housework or home office work to doing our home practice. My best advice is to stay on your mat. You’ll be able to take care of all of these things afterwards.

Challenge #2: Shared living spaces.

If you have housemates or family members around you may have to work at communicating your boundaries.

“I’m going to be practicing from now until such-and-such a time. Do you need anything before I get started?”

“I’d like to practice for the next hour. Could you please use headphones if you want to watch TV or listen to the radio?”

Practice Alone Purple FlowersChallenge #3: This path can be lonely at times.

We may or may not have a community (sangha) of practitioners to support us in our journeys. It’s okay though – you’ll feel far more connected, centered and whole after you practice.

Challenge #4: Interruptions

It’s very important to choose a practice time when you won’t be interrupted. The people you live with may or may not realize what you’re doing. I’ve had people walk in and start talking to me when I was in a extraordinarily expansive meditation. It’s incredibly jarring to the nervous system to be disrupted when you’re in that state.

According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, “Useless Talk” is one of the 6 Destroyers of Yoga Practice.

Hopefully you’ll remember to turn your cell phone off. You can also minimize unexpected guests or workmen by telling people you work from home and can’t be disturbed.

Practice Alone MandalaIf you’re thinking about doing a personal retreat or just want to start a home practice, my very best advice is (to echo the words of the master himself) – practice, practice, practice alone. Try to practice when you won’t be disturbed. You can avoid many of these obstacles simply by making good use of your alone time.

As someone who used to dread the idea of being alone, I can tell you that practicing alone is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself. And when you do your sadhana (translation – good for you) you’ll have more than enough energy to extend to others.

Practice Alone Tea Cup

Personal Yoga Retreats

Personal Yoga RetreatsLast night I trained in a temple of clouds. The gentle currents of air mingled with the sounds of water. I watched two young mule deer peek their heads above the long grasses in the nearby field. In the distance a billowing cumulus tower ignited with flashes of lightning. The blazing sunset warmed my back as I moved and stretched my body.

Summer training season is here.

I love training outdoors. As much as I appreciate the privacy of an indoor space, as soon as the weather allows I like to go to the park, trail or playground whenever possible. In public spaces there’s usually an audience, but most people are nice. Like the elderly lady last night who said, “Thank you for the entertainment.”

Summer training season is a wonderful time for Personal Yoga retreats. These experiences replenish and refuel my whole being. It’s not just exercising – it’s the whole lifestyle. Eating alchemical food, feeling GREAT and laughing a lot.

Have I mentioned that I love my life?

Personal Yoga Retreat QuicheThis is not the kind of thing that you can teach in drop-in classes. It’s means taking a whole day to focus on eating, meditating and training. That’s my life – I create my own personal yoga retreats. I’ve been doing this for over five years now. I just enjoy feeling awesome and is this is how I do it.

It’s definitely possible to do this for yourself. You just have to carve out some space in your schedule and do some basic preparations, such as:

  • Clean the house
  • Clean and groom your body
  • Get your “to-do” list in order
  • Stock the fridge with delicious and healthy food

All of this will help to minimize distractions. Once you’ve cleared your slate start your Personal Yoga retreat nice and slow. Turn your phone off (or just don’t answer it). Cook with superfoods. Take some supplements. Drink lots of fluids. Move in ways that your body and mind enjoy. Rest when you’re tired.

If you’d like some help with designing your own Personal Yoga retreat I’d be happy to speak with you. I offer free no-obligation consultations in person, by phone, Skype or Facetime.

Red Rose Mandala

Self Teacher Study – Freedom Yoga Immersion Part II

Freedom Yoga Immersion Part II

This is the second half of my review of Erich Schiffmann’s Freedom Yoga Immersion. As inspiring as this online course was I did see a few red flags along the way. To be honest, I almost stopped watching at Day 4. But I pushed through and remembered to use what works and leave the rest. Here’s what I left behind and what I’ll take into the future…

#1: Watching Television. At one point a student asked if it was possible to practice “being online” while watching television. Schiffmann said yes, but I do not recommend watching television.

#2: The All One/One Love lectures had a heavy New Age-propaganda spin to them. I detected elements of “idiot compassion” (a phrase coined by Chogyam Trungpa) and the psychological warfare tactics described by KGB defector Yuri Bezmenov.

#3: The Milarepa Necklace. Schiffmann was seemingly unaware of the implications of wearing an image of this Tibetan yogi and sorcerer. This is not to be taken lightly. Not from anyone, not even an eccentric long-haired hippy.

#4: Food/Vegetarianism. I do not recommend attempting to replace food with love. Love is an emotion. You have to eat to survive. What you choose to eat has a direct impact on your physical and mental health.

#5: Free Will. Schiffmann believes that the best use of free will is to not use it. When it comes to spiritual practices it’s very easy to get lost in the “follow the leader” mentality. Handing over your free will to whatever you believe might be your intuitive connection to the Divine… well, that requires a high level of discernment, training and self-cultivation.

The Slow Path is Best

Learning how to engage with your intuition takes time. Traditionally, a guru and an aspirant would test one another over ten years before entering into a formal student-teacher relationship. I would suggest taking this same approach with your intuition. We’re talking about unraveling a lifetime of habituated thought patterns in order to understand who you are. And that’s just the beginning!

By all means, connect with your intuition through your body. Practice letting go in savasana (a preparation for dying). Get comfortable with feeling open, expansive and unguarded. Practice listening to your inner guidance in this relaxed state. Ask for guidance that is in alignment with your highest good. Connect with your desire to know.

Something’s going on here, … , 

Little Dharma Sessions

Coming back to what worked. I’m so grateful to have been able to take this training for free. The two parts that were most helpful were Schiffmann’s encouragement to:

  1. Write more. I so appreciated the recommendation to jot down my on-the-mat inspirations, and to continue writing articles. He called these practices “good little dharma sessions.”
  2. Do my yoga with people. This idea challenges and inspires me so much that I’m thinking about offering a class that includes a free-form practice component. To explore my own take on Freedom Yoga.

I highly recommend this course to anyone who is interested in developing their own yoga practice.

Self Teacher Study – Freedom Yoga Immersion

Self Teacher Study Freedom Yoga Immersion

I just completed Erich Schiffmann’s Freedom Yoga Immersion on Yoga Anytime. This online platform is “a community of yogis dedicated to the global sharing of the teachings of yoga.”

Erich Schiffmann is an American yoga master who has been called one of the innovators of modern day yoga. When this series came out in 2015 he had been teaching for 42 years and practicing for 48 years. His primary teachers include Krishnamurti, Desikachar, and Iyengar. Schiffmann is one of my yoga teacher’s teachers and his book “Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness” is a personal favorite.

I’ve never studied with Schiffmann so you can imagine my excitement when I saw a coupon code on his Facebook page for a 30 day free trial of Yoga Anytime. I jumped at the opportunity and signed up for his five day immersion. It took me three weeks to complete the seventeen hour course.

The immersion was divided into philosophy discussions, guided meditation and asana practices, as well as Schiffmann’s signature Freedom Yoga practice. I skipped the silent Freedom Yoga sections and just observed the first couple of asana practices (videos are not my favorite learning style for asana).

Whenever you’re starting with a new teacher it’s always best to keep an open mind. If the “cup” of our minds is full it can be difficult to absorb new teachings. And when it comes to learning yoga use what works and leave the rest. So let’s start with what worked…

My favorite part was the guided meditations. Schiffmann is an expert meditation teacher. He understands that meditation is the main practice of yoga, and that meditation is what promotes and facilitates the realization of what yoga is about. Some of the meditations were absolutely delicious. I enjoyed his directions to “snuggle” parts of my body into the mat and to “squeegee myself clean” when doing body scans.

Schiffmann emphasizes the idea that yoga is a lifestyle – that it is so much more than “metaphysical P.E.” (love this!) Regarding the asana portion, I appreciated his preference for the “simple stuff.” He describes the asana practice as being very easy although the mindset is very advanced. The sequences are effective at opening the channels (nadis) in a gentle way that is suitable for all levels.

I enjoyed his stories about his yoga journey. He described a turning point of when he felt like he was always doing someone else’s yoga. After years of disciplined practice he said that his yoga felt like a dud. It was only when he learned how to channel lines of energy through his body that he became empowered with his own practice. This marked the beginning of Freedom Yoga.

Goof Off with Purpose

Schiffmann is an advocate of learning how to channel our own practices. He recommends beginning with systems of your choice. The discipline of learning established systems is important as it helps to “get you in the game,” but being dependent on a teacher is kind of a drag. Once you’re trained the practice begins to teach you and that’s when it becomes fun again. Otherwise it can feel like you’re stifling yourself. As you dive deep and allow free form movement to occur eventually it will flower as an intuitive practice.

Getting Online

The main technique (discipline) of Freedom Yoga is listening. Schiffmann describes this process as “getting online” or cultivating an intuitive connection with the infinite. He recommends beginning just by getting curious and presenting the question:

Something’s going on here , … ,

Stay tuned for Freedom Yoga Immersion Part II.

Superhuman Healthcare – Herniated Disks

Herniated disks are no joke. The first time I got one I was commuting to NYC every week. Schlepping a roller suitcase through the crowded subways did a number on my neck. I woke up one day with a very bad pain radiating down my arm.

In yoga we talk about the difference between good pain and bad pain. 

  • Good pain is a generalized discomfort that results from increasing your performance level. Good pain is an indicator that you are progressing with proper alignment and awareness of your personal limitations.
  • Bad pain is sharp, shooting and localized. It’s a red flag that your body communicates to say STOP what you are doing immediately.

A herniated disk (also called a ruptured or slipped disk) is an excellent example of bad pain. They can occur anywhere in the spine, but most often will occur in the cervical spine (neck) or lumbar spine (lower back). Typically a herniated disk causes a pinched nerve, leading to numbness or tingling in the neck, arm, lower back or leg. It causes pain, weakness, and/or numbness.

The good news is that up to 90% of patients can be treated without surgery. I’m a huge advocate for avoiding surgery whenever possible. And it can be helpful to know what kinds of alternative treatments are available and how they work.

This past January I ruptured my neck again (admittedly, it’s the weak link in my chain). I did it while sleeping incorrectly and it took about two months to heal. Part of what slowed the process was that I didn’t take time off. I was doing a LOT of desk work while trying to keep up with my normal exercise routines.

Pain is a great teacher.

Thankfully, I had the help of one of the top tier Oriental medical providers in America – Avi Ginsberg, a.k.a. Jin Wei. He’s helped me on countless occasions over the past twelve years, including one time when I got a serious viral infection.

Avi has an arsenal of therapies that he uses in his treatments, all of which are built upon his signature style of bodywork. The foundation of external therapy in Oriental medicine is Tui Na, or Chinese medical massage. It’s somewhat like Rolfing, as his technique is a unique form of non-invasive reconstructive surgery.

In addition to Tui Na, Avi gave me acupuncture multiple times. After administering over 30,000 treatments he’s mastered a painless needling technique. During one of his treatments I fell asleep on the table! This is not uncommon but it was a first for me.

He also used cupping therapy to help increase circulation. Cupping is amazing. It feels like deep tissue massage and is great for immediate pain relief. One time Avi combined a cupping treatment with Gua Sha, another ancient massage technique. According to Wikipedia:

Gua sha, meaning “scraping sha-bruises”, is a traditional Chinese medical treatment in which the skin is scraped to produce light bruising. Practitioners believe gua sha releases unhealthy elements from injured areas and stimulates blood flow and healing.

Again, this is deep tissue medical massage. It’s not for cosmetic purposes, it’s for getting to the root of the problem which may involve good pain. One of Avi’s clients (a retired nurse) used the analogy of how you wouldn’t try to fix acne by covering it with make up. You have to dig deep sometimes which is why a solid yoga practice is so helpful with navigating the healing process.

I’m very grateful to be pain-free after receiving such wonderful care. I’m rebuilding my strength and I’m happy to be practicing handstands again.

For more information about Avi Ginsberg please visit Hatch Chiropractic and Wellness

Home Rituals – Berry Walnut Muffin Bread

Berry Walnut Muffin Bread 2

The warm weather has returned to the Western Slope of Colorado, which means that outdoor training season is officially here! I’ve made a commitment to working out in the mornings before it gets too hot. I usually eat a big mid-morning meal (breakfast like a king) so I’ve had to switch up my diet and lifestyle a bit.

The solution? Muffins! Hearty, wholesome and packed with good ingredients. These babies are a great mid-morning snack and carry me though until lunch. This week I played with a new recipe: berry walnut muffin bread (all the goodness of individual muffins in bread form).

Berry Walnut Muffin Bread 3

So just to clear up a few things. The ingredients in this recipe might raise a red flag for some people and to those folks I say (with love in my heart…)

Don’t like wheat? Don’t eat it. 

Don’t like sugar? Don’t eat it. 

Don’t like dairy? Don’t eat it.

But to those of us who can enjoy these foods unabashedly I say mangia! Eat with the confidence that comes from choosing the most beautiful foods. Wheat, sugar and dairy are incredibly powerful foods so long as they haven’t been tampered with.

For this muffin bread recipe I used organic non-GMO flour, organic milk and butter. The butter was on sale, otherwise I’d have used any conventional rGBH-free variety. I also used organic frozen mixed berries and non-GMO sugar.

The media has been working overtime to demonize sugar (remember when they tried telling us that butter was bad for you?) Sugar is a superfood in its own right. Sugar is listed in the Materia Medica of Chinese Herbal Medicine as a Qi (energy) tonic. And sugar, wheat, milk and butter are all recommended foods in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika:

64. Wheat, rice, barley, shastik (a kind of rice), good corns, milk, ghee, sugar, butter, sugarcandy, honey, dried ginger, Parwal (a vegetable), the five vegetables, moong, pure water, these are very beneficial to those who practice Yoga.

So let’s get cooking! This berry walnut muffin bread is fantastic. It’s almost like eating cake for breakfast. The tang from the buttermilk compliments the sweetness of the berries. I made my own buttermilk by mixing whole milk with a little vinegar (lemon juice works too) and letting it sit for five minutes.

I didn’t want the bread to be soggy so I used raspberries, blueberries and blackberries (and cut up the blackberries into smaller pieces). And I always toast nuts before baking with them. Toasting kills off any molds and enhances the flavor of the nuts.

Berry Walnut Muffin Bread 1

Berry Walnut Muffin Bread

1 Loaf

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups of flour (1 cup whole wheat + 1 cup all purpose)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk + 1/2 Tbsp vinegar)

1  1/2 cups frozen mixed berries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
2 Tbsp sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan with butter or coconut oil.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a small bowl.
  3. Place frozen mixed berries in a small bowl. Add 1-2 Tbsp of the flour mixture and toss to coat. Cover bowl and place in freezer.
  4. In a medium-sized bowl cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg and vanilla.
  5. Add flour mixture a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk.
  6. Fold in the berries and walnuts and pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  7. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp sugar over the top of the batter.
  8. Bake for 60 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Serve warm or toasted with lots of butter!

*** High Altitude baking note: decrease the amount of baking powder to 1  1/2 tsp. ***

Berry Walnut Muffin Bread Slice