Today I have something exciting and a little different for you. A guest post by one of my very best friends and all time favorite yoga teachers, Alex Phelan, with some correlating recipe inspiration from me. Alex and I first met over 10 years ago when we studied abroad together in India, sharing a room, a host mother, and lots of adventures. Since then she’s returned to India to live and now, back in New York, is one of the most talented yoga teachers I have ever encountered. I’m no yogi, but I do try to practice at least once a week and I’ve had my fair share of yoga instructors over the years. I’m not joking when I say that Alex is my all time favorite teacher, and not just because we’re friends. Rather than giving vague instructions, Alex is able to explain things in a way that makes sense, and her soft touch is enough to put any askew muscles in the right place.
I don’t have to tell you about the benefits of yoga. It’s great exercise, and a perfect way to get into shape this summer. But it’s also so much more than that. It increases flexibility and clears the mind. I’m always happier when I leave a yoga class. Today Alex has some great yoga moves that you can try out, whether you’ve never done yoga or are a seasoned pro. Since they were inspired by her recent move, they can be done with no equipment and in very little space. Then, to hydrate, I’ve got some refreshing ideas for flavored water that you’ll be gulping down. Alex, take it away:
As summer zooms up on us, I find myself not quite able to indulge in fantasies of backyard bbqs and beach days. Instead, my head is swimming with measurements, cardboard boxes and the psychic and physical clutter of moving. My natural inclination towards tidiness and order are being foiled by the unavoidable chaos of a move in progress. But fortunately this is just the sort of situation that the yoga practice is custom built for! Below you’ll find the grounding and calming yoga practices that I’ve been using to keep myself from throwing all my worldly possessions in the dumpster…rather than have to organize them in boxes. Even if you aren’t rearranging your entire life, these practices can be useful techniques for turning inward and escaping the chaos whenever life gets busy, stressful or overwhelming. Also, a few simple, low equipment recipes from Katherine to help keep away from eating junk-food while my kitchen is in boxes!
Viparita Karani – Legs up the Wall
This is one of my all-time favorite yoga poses. It is at once a gentle inversion, a forward bend and a restorative pose. There are lots of different ways to do legs up the wall, but my current favorite is with a blanket under my pelvis and a strap around my legs. Spend anywhere from 10 breaths to 10 minutes in this relaxing and grounding posture. As an added meditation here, you can allow your mind to watch the breath as it comes in and out; slowly letting the mind clear and empty by keeping your attention focused on the inhale and exhale.
Paschimottanasana – Stretch of the West
Forward bends have not always been my favorite, and though they are said to be soothing and calming, in the past I’ve found them a bit of a struggle. That is why I love this version of paschimottanasana with knees deeply bent. I think about curling into a little ball and letting the weight of my whole torso rest as I come into this pose and it helps me to unwide any tension in my back.
Nadi Shodhana – Alternate Nostril Breathing
This is my favorite pranayama technique for when I’m stressed out. It can be pretty intense if you’ve never practiced any sort of breathwork before, so just do a few rounds at a time with a few normal breaths in between to start. To begin, you take your thumb of your right hand to your right nostril and your ring and pinky fingers to your left nostril. As you inhale, close off the left nostril with your fingers and breath into just the right. To exhale, close off the right nostril and breathe out through the left. Then breathe in through the left and out through the right. Continue like this, alternating side to side for as many rounds as you can do with ease and without forcing.
Thank you Alex!! To read more about Alex and find her class schedule, check out her website HERE!
In trying to come up with a recipe to include with Alex’s yoga post, I got thirsty just thinking about moving in this heat (something I’ve done many, many times). I also wanted something that doesn’t require a lot of dishes or kitchen space, something you can make to rejuvenate yourself in the middle of a move. This time of year I find myself craving hydrating water flavored with fresh, natural ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and herbs. When I put cucumber in water, I giggle to myself and call it “spa water.” Fresh mint or a medley of citrus are other favorites of mine.
- 1 pitcher cold filtered water (about ½ gallon)
- 2 cucumbers, sliced OR
- ½ bunch mint OR
- 1 orange, sliced
- 1 lemon, sliced
- Fill a large pitcher with ice cold filtered water.
- Add the sliced cucumber or mint or citrus (or some combination thereof - mint and cucumber is delicious too!).
- Put it in the fridge and allow to infuse for about 30 minutes.
- Serve over ice or keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours.