Destination Sensation

 

bw saddle web

Yoga is an inward journey, I fear this is increasingly forgotten. In the yoga studios and gyms lined with mirrors, I’m almost certain it IS being forgotten. It’s true that this is where we go, these studios, for motivation, or for convenience, for a certain teacher or style, an adjustment or two, to be a part of something, for a community of sorts, for a reliable heat source or a mat sized flat space to call your own for an hour or two. Or for a regular pay check without the frustration of self promotion. 🙂

But yoga is also solitary. Actually, yoga is primarily solitary. A solitary, inward journey. Every student coming to class regularly should ALSO be devoting time to self practice. Turning up on your own mat to your own time and doing something ( it doesn’t matter so much what, as long as there is breath and focus).

I hear, over and over, that you don’t have the motivation for self practice.. the discipline — but I beg to differ. If you can come to class you have that drive in you, already. You say you don’t know what asanas to practice. I say you’d be surprised by your kinaesthetic memory even if you’ve only been to a handful of classes.

( Sequencing poses is quite intuitive. In can be ‘pose and counter pose’…. ‘compressive followed by expansive’. And/or a series of poses working one group of muscles on one side of the body, perhaps building up in depth or strength or hold, followed by the other side. Breathing is even more intuitive. Upward movements ask for an inhale, downward for an exhale. The breath wants to be smooth and fluid by nature, not ragged and jittery. Not forced in. Certainly not forced out. Not usually held, but sometimes so quiet it drops away. Focus is all that is needed here. If in doubt just breathe naturally! )

Then, here is where the concept of a quiet practice comes in. A practice doesn’t always have to be based on the constant chatter of a teacher and her generalised ‘blanket’ cues ( as experienced as she is, she can’t feasibly speak for everyone).  Or paced with the prescriptive mantra of the breath of your fellow class attendees. Yoga doesn’t require an external noise source ( your teacher’s playlist ),  defining a choreographed plot line with a musical peak pose moment.

A silent, solitary, inward practice.

Self motivated. Without mirrors or selfie sticks.  Without the internet or a podcast. Without music. Without that hottie on the mat next to you. Without a teacher or his instruction. Without that ‘advanced’ student to follow along, in front of you. Without the back-drop of a rack synthetic hot pants for sale at the studio, or boxes of packaged vegan bars / trendy ( ok, delicious) cold pressed juices, the free coconut water that calls you to rush out of your savasana before it runs out.

Can I ask you to practice alone, in old, not particularly flattering but just comfortable clothes, on a no frills mat from Target rolled out in a little bit of space somewhere, with your eyes half closed?

A silent, solitary practice is where yoga takes flight. For here, without external reflection, the mind is drawn inward and you start to notice, and in time observe, sensation. The feelings of being in a physical body. The feeling of the muscles, bones, sinews, skin. The stretch of the fascia, the rebound. The sensation of the breath moving in and out of the body. And more subtly, the sensation of energetic movement and pattern. Each pose has an attendant sensation. Perhaps a little -or a great deal- different for every body. Perhaps changing every day. The actual quality of the sensation is not what matters. Noticing the quality, with curiosity,  without judgement or categorisation, is what matters.

This is the present moment. This is the gift we are given whilst placed in a physical body. Sensation which always already brings you to the present moment. The start and the end of the journey, sensation is forever present, woven through all experience.

 

 

 

 

Yin yoga, Myofascial release & Yoga for the Face!

Yin Yoga, Myo-Fascial Release and Face Yoga workshop:  A self-care workshop:

savasana
I’m holding an afternoon workshop on these three delicious gems of self care on Sunday May 22nd at Hummingbird Eco Retreat, Red Hill, on the Mornington Peninsula in the beautiful Yoga space there. 

EXPERIENCE Yin Yoga , a slow and mindful form of yoga designed to wipe your stress away physically and mentally and bring you to an altered state of being. Yin yoga is a beautiful adjunct to a busy life or indeed a more yang style yoga practice. In Yin yoga we concentrate on sensation in the present moment. It is literally the anti-thesis of multi-tasking, and at the same time it is a powerful physical practice, working on deep connective tissue to relieve the body of stagnant energies.


LEARN Myofascial self release techniques ( MFR ) to shift stubborn tightness in the fascia (the connective tissue ) and muscles, helping to release habitual muscular patterns and chronic pain and enhancing everyday mobility. We use tennis balls on trigger points and along acupuncture meridians to ease blocked energies, built up pain responses and chronic tension.


TRY out Yoga for the Face- a yoga facelift method to tone the face via its muscles – a workout we never think of doing but one that is just as important as all the muscles below the neck. Everyone knows that toned muscles don’t sag, and this is just as true for the face. Yoga for the Face also enhances circulation to help with clear smooth skin. On a less superficial note,  Yoga for the Face also helps with tension in the head, face and neck, bringing relief from headaches and jaw tension. 


RELAX with a guided Yoga Nidra meditation, deep relaxation through a mindful rotation of awareness.

The workshop includes notes on Myofascial techniques and tennis balls and sock for the MFR therapy, plus chai tea and a healthy gluten free/ dairy free snack.

1.30 – 4.30pm Sunday 22nd May

( this workshop would make a great early Mother’s day gift- vouchers available! )


Investment: $65
Couples/friends: $120 for two
Early bird price ( book & pay before May 8th ): $55,
$100 for two.

Suits all levels including absolute beginner and the established yoga student- and this includes most bodies!

Check out the lovely accommodation at Hummingbird if you want to make a weekend of it. http://hummingbirdeco.com.au/sleep/accommodation

Bookings for the workshop can be made via email :
heidi@yogaguerilla.com
or call/ text Heidi on 0403560850

Yin Yoga class

yin yoga

Yin Yoga is a fantastic way to bring flexibility and suppleness to the body, while deeply relaxing the mind and regenerating the spirit. With its roots in Ancient Chinese Taoist practices, Yin Yoga poses tend to be simple and in the range of most bodies. The poses are suitable to do every day, at any time, and are a great additional to a more Yang Yoga practice such as Ashtanga, Vinyasa or Bikram, and for people who do a lot of sport, cycling or jogging. It is equally effective for more sedentary folk looking bring balance back to their bodies.

Yin Yoga is not about effort and activation of the muscles towards the bones, increasing strength.
It is rather about ‘modest stretches, patiently endured'( Paul Grilley ) – allowing the deep ‘Yin’ tissues to relax and stretch, the body’s relaxation response to kick in, and the bones to move apart- essentially decompressing them. Yin Yoga works the deep fascia (connective tissues), softening the dense build up of this gel like tissue and making it more fluid- greatly reducing stiffness and pain.

This is the Power of Yin Yoga, and what keeps it safe and non aggressive, all the while whilst releasing stagnant energy and habitual muscle patterns built up from daily life, work and sporting activities.

With a regular practice, the body rebuilds in a new and more elastic way, the joints stay young and supple. It very effectively reduces lower back and hip pain in many people.

I absolutely love it, makes me feel deeply connected to the world and grounded in life- and hence after 25 years of a commitment to strong & dynamic yoga forms such as Ashtanga Vinyasa, I find it a perfect addition to my life in yoga.

My next Yin Flow Yoga class starts next week on Thursday March 25th @ Hummingbird Eco Retreat in Red Hill, on the Mornington Peninsula – at 9.30 am.

When You’ve Gone Too Hard – what to do to sort yourself out when you’ve over done it in your practice

Firstly, I’d like to make it known, that not only hot headed, pitta type Ashtangi’s are the ones that occasionally find they have gone too hard. It can happen to any yoga practitioner- it’s happened to me from vinyasa classes, and definitely from Iyengar classes. Even from Yin self practice. Definitely from group Mysore practice.

Luckily, it’s less likely as you mature, mellow and grow out of your ego a bit. So, read on, whatever kind of yoga floats your boat/ navasana. This post is very much related to the last post “Effort in Yoga”

So the signs are there… maybe immediately after savasana, maybe a few hours after, or later that evening, even the next morning if you didn’t sleep well…. you feel like crap, or a bit like crap, or kind of awesome and light at the same time as feeling completely crap and about to fall apart at the seams.

Yep, you’ve overdone it.

In your practice that morning ( or whenever- some people actually practice at other times of the day, apparently, and to good effect… apparently):

You did a ‘new‘ pose.

Or you did a pose you don’t usually do.

You applied maximum effort in every single pose, pushing yourself to your limit (not me, not for some years now)

Or you did something incorrectly. Perhaps you played around with letting the buttocks go in backbend instead of your usual tightening- as you’ve heard conflicting ideas. Perhaps you doubted yourself, what you know about yourself.

Or you played around with sequencing without following yoga law and perhaps, if you are honest, that sequencing wasn’t the greatest (headstand in the first 15 mins beginning of class, anyone???… it happens, I’ve seen it! )

Or you did 108 backbends (shish!!!)

Or even 5.

Or you went ‘really deep

You forgot to engage your bandhas.

You over engaged your bandhas.

You over breathed (see Simon Borg Olivier on this topic- he’s the man)

Or you got an amazing adjustment in class. Or a shitty one (it happens)

You sweat a great deal ( doesn’t happen to me at all, I get a little jealous sometimes )

You practiced in a very, very hot room ( personally I’m not into artificially heating the body in yoga, though I know a lot of people just love it)

Or you didn’t do savasana at all or for long enough (don’t quote me on this, but isn’t it meant to be 5 mins savasana for every 30 mins of asana practice?)

Or perhaps you finished off your practice with some sex (perhaps not so common in class but in home practice, if you are both yogi’s, all those pheromones floating around….)

Whatever it was, you feel Jittery and Over stimulated. Tired- no, utterly wrecked, unable to do anything. Completely Distracted. Emotional. Off balance, Weird in your spine. Headachy. Spacey. Ravenous. Nauseous. Unable to translate concepts into words. Twitching in your eyes. Fluttering in your heart. You go outside to hang the laundry out and can barely lift your arms over your head…. and your heart pounds like it never usually does from just simple effort.

Any or all of the above ‘mistakes’ to some extent or another.

You’ve over done it. You naughty boy. Bad lady!!

Perhaps I’ve made it sound a bit dramatic. All these things above are not inherently bad in themselves ( well, not doing savasana is bad!!!! ) but they can all set you up for:

nervous system over stimulation ( jittery, spacey, weird in your spine, eye twitches, sensitivity to light and noise )

or muscle exhaustion ( pain and exhaustion, weakness ),

dehydration ( headache, nausea, muscle pain, cramps , cravings),

temporary blood pressure issues ( pounding heart, unable to catch your breath, feeling like your heart is beating behind your eyes),

feeling unmotivated – any of the above mistakes, but especially over effort, perhaps trying over and over to ‘nail’ a challenging pose. It is well known know that motivation/ willpower has a finite scope- we only have a certain amount of energy each day to do things. Use it all up getting out of bed at the cracker, in the dark and cold and going gung-ho doing your morning practice… and you may well be set to waste the rest of your day. Maybe that’s fine sometimes… but if it’s a pattern then something has got to give. If you want to contribute to, you know, the external world.

being utterly ravenous (over breathing does this, in yoga and in sport and other physical activities. It seems to be about the bodies need to return to homeostasis ) Often thirst is also mistaken for hunger, or poor food choices are made, which compounds the situation.

cranky, irritable and decidedly un-yogi ( over pushing AND over breathing, too deep and too fast, increasing adrenaline and cortisol in the body makes for a ‘hot head’– ready for some argy bargy. )

Traditionally, the aim in Yoga was always to increase the length of our breaths in each direction, slooooow inhales and even longer exhales- in order to decrease the amount of breaths we take. ( In Yogic belief, we are born with a certain amount of breaths and we want to learn to breath less in order to extend our lifespan ) SO MANY PEOPLE are over-breathing with their deep, FAST, forced breaths- in effect hyperventilating, and over doing it!

This is not what Yoga is about, feeling like this! Yoga is about restoring the body, supporting it. Purifying it and making it ready for meditation. For union. For self, as in SELF realisation. Loss of ego. You know the score.

Effort is fabulous, and doing tapas is vital to yoga practice. A strong practice is great for many people. But going over board in any form of Yoga is not tapas. It’s not sattvic and it is not a practice of ahimsa, either.

aside: Here is a quick definition of tapas, from yoga journal. Thanks Yoga Journal, my motivation is running out 🙂

  1. The word “tapas” comes from the Sanskrit verb “tap” which means “to burn.” The traditional interpretation of tapas is “fiery discipline,” the fiercely focused, constant, intense commitment necessary to burn off the impediments that keep us from being in the true state of yoga (union with the universe).

You can still be doing tapas without messing with your homeostasis, baby!

Ok, so I could go on at length. Ok, so I have already…

BUT what can we do when we have found, oh dear, that we have gone too hard. What can bring us back to equilibrium?

These things have worked for me in the past- back when I used to push it too hard in a younger, more pitta dominated time ( and when I could spend all day practicing then flopping around lazily post practice- and back when I wasn’t a parent and I didn’t see the direct consequence of being cranky/exhausted/overstimulated etc etc. Nothing is quite as irritating as the noise of children, even happy delightful ones, when you are fried/not in balance. )

Go back and do savasana… for at least 15 minutes. With blankets and eye bag even if it is warm. Go back to bed if you feel really crappy- if you have the lifestyle for it!

savasana

Drink more water… warm to hot, never cold. Dehydration takes a while to resolve.

Eat warm food, grounding food such as oats, buckwheat bread, eggs, soup. Root vegetables. Not salads. Not spicy curries. Not raw food. Not cold food. Not processed food. No crackers.                                               A little fruit could help- dates and figs are great if your digestion can cope- just one or two. Warm, cooked apples with cinnamon and a fat source like butter or ghee or coconut oil, unrefrigerated perfectly ripe mango, banana… no sour fruits or citrus. No yoghurt either until you feel in balance again.

buckwheat chia bread

Eat GHEEghee is good! I have studied pranayama several times with O.P Tiwari of the Kaivalydham and he always tells me to ‘eat more ghee’. prescribing 4 TBs a day for my needs- not easy to consume that much but I do my best. I make it every week and use it in everything. Here it is solid, being winter both outside and inside the house, but if you melt it, it’s easier to eat.

ghee

Rub your feet with ghee before going to bed and put socks on, if you feel overstimulated and are worried that sleep might not be yours ( upward moving energy poses and practices can do this- hence not doing headstand, uddiyana bandha practices or even backbends in the evening)

Give yourself a foot massage– again, with oils.

Put socks on- cold feet can really mess with the body after practice.

put some socks on

Drink some milk if milk is your thing. I can’t drink it so homemade, warm almond milk with spices and honey is a good one too.

Go for a quiet, slow walk, barefoot great if it warm enough. Keep your chest and throat and lower back WARM.

Go get some shiatsu. Tell your practitioner what you’ve gone and done to yourself.

Do some Alternate nostril breathing for at least 5 minutes. More is better. Without kumbhaka ( retention of breath ) is advised if you are new to it.

Do Shitali pranayam if you are irritated and cranky. It is a fabulous panacea for over heated, over stimulated post practice yogi’s.

Legs up the Wall pose ( Vipariti Karani) – what a magic pose over over stimulation. Or Legs Up the Couch pose if you find yourself without a wall to lean on. Having your legs above your heart does wonders for the nervous system. Stay for 10 minutes, keeping warm.

legs up the couch pose

Take a warm bath with magnesium salts – especially if you are feeling it in the muscles.

Hide. Choose your activities. Going to the Southern Hemispheres largest mall for some ill advised retail therapy might not be the right thing to do right now (or ever?)

Ok, so say you’ve jumped in your car and are headed to work and you realise you have over done it. The ideas above might not be an option, right? Perfect thing for you to do would be to hum. humming is the way forward. Inhale long, quiet, slow breaths, exhale while humming- long, slow and completely. Inhale, repeat. For at least 5 minutes. Humming quietens down the over stimulated sympathetic nervous system and feeds the parasympathetic nervous system. Chanting Aum could do it, but try any humming- along to music if you like. When you hum for some time, taking care NOT to over inhale, you will notice the benefits. It helps you concentrate, too.

On public transport? Think humming might not cut it with your fellow passengers? Inhale very very very slowly, through the nose into the belly and only lightly up into the chest, ( yes, abandon bandhas for this, people) and exhale even more slowly, making sure to relax the belly on the next inhale. For as long as it takes.n’t reach for coffee, tea, chai or chocolate. But… don’t forget to eat! But then  also, don’t go overboard trying to replace that weird feeling with food.

Oh, one more thing. Get off the computer. Doesn’t help a bit.

Any others I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments.

Effort in Yoga, how much is too much, how much is too little?

Deep surrender in dragonfly, the effort is in the surrender. Note that I am dagging out in trackie dacks and keeping warm in home practice with ample clothes, practicing on a warm carpet and in front of the fire. All highly conducive to letting go.

Deep surrender in dragonfly, the effort is in the surrender. Note that I am dagging out in trackie dacks and keeping warm in home practice with ample clothes, practicing on a warm carpet and in front of the fire. All highly conducive to letting go.

As a teacher, I see a range of types of people coming to class to learn and practice yoga, and within that many variations in body types, and mind/ personality types. It’s a wonderful thing that keep us yoga instructors on our toes and far from being bored and complacent. No two body/mind/spirit combinations are the same.
There is always a wide range of effort in class, from person to person and from week to week, from season to season and from one type of class to another. Hence it is worth posing the question- how much effort is the right amount?
How do we know when to just allow the shape of the pose to do its work, easing into it without activating the muscles, or when to work against the shape of the pose to press and push deeper?

Obviously, the type of yoga you are practicing makes a great difference on a basic level- in an Ashtanga or Vinyasa class effort is seemingly key, while in a Yin class it seems it is all about letting go.

However it goes deeper than that. The intensity and therefore benefit of a yoga posture can be enhanced by conscious activation of the muscles surrounding the joints that are being worked in any given pose. Engaging or tensing the muscles towards the bones with effort protects the joints and allows the practitioner to move in and out of the pose safely.

Think of the hamstrings for instance- when stretching the hamstrings, a purposeful ‘engagement’ of the front thigh muscle ( the reciprocal part of the body to the hammies ) perhaps through pushing into the big toes or consciously pulling up through the arch of the foot, maybe also micro bending the knee- will activate the quadriceps and in turn protect the hamstrings from over stretching. The hamstrings will then in turn, after a few breaths, be able to move deeper and more slowly into the stretch without the threat of sudden, damaging over-stretching in the origin or insertion points of the muscle.

This action demonstrates how the muscles serve to activate the reflexes of reciprocal action, and the reflexes of relaxation- if you tense the muscles towards the joint being worked and hold them there, the muscles will after a time let go, allowing greater depth in the asana without the danger of letting go and surrender. Ok, I kind of repeated myself there but you get to drift.

This type of activation also increases the heart rate for many people and encourages deeper breathing, creating heat, which helps with flexibility.

How much should we be tensing the muscles towards and around the joints though, and when do you and don’t you tense them?

Key to this question is- how does your head and neck feel? Is your jaw and tongue able to stay soft and your forehead smooth when practicing poses. Is your face red? If there is tension in the face and head, you may be trying too hard. Many beginner Ashtanga students find themselves using the face too much to do a pose that has nothing to do with the head, tongue cleaved to the roof of the mouth, and that intense set jaw and stare… this is not yoga!
You may also find you can not move into the pose very much at all if the muscular effort is too intense. Shaking or quivering is another manifestation of over doing it. Not so much the quivering of a muscle that you are not used to using, but an internal quivering, signalling nervous system over stimulation. Often you won’t realise this until after the practice, whilst resting in savasana.
Over breathing- basically hyper ventilating with breaths too deep and too close together- is another major sign of over effort. Sure we need to do it sometime to manage oxygen levels in something causing exertion ( think of pushing a wheelbarrow full of wood up a hill ), but a whole yoga practice like this ??? That lends itself to nervous system irritation and in the longterm over sensitisation. not really yoga at all. In savasana or meditation at the end of your practice, see if there is any subtle pulsing or flickering in the eyes or behind the eyelids, like a mini strobe light effect. If there is, you have likely over doe it with the effort that day- and need to pull back a bit tomorrow.

You should be conscious and present in your own practice, whether in a class setting or at home, and use this mindfulness- this concentration- to see and feel and know what your body is doing in any given pose on any given day. Some poses may require more effort than others, others more surrender.

If you move too fast into a pose or a vinyasa without muscle co-activation, where the muscles are working together to protect the joint, the danger is that you will compromise the joint or muscle by moving too deeply into the weaker OR more flexible muscles of the area, without using the more stiff regions. Damage can result, and in the long term- even without damage- muscular imbalances may be formed which are hard to undo.

Generally, if you are cold or stiff, tired, unmotivated and/or distracted, a little extra effort in the muscles is all you need to get you back on track and bring greater benefits to your practice.
Some teachers will ask you to ramp up the breath in order to do this- I suggest in order to nourish and protect your sympathetic nervous system ( the one responsible for flight and fight/adrenal stimulation) that the effort comes from the muscles and you don’t force the breath into an unnatural depth or speed. There are far too many people out there that are over doing the breath and are on the path to yoga burnout/ nervous system burnout. Extreme hunger after practice can also be a sign that you have been over breathing/ hyper ventilating.

How about Yin yoga then, the yoga of sweet, sweet surrender?
This advice can also be incorporated into a Yin style practice without being completely contradictory.

First of all, in a Yin practice, you are not building heat through the breath, or through muscle activation or through vinyasa, or through effort. So, the key is to be warm– practicing in a warm room or sunny spot out of the wind, with plenty of clothes on, even socks!
As the body remains cool, and therefore somewhat stiff, there can be a danger to the joints, tendons and muscles if going into poses too quickly and too deeply. Luckily Yin yoga is about patience and staying in the pose for minutes, and seeks to use the reflex of relaxation by doing this. The bodily reflex of relaxation takes around a minute ( give or take) to kick in, and a few deep slow breaths can help it occur. Then you may feel your body soften and let go.
But you have to keep it real and be honest with yourself- not push in any way or expect to get into poses with the depth that you may in a more Yan style practice. Yin changes every single time you practice. Keeping your eyes closed or focus soft, and keeping the breathing natural and tidal helps you keep from grasping or trying too hard.

However, muscle activations can be used to benefit Yin yoga too.
Take for example drogon-fly pose- or the wide legged, seated forward bend known as Upavishta Konasana A in Ashtanga yoga. In Yin yoga you hold this for 5 minutes, and since it is not asking you to balance or make a muscular effort, it is a true Yin posture- as Yin as you can get- especially if your body is open enough to lie on the floor between your feet.

However, on coming into this pose when the body is cool, you may find yourself too stiff to move forward, and too stiff to let go. The muscles of the hips, the hip flexors and extensors, tend to hold on tightly in many people and require more than mindful ‘asking’ of your body/mind to let go. Tensing these muscles while in the first minute or so of the pose, activating towards the hip joints and increasing heat in the area, can help move you deeper into the pose once you let go and the blood flows back into the area. Surrender is then able to happen more safely and completely.

Say you have moved into a Yin yoga pose but feel unsafe- like you have gone too far and are stretching the muscles or tendons beyond what they are ready for? Thats is another time that the effort of muscle activation is beneficial. Say you have a pain in the knee… Immediately engaging the muscles towards the knee, in effect locking it and not allowing it go any further, will protect it. You can then either stay in an engaged form of the Yin pose, or move a little out of it until your knee feels good and then let go of the muscles again.
And if there is a sense of over stretching the lower back? Use the muscle activations of the abdomen- especially good to use when coming in and out of asanas, by imaging a wide 80’s style belt around your belly between the navel and the hip bones, and consciously pulling this belt in from all directions, as if cinching the belt in. This will protect the lower back within the pose, or until you move back to a depth more safely available to you.

How do you know, in any form of physical yoga, if you have not used enough effort? Well, first up, you don’t feel radially different than you did when you first rolled out your mat.
Did your mind wander while practicing, and get caught up in mundane worldly problems or issues? Another sign that you could have applied more effort.
Or, you may find you can’t relax in savasana ( this can also be due to over breathing and over stimulation of the nervous system- be mindful and work out for yourself whether its from over or under effort ).
Or perhaps you don’t feel it in your muscles at all later that day or the next day. We are working the muscles and joints, some sensation is likely, and a useful gauge of how the effort involved.
Or perhaps your practice is going backwards, not forwards? Often in yoga we make effort abut reach a plateau. I believe this to be normal, it can last a long time, and that’s fine. But if in regular practice you feel you are going backwards- physically and in concentration- then maybe more effort could be a useful tool.

All of these signs are good markers to work out for yourself what kind of effort you should apply to yoga practice, so that you neither damage your joints and muscles or your nervous system, or just waste time on the mat faffing around getting distracted and stagnating.

What are your thoughts? Where are you at right now and what do you feel affects your effort in practice the most?

Sweet Chai of Mine- virtuous spiced snack cookies for yogi’s and their friends

Another recipe!
I’ve gone gluten free for a trial period. I never thought I would do so, as I am a champion sourdough baker, but all the signs are pointing to a gluten intolerance, which is a bummer. ( Actually, I think many people are gluten intolerant, or on the way to becoming so ) I feel very good, clear headed and light and mobile in my muscles and joints- but you’ve heard it all before and I won’t bore you with the details now.
Anyway, it’s not as hard as I thought, though the next step- grain free might prove a bit harder, so I am gearing up to that by getting some good recipes on the family menu.
Bikkies (cookies) are well loved around here- I like to grab a couple before teaching a class to keep me going, so after looking at various cookbooks and websites I came up with this very virtuous, healthy recipe that ticks all the boxes.
The kids even like them, but then again, there was often ginger and spices in their breast-milk so they are used to it. You might like to tone the spices down a bit to suit your palate.
Here they are:
sweet chai cookies

Sweet Chai of Mine
SNACK COOKIES
Paleo, Vegan, AIP friendly, Sweetener free, Gluten free, Grain free, Nut free, Dairy free… and still good to eat!

1 ripe, medium sized banana ( mine are usually frozen- no need to defrost- & always organic )
3 fat juicy organic medjool dates – pitted
3 tablespoons coconut flour, measured flat not heaped
1 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil- hard or soft or melted ( on the second trial I ran out and used homemade ghee instead- even better taste- though no longer vegan )
3 heaped tablespoons shredded natural coconut
1 heaped tablespoon of lucuma powder ( optional, makes for a lovely sweet caramel undertone and comes with awesome superfood powers )
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated – or to taste
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom ( optional – not always AIP friendly )
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or kombucha vinegar or lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon baking soda ( you could probably skip it if intolerant )
Pinch of pink salt

Throw the lot in a high powered blender ( I use a thermomix ) and mix until a smoothish paste – some texture remaining is nice. A tiny bit of water may be needed to make it into a cookie style batter, depending on your brand of coconut flour.
Coconut flour takes a few minutes to absorb the moisture, so if you think it is too thin, wait a few mins before adding a tiny bit more coconut flour.
Spoon onto a silicone baking mat or baking paper, shaping with your fingers a little. I make about 15 smaller cookies- I find them very filling and satisfying. Great with a cup of tea.
I threw some cacao powder and cacao nibs to 1/3 of mine, to make chocolate chai bites ( though no longer AIP friendly perhaps) The darker ones in the above photo are the chocolate version.
Bake at 180 C 325F for 10-20 minutes, depending on your oven. A little browned around the edges is nice.
Wait a little before transferring onto a cooling rack.
Store in a cool place in summer.
Let me know what you think, I like comments and feedback!

Home made Coconut Yoghurt- budget friendly, tummy friendly food.

I’m really into yoghurt but I choose not to eat much dairy. I love the vegan coconut yoghurts out there on the market, but they are really very pricey, prone to going bad too quickly, and usually are sweetened with agave, which is just a fructose overload, or stevia which gives my mouth the complete heebie jeebies.
So I decided to bite the bullet and make my own. Making your own is a truly guerilla thing to do, anyway.

Homemade- twice as much for half the price

Homemade- twice as much for half the price

Coconut milk doesn’t thicken like dairy does, so I did a lot of looking around various recipes on the net for a thickener- many used kudzu or tapioca for thickening, but I wanted something less likely to go lumpy. Lumpy yoghurt doesn’t appeal, somehow. So I chose agar agar flakes as the thickener -which have the added benefit of being a rich source of calcium and potassium (plus a little iron).

High quality gelatine could be substituted for the agar, but I wouldn’t know how as I don’t use it, so please don’t ask me for advice on that one. 🙂 You could use canned coconut cream, but damn that stuff is nowhere near as good as the home made stuff, has a weird after taste- plus it often is packaged in BPA lined tins, and you can make your own for pennies- keep it on hand in the freezer as it doesn’t keep for long .

The resulting recipe is somewhat laborious, but that never stopped me. Ever. Someone who gets up every day and jumps around on a sticky mat for an hour or three is not going to be put off by such things.
If you are time poor, just buy the store bought stuff for 4 times the price, it’s good- but not nearly as good as the home made version.

You’ll need:
a high powered blender ( thermomix is perfect)
a nut milk bag
a wide mouthed thermos or thermoserver
( note to thermomix people- this recipe uses the older model and a thermoserver. Apparently you can make yoghurt straight in the bowl of the new model, but as that would put my thermie out of bounds for 8 hours I don’t much like the idea of it anyway. With the thermoserver you also get a nice long culturing time- greater benefits- without the use of electricity.
a thermometer that records low levels of heat
an esky ( Australian for coolbox ) or thick insulated, zip up shopping bag
probiotic powder of at least 45 million live cultures per 3 gm dose (tiny, powerful buggers )
Clean, filtered water ( I use my Nikken Pi Mag water for everything we consume including cooking pasta etc- I sell them if you are in the market for the best, purifying, alkalising water filter ever )

two clean towels and a ‘lacka band ( Aussie for elastic band ) or peg.

350gms of flaked or shredded coconut, organic and additive free
( you could make your own from coconut flesh just to make it that much more time consuming, but I can’t get organic fresh mature coconuts very often so am denied that privilege )

800ml of filtered water
100gm of melted coconut oil- extra virgin is best

2 tbsp agar agar flakes
a little under 1 tsp probiotic powder- with acidophilus, thermophilius, etc, nice and fresh is best.
1-2 tblsp organic maple syrup- or rice syrup if anxious about fructose ( don’t use honey, its natural bacterial components may mess with the system.)
1 TB is plenty, you may like to try the yoghurt once set and then add more sweetener when adding the vanilla, before blending or whipping.
1/2 teaspoon organic vanilla essence ( optional )

In your high powered blender, blitz the hell out of the coconut flakes until fine. Add the water and blend on high until absolutely thrashed- in the Thermomix this takes one minute, perhaps a fair bit longer in other machines. It needs to be as fine as it is going to get.

Strain through a nut milk bag and squeeeeeeeze every last drop out with your hands.
(You can re- blitz this pulp in water to make a much thinner coconut milk to add to soups, smoothies , green drinks, etc )
Put the coconut milk in a bowl sitting in a pot of warm- hot water to warm it very, very lightly to 37 degrees Celcius ( OR- ideally- put back in a clean Thermomix bowl if you are lucky enough to have one, and warm for 5 mins at 37 degrees, speed 5)
Slowly, slowly add the melted coconut oil, whilst the milk is warming- mixing well with a whisk if heating in a bowl over water, blending at speed 8 for 30 seconds if heating with a Thermomix.

Use 750 ml of the thick coconut cream style milk, place in a thick based saucepan or your Thermomix. You’ll have a little left over to add to something special- it’s a thick coconut cream, but not having emulsifiers it separates a bit in  the fridge.
Sprinkle the agar flakes over the top and cook gently for 10 minutes, stirring constantly ( speed 4, @ 90 degrees in Thermomix )
Leave to cool naturally, uncovered ( don’t speed up the process ) until 37 degrees again- this will take an hour or two.
Add maple or rice syrup and the probiotic powder and mix very well with your whisk. ( speed 7 for a few seconds in thermomix ) Over doing the amount probiotics in the hope of making it work or better for you is not advised. Probiotics as with any fermentation agent need room to move. You can add more later if you like.
Pour the mix into pre warmed thermos or thermoserver ( pre-warmed with warm filtered water, not hot or boiling)
Wrap in two teatowels, one with the opening at the top, the other with the opening underneath, seal with a rubber band or peg or something clever, and gently place in an esky or insulated bag, sealing in the heat.

Place in a warmish room- not hot- which stays at a fairly constant temperature.

Try not to forget it is there.

In at least 5 and up to 12 hours , remove thermos from esky, check it has set. ( if not your agar is old, use the mix in smoothies instead – this has never happened to me however )

Place in the fridge for a few hours, then remove and blend again in your blender, first adding 1/2 teaspoon of organic vanilla essence, and checking the sweetness is to your liking. If you are using a thermomix, whip with the butterfly for the creamiest and most wonderful texture. If you think the yoghurt looks too thick, add a very little coconut milk before whipping. You may have been a little heavy handed with the agar agar.
You can also add more acidophilus powder now if you want to get even more friendly gut flora into your tummy.
Pour or spoon most of it into a glass container with a lid or a couple of jars, saving a bit to eat straight away. Place jars in fridge.
It’s quite rich and you may find you can’t eat nearly as much as dairy yoghurt. The agar agar makes it very filling and acts as an appetite suppressant- for better or for worse ( who wants their damn appetite suppressed??)

( I have no idea of the calories involved per gram/ serving, as I don’t believe in calorie counting, but it’s rich, like a dessert really )

Use a clean spoon each time you slip a mouthful in as you pass the fridge to ensure it keeps for a week or two.

I eat about a 1/4 cup post practice with my outrageously good coconut/sprouted buckwheat/macadamia/sour cherry granola- but that’s another lengthy (process and) post.