Archive for February, 2015

February 12, 2015

Dark Chocolate Biscotti Valentine’s Treats

Cocoa is packed with natural antioxidants which we all know are good for the heart. So be kind to your heart this Valentine’s Day and eat high quality dark chocolate to keep your heart in top shape for the month of love!

Try these yummy biscotti yourself with a cup of piping hot tea or package them in clear cookie bags with red ribbons as a tasty, made with love, Valentine’s day gift.

???????????????????????????????Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 6 tbs butter (unsalted/room temp.)
  • 3/4 cup cane sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 100g bars of organic fair trade Chocolate (70% cocoa)

Instructions:

???????????????????????????????Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl mix the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder & salt). Use a stand mixer to beat the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and eggs and beat for another two minutes. Then slowly add the dry mixture to the wet mixing it in gradually. Mix in the chocolate bars, crushed into large chip pieces.

Place the dough on a work surface and knead until chips evenly distributed. Divide the loaf in half and take one half roll it into a 12 inch cylinder. Flatten the cylinder until it is about 3/4 inch high and the whole piece is rectangular shaped. Carefully place onto the baking sheet and s???????????????????????????????prinkle with sugar. Repeat with the second half of the dough.

Bake on the center rack for 25 minutes (until just slightly firm. They will spread and crack a little). Remove from baking sheet and cool for 20 minutes on a cooling rack. (Don’t turn the oven off!)

Cut each log of biscotti with a sharp knife into 3/4 inch thick slices. Stand the slices up on the baking sheet arranged with spaces between each slice. Now bake your biscotti again for 10 minutes before once again putting them on a rack to cool.

Makes about 30 biscotti.

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February 12, 2015

The Only Meditation Proven to Increase Happiness!

IMG_7624Loving Kindness Meditation is an absolute must-have addition to all the Valentines Day chatter about cards, chocolate and candle light dinners. As yogis, this meditation practice is the essence of what we strive to achieve in our practice whether we are sweating through postures or sitting in contemplation. We learn to forgive, be kind, and compassionate toward ourselves. From this place of self-love, we are then able to extend this practice beyond our sphere of existence into the rest of the world.

Many studies have been done on meditation, and while all types of meditation are now known to have numerous types of positive impacts on your physical and psychological well-being, only one kind of meditation has been shown to increase the level of happiness in your life; Loving Kindness Meditation.

IMG_7631The Dalai Lama has written much on this topic. He admits that this is not completely a selfless practice, that we reap benefits of our own as we learn to love the world around us, but states beautifully that if we are to be selfish then then we should be wisely selfish, practicing a philosophy of life that makes the world a better place as we make our own lives happier and more satisfying.

In addition to increasing happiness, studies also show that the positive impact of loving kindness meditation persists in the long term.(Michael A. Cohn, University of California San Francisco & Barbara L. Fredrickson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2008). In this study, 15 months after participation in a loving-kindness meditation study, those who continued their meditation practice were found to continue to feel very positive emotions in their daily lives. Even those who had stopped meditating felt more positive than a control group that had never begun the meditation practice. What is especially significant about this is that feelings of happiness from events such as getting a great job or buying a new car dissipate rather quickly while feelings of happiness from loving kindness meditation endure.

Loving Kindness Meditation: How to do it

  1. Sit. To begin meditating on loving-kindness, first prepare yourself to sit in a comfortable position. Choose a place where you will not be interrupted, and allow yourself to settle into a natural breath rhythm for a few minutes.
  2. Love Yourself. Do a body awareness sweep. Smile at your feet and send love to them. Move up your body repeating this process until you have spent some time on each part of your body. Continue to do this until you feel full of this emotion, flowing completely into love, loving yourself unconditionally.  Initially there can be resistance to sending love to oneself. If you experience this, you may need to spend some time identifying and releasing feelings of unworthiness, replacing them with loving acceptance. Giving the practice some time to blossom in your heart will eventually allow you to overcome any feelings of self-doubt or negativity. This may not happen immediately, but with practice, you will remove this initial hurdle and be ready to systematically develop loving-kindness towards others. This is a key part of the process. When we feel genuine love and acceptance for ourselves we open the door to an unlimited source of love and kindness that can then be effortlessly shared with the world.
  3. Focus on someone you already love. Now cultivate the emotion of love by focusing on something, or someone, that evokes a powerful uncomplicated love response. Allow this emotion to penetrate your full experience and then slowly transition from the object or person that helped you connect with this emotion to sitting with the emotion itself in its purest form. Repeat silently “May they be healthy, live happily, and may they love others and themselves.”
  4. Love your family and friends. The next step is to allow this love to expand to include everyone in your close circle of family and friends, one at a time, or as a group. You can mentally repeat, “May they be healthy, live happily, and may they love one another and themselves.”
  5. Love everyone. Now expand your loving circle to include, acquaintances, strangers (This would include neutral people, the person who serves your coffee or unknown faces in far away locations, for example), again repeating, “May they be healthy, live happily, and may they love one another and themselves.”
  6. Love the difficult to love. Next, move on to include those who have hurt you in the past, those for whom you find it difficult to feel compassion in daily life, and again repeat the loving phrase written above. This step helps us better understand why Buddha described love as being the best armor. When we love those who are unkind to us, we remove the damaging impact that their behavior has on our lives and well-being. We cannot control how other people act. We cannot always understand what motivates them to do what they do, but we can control how we respond. If we feel loving-kindness towards those who do not treat us well, we remove their power to injure us and we stop the perpetuation of this behavior and energy.
  7. Enjoy the results. Allow yourself to sit immersed in loving-kindness for a period of time, visualize this feeling being released from your heart center to fill your whole body. Simply be with this love, sit with this love and breathe with this love.

Repeating this practice even for just a few minutes daily will allow you to cultivate these emotions more easily and in a shorter period of time.

Happy Heart Opening Yogis!

February 12, 2015

9 Yoga Poses to Open Your Heart on Valentine’s Day

heart cropThe heart chakra (also known as Anahata chakra) is an energy center located at the center of the chest. Yoga practices to open this area give the heart breathing space to function more effectively on a physical level, and in turn, on a more subtle energetic level.

Emotionally this chakra corresponds to love in the pure and unconditional sense. Physically it relates to the heart, circulatory and respiratory systems as well as the chest and the shoulders. When this chakra is balanced it’s related organs and systems are healthy. If you notice yourself slumping forward, with the head forward and the chest sunken, then chances are you could benefit from some heart opening and balancing postures. Opening the heart center involves opening both the front and back of the upper body.

Postures such as Cow Face pose, Eagle pose and Hare pose open the back of the upper body. Backbends such as Cat, Sphinx, Cobra, Camel pose open the front of the chest and cultivate a sense of trust and surrender. These postures open the heart space to increased blood flow, and more importantly, expand our ability to express and feel love. Follow opening and energizing backbends with forward bends to promote grounding and introspection to balance the energy of the heart chakra.

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Try the heart opening series below to open the door to a Valentine’s day full of love and joy. Maintain your awareness and breath focus on the front and back of the heart center and stay in each posture for at least 3-5 slow breaths. As you breath in each pose visualize the heart center pulsating and expanding with the breath. Move into Child’s pose (see image at right) in between each back bend for balance. To warm up the muscles before beginning this series do two slow moving Sun Salutations.

Heart Opening Posture Sequence

1. Eagle pose (both sides) 2. Cow Face Pose 3. Cat/Cow 4. Cobra Pose 5. Bow Pose 6. Camel 7. Hare 8. Sitting or lying Spinal Twist 9. Savasana

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Follow with 5 minutes of  (a.) alternate Nostril Breathing and (b.) a 5 minute (or more) savasana. Set a timer so you can relax and forget about the clock.

Migri Mudra

(9a.)

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(9b.)

Now proceed into the rest of your day overflowing with love for yourself and all those fortunate enough to be sharing the beautiful energy that you are emanating.