Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Yogi of the Month: Becca Kinskey

When I opened Becca's email containing her responses, here is what it said: I'm very happy to revise anything that isn't clear or is too fart-related. I knew we'd made an excellent selection. Becca has been making it to her mat with us for years, often with her husband, Justin, by her side, and we admire her dedication to practice.

Read on for more yoga realities, the good and the fart-related:

Namaste Highland Park: When did you first find yoga and what were your intentions or expectations for your first class?
Becca: I first came to yoga after back-to-back endurance events: a 50 mile ultramarathon which I followed up by immediately going to Berlin & walking around for a week. When I got home the soles of my feet were literally too tender to stand on so I decided it was time to find a whole new - hopefully gentler - way to get to know my body. My favorite part of ultrarunning was the meditative time & space it carved out in my life, but I was working too much at the time to keep it up, and that was another hope I had for starting yoga - to find time within the more typical routines and itineraries of my life to be alone amongst others.

I was also hoping yoga could be less goal-oriented than the kind of athletics I normally did, like triathlon or other endurance events. Yoga is full of small goals, and I love it because I get to see at least at little bit of progress every time I practice. But the very fact that we call it a "practice" is what I hoped for and have come to love - it is a thru line, an open-ended, long-term process rather than aimed at a specific date and achievement. In the past I have felt a little manic with my athletics - working so hard towards one horizon, and then feeling aimless and burned out once I got there. With yoga my horizon keeps deepening.

NHP: What is your next goal in your practice?
Becca: On an asana level, I'm working on Becca's 3 Big Blocks: crow, pinchy-raya-flores (pincha mayurasana that I always mispronounce as my good friend & yoga teacher Ani Raya-Flores' name) and hand stand.

I don't know what my deal is with crow - I landed it the first time I tried it and its been 3 years of mystery since then. The other two tie into the central block of my life - I'm pragmatic and careful above all else, and I really don't want to be ass over kettle without a strong foundation. I can headstand till the cows come home but I hate breaking that connection with the ground. So that's the next & larger goal - enjoying and trusting that severing.

I'm also working on developing my home practice. I love going to the studio but also want to expand what I can do on my own, how I can learn to sequence to relate different poses and practices to one another in my own head, as well as to cut out the excuse not to practice if I just can't make it to the studio here or there.

NHP: What just makes you say, "YES!," about a yoga class?
Becca: I grew up as a long distance swimmer which is basically just one big water treadmill. I loved it and still do, but I love yoga for the sheer variety and creativity within a common repertory of movement, and I love a class that asks me to surprise myself a couple times. Swimming masked my prodigious sweatiness better though.

NHP: Are your friends (or family or partner) grateful for your yoga practice? Why?
Becca: Yoga has actually helped my husband become a morning person, which has given us 2 to 3 hours together most mornings that we didn't used to have. I began going to yoga in the mornings (see: growing up as a swimmer/morning person), then he started coming too, and now we get up by 6 most days, even if we don't practice. Having yoga in our lives has given us a shared deliberateness and helped us recognize our desire for quiet time together before the day begins.

NHP: What is something we'd be surprised to know about you?
Becca: I'm not necessarily happy with this, but the first and strongest impulse I have to answer this question is to talk about farting in yoga. Not personally, though I did do it once. But I just really really love when one slips out of someone in class. It's the funniest thing in the world. Just fills me with immediate joy.

Maybe you didn't need a yoga related answer here, in which case... I just learned to snap my fingers. I've been trying for 31 years and I just got it! Maybe things are looking good for crow after all.

NHP: Where can we find you when your not at Namaste?
Becca: Probably working! I'm a TV producer and have recently set up my own company, so that's the full time gig in my brain right now. My husband and I also rescued a dog who has needed a lot of time and care - luckily his medicine makes him VERY flatulent, so you know I've been having a good time.

Monday, December 21, 2015

NEW Class: Alignment School

We've all done it: been in yoga class, taken a peak at a neighbor's mat and wondered why they're using a block, or why they're bending their knees, or why their twists look different than your own.  Why are they doing that? You ask yourself, and should I be doing it, too? The answer to the first question is simple: it helps them tailor their practice to their own needs.  The answer to the second question: maybe!

Saturdays at 11am, join Ani for Alignment School-- a workshop style class dedicated to deepening body awareness, functional strength and an all around stronger yoga practice.  Limited to 8 people, this class will feature one on one direction, personalized modifications, and lots of prop work.  Whether you're new to yoga and looking to prevent injury, or you're a veteran seeking more detailed instruction, this is the class for you.  Expect a challenging, non-judgmental, and playful environment-- all in the service of growing a practice that works best for you and your own body.

Friday, December 18, 2015

4 Rules to Follow when Shopping for a Yogi: with bonus gift suggestions

Follow these rules when buying a gift for the yogi in your life:

  1. Avoid waste. Get your yogi-friend something very usable rather than simply beautiful. Some go-to suggestions? 
    1. A yoga class pass is a sure bet. All month long, if you buy an unlimited class pass gift card ($135 value), you receive a FREE tee "Namaste" teeshirt for your friend or your recipient.
    2. Give food: a gift certificate for a juice cleanse, a case of kombucha, hand-crafted healthy fare from your local organic market, or - if you want to give a gift that keeps giving - a subscription to a CSA box service that will deliver fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies to your recipient each month.
  2. Buy eco-friendly. Even if you weren't buying for a yogi, an eco-friendly gift is just the responsible way to spend money and resources. Our favorite eco yoga products?
    1. Jade Yoga mats. If eco-friendly is the number one priority in your mat, go for Jade. The company is committed to organically-sourced yoga mats, and the quality is on par with any equally-priced yoga mat. 
    2. Patagonia Provisions. This is Patagonia's line of camping food, such as fruit and nut bars, buffalo jerky and black bean soup. Like everything Patagonia makes, these products are environmentally responsible and tell a wonderful story about our world.
  3. Give an experience. Yoga is all about experiencing each present moment, and you can help your recipient do just that. Some amazing yoga experiences?
    1. Biggest budget: teacher training or retreat
    2. Little less dough: tickets to a yoga festival
    3. Nice but not breaking the bank: A pre-purchased workshop with a favorite teacher
    4. An easy way to make it happen: Take your loved one to a class and brunch. 
  4. Help them take their yoga home. Everyone is looking for ways to deepen a practice, and yoga at home is the best way to do just that. Here are some supplies your recipient would love:
    1. A subscription to a yoga video service like YogaGlo, YogisAnonymous, Grokker, or a similar site
    2. A set of props: 2 blocks, a blanket and a bolster are great starters
    3. Books on philosophy to invite them deeper into the practice. Recommended: Meditations from the Mat, Light on Yoga/Light on Life, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, The Autobiography of a Yogi
    4. Music and mantra to fill their home. Recommended: Snatam Kaur, Ram Dass, Girish, Wah!
Happy shopping.

Monday, December 14, 2015

How to: Hand Made Party Decorations

As I headed into the paper-cutting section of Michael's, I was excited to find paper punches in all variety of shapes and sizes. Upon realizing my excitement, I let out an internal groan. I thought to myself, "With all that is going on in this world, I am spending time at Michael's to find supplies to make a Pinterest project."

Crafting is something I've often rolled my eyes at for this very reason. Didn't it seem like a waste of energy? But, as I started cutting and folding tissue paper, I was amazed at how peaceful the process was. To see a project from a simple idea in my head to actually hanging on the wall made me feel creative, capable and - dare I say - a little bit Zen.

So, if you're like me and haven't so much as threaded your sewing machine since buying it, here is a chance to bust out your inner artist, and make your walls a little bit happier.

Finding Inspiration

  • A few months ago I made a Pinterest account for Namaste so we can share and connect with the community more. I started there, using Pinterest for inspiration for a "rainbow themed" birthday party for the studio. Check out the Pinterest board I created here
  • I was particularly inspired by hand made garland. I knew I wanted to include photo garland and a few banners, so from there it was just a matter of filling in the blank spaces around these central ideas.
Photo Garland
Our Instagram account is full of color, community and fun. I knew there had to be a simple and cheap way to print those photos. After comparing prices, I went with printing from Walgreen's. They have a direct "upload from Pinterest" option, and all I had to do was check the 25 photos I wanted printed. It cost less than $11 for all those prints. I simply used some twine and clothes pins from Michael's to complete the banners.

Word Banners

To my surprise, there were a bunch of options for printing letters for a few banners. I went with this simple download, and matted the letters to construction paper with my trusty sewing machine, to give things a more detailed feel. This step took less than 15 minutes and cost about $4 in supplies.

Tissue Paper Garland
This was my favorite part of the project. I did get a few pretty decent calluses by the end of making 200 ties, but it was worth it for the final look. I followed these instructions. A few tips I found:

  1. I used a paper cutter to make all the cuts. Paper cutters have come a long way since my childhood, and I was amazed at how easy it was to make so many cuts. 
  2. I tied each with twine. I would probably advocate using the clear tape like the post suggests, as this was the most tedious part. 
  3. I strung them with no particular pattern, and I think this really completes the hand made, curated look.

Circle and Square Garland
I was so inspired by this photo from 'Design Love Fest.' I also thought there was no chance I could make these, but I was definitely underestimating the power of good crafting products. Paper punches exist for nearly every shape, so you do not have to hand-cut the shapes. One quick trip to your craft store, and you will be ready to make all kinds of garlands. I chose circles, squares and rectangles. I found these instructions on Pinterest, and from there it was easy:

  1. Cut the shapes. Cut and cut and cut, because you will want to have hundreds at your finger tips when you start sewing. 
  2. Have a line of 20 or so ready to go, and simply start sewing down the center. Feed each shape into the machine at a slow speed in order to avoid dropping stitches in between shapes.
  3. Once you've got the hang of it, you can pick up the speed. I found it best to do about 10-20 shapes at a time, then pause to get a line of more shapes ready for myself. I loved the result and will be reusing this decor for sure.
As you work your merry way through garlands, remember that even crafting can be a beautiful meditation. Forget about the results, lose yourself in the process, get wrapped up in every tedious detail, and watch the rest of your worries melt away.

Happy crafting,


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Vanda's Veggieducken

Hats off to Vanda for creating this centerpiece to our yogi feast. The recipe she used can be found at or in its entirety below.


  • 1 cup pecans
  • 1 (7 1/2"-long) zucchini
  • 1 (9 1/2"-long) globe eggplant
  • 1 (11 1/2"-long) butternut squash
  • 2 scallions
  • 2 garlic cloves, divided
  • 1 shallot, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, trimmed, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 9 sprigs thyme, divided
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup fine plain breadcrumbs
  • 6 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons mint, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Special equipment:
  • Kitchen twine


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
  2. Toast pecans on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing once, until fragrant and slightly darkened, 10–15 minutes. Let cool, then coarsely chop and set aside.
  3. Increase oven temperature to 400°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  4. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Using a medium-size quick-release ice cream scoop or heavy spoon, scoop out insides, leaving a small divot down the center. Reserve zucchini filling.
  5. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise and scoop out insides, leaving a 1/4" border on all sides and creating a divot deep enough to fit zucchini halves inside. Reserve eggplant filling.
  6. Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds. Scoop out insides, leaving a 1/2" border on all sides and creating a divot deep enough to fit eggplant halves inside. Reserve squash filling.
  7. Using a fork, pierce insides of squash and zucchini halves. Using a sharp knife, make shallow crosshatch marks inside of eggplant, being careful not to pierce the skin. Trim scallions to match the length of the squash.
  8. Coarsely chop 1 garlic clove. Combine chopped garlic, shallot, mushrooms, zucchini filling, eggplant filling, and squash filling in a large bowl. Working in batches, pulse in a food processor until finely chopped.
  9. Heat oil over medium in a large skillet. Add vegetable purée and 3 thyme sprigs. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Return to bowl and let cool.
  10. Meanwhile, smash and peel remaining garlic clove and combine with butter, red pepper flakes, and remaining 6 thyme sprigs in a small pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until butter is melted, then stir in maple syrup.
  11. Pluck out thyme sprigs from vegetable mixture. Stir in eggs, Parmesan, breadcrumbs, 3 Tbsp. parsley, and 1 tsp. salt.
  12. Place squash halves, cut side up, on prepared baking sheet. Brush inside of each with maple syrup butter and season with 1/2 tsp. salt. Using the back of a spoon, press 3/4 cup vegetable mixture into each half until interior is fully coated. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup reserved pecans.
  13. Nestle eggplant halves, cut side up, inside squash halves. Brush inside of each eggplant half with maple syrup butter and season with 1/2 tsp. salt. Using the back of a spoon, press 1/3 cup vegetable mixture into each half until interior is fully coated. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup pecans.
  14. Nestle zucchini halves, cut side up, inside eggplant halves. Brush inside of each zucchini half with maple syrup butter and season with 1/8 tsp. salt. Using a spoon, fill zucchini halves with 1/4 cup vegetable mixture, spreading it flat. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup pecans (reserve remaining pecans), then lay scallions down the middle.
  15. Cut 3 (18") lengths of kitchen twine. Slip twine under one squash half, then top with second squash half, so that cut sides face each other, and press down to seal. Tightly tie twine around squash to secure. Brush top with maple syrup butter (reserve remaining butter) and season with 1/2 tsp. salt. Wrap squash in aluminum foil and place in the center of the baking sheet. Using 2 loaf pans or small metal bowls turned upside down, keep squash secure on baking sheet.
  16. Bake until squash is tender to the touch, 1 hour 45 minutes–2 hours. Remove foil and let rest 20 minutes.
  17. Meanwhile, pluck out thyme from remaining maple syrup butter, heat over medium-low until warm, then stir in mint, lemon juice, 1 tsp. salt, and remaining 3 Tbsp. parsley.
  18. Place vegducken on a cutting board and cut into 1" slices with a serrated knife, transferring to serving plates as you go. Spoon herb butter over slices, garnish with remaining pecans, and serve.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Teacher of the Month: Steven Arcos

Let's be honest: we all want to know Steven a little better! He is fun, kind, interested and interesting. Here are a few insights into Steve and his approach to life and yoga.

Namaste Highland Park: Where could we find you as a child?
 Steve: As a child I was wild. Find me running in the neighborhood, shoeless, tireless, and getting into trouble!

NHP: Do you remember your first yoga class?
Steve: My first yoga class was memorable but it was a class I took a few years later that was life changing. When I finally FELT my breath, body, and mind come together to shape the pose I was taking I knew I had found what I was put on this earth to do.

NHP: Is there a teacher who inspired you to take your practice further and/or teach?
Steve: One of the teachers that really inspired me to teach and continues to inspire me is Veronica DeSoyza. Her knowledge, commitment, and dedication never cease to amaze me!

NHP: What do you hope people take away from your class?
Steve: I hope people understand my passion. I am teaching with earnest. I want every student to learn something new and to leave knowing that I truly want to see them grow. It's very important to me that students know I am dedicated to helping them on their journey of self discovery.

NHP: What has been the most transformative part of your practice?
Steve: (This is a hard question) physically: back bending and heart opening have transformed my body and movement the most. Mentally: I have learned to manage anxiety, depression, ADD, and addiction issues through a regular practice. This more than anything has changed my life. Spirtualy: yoga has become my "church." It's how I connect to a power greater than myself which I see as prana, community or sangha, and the asanas.

NHP: What books do you always recommend?
Steve: I am a really big reader! I love East of Eden by John Steinbeck; it's a beautiful story of life, love, and everything in between. My favorite genre however is fantasy and sci-fi. I love trilogies and series. Check out Foundation by Isaac Asimov which reminds me of Star Wars, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin aka Game of Thrones, and the Ex-Heroes novels by Peter Clines where super heroes become zombies!

NHP: What does your personal practice entail?
Steve: My personal practice at home is equal parts yoga and strength training. I use high density foam rollers and pilates to maintain healthy muscle connections. I couple yoga poses with weights or incorporate flows between sets to keep my workout dynamic. In group classes I like to be creative. I enjoy finding places to play and experiment while being taken on a journey. Overall my practice tends to be physically demanding so that I am able to get out of my head and let go of any self imposed negativity.

NHP: What is something we'd be surprised to learn about you?
Steve: I am a HUGE Marvel Comics fan! I love the X-men and spend at least an hour a day reading comic books. Catch Steve on the mat in his Intro to Advanced classes Monday & Wednesday OR his NEW Hatha Yoga classes Tuesday & Thursday mornings. He is offering two workshops in the coming months: Arm Balances & Inversions on January 3 Hips & Gifts on December 20 Namaste, Steve!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Shoshana's Maple Glazed Sweet Potatoes

In our series of recipes to warm you this winter, here is one from Shoshi: Maple Glazes Sweet Potatoes. Shoshana slightly altered this recipe from

  • 2 1/2 sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons coconut oil (you can use butter, but using coconut oil will make this vegan-friendly!)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup 
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar 
  • 2 tablespoons flaked coconut (optional) 
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  1. Place sweet potatoes in a large saucepan with water to cover them. Bring the water to a boil, reduce heat, cover and let simmer 25 to 30 minutes until tender.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a baking pan.
  3. When the sweet potatoes are cool, peel and cut them into large chunks. Arrange them in the baking pan.
  4. In a small saucepan, melt coconut oil, syrup, sugar and coconut together over a low heat. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Sprinkle mixture over sweet potatoes. Top mixture with pecans.
  5. Bake 5 to 7 minutes, until top is lightly browned.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Matthew's Roast Chicken

Our annual Thanksgiving Dinner turned into a true feast this year. With recipes spanning vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, sugar free ... or full carnivore, lots of gluten and tons of sugar, we had it all! We'll be sharing some of the delicious goodies with you over the this winter to warm you from the inside out.

Here is Matthew's recipe for roast chicken.

  • 1 Whole chicken
  • 3 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 tbsp Salt
  • 1 tbsp Pepper
  • 3-4 tbsp Herbs of your choice
  • 4 lemons
  • 1 cup chicken or veggie stock
  • Root vegetables of choice, about a half pound
Cooking instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Wash the chicken and remove anything from the cavity of the bird.  Rub the whole chicken with salt and pepper, crushed garlic and herbs (I like fresh oregano and thyme) and a bit of olive oil.
  3. Squeeze a few lemons on the chicken, reserve slices and place around the bird. 
  4. Cut 1-2 lemons in half and stuff those into the rear cavity.
  5. Add a touch of stock to the roasting pan with the bird and assorted veggies....i like carrots, potatoes and parsnips which will cook in the base as the chicken releases juices too.
  6. Roast @ 350 degrees in a covered roasting pan until the thermometer reads at least 160 in the breast, about 40-60 minutes.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Mindful Fooding: How do we eat with presence?

We think of nutrition as "what we eat," but how we consume our food matters. Cooking mindfully stimulates digestive enzymes, and eating with presence helps us consume appropriate portions. We can call this "eating mindfully," or, in the case of our recent Teacher Training class: Mindful Fooding.

Throughout training, each Saturday we participated in a mindful potluck. Trainees prepared food inspired by the chakras, Yoga Sutras and … in some cases … by the only foods they could cook (Dave may have taken all the gorgeous photos on our website, but he can only cook one thing.)

Want some inspiration? Check out the tips below for eating mindfully, or explore the cookbook created by Namaste Yogi Kimberlee Cordova here.

  • Prepare your food. Take the time to make your food visually appealing, and even enjoy some music while you make your meal. This is not only fun and present, it also stimulates digestive enzymes.
  • Sit with good posture. I like to sit on a yoga block and place my food on a low bench.
  • Put down your silverware in between bites. Seriously. I know, this is the hardest part.
  • Chew each bite fully and completely, paying attention to taste and sensation as you eat.
  • Keep conversation to a minimum until after you are finished eating.
Join us on our patio the first Saturday of every month for 'make your own' oatmeal, coffee and tea. We hope this inspires you to eat mindfully in your daily life.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Student(s) of the Month: Ron and Jolie Matty

We say it a lot, but it is the biggest truth about what we do as a studio: our students are the life of our business, our space and our growth. Two of those students who light up our yoga rooms frequently were kind enough to sit down and tell us about their yoga journey and lives. Ron Matty and Jolie Franciscus Matty can be found practicing mat-to-mat in many of our classes, and we wanted to know a little bit more about their lives off the mat. 

NHP to Jolie: Who started practicing yoga first, you or Ron? How did you start practicing together?
We actually started practicing at the same time. We were smokers and had recently quit. We attended our first kundalini yoga class in 2008 at the local Y in hopes that it would ease the desire to smoke.

NHP to Ron: Do you remember your first yoga class? Tell us about it.
I had no idea or expectations and I was at a point in my life where I was newly sober and open to trying anything new reaching out for new experiences. We chanted the mantra "ong so hung" and for 10 minutes Joile and I fell into a laughing fit and we tried to stop without much success. The instructor had acknowledged us and said, " It was ok! It happens." I walked away thinking it was oddly interesting. It had me ... the freedom, the weirdness and the chanting. Things I had never done before.

NHP to both: What superpower does yoga give you? Do you agree with each other's answers?
Jolie: "I became Plasticman" (Ron: "Hahaha Jolie thought the question was Superhero!)"
Jolie: If yoga were to give me anything that I would consider a superpower, it would be the confidence in my strength and flexibility, to try new poses that at one time seemed out of reach. It also has given me an internal stillness that can often feel like a superpower, physical and spiritual powers.
Ron: Humility and awareness. This is has been the start of what has been a life changing experience. Humility- I am made vulnerable, yoga keeps me teachable and open to new ways. It has taught me to laugh with myself and challenged me to experience new movements which seemed inconceivable. The awareness of self- how it's not always about pushing limits, but ease sometimes may also be most effective as well. A new perspective on selflessness from the instructors who have shown a dedication to teaching, the honesty and conviction to practice has made me rethink my beliefs about my levels of commitment.

We both agree with each other's answers!

NHP to both: What is your next goal in your practice?
Both: Combine our practices in Acroyoga.
Ron: Eka pada sirsasana. A handstand without kicking up.
Jolie: Just to keep advancing, and really stick a handstand!

NHP to both: Has your relationship changed in any way since yoga came into your life?
In so many ways- an appreciation of grace and respect in the physical aspect, the beauty and strength of movement, the advance and growth has created a new found admiration and respect for each other and how we move and how we move together in life. Spiritually we have deeper connection, on a soul level when we return to savasana we are one, it's the most amazing experience to connect on such a meaningful level. As our practices continue to evolve yoga has allowed to experience each other in new ways on and off the mat. It has encouraged us to deepen our spiritual connection and live with a mindfulness and awareness of one another. This promotes a healthier understanding of each other and more effective communication. Doing yoga together has added harmony, balance and synchronicity to our busy schedules. It is in our practice to combine schedules to make sure we do have quality time together.

NHP to both: Do you have a go-to class?
That is determined by how we feel on any given day we enjoy so many of the instructors each bringing something different to the table. We are confident we will get exactly what we need out any class we take.

NHP to both: Do you have a teacher who you just think gets you?
It has been our experience that all instructors whose classes we regularly attend get us. (NHP loves this answer!)

NHP to both: Where can we find you guys when you’re not at Namaste?
Jolie: I am a hair stylist at Ellouise Salon in Pasadena, and I am active in service work to the recovery community, and an avid ultra runner running trails in the mountains throughout California. I love spending time with our 3 pups and 4 kids.
Ron: I'm a classically trained chef and personal trainer. When I'm not in the gym or kitchen, I love spending time with my wife and family doing anything outdoors. Open water swims, hikes, BBQ's, digital art and movies with Jolie.
Both: We love experiencing new adventures together.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Creating Connection at Your Table

As human beings, we are constantly in search of connection. We want to connect with each other, and we want to connect on a deep level with something great inside of us and around us. An essential element of a yoga studio is facilitating an environment where connection is possible. It is no surprise, then, that a yoga studio owner has some inside knowledge of how to connect people through a simple dinner. Here are some tips from Vanda's table, where our teachers meet annually for a Thanksgiving Dinner.

  1. Less fuss and more fun. Keeping things simple is one way to make everyone feel comfortable. Rather than creating a 'formal' environment for our dinner, Vanda set a rustic table outside, lit by dozens of tiny lights and heated by a space heater and fire. The mismatched plates and chairs felt chic and intentional
  2. Let your guests participate. Playing host is fun, but most people love the chance to showcase their own contributions to a party. As your guests to contribute a side dish, dessert or bottle of wine (or non-alcoholic wine in the case of so many of our yoga teachers!). Allow your guests to share food with each other, and if they are not inspired to share food, guests can always contribute a playlist, some flowers for place settings or help wash the dishes. You may have heard it's bad form to allow your fiends to wash dishes at your house, but it's actually an intimate invitation to allow them to take a lead role even when in your home. So, when you're planning a party and someone asks to help, take them up on the offer!
  3. Plan one simple, shared activity. We've all been to those baby showers with game, game, game. Those parties feel like more work than simple connection, but it's also nice to make sure all your guests come together for at least one special activity. It can be a simple toast, photo slideshow, meditation or - in our tradition - a gratitude circle. As we share our gratitude for each other and our community, we immediately feel connected.
  4. Skip the "decorations" that will end up in a landfill and opt for simple additions to your table. Decorate your table with fallen branches or cut flowers from your yard. Opt for candles or colorful water jugs to add ambience. If you are going to purchase decorations, try to keep them simple enough that you can use them again and again. Our table was set with LED candles (buy them once and reuse them forever), jars of lavender, a simple burlap runner and rings of moss.
  5. Do you know If you are planning an intimate dinner with less than 20 people, use this site to help pick a date. This is not feasible for larger groups, but it simplifies the planning process for smaller groups.
  6. Nothing is more important than good lighting and great music. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Teacher's Pet: Shoshana's Dory

This month, we celebrate Teacher's Pet "Dory"! Her human is our teacher, Shoshana. Shoshana and her hubby, Mike, live in Highland Park in a serene home with their fur babies. Here is the story of one of them.

Pet name(s):  Dory

Age: 2.5 years old

Background:  We got her from Kitten Rescue. (Hooray, Shoshana for saving another life!)

Likes: She loves to lick! She is a crazy licker! My husband was just joking that if she wrote a memoir it would be about all the things she has licked. She also loves to pounce on our 12 year old cat, even though he clearly does not want to play. She loves to eat! So much so that she wakes us up every morning at about 5:30am for breakfast. She loves to participate in my macrame making -playing and chomping on all the strings. She also loves being involved in my yoga practice, usually trying to catch my braid or earrings when I'm in Downdog.

Dislikes: She sadly dislikes being picked up and held. We still try, but it's almost always met with lots of wriggling :(

Special abilities/tricks: She's really good at being super cute and melting our hearts. She's also really good at darting around the house super fast and doing kitty gymnastics.

Favorite place to sleepShe loves to sleep on our dog's bed, which is super cute since it's huge and she is so little. He's so polite and just lets her. We can't wait to catch them snuggling together.

Favorite way to be bad: Her favorite way to be bad is to jump on the kitchen counters and eat our food. We are still trying to train her not to go on the counters, rather unsuccessfully.

Favorite way to be good: She is an amazing snuggler and has very special flopping abilities. When she honors us with her snuggles we will sit still for quite a while to drink in the love.

Namaste, Dory!


Friday, November 6, 2015

Teacher Feature: Chris Reed

Where could we find you as a child? 
Usually skateboarding somewhere or down the street attempting to play music with friends.

Do you remember your first yoga class? 
I do! I remember this overwhelming feeling of bliss coming over me during savasana during that first class.

What was the first yoga class you ever taught? 
While still in my training I convinced the local SPCA where I was a volunteer to allow me to have a weekly yoga class in the cattery. The first few weeks no one showed up so I said the words as I practiced along. I bet whoever was watching the cameras thought I was a nut.

What do you hope people will take away from your classes?  
That same feeling of bliss that I found during my very first practice.

What advice do you wish you could give your younger self?
Be kinder. Things will be fine.

What do you do when you are not in the studio? 
I really enjoy to ride bikes, hike, run (although I don't run as much as I'd like), really anyway that I can explore the area. I'd like to go to the beach and camping more.

What two or three books would you always recommend to a friend? 
I've given quite a few copies of "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff... and it's all small stuff" by Dr. Richard Carlson away to friends. I also really enjoy Rolf Gates "Meditations from the Mat." I'm also a big fan of fiction. I generally suggest something by Chuck Palahniuk, Nick Hornby or Bret Easton Ellis usually things that are less yogic and often twisted.

Do you have a favorite place to meditate? 
Sometimes I sneak into the sanctuary when theres no class and meditate. It's so quiet back there.

Where is your favorite place to hang out in LA? 
I generally spend most of my time in the neighborhood, downtown, or anywhere on this side of town. there's so many rad spots to discover.

What is something that most people would be surprised to learn about you?
In my early twenties I was very overweight, largely due to poor eating and a heavy drinking habit. I finally decided to get active and pursue a better life. I started running, eating better and eventually quit drinking and was able to lose a lot of weight and begin to actually live the life I had imagined for myself. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

2 Ingredient Organic Face Scrub

As we age, our skin stops turning over as quickly as it used to. This process makes it more important to exfoliate our skin to promote healthy turnover of cells. Here are some basics to help give your skin a healthy glow:

  1. Sleep! If you are tired, your skin will show it. Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
  2. Hydrate. Proper hydration will keep your skin "plump," while dehydration will increase the appearance of fine lines.
  3. Eat a healthy diet full of antioxidants.
  4. Put some of this antioxidants on your skin. This is where our recipe comes in for an organic, simply face and body scrub you can make with items you likely currently have in your pantry.
Coffee is one of the world's strongest antioxidants. It is also highly acidic, so it can be tough on the gut when consumed. Thankfully, we can use coffee in our beauty regimen to benefit from its potency. For this scrub:

  • Organic olive oil
  • Fine ground coffee (I recommend fresh grinding to an espresso grain)
  • Ratio is 3:2 coffee to olive oil
  • Whisk it up until it is the consistency of grainy mud
  • It is messy! I recommend scrubbing in the shower or tub to keep things contained.
  • Apply liberally to your skin and rub in circular motions, careful not to press too hard, especially around the delicate skin of your eyes.
  • Rinse away.
  • Coffee
    • Antioxidant
    • Rough grain is perfect for exfoliation
    • Subtle darkening of skin like a fake tan without the chemicals
    • Caffeine will constrict your blood vessels to decrease puffiness
  • Olive Oil
    • Incredibly hydrating
    • Don't worry about getting all of the oil off of your skin. Instead, allow a little to sit to encourage your pores to close back up after your scrub.
That's it! Your bathroom will smell awesome after this one.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Sondra's Secret to Vitality

Disclaimer: This recipe is not vegetarian-friendly. We fully support efforts to eliminate animal cruelty caused by factory farming. 

The first time I told Sondra I wasn't feeling well, she said, "You need bone broth. Wait, you're not vegetarian are you? Of course you are."

At the time, I had been vegetarian for about five years. I was diagnosed with multiple auto-immune diseases a few years into my stint as a vegetarian, and doctors everywhere were telling me I needed to change my diet. My M.D., who is also an Ayurvedic doctor, told me I was eating wrong for my body type. My acupuncturist encouraged me to eat some meat to heat up my digestion, as vegetarianism is actually contraindicated in Chinese medicine. 

Sondra took one look at me and knew my dosha type - vata dosha - and knew it wasnt't being served by my diet. It took me some time to come around to the idea that some meat may help me heal. Once I did, I set out to find the healthiest and most responsibly sourced meats to add to my diet. Here is my experience making Sondra's prescribed "bone broth." As a recovering vegetarian, I'll warn you there is a chicken caracas involved. 

But, my theory has always been, if I'm going to eat the meat, I want to feel very connected with the animal and use its gift to the fullest potential. This recipe certainly does that.

Step One: Find a responsibly-sourced chicken

I recommend Healthy Family Farms which makes weekly visits to the South Pasadena Farmer's Market. From their website: "Healthy Family Farms is a sustainable, pasture-based farming operation in Santa Paula, California." You can even tour the facilities to see for yourself how the animals are raised. Animals raised in a pasture-based system are not only happier and healthier but serve the Earth they live on.

I purchased a half-chicken, bones and skin, for my recipe. If your farmer will sell you chicken carcass  (i.e., the left overs from their butchering), you can skip straight to step four. I enjoy using the chicken in my own meals first.

Step Two: Roast the chicken and enjoy it for a meal

I love a simple roast chicken. It helps connect me with the food I'm eating, which stimulates digestion and pays homage to the life given for my health. 

Here is my recipe:
  • Preheat oven to 200
  • Clean chicken and pat dry
  • Prepare a roasting dish with a tablespoon of olive oil or grass-fed butter
  • Dust the chicken in salt and pepper, rubbing in with your hands
  • Line the pan with chopped carrots
  • Rub minced garlic (3-4 cloves) over the chicken
  • Sprinkle thyme over the chicken
  • Pour a tablespoon of olive oil or grass-fed butter over the chicken
  • Roast for 30 minutes, covered at 200 degrees
  • Increase temperature to 400 degrees, roast for 30 minutes
  • Take lid off the roasting pan, watch for the chicken to start to brown
  • When internal temperature of the breast and leg have reached 180*, take the chicken out of the oven and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. It should continue to cook to 190* while resting.
  • Enjoy!
Step Three: Pick the bones

Pick the leftover meat off the chicken bones. If you have pets, this is a great add-in for their meals to give them some good fats and healthy protein. If you have some quality meat left over, it is excellent on salads and sandwiches for your week. You'll want to pick the bones relatively clean before making the broth. 

Step Four: Chop your veggies

You can add any veggies to your stock, but I recommend at least setting a base with aromatics. For one-half chicken, I recommend:

  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 head of celery
  • 1 medium onion. I replaced onion in my stock with leeks because I love their flavor in soups and broth.
  • Anything you have in your fridge! You can add mushrooms, radish or beets to your stock. 
  • Reserve part of the onion or leek if you'd like to add it to your broth as a finishing ingredient. I love some fresh leeks or green onion on soup. I also reserved some radish for topping
Step Five: Prepare your stock pot
  • Start by adding a very small amount of olive oil or butter to your pot, and turn the heat on to medium
  • Add your seasoning FIRST! This is an Indian cooking tip that will greatly improve your flavor profile. Here are some spices you can use:
    • Celery salt
    • Bay leaves
    • Oregano
    • Thyme
    • Ground pepper
    • Cinnamon (just a pinch)
    • Mustard seeds
  • Once your spices start to smell yummy, it's time to add your onion or leeks. Cook these down until just translucent.
  • Add the rest of your veggies, stirring with the spices for about 5 minutes
Step Six: Add the chicken bones
  • Add the chicken bones
  • Add enough water to cover your bones and veggies with at least a few inches to spare
  • Turn down the heat to low
Step Seven: Walk away
  • Stir about once an hour for 6-8 hours
  • Add water if needed
  • That's it! Drain your both over a strainer. The ingredients can be used again for a second stash. Your soup should have a healthy dose of collagen (i.e., should have a jello-like element to it). This is the beneficial part! 
Step 8: Enjoy warm

Spoon your broth as is into a cup for drinking or a bowl. The benefits of bone broth come from the collagen, which will help nourish you from the inside out. The warmth will stimulate your digestion and heat up your agni (inner fire). 

Step 9: But for real, what about the vegetarian/vegan folks?

We hear you, it's not easy eating meat. If you are adamantly veggie, you can still enjoy the benefits of broth. We recommend fermented vegetable broth for the biggest health benefits. You can find great stuff at Dave's Gourmet Korean, featured at the South Pasadena Farmer's Market (and others around town).




Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Get Well Soon! Love, Your Teachers

Cold and flu season are upon us. Feel a sniffle coming on? Here are some tips from your teachers to help you get well soon.
Epsom salts ease muscle pain and encourage rest. 
I usually do oil pulling with coconut oil at the first sign of a sore throat (*Instructions below!*) Tons of vitamin C. Ample sleep and rest. Lots of hot herbal tea and local raw honey. Neti pot with Alkalol added. Oil of oregano can knock out most bugs, and if you can't handle the taste try colloidal silver instead. Keep up with the probiotics. Restorative yoga is great when you get sick! - Matthew 
I take lots of ashwagandha, vitamin c, and some wellness formula. A nice Epsom salt bath can be very helpful, and truly give myself good time to rest. - Shoshana

Healing myself from a sickness is a practice in itself. The moment I feel symptoms, I go to Eagle Rock Juice Co. and get myself a "Flu Shot" (2 oz. of cold pressed lemon juice, ginger, oregano oil & cayenne). Then I ingest foods high in probiotics such as kombucha, miso soup, sourdough bread and take probiotic pills with every meal. I take echinacea and goldenseal herbs with colloidal silver. And drink all kinds of fluids- ginger tea, licorice & marshmallow root tea (for the throat), hot water with apple cider vinegar, and lots of alkaline water. If that wasn't enough I see my Traditional Chinese Herbalist and gives me these herbs tailored to knock the symptoms out almost immediately. Last but not least, I always give myself Reiki while I'm resting. - Chona

Ingest probiotics like those in Health-Ade Kombucha 
When I get sick I feel like the world is coming to an end. I like to be active and outdoors so being sick really interrupts my day to day life. I have found that nothing cures an illness like rest. I try to get as much sleep as I can, coupled with as much water as I can drink. If it's an upset stomach I limit my food intake to just bread, rice, apples or applesauce, and tea. These are very easy for me to eat and help to settle my upset stomach. - Steve
This is a "when I think I'm getting sick" or "when my allergies are bad," remedy. I make a healing juice (*recipe to follow!*) My other go-to for sinus troubles is raw garlic. All it takes is chewing and sucking on a single raw clove to get my nasal passages nice and open-- it's nature's spicy, mean lozenge. I do usually spit it out, as raw garlic can be a little rough on the digestive system. Lastly: zinc. Whenever I'm feeling run down, I take a zinc after dinner-- 9 times out of 10, I wake up feeling back to normal. In addition to nutrients and liquids, the best possible thing really is rest. It took me many years of trying to "work through" being sick, only to realize that if I take just one day of rest (usually the first day of symptoms), my sickness doesn't last nearly as long. Oh, and by rest I mean actual sleep-- if I am dying to watch netflix, I opt for something monotonous that might put me to sleep. Okay that's my 2 cents :) - Ani
When I start to feel as though my health is suffering, I use it as an excuse to downshift. I curl up on the couch with my dogs and a mug of tea and read books for hours. I do this a lot even when I'm perfectly healthy, but it's nice to take the time to mindfully relax and let the rest of the world fall away. - Jamie
Start the day with hot water, honey, lemon and apple cider vinegar. Sleep a lot, snuggle your pets, and call your mom if it gets really bad! - Bethany 
Ani's Killer Cold Kicker

  • 4 oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 1 palm-sized piece of ginger
  • turmeric (to taste, I shook it maybe ten times)
  • cayenne (to taste)
  • 4 drops oregano oil
  • 1 tsp raw honey

From Ani: FYI this juice is no joke and will really burn-- but it really opens up the sinuses and cleans everything out.

Matthew's Oil Pulling Secret


Friday, October 23, 2015

The Sound That Makes the Bath

Namaste Highland Park Instructor Sondra Sun-Odeon collaborated this summer with musician and recent LA transplant Ian Paige for a yoga class with soundbath accompaniment. The second in the series celebrates the full Hunter Moon and takes place at the studio October 27th at 8pm. The two musicians and yoga enthusiasts sat down for a conversation about how the two worlds intersect.

Sondra Sun-Odeon: I wanted to have you be part of the classes and, with the Full Moon Yin Class, the sonic component helped move the subtle body. Being a musician myself, I've always been interested in sound healing and its power so I'm glad you can join me for the Full Moon Flow and Restore with Sound Bath. Why does this collaboration appeal to you?

Ian Paige: When you invited me to the Yin class, I made sure to attend as a class member before actually performing. The pace and intentionality of that program reminded me of the kind of music I gravitate to. Holding the poses and settling the mind through that slower pace felt like the yoga equivalent to the music I love to make.

I also like that it is live. I'm bringing sequences and predetermined stuff to the set but really i'm working completely off the audience which, unlike a regular concert when you're blinded by the stage lights, it's an interactive situation to feel the audience participation in this really intense way. You can literally hear breath and it becomes the rhythm! So the music itself changes. What i had imagined for that class didn't happen at all. Instead it rolled along with the program itself and they spoke to each other.

SSO: Well you may find in this next class we'll have more movement since it will be both flow and restorative. It'll be interesting to see how you react to the energy of the class differently from the last one.

IP: So what's your intention with the class?

SSO: The Flow and Restore that I usually teach is 45 min of Flow followed by half an hour of Restorative. Since it's the Full Moon though I think we'll go more half and half and it'll be a more gentle flow.

IP: Yeah, that's good for me to know that there's an entrainment for that first half that's a little less droney.

SSO: Does that change things for you? You shouldn't be stressed! You look stressed!

IP: Ha! No, I'm glad we're having this conversation! I literally haven't started planning it yet! No it's cool to know so I can make some preparations for that ... the dynamics ...

SSO: Tell us about the instruments you use in creating these sound baths and what you hope to do for the experience of the listener and yogi participant.

IP: The synths are analog. Digital synthesis is ubiquitous right now and that's a-okay but for this particular scenario, it's like vinyl versus mp3. The waves are deep and real. They hit your eardrums and move through your body in a different way. I use a Roland Juno 60, a Sequential Circuits Six Trak and an old Nord Modular which is admittedly digital but it requires patching voices on a computer (I had to resurrect my 13 year old PowerBook to talk to it because Nord won't support the synth anymore) and I love the flexibility that instrument allows in building sounds and sequences from scratch.

SSO: What artists are informing and influencing the kind of music you make?

IP: I'm into music that creates states. States of being and mind. Psychedelia, less as a genre and more as an approach, has always been important to me. The first LP I ever nabbed out of a bin was Stereolab's  Emperor Tomato Ketchup. I'm thinking of it now because there are elements from the last album from the YIN class that remind me subtly of Stereolab. I dunno, maybe there was a sixteen year old kid a generation before me where it was an ELO or Floyd record or something. For me that band was my entry point. Then of course the decades go by and you trace out all of the branches of the family tree and what I'm looking towards now is more focused and rarified. Anywhere from Terry Riley to Robbie Basho, not that I purport to be anywhere at that level musically, I just feel the spirit of it. JD Emmanuel has become very important to me as a touchstone. Suddenly a lot of these New Age dudes don't sound so cheesy.

SSO: Like Vangelis and all that?

IP: Weeeeeell, he has more than a few moments of being cheesy but there are gems! I guess for me, as an untrained musician, I come at it caring more about the witchier aspects, the incantatory aspects of making music? Is that a word? Does that make sense? I'm from Maine; we're weird woodsy folk. Lots of pagan vibes so I'm less about techno futurism and more about the the more ancient aspects of music as transformation. Ooooh, here's an example. Kraftwerk is another touchstone and they're mostly known for their hyper futurist tropes like in their hit "Pocket Calculator". That album "Computer World" is total genius but my favorite albums from them are right at the moment where they're straddling this transition from psychedelic band with traditional instrumentation into the super synthey group they became famous for. "Ralf and Florian" and "Autobahn" show that beautifully uncomfortable transition. That parallels with the yoga practice. It's not supposed to hurt but you are supposed to be pushing your boundaries to arrive at your destination.

Sondra is a musician and yoga teacher. She will blend her artistic ear for music with her careful eye for energy in this special class to create an irresistible environment.

Ian's latest album, recorded live at Namaste Highland Park, is called YIN I and is available at his band camp site here.

All attendees of the Full Moon Flow and Restore class will receive a free download of the album. The latest video from the album can be seen here.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Namaste Highland Park Gallery Featured Artist: Shalini Pace

Shalini is a first generation American, whose parents moved from South Africa to the United States. Shalini has lived in Highland Park most of her life, and recently graduated with a Religious Studies degree from Occidental College. To find out more about her art, read the interview below, where Shalini discusses her inspirations, her spirituality, and the themes she explores through her art.

What is your spiritual background if you have one and how does it influence your art, if it does?

I was brought up with different spiritual backgrounds. When my parents lived in South Africa they mainly practiced Hinduism.  But my brother and I were not brought up with one religious path.  Our parents raised us both pulling from Hinduism and Buddhism in a spiritual sense, which definitely influences the way that I think and that is then translated into my art.

Religion and theory coincide well, both trying to answer confounding questions, but what I realized with art is that I could explore a completely different way of thinking. With art there can be so many different understandings.  That is why I never had a tight grasp on what the artist’s intent is because I don’t think that really matters.  I think it is about what it means to the viewer at the moment they are viewing the piece, you can look at a piece numerous times, and each time you could be thinking different things and feeling different emotions.  I think it is probably the most amazing thing when you can look at a piece of art and an emotion is evoked from it.  Especially a visceral and strong reaction. That is what I strive for in my art. I really hope that this has a reaction for other people and that I don’t need to spin intent onto my pieces, I want the viewer to look with inside themselves to figure out what might be going on.   

What is the inspiration for your art or at least for one of the pieces that you have in the studio?

All of my art is usually influenced by what I am reading at the time and what I am feeling at the time. So naturally the pieces that seem a bit darker, however you want to interpret that, they are based on weird theories, usually asking the questions, what is thought? Why do we think in certain ways? You know, the questions that go on and on, with no answer. But that’s the thing, I am not trying to answer any questions, but just explore the questions deeper.

Do you have a favorite piece, and if so are there any stories that go along with the creation of it?

I guess, I guess it is not necessarily my favorite, but the most interesting piece would be, “The Figure in the Scream.”  It is the first painting I did outside of a classroom setting.  I didn’t really paint or draw or do any art before I got to college before that I was really heavily into sports, which took over most of my time. But when I got to school I shifted gears. I wanted to explore different avenues.  So I fell into taking some art classes, which I was always curious about, but never got to explore.  But this piece I did outside of a formal art class.  I was actually in a class called “Religion and Politics” class.  And for our final project I ended up bartering with my professor to allow me to do a painting and a small manifesto on Deleuze.  And so I picked up the book “Logic and Sensation,” and it’s basically Deleuze trying to explain the process of painting through Frances Bacon.  I read the book from cover to cover, listening to interviews, and after a very long process of trying to go deep into Deleuze’s mind, I felt I was ready to undergo the process of putting his theory into practice and make this painting. 

So what I tried to do was to embody what Deleuze was describing.  One theme that he explored was the figure emerging out of the painting, and elements of losing control. And to do that one has to really immerse oneself in chaos, which then can become a space in which you can just lose yourself.  And the best way I thought to imagine what this experience was like, was to lock myself in a basement for two days and just paint something. And the weirdest thing is I don’t remember what happened down there.  When I came to, or came back into consciousness, this painting was just in front of me. And then I realized I needed food and had to go to class, and I when I got to class, I was up there trying to explain my painting but I was just at a complete loss for words. What I really caught onto was Deleuze’s idea that the fear or whatever anguish gets evoked from a scream does not come from the sound of the scream itself, it comes from the physical emotion, the motion of the scream.  If somebody tenses up, it is not the noise that evokes emotion from us it is the motion.  So that is what was going through my head during this painting.  But after I made it I could not explain it for the life of me.  My art really is just me trying to let go.

How would someone be able to contact you if they wanted to purchase a piece of your art?

Email is probably the best way to reach me, or facebook, you could follow my instagram but that would be just random pictures of my everyday life.