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.