Since moving, my life has become an all-out yoga fest. I’m the managing editor for the yoga-heavy elephant journal, I’m the social media ambassador to one of the hippest yoga studios in Boulder, I’m connecting and networking with amazing yogis from all over the country (Seane Corn kissed me on the cheek – I can die now), I’m going to yoga class every day, and I even got the chance to check out the Yoga Journal Conference in Estes Park a few weekends ago. I’m living and breathing the yoga life, and I’m loving every second of it.
My first experience with yoga was well over ten years ago, when I reenrolled in college to finish my degree (after dropping out for a spell to live out of a car in Australia – remember that story? I attended free classes at HPER that were led by an amazing teacher whose name I have embarrassingly and regrettably forgotten, but the thing I remember most is that he was able to connect me with my breath. It was the first time in my life that I managed to stop for a moment and notice, “Well whaddayaknow? I’m actually breathing.” I also remember feeling incredibly light and free after class, followed by several days of staggering soreness. Needless to say, I was hooked.
My practice took various forms over the following decade, moving with the ebb and flow of life. I sporadically attended classes when the mood struck, but most of the time, I found myself on my mat in front of the television, stifling giggles as Denise Austin led me through an oddly breathy, wide-eyed, robotic vinyasa flow (god love her).
Several years ago, a friend turned me onto hot yoga – a style that leaves you looking like you’ve just stepped out of the shower. Hot yoga amps up the heat and humidity in the room to around 105 degrees, claiming to help release toxins from the body; even though I got an embarrassingly low grade in freshman biology, I do know that most toxins are processed through the liver and kidneys, and not through the skin; regardless, sweating feels good, and I’ll leave it at that. After one hot yoga class, again, I was hooked. I bought a monthly membership and went every single night.
Around that time, I fell into a rather tumultuous, soul-sucking period in my career, and I sought solace on the mat to escape the stress and frustrations of work. Yoga left me feeling blissed-out and worry-free, even if it was just for a couple of hours. As the months passed, I realized that yoga was something that I believed in so fully, and something that I held so dearly, that I wanted to pass that experience onto other people. I enrolled in a teacher training program and one year later, I completed the program with an RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) certification.
My point in all of this is that even though yoga has fluctuated in varying degrees of importance over the past decade, it’s come to represent something that I firmly believe has changed the course of my life. I have seen a shift in my all of my habits – mental, emotional and physical. My impatient tendencies aren’t running my life anymore (granted, they’re still there, but they’re a quieter version of their former selves). My impulses to judge without careful thought or consideration have been replaced with compassion and a more open mind. I am more mindful of what I do, what I say, what I eat, and what I feel. I could go on and on, of course; but suffice it to say that the tendencies, habits and patterns that were once in full force and effect, are breaking apart and drifting away.
If that’s not enough, yoga is even seeping into my culinary adventures. In my latest issue of Yoga Journal, Ella Lawrence offered up this comforting, Moroccan-inspired stew that includes big chunks of butternut squash and red potatoes, strips of zesty lemon peel and even a pinch of saffron for that extra oomph. The original recipe called for chickpeas, but since I’m partial to beans, I used cannellinis, instead – of course, you can use whatever you darn well please. The addition of briny green olives at the very end gives a little twang to the dish, and the whole thing is served up on soft, pillowy rice. Even if your version of doing yoga is simply sitting on a sticky mat and shoveling a bowlful of stew into your face, then so be it. Enjoy!
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(adapted from Yoga Journal)
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. butter
1 medium onion, diced small
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 cinnamon stick
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups vegetable broth
1 pound butternut squash, diced large
1 pound red potatoes, diced large
2 cups cooked chickpeas or white beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
Pinch saffron (optional)
Peel from 1 lemon, finely chopped
1 cup brined green olives (preferably pitted)
salt & pepper to taste
(cooked rice, chopped cilantro, toasted almonds and plain yogurt for serving)
In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the onion, cumin, smoked paprika and cinnamon stick, and cook until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute longer.
Add the broth, squash, potatoes, chickpeas or beans, tomatoes, saffron (if using) and lemon peel, and season with salt and pepper. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the squash and potatoes are just beginning to break down. Remove from the heat and stir in the olives.
Serve over your favorite rice, and garnish with fresh cilantro, toasted almonds and plain yogurt.
* If the above slideshow doesn’t load, you can view all the photos from this recipe on Flickr.
Laura is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. She was born and raised in Fayetteville, but has recently moved to Boulder, Colorado. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more from Laura, see her past stories, visit Flyer Foodie on Facebook or check out Prana & Pie.