Yearly Archives: 2013

Top 10 Gratitude List

1. My family & friends: my immediate family; family & family spread all over the globe; my hubby- thanks for all your support in everything that I do. My fur children who are the best heaters at night, give the best smooches, & inspire me to be a better human.

2. Choice… what a luxury! I’m so f’n lucky to have this and don’t ever take it for granted.

3. My teachers: formally & those who don’t know it. You all reveal things in my life I admire and aspire to & expose qualities in life I needn’t enhance in my own. Thank you.

4. Failures, I mean opportunities. They keep me humble and continue to shed light on how to stay grounded.

5. My home: refuge, sanctuary, haven, personal yoga studio. Heaven.

6. Food & Farmers: Thank you for putting real, whole, organic foods on my plate. I think of you every time receive food, prepare, & nourish myself. Thank you for all your hard work.

7. My chiropractor, Dr. Mike & masseus team, Ranier & Reggie. You have magic hands!

8. Blend tec: You’re the bomb. I not only thank you, I’m on my knees bowing!

9. MacBook Air: No really. I love you. You make my life convenient and keep me connected to friends & opportunity not within reach.

10.  MYS dream team: For awhile it was just me navigating the MYS ship. I set some goals, reshaped my vision, & manifested my team would take shape. It did and I am so lucky! They are my friends and my colleagues. I love you guys! I couldn’t do this without you!

Isabelle & Tony

Interview with Saul David Raye

Bhakti yogi & spiritual activist, Saul David Raye, shares his love, light, and teachings.

Saul kirtan

Moi, (Isabelle): What is bhakti yoga to you, and what was your first experience with this tradition? What drew you into it to begin with?

Saul David Raye: Bhakti is the nature of the heart. It is the deep love that flows through all of existence. yoga is union, bhakti yoga is the path of union thru love. the ancients gave different paths to come home, love is the fastest. God is Love. My first experience of bhakti yoga was thru my first teacher who taught me the different paths of yoga. this was in my early 20’s. Then i read autobiography of a yogi and went to india, where I experienced first hand the deep devotion that is at the heart of the yoga tradition. I have tried many approaches and studied with may teachers, for me bhakti is the deepest and it connects us all together and with all of life.

I: Many who come from a bhakti tradition highlighting kirtan. You are immersed as both a teacher of hatha yoga & bhakti yoga. What role do you see bhakti yoga playing in the future?

SDR: Bhakti yoga and the practice of kirtan are spreading with great speed. When people have a taste of the sweetness of the heart they respond. I see the world transforming only thru love and for this to happen we have to open our hearts, both personally and collectively. There is no other way. Bhakti brings us together, we are one family. I see it happening already, we are coming together. Bhakti is the heart, it is not limited to only the yoga tradition. When we open our hearts, when we share our hearts the world heals. We are the world.

I: What is the role of a guru in the bhakti path? Is it necessary to have a one?

SDR: We definitely need a teacher, but i don’t think one teacher can teach us everything. I do not feel it has to be one person. True bhakti is to live with the heart, with love as the guru. To be guided by the heart. the scriptures say that we all connect to God in different ways or forms. The true guru takes all forms.

I: Besides participating in kirtan, what other work can the yoga community can do to raise awareness around the bigger picture of love and devotion?

SDR: There are many practices of yoga besides kirtan. When we live our yoga, we change ourselves, then our world changes. When we live with love and devotion, it addresses that question. There is no other way. Earth, peace… thru self peace.

I: Do you have a favorite chant? If so, please share?

SDR: They are all my favorite chants. the one in my heart right now is a grandmother chant i learned ….

the river is flowing, flowing and growing.

the river is flowing down to the sea.

oh mother carry me, your child i will always be.

oh mother carry me down to the sea…

aum shanti ….

SDR bioSaul David Raye is an internationally acclaimed teacher, healer and spiritual activist known for his empowering and transformational approach to yoga, healing and spirituality. Saul’s teaching draws on the depth of the Yoga tradition, Bhakti, Tantra and all forms of universal light, love and wisdom. Through the grace of his teachers and guides he is able to bring alive the ancient wisdom teachings for modern seekers.  The depth of Saul’s teaching allows students to connect deeply with their own authentic power, spirit and truth.

A pioneering and inspiring presence in Yoga’s evolution in the west, Saul’s authentic and heart-centered teaching has influenced thousands of students and teachers around the world. He holds certifications in Yoga, bodywork and energy healing and is an ordained minister and musician who infuses his classes with healing music and chants. He has been on the faculty of International and National conferences and festivals for years, and has presented alongside many luminaries in the Spiritual world. Saul shares this work through teacher trainings, workshops, classes, sacred journey’s to ancient power sites and sacred music.

I can’t take credit for Saul David Raye’s shows here in Atlanta, as it was made possible by Stan, ‘the man’, Holt, visionary entrepreneur behind Swaha Productions and who is hands down responsible for selflessly serving the southeastern yoga community by facilitating events that host kirtan gatherings, (such as Krishna Das this past winter). Thank you Stan! Not just for bringing Saul here, but for all your efforts in creating depth, uniting, and spreading the love! This is a collaborative effort between Swaha Productions, the Atlanta Yoga Scene, & Be Yoga, with tons of love and support from the SE Yoga Conference. It takes a village!

Off The Mat & Into The World

In July 2013, I was fortunate enough to experience Off The Mat Into The World training in the insanely beautiful Squaw Valley, California. This round was more like a reunion of Off The Mat Leaders. The emphasis was to action our purpose (cause) and to take a stand for it.

Let me back up for a few moments. For those of you who aren’t familiar, here’s some background on Off The Mat Into The World (OTMITW)… The mission is to use the depth and power of yoga to birth activism and promote social change. This was the initial vision of Seane Corn, Hala Khouri, & Suzanne Sterling who saw an opportunity to develop leaders from the yoga community. These trained leaders are helping to create awareness in a grass roots fashion around issues like sex trafficking, Aids, LBGT, Class, Race, and domestic violence. This is just a glimpse of the many sectors they have devoted their time and effort towards. The other key factor that makes this work is collaboration. All of them acknowledged that they would not be as successful creating movement and social change as individuals. Their strength comes from uniting. It literally takes a village.

collaboration

The woman responsible for organizing and keeping the entire OTMITW organization moving forward is powerhouse yogi, Kerri Kelly. This woman is simply amazing. She has a work ethic like no one I’ve ever met. She’s bright, talented, and driven. She has a passion to share yoga and educate, in a very organized and thoughtful manner. I was so taken back from her selfless drive and compassion. There were many times I had to check myself as my mouth was wide open- astonished, inspired, and so full of gratitude to be experiencing the gift of this training.

Kerri Kelly

I had a chance to check in with Seane & Suzanne at the Global Action Summit. Check out some snippets from our casual Q&A below:

Q: What inspired you to create OTMITW & where do you see  it in 10 years?

A:
Seane: view here
Suzanne: view here: Part 1 Part 2

Q: And last, a burning question for the ladies… :)

A:
Seane: view here
Suzanne:  view here

My big take away from the Global Action Summit is asking the question, What will I do? What will we do? I think its safe to assume that everyone on the planet is passionate about something and definitely has a purpose. When we know what we stand for, we have to do something about it outside of conversing. How are we serving beyond our practice or teaching. Where does that show up once we leave the comfort of our studio or homes. How is our yoga practice showing up off the mat? Think about it. What is your purpose? What are you doing about it?

For more information about how you can get involved, find your purpose, and take a stand for it visit the OTMITW website. Each of these extraordinary ladies offer many trainings. Get to know them better: Seane Corn,Suzanne Sterling, and Hala Khouri. As well as being leaders of OTMITW, they all lead their own programs, trainings, and workshops.

Global Action Summit, Squaw Valley 2013

OTMITW has partnered with KiraGrace in support of their efforts. Specifically, 100% of the profits from the sale of Warrior T-back tank is donated to the organization. Amazing. You can feel great knowing that your purchase is a contribution towards positive change.

KiraGrace Warrior T-back Tank

Food Is Yoga Practice

Good food is yoga practice…

I think that its a safe assumption to make that food is a strong cord among us equally as we understand how energy is universal. It nourishes, comforts, connects us to our environment, is part of traditions. For me, it is important that the food I eat tastes good and is grown in an ethical and natural way. Not laced with pesticides, grown in a greenhouse. I use this as an opportunity to correlate ahimsa to more than just how we treat our bodies while we practice or living beings with heart beats. What about our communities and environments. Extending this to the communal bigger picture shows up everywhere, especially our food choices. I thoroughly enjoy and am grateful to practice mindfulness when I reach for the squash I will use for my meal, and acknowledge that someone planted and grew this, picked it, transported it from their land, and finally arrived on my table. Its an amazing process that happens and I am grateful for the opportunity to eat really great healthy food and support the local economy one bite at a time.

I love summer for the main reason of taking advantage of the delicious foods that are abundant and local. The farmer’s markets are packed with an rainbow array of locally grown produce. I try to go every Saturday to supplement my weekly produce plan: what is not grown at our home, we get from our CSA home delivery. Then, what is not in the CSA delivery, is supplemented by the farmer’s market that I shop at every Saturday after the weekly “Rad Runners” (yogi-runners), group. We have coffee on the “Square”, then hit up the resident farmer’s market. I look forward to this every week. Its my favorite way to begin a weekend, foster community, and support the local agri-community. I love the Marietta Farmer’s Market. I’m grateful it’s close to home which makes it even better. Check the Farmer’s Market locator to explore other markets too. Super Cool.

heirloom tomatoes from 'the Square' heirloom tomatoes from ‘the Square’

Here is a Moon Flower varietal I bought a couple weeks ago. Its huge, gorgeous, and a perineal- which is awesome as I’m all about low maintenance. Low maintenance keeps it simple and lends to creating more personal time. Buddha comes to mind as he would open-eye meditate outdoors, staring into fauna. I love the idea of mindful appreciation of nature and have been inspired to take a seat outdoors.
Moonflower Moonflower
Farmer’s Markets are everywhere and popping up in smaller towns. I find the smaller towns have great markets because they tend to be near or in areas that have more land and have access to farms. The offering are streamlined representing the farms in the area. Just be aware to check if the goods grown are pesticide free and organic. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve pulled over to farm stands on road trips, seduced by the eye-candy fruits and veggies grown in that locale, only to be disappointed to learn that food was not organic or local. (I’ve been at farm stands where the produce sold, had stickers on it labeling from other countries. This is another topic in itself because factors included could be, but not limited to economical, import/exportations, low crop yields… topics for another 100 blog post topics…) I digress…


The lovely bounties have been the source of inspiration in my kitchen from smoothies, green juices, and salads to name a few. Here are some of the recipes to share. All the measurements are guestimations. Feel free to try them out and share what you think, tweak them to suit, or if you have your own ideas… Post your comments and let me know. I’m curious… Good food is yoga practice.

Super Green Salad
Super Green Salad
You will love this salad! Its a raw, delicious vitamin on a plate. This salad was inspired by the Emerald City Salad I used to eat every day. I have tweaked it below and continue to do so. This can be a main dish or a side. Its even better the next day when all of the flavors meld more. I also tweak the ingredients, depending on what I have on hand. Also a good way to mix it up and make this more versatile, which I love creative ways to get greens in my day. Prepare all the veggies & wild rice, then toss in a large salad bowl. Pour the dressing, toss again. Done. Serves 4-6

Lacinato Kale, 1 bunch, chopped

Red Chard, 1 bunch, chopped

Red & Yellow Bell Pepper, ½ – 1 each, sliced

1 Carrot, shaved (use a veggie slicer)

1 Fennel bulb, sliced

½ Red Onion, thinly sliced

1 cup of cooked Wild Rice

Dressing:

2 garlic cloves, minced

½  cup of Olive Oil

⅓ cup of fresh-squeezed Lemon juice (adjust the lemon & tamari to taste)

⅓ cup of GF Tamari

Green Cocunut Smoothie
Green Coconut Smoothie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love having a green smoothie in the mornings. I love the texture from the coconut, it satiates, the taste and smell of the freshness from the orange and strawberries wake up my mouth. I don’t really measure, so here are the guestimations. I do change up the fruit I use. I always use kale or some leafy greens as a back up when I’m out. I’ve experimented with lettuce. Its good, but kale is way better in my opinion. Tweak, drink, enjoy!

4 oz aloe water

med orange peeled (try to keep the pith. optional & lemon is a good swap)

1/2 ripe banana (buy a bunch, chop, freeze for on hand recipe use)

5 strawberries (or whatever berries you have. Blackberries are so good).

1/3 cup of dry unsweetened coconut flakes

Big handful of lacinato kale

Add a good amount of ice to your liking.

Add the ingredients in the order listed, [to not burn out your blender], to your blender. I don’t add sweetener, but if you do, this would be the moment. This will take all of 10 mindful min to prep and make. Spend 20 enjoying the green smoothie.

Herbs & supplements are optional additions that I love to enhance my smoothies with. You may not need them; consult with your local naturopath or health food store expert for the proper amounts if needed:

local bee pollen

astragalus powder

acerola powder

maca powder

 

 

Que Pasana! Workshops & Events!

Happy Spring! We’re well into the season and getting hints of summer. I’m loving the color from the flowers and tree buds as they wake up from their winter hibernation. Its a nice reminder of abundance and the bounty that seasonal change brings. I typically suffer from seasonal allergies and living in the south, the weather is conducive to tons of vegetation and fauna, lending to tons and tons of pollen. I prepare well ahead by building up my immune system with my morning tea tonic. Here’s my morning cocktail. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you:

My Morning Immune System Cocktail:

1 Lemon, squeezed (kidney & liver toner)
Dash of Cayenne, to your liking- be careful, a little goes a long way! (kindles digestion)
1 tsp of Astragalus (immune booster + Liver toner)
1 good slice of Turmeric, or 1 tsp of dried (anti-inflammatory- I also sneak it into most of my foods)
1 good slice of Ginger, or 1/2 tsp of dried (circulation + warms me up in the morning.
  Not during the summer months)
2 tsp of Local Honey (immune booster + trace minerals & nutrients- its got to be local & organic!
Hometown Honey is my absolute fav!)

*Add the above to a big ol’ mug of hot water and pull up a meditation seat to get your morning started right!

Just got back from a fabulous week of R&R and yoga, in Costa Rica. The week was full of sun, surf, hiking, rain forests, sweat lodge, great food, and fond memories with an amazing group of yogis. My skin has a nice golden tone, (though I did get a good sun burn and am peeling), from the tropical sun. I feel like my body regulated very well from the climate and the delicious fresh fruits I ate every day. Most didn’t know each other when the excursion began and by weeks end, the bond was made. These are connections I know we will have for life. My hubby and I have always had a goal of living out of the country at some point. We’ve had our eye on Uruguay, but now Costa Rica is a top contender. The combination of the weather, people, easy and simple living lifestyle, and open minded mentally is definitely seductive. Until then, I will cherish my sweet memories in the land of Pura Vida.

morning meditation
Morning meditation at Vida Asana, Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica

More workshops & events!

I’m in the process of working out the details for a yoga retreat to Italy in 2014. This will be a week long retreat at one of my best friend’s places, in her town of Borgo San Lorenzo, right outside of Florence. I spent some time there in 2011 and it was one of the best trips ever. (It helps when you are friends with a local!). The vibe of the land is lush and abundant. It was the end of summer and the harvest was beginning. Every day was full of sun ripened fruits; I think I ate my body weight in pears and figs. Lovely local wine paired with alfresco dining with stunning vistas that left me humbled and with a deeper appreciation for mother earth.

For this retreat, we’ll get a chance to dive into the tuscan culture: exploring old roman trails right outside the property door. (I train ran this when I was there and went to a point where there are remains of an old roman tower). The property accommodates up to 15 and has a large outdoor pool flanked by beautiful cypress trees. Some of the activities that are in store for the more adventurous are stand-up paddle boarding, alfresco dining, exploring the town itself, a cycling tour, great food and vino, yoga, and of course, lots of time to relax and recharge. There is a ton of interest already for this one and it will fill up. Email me if you are interested: isabelle@isabellecasey.com.

I will be co-leading a weekend retreat with Jessica Jollie and Allison Foster of Yoga Landing, at the beautiful & luxurious, Barnsley Gardens Resort, July 12-14th. This will be awesome and just what we need in the middle of summer. A little vacation to check in and take care of ourselves: yoga, spa, golf, pool time, chillaxing. Registration is open, you can do that here. Here’s the scoop: you can register for the yoga sessions aside from the accommodations that you can book through Barnsley Gardens Resort. There are a few different options for registration. Reach out to me for more details and I’ll give you the whole scoop: isabelle@isabellecasey.com

 

]Barnsley Gardens Resort
Barnsley Gardens Resort, Yoga Weekend Retreat: July 12-14th, 2013
On May 5th, I will join a team of fellow yoga instructors for the Off Beat! weekend yoga event, raising awareness around bullying in schools, and supports the Ben Cohen Standup Foundation. I remember how bullying was an issue when I was a kid and its worse now. We are opening up the conversation and working together to help children, parents, and really our community understand how to take a stand and help put the kibosh on this.

Off Beat!

The event is May 4-5th. I’ll be teaching on May 5th from 11:30-12:45pm. The event location is at Ventanas and each session is open to 60 participants only. There will be a raffle, gift bags, beverage samples from Chuice. We have a ton of support from over 100 different media outlets such as AJC, Atlantan Magazine, Best Self Magazine, CNN, Jezebel Magazine, and WABE FM 90.1 (NPR). For more info, start by ‘liking’ the facebook page and help a fellow yogi out by spreading the word and join me on the mat. You can join the event right here. Hope to see you there!

Last one… I’m on faculty and teaching the 3rd weekend Teacher Training Immersion, ‘A New Perspective’, for the Yoga Club, here in Atlanta. The weekend will focus on not just how to balance up side down, but the intention behind it, when its appropriate, how to incorporate arm balances into class curriculum, modifications, and such. You don’t have to register for the entire training, if you want to cherry pick your trainings. Trainings count towards your Yoga Alliance hours. Reach out if you want to chat about it or just sign up. I’d love to have you!

That’s all I got. It was a lot. See you on the mat!… And scene. 🙂

 

Pura Vida

Its been a week an a half since my return from co-leading a wonderful yoga retreat with my friend, Cindy Olah, in the land of ‘Pura Vida’, Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica. I love going on retreats, whether leading or taking them. Its an opportunity to get away and hit the ‘reset’ button: recharge, reboot, be inspired, and return home with a new appreciation for new experiences and deeper appreciation for what you have.

We spent the week eating amazing local cuisine, indulging in fresh, tropical fruits, exploring the rainforest, discovering precious wildlife, playing in the surf, and of course, practicing yoga on and off the mat. The tepid ocean was amazing; strong currents and huge waves reminded me how small we are. Standing in one place, even knee deep, was a work out to not be pulled back into the ocean.

mangos
Some of the deliciousness we ate everyday. This is luxury!

The highlight for me was participating in a sweat lodge at the home of Eduardo, friend of Alejandro, resident yogi and owner of Vida Asana Eco Lodge– where we called home for the week. Only a handful of us decided to participate in the sweat lodge, while the rest of the yoga bunch chillaxed back at Playa Hermosa. The ceremonial sauna originates from the native american tradition as a means for purification. There are typically fours sessions where participants go inside an extremely hot and steamy, stick-made dome hut, centered around a fire pit of super hot rocks, and led by a seasoned leader who is well schooled in this tradition. I was down.

We traveled down a long, sandy road paralleling the Pacific Ocean, at the end of Playa Hermosa. We were greeted with welcome barks from dogs who lived at the surrounding neighbors, wanting to say hello and give us some love. Eduardo’s home is my dream home… cozy- maybe 1000 square feet, divided between between 2 modest stories, off the grid, on the beach, surrounded by a nature conservatory and farmland to its rear. He built his home using materials from the land, such as palm: bark for siding and fronds for the palapa roof of his home and outdoor yoga shala. A path to the left side of Eduardo’s home led us to where the sweat lodge was. Behind his home was a small pool, deep enough to sit in so your head could be above water, and large enough to accommodate the nine of us. This is where we would go between our sessions in the sweat lodge.

Playa Hermosa
Playa Hermosa- across from the sweat lodge

Neighboring the pool is the yoga shala, adorned with bean bags and hammocks. Continuing ahead, was the back yard area, complete with a large fire pit, outdoor pizza oven and argentinian grill, last but not least, what we called, ‘a human pizza oven’, the sweat lodge. Connected to this was a beautiful, organic, greenhouse where Eduardo tends to food he eats by hand. Divine.

Back to the human pizza oven… I’ve participated in other sweat lodges, but this one raises the bar for me at least. The types that I’ve been in are made out of large sticks that are structured in a way to create a dome. Not this one. This one actually looked like a pizza oven: huge large dome- concrete foundation, circular rock foundation walls, domed concrete roof, with the bonus of an in ground fire pit in the center of it. The only sticks involved was the driftwood we collected from the beach to build the fire outside the lodge. We could’ve easily had double the number of participants inside. Lastly, the ceremony was conducted in spanish- appropriate considering the locale.

Eduardo nursing some mate tea & copal resin
Eduardo nursing some mate tea & copal resin. The dome shape is the sweat lodge & the green covering is his green-house.

Alejandro took the lead with the fire building. We gathered firewood from the shore and he prepared the fire. Thoughtfully placed in the center of the fire pit, were the ‘abuelita’s’, or ‘grandmothers’- 40 large volcanic rocks that our experience would truly be facilitated.

Alejandro starting the base for the fire with palm bark
Alejandro starting the base for the fire with palm bark

 

While the fire was building and the abuelitas were heating, we played at the beach, swam, and befriended our costa rican, ‘tico’, canine buddies. The sun began its descent and we went back to check on the fire and watch it die down in sync with the sunset. When the sticks had burned and the abuelitas were glowing, it was time to begin. Showtime.

Sunset beach play time
Beach play time at sunset with Loren, Chris, myself, Melanie, & Alex.

 

Beached 'Tico' dogs
Beached ‘Tico’ dogs- one of my favorite pictures from the trip

Puerta 1: Alejandro began the escort of the abuelitas, considerably shoveling out the first 10 abuelitas, one by one. For each abuelita, we reciting aloud, ‘Axolotyl’, (Aztec god, invoking a return to our origin and eluding sacrifice), and, ‘piedra caliente’, (hot rock- basically a warning to move out of the way as the abuelitas were carried to the fire pit inside the sweat lodge). Ten times, Alejandro escorted an abuelita in, and ten times we acknowledged them.

We rinsed off in the outdoor shower before entering into the lodge, bowed to our heads to mother earth, then crawled in on hands and knees, in the same direction. We found our ‘seats’ marked by large banana leaves, alternating, female-male. It felt like we were in a steamy oven; it was thick and wet and infused with the frankincense-like resin, copal. I was instantly soaked by my own sweat to the point my swimsuit was just hanging on.

Heating up the 'Abuelitas'
Heating up the ‘Abuelitas’

Eduardo sat inside by the entrance, with a large bucket of water that he would periodically scoop from and add to the pit to make the space hotter and steamier and also ensure that the entrance door stay sealed. There are four rounds, called ‘doors’, or ‘puertas’, (we were in Costa Rica after all). Each puerta took about 20- 30 minutes, length of time determined by the leader as well vibing off the energy of our group.

Eduardo commenced the ceremony by setting a group intention, calling out to the abuelitas. Beginning with him, we all took turns declaring our intentions aloud, and then acknowledged that by saying native american acknowledgment, ‘A Ho’- the equilvalent of saying, ‘I agree’. Once our intentions were set, we chanted in sanskirt, the Peace and Gayatri mantras, and many rounds of powerful guttural, ‘om-ing’, rattling the cement oven walls until the invocations organically concluded. We crawled out in the same order and direction we entered, rinsed off in the outdoor showers, walked slowly and carefully to the cool pool where we assimilated the experience of the first puerta.

Bougainvillea
Bougainvillea from Eduardo’s garden

Puerta 2: The sun was quickly setting. We acknowledged our abuelitas, ‘Axolotyl, piedra caliente’, rinsed off, bowed, crawled in, found a new seat in alternating order, and began. This puerta was dedicated to letting go of the deep seeded anger inside of us. We did so by screaming at the top of our lungs and for as long as we could. When Eduardo described the puerta, I had a hunch it would be intense. I was right. I was sitting cross-legged about a foot from the wall behind me. I gave it all I had. After the very first ‘grita’, scream, I remember the deep- rooted, trembling that shook my body from my bum up my spine to my head. My eyeballs felt like they were spinning in their sockets. I couldn’t differentiate if I was sitting upright or folded forward into the fire pit. Once I gathered my bearings, I slid back against the wall to reacquaint myself with gravity and my surroundings. I joined back with the group, trying to scream, but I had nothing left. I felt cool inside accompanied by an indescribable pulsing sensation. Once we completed puerta dos, we repeated our exit: crawl out, bow, rinse off, pool acclimation, repeat… This was an epic, kundalini rising for sure. One that I still feel right now. (Sidenote- if you have ever taken a Bryan Kest workshop, you know the quote that comes to mind; if not, take one! Anyway, It kept popping into my head randomly after this throughout the week. Thank you BK for your exclusive quotes!) 🙂 I felt like any hardness that had taken root inside me, was either loosened or freed.

Round 3: It’s dusk and the stars were in position… This time we acknowledged all those we have both given and received ill will and made peace with past relationships that continue to take up real estate in our daily conscience: “Perdoname, Lo Siento, Te amo, Gracias”, (Forgive me, I’m sorry, I love you, Thank you). It was liberating to say the least and left me with the deepest sense of gratitude for anyone who has created an experience of any kind with me. I dedicate this puerta to you.

“Perdoname, Lo Siento, Te Amo, Gracias”

“Forgive Me, I’m Sorry, I Love You, Thank You”

Puerta 4: We entered the final puerta the same way, assumed our final seats. This time, I ended up sitting next to a female, Melanie. Though we were instructed to alternate the female-male seating, we couldn’t see inside the sweat lodge at this point because it was pitch black with exception of the faint amber glow of the abuelitas. We didn’t relocate. This round was the hottest. We were guided to lay down as the ground and the walls are cooler. It felt like by only a couple degrees, but that made a huge difference. The heat didn’t bother me, but I did find comfort in being in this pizza oven; hugging on mother earth. We laid overlapping, sweaty skin on skin, side by side, each other’s limbs as pillows. If you were someone who had personal space issues, you would’ve either freaked or my guess is quickly gotten over it. At that point, nothing mattered because we were all energetically spent, meaning all of our hang ups, holding patterns, and perspectives had been broken down and melted away.

The purpose of a sweat lodge is to rid the physical body of impurities. Um, check. This was the stoniest, stoned I’ve ever felt in my life. No drugs needed or involved- just pure, straight up literal burning tapas. My body felt and still feels physically free. Many things I’ve been working to gain clarity on, clarified. I’ve struggled with mental retention resulting from a head injury I endured over a decade ago. My awareness of retaining information short term is so much better. I would do this again in a heartbeat and plan to… with new intentions, of course. Each sweat lodge experience will never be like the last one. Where you are in your life and what your intention is sets the tone. Cheers to the intention of living the pura vida everyday! Salud!

P.S. For more pictures from the journey, check out my Facebook page, and, ‘like’ it while you’re at it. 🙂

Isabelle Casey

 

Heart To Heart

I had planned to dedicate February to the heart. Not just because Valentine’s Day happens to be in February, or that February is Heart Awareness month, but invite conversation around different experiences that we have. It didn’t go down the way I was envisioning because on January 22nd, 2013, my sweet Pops had a heart attack bringing new meaning to heart awareness on every level and ironically paving the way into the February heart theme in a very surreal and ironic way. I left for Seattle the next day to be with my parents. My sister flew in from Houston; older brother from Brooklyn; my little brother & sis-n-law live there, so they were holding down the fort until we got there.
Mt Rainier

Mt Rainier

I won’t go into all the details of the layers involved with this experience, but I will share some of the take aways that I am still digesting. Here I go…

I have always bowed deeply to this hard working machine known as the heart, with our lungs basically tying the hold for me. Besides it actually doing the main job to keep everything running in our bodies, I am forever amazed of how sensitive and equally strong our heart is. We can enhance it by increasing physical activity; nourishment, medicine and fuel through food. What we put into our bodies is literally what we are made of. I think of our body as this shell. We are predisposed to many things depending on our heritage for starters- there’s no escaping that one. We have to choice to entertain what we are born with or not.

There is nothing that we put into ourselves that won’t manifest into something else down the road whether its something healthy- aiding in increasing longevity, or something not beneficial. The ‘not beneficial’ part… lets just focus on this one for a sec before moving on…

Up until January, I would allow myself to indulge almost every day in chocolate. (Gasp!) I justified it with how great it is for you: the benefits of lowering LDL, antioxidant-rich flavonoids, and the euphoric mood boost I get. The only thing is, most of us, including me, have a little too much sometimes… every day… A little too much of one thing means a little of something else somewhere else, like if you eat enough of it and your body gets used to burning less fuel than what you ingest, you may experience a little muffin-top action. The biggest thing that I understand clearly, is that our organs, our little mini-machines in our body, are constantly working to process and they get worn out. The constant inundation of sugar for example… You may be thin, not carry excess weight, and seem to ‘afford’ the extra morsels, but what about the affect of our pancreas? The constant and unnecessary action of insulin constantly being released to reign our body back to equilibrium.

Acerola & Maca Cacao Cups
Acerola & Maca Cacao Cups

This lesson is something that was a constant theme while I was away. Could my dad have had a heart attack because of the way he cared for his body, or could it be from how we live our lives? Both. For sure. Its called stress and we all entertain it in many ways, not just food.

 

We know how stress affects our lives when we are not able to manage our responsibilities, but have you ever checked in on your heart to see how it is responding in those present moments? Try it. Try it when you are in conversation- positive or challenging and tune into your heart. How are you breathing? Many of us commute. Tune in while driving- especially those moments that you get passed unexpectedly, tune in to see how you feel. Hot, erratic, did your middle finger start to unravel, and your teeth begin to touch your bottom lip to offer up a well-rounded, f-bomb?

What about when you are happy? Bring yourself back to when you first started dating your sweetheart, or for you padres out there, held your child for the first time? Remember how you felt? All of that counts for conditioning your heart to where it is right now. Nothing, absolutely nothing, doesn’t affect the heart- or come from it.

Padres taking in the moment, post first cardiac follow up
Padres taking in the moment, post first cardiac follow up

Only 30 [continuous] minutes of cardio exercise is the general consensus for raising your heart rate and increasing your cardiovascular health. Compared to what we demand of our body to accomplish our daily grind, this is a modest request from our heart. Walking briskly, running or jogging, jog-walking (for those of you who want-to-love-running-but-secretly-don’t), swimming- summer is coming!, & of course yoga- vinyasa styles of yoga in specific. But, since I touched on moderation above, the same goes with our exercise. Definitely exercise, but not cross the line past the loosely used, ‘edge’. Shift your perspective to making the goal to give your heart a good flush. I have adopted this mind-set more when I am trail running eliminating other traditional ‘goals’, i.e., duration of time, finishing a specific trail. Besides this, I made peace long ago with the fact that I am not a competitive runner. Keeping the intention of the heart while I run which allows me to find the joy in the beauty that I am running in, not just through.

Skip this next paragraph if you get offended easily. A warning that I am standing on my favorite podium and you may not be interested… 🙂

I am a very strong advocate for whole foods. Not the store, (though I do go there), but whole foods, like an actual apple versus one that was pulverized, given preservatives, thickening agents, and a shiny plastic wrapping. I put in a full effort on a daily basis to understand where my food comes from. I’m not talking about my CSA delivery or Whole Foods. I’m not even talking about the farmers, (whom I am so grateful to), but the ground it came out of and if it was hosed with chemicals or not. Pesticides is what is liberally referenced, but chemicals are what they are, and they are not good for you. I am no food scientist or nutritionist, but a passionate constituent and ayurvedic student who loves to nerd-out on topics like these. I know there are many out there that don’t think about specifics like this, but if I would have one request, its to start to… Just a touch. For yourself, your kids, your family, each other. If there was a specific reason within this, maybe because just like how you exercise your heart, what you put in your body matters also. Notice a withered plant next time after you water it. It rehydrates, is more alert, and does it’s selfless duty of being presentable, radiating its inner beauty while cleaning the air around it. Think of your body this way. Food is straight up nutrition and our body responds the same way a plant does. Eat whole foods- foods that aren’t packaged- especially the ‘healthy’ kinds, such as ‘whole food’ bars, (Lara, Raw Revolution, etc). Eat a piece of fruit. In its whole form, the entire fruit is digestible and recognizable by your body to break it down and use it 100%. The bars may be digestible, but they are still processed and not fresh. (I actually made up a small batch recipe for Lara ‘like’ bars. They turned out awesome; I knew what ingredients were in it, and they were made with love, not a machine. Email me if you want the recipe). Being part of the process is also priceless. The quality goes up just because you are going slowly. I experience this every morning during my coffee ritual. My coffee becomes this sacred thing and I end up nursing it to maintain that perfect warm temperature up until the very last drop.

my coffee god
My coffee god

The last point I’ll put out there is having control over my food/fuel, is really practicing food mindfulness. I feel aligned because I understand my food- where it is sourced and if its processed. My ‘processing’ is done in the kitchen with my cutting board, knives, and Blendtec, (worth the investment. Its amazing.) By taking a stand for my food values, I am not contributing to the industry we have become accustomed to. For me, its a pleasant, ‘F you’, to the food standards in place by corporations whose best interests are not in our best interests. What goes in my body is healthful not harmful and keeps me away from the other corporations known as the ‘health care system’. That said, I am human, so when I do choose to veer from this, I’m well aware that I am allowing this to happen. I don’t beat myself up for the occasional indulgence, but I do understand that veering off too often will be humbling down the road.

For those of you who skipped the above paragraph, welcome back!

The last thing I’d like to express is my gratitude for my family and friends.

My dad, mom > ‘Mamacita’, brothers, sister, basically-blood-sis-n-law, baby niece, and extended family. My family rocks- plain and simple. With my dad’s heart attack, we were tested and all stepped up. From the time we got the call about my pops, without question, us kids, hopped on planes and showed up: hospital shifts, in-care home shifts, everything assistants, and acted/ as caregivers from nursing, occupational/physical therapy, mental support, learning Medicare, (not going there), the whole package. While we were all together, we worked so very hard to do the above, while shielding my parents from this backdrop so they could focus and embark on the very involved healing process. We had our moments where the adrenals were in high gear. My sister, an avid marathoner didn’t run for 2 weeks. I didn’t do a lick of physical yoga asana. The only yoga I did was stopping- which felt like every 5 minutes, to close my eyes, focus on breathing, the sound of my heart pounding the inside of my chest wall, and literally saying to myself, ‘deep breath, deep breath’. I was truly present though it felt like I was dreaming. My wise, yogi Uncle told me in conversation, ‘we are never given what we can not handle’. This became my mantra and still hits my heart strong.

My friends are also my family and they continue to prove it to me everyday. While I was gone, the yoga studio I teach at had my back. Studio Directors, Julie & Rachel, basically told me I couldn’t teach later that morning [that I got the call]. Julie tapped her inner “mama bear” and told me how it was. I’m grateful to you, Jewels, for being my southern ‘mamacita’. Rachel, thanks for calling me in between classes, subbing, and carpool. You guys are my girls. My yoga teacher brothers and sisters, karma yogis, students, and my friends were there for me as well. While I was away, it was always perfect timing when reading the sweet notes and voice messages of love and support- especially those late 2am mornings when I really was needing a little something. No expectation of a return message, just pure, authentic love coming from my peeps. That love filled the voids I was feeling while I was away and kept me strong. I love you all. Thank you for this gift.

dedicated to my family & friends

 

 

‘we are never given what we can not handle’

 

Dedicated to my family & friends

Before I end, I want to dedicate a recipe I made to the heart, everyone who supported me, those who have been affected by heart issues, and of course, my super awesome, sweet Pops. From one heart to another..

Lovingly yours,

~isabelle

(I don’t measure, except for the dressing. Make the amount you would make for yourself & times it by the number of peeps. Scale up or down for the veggies. All ingredients are organic of course, and this is gluten-free).

Carrot Ginger Awesomeness dressing
Carrot Ginger Awesomeness dressing

Raw Carrot Ginger dressing:

1 Carrot, grated
2″ piece of Ginger, peeled & minced
1 tsp of Agave
2 TBS Brown Rice Vinegar
1/2 lemon, squeezed
2 tsp of Gluten-free Tamari
2 tsp of Toasted Sesame Oil
Sea salt, a pinch

So easy: put everything in a blender, puree, and prepare to be in love with this. You will be so happy. 🙂

Avocado Maitake salad
Avocado Maitake salad

Avocado Maitake Salad: 

Romaine lettuce, rolled & cut 1″ wide
Lacinato Kale, rolled and julienned
Carrot, peeled, then peeled into strips
Red onion, thinly sliced
Broccollettes, steamed or raw
Green or red cabbage, cut super thin
Avocado, diced
Gomasaio, optional, but so good
Brown rice spaghetti pasta

1. Prepare the rice pasta, cool in an ice-bath, drain, and set aside.
2. Toss the salad with the Carrot Ginger dressing. Have your veggies ready to go in a salad bowl, along with your dressing.
3. Top with avocado & gomasaio. My hubby loves this with grilled chicken marinated in seasame oil, chili, salt, & pepper.

Isabelle Casey