Category Archives: Uncategorized

Hippy Deodorant

If, like me, you solve all your problems by rubbing coconut oil on them, you hate spending money and you prefer not to put weird chemicals on your body, well, here’s a nice treat for you. Auntie Hope’s Hippy Deodorant satisfies my desire not to spend money, to smell excellent and to keep things natural, AND it takes all of ten minutes to make.

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To make this marvelous concoction, you’ll need:

4 Tbsp coconut oil, melted

2 Tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot

2 Tbsp baking soda

Ten drops of your favorite essential oils (I chose a blend of lemon, patchouli and lavender for this latest batch but you can use anything at all that you like. Lavender, rosemary and tea tree are a few oils that have good anti-bacterial qualities to keep you smelling fresh longer. Avoid peppermint if you’re a nursing mother as it decreases milk supply.)

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Melt the coconut oil and blend in the remaining ingredients until no lumps remain. Pour into the container of your choice (I use a small mason jar) and let cool. Stir or shake a couple of times during cooling to keep the baking soda and starch evenly distributed. To use, rub a dime-sized quantity onto your underarm after bathing and delight in your fragrant and resourceful self.

Drink Golden Milk!

All credit for this glorious beverage goes to Erin Chafe of Healthy Blossom, whose office is on the top floor of Nova. You can find her website here: http://www.healthyblossom.ca

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Golden milk is realky delicious and gets some really good anti-inflammatory spices into you.  Great for chilly old November nights.

Golden Milk:

1 cup milk of your choice (I like coconut)

1/2 cup water

1 tbsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 tbsp honey

Whisk all this in a small pot til hot and enjoy!

Sitting in the Fire

Sitting in sukhasana, it’s easy to maintain a steady, rhythmic ujjaii breath. If it’s a good day, thoughts melt away in those first few moments of the practice, and you pour your awareness into your breath, into the present moment. It feels good. You are winning at yoga.

Later, in your fourth arm balance of the class, it’s harder; you can lose that focus, hold your breath, tighten up. Even after you release a challenging posture, the breath can be scattered, the thoughts might wander to what you’re going to do after class, or that thing someone said. It is part of our natural makeup to want to avoid difficult situations.

But yoga teaches us to learn to sit in the difficulty, the fire, the tapas, and receive its teachings, because we seldom are transformed by things that are easy. Taking this lesson off the mat can be so hard, but is so important.

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When I was young, I met the eyes of everyone I passed on the street, and smiled at everyone. Over time, I became fearful and stopped engaging those around me. I judged people as worthy or unworthy of my attention. I’ve been trying to let go of these judgments and  sit with that fear, live my yoga off the mat a little more. I can’t say that any sweeping revelations have come, yet, but I can say that it feels good to be recognizing the essential goodness of everyone and everything again. Can I meet the eyes of the elderly woman and the homeless man with equal ease and comfort? No. But perhaps they both have lessons for me, and pushing through the fear might bring me closer to them.

I’m currently doing a teacher training that focuses a lot on the core, cultivation of which is a natural way to engage with that discipline, that fire. We’re constructing the poses from deep inside the body and it’s making me aware that there is so much opportunity still to build strength. I thought my practice was pretty strong until I started thinking about it in this new way and now I’m finding myself shaky and tired.

And that’s just it. In the shakiness, the exhaustion, the fear, lies the pathway to our truth. If we shy away from it, we deprive ourselves of an opportunity to learn. Sitting in those places of discomfort gives us a chance to dismantle barriers and become stronger and wiser.

No really, just breathe.

“For you are fearfully and wonderfully made.”

It’s so easy to take the magic of the body for granted. It is, after all, designed to function without too much work from us. Our hearts beat thousands of times each day, our eyes blink, our lungs fill and empty. All these things will happen whether you pay attention or not. And good thing, because it might be hard to get anything else done if we had to focus on all that! But what happens when we bring awareness, joy and gratitude to this moment-to-moment magic that is a intrinsic part of our physical life?

As a doula, I am blessed to witness the power of our intuitive selves as people bring babies into the world. I trust birth, and I trust the body and spirit to be up to the task. But it is hard, demanding, sometimes exhausting work. And often the tool that can see a woman through is careful attention to her breath. As she tunes in to her inhales and exhales, she can ride the waves of the surges of labour without being overwhelmed by them. The breath keeps her anchored in the moment and gives her strength. I can’t recommend a prenatal yoga practice heartily enough to expectant families- it can be truly instrumental in a happy and satisfying birth experience.

If the breath can see us through these challenging and transformative experiences, then of course in our daily lives it can also bring about a change in the way we see things. Taking a few moments, especially in the midst of difficulty, to focus on this simple process, can help us to see a situation in a new light and to approach it more calmly.

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Take a moment, wherever you re, to close your eyes and observe, without judgement or change, your breath. Where is it happening in the body? Is it rapid or slow, deep or shallow? Then begin to deepen your breath, feeling the belly soften and move forward as it fills with breath, the rib cage inflating all the way to the collarbones. Then release the breath, feeling the shoulders relax, the natural tone of the abdomen as you press all the air out of the lungs. Repeat this ten times, in stillness, feeling that each breath out removes obstacles, releases tension, clears out physical and emotional stress; each breath in invites brightness, goodness and newness into your body and your life. As you move through all the events of your day, the hard and the easy, try to bring some awareness to this essential process that we often don’t give the attention it deserves. See how things might change when you take the time to nourish yourself with mindful breath.

#shityogiseat: An Energy Bar Recipe

You know when you are racing around all day and you’re so hungry you can’t think but you don’t want to eat crappy food?

This is a recipe for those times. Infinitely variable, I make this with whatever is in my pantry or whatever was on sale at the bulk foods store. They are like Larabars, but much cheaper and in an infinite variety of flavours!

A note on dates: you can use either the super-delicious but slightly expensive Medjool variety, in which case you only need to pit them, or the dried variety more widely available (and cheaper). If you opt for the second choice, soak them for fifteen minutes with enough boiling water to cover, then strain off and reserve the soaking liquid. If the mixture seems to dry, you can moisten it with a little of the liquid, added one tablespoonful at a time. Use this step as well for any other dried fruits you add.

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(Not the most beautiful food on earth, but they are delicious)

Energy bars deluxe

2 cups (loosely packed) dates, or 1 1/2 c dates and 1/2 c candied ginger or dried apple or apricots

2 c of any of the following, or a combination: sunflower seeds, walnuts, pecans, almonds, coconut or cashews

A pinch of sea salt

Optional flavorings/ nutrition boosters:

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp allspice

1 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp hemp hearts,

1tbsp flax seeds

2 tbsp cocoa powder

Directions: Line a baking sheet with parchment and brush it with coconut oil. Set aside. Prepare your dates according to the directions above and place them in the bowl of your food processor. Add all other ingredients and pulse a few times to combine, then run to motor until you have a thick batter. A few chunks are fine. If it’s too thick, add either a little of the date soaking liquid, or one or two more Medjool dates. If it’s too runny, throw in a few more nuts or seeds. This is a casual recipe. We take it easy. Roll with it. When the batter is thick but pliable, use a rubber spatula to scrape it onto the baking sheet (taste test here) and smooth the top to make a uniform thickness- if the batter sticks, moisten your spatula with a little water.

Place the baking sheet in the fridge from an hour, then cut the bars int your desired shape, wrap in plastic wrap, and take them with you whenever you’re looking at a long and hungry day ahead! I keep a stash of these in my car’s glove box. Very handy. Unfortunately I can’t tell you about their shelf life because they never last long.

Try these fabulous combinations:
Dates, peanuts, coconut, cocoa powder

Dates, dried apple, pecans, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg

Dates, walnuts, cocoa powder

Dates, apricots, cashews, cinnamon

Dates, candied ginger, sunflower seeds, almonds, turmeric, cinnamon

What other varieties do you like?

Giving Love to Get Love and Fall Class Offerings

I’m back from vacation and re-adjusting to ordinary life (I have to admit that I am maybe missing the weather and delicious fresh produce on the mainland). We spent a glorious couple of weeks helping our friends get married and the wedding got me thinking about the exchange of positive energy between people- loving kindness, metta, maybe my favorite idea.

Our chakras emit energy as well as take it in, and likewise our whole selves both send and receive words, feelings, messages, to and from one another and the world at large. The great thing about this is that we can both give and receive love an watch as it grows and expands the more we do so. As you give your loving kindness to others, you receive that energy in kind and are yourself nourished by the act of giving. A pretty good argument, I think, in favour of loving your neighbour.

Here’s a small metta meditation you can try anywhere, anytime, to feel these warm fuzzy effects:

Get comfortable, wherever you are. Close your eyes and take a few breaths to arrive inside yourself. Picture a swirling, green light at the centre of your chest. This is anahatta chakra, the heart centre. See the light growing larger, getting brighter, until it encompasses your whole body, your spirit, all of you. See it especially bright around those parts of yourself that you may send negative thoughts or feeling to at other times. 

Then visualize this light surrounding a person you love- a partner, parent, child, dear friend. Watch as they are bathed in the green light emanating from your heart.

From here the light moves to all those dear to you.

Then to those you do not know but who effect your life somehow- the people who grow your food, sew your clothes, people who might use the things that you make. See them, too, in the green light that comes from your heart.

Then those people who cause your difficulty or pain- extend to them the light from your heart, too, and see them in its radiance.

From here your light moves to cover all of creation, the whole universe; that which we know and tat which we do not know, all enjoying the bright, green light from your heart. 

And see yourself inside this light, both giving and receiving of your metta, your loving kindness, whole and perfect with all of creation.

When you have finished this visualization, sit and enjoy the vibration of your meditation for a few moments before carrying these sentiments with you through your day.

I’m delighted to announce a couple of new classes coming up this fall; I’m joining the staff at one of my favorite local studios, Nova Yoga, (http://www.novayogaonline.com) and will be there Tuesday mornings at 9AM and select Fridays at 5:30 PM. Beginner Yoga Wednesdays at 8:30 at the Yoga Kula Co-Op starts up again on September 2 and my new Mom-and-Baby series at Kula starts September 29! Lots of excitement on the go- email me at hopebaggs@gmail.com for details.

You can also now follow me on Instagram and Twitter @hopeyoganl!

Sweet Surrender

“You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself – without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat.”

This passage from the Bhagavad Gita is a beautiful illustration of ishvara pranidhana: surrender to the divine. Put more simply, many of us can recall being entreated by our parents to do our best, and if we had done, then not to worry about success or failure. If everything we do is an offering to the greater whole of the universe, then we aren’t entitled- and should not be attached- to the results of our work. We can then get out of the muck and mire of our small lives, our individual struggles and frustrations, and into the freeing practice of devoting our energies to broader pursuits. If we are free to do our best and let go of what comes after, we can be free from ego and connect to grace.

Yoga to Go: Ten Minute Shoulder Lovin’

We live in a hunchy world: driving, typing, nursing a baby (I’m doing two of those right now, guess which ones!) and it can effect our physical as well as our emotional well-being. In addition to a myriad of back problems, slouching forward cultivates feelings of depression and withdrawal into oneself. This practice works to opens the front body literally and the heart metaphorically and emotionally. Pretty cool, right? You may be surprised at how much a short period of bringing awareness and movement into the upper back and shoulders can improve your mood and your physical comfort!

You can do this short sequence in ordinary clothing on any comfortable surface.

Start by finding a comfortable seat, whatever that means to you right now. If you choose to sit on the floor, give your lumbar spine some support by placing something- a thin cushion, a yoga block, a heavy blanket folded a few times- under your sitting bones. Sit on the bottom of your pelvis rather than on your sacrum, the base of your spine. Close the eyes and enjoy a few deep, natural but mindful breaths here. Feel your sit bones root down to allow you to lift a little taller through the crown of your head.

Let your right ear fall toward your right shoulder, chin tilted slightly upward, for one full round of breath. Inhale back up, then to the left. Repeat on the right side, taking left fingertips to the top of you left shoulder and bringing the right hand over the head to rest the right fingertips near the top of the left ear. Allow gravity and the weight of your hand to enhance the stretch, without pulling the head closer to the shoulder. Keep the tops of the shoulders soft throughout as you inhale to release and repeat on the left. Come back to centre.

Exhale and move your sternum and pubic bone toward one another as you arch your back, feeling the spine pressing out from between your shoulder blades. Inhale to move the breastbone forward, spreading the collarbones as the shoulder blades hug together on the back. Lift the gaze. Link these two movements with your next five breaths, arching back as you exhale, coming forward as you inhale. At the end of five breaths, return to a neutral posture.

Reach your hands brightly overhead. Spread the fingers and engage the hands, as though holding a big beach ball aloft. Lift the gaze and soften the tops of your shoulders. Feel the collarbones broadening as you inhale, the shoulderblades softening as you exhale.

Interlace the fingers at the sacrum and send the knuckles toward the floor. Broaden the collarbones, lift the gaze and move the shoulderblades together on the back. Hold for three breaths. Bring the hands in front, interlace the fingers and press the palms straight out.Shrug the heads of the arm bones back into their sockets, then inhale and lift the arms overhead. Root evenly through both sit bones, keep reaching through the palms and tip over to the right for one full round of breath, inhale back to centre, then over to the left.

Take the right fingertips to the floor by the sacrum, the back of the left and to the top of your right thigh. Inhale to lengthen the spine and as you exhale, twist to the right, moving from your core rather than using the hands to bring you in. The gaze can follow to the right if it’s comfortable but if the neck is tight, maintain a neutral gaze. Stay for three breaths, inhaling to lengthen the crown of the head toward the ceiling, exhaling to twist. Inhale back to centre, then repeat on the opposite side.

Bend at the elbows, stacking the right elbow in the crook of the left. Bring the backs of the hands together, or take the right hand behind the left and bring the palms together. Inhale to lift the elbows higher; exhale to press the hands away from you. Breathe into the space of the upper back for three breaths, then release the arms wide, shining the heart forward. Repeat on the other side.

Come forward to hands and knees. Keep the hips stacked over the heels and walk the hands forward, melting the heart toward the floor. Forehead, chin or throat can come to the floor according to what’s most comfortable. Keep the arms active, elbows lifted, armpits hollow, as the heart moves toward the floor. Slide the hands back toward you and return to hands and knees.

Release the hips to the heels, separate the knees and release the torso forward between the thighs. Stretch the arms forward and root through the fingertips, lifting the palms. Keep engagement in the arms as the centre of the chest releases toward the floor, the shoulderblades moving toward one another. Walk the hands to the right for three breaths, back to centre, to the left for three breaths, back to centre. Release all effort from the pose and remain for as long as you like. To come out, walk the hands back toward the his, slowly rolling up the spine, allowing the head to arrive at the top of the spine very last. Take three deep, mindful breaths here, and move on through the rest of your day with greater openness and ease.

So there’s your homework for this week: find a few minutes to give yourself some love. What other poses do you do for a quick pick-me-up in the middle of a busy day/week/life?

Ah, the internet.

We’ve had the flu in our house this week. Which means that in between sleeping and feeding the baby and groaning, I’ve had lots of time to read while letting the housework pile up around my ears.

So I’ve been perusing the pages of Pinterest- a good way to lose an hour, if there ever was one- for new ideas to spice up my teaching. And again and again, I see the headlines:

“Five yoga poses for a flat tummy”

“Yoga to shrink your thighs”

“Yoga for weight loss!”

And I get it, our culture is obsessed with this stuff. It sells. It’s damn near impossible to avoid body negativity in this world. And I know for a fact that some of my students come to yoga as a way into  smaller pair of jeans.

In the west, we focus so heavily on the outside. The good thing about the undeniable physical benefits of yoga, I think, is that they can serve as a sort of gateway drug into what yoga is really about- non-judgement, contentment, acceptance. If a student arrives in a yoga practice because she wants to shed a few pounds and leaves with an peaceful mind and a connection to her breath, I feel okay about that. As teachers, balancing what our students are looking for  with our responsibility to honour the traditions from which yoga comes can be tricky, but it is critical. Patanjali, after all, barely mentions asana in the sutras. He wasn’t concerned about his thighs, not even a little. Taking a practice dating back millenia and reducing it to an exercise regime to flatten your tummy is cultural appropriation and isn’t okay.

You don’t have to be any particular race or religion to practice yoga (said the white lady), but as teachers we have the respect where this phenomenal gift has come from and give due attention to that when we pass on what we know.

I am happy that people get on their mats, however, wherever, for whatever reason. But as a yoga community we have the power to foster a spirit of metta, loving kindness, for the self and the world at large. We have the power to facilitate a shift in our culture away from self-deprecation toward something deeper and broader. We would be remiss to focus too hard on eliminating every jiggle and miss what lies inside.

For more on cultural appropriation check this out: http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/what-exactly-is-cultural-appropriation-and-how-is-it-harmful

And for some kick-ass shots of women not interested in yoga for weight loss, check out http://www.buzzfeed.com/carolynkylstra/curvy-yoga

On an unrelated note, I’m happy to be offering two beginner classes each week now, Mondays at 5:30 and Wednesdays at 8:30 pm, both at the Yoga Kula Co-Op on Torbay Rd. Join me for a detailed, fun and non-judgemental introduction to the foundations of yoga!

Yoga with Baby

At nine weeks, life with this little babe is getting more fun and cool all the time! With that said, my practice now has to accommodate a tiny person who wants to be in my arms always. As usual, my tiny teacher is challenging me to adapt, so I thought I’d share a couple of fun mom-and-baby pose adaptations here-

Navasana: seated with the soles of the feet on the floor and baby reclining against the thighs, hold the backs of the thighs and raise the toes off the floor. Keep the ankles moving toward one another, drawing in and up through the core. Keep the spine long, and make eye contact and smile at your baby! Keep the hands to either side of your little one to support her and keep her safe. To come out, bring the toes back to the floor and relax on the sit bones.

Baddakonasana: seated, draw the soles of the feet together, heels as close to the pelvis as feels comfortable. The baby can sit in your lap with her back against your belly. Inhale to draw up from the sit bones to the crown of the head and allow the knees to drop out to the sides.

Down dog/plank/chateronga dandasana: Lay the baby on her back on the mat. Come to hands-and-knees with your face over hers. Place the knees just behind the hips, wrists under shoulders with fingers spread wide and rooted down into all ten fingers. Curl the toes under, straighten the legs as much as is comfortable, tone the core slightly and send the chest back toward the thighs. Gaze down at your sweet baby. Then draw the shoulders over the wrists and the low ribs and hip points closer together. Hold here for one full round of breath, then inhale and bring the knees to the floor. Exhale, bend the elbows and come down to give your baby a kiss! A few rounds of this is wonderful for rebuilding strength after pregnancy and birth.

My Mom-and-Baby class starts Tuesday, May 12 from 1-2 PM at My Happy Place, 705 CBS Highway in Kelligrews. For more info contact me at hopebaggs@gmail.com