Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Express Yourself from Within

"It's not what you look like when you're doing what you're doing... it's what you're doing when you're doing what you're doing."

Now there's a tongue twister! But something worth considering.

What if you applied this to yourself in yoga class? If, instead of focusing on what others may notice about your practice, you focused on your yoga, you'll find your asana transformed.

You'll spend less time looking around the room, and more time in your meditation. And then you can really express yourself.

PS What a joyful video, too!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Tea Sparrow & the Happy Tea Drinker

Photos by me; illustration via Tea Sparrow.

All around the world, people love a good cup of tea

Whether you're living in Chicago...

New York, 
 Lake Tahoe, 
 San Francisco,
or the chilly woods of Minnesota,

... chances are, you like to warm up in the winter months with an exotic chai blend, a light green tea, or perhaps a smooth earl grey.

Well, tea drinkers of the world, I encourage you to check out Tea Sparrow, the latest and greatest online specialty tea company. The company's motto, "The world of tea to your door," says a lot about their approach to delivering high-quality tea to monthly subscribers.

I was lucky enough to sample Tea Sparrow's "mixed" box, which includes their royal blend, earl grey supreme, chai americaine, midsummer night, and red rocks flavors. I loved every one! 

Read on for my week-long diary of tea adventures...

Sunday night: My tea box arrives in the mail. I promptly begin dancing around the kitchen and sniffing each resealable bag. I heat my first pot of water and try the earl grey, which I find to be bold with the perfect amount of citrus flavor. I put my feet up, relax on the couch, and plan which tea I'll try tomorrow.

Monday evening: It's been a long day and I could use a little rejuvenation, so I steep a mug of midsummer night after dinner. This lightly-caffeinated blend of green tea and oolong perks me right up. Its subtle highlights of jasmine, rose and lotus make me feel at peace. I'm inspired to roll out my mat for a calming vinyasa flow before bed. 

Tuesday morning: After noticing how full my tea cabinet is at home, I get a genius idea: I decide to spread the word about Tea Sparrow and share my teas at the office! I promptly pack up my tea selection (except for chai -- I'll save that for me since it's my fave), and bring it along to work. I set out the tea in a central location, send an email to my coworkers, and promptly receive emails filled with exclamation points, big smiles, and thank yous. By mid-morning, there's a consensus: Tea Sparrow is a hit! 

Wednesday morning: I wear my favorite winter hat, and as soon as I see the little love birds kissing design on it, I'm promptly reminded of my new favorite tea source: Tea Sparrow. Today, I try the royal blend, an English black tea with notes of caramel and rose. I stick my little pinky finger out sipping this one -- I just feel so fancy drinking it! :)

Thursday afternoon: Today I go for the red rocks blend, a caffeine-free rooibos red tea. This is now officially my favorite so far from the Tea Sparrow box. The calming, earthy taste is perfect for this gray Chicago day. I add some organic cane sugar and half and half, and the mixture is delicious... sweet but not overly so, rich and creamy. Even better than my morning cup of coffee! I don't even mind the tiny rooibos particles that managed to escape my tea infuser; in fact, I hardly notice them at all. (Note: I recommend a super fine weave on your infuser for this tea since it has itsy bitsy particles; you could also try using the Ingenuitea pot.)

Friday afternoon: I cuddle up on the couch with a cozy cup of chai and my Kindle fire to watch hilarious YouTube videos and read Mockingjay. It's a perfect, quiet Friday evening at home.

Saturday morning: I enjoy more chai with my incredible weekend brunch. I enjoy every sip, and can't wait to refill my mug with more of this tasty tea.

Thanks, Tea Sparrow, for a beautiful week of tea sampling! To learn more about how you can sign up, visit Tea Sparrow's subscription page, or check out their FAQ page. Keep in mind they carry a lovely line of herbal teas, too.

Cheers to all you happy tea drinkers out there!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A New Series on Karma Yoga

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the power of karma yoga. Do you know what it is?
Karma yoga can be thought of as:
  • Selfless action and service to others
  • The path of action, and a movement toward balance and harmony in the world
  • Love for others
This quote by Tagore says a lot about how we can use what we practice on the mat to translate to the world at large:

I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.

Photo via Pinterest.

Do you have a story to share about how yoga has inspired you to give selflessly?

I'd love to hear! In the next few months, I'm going to be featuring the stories of individuals, studios and organizations who have been inspired by the personal experience of yoga to give back to their communities. If you'd like to take part, please email me at aliveinthefire at gmail dot com.

I can't wait to hear from you!

In the meantime, here is a video from Yoga with Chelsea about her project in India. Chelsea also writes for The Travel Yogi so be sure to check her out there.

Photo illustrations via 365 Days Yoga and LilieZenCoach.

Friday, January 27, 2012


I used to not like feet much, but now that I do yoga, I really appreciate them. The way those ten toes and two arches and strong heels can hold the whole body up in space. 

Feet really are marvelous, don't you think? :)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

I Love My Ordinary Life

Photo via Jaquilyn Shumate
 Photo via Pinterest.
Photo via Sarah Rhoads.

Lately I've been thinking about how much I adore the simple moments of my life. How happy I am when I allow myself permission to be ordinary, to live an ordinary life, and to be in love with my life.

We don't have to be ambitious every day. We don't have to focus on the future, the next step, the right goal for what's coming later. We can be here, now.

Photos via Pinterest. 

We can enjoy the small things: a walk in the snow, a cup of tea, a long hug. The taste of a home cooked meal. A laugh shared with a friend. Knowing your partner loves you back. Watching a cloud float by.

This is what it really means to live in the moment: to love an experience as it happens. This peaceful presence produces gratitude in the heart, and allows us to be fully intimate with our own lives, our own selves.

Photo via Sarah Rhoads.

Here are some blogs I love because they capture the beauty and magical nature of the everyday: Public::Bookstore, Sweet Fine Day, Pacing the Panic Room, Foxtail and Fern, Threading in the Choirs, Simple Village Girl, Angela Hardison and 3191 Miles Apart. These bloggers know how to capture simple moments that are worth treasuring -- nothing too fancy, just life.

What do you read or look at when you're in the mood to cherish the little things?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wholesome Superfoods and a Video on How to Cook Perfect Quinoa

There's a lot of controversy over what the healthiest foods out there are. Do you guys believe in the power of superfoods? They're defined as foods with high phytonutrient content or high concentrations of essential vitamins. Basically, they hold a lot of "bang for their buck," so to speak.

Personally, I'm a big fan of a lot of these in the list below. Lately I've been enjoying a lot of avocado sandwiches, hemp seed in my morning oatmeal, spinach in green juices and smoothies, and yogurt as a nice midday snack. 

I have also made the switch to using coconut oil in a lot of my stove cooking, and I want to get some agave nectar to put in my coffee instead of sugar. I also cook quinoa regularly. I'm including a video at the bottom for how to make the perfect fluffy quinoa... if you haven't tried it, you should!

What are your favorite superfoods? Do you guys eat any of these?

Acai Berry
Agave Nectar


Cacao Nibs or Powder


Chia Seeds 
Coconut Oil 
Hemp Seeds 

Oats/ Raw Oats

Sweet Potato 
Yogurt and Kefir

Want to know more? Here are a few spots where you can read about superfood benefits:

If you've got any recipe that feature these powerhouse foods, please share!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Your Own Sweat Box: How to Set Up a Bikram Yoga Hot Room at Home

Photo via Bikram Yoga Redmond.

Have you ever considered setting up an at-home space to practice Bikram yoga in the heat?

If you've been practicing Bikram's beginning series for a while, this could be a great step to deepen your practice. Setting up your at home "Torture Chamber" does take a little planning, but it's well worth it.

Photos via Berries and Bikinis and  Christina Earl.

So, where do you start? Here's a list of what you'll need to get your hot room ready.

  • Adequate space (large enough for your mat plus a little extra space around the edges; make sure you can extend your arms at full reach in all directions).
  • A heat source (space heaters seem to be the trend), plus a thermometer to measure the temperature and keep it regulated.
  • A humidity source (optional - some people go without this at home; also keep in mind that certain heaters offer better humidity than others).
  • Yoga mat and towel, plus some yoga wear you're willing to sweat in. I recommend K. Deer bumbum bottoms, Onzie, and Iluka Activewear
Photos via Iluka ActivewearK. Deer, and Onzie.
  • A mirror (preferably full-length) so you can monitor your alignment in each posture.
  • Studio experience with the postures for a basic understanding of Bikram yoga. Warning: if you don't know the series, don't practice it at home! At least until you've had some practice in a studio under the guidance of a certified teacher.
  • The Bikram class on CD (sold on Amazon).
  • I also highly recommend you check out the book Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class to increase your knowledge of each posture.

Photo illustration by me.

Here are some space heater options, listed from cheapest to most expensive:

*Note: I haven't tried any of these and I don't have my own Bikram space set up at home, but in my online research these seem to be popular choices among the Bikram yogi crowd!

Additional tips for a safe and rewarding at-home Bikram practice:
  • If you have a large bathroom, you might consider setting up in there. I've read that many people turn on their shower or fill a bathtub to increase humidity. This sounds like it might work well, but keep in mind it's not the most eco-friendly approach!
  • Insulate: consider adding carpeting to hardwood or tile floors to add heat. You might also want to look into plastic treatment over windows so that warm air is held in and cold drafts can't enter the room. A door snake can also help keep the room contained; learn how to make one here.
  • Fans can help circulate air inside the room, so heat isn't concentrated in one spot.
  • Hydrate! As when you practice in a studio, be sure to drink lots of water before your Bikram class. Drink 16-32 ounces at least 2 hours prior to practicing, and double that after you shower.
  • Remember to be safe. Keep water in the room in case you feel overheated. Especially if you're fairly new to Bikram, include emergency props in your home space as well: a cushion or chair to elevate your legs after laying down, and a washcloth so you can wipe down your mat and keep it from being a slipping hazard. Sit down if you feel lightheaded, dizzy or faint -- you are your own teacher at home, so don't risk injury.
   Photos via Bikram Yoga Dallas and Sierra Sun.

A few final things to keep in mind... as an intermediate to advanced Bikram practitioner, starting your home practice can lead you to improve your yoga. You'll learn the valuable skill of self-correction by monitoring your own practice closely in private. This also means each posture will be better for you because it's more precise.

You'll also experience deeper focus than in a crowded class. At home on your own, there are no distractions to keep you from your yoga, so your monkey mind will quiet down.

That's perhaps the greatest benefit of experiencing Bikram yoga in a quiet, peaceful place: the meditation that follows.