NPR Study Finds Yoga Can Help With Back Pain, But Keep It Gentle, With These Poses

A recent study confirms something that most of us yoga teachers have known for years - YOGA can help with back pain. I've witnessed hundreds of students, both privately and in public classes, benefit from a focused yoga practice. The key is to be mindful of the postures chosen, and always adapt to your own personal needs. For example, if you have fused discs in your lower back, then deep twists or anything that twists the lower lumbar/sacral area is NOT appropriate for you. For this alone, I always recommend finding a qualified yoga practitioner before beginning a personal practice.  

Full article and attached PDF links below...

Russian Sauerkraut Recipe (Kislaya Kapusta)

A few days ago, I posted my latest fermented food - Russian Sauerkraut. A friend asked for the recipe. Here ya go:

 

 

Ingredients:
2 medium to large green cabbage,  (I prefer lighter green cabbage to bright green cabbage for this recipe)
2-3 carrots, grated
2 Tbsp fine sea salt
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Bay leaves
1 tsp Coriander

Tools:
Mandolin
Large glass bowl
Ceramic or glass plate to cover the glass bowl
Something heavy that is not plastic or aluminum to weigh down the glass plate. I use a stone mortar. You could also have a glass jar and fill it with liquid. Or use a big rock. 
Towel to cover the bowl during fermentation
Large rubber band to secure the towel

Once fermented, you’ll need:
Sunflower oil
Brown or purple onion

How to Make Russian Sauerkraut
1. Remove the outer layers of the cabbage and grate finely. I use a mandolin. Discard the core. Or trim and save for a veggie soup stock.
2. In a large glass bowl, mix the grated cabbage, carrots, sea salt and sugar. Knead it together really well with clean hands for 5-8 minutes, or until super juicy. You want there to be enough liquid to cover the cabbage when you pack it down.
3. Mix in the coriander and the bay leaves. Scrunch the cabbage another 30 seconds or so to get it fully mixed.
4. Cover the cabbage with your plate and press the plate down firmly, until liquid completely covers the cabbage. 
5. Top with your “weight,” be it your rock, glass jar filled with liquid, or a stone mortar.
6. Cover it with a towel and secure the towel around the bowl with a rubber band, so as to prevent flies and airborne debris from settling in.
7. Store at room temp, out of direct sunlight, for 4 days. You may hear it bubble as it releases gas every once in awhile. This is normal. 
8. Store in fridge for up to a few weeks.
9. Serve by squeezing out the liquid. Add your chopped onion and sunflower oil. YUM!

Jai Uttal: The Journey from Disillusionment to Devotion

My latest article for LA YOGA magazine is a two-part interview with Jai Uttal, one of the world's most respected kirtan musicians. Jai was a pleasure to interview, warm-hearted and with a truly loving spirit. We chatted via Skype, which I find to be incredibly helpful for interviews. Rather than connecting to just a voice over the phone, Skype gave us the opportunity to react to body language, inflections in the voice, and even real-world changes in the atmosphere. 

Article link here. Also pasted below

Attending a Jai Uttal kirtan, or call-and-response devotional music event, feels like being led by the hand of your beloved into a communal celebration of the Divine. He gives unrestricted access to his heart. We feel a deep, exposed inner truth, rather than a mere performance. At one point, he encourages us to sing with him in this communal devotion. The result is phenomenal: we feel included as we are, without walls, barriers, or masks. Every mantra, every note echoes in our innermost of hearts and melts away any resistance.

I first saw Jai perform about 15 years ago during a kirtan evening at Sacred Movement in Venice. The second time I saw him live was in 2017 at Wanderlust Hollywood, where he shared songs from his new album, Roots, Rock, Rama! to a packed crowd. The energy completely blew me away. People young and old swayed, danced, smiled, laughed, sang along and hugged each other. The evening was saturated with devotion and bathed in tenderness.

When Jai and I connected via Skype, he smiled from across the screen as he sipped his latest concoction, bulletproof chai. “I was a little drowsy and didn’t have time for a walk, so I decided on chai instead. This is actually an experiment,” he laughs, “ginger, cardamom, goat’s milk, MCT oil and a little maple syrup.”

Laughter and lightness pepper our interview, which dives into Jai’s past, his journey into kirtan, how marriage and love brought sobriety into his life, and the uncertain future of being an independent artist in today’s digital world.

A Grammy-nominated performer, Jai has released 19 albums throughout his career as a kirtan artist. He describes the double CD Roots, Rock, Rama! as a culmination of “Fifty years of kirtan singing, not all of it public.” CD1, or Rama Sun, sounds like fun and energetic Jai, kirtan infused with Jamaican beats. CD2 is Rama Moon; an introspective compilation drawing on the mellower sounds of Brazil.

Kirtan for Jai is, as he says, “The doorway to the Divine connection. It’s the way my spirit, my soul, my mind, [and] my heart, most easily and immediately connect with my Guru, with God, and with infinite Spirit. I know and trust that my Guru is always with me and God is always with me and in me, but in my consciousness I don’t feel that most of the time. Kirtan allows me to feel it a little more strongly. It allows me to get into a space where the walls are not so tightly shut. I started singing kirtan when I was about 16 or 17, not to say that I was leading kirtan, but I was part of a group and enjoying it a lot.”

Jai was introduced to kirtan at the age of 15. “I just happened to be in Central Park when I heard the Hare Krishnas singing kirtan. It was a great first look into kirtan and it really affected me.” Four years later, Jai traveled to India and kirtan became the background to his adventure. “The chanting of kirtans, prayers and Sanskrit mantras was everywhere. Indian music finally made sense to me.”

The time span between hearing the Hare Krishnas at Central Park, participating in devotional kirtan in India, and the creation of the 2017 release Roots, Rock, Rama! is a lifetime saturated with experience. The true spirit of this album lies not in the technical how-to’s, collaborations, or production, but in travel, adventure and soul searching.

Jai’s musical journey began long before India—or even that meaningful day in Central Park— in his childhood. He grew up in New York City with a dad who worked in the music business. “Every week, my dad, my sister, and I would sit down and with a stack of the top 20 top singles and analyze them.”

More than analyzing music, Jai began playing. First, the piano. A few years later, he discovered what he called “old-timey Appalachian music” and he took up the banjo, which he played as part of his admissions process to The High School of Music and Art in NYC. The banjo continues to make an appearance in nearly every CD Jai has released, including in “Madhava Mystic” on Roots, Rock, Rama! He says, “Then, during my psychedelic phase, I was heavily into Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles. I got into electric guitar, not acoustic, which is what I play now. I wanted to make the craziest sounds.”

Jai’s childhood did not offer a spiritual practice. “I was born into an alcoholic, artistic family. We were Jewish, but not devout. The gifts my parents gave me were equal to the difficulties and challenges.”

One of Jai’s deepest challenges—and most profound journeys – was his path to sobriety. “Sixteen years ago, I met Nubia and after a long distance relationship, we finally got married. Aside from everything else that she brought into my life, sobriety was one of the most important. At the time, I was in my late forties. I was embracing the Bhakti (devotional) path and sharing that music. There was no hypocrisy in my heart about singing devotional songs and using substances to get through the performances. I was drinking and taking a lot of substances just to make it to the stage. The levels of my being were completely out of sync. Nubia brought healing of that inner space. I don’t know if that healing came from her, or if suddenly I wanted to be sober because the love that we were experiencing was unlike anything else I felt in my life.”

It is a love that was delivered through devotion, through travels, through challenges as well as triumphs. Earlier in his life, Jai experienced a spiritual disillusionment that actually served as the catalyst for him to meet his lifelong Guru, the Indian Saint, Neem Karoli Baba, known as Maharaj-ji. Jai traveled to India at the age of 19 to meet another Guru he had been following, but the meeting never happened, and he became disillusioned with the idea of a Guru. “I was over the Guru thing. Been there, done that.”

Jai opened himself up to adventure instead. “I heard that Ram Dass was also in India and found him in the village of Vrindavan, where Ram Dass was meeting with his Guru, Neem Karoli Baba. At the time, I was open to experience, but wasn’t seeking a Guru anymore. I didn’t feel anything like, ‘Oh, this is my Guru and I made it.’”

“But I did feel very strongly that I had gotten to this place and there was nowhere else I wanted to go. I was so completely magnetized, intrigued, confused and just drawn to him and his energy.” Then one day, Maharaj-ji left, without word and without any notice of when he’d return.

“It was only then that I realized how incredibly attached I’d become to Maharaj-ji. I walked over to the Hanuman temple and just started singing. I recall this incredible outpouring of longing that I know was inside of me, probably since I was really little. It’s that longing that drew me to India.” He pauses, “In retrospect, Maharaj-ji drew me to India.”

After Maharaj-ji’s unexplained and sudden departure, Jai decided to stay in India until his funds ran out. He was living in a little village outside Benares (also known as Varanasi), when a friend from high school dropped by and offered to bring them bhang, an edible form of marijuana. The next morning at 4am they ate the bhang and walked over to the Buddhist pilgrimage site of Sarnath (outside of Varanasi proper) to climb up to the top of the Stupa.

Laughing, Jai explains, “People walk around stupas. They don’t climb to the top of Stupas. We climb to the top of the Stupa and start meditating, because we were very yogic stoners. The bhang became very strong, almost like an LSD trip, and I’m meditating and sweating, and meditating and sweating, when I suddenly hear this sonic BOOM! inside of my head, and I hear Maharaj-ji’s voice, whispering, “Ram, Ram, Ram, Ram…”

“With each repetition of that word, I felt like all of the spiritualness of my rigid yoga practice just drained out of me. At the time, I was committed to doing this very complex meditation sadhana (personal practice), and I was filled with ego because the sadhana was like a mountain you had to climb. But all of the willfulness just drained out of me, and in its place was the word, RAM.  Maharaj-ji used to chant RAM all the time. He would fill books, just writing RAM. He used to say, ‘When you say RAM, the impossible becomes possible’.”

Roots, Rock, Rama! is dedicated to Rama (RAM) and created in a collaborative field that spanned several continents and musical styles.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of this album is Jai’s collaboration with a cellist and music producer in India, who recorded a chamber orchestra in India in two formats: direct to digital, clean and pristine—as well as onto a tape. The tape was left out in the sun for three days to age. In the end, Jai received two versions of all the string parts, “One clean, digital recording, and one crazy, degraded one…it sounded like a very warped reel to reel from the 1920s. A few weeks later Ben Leinbach (the album’s co-producer as well as drums/percussion performer) and I are in the studio and we listen to the degraded tracks. I love the way they sound, except they make you a little seasick, because they are so warped, so extreme. So we made a blend of the two and I think it sounds awesome.”

Jai’s life adventure from artistic teen to devotional singer and father has taken many twists and turns. The overriding impetus for Jai has been to share and invite us into a ritual of devotion and journey to the Divine through music.

Roots, Rock, Rama! is available on all formats and platform. For every album sold, the nonprofit organization One Tree Planted will plant a tree. Become a patron of Jai in his mission and learn more about his album and to join his August kirtan camp, visit: jaiuttal.com/events

Read more about Jai and his prophetic dream about the Maharaj-ji here.

Jai Uttal will be headlining the Saturday night main stage at Shakti Fest in Joshua Tree Retreat Center May 12-14.

Aria Morgan

Aria Morgan is a yoga teacher, doula and music lover who finds inspiration in nature: ariamorgan.com.

http://www.ariamorgan.com

April Fools

For Aprils Fool's Day, my daughter changed the autocorrect on my phone, so that anytime I try to type "Love" it changes it to "HOLY HOT POTATO!" And if I try to type "OK," it changes it to "Look at your butt!" Waiting to find out what other surprises she has in store for me. (eye roll)

So, if you get a message from me that says, "HOLY HOT POTATO you...Look at your butt!" You'll know I was meaning to say, Love you.. OK...

When I asked her today how she found out about Auto-Correct and thought of this, she said she looked up April Fools' Day pranks online. 

 

Mantra as Medicine, A Conversation with White Sun's Gurujas

My full length interview with Gurujas of Grammy Winners White Sun is up online, at LA YOGA Magazine.

I fell in love with White Sun II after my first listen. I began using their album as a tool (mantra as medicine) to help shift my energy when fatigued, frustrated and generally worn down. Love this album so much!

Thank you, Julia Yang, for the beautiful photography!

Grammy photo by Jeff Kravitz

RIP Rob Stewart

The world lost an incredible human being this week.

Rob Stewart was a fearless environmentalist, dedicated yogi and documentary filmmaker whose film Sharkwater put shark finning on the map. I interviewed Rob soon after his second documentary,  Revolution screened in Santa Monica. My interview follows below...

 

Save The Humans Now

By Aria Mayland| July 15th, 2015

“What must we do in order to keep the human race alive and vibrant for the next generation?”

Beautifully shot and edited, Revolution is a remarkable documentary by Director Rob Stewart about the necessary personal and global transformation that must occur if we are to secure our future as a species on this planet.

Revolution details Stewart’s journey into ocean conservationism over a period of four years and through fifteen countries. Stewart chronicles five mass extinctions that have occurred in the last 3.7 billion years. He employs the lens of self-interest and self-preservation as an educational tool, warning us that unless we act soon and rapidly, a sixth mass extinction is imminent. Aimed at audiences of all ages and primed as an educator’s tool, Revolution’s simple, powerful and poignant message is, “What must we do in order to keep the human race alive and vibrant for the next generation?”

As a cinematic narrative, Revolution opens somewhat timidly through a series of out-takes and highlights from his highly successful first documentary,  Sharkwater, which succeeded in banning the sale of shark fins worldwide. Revolution’s opening scenes show a young, optimistic Stewart filled with an unstoppable energy. We get to know the young, camera-new Stewart as he fumbles line after line, as he tours to cheering crowds worldwide and speaks at environmental rallies. We fear for his life in a dramatic moment, when he is nearly lost hundreds of miles at sea with just one friend and one camera. The film’s doesn’t quite hook us, however, until a Sharkwater Q&A in Hong Kong, when an audience member prods Stewart with a life-shifting question, “What is the point of saving the sharks if the U.N. estimates that the world’s fisheries will collapse by 2048?”

Stewart nearly falters and the more researchers and scientists Stewart meets with, the more urgent his message grows:

“It became really clear to me that it wasn’t really about the sharks. The message is Save The Humans Now, and I thought that the public really didn’t know that, yet. They thought it was rising sea levels in Bangladesh or a hurricane in the Philippines, or a panda in China that we needed to save.”

 

LA Yoga sat down to chat with Rob Stewart before the screening Revolution on the Santa Monica Pier. The free outdoor Earth Day Weekend event was organized by local yogi activists, Brock and Krista Cahill. Brock Cahill opened the evening with a family friendly yoga class, followed by an introduction by Rob Stewart, a blessing of Mother Ocean and the post-sunset screening of Revolution.

Stewart is well spoken, armed with facts and driven with an intoxicating optimism that powerfully draws people in. Naming the conservation movement, “the largest movement that has ever existed,” Stewart emphasizes collaboration and unity of all environmentally-minded organizations and is convinced that children are humanity’s biggest hope because they will fight the hardest for their rights. He is distributing Revolution for free and has created an educator’s online platform at TheRevolutionMovie.com.

LA Yoga asked Stewart to tell us more:

Stewart:  Creating a revolution is the task of the young generation. We need to change the educational system entirely so kids are taught what’s going on in the world and they can tackle this with everything they’ve got. The more they understand, the more they know, the more rewarding it’s going to be because they are going to get better at changing the world. The situation’s getting more dire, but the conservation movement is a great filter for amazing people coming into your life by working for good. I’m sure you know that karma: if you start working for good, the Universe aligns behind you. Young people get this right away. They don’t have to deal with the baggage that adults have to deal with, like ‘Really? This is working out so beautifully for me?’

LA Yoga: What do you say to people that feel, “I can’t possibly make a difference. Look at all that pollution in China, look at all that trash in the sea, what is one more plastic lid or plastic water bottle going to do?

Stewart:  It’s always been individuals that are going to change the world and 7 billion individual actions is a lot of plastic bottles. You’re going to incur karmic debt by doing destructive s*** and knowing it morally, so start pushing your world and your actions in the right direction.

LA Yoga: You emphasize creating a unified eco-activism that approaches conservation differently. How do we unite all the different groups out there?

Stewart: I started an organization called United Conservationists. I figured, it’s the biggest movement that’s ever existed. All we have to do is bring everyone together and we will crush the oil and consumptive industries, but it’s so hard to get these organizations to work together. They’re like children in sand boxes, protecting their own little castles.

I think that the reason the environmental movement has failed is because our ambitions are so small. Talk to your kid that by the middle of the century there will be no fish, no rainforests and that people will be fighting over what remains and yet the government and the adults will celebrate a 10% reduction in emissions.

Any child is going to realize that that this small victory will buy you half a percent more time in a hugely degraded world. It’s like Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem by using the same thinking that created it.”

By fighting against our problems, we are just stooping to the level that the oil industry and the consumptive industry. We need to be immediately radical. You can’t be the biggest conservation group in the world and go up against a $20 billion company and not be radical. They’re funding our governments. They’re entrenched in everything. Fighting against our problems is the main reason why we’re failing.

What if humanity came together and imagined what the world could look like, if we designed it to be beautiful for us and all species? That might be exciting enough for kids to go, “Wow, what could happen if we could have bears on our roofs and grow food locally and all the rivers and lakes were teeming with fish and that’s where we got food from.”

What if pollution were illegal and we weren’t negotiating over what quantity of toxic contaminants corporations could put into our food water air and bodies? Doing it right, I think, would be inspiring enough to people to fight for it. Moving towards that goal would immediately make pollution illegal and we’d unleash the genius of corporation to do what it needed to do to make its product without destroying the world we depend on for survival. We wouldn’t have to get down in the trenches with Exxon or whatever. We would just chart our pathway where we wanted to go.

LA Yoga: Your website says “Revolution won’t stop until a sustainable human population is reached?”  What does that mean to you? Does that mean we should be having less kids? How do we monitor consumption?

Stewart: We need to decide as a species what our population should be, what level of living we want to live at. Knowing the technology that we have now and the technology that we’re using, we’re moving towards having too many people on this planet. If we did things right, we could probably burn fossil fuels and still capture carbon and soil in the atmosphere.

I think that we should have less kids because more than eating meat or driving a car, putting a whole new human in this world consumes a lot. You might be able to say that my kid is going to be a revolutionary and change the world and save everything. That would be amazing, but right now, we’re in a massive predicament. In putting out another person, we take away from someone else’s ability to survive in an [impoverished] country.

We know that we have a massively consumptive life and we are so privileged in North America to live the way we live. We live like kings and queens. We have to slow down and have a look at what it means to be a civilized human and think about sustainability.

Sustainability means you can perpetuate into the future. But we’ve gone so far past sustainability that for us to reach sustainability we have to become beneficial. We need to exist in a world where we make nature better, where we put more carbon into the soil, where we put more life into world, where we put more water out there where we make more energy than we use…so how do we do that? If we keep growing our population and destroying s*** everywhere, we can’t.

LA Yoga concluded our interview with Stewart just minutes before the screening of Revolution with this question, “What about those people who are jaded, who don’t believe that we can do it?

He answered, “Just get out of the way.”

Rob Stewart is distributing Revolution for free and has developed an educator’s online platform.  For more information visit: TheRevolutuionMovie.com

-------

Aria Mayland is a writer, yoga teacher, doula and parent.  ariamayland.com

Santiago is a Surfer, conservationist, yogi and ocean lover.  A Portrait, lifestyle and surf photographer from Lima, Peru; based in Venice beach. His first short film about Yoga its out now “The Walk of Life” SantiagoBisso.com

 

 

Just a music share...

Happy New Year! This year blasted off with lots of outdoor fun - hiking, hanging out near the ocean, and dancing with friends. I like to balance my social activities with creating space for quiet, internal reflection. These long ambients by Moby are perfect for resting, relaxing, and more. Enjoy! 

Healthier Options: An Allergen-free Chocolate Chip Cookie

OK. So if you're expecting Toll House, this ain't it.  But it's a damn fine allergen-free cookie that is GF, DF, soy-free, nut-free, egg-free and sweetened with coconut sugar. And it's vegan, too. Modified from another recipe:

JOY = when your 8YO steals two GF, DF, egg-free and coconut sugar sweetened cookies.#HealthyChristmasMagic #HealthyDesserts

JOY = when your 8YO steals two GF, DF, egg-free and coconut sugar sweetened cookies.#HealthyChristmasMagic #HealthyDesserts

PREHEAT OVEN TO 375º

Combine, in a Vitamix or blender:

          2 1/2 C. Coconut oil

          1 TBSP Sunflower Oil (or any mild-tasting oil)

          3/4 C Organic Coconut Sugar (use brown sugar if you want a more classic chewy cookie. Add          up to 1/2 C more sugar if you need more sweetness. Original recipe called for 1 1/2 C Sugar.)

          1/4 C  Maple Syrup (or Honey)

          1 T  Pure Vanilla Extract

          1/4 C water

BLEND all of the above until creamy.

In a separate bowl, mix:

          2 1/4 C Bob's Red Mill GF flour

          1 tsp  Salt

          1 tsp Xantham Gum* (skip Xantham Gum if you use "one for one" GF flour)

         1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda

         1/2 tsp Baking Powder

Mix well. Add to creamed mixture and beat until smooth.  If more liquid is needed, add 1 T water at a time. Stir in -

          10 oz Chocolate chips*  (less if you prefer)

*I use the Enjoy Life brand, which is where the original recipe came from. Enjoy Life is dairy, nut soy and GMO free, but heads up: they use evaporated cane juice as a sweetener. 

LET THE MIXTURE SIT FOR AT LEAST 10 MINUTES.

Drop by Tablespoonfuls, onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 9 minutes,. Cool on baking sheet for 15+ minutes.

YUM!