All posts by rachelyoga

The Pursuit of Healthiness

What would you say are the most important things in life? What is your zeal? God? Helping to alleviate poverty and suffering? Making the world a more beautiful place?

Now consider what, in your actual day-to-day living, you pursue with the most fervor. What do you spend your free time thinking about and talking about? What really interests you most? Decorating your dream house? An exotic vacation? The newest, hippest happy hour spot? Attaining that hot body and perfectly “you” style? (These are just guesses based on my experience with Pinterest…I have definitely spent hours scouring pins for my boards in these categories).

Or maybe you concern yourself with more serious matters: the ideal education for your children? Achieving perfect health? Taking your business to the next level?

Do you, like me, find that what you want to care about most are virtuous, high-minded things, but what you seem to care about most are decidedly more self-involved?

At the beginning of the summer I attended a fascinating conference called the Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research (SYTAR). It was a gathering of people interested in using yoga for healing, and there were presenters and attendees from both Eastern and Western healing backgrounds. I heard inspirational stories about yoga transforming people’s physical and mental health, I learned why yoga techniques have the effects that they do, and I learned how to use pranayama, asana, and diet to purposefully manipulate the body and mind. In the yoga business, we pursue health and healing with fervor– not only physical health, but the health of our intellectual and emotional bodies too.

Health and healing are not only important in the yoga community; they’re important to the masses. We read about it, talk about it, strive after it. On social media we share countless variations of: “10 foods you should be eating but probably aren’t”, “10 foods you should never eat again”, “My story of learning to love myself”, and “Strong is the new skinny” (ads for athletic wear that, ironically enough, always feature models who are both strong and skinny).

But to what end do we so avidly seek after health? Is perfect health an end in itself? Is it one of the things we would say is the most important in life? And can we even achieve it?

Yoga helps our bodies to move and function the way they were designed to do. Yoga helps us manage stress and be more aware of ourselves. These things greatly improve our quality of life, and it’s on this point that our culture generally stops: Do yoga so you can feel better. Pursue health in all dimensions so you can enjoy life.

Most days I stop there too. I would never tell you that I would feel like my life had been well-lived if I only achieved optimal health. To be sure, I am of the opinion that having bodies, minds, and emotions that function the way they are meant is good and worth pursuing. But I would never tell you that having a strong and flexible body and perfectly balanced emotions are on the same level of importance as serving God and serving the world. This is easy to say on an intellectual level, but on a practical level I often live as though attaining my perfect health is the point of living.

Feeling good and enjoying life are wonderful byproducts of physical, mental, and emotional health. Indeed, seeing improvements in my students and hearing how yoga has helped them is easily the most rewarding part of my job as an instructor. But what if we didn’t stop there? What if we pursued health and healing in order to look beyond ourselves, toward loftier things?

The less I have to address pain, the less I have to fight disease in my body and mind, the less I am controlled by anxiety…the more I’m able to forget myself. It is worthwhile to pursue health and healing in this life, but not merely in order to enjoy our own lives more. Health is worth pursuing because it allows us to do more fully what we are meant to do: contribute to the goodness and beauty of the world and serve others.

Thankfully, this is not a “first this, then that” situation. You don’t have to have lived long to know that there is no perfect health in this world. Even those who enjoy excellent health suffer injuries, emotional hurt and confusion, and the deterioration that comes with aging. It helps me in my efforts if I’m not always having to direct my attention to my health problems. But I do not have to attain any standard of health before I can begin to turn my focus outward, toward the things I believe are the most important in life. I do not have to be strong before I can serve God and the world; in fact, there is an undeniable divinity when we serve in our weakness.

“No one can do everything, but everyone can do something,” so the saying goes. How are you uniquely equipped to serve others? In what ways are you gifted to make this world better and more beautiful? What are the most important things in life? As you pursue health, set your mind on these things.

Favorite Chicken Recipes

Ratatouille with Chicken Sausage and Chickpeas

I love summertime at the farmer’s market because there are so many colorful vegetables:

Recipe June Photo1

Ratatouille is one of my favorite summer dishes because it’s delicious and gives me an excuse to buy all the beautiful vegetables! Another nice thing about this dish is that it’s easily modified; it can be a vegetable side dish, it can be served with pasta or crusty bread, it can be a vegetarian main course if you add some type of legume, or it can be an omnivorous main dish if you add some type of meat.

When we first got married, my husband was wary of vegetables like eggplant and squash. He found them much more palatable when mixed with vegetables he already knew and loved, like bell peppers and tomatoes, and he found them downright delicious when I added chicken sausage to the mix! I adapted this recipe from  Everyday Food Magazine, adding chicken sausage and chickpeas for additional protein and fiber, making it a one-pot meal.

Recipe June Photo2

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb. eggplant, peeled in strips and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 1 lb. zucchini, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 yellow or red bell peppers, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil
  • 8 oz. fresh sausage
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Preparation

Heat oil in a Dutch oven. Remove chicken sausage from casings and cook, breaking it up into smaller pieces. Add onion, cooking til soft, and add garlic. After about 1 minute, stir in eggplant and zucchini, season with salt and pepper. Add 3/4 cup water and cover until vegetables soften, about 5 minutes. Add peppers and simmer about 5 minutes more. Stir in tomatoes and thyme, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas and heat until warmed through. Stir in the basil and serve ratatouille.

 

Asian Chicken Cabbage Salad

What to do with all that leftover cabbage after making fish tacos? I’m not sure how “Asian” it is, but I have loved this chicken cabbage salad that is both light and satisfying. This recipe is adapted from Katherine Martinelli’s blog.

chickencabbage

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup mirin (sub white wine vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken
  • ½ large white cabbage, shredded
  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 1 package snow peas, cut in half
  • 1 bell pepper, julienned
  • 1 cup sliced scallions
  • ¼ cup almond slivers, toasted
  • 1 package ramen noodles, broken up
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Preparation

Put the soy sauce, mirin, water, sesame oil, and brown sugar in a small pot over low heat. Heat, stirring, just until the sugar has fully dissolved. Whisk in the olive oil and set aside to cool.

Roast the chicken in the oven set at 350 for 25 minutes, or until no longer pink in the middle. Cut into bite-size pieces.

Put the cabbage, carrot, snow peas, pepper, scallions, almond slivers, and uncooked noodles (discard seasoning packet) in a salad bowl. Pour half of the dressing over and toss vigorously until every piece of vegetable is coated. Add the chicken and more dressing until the salad is well dressed. The remaining dressing will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for at least 1 week.

Garnish with the sesame seeds and serve (salad can be made up to a few hours ahead and refrigerated; simply omit the noodles and toss in just before serving.)

 

Chicken with Artichokes and Sun Dried Tomatoes

You can keep chicken in your freezer and artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, and couscous in your pantry so that you have this meal on hand at any time. Add salad or cook up some frozen vegetables to round out this quick dinner from Everyday Food.

chickenartichokes

Ingredients

  • chicken breasts for 2, boneless and skinless
  • 8 sundried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and slivered
  • 4 scallions, green and white parts separated, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 can or jar artichokes, drained, rinsed and halved
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous

Preparation

Places chicken between two sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. With a meat mallet or skillet, pound to 1/2″ thickness. In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper and saute until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from heat.

Bring a small pot of salted water to boil; add couscous. Boil until couscous is tender but still pleasantly chewy, about 10 minutes. Drain and toss with scallion greens.

To pan add garlic, white parts of scallions and 1/2 cup water; bring to a boil. Add artichokes, sundried tomatoes and a bit more oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until artichokes are heated through. Spoon over chicken and serve with couscous.

 

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I tried many chicken tortilla soup recipes before I found this one from Central Market that gets the seasonings just right– it turns out simpler is better! You can use fresh or canned tomatoes, fresh or frozen corn, fresh hatch chilis or canned green chilis, depending on whether or not they are in season.

Ingredients

For Soup

  • vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 8oz can green chiles
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs chicken, cooked and shredded
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • Juice from 1 lime

Toppings

  • Monterrey jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • tortilla chip pieces

Preparation

Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft. Add the remaining ingredients except lime juice and toppings. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes to an hour. Off the heat. Stir in the lime juice, ladle soup into bowls, and add the toppings.

 

Chicken Meatballs

Meatballs are very versatile: they’re great to have for appetizers, plain or dipped in marinara, you can add them to a soup, or any pasta.

These meatballs are part of Ina Garten’s Italian Wedding Soup recipe. I like to make a big batch, flash freeze the raw meatballs and store them in a plastic Ziploc in the freezer for future use. When I want to use them, I just put the frozen meatballs on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

chickenmeatballs

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound ground chicken
  • 1/2 pound chicken sausage, casings removed
  • 2/3 cup fresh white bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for serving
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the ground chicken, sausage, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, Pecorino, Parmesan, milk, egg, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a bowl and combine gently with a fork. With a teaspoon, drop 1 to 1 1/4-inch meatballs onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. (You should have about 40 meatballs. They don’t have to be perfectly round.) Bake until cooked through and lightly browned, 15-20 minutes.

 

 

Prenatal Yoga: The Third Trimester

This video guided practice is for all levels, so it is suitable for beginning yoga practitioners as well as those with a lot of experience. It was created with a woman at the end of her third trimester in mind, incorporating breathing exercises, squats, and other hip openers. Check out my YouTube channel for more guided practice videos.

*This video and blog post assume a healthy pregnancy. If you have had complications of any kind, consult your prenatal healthcare professional before undertaking yoga or any kind of exercise.

In this final trimester, you are constantly aware of your baby. Not only can you feel every movement the baby makes inside you, your new shape begins to dramatically shape your movement. If you have been attending hatha or vinyasa yoga classes up to this point, you may find that you now need a practice more specifically tailored to a pregnant body.

The third trimester is a fairly safe time for the baby, as it is well-formed by now, but the baby’s rapidly increasing size puts a lot of stress on your body, squashing you on the inside and stretching you to the limits on the outside. As you practice yoga or participate in any exercise, remember that you can injure yourself much more easily in this state than other times in pregnancy.

You may feel clumsier, much quicker to lose your balance, even if you are a very experienced yogini. This is not surprising considering that your center of gravity has shifted because of your changed shape, and your joints are relatively unstable because of the relaxin hormone (more on relaxin in Prenatal Yoga: The Second Trimester). When you practice standing poses, even if they are not one-footed balancing poses, stand near a wall in case you need the extra support.

Exercise even more caution when it comes to overworking and overstretching your abdomen so you don’t push your abdominal muscles past their breaking point. Limit any abdominal activity to gentle hugs of the abdomen. If you haven’t already, you may stop backbending altogether in the third trimester. If backbending continues to feel both safe and beneficial, limit yourself to only the most gentle backbends.

In the third trimester, your range of motion is noticeably inhibited by your belly. You will need to take a wider stance for chair pose, downdog, standing forward folds (including poses like pyramid) and seated forward folds. Stepping forward and back into lunging postures will feel much more cumbersome. You will not be able to stretch as deeply in poses like seated wide angle forward bend and pigeon because your belly will hit the floor or your leg. Even if you do not normally use props, you will likely find blocks useful in standing poses like triangle and forward folds, and a strap around your foot may be nice to get the hamstring stretch in a seated posture like head-to-knee forward bend.

That sounds like a lot of limitations, and you may be wondering, “Well, what can I do in the third trimester?” Now is a good time to think of your yoga practice primarily as preparation for labor and delivery.

Giving birth is a long and very physical endurance event, so you certainly want to maintain as much strength and flexibility as you safely can. Chair pose, free standing or with your back against the wall for stability, and lunging poses like warriors I and II, are good poses to maintain strength in your legs. Squats like garland pose and goddess squat, as well as hip openers like bound angle and wide angle seated forward bend will help you attain flexibility that will serve you well during labor and delivery.

Yoga can also help you practice mental focus and calming techniques that will be necessary, especially if you are planning to have an unmedicated birth. Basic balancing poses like tree will not only strengthen your legs, they will help you develop concentration. If you don’t  already, begin incorporating pranayama (breathing exercises) into your practice. Drawing your attention to your breath will divert your attention away from the discomfort of contractions, and certain types of breathwork literally slow your heart rate, thus relaxing your body and mind. Try inhaling through your nose to the count of five and exhaling through your nose to the count of seven to produce a calming effect.

Prenatal Yoga: The Second Trimester

This guided practice video is for all levels, meaning it is suitable for beginners as well as yoginis with more experience. It was created with the intent of providing a practice for low-energy days. The practice stays on the floor and focuses on breath, gentle flow, and hip opening.

*The following article assumes a healthy pregnancy. If you have had complications of any kind, consult your doctor before undertaking any form of exercise.

The second trimester is the favorite part of pregnancy for many women. Your belly is growing, and your pregnancy becomes visible to others. If you were having morning sickness, it’s likely that it will subside, and you may feel more energetic now than in the first trimester. However, as you gain weight, you may start to have soreness or cramping in your feet and calves.

The guiding principles for yoga during the second trimester are continued awareness of how you’re affected by yoga postures and, in response, making gradual accommodations.

As in the first trimester, we continue to avoid compressing the abdominal cavity in the second trimester:

  • Deep twists. Continue to leave deep twists out of your practice.
  • Belly-Down Postures. After your stomach “pops”, prone postures like locust and bow are no longer appropriate.
  • Shoulderstand. It’s pretty much impossible to get into shoulderstand at this point without compressing the abdomen, so if you haven’t already, phase out this posture during this trimester. Legs up a wall is a nice alternative to shoulderstand as long as lying on your back is still comfortable.
  • Core work. Continue to back off core work, either phasing out poses like boat and plank, or taking less intense variations. To make boat less intense, bend your knees and hold onto the backs of your legs. To make plank less intense, drop your knees to the floor.
  • Backbends. Notice how backbends like upward-facing dog, upward-facing bow, and camel feel to you, if you are still practicing them. If you sense that you might be overstretching the muscles of your abdomen or compressing the abdominal cavity with these deep backbends, don’t go quite so deep into them, or phase them out altogether. Supported camel (with your hands on your lower back) is a backbend that many women find they can do safely throughout the entirety of their pregnancies.

As you get bigger, you will begin to experience a decreased range of motion, meaning that you won’t be able to go as deep into postures because your belly is in the way. It may be necessary to take a wider stance in poses like chair pose, downward-facing dog, standing forward fold, and seated forward fold.

If you are comfortable lying on your back for short periods of time, you may continue to practice yoga postures lying on your back. If you aren’t, leave out poses like reclined big toe pose and reclined bound angle. Instead, take seated postures that get similar stretches like head-to-knee forward bend and seated bound angle. The second trimester is also a good time to begin incorporating a side-lying svasana, finding a comfortable resting position on your left side, rather than the classic supine svasana.

Another consideration is the pregnancy hormone relaxin. Relaxin makes your ligaments, the relatively inflexible tissues that hold your joints together, more flexible. The purpose of relaxin is to allow your pelvic bones to spread during the delivery of your baby, but it affects all the ligaments in your body, not just the ones in your pelvis, and it is present throughout all of pregnancy, and even a while after you’ve given birth. You may not feel more flexible, so it is easy to overstretch your joints without realizing it. This can lead to pain and injury later, possibly even chronic injury. Pay attention and notice if you feel any looseness or overstretching around your hips, shoulders, or other parts of your body during or after yoga practice. Do not go deeper into poses than you did pre-pregnancy.

Prenatal Yoga: The First Trimester

This guided practice video is intended for experienced yoginis with a regular, established vinyasa flow practice. It was created with women in the first or second trimester, when range-of-motion is still fairly uninhibited, in mind. If you are in the third trimester, a beginner, or if you’re feeling very tired or sick, this practice may not be appropriate for you. See the previous post for more information about what type of yoga practice suits you best, or visit my YouTube channel for more guided practices.

*The following article assumes a healthy pregnancy. If you have had complications of any kind, consult your doctor before undertaking any form of exercise.

So you’re having a baby– congratulations! Now what? Your body is busy knitting together a new life, and you are experiencing a variety of changes, although most of these are not evident to anyone else. For most women, staying mindfully active throughout pregnancy  enhances their experiences greatly. When approaching yoga in the first trimester, the most important considerations are to respect your body’s increased need to rest and to create the best possible environment for your tiny baby to take hold and grow.

Respect Your Body’s Need to Rest

It takes a tremendous amount of energy to grow another human being. But if you’re typically very active, it may take an even greater measure of humility and self-control to give yourself proper rest during pregnancy. Be especially attentive to how tired or nauseated you are, and whether certain activities or yoga postures make you feel better or worse. Be open to decreasing the amount and intensity of your activity according to what you observe. Know that coming out of postures early or taking breaks in child’s pose may be better for you than keeping up with a yoga class.

Your blood pressure is lower during the first trimester, so you may find that inversions like headstand and shoulderstand are not comfortable or make you dizzy. In this case, it’s best to forgo inversions. Inversions also direct blood away from the uterus, so the most conservative approach is to leave them out for the entirety of pregnancy.

Create the Best Possible Environment for Your Baby

From now until you give birth, you are your baby’s environment. The first trimester is when your baby is the smallest and the most vulnerable. Miscarriage is the most likely during this trimester, so if you had difficulty conceiving or are otherwise at a higher risk for miscarriage, you will want to be especially mindful about creating an environment conducive to nurturing this delicate little life.

In yoga we do this by avoiding compression to the abdominal cavity:

Intense core work and deep, closed twists like revolved side angle, revolved triangle, and half lord of the fishes should be avoided. If you have had fertility issues or otherwise want to minimize risk, you may decide to forgo all core work from the very beginning, and you may want to avoid all but the most gentle (cow and bridge) backbends.

Other than postures that compress the abdominal cavity, a woman in her first trimester can practice all basic yoga poses that feel good and help her to maintain her strength and flexibility.

Another consideration in creating the optimal environment for your baby is room temperature. If you are low-risk for miscarriage, accustomed to practicing yoga in a hot room, and it feels good to you to do so, you are welcome to practice in a hot room. If you are at a higher risk or it does not feel good to you, it’s best not to add unnecessary stress to your body.

Prenatal Yoga: What Type of Yoga Should You Practice?

*The following article assumes a healthy pregnancy. If you have complications of any kind, consult your doctor before undertaking yoga or any form of exercise.

There are many types of yoga practices, and, whether pregnant or not, your goal should always be to practice what is going to be the most beneficial to you and avoid that which is not helpful (or even detrimental) to you. If you’re looking for a class in a studio, online, or in a book, first consider where you’re starting from.

If you are…

  • Brand new to yoga
  • Coming back after a long break
  • A sporadic yoga practitioner

…I highly recommend classes that are specifically prenatal yoga classes. You may find the environment in a prenatal class to be more supportive and inviting. It is important that the instructor is familiar with the changes you’re undergoing, not only to make your experience more enjoyable, but also for safety. You will be far less likely to hurt yourself or your baby in a class geared toward the particular needs of pregnancy.

If you had a…

  • Regular, established vigorous vinyasa practice previous to pregnancy
  • Regular, established gentle hatha flow practice previous to pregnancy
  • Regular, established restorative practice previous to pregnancy

…you are familiar with yoga postures and your body is already conditioned for them. You may continue to practice in a similar fashion, with certain modifications (see future posts), IF it feels right to you to do so. Your body is constantly changing during pregnancy, so it is important that you are always prepared to make adjustments and modifications to your practice in response to those changes.

The video above is marked “all levels.” This means that it can be appropriate for a beginner or an experienced practitioner with a strong practice. It is intended to be accessible during any trimester. In  this practice, we emphasize the cultivation and maintenance of balance and strength, so you may find this is better to do on a day you have more energy.

More videos to come! Happy practicing!

Prenatal Yoga: A Change in Perspective

W3

I am currently in the middle of my third trimester of my first pregnancy. I have been inspired to be a resource for other women who want to practice yoga during their pregnancies, so over the next month or two I will post guidelines and tips for prenatal yoga practice, as well as some videos of guided practices.

Of everything that could be said about yoga during pregnancy, the mindset with which you approach it is probably the most important. While prenatal yoga can feel amazing and greatly enhance your pregnancy, there are also additional risks to both your baby and to you during this time. If you make space for your baby in your practice, take it day by day, and listen to your body and trust your instincts, odds are that you will naturally find yourself making the most of your prenatal yoga practice while also keeping safe.

(Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or prenatal care professional in any sense. This blog is meant to be helpful to you, but ALWAYS heed your prenatal care professional’s advice over mine.)

Make space for your baby. Bit by bit, this new little person starts to make its way into your life. The baby begins to take up more and more of your thoughts as you prepare for its arrival. The baby becomes more and more a part of your conversations as your pregnancy becomes obvious to others. The baby even begins to take up more and more space in your home, especially after a baby shower. Obviously, the baby also begins to have a bigger and more noticeable presence in your body as pregnancy progresses. This inevitably means that your baby will have a bigger and bigger presence in your yoga practice as time goes on. If you’re like me, you might be inclined to keep your practice exactly the same. It can be frustrating to:

  • give up certain poses
  • practice less often because you’re sick
  • need a less vigorous practice because you’re tired
  • find yourself losing range of motion because your belly is getting bigger

The good news is that all this is temporary, and you will eventually have your yoga practice all to yourself again. In the meantime, I find it helpful to remember that all these changes are not merely limitations to me, but they serve a purpose:

  • I give up certain postures to keep my baby and my own body safe
  • I have less energy because my baby needs a lot of my energy to grow
  • I have less range of motion because my baby needs the space in my body to grow healthily.

When I make necessary changes to my yoga practice, I am making space for my baby, inviting him or her to do life with me, even before birth.

Take it day by day. In yoga practice it’s always important to approach each practice anew, but during pregnancy, when your body is changing constantly and at a relatively rapid pace, this is especially true. You’ll have days you feel great, and you’ll have days (or weeks or months!) that aren’t so great. You’ll have low-energy days, days you feel sick, and achy days. All of a sudden you find that you’re not able or not comfortable doing something you usually do all the time. Maybe you’ll be able to do it again tomorrow, but maybe you won’t be able to again until after giving birth. Since you never know which version of your body is going to show up, it’s important to be extra-attentive and make no assumptions.

Listen to your body and trust your instincts. There’s a lot of information out there about how to do yoga when you’re pregnant. You will be told what you might expect in each trimester, what changes you should make to your yoga practice, and when you should make them. In fact, that’s exactly what I’m going to do here in future posts. But while it is important to be familiar with prenatal yoga guidelines, the most important piece of advice I have for you is to listen to your body and trust your instincts. No two women are the same, and (from what I hear) no two pregnancies are the same. A woman who experiences a lot of morning sickness will likely have a very different prenatal yoga experience than a woman who has none. Some women have pregnancy-related joint or ligament pain, while others don’t. You may find that you need to make particular modifications to your yoga practice earlier or later than the standard prenatal guidelines suggest. Some women are comfortable taking some form of backbend throughout the entirety of their pregnancies, and some stop doing backbends in the first trimester. Now more than ever, notice how yoga postures feel to you. They should feel good or, at worst, neutral. If something doesn’t seem right to you, assume that you’re correct and adjust accordingly.

Yoginis who are mothers are quick to agree that pregnancy in itself is a yoga practice: you must be aware and in tune, you must use wisdom, and you must be okay with letting go. With these things in mind, happy practicing to you!

Catfish, Gumbo, Red Beans & Rice

Catfish with Okra and Corn

Okra and corn are in season in the summer, but it’s been so delightfully warm that I’ve bought the frozen versions, and I’m pretending it’s summer already! This quick dinner recipe serves 4 and comes to you courtesy of Eating Well.

catfishokracorn

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of fresh or frozen okra
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • olive oil
  • 1 3/4 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1 lb. catfish, cut into four portions

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 450. Combine okra, corn, and 3/4 tsp Cajun seasoning on a large rimmed baking sheet. Toss with oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast, stirring twice, until the vegetables are beginning to brown, 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, sprinkle both sides of the catfish with the remaining Cajun seasoning. Heat some oil in a skillet over medium heat, add the fish and cook until cooked through and starting to brown, about 4 minutes each side. Serve with roasted vegetables and a salad or green vegetable.

 

Sausage Gumbo

This is another (non fried) way to use okra. Instant rice makes it a bit faster, but you could use regular brown rice and add to the cook time. This Eating Well recipe serves 8.

sausagegumbo

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces hot Italian turkey sausage links, removed from casings
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen chopped okra
  • 3/4 cup instant brown rice

Preparation
Cook sausage in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Return the pan to medium-high heat and add oil. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and Cajun seasoning and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring to coat the vegetables, until the flour browns, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to release their juices, about 2 minutes. Stir in broth, cover, increase heat to high and bring to a boil.

Return the sausage to the pan, along with okra and rice; reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the okra is heated through and the rice is tender, about 10 minutes.

 

Red Beans & Rice

This recipe, also from Eating Well, is great for all times of year and can easily be made vegetarian by omitting the Canadian bacon.

redbeansrice

Ingredients

  • 4 1/3 cups water, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups brown basmati rice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 15-ounce cans red kidney beans, or pink beans, rinsed
  • 6 ounces sliced Canadian bacon or ham, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery, plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped celery leaves
  • 1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper or cayenne pepper

Preparation
Combine 3 1/3 cups water, rice and salt in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer; reduce heat to low, cover and cook until all the water has been absorbed, about 45 minutes.

About 10 minutes before the rice is ready, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until the onion is lightly colored and tender, about 3 minutes.

Place 1 cup beans in a small bowl and mash with a fork. Add the mashed and whole beans, the remaining 1 cup water, Canadian bacon, celery, celery leaves, bell pepper and ground chipotle (or cayenne) to taste to the pan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has thickened into a gravy and the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 6 minutes. Serve in shallow bowls, spooned over the rice.

Entree Salads

Bulgur Salad with Kale and Salami

This is a recipe I come back to time and time again. It’s from Whole Foods and is great warm or cold.

bulgurkale

Ingredients

  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cup medium-grind bulgur wheat
  • 6 cups (about 1/4 pound) roughly chopped kale
  • 1/4 pound thinly sliced salami, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted olives
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation
Bring broth to a boil in a large pot. Stir in bulgur then cover and simmer until just tender, about 10 minutes. Uncover, scatter kale over the top, cover and cook until wilted and tender, 4 to 5 minutes more. Set aside off of the heat, covered, for 5 minutes then uncover and fluff with a fork.

Transfer bulgur and kale to a large bowl, add salami, parsley, olives, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper and toss gently to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Warm Quinoa, Spinach, Mushroom Salad

This is a vegetarian, gluten-free, grain-based salad that can easily be made vegan by omitting the cheese. This recipe is originally from Everyday Food.

quinoaspinach

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 pounds fresh mushrooms, including shiitake, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa
  • 1 pound baby spinach
  • 8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Preparation
Whisk together vinegar, oil, salt and pepper to make a vinaigrette. Pour half the vinaigrette in a large pan. Heat, add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are cooked down and have released their liquid.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan combine quinoa, 3 cups water, and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer until liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.

Place spinach in a large bowl. Add hot mushrooms, quinoa, and reserved vinaigrette. Top with crumbled feta and serve warm.

Halibut Salad Nicoise

This recipe serves 4 and is based on a recipe by Eating Well. You can substitute a tuna steak and add halved hard boiled eggs for the more traditional tuna nicoise.

halibut

Ingredients

  • 1 lb red potatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 lb green beans, trimmed
  • 2 halibut steaks
  • salt
  • pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salad greens
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives
  • parsley, chopped
  • vinaigrette

Preparation
Preheat the oven to 450. Place the potatoes and green beans on a baking sheet, season with salt and toss with olive oil. Place the halibut steaks on another baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables until the potatoes are soft all the way through, 15-20 minutes. At the same time, bake the halibut 12-15 minutes until cooked through and flaky.

Meanwhile, arrange salad greens, tomatoes, and olives on four plates. Cut the halibut steaks in half, top each salad, and squeeze lemon juice over the fish. Arrange roasted vegetables on the plates and garnish with parsley. Serve with vinaigrette.

Taco Salad

Keep this classic salad simple, but make it more nutritious! This is always a pleaser in our house and can be made vegetarian by substituting a can of black beans for the ground beef.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 oz can green chiles
  • 1 tbsp chile powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • shredded cheddar or Monterrey jack cheese
  • salad greens
  • frozen corn, warmed
  • red or orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced
  • prepared salsa
  • tortilla chips

Preparation
In a pan, cook ground beef until browned. Add onion and cook until onion is soft. Add green chiles, salt, chile powder, and cumin. When all ingredients are incorporated and the spices are fragrant, off the heat and sprinkle the beef with shredded cheese.

On plates arrange the salad green, bell pepper, and corn. Top with warm beef and use salsa as a dressing. Garnish with tortilla chips.