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Day 3 Interfaith Harmony Week & Yoga: A Cheerful Countenance

February 4, 2014

By Rabbi Chava Bahle

Rabbi Shammai said, “Greet everyone with a cheerful countenance.”
On this 3rd Day of United Nations Interfaith Harmony week, let’s focus on greeting everyone -including that beautiful yogi facing you in the mirror – with a cheerful countenance.  I cannot remember which Sufi poet said, “If you don’t like what you see in the mirror, you are looking in the wrong mirror.”

What if we were to take this a couple of steps further: what if we began every encounter with another person with a gentle smile?
What if we cultivated a cheerful emotional countenance – that is, an inner attitude of friendliness – to our moment by moment experience?

When you get to the yoga studio, greet the front desk folks with some extra warmth.  Say a quiet hello to folks in the changing room.  Greet and thank your teacher and her/his teachers.  Face yourself and bow with warmth and appreciation for that brave, sweet yogi facing you with readiness and warmth this day.

Interfaith Harmony Week & Yoga Days 1 and 2

February 3, 2014

By Rabbi Chava Bahle

Friends this is United Nations Interfaith Harmony Week so I have decided to post a very short blog each day, so those of us not participating in formal events can still be part of the interconnected web of learning and good will the week is intended to create.

Day One: The Platinum Rule (Saturday)YogaLeafMan
Yesterday was Shabbat so I didn’t blog, but the thought for the day was to explore the implications of the Platinum Rule. We know the Golden Rule, “do unto others” of course. The Platinum Rule asks us to go a step farther:

Treat others the way they wish to be treated.

This is an invitation to go beyond even the great goodness of  “do unto others what you would have them do into you”.  To treat others the way they wish to be treated implies other steps: engagement, friendly curiosity, listening and learning.

Engagement means we take the time to meet one another on deeper levels, past surface impressions.  Friendly curiosity means we acknowledge what we do not yet know, listening means we genuinely want to hear the answers and learning means that we will try new behaviors, sometimes make mistakes and try again based on feedback.

In a way doesn’t that sound like yoga practice? We meet each posture, explore it with friendly curiosity, see what our practice has to teach us and them we try again. And in my case bang into the mirror during Standing Bow. Repeatedly.

What would it mean for us to take this from the mat into world?

Remember: questioning in pursuit of truth and understanding is a sacred act of humility -we have something to learn from and about everyone.

Day Two (Sunday): Three Breaths

The Vietnamese Buddhist teacher and peace maker Thich Nhat Hahn teaches that we should begin every interaction with three breaths. I once heard him say that the first breath reminds me that I am mortal, the second that you are mortal and the third reminds us that this makes the moment of interaction and coming together even more precious.

For today, pause often to breath.  When interacting, explain that you are undertaking the practice to slow down  and appreciate the other person, place a gentle smile on your face, breath and then begin whatever it is you are doing.

How different would our interactions be if we more consistently took the time to pause, relax and truly see the person or people in front of us? And when in yoga, that person is none other than our own true Self.

Advantages of using cycling shoes for an indoor cycle class.

January 15, 2014

By Kelley Travis

When using street shoes to participate in an indoor-cycling class, you are putting unnecessary stress on your feet.   Everyday shoes are designed to provide comfort and support for activities such as walking, running, and standing but not bicycling. When you place the soft sole of normal shoes onto a bike pedal, they bend. This causes all of the force and stress to be placed upon a small area of the foot. This in turn can cause pain and discomfort. 

Have you ever had the sensation of the ball of your foot burning, or your toes tingling?

When using shoes designed for bicycling, you will notice that the sole is very stiff. Although this is not desirable for normal activities, it is superb for cycling. The stiff sole causes the force of the pedal to be evenly displaced upon your entire foot. This relives stress and discomfort, in addition to enabling you to exert more force into the bike. In addition to the added power and comfort provided by cycling shoes, they have the capability to use cleats. When using cleats for indoor-cycling classes, you are able to clip into the pedals. No longer will your foot slip off of the pedal. Furthermore, you will have even more power through the upstroke by the ability to pull up on the pedal.  The above benefits will allow you to ride with greater energy and more importantly, you just might find yourself enjoying the ride more. 

New Year’s Resolution: Don’t make one.

January 6, 2014

By Bonnie Alfonso

New Year’s Resolution: Don’t make one.
Seriously, don’t do it.
“But I just joined Yen Yoga and I am inspired!”
Awesome! Welcome, we are glad you are here.
And we want to make sure you are still inspired by Valentine’s Day,
Memorial Day, and the 4th of July.
Let’s be honest, most of us have a hard time committing to a long range plan and your health and well being are a life time plan.
Seems a bit daunting, so let’s break it down into manageable, achievable steps.
Set a goal for the week: I will workout more days than not this week.
Short term commitment, easy to measure and realistic. Fantastic!
Each Sunday evening review how you did and recommit to your goal.
Some weeks you will hit it, some you won’t, some you will do more. But each week is a new beginning and your health and well being will improve.

Bottom line:
A goal is really just a decision to make a consistent choice.
Choose to be inspired, and inspire, week by week.
See you in class!

No Yoga, No Peace – Know Yoga, Know Peace

December 30, 2013

By Rabbi Chava Bahle

Yoga is part of a larger ethical and spiritual system, rooted in Hinduism, aimed at still the mind and rooting us moment by moment in ultimate reality.  In short, its aim is peace – mindful inner peace and mindful outer peace.Yen Yoga and Fitness

I had to take some time off yoga as I dealt with the effects of a serious car accident which occurred last month.  It was simply too painful to consider the mat.  Along with feeling the pain, soreness and stiffness that resulted directly from the crash, I also become aware that being unable to do yoga for some weeks had a noticeable impact upon my emotional and spiritual state of being.

Some trace the etymology of the Sanskrit word yoga to cognates like “to add, to join, to unite”.   It become quite clear that, without regular practice, I felt disjointed, out of touch and isolated.  My inner peace level was quite low.

When I was finally able to return to something of a regular practice, the effects were immediate: not only was able to be on the mat again, but I was part of something meaningful – the community of fellow yogis who support and nourish my practice simply by being present.

Yoga isn’t only about turning inward to cultivate peace, calm and good ju-ju; it is also about the way we move through the world, as part of something that matters.  I am reading a great book on the process of Appreciative Inquiry, a change process based on strengths and carrying forward good things upon which we can build.  The author notes note that it matters to us whether we matter or not.

Part of the peace of yoga is knowing we are a piece of something – a class, a group of learners, a lineage of teachers, a system of being.

When you do yoga, even if you are alone, you are part of something – a great lineage of seekers, whose ultimate aim is to change the world in a place of peace, justice and love.  The moment you roll out your mat and commit to practice, you are paying forward a great gift of wisdom and promise.

I am grateful to be back on the mat, part of a community and reconnected to an important spiritual truth: everyone matters.

We’ve known this all along.

November 29, 2013

“The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just in the brain.”


“Unlike earlier studies, this one is the first to focus on participants with high levels of stress. The study published in May in the medical journal PloS One showed that one session of relaxation-response practice was enough to enhance the expression of genes involved in energy metabolism and insulin secretion and reduce expression of genes linked to inflammatory response and stress. There was an effect even among novices who had never practiced before.

Harvard isn’t the only place where scientists have started examining the biology behind yoga…”

Find the rest of the article here.

Quinoa and Kale Minestrone Soup

November 14, 2013

I am always on the lookout for new, healthy, but most importantly delicious recipes. Here is a great minestrone recipe I found using quinoa instead of pasta (perfect for my wheat sensitivity) and with the possibility to be sugar and diary free. The original is here, but I made some small changes to fit my personal eating needs and preferences (my substitutes are in italics).

The best part about a good minestrone is that you really can’t mess it up–a necessity if you are a novice in the kitchen like yours truly. Add some of your favorite ingredients or, better yet, use what is available seasonally. Be creative!


  • 1 sweet onion – medium diced
  • 2 celery stalks – medium dicedMinestrone-850x400
  • 3 carrots – medium diced
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
  • 2 cups fresh zucchini – medium diced (about 1 medium or 2 small)
  • 2 cups green beans – cut in 1 inch pieces (I left these out accidentally, but it was still great!)
  • 1 bell pepper – medium diced
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 28-ounce cans of water
  • 1 15-ounce can of cannellini beans
  • 1 15-ounce can of chickpeas
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups kale – stems removed
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric (or to taste)
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish with parmesan to taste (I left this out, no dairy for me)
  • Garnish with slivered basil or finely chopped rosemary


Place a large stockpot over medium heat and add the oil, onions, carrots, and celery. Cook for about 5 minutes or until softened.

Add the garlic and a pinch of red pepper flakes and cook for about one minute or until garlic begins to color.

Add the zucchini and the green beans, season with salt and pepper, add the turmeric, stir and cook for about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and the water, raise heat to high and bring to a boil.

Lower the heat to medium/low and allow the soup to gently boil (uncovered) for about 20 minutes.

Add the quinoa and cover for 15 minutes.

Remove the cover, add the kale and the canned beans (more water if needed) bring back to a gentle boil and cook for another 5 minutes or just until the kale is tender.


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