I am the kind of person who likes to make lists and check things off. I get immense satisfaction from organizing my days and adding up the little accomplishments. While this has served me well in terms of getting things done, staying on top of the small daily tasks and being someone who doesn’t forget deadlines, it also has worked against me in terms of adopting more of a yoga mindset into my life.
Before my yoga teacher training last summer, I had this feeling that I needed to be doing a yoga practice every single morning for a certain amount of time, adding it into my routine like clockwork. If I missed a day or if I did less than say, 30 minutes in a session, I had this overwhelming feeling that it didn’t “count.” I couldn’t check it off of my list because the task wasn’t truly complete. It was not until after my training, and really, just up until recently that I have internalized the fact that this “all or nothing” mentality of getting things done is the exact opposite of living yoga.
I am not saying that it is negative to make yourself form habits and practice something daily, just that when it becomes a point of stress and more of an accomplishment than something to experience, the mindfulness and awareness get sucked right out of the process. My tendency is to become too attached to the quantity instead of the quality of my personal sessions. However, the biggest thing I learned in YTT was that asana (the physical positions) is just one piece of the huge philosophy of yoga. It has to stay balanced with the other pieces (the Yamas), and one of those is Aparigraha, non-possessiveness and non-attachment. Letting go of things that don’t matter.
As part of our homework in YTT, we read Judith Lasater’s Living Your Yoga, and she writes specifically on this subject, saying,
“[Let] go of your attachments: your attachment to being right, to having total control, or to living forever. This process of letting go is integral to the process of becoming whole.”
This choice to let go shows up in all parts of life, and for me is directly mirrored in the way I think about practicing yoga. While I am getting better at it, it is continually difficult for me to stop qualifying my practice by how many minutes it takes instead of how deep I go.
The reason I have been reflecting on this is that it came up quite recently in terms of my meditation routine. I have been meditating every morning since the beginning of this new year and have been using an app to track how long each session lasts, holding myself accountable to doing it every day. This is maybe good in theory and definitely has its benefits, however I missed one day last week when we took a night bus to Casablanca, and when I realized I had lost my 70-day streak on that little app, I became unnecessarily frustrated. That is what sparked this realization- I still am counting yoga in my life as if I am ticking it off a to-do list and trying to make it count through minutes and streaks.
The thing is, though, there are so many little details that I have changed in my life and turned into habits that, for some reason, I don’t count. For example, I do breathing exercises every morning to wake up and to stimulate my digestion. I changed my mindset about being patient, actively noticing when impatience arises and breathing through it. I do small spinal stretches, learned through asanas, while on long flights or drives. I have already integrated yoga in so many ways, that this obsession with doing 30 minutes of asana or 10 minutes of meditation really shouldn’t matter as much as it does. In the end, yoga isn’t something to be quantified. It is a practice that can be seamlessly woven into every fiber of life.
Part of adopting yoga into my daily life has been being even more mindful about what I consume and how it makes me feel. This doesn’t necessarily mean I am eating 100% healthy all the time (however you define "healthy," anyway), but I listen to the cues my body gives me and try to feed it whatever it is craving. I notice more clearly how certain things give me energy, others make me sluggish, and how food can impact my mood.
Along these lines, seeing so many lovely food bloggers talking about adaptogens and balancing superfoods has made me curious and while I can’t get most of them in Morocco, I tried maca powder when I was back in the states and got hooked, bringing two full bags back with me to Tangier. I will never pretend to be a nutritional expert, so you can read more of the benefits of maca powder here. For me personally, I feel a definite spike of energy in the morning and less of a caffeine crash later in the day when I have a bit of maca powder with my breakfast. I also love the kind of nutty, slightly butterscotch-y taste of it and thought it would be the perfect pairing in some mega-clumpy granola.
Granola is a decidedly easy sort of thing to improvise, but this exact recipe is one that I have come back to several times now. It’s crispy, clumpy, super nutty and pairs perfectly with any fruit, yogurt or milk. The maca gives an extra body-balancing boost, and the chickpea flour adds a dose of daily protein to start the day right. No over-calculating or quantifying is needed, just help yourself to a handful of crunchy deliciousness.
Almond, Maca + Chickpea Flour Granola
Makes about 3 cups of granola, gluten-free + vegan option
Recipe adapted from My Blue and White Kitchen
Preheat your oven to 375ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients. In a separate small bowl, whisk the honey or maple syrup, melted coconut oil and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the large bowl and stir until everything is combined evenly and there are no dry bits. Dump the granola onto the baking sheet and spread out into a thin layer, pressing down firmly with a spatula or your fingers. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, rotate the tray and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant. Let it cool until the granola hardens- about 10 minutes- then break it up into large clumps (or small, depending on how you like your granola). Serve with yogurt, milk, or eat by the handful.
- 2 cups (210g) rolled oats (gluten-free if needed)
- 1/2 cup (60g) chickpea flour
- 1/2 cup (80g) roughly chopped almonds
- 1 tbsp maca powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 5 tbsp honey, or maple syrup for vegan option
- 4 tbsp coconut oil, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract