Completing my first yoga teacher training a couple months ago is up there with some of the best decisions I have ever made. The only tiny problem is that I feel like lately I have been annoying all of the people closest to me by starting every single sentence with “oh that reminds me of something I learned in yoga teacher training!” I am trying to stop myself before I become a full-blown yogini nuisance, but these bits and pieces of things I am excited to share seem to be a part of how my brain is outwardly processing all of the information it took in. However, besides these little bursts, there is so much being digested internally as well. Slowly but surely, I am drawing quieter wisdom from the more subtle lessons of the training.
On the very first day of the course, all of us fresh-faced students walked into a small and sunlit studio, seeing that we were to form a seated circle on the floor for introductions and a lecture. We each carefully folded our mats on which to sit cross-legged, and even though the instructor said “you may want to grab some bolster pillows or blankets- we will be sitting for a while,” only a few people actually stood up to get them. The rest of us seemed to have this underlying attitude of “oh sure, I’ve done yoga, I can sit comfortably in lotus position on the floor as long as you need me to.” Or maybe that was just me. Granted, it was the first day and we were all probably nervous and wondering what (if anything) we may have to prove, as we usually do in new groups of people.
Just 10 minutes in, we were already shifting and adjusting our knees, feet, sits bones, trying to find a new and more comfortable pose so that we could focus on what was being said instead of legs falling asleep. Discomfort, in this case, was a distraction from what was actually important.
Day two: a couple of people (myself included) grabbed one of the smaller bolsters to sit on during lecture.
Day three: some people brought in their own pillows and blankets from home and I expanded to a larger bolster and a blanket.
By the end of the week, each morning began with everyone creating a little yoga nest in their corner of the room, piling up pillows and blankets and a block or two lay their papers out on. Our sitting positions became less calculated and more cozy. We had all discovered the lovely value of making your physical self as comfortable as possible when taking in so much new and possibly challenging information.
Looking back to that first day of pretending that we didn’t need any props to sit on, I now wonder what we had been trying to prove, anyway. Our pride in sitting with discomfort was quickly replaced by what is needed in yoga: a sense of authentic humility in not knowing all the answers, of admitting that we need some support and swaddling in order to grow.
Not only are these qualities essential to learning anything about yoga, but to learning anything at all about life. If we are constantly uncomfortable in doing something as simple as sitting in our own skin, there is no way we can welcome anything new. Of course, I am all for risk taking and stepping outside of one’s “comfort zone,” but even within these situations where you may be in an unknown environment, having your guard up, sitting on hard ground and trying to prove how much you already know will get you nowhere. It is better to settle in, create a little corner of support and make space for new information to settle within yourself.
This nest of support could be having a friend or family member by your side to talk to and share with, it could be rituals of self care and literal pillows to crash on at the end of a long day, or it could be the slow and quiet act of cultivating an inner comfortable space. This, I think, is important no matter what. That inner nest of knowing you can support yourself and stay humble and cozy is an invaluable thing to take with you wherever you go in the world. Yoga teacher training was just the first outward step to creating my own inner nest of comfort. For all of us, it is a lifelong practice of collecting twigs.
Throughout the different places I have settled in the world, one of the first things I do as part of the external nesting process is find the best markets, buy fresh, delicious-smelling foods and cook. No matter how small the kitchen or limited the resources, cooking something simple, nourishing and familiar for myself is a part of settling into a new place. And nothing says delicious familiarity better than soup.
I think of this as a transition soup. Like any hearty, spiced dish, it is cozy and warming, but at the same time sunny, made brighter with pops of orange zest and fresh ginger. It helps you ease into the nest of fall while still holding onto some of that summer flair. As a bonus, it can help you to hide away from any changing-of-the-season flus or colds that may occur around this time of year when the weather switches on an hourly basis. So whip up a batch (it’s almost too easy), cozy in, and sip some sunny soup.
Sunny Coconut Carrot Sweet Potato Soup
Makes about 4-5 servings, vegan + gluten free
- 5 large carrots cut into cubes
- 2 large sweet potatoes, cubed
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1 thumb-tip-sized nub of ginger, minced
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- 1/4 tsp coriander
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- salt + pepper to taste
- 1 tsp orange zest
- 4 cups light coconut milk (or 2 cups of full fat coconut milk mixed with 2 cups of water)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
Place a large pot on your stovetop over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, then once it is hot, toss in the onion, garlic and ginger. Sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon until the garlic is lightly browned and the onion is translucent. Add the spices, stir, then throw in the vegetables. Coat them in the spices and oil, then pour in your coconut milk. It should cover the vegetables completely, so add more if needed. Cover, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium and let it simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Add in the orange zest, remove from heat and use an immersion blender or carefully transfer to a normal (heat-proof) blender to puree the soup. Once completely smooth, serve it up in bowls along with a little swirl of coconut milk or plain yogurt and some fresh cilantro.