This coming week is slightly daunting, to say the least. I have 5 yoga classes to teach, 4 contemporary dance, 3 barre classes, and 2 substitute ballet gigs for kids. It’s a whirlwind of class planning, choreography, creating perfectly timed playlists and above all, trying to keep myself solidly grounded during the 6-day storm. At the conservatory where I teach, this marks the first week of classes for the school year, so the pressure is stronger than usual to draw in new students and keep things high energy and interesting. It’s what I love and yet at the same time, it is a short period of time that can be incredibly draining.
The calm before this kind of all-at-once storm, I have found, is not only when I should be busily and productively preparing for the work ahead, but it is also when I need to take as much time as possible to deeply root myself into a state of stability that I can hold fast to once things pick up speed.
For me, consciously digging those roots means generous time spent establishing solid, simple routines. Sleeping and rising early, meditating daily, keeping the body fueled with all those good, hearty foods and drinks, and making manageable daily lists to organize and ground my thoughts. I find that these seemingly simple tasks are easy to take lightly when the winds are calm, but as soon as the busyness hits you, even if it is just for one week in my case, these basic healthy routines can become all blown out of whack. With that in mind, I have been trying to practice all of these habits deliberately and with total focus to keep them in check throughout the week. I am prepared to give my students the absolute best classes I can, so when I am at home or have any bit of down time, I should be giving myself the best care possible to rejuvenate for the next day. Easier said than done, but being in the right head-space is the first step.
I seem to be unconsciously telling myself a sort-of mantra as I dive into these classes: “I will not get sick. I will stay healthy and strong. I will not get sick.” Not only am I going to be busy and under pressure, but it’s also the season where it is colder, drier and everyone gets sick with weakened immune systems and airborne head-colds. I am determined to avoid this at all costs (despite that tickle at the back of my throat) and to keep my physical self as strong as possible for all of the exertion it will have to pump out in the next coming days. Basically, I am trying to teach myself the subtle art of prevention- grounding against flighty flus and anxious breakdowns. This week will be a kind of test of how well I’ve cultivated these skills so far. Wish me luck!
One thing I do know for sure is that a large part of keeping the body grounded when I am busy teaching, dancing and yoga-ing is eating hearty, healthy and energizing meals every single day. I am not a master meal-prepper, but I do happen to have a fair amount of quick + easy recipes in my brain to whip out when my stomach is growling at me for food now. This sweet potato and lentil stew with spices is up at the top of the list, especially when the Tangier winds begin to get a bit colder. All year round, lentils are on constant repeat in this little household, but this autumnal/winter-y variation is probably my favorite. Both M and I are big fans of what we call cozy food- those kinds of meals that warm your stomach and make you softly smile with each bite. This lentil stew I will dare to say is super cozy, with tender sweet potatoes and notes of cinnamon and ginger. The perfect thing to ground and fuel you for whatever kind of week you have ahead.
Super Cozy Spiced Sweet Potato Lentil Stew
Vegan + gluten-free
Makes 4 servings
- 250g (1 1/4 cups) green or brown lentils, rinsed
- 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled + cubed
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional if you want some spice)
- salt + pepper to taste (don't be too stingy)
- 5 cups water or vegetable stock
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over a medium-high flame, then add the onion and garlic to sauté until lightly browned. Toss in the sweet potato cubes, lentils, bay leaf and spices. Stir for a minute or so or until the lentils look a bit puckered. Add the water or stock, cover and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn down the heat to simmer and cook for about 30 minutes or until the sweet potatoes and lentils are nice and soft and most of the water is absorbed. If there is still a lot of remaining liquid and you can it thicker, you can simmer with the top off for several extra minutes. Serve hot with some fresh cilantro or any other toppings your heart desires. Eat and stay cozy.