Tuesday 16th February - Eye Exercises, Pancakes and Teeny Tiny Chameleons
This Week's Class Notes... Eyes Right
In my class last night we were doing a twist and I gave the cue to 'swivel your eyes to the right'. As always in the practice of yoga, there was a reason for this instruction. There are reasons why we place the body in the particular ways in each pose and there are reasons we try to get the best alignment possible. There are reasons we do the breathing practices and reasons that it's worth spending a few minutes each day in meditation. Nothing is random in yoga and, even though sometimes something might seem a little strange, there will be a reason for doing it.
Dristi is the practise of focussing the gaze on a specific point whilst in a yoga pose. There are 9 main points, known as bahya, (external), gaze points that are used whilst in the poses and done with the eyes open. They are: the third eye, the tip of the nose, the thumbs, the hands, the navel, the big toes, far out to the left, far out to the right and then, finally, out into infinity. There are also internal gaze points (antara) where the eyes are closed but we are looking inwards, for example, in some of our breathing practices we direct our attention up to the third eye centre in the forehead.
Dristi is particularly helpful in balancing poses. If your eyes are flicking all around the room your balance is likely to be off. If, however, you fix your gaze on one point and concentrate your attention on it then you're more likely to be able to hold the pose. The gaze isn't a hard stare or strained in any way, it's a soft focus, with a feeling of sending your attention and energy to that point.
The practice of dristi also helps to tone the muscles of the eyes - you might be aware of this in a twist when you turn your gaze over your shoulder, looking out of the corners of your eyes and then, as you come back to normal you can sometimes feel that the muscles around your eyes. Now especially, as we're all staring at screens so much more, eye exercises can be helpful to release eye strain and tension and help with headaches.
Here are a few simple eye exercises you could do whilst sitting at your desk or on the sofa, or while listening to this week's musical offering. (Note: The pictures come from a wonderful old book I have called 'Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha' and known affectionately by the yoga world as The Orange Bihar book as the Yoga Publications Trust who produces this series of books is based in Bihar, India.)
This Week's Recipe... Vegan Pancakes
Today is Shrove Tuesday so I thought I'd better share a recipe for pancakes. I appreciate that it's a bit late in the day and you might not read this in time but remember, pancakes are for life, not just for Pancake Day, so maybe you can have some tomorrow. I don't know why I don't have them more often - they're delicious - and these oh-so-easy ones are especially appealing as they don't contain any animal products.
You will need...
220g of plain flour
680ml of almond or oat milk
half a teaspoon of salt
5 tablespoons of vegetable oil (or other neutral flavoured oil) plus a little extra to cook the pancakes
Serves 12 (!)
And here's how to make them...
Add the flour and salt to a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Gradually pour in the almond milk, whisking as you go until you get a smooth batter.
Add the oil and whisk until smooth and combined.
Heat a tiny dash of oil in a non-stick pan. Once hot, add a fine coating of the batter to the bottom and tilt the pan so it spreads out into a nice circle.
Wait for a few minutes while the batter firms up - when the wobbly softness goes, pop a spatula under an edge to see how it's coming along underneath. Once golden on the underside, flip it over.
Keep cooking until the underside is also golden. Keep a close eye on it as this side tends to cook a little more quickly than the first side.
Slide out onto a plate and keep warm while you cook the other 11! and serve with berries and yoghurt or a little bit of chocolate and vanilla ice-cream - delicious :-)
This Week's Mother Nature's Magic... some good news and the virtual wonders of the Natural History Museum
We are all well aware of the destruction that humankind is wreaking on the natural world, the decline in numbers and precarious existence that many species face. At this current time, as we are mired in and constantly fed bad news I thought a little positive perspective was called for. So how about this for a bit of Mother Nature's Magic - a sub-species of chameleon that's recently been discovered on the island of Madagascar that's about the size of a seed! The male is 22mm long and the female is 29mm long. Although Madagascar is facing deforestation like so many other valuable habitats the world over, this little fella was found in an area of protected land, so his future looks brighter! To read more about it click here to go to the article https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-55945948.
If you're interested to know more about the 503 species that were discovered in 2020 (yes, 503!) you can take a look at this article from the Natural History Museum. There's a warning though - lots of creepy crawlies! 170 new types of beetle were discovered last year - isn't that amazing!?
Whilst on the Natural History Museum website I had a good look around and found it has tons of interesting information available. There are lots of things for children to do so if you have little ones it's definitely worth a look, especially if they like dinosaurs. There's stuff for us older peeps too - I've just been distracted from writing this blog and instead I've been learning about manatees, how endangered water voles are being reintroduced to a Thames tributory in Kingston, how to make a birdbox for nesting birds out of a piece of wood, some wire and a plant pot (definitely giving this a try at the weekend) and enjoying some photos of foxes from past Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibitions. When you've got a few minutes do have a look - there's much to enjoy https://www.nhm.ac.uk/visit/virtual-museum.html.
This Week's Musical Offering... 'Primavera' by Floraleda Sacchi
This is a lovely cover of Ludovico Einaudi's 'Primavera' played on the harp. It's very relaxing and somehow captures the essence of spring - a slight hint of soft raindrops, fresh, clear and light. Take a few moments to sit with your eyes closed and practise your breathing or maybe do the eye exercises I mentioned in time with the music ;-)
This Week's Video... You Must Explore - another short film from Green Renaissance
I love these films from Green Renaissance - they have an ethereal quality to them. Carefully shot photography and interviews with wise, interesting people and their often alternative ways of looking at the world, I find them inspiring and thought-provoking. There are lots of them on the Green Renaissance channel on YouTube for you to dip in to. Here's a nice one about movement, mindfulness and the need to explore.
As always, thanks for reading. I'll be posting later this week over on the 'Flo's Flowers' page of the website about sowing the first seeds for summer flowers - I hope you'll join me for a 'growalong' journey together.