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Jessica Mehta

​Why Prioritizing Stress Management NOW is Important

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As we enter a new era where adaptation and often sheer survival instincts are essential, how can we possibly make time for stress management? In an ideal world, we would have all tested and practiced various stress management techniques to find out what worked for us before self-isolation and social distancing was recommended or required, but that simply wasn’t the case for most of us. We’re now dealing with more stressors than ever before, from learning how to co-work in a little studio with our partner or figuring out the best home-based learning solutions for our children.

Stress management isn’t a luxury. It’s part of our inherent and very necessary survival skill sets as human beings. We have no choice but to adapt in many situations, including the one we’re in right now. There are countless avenues to alleviating stress and anxiety, and not all of them are healthy. If we don’t take a conscious effort to explore and identify healthy relief that works for us, we’re likely to reach for vices that provide temporary but dangerous and harmful results. Smoking, drinking, or spending hours bingeing on Netflix are all very common “stress relievers” that don’t do us any favors in the long run—or even in the short run.

Start Simple: Short, Easy and Accessible


You’ve probably heard that yoga and meditation are fantastic avenues to relieve stress and anxiety, and they are! However, many of us—particularly in western countries—have been conditioned to think there’s a “right way” or “best way” to practice both. For instance, maybe you’ve heard that a proper yoga session should be 90 minutes, and you can certainly find studies to back up just about any claim. Rest assured, 90 isn’t a magic number. The reality is that any time you can spend on the mat is beneficial.

I personally have a daily 30-minute yoga practice. Admittedly, this began before the COVID-19 issues, and I started practicing at home in November. It worked for me then, and it works for me now, because as a small business owner I simply don’t have the time to get ready to go to a studio, commuting 20 – 30 minutes each way. It would honestly be more stressful to watch the clock all day to see what else I have to squeeze in before I had to go.

I “graduated” from using free YouTube yoga classes to simply writing down key asanas I wanted to practice every day and creating my own new daily flow. Granted, I had the benefit of 600 hours of yoga teacher training to help me with this, but that isn’t a requirement either. If you’ve practiced yoga before, you can start experimenting with creating your own flows. There are countless flows online you can use and tweak.

Plus, know that 30 minutes also isn’t the magic number for everyone. It’s simply what works for me and my schedule. You can amplify that time by selecting background ambiance if that helps you deepen your practice. Ever the multi-tasker, I have taken to listening to 30 minutes of classical music as my yoga practice background. Classical music isn’t something I was able to indulge in on a daily basis before a home practice, so there’s the added benefit of imbuing that joy into my daily life, which you can add to your practice as well. I also burn incense in my little office-cum-studio and face my mat towards the window that overlooks my front yard. Any little thing you can do to enhance whatever length practice you have at home is beneficial. The important thing is to make this your time to get on the mat. And if you have kids with no other adult in the house to watch them during this time? It might be time to start exploring yoga videos to practice with children.

Making Time for Meditation


One of the pillars of meditation is concentrating on living in the present. It’s extremely difficult to do, so simply trying not to get flustered is a big part of the practice. My personal meditation practice usually follows my yoga practice or takes place first thing in the morning. I’ve tried out several types of meditation in my life, and I’ve found that candle meditation (staring at the base or tip of a flame in the dark) and mala beads work best for me.

It’s been said that you can practice meditation anywhere, and to an extent, that’s true. However, it can be difficult to really live in the present and focus solely on your breath if you’re trying to multi-task and meditate while you wash dishes. I adopted a ten-minute meditation because—at this point in my life—that’s what my body and mind can handle. Yours may be longer or shorter, in the dark like me (honestly, it’s my closet) or in the daylight.

Be kind to yourself. Be realistic. And remember that what your yoga teacher said was true—the toughest part usually is just getting to the mat (even when it’s in your living room).


Jessica Mehta is an E-RYT500® and RCYT® certified yoga instructor. She received her initial 200-hour training at Peak Beings Yoga while she was living in Costa Rica followed by her 300-hour training at The Bhakti shop in Portland, Oregon and her children’s yoga teacher training at The Lotus Seed also in Portland. Jessica is the founder of Get it Ohm!, a karmic, mobile yoga series that offer complimentary classes to individuals and groups who don’t have access to traditional yoga studios and/or don’t feel comfortable in such environments. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Jessica created Get it Ohm! to prioritize indigenous students but anyone can request classes. Jessica is also a NASM-certified personal trainer (CPT) and has a background in amateur boxing,running marathons, and strength training. Personally, she has a daily yoga and meditation practice, and is a multi-award-winning poet. She also holds an M Philin Literature, an MSc in Writing, and is currently pursuing her PhD in literature at the University of Exeter in England. With plans to move permanently to India in the near future, Jessica looks forward to exploring different styles of yoga in South Asia and hopes to complete her prenatal yoga teacher training in Bali. Jessica is also a regular content contributor for YogaRenew. Learn more at Jessica’s author site at www.jessicamehta.com.


​A Yoga Flow for Balance and Soothing

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There are countless yoga videos available to download or stream, and unsurprisingly many of them are focused on stress relief. These challenging, unprecedented times have yogis scrambling for a “quick fix” or a way to infuse their practice with more stress-busting approaches. However, there’s no getting around the fact that screen time alone can sometime increase anxiety and stress. Since so many of us are working from home and staring at screens more than ever before, it’s worthwhile to dedicate at least one yoga flow a week to zero screens.

If you’ve been practicing for a while, have been thinking about pursuing your yoga teacher training certification, or are even in the middle of training, it’s especially important to learn how to create and adapt various flows of your own. For those who haven’t taught before, here’s a secret: there are a lot of yoga teachers out there (very good ones, too!) that don’t memorize and map out every single asana before every class. Intuition is a big part of being a good teacher—even when you’re your only student.

My home practice evolves around a daily flow that I create the day before. These are asanas that I especially want to focus on the next day, but they are by no means written in stone. It’s also a way to ensure that I don’t overlook some particular asanas for too long of a stretch. Left to our own devices, it’s very common to seek out the path of least resistance. Most of us like poses that we’re good at (as if there is such a thing) or that feel the best. We might not seek out the poses we find more challenging or uncomfortable if we don’t write down key asanas in advance. (Bear in mind, there’s a big difference between pain and discomfort.)

Creating Your Unique Flow


There is no perfect flow for balance and soothing. However, incorporating some restorative asanas into your usual flow and carving out time strictly for meditation post-savasana is a good start. Restorative yoga is often known for having ample props, but there’s no need to head straight to your favorite online yoga retailer to stock up. Props like bolsters and straps can easily be created through makeshift items in your home.

When soothing balance is the kind of flow you want to focus on, slow down. If you’re used to the uber-popular Vinyasa-style in the west, it might be time to incorporate more Iyengar-style yoga into your practice and hold poses longer.

Here’s a sample flow that I’ve practiced myself. When lockdown came into place, I transitioned to holding poses for one minute each (which means this flow will probably look a lot shorter than you imagine):

Child: Transition from resting forearms to hands extended with fingers spread wide. Roll the forehead along the mat as you finger-walk from the left to the right, holding each side for one minute.

Table Top To Cat/Cow Flow: One minute of “spinal play.” Feel free to explore barrel rolls, move side to side, or anything else that feels good.

• Thread The Needle: Option to keep free arm on the mat for support or in a half-bind behind the back.

Downward Facing Dog: Try to pedal your heels towards the ground slowly to stretch your hamstrings.

Extended Leg To Big Toe: We already don’t extend the toes in our regular lives. I incorporate this pose into every practice every day.

Downward Facing Dog: If you’ve taken up running as a means to get outside (while still keeping your six-feet distance), experiment with extending one sole flat to the mat with the opposite knee bent as much as necessary for one minute, then switch. Tight muscles in the legs are notorious for runners and yoga can help counteract that.

Forward Fold To Mountain: Any modifications in this transition are welcome, such as ragdoll.

Warrior 1 to Warrior 2: Option of elevating arms or not (depending on energy levels). The first couplet in the warrior series has become synonymous with yoga for many westerners, and incorporating it into your practice can be a welcome familiarity for those new to a home practice.

Tree: Modifications are welcome, including slow blinks or prayer hands behind the back.

Chaturanga Dandasana: Similar to the warrior series, this vinyasa flow can help provide comfort if you’re missing your usual studio practice. Take it slower for now, and practice one long breath per movement. Opt for full belly resting on the floor instead of hovering in a tricep pushup. Cobra breaths (rise with an inhale, lower with an exhale) can take the place of up-dog to downward facing dog.

• Legs Up The Wall: Do this pose for a minimum of two minutes.

Follow with ten minutes of meditation. Feel free to modify, tweak, or expand as you like. Remember to listen to your body during the flow as well. Even if you’re the one who writes the flow, that doesn’t mean you have to follow it to the letter—or at all.


Jessica Mehta is an E-RYT500® and RCYT® certified yoga instructor. She received her initial 200-hour training at Peak Beings Yoga while she was living in Costa Rica followed by her 300-hour training at The Bhakti shop in Portland, Oregon and her children’s yoga teacher training at The Lotus Seed also in Portland. Jessica is the founder of Get it Ohm!, a karmic, mobile yoga series that offer complimentary classes to individuals and groups who don’t have access to traditional yoga studios and/or don’t feel comfortable in such environments. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Jessica created Get it Ohm! to prioritize indigenous students but anyone can request classes. Jessica is also a NASM-certified personal trainer (CPT) and has a background in amateur boxing,running marathons, and strength training. Personally, she has a daily yoga and meditation practice, and is a multi-award-winning poet. She also holds an M Philin Literature, an MSc in Writing, and is currently pursuing her PhD in literature at the University of Exeter in England. With plans to move permanently to India in the near future, Jessica looks forward to exploring different styles of yoga in South Asia and hopes to complete her prenatal yoga teacher training in Bali. Jessica is also a regular content contributor for YogaRenew. Learn more at Jessica’s author site at www.jessicamehta.com.

​Two Vegan Indian Recipes from my Gujarati Mother in Law

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The first thing my in-laws asked my husband after he’d put them into near-cardiac arrest telling them that I was 1) American and 2) not of Indian descent was, “Is she vegetarian?” As Gujarati Jains, ahimsa (non-harm) is at the core of their faith, life—and diet.

Fortunately, this other kind of Indian is vegetarian (and vegan in the US). Vegetarianism flew in the face of my upbringing as a citizen of the Cherokee Nation where hunting is imbued into culture, but as we grow, increase our knowledge and expand our experiences, we are consistently re-aligning our values.

However, vegetarianism in authentic Indian households is worlds apart from what many of us westerners experience on a daily basis. Both my mother-in-law and my husband are phenomenal cooks. Here are two of my favorite vegetarian recipes including a savory and sweet option.

Both recipes are surprisingly simple, although for some the ingredients might seem unfamiliar, overwhelming, or difficult to get. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with an Indian store, they will have everything you need (if not, ordering online is always an option). When it comes to spices, it’s always simplest and most affordable to trust Indian stores in my experience.

Spicy Moong Dahl

* Image shown is for yellow dahl but the recipe calls for black moong dahl



INGREDIENTS

1 cup split moong dahl (presara pappu)
3 Cups Water
1/4 tsp canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 green chilis
2 dry red chilis
1 tsp ginger, grated
10 curry leaves
big pinch asafetida (also known as ting)
to taste salt
1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 onion

DIRECTIONS


1. Pre-soak dahl in water as long as possible (2 hours is ideal).
2. Cook dahl in water in pressure cooker until soft.
3. Heat oil in pot and add cumin seeds; cook until brown but do not burn.
4. Shred red chilis and add to pot (you can leave seeds or de-seed depending on how much spice you want).
5. Dice and add green chilis, curry leaves, ginger.
6. Add turmeric and diced onion, asafetida.
7. Stir and immediately add to dahl.
8. Check to be sure there is enough water in dahl throughout process. Dahl can be made either thick (like yogurt) or more watered down (like a soup). This depends on your preference. Water can always be added to taste.

9. Add salt to taste. This recipe is from my friend who is Gujarati Jain in Mumbai. I was told this recipe is meant to be a bit bland and they often add a good amount of salt.

10. Simmer for 10 minutes. Right before serving add squeezed lemon.


NOTES:

I’ve found that pressure cookers have different “personalities” and it’s best to just watch the dahl to see when it’s soft and to monitor water levels.

As noted in the directions, I’ve found most people like a good amount of salt added to this dahl, but that is up to taste and health.

It is best served with white rice.

HALWA/SHEERA INDIAN DESSERT

This dessert dish is called different things in different parts of India, but it’s delicious and very easy to make.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup Semolina
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Ghee (or unsalted butter)
2 Cups Water
1/2 Cup Cashew halves/pieces
1/4 Cup Raisins
4 Pods Cardamom
4 Sticks Cloves
2 Sticks Cinnamon

DIRECTIONS


1. Melt the ghee or butter in a flat-bottomed pan and add the cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. I’ve been able to find most ingredients at stores like Whole Foods/Trader Joes but you may have to go to an Indian grocer. I have substituted cardamom powder in lieu of pods and it has tasted fine.
2. Fry cashew nuts and raisins along with spices in the ghee/butter until light brown.
3. Add the semolina and stir until there are no dry spots in the semolina.
4. Add water and mix well.
5. Cover the pan and keep on low flame for 2 minutes or until the water is absorbed and semolina is cooked.
6. Add the sugar and stir well on low flame until bubbles start popping through semolina.
7. Cover pan and keep on low flame one more minute.
8. Serve while warm.

Many Indian foods and entire cuisines (depending on the community) are inherently vegetarian. Anthony Bourdain once said that Indian food was the one food where he didn’t have issues eating vegetarian. By adopting more vegetarian recipes and dishes into your diet, you can enjoy a more varied experience and the ayurvedic benefits that often come with it. For instance, turmeric is an excellent immunity booster and can be added to virtually any savory Indian dish. Most importantly, have fun, experiment, and play—cooking and food should be joyful.


Jessica Mehta is an E-RYT500® and RCYT® certified yoga instructor. She received her initial 200-hour training at Peak Beings Yoga while she was living in Costa Rica followed by her 300-hour training at The Bhakti shop in Portland, Oregon and her children’s yoga teacher training at The Lotus Seed also in Portland. Jessica is the founder of Get it Ohm!, a karmic, mobile yoga series that offer complimentary classes to individuals and groups who don’t have access to traditional yoga studios and/or don’t feel comfortable in such environments. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Jessica created Get it Ohm! to prioritize indigenous students but anyone can request classes. Jessica is also a NASM-certified personal trainer (CPT) and has a background in amateur boxing,running marathons, and strength training. Personally, she has a daily yoga and meditation practice, and is a multi-award-winning poet. She also holds an M Philin Literature, an MSc in Writing, and is currently pursuing her PhD in literature at the University of Exeter in England. With plans to move permanently to India in the near future, Jessica looks forward to exploring different styles of yoga in South Asia and hopes to complete her prenatal yoga teacher training in Bali. Jessica is also a regular content contributor for YogaRenew. Learn more at Jessica’s author site at www.jessicamehta.com.

​Re-Visiting the “Basics” of Vinyasa: Chaturanga and Breath

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Chaturanga Dandasana is a staple of Vinyasa and many other types of yoga, but a lot of practitioners make little mistakes. And once you start doing something in a not so great way, that tends to stick. Hopefully, you’ve had teachers that stop and break down Chaturanga. It’s not something that’s easy to “get” just like that. Many people who have been practicing for years can benefit from a little tune up from time to time.

Chaturanga begins in plank pose. However, you can train your body and mind to shift into Chaturanga from plank simply by moving forward about one inch. Your wrists should be directly under your shoulders while in plank, but prep for Chaturanga requires you to be slightly forward.

It’s probably been drilled into your head that your elbows need to be in when you lower halfway. Make sure you can feel your elbows brush against your ribs.
The biggest issue many people have is their definition of “half-way.” This is where a mirror can come in very handy. Some people don’t go far enough, and others are making things harder on themselves (and their joints) by just barely hovering above their mat. Many people droop in the middle at this point, which gives your back zero support.

It’s often helpful to exaggerate your hips when learning (or re-learning) Chaturanga. It might feel like your hips are way up in the air, but if you check int he mirror, they’re actually right where they should be. And yes, this will require more work from your muscles. Simply holding at the half-way point, properly, is enough for many people.
Even after practicing for several years, I prefer to start out my Chaturangas with a baby cobra. It stretches in a different way than the full Upward Facing Dog. It also helps my body get into the Chaturanga rhythm.

I encourage my students to mix and match baby cobra with Cobra and Upward Facing Dog. Listen to your body. Feel what these different poses can give you. Remember that yoga isn’t about getting to the next crazy looking asana, but about exploring your body and getting the full benefits from every breath and pose.


Yoga Breathing for Pain Management

Any woman who’s given birth can tell you that breath makes a huge difference in pain management. What you might not realize is that the breathing you learn in yoga can help you in many facets of your life. Some people faithfully go to their class of choice and wait impatiently to “get into things.” They’re there for the strengthening and flexibility that the asanas offer, and that’s fine for them. However, these types of practitioners are missing out on a very important half of yoga.

Linking breath with movement is one definition of yoga. It’s not just “movement.” If you’re not practicing the breathing half of things, you’re only doing half of yoga.

Yogic breathing has helped me in every complementary facet of my life from my years as an amateur boxer to marathon running and my HIIT training. It’s a critical training aspect of every sport, whether you’re in an intramural league or a professional. However, it’s also a crucial part of other, less active parts of my life. Recently, I had a fairly large cover up tattoo done on my spine. Notoriously a painful part of the body for ink work, I was 12 years overdue to cover up two tattoos that I got on a whim.

Even as a practicing yogi, I was surprised by how quickly I naturally went to my breathing to manage the pain. It gave me something to focus on. Breathing out the pain helped move me from dealing with the pain, to managing the pain, to finally accepting the pain so much that I managed to drift in and out of sleep during the last two hours in the chair.

This is just one example of how your practice might positively influence other aspects of your life. It’s often said the biggest challenge is just getting to the mat. But what are you going to use with what you’ve learned there?


Jessica Mehta is an E-RYT500® and RCYT® certified yoga instructor. She received her initial 200-hour training at Peak Beings Yoga while she was living in Costa Rica followed by her 300-hour training at The Bhakti shop in Portland, Oregon and her children’s yoga teacher training at The Lotus Seed also in Portland. Jessica is the founder of Get it Ohm!, a karmic, mobile yoga series that offer complimentary classes to individuals and groups who don’t have access to traditional yoga studios and/or don’t feel comfortable in such environments. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Jessica created Get it Ohm! to prioritize indigenous students but anyone can request classes. Jessica is also a NASM-certified personal trainer (CPT) and has a background in amateur boxing,running marathons, and strength training. Personally, she has a daily yoga and meditation practice, and is a multi-award-winning poet. She also holds an M Philin Literature, an MSc in Writing, and is currently pursuing her PhD in literature at the University of Exeter in England. With plans to move permanently to India in the near future, Jessica looks forward to exploring different styles of yoga in South Asia and hopes to complete her prenatal yoga teacher training in Bali. Jessica is also a regular content contributor for YogaRenew. Learn more at Jessica’s author site at www.jessicamehta.com.