All They Want for Christmas is You (Simple Homemade Holiday Gift Ideas)

Chocolate pecan tartlets by Epicurious

There’s nothing like cranking the Christmas tunes and busting out the baking sheets to get me into the Christmas spirit.  Rather than just checking off items from my loved ones’ wish-lists (which is nice but kind of impersonal) I like to surprise them with some homemade treats as well. After all, we all just want to feel loved, and what better way to show you care than a package full of handmade treats?

I’m a little dyslexic when it comes to reading recipes, so whatever I go for has to be pretty basic as well as time-efficient for my hectic schedule.

Here are a few things I’ve got on my radar so far this year:

My mom is a big bath-lover, so I like to treat her with some homemade bath salts. This recipe is super easy and you can use any combination of essential oils you like. (My favourite is lavender to enhance relaxation.)

Also for bath-time is this beautiful gentle exfoliating scrub by Sophie Uliano at Gorgeously Green. This oatmeal and lavender based scrub is good for all skin types and a great natural way to pump up the pampering factor. If you’ve never read “Gorgeously Green”, it’s a great read that provides fun, well-rounded advice for living an earth-friendly life. (It’s easier than you might think!)

I also like to give my friends and family some sweet treats. I like to try new holiday recipes each year. This year I’m experimenting with these Chocolate and Pecan Tartlets from epicurious.com, as well as these scrumptious thumbprint cookies.

Stay tuned for pictures and updates. If you have any other easy homemade holiday gift ideas, I’d love to hear it!

Namaste,

Jacci

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Yoga for Depression: Stand on Your Hands to Beat the Blues

I went for a coffee run the other day and ran into my friend, Grant, a fellow yogi and coffee enthusiast.  He mentioned that he was reading about the pose Handstand (Adho Muka Vrksasana) and that the listed benefits included relief of mild depression. He wondered if I knew the reason why?

Good question. Of course, I’ve read in all my yoga texts that inversions (such as Handstand, Headstand, Forearm balance, and my personal favorite, Shoulderstand) are known to relieve symptoms of mild depression, and I know from my own experience, that when I stand on my hands, I feel a little bit happier. But what are the physiological reasons behind that?

In a book by Amy Weintraub, Yoga for Depression, she spends a chapter on the exploration of inversions and depression. She includes a quote from Karen Koffler, M.D., director of Integrative Medicine at Evanston Northwestern Hospital, who claims:

“Inverted positions that are assumed in Yoga alter the blood flow (including lymphatic drainage) and flow of cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). If there is increased blood flow to the area, there will be increased bioavailability of oxygen and glucose – the two most important metabolic substrates for the brain. It follows then that cells bathed in a solution that is rich in factors required for the creation of neurotransmitters (like norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin) will be better able to produce these chemicals.”

Well that makes sense. By reversing the effects of gravity and flushing the brain with oxygenated blood, it provides the perfect breeding ground for creating those natural “happy” chemicals in our brains; the ones that amongst other characteristics, regulate mood, emotion, sleep, appetite, attention and focus.

Modern medicine is only beginning to catch up to what yogis have known for thousands of years. By bringing awareness to the body through meditation, breath, and asana practice (including playful postures like handstand), we increase our vitality, energy and mental clarity, which in turn creates a ripple-effect into the rest of our lives.

From my personal experience as a teacher, the proof is in the pudding. I don’t need a study to tell me what I see in front of me on a daily basis.  When I’m working with a group of beginners, after a few short weeks of well-rounded practice including inversions, twists, hip openers and backbends, without fail, they look 10 years younger. There is a glint in their eye and their skin glows. (It always amazes me how quickly this happens.)

I think Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Yoga Guru and founder of Ashtanga Yoga said it best when he said,

“Do your practice and all is coming.”

And on that note, I’m headed to class. See you on your mat!

Namaste,

Jacci

Art for Impact presents House Awake, December 9, 2010

 

Photo Credit: Peter Eastwood

I am currently working on a new dance piece with my long-time friend and colleague, Kirsten Wiren. The piece is called “Go Without Me” and it’s about saying goodbye. (We’ve all been there, right?)

The proceeds from the show go to a great cause. The kids at Art for Impact donate the proceeds from their shows to different humanitarian causes. This one goes to RainCity Housing, delivering progressive housing and support solutions for people living with mental illness, addictions and other challenges.

Kudos to Arts for Impact! I know from experience that the budget of an artist in BC these days hardly affords a descent meal, never-mind room for charitable donations.

Along with myself, there will also be performances by Craning Neck Theatre, Alison Denham, Edmond Kilpatrick and more. Drinks and appy’s will be on hand as you explore.

December 9th, 7:30pm

Chapel Arts (304 Dunlevy)

Tix $15 donation at the door.

Be there.

 

Current Schedule

Warrior 3 at the Roundhouse. Photo Credit: Pure Souls Photography

Tuesday:12:05-12:50pm: Hatha at the Roundhouse Community Centre, $12 drop in. Contact the Roundhouse for info (604) 713-1800 E-mail: roundhousecc@vancouver.ca

Thursday: 12:30-1:30pm: Hatha at the Scotiabank Dance Centre, $10 drop in. Contact me for info: jaccicollins@gmail.com

Friday: 12-1pm: Hatha at Creekside Community Centre, 1 Athletes Way. $12 drop in. Contact Creekside for info:  604-257-3050 Email: creekside@vancouver.ca Website: creeksidecentre.ca

Saturday: 4-5:15pm Power Vinyasa Flow, Semperviva- Kits Beach Location (West 4th and Yew). Contact by email info@semperviva.com, or check website www.semperviva.com for rates

5 Quick Tips for Holiday Stress Relief

Me meditating at Kits beach in Vancouver. Photographed by Pure Souls Photography

I was standing in line at Shoppers the other day and as I waited by the till, I noticed the red and green wrapping paper at arm’s length and heard George Michael singing “Last Christmas” over the in-store radio. It hit me like a snowball at recess; the holidays have officially arrived.

As much as I love the holidays, I know it can also be a very trying time for many, myself included. Stress levels shoot up high as we scour our brains and the malls for that perfect gift. Our immune systems take a beating from all those holiday toxins (read: fun) like alcohol, sugar, and extra calories. Sometimes we feel we just don’t have the time for a yoga class, a gym session, or ourselves for that matter.

If this sounds like you, here are 5 quick tips to get you through:

1. Do a breathing meditation. Sit still for five minutes daily anywhere: on your favorite chair, on your floor, at your desk… Close your eyes and allow your mind to quiet. Breathe deeply, right down into your belly to alleviate stress and anxiety. Breathe in for 4 counts and out for 6. Follow your breath with your awareness. With awareness in our bodies, we begin to access more enjoyment and presence in our own experiences, rather than just going through the motions.

2.  Stock up on your vitamins. ‘Tis the season for colds and flu!  Excess sugar and alcohol can compromise the immune system, so go ahead and indulge in an extra glass of mulled wine, but make sure you are also stocking up on vitamins. Vitamins C, D and E are known to be immune boosters.  (Talk to your local health care professional for recommended dosages.)

3. Don’t forget your R&R. Sleep is so important to for our moods, hormone regulation, and overall health. When we sleep, our cells regenerate and our immunity strengthens. Make sure you schedule in 7-8 hours minimum each and every night. Research shows those who get a good night’s sleep are less likely to give in to food cravings, have a lower overall body-weight and also cope better under stress.

4. Twist away the holiday toxins! After your second or third holiday party, you might need a quick detox fix. If you don’t have an infrared sauna handy, try a supine twist. Lie on your back and hug both knees onto your chest. Take your arms along the floor in one line with your shoulders, then drop your knees to one side and look over the opposite shoulder. Breathe deep to massage out toxins.

5. Above all, be grateful. Enjoy your friends and family for all their politically incorrect blunders and uncouth quirks. Be grateful for the people who surround you, the food on your table and the roof over your head. Adopt an attitude of gratitude and all will come…

May peace and happiness fill your being this holiday season.

Namaste