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India - Neck Stretches - Red Lentil Dal

March 14, 2021

Greetings – I think many of my Sunday regulars had a tough morning with the time change, missed you but hope you got some much needed rest!

This past week has found me thinking and dreaming about my trip to India. It was transformational for me and I find myself mentally transporting myself back there wistfully. It occurred to me, however, that I should use my practice, my gratitude for that experience, and the natural beauty around me here to rekindle the spirit that I found in India by focusing on the lessons that I learned. It is hard to describe Rishikesh and the surrounding area northern India. The air feels charged with holiness (and indeed the vortex contribute to that) and the air, the vibrant colors, the scenery in the mountains are amazing. For many, the experience of the dirt, dust, the cows everywhere and poverty would not be appealing. I suppose to love India you need to acknowledge those challenges; I embraced the good and the tough. In Rishikesh the many ashrams feed the poor (and the cows) - perhaps, Rishikesh is India Lite.

Our Practice – Love For The Neck

As some of you know I have been researching the crunchy crackly sound we hear when we do neck rolls. Libby Hinsley of Anatomy Bites an anatomy workshop I subscribe to finally solved the mystery. I paraphrase her explanation here. Crepitus, which is generally associated with arthritis is when the cartilage of a joint is worn down and the bone and cartilage (or bone on bone) rub against each other in a way that isn't smooth, and it creates a crunching sound more like creaky. The sound of a joint popping sound you hear in a twist (or knuckle cracking) is cavitation, and it is the release of pressure from a synovial joint. In your back, that release comes from the facet joints, which are tiny little synovial joints. The joint capsule fills with pressure, and the pop is the release of that pressure. It brings with it a local chemical change that is analgesic, which is why it can feel good to pop joints like that. What we are hearing in this example is not crepitus (but people may call it that) but friction between various tissues that occurs with movement. There are a bunch of layers of different tissues that are all under tension, and when you move them around, they slide over each other and make a continuous crunchy sound. With more movement, tissues become more lubricated and may move with more ease over each other, sliding and gliding more easily. Phew, glad that mystery is solved!!!

We do not do full neck circles in class, that can exacerbate neck strain or pain. Instead, we do the static side to side stretch and half circles which are more comfortable and effective to stretch and reduce tension.

Neck stretches:

From a comfortable seat with tall spine, drop chin to chest without rounding over and hold. Rotate head to the right with the right ear to the right adding right hand on head and left fingers out on the mat to deepen the stretch. Return head to chest and go to the other side. Hold each position for 5 smooth breaths.

From the same seated position, bring your left hand behind your body, resting your left hand on your right thigh or the floor behind you. Drop your head to the right and hold, then repeat the stretch on the opposite side. Hold each side for 10 smooth breaths.

For more detail, check out this article in Yoga Journal


This quote from one of the fathers of yoga, BKS Iyengar, reminds me of how I felt about my India experience as well as my yoga practice.

“Yoga allows you to rediscover a sense of wholeness in your life, where you do not feel like you are constantly trying to fit broken pieces together.”

Nurturing through Food – Masoor Dal (spiced red lentils)

When I was in India, I took a cooking class and still communicate on WhatsApp with the instructor/spice shop owner. This recipe is not one of his but one inspired by that trip and is a combination of several I have tried.

I used several recipes for dal when coming up with this one. I happen to buy red lentils more often having learned in India that they are preferred as they retain their color and shape when cooked. I am sure you could use yellow or brown if that is what you have. Like many of my recipes, it is a forgiving one and you can adapt to what you have and what you like.

5 cups vegetable broth (I use a combination of broth and water and add additional during cooking)

3 cups red lentils

2 T oil

1 Cup chopped carrots.

1 Cup chopped onions.

2-3 garlic cloves chopped.

1-2 jalapeno or serrano peppers depending on taste (if using jalapeno, I would use one the first time) finely chopped.

2 tsp minced ginger

1 t salt

1 t ground cumin

1 t ground coriander

½ t ground turmeric

1 14 oz can coconut milk

1 5 oz package of baby spinach

Black pepper

If you are in a hurry you could put everything in a slow cooker up through turmeric and cook stirring occasionally about 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high. If you have time, I prefer the stove top for the earlier steps. In the oil sauté the onion until soft then add the carrots, garlic, peppers and carrot and spices, cook another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes with liquid, lentils, and broth/water. Simmer 30-40 minutes until the lentils are soft (alternatively, transfer to a slow cooker). Once the lentils are softened you can mash (fully or partially with a masher) or leave more intact (that is what I do). Stir in coconut milk and spinach, season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Serve over rice (I use brown basmati) and orange wedges.

I hope that our practice and our yoga community is helping you to “rediscover a sense of wholeness in your life”.

I am working on growing our community and appreciate all of your help. Would appreciate if you can share not only the social media posts and the links to the YouTube videos as public, but invite anyone you think would appreciate our community to join a class. I appreciate your referrals very much. As always, if you or anyone you know is not practicing with us due to financial constraints, please message me privately. First class for new students is on me.


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