How I found yoga

I began practicing yoga as a result of an ankle injury in 2008. I had been a longtime runner and orienteer (what is orienteering?), making my way up and down the Swedish mountains with a map and compass. I liked the effect running had on my mind. Running was my moving meditation, by listening to the sound of my breath and the rhythm of my feet hitting the ground, I felt strong, calm and centered. I remember how I often returned from a run, bursting with new ideas and projects, and sometimes with a solution to a problem. With time I learnt that many questions could be answered, simply by looking inside.

Through orienteering I faced many fears, I crossed ice-cold swamps and practiced at night in pitch-dark forests. I learnt that I was strong. Knowing how to remain calm and focused, was key to find the way back home. Then, due to some hasty moves on a longboard in 2008, I fell and injured my ankle. This lead to surgery and a whole summer in a cast. Suddenly, I felt like a prisoner in my own body.

For recovery, I was recommended light exercise, such as yoga or pilates. I attended a yoga class with my mom at the local gym. At first, I found the practice too slow. In some poses, I almost felt like napping on my mat. Yet, it felt good to move and stretch my body.

As I began to practice more regularly, I soon felt the benefits yoga had on my body and mind. I learnt how to breathe more deeply and to stay focused in tough situations. I soon noticed a new sense of balance in my body, while I was building both strength and flexibility.

Yoga changed my life. After the injury, I have a new appreciation for movement. A new understanding of breath. Simply put, my connection to the practice has developed far beyond where four wheels and a board could ever take me.

Looking back, I’m grateful for finding yoga already in high school, since it has allowed me to grow my practice from an early age. It has been a long journey, from almost sleeping on my mat in the beginning, to challenging myself through a rigorous practice, to finally learning how to adapt my practice daily to cultivate balance and harmony in body and mind.

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Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

 
Karin KarlssonComment
Power protein chocolate balls

I'm so excited to share this recipe with you all. These little power balls meet all my top criteria for the perfect snack:

- They have no junk, only real ingredients that are easy to find at most supermarkets.
- They are delicious but satisfying thanks to good amounts of protein and some healthy fats.
- They remind me of childhood treats. I was inspired to make a healthier version of a super popular treat in Sweden "Chokladbollar" (English: chocolate balls). However, those are usually made with oats, lots of sugar, chocolate and butter and if you get the store bought ones, they are most likely full of with additives and preservatives.

These are completely vegan, dairy-free and are naturally sweetened with dates and a little maple syrup.  They can also be made gluten free by choosing GF oats (oats are naturally GF but most oats are packed in facilities with gluten foods).  

 
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Power protein chocolate balls (makes around 15)

1 cup (100 g) rolled oats
1/4 (50 g) cup protein powder (I use hemp, this brand)
1/2 cup (38 g) desiccated coconut (+ extra for rolling)
20 pitted dates
2 tbsp raw cacao powder (I use this brand)
1 tbsp almond butter or coconut oil
4-6 tbsp filtered water
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp fine salt

Add the oats to a food processor and mix until it resembles a coarse flour. Now add the dates (make sure there are no pits), protein powder, desiccated coconut, almond butter (or coconut oil), maple syrup and salt. Mix until crumbly. Slowly add the 4 tablespoons of water while mixing. Depending on the dryness of your dates, you may need to add more water until the dough is sticky but not wet. To test whether it's ready, pick up some dough with your fingers and try to shape into a ball. It should come together easily. Roll each ball in desiccated coconut and store in the refrigerator or freezer. 

 
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Blog series: Yoga in the First Trimester

If you just found out that you’re pregnant - congratulations! If you’re already a few weeks into your pregnancy or simply feel curious about how to adapt your exercise routine or yoga practice in early pregnancy, I’m glad you're here!

The first 3 months of pregnancy are filled with immense change. The first trimester is about growth and development. The fetus’s major organs, central nervous system and major body parts begin to take form. The heart starts beating and the brain is rapidly developing. By the end of the seventh week, all the essential structures have been formed. By twelve weeks, the uterus is the size of a grapefruit. There are also many other changes happening: hormonal, physiological, emotional and more. Some women experience tender breasts, nausea, morning sickness, fatigue, more frequent urination, and spotting in these early weeks. In addition to this, it’s a personal choice when you decide to announce your pregnancy. This can make the first trimester especially challenging. For example, you might be experiencing nausea or fatigue but are still keeping your pregnancy private. 

All things considered, yoga is a wonderful tool to use to help adapt to all that pregnancy brings. It can help you tune out some of the outside noise and distractions, and offer a break from your everyday chores. So that you can notice those changes you're experiencing, both physical and emotional, and ultimately, help you to feel more connected to your baby. It can also help you to tap into your intuition, that feeling of knowing what’s best for you and your baby.

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
- Albert Einstein

When adapting your exercise or yoga routine, think of modifying your practice for the growing baby. It's generally recommended to avoid deep twists, deep backbends, and strong core exercises. In my experience, the latter will often feel intuitively undesirable for many women. You can also begin to think of creating more space for the growing belly, by separating your feet a little wider apart in forward folds where the feet are usually together (this goes for both standing and seated poses).

Below are some asanas (poses) that are safe for the first trimester that I recommend incorporating into your practice, whether you’re a beginner or experienced yogini.*

Bound-Angle-pose

Supta Baddha Konasana - Reclining Bound Angle
Come to lie on your back. Draw the soles of your feet together. Let the knees rest out to the sides. You can support your knees with blocks (if you don't have blocks use books or magazines). Place your left hand on your belly and your right hand on your heart and breathe deeply.   

Childs-pose

Balasana - Child's pose
Begin in tabletop position. Bring your knees out a little wider than your hips as you sink your buttocks back towards your heels. Stretch your arms out in front and rest your forehead on the ground. For extra support, place a blanket between your hips and your heels. 

Sukhasana - Easy pose
Fold your legs in front of your hips. I recommend sitting up on the very edge of a blanket to allow your knees to rest in-line with or below your hips. Begin by placing your hands on your thighs or knees. Then place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart. Bring your attention inwards, to your breath & to your baby.

Happy practicing!


* Every pregnancy is different. Remember to always consult with your midwife or doctor before embarking on a new exercise program or routine.  

Sources:

Yoga Mama, Yoga Baby: Ayurveda and Yoga for a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth, Sounds True, Incorporated, 2013