Beginning to smell a lot like Christmas

Ingredients for chai spice granola

One of my favourite things about the holiday season are the delightful smells that come along with the traditional trimmings… the freshforrest-y scent of a Christmas tree, the mint tingle of candy canes, the richness of mulled wine, and the spicy warmth of gingerbread.

This granola recipe is reasonably healthy (no added sugar – just what’s in the maple syrup and dried fruit – and no added fat), full of fibre and protein, and smells wonderfully like more decadent holiday baking. It’s also inspired by the wonderful homemade chai tea at Bound Lotus Meditation & Yoga Centre, where I’ll be teaching in the new year.

Chai Spice Granola

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup ground flax seed
  • 2/3 cup roughly chopped almonds
  • 2/3 cup roughly chopped filberts
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • contents of one chai tea bag
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped candied ginger
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried figs (stems removed)

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C) and line a large rimmed cookie sheet (or two smaller ones) sheet with parchment paper
  • Combine oats, ground flax seed, nuts, and spices in a large bowl; cut open the chai tea bag and pour in the contents
  • Mix liquid ingredients together and pour into the dry ingredients
  • Stir oat mixture with liquid ingredients until well mixed;  spread onto prepared cookie sheet
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes (until the oats and nuts start to turn golden) in preheated oven and stir in dried fruit
  • Bake another 10 minutes until granola is toasted and golden brown; stirring once to ensure everything is toasted evenly
  • Let cool granola cool completely on the cookie sheet and store in an airtight container
  • Eat within six weeks – usually not a problem 😉

Yoga as recovery

Laura laughing while sitting on her mat at the 2011 SOYA retreatIntense physical activity, such as running or training for endurance sports like triathlons, can be very hard on your body. Yoga can help you recover. Read other posts about recovering.

Taking a meditative approach to yoga and flowing through postures, rather than quickly jumping from pose to pose, helps shift your nervous system from fight or flight reactions (sympathetic state) to a restorative, healing modality (parasympathetic state). You’re capable of making better decisions when your nervous system is more relaxed and you’ll generally feel happier!

The controlled movements of a yoga practice encourage circulation in your endocrine and lymphatic systems. Gently stretching your muscles re-distributes lactic acid and reduces oxidative stress generated by free radicals.

Perhaps most importantly, the relaxation portion of a yoga class helps your body recover from activity. Taking time out of your busy schedule to focus on your body helps you connect with your physical being and pay attention to what it’s telling you.

Yoga can also help undo the damage of a late night and flush out toxins. Backward and forward bends squeeze and release your internal organs, which brings fresh blood into your liver and kidneys and encourages toxins to clear more quickly. Specific yoga poses can also help relieve headaches and soothe sore muscles. Additionally, a long version of guided relaxation called yoga nidra slows your brainwaves, which can help heal your body more quickly and may feel more restful than napping for four times as long.

Initial list of meditation music

A selection of music I like for meditation; see the Meditate page for the full list.  Click on the iTunes button to purchase a specific song.

  • Aad Guray by Deva Premal Aad Guray - Dakshina
    For protection and clarity. Some people chant this mantra before driving or in other situations where they need protective energy. This version makes me feel as though I’m standing in a glorious cathedral and immediately calms me.
  • Adi Shakti Namo: Your Primal Power by SatKirin Kaur Khalsa Adi Shakti Namo: Your Primal Power - Universal Mantra
    Upbeat and energizing. Also know as the First Shakti Mantra, it helps remove fears and focus on what really needs to be done.
  • Gobinday Mukunday by Snatam Kaur Gobinday Mukunday - Prem
    To help move through difficult situations. I affectionately think of it as the “Git ‘er done” mantra, although it’s much more peaceful than that label implies.
  • Ong So Hung by Guru Singh Ong So Hung - Volume One
    Great before bed meditation. I find it completely relaxes me and sometimes even puts me to sleep… it’s my secret weapon for conquering jet lag.
  • Ra Ma Da Sa by Snatam Kaur Ra Ma Da Sa - Grace
    Wonderful restorative kundalini mantra. When someone I love needs some healing, I’ll chant this mantra and send my energy to them… at least it makes me feel like I’m doing something!

 

Mellow tunes for practicing yoga

Take a look at the Listen page for a full list of songs that are great for a yoga practice and at the Meditate page for meditation music I recommend. Click on the iTunes button to purchase a specific song.

  • Aad Guray by Deva Premal Aad Guray - Dakshina
  • Awake My Soul by Mumford and Sons Awake My Soul - Sigh No More
  • Costa Rica (Acoustic Version) by Vince Vaccaro Costa Rica (Acoustic Version) - Costa Rica (Acoustic Version)
  • Full of Grace by Sarah McLachlan Full of Grace - Surfacing
  • Hide & Seek 2 by Imogen Heap Hide & Seek 2 - Songs for Tibet - The Art of Peace
  • Homeless by Paul Simon (with Ladysmith Black Mambazo) Homeless (with Ladysmith Black Mambazo) - Graceland
  • Into the West by Howard Shore & Annie Lennox Into the West - The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
  • Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson Keep Breathing - Be OK
  • Lonely by The Boom Booms Lonely - Hot Rum!
  • Lost by Anouk Lost - Hotel New York
  • She’s Only Happy In the Sun by Ben Harper She's Only Happy In the Sun - Diamonds On the Inside
  • Song for Leaving by Brett Dennen Song for Leaving - Loverboy
  • Till Kingdom Come by Coldplay Till Kingdom Come - X & Y
  • Tu Es Belle by Toby Tu Es Belle - Love Underground
  • You’ll Go Far by Jenn Grant You'll Go Far - Echoes