Category Archives: RAE INDIGO

Vegan Substitutes for Animal Products

One of the trickiest aspects of vegan (plant-based) cooking is finding substitutes for animal products and this applies to both the novice vegan cook and someone who has been doing it for a while. The good news is that it can be fun (and quite rewarding) to over-turn those long-held traditions when it comes to cooking and baking using cruelty free products and getting results that are just as good tasting and looking and usually healthier than their animal-saturated versions. Here’s a list of some common vegan substitutes that have worked well for me – listed by groups of the animal ingredients they replace:

*1 EGG (To replace more than one, just multiply):

  • 1 Tbsp. of ground flax meal + 3 Tbsp. of water. Very good for baked breads, cakes, cookies and muffins.
  • 1/4 cup tofu. Best to blend the tofu so it is smooth before using it, otherwise you might not be able to break up all the lumps. Tofu works especially well in quiches, pancakes and pastas. With a little turmeric added it is also a great replacement for scrambled egg dishes.
  • 1/2 banana. Only use banana when you want the recipe to be banana-flavored, as in banana cake.
  • 1/4 cup applesauce. Applesauce also makes a baked good really moist, allowing you to cut down on fat in the recipe. It works great in carrot cake.
  • Commercial powder substitutes like EnerG Egg Replacer Read the package instructions for correct measurements.

* MILK (With all the alternatives available, there is really no excuse to use dairy milk):

  • Soymilk
  • Rice Milk
  • Almond Milk
  • Hemp Milk
  • Hazelnut Milk
  • Cashew Milk

*YOGURT (Yogurt substitutes work great in Indian foods like call for yogurt):

  • 1 cup silken tofu blended with 2 tbsp lemon juice + 1/4 tsp salt = 1 cup yogurt, (use more or less lemon juice if you don’t want the yogurt to be too acidic.)
  • Coconut milk yogurt, Almond milk yogurt and Soy milk yogurt are becoming popular commercial yogurts. Commercial soy yogurts are also available in the United States as well as other parts of the world.) Look in the regular refrigerator aisle alongside regular yogurt.

*1 CUP BUTTERMILK (Buttermilk substitutes can be used in any recipe that calls for it, including cupcakes, pancakes and “southern-style” biscuits):

  • 1 cup soymilk or almond milk + 1 tsp vinegar (you can use any vinegar on hand, but the best is apple cider. Mix and set aside for a few minutes to curdle.)

*1 TBSP. BUTTER (Butter substitutes, like milk and yogurt substitutes, replace the bad cholesterol with healthy fats that are better for you. But be cautioned, vegan fats also contain the same number of calories as animal fats, so don’t overdo the use of fats of any kind.):

  • 1 Tbsp. vegan margarine or “butter” (I find Earth Balance is the best)
  • 1 Tbsp. flavorless oil
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable shortening (Crisco is a substitute for lard, and it's vegan; but it is basically 100% transfat).


  • 1 Tbsp. nutritional (good tasting) yeast (aka “nooch” – it’s packed with nutrition, particularly B-vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein)
  • 1 tsp. miso. (Use instead of salt and in place of cheese in pestos and soups. You can add it to quiches, sauces, etc. Always add miso toward the end of cooking, since heating miso can kill its wonderful enzymes).


  • 1 Tbsp. cashew cream (blend cashews with enough water to keep blender blades running)
  • 1 Tbsp. almond cream (blend blanched almonds with enough water to keep blades running)


  • There are commercial brands of vegan cream cheese and vegan sour cream (like Tofutti) that taste and act similar to the originals.


  • 1 Tbsp. agar agar flakes or powder.


  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. agave nectar (Delicious in almost any baked good. Agave nectar also has a low glycemic index and makes a healthy sugar substitute)

Stay tuned…Coming soon “Stocking Your Vegan Kitchen (A Basic List)”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Veganism – Getting Started

Adding love and compassion to your life with a plant-based diet is not as hard as you might think.

Everyone has heard the phrase, “every journey begins with the first step.” And that first step is prompted by desire. There are many reasons to transition to a vegan lifestyle and everyone’s reason is going to be slightly different. A large percentage of vegans believe that there is a solid link between animal foods and a host of degenerative diseases such as diabetes, cancer and hypertension for example. Some people adapt a plant-based diet because they simply love animals and don’t want to be a repository for their corpses. There are other reasons like the environment, religion, weight loss and the list goes on. Whatever particular reason you choose, you will inevitably end up widening the circle of compassion in this world. Your mind and body will soar to new levels health and well-being.

George Bernard Shaw: “Animals are my friends…and I don't eat my friends.”

When starting off, don’t try to be a perfect vegan, just do the best you can. Every day it gets a little bit easier. With a little time and experimentation you’ll find a strategy that works for you. If you’re one of those rare individuals that feels eliminating all meat, fish, and dairy foods all at once works for you, then do it. If you need more time to adjust to a vegan diet, just take it slowly and start eliminating non-vegan items from your diet every day (or week). Make changes that you feel comfortable with, at your own pace. Some start by giving up red meat and fowl but continue eating fish (Pescatarian). Others give up fish in addition to meat and poultry but continue to consume dairy products and eggs (lacto-ovo Vegetarian).

For many people it helps to network with other vegans through blogs, web sites etc. You will soon learn much from the vegan community and will become a more informed consumer.

Stay away from processed foods, fast foods and avoid ingredients like hydrogenated/trans fats and refined sugars. Read labels, some companies remove the word “animal” from their ingredient labels to deceive the consumer. A good rule of thumb is: if you don’t know what it is, or if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.

It’s not all hard to eat out at non-vegan restaurants if you’re a little selective. It just takes some time to learn what to order and adjust. Some restaurants now inform their customers that they’re “vegan friendly.” Quite a few restaurants will accommodate you and cook your veggies etc. without dairy or lard. It’s not always a good idea to proclaim you’re vegan because there’s still a lot of people that don’t understand that. Simply tell them you’re vegetarian and allergic to dairy (milk, butter & eggs). They’re more likely to take your request seriously if you say you have an allergy.

The best food you can eat is the food you prepare for yourself. Although some people are challenged to find sufficient time or energy to cook, but when they can, look at cooking as creative time. Put on some appropriate music, have fun and create. Whenever possible set some time aside during the week to make some vegan “go to” options. These will come in handy at a later date when you’re tired or short on time. Cooked grains last quite a few days in the refrigerator (like rice, quinoa & farro). Add a quick stir-fry to them or make a cold salad with cucumbers, onions and tomatoes. Learn to sprout seeds (alfalfa, lentil seeds and mung beans are easy). Consider starting a small indoor herb garden, growing cilantro, basil and rosemary are popular choices and are simple to grow.

Mindfulness is one of the most important things a vegan can practice. Mindfulness itself can and will change your life and the way you eat. Never eat in front of a computer screen or television set. Instead sit somewhere quietly or with family or friends and enjoy the food. The practice of mindfulness, combine with eating slowly will help you eat less and enjoy food more. You will also find yourself practicing mindfulness in other areas of your life.

Remind yourself daily that the key to kicking meat and dairy is giving yourself enough time to feel the wonderful and extraordinary changes as they take place in your mind and body.

Stay tuned…Coming soon “Vegan Substitutes for Animal Products”

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Sattva, Rajas & Tamas – The 3 Gunas

Within Hindu (including Tantric/Yogic) philosophy, the manner in which the universe manifests itself is described with numerous intersecting and overlapping concepts, explaining how Brahman (as the non-dual consciousness) becomes duality; bringing the material (observable) universe into being.

Brahman’s very impulse to know itself as ‘other than self’ is considered to be the reason the universe exists, as Brahman is the ultimate essence of material phenomena. The sages of the Upanishads teach that Brahman is characterized as having the ultimate freedom to do or become anything, being (or containing) the source of all things

This impulse prompts Brahman to split into Prakriti (un-manifest matter) and Purusha (pure consciousness), the original cause all creative processes.

The Sanskrit term Prakriti comes from the root words ‘Pra’ (before) and ‘Kri’ (to make); and so can be interpreted as “prior to anything being made.”

Prakriti is entirely composed of the three Gunas; Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.

The Gunas are the measured qualities of the manifest world and combine their various forms as the mind, the senses (sight, sound, touch, taste, smell) and the elements (earth, water, fire, wind, space) and virtually all that can be known, including the knower.

When viewed in this way, Prakriti is the actual source of the world and everything in it.

The Gunas are associated with various qualities and when these qualities are combined they can be used to describe any “thing”. Some of the qualities inherent in each Guna are:

  • – Sattva– Positive energy, harmony, balance, unity, happiness, light, spirituality, “beingness”; Sattva is the higher or spiritual potential.
  • – Rajas– Energy, action, change, movement, creativity; the intermediate or life potential.
  • – Tamas– Laziness, heaviness, impurity, darkness, sleepy, dullness, inertia, inactivity, materiality; the lower or material potential.

These three Gunas co-exist, merging to form all objects, people and “things” in varying degrees.

One Guna is usually predominant over the others, and so certain tendencies (heavy, light, dark, warm, hot, dry etc.) become associated with objects, and this forms a part of how we understand and relate to the world as it is perceived. The predominant Guna is dynamic (not static) and may change over time.

The significance of the Gunas in regard to human beings is how they manifest in our health, the food we eat, our thoughts, our actions, our moods, the seasons of the year and weather and so on.

In Yoga practice, it’s preferable to work towards a more Sattvic lifestyle. Some Rajas may be necessary, but minimizing Tamas should be the primary goal for attaining optimal health and wellbeing.

When Sattva is increased it naturally and automatically reduces Rajas and Tamas. The Yogi or student achieves this by maintaining Sattvic thoughts, diet, lifestyle and home/work environments etc. The more Sattvic your body, mind and life becomes, the more peace and joy you and those around you are likely to experience.

When minimizing Rajas, keep in mind a balance must be maintained. If Rajas is eliminated in your life, you won’t have the necessary desire to keep living, working and doing things. On the other hand, too much Rajas will manifest as aggressiveness, cruelty, carelessness. Rajas can be reduced by regulating your diet (not eating too much Rajasic food), and avoiding excessive or extreme behaviors (working, partying, even exercising too much).

Tamas is not entirely ‘bad’ as such, but the amount of Tamas in your life does need to be carefully managed because too much can result in depression, fear, obesity and negativity. Tamas is reduced by avoiding over-sleeping, over-eating or being slothful or inactive and also with diet (by avoiding Tamasic foods).

The Gunas and their relationship to foods…

For optimal health, it’s imperative to pay attention to the foods we eat as our diet greatly impacts both our physical and mental wellbeing.

The Gunas of food aren’t limited to just the food itself, but also its current condition; whether it’s fresh, stale, rotting etc. The way food is treated is also a major factor; different methods of storing, cooking or preserving can also change the state of the food, and consequently the Gunas.

Some common foods and the Gunas they’re represented by…

  • – Sattvic food: Cereals, whole-grain bread, fresh fruit & vegetables, pure fruit juices, legumes, nuts, seeds, herb teas. Eating “mindfully” contributes to a food’s Sattvic quality.
  • – Rajasic food: All hot substances & stimulants; fried food, coffee & tea, spices, fish, eggs, salt & pepper, chocolate/sugary foods. Eating hastily is considered Rajasic and bad for the digestion and assimilation of food.
  • – Tamasic food: Meat, alcohol, tobacco, onions, garlic, fermented foods, stale foods overripe foods, processed foods and leftovers. Overeating is also regarded as Tamasic.

Sattvic food has been shown to be the most ideal for those practicing yoga. By eating a Sattvic diet you’re supporting a peaceful state of body and mind and meditation comes more naturally and is less easily disturbed.

An imbalance in favor of too much Rajas will destroy one’s equilibrium. It will also over-stimulate the body and make the mind restless, overactive and unduly energetic resulting in a tense and willful (or aggressive) disposition.

An overly Tamasic diet weakens and/or destroys the body’s immune system and tends to fill the mind with negative thoughts and emotions like anger, fear and greed.

Purification of the Gunas is essential for spiritual evolution and for that evolution to take place Sattva must predominate moment to moment in one’s body and mind.

The three gunas can also be associated with the Trimurti (‘three Gods’ or ‘three forms’) which describes the three faces of god as being:

  • Brahma (the Creator/Sattva)
  • Vishnu (the Preserver/Rajas)
  • Shiva (the Destroyer/Tamas)

The symbolism of the Trimurti conveys that all three gods (and by extension, everything in this universe) are really all part of the one supreme consciousness (Brahman).

The creation of living forms cannot occur in a vacuum (it must exist in time and space); so along with creation (Sattva), there must also be change (Rajas) and dissolution/death (Tamas).

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Your Body’s pH – Is It Acid or Alkaline?

So what exactly is ph? pH stands for “potential hydrogen” which is the measure of hydrogen ion concentration, i.e.; the measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. In our particular case, that “solution” refers to our body’s fluids and tissues. Everything, from the healthiest cells to malignant cancer cells, from soil quality to fresh and sea water life is affected by pH.

The pH scale is used to determine how acidic or alkaline a substance is and ranges from 0 to 14. Seven is considered neutral. As that scale falls below 7 it becomes increasingly acidic, above 7 increasingly alkaline.

Just as is the case with most health-related barometers, balance is extremely important. Ideal pH levels vary throughout our body for a number of reasons. For instance, our bowels, skin and a woman’s vagina should be slightly acidic, as this helps ward off unfriendly bacteria. Saliva is more alkaline; while our urine is normally more acidic, especially in the morning. Additionally, your body regularly deals with a host of naturally occurring acids that are the by-products of respiration, metabolism, cellular breakdown, and even exercise. So it’s best to resist the temptation to think of acid as “bad” and alkaline “good”. As always, it’s a delicate balance.

By far the most important bodily measurement of pH is you blood. For optimal cellular health, our blood pH must be slightly alkaline, ideally with a pH between 7.365 and 7.4. A general understanding of how our bodies maintain an alkaline blood range is essential for good health. Our body doesn’t automatically “find” the proper pH balance; it works exceedingly hard to create it. Whenever we make poor lifestyle choices or are burdened by a toxic, chemical laden environment, our bodies will have to work harder to create homeostasis (or the tendency to maintain its pH’s stability).

Whenever there’s even the remotest possibility that our body is about to become overly acidic (as a result of poor food and/or lifestyle choices, toxic environmental exposure, etc.) this remarkable body of ours will extract alkaline minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium from our bones, teeth, and organs to neutralize the acids. It’s a bit like having a supply of inner or internal antacids. This may be okay every now and then, but stressing or depleting our reserves over the long term can lead to osteoporosis and other assorted health challenges.

Think of the average or standard American diet (SAD). Most Americans are flooding their cells with an inflammatory acid bath multiple times every day (tons of sugar, processed foods, factory farmed animal products, etc.). One of the biggest casualties of this type of diet is the toll it takes on the body, especially the digestive system, liver, and kidneys. Conditions like inflammation, allergies, arthritis, skin problems, constipation, bowel issues, stress (both physical & mental) and chronic disease simple love an acidic diet. Excess acidity also sets the stage for bad bacteria (including yeasts and fungus) and even viruses all of which wreak havoc on our health.

Shifting the pH scale in the alkaline direction is easy with a diet filled with nutritionally dense, mineral-rich plant foods. By eating an alkaline based diet (leafy greens, wheatgrass, spirulina, veggies, sprouts, avocados, green juices and smoothies) as opposed to an acidic diet (high in animal products, processed carbs, refined sugar, energy drinks, etc), we nourish our bodies with chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals, and oxygen. Healthy food creates healthy cells, whereas junk food does the opposite.

Check out this handy alkaline/acid food chart, click on:

Tip: Watch this short video on the “9 Benefits of Warm Water & Lemon in the Morning.” Click on:

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Yoga and Muscle Conductivity

Muscle conductivity is simply the ability to conduct impulses, either electrical or chemical, along the muscle membrane.

Muscles enable you to move. The muscles in your arms lift and pull. Muscles in your legs help you stand, walk and run. Thumb muscles help you to hold things. Muscles in your chest help you to breathe. You have more than 600 muscles and muscle groups in your body. Muscles help us to move if we don’t have muscles we can’t move of our own free will.

Muscles function in many aspects of the body. There are three basic types of muscles:

  1. 1. Skeletal muscles function to move your body during any activity such as walking, etc.
  2. 2. Smooth muscle is found in your blood vessels and can regulate blood flow.
  3. 3. Cardiac muscle is what your heart is made of and is necessary to pump blood to all of your body.

One purpose of the skeletal muscles is to allow movement of the limbs, whereas the smooth muscles keep the body functions going. Also, the heart is a four chambered cardiac muscle, whose sole purpose is to pump blood round our bodies and keep us alive.

Traditional yoga from the ancient East didn’t emphasize how yoga can sculpt one’s body, but it definitely was all about the mind-body connection. Much of the West has evolved yoga to its own purposes, adapting it to the modern world. Originally, yoga was a way of life and being, rather than a way to look better in clothes. Nonetheless, whenever we look at a typical “yoga-crafted body,” we can’t help but admire their limber physique.

Many now believe that yoga, however, is a more balanced approach to strengthening and toning than resistance training and weight lifting. For one, it trains conscious muscle conductivity and conditions your body to perform things you do every day: walking, sitting, bending, lifting. Your body moves in the way it was designed to move.

As our understanding of the human body as a matrix of electromagnetic and chemical energies deepens, we come to see that the fascia or connective tissue (structuring, sheathing and interconnecting our circulatory system, nervous system, muscular-skeletal system, digestive track, organs and cells) is actually an energetic communication system dependent on conductivity.

The collagen that most of the connective tissue in your body is comprised of is liquid crystalline in nature. Liquid crystals (known to be semi-conductors) are designed to conduct energy in similar way that wiring system in your house conducts electricity. They are also able to send, receive, store and amplify energy signals, almost like your high-speed internet connection.

Because our fascia interconnects every system in the body, it provides a basis for both information and energy transfer beyond purely chemical origins. That is to say; while we’ve traditionally thought of communication in the body as mechanical (where chemical molecules fit into receptors like a key into a lock), we now realize we can open the lock much faster with energy (like remote control devices).

Yoga seeks to open and release the tightest places in our bodies (connective tissue, joints, ligaments and tendons) which routinely become tight and restricted through injuries, repetitive stress, poor postural habits and even emotional trauma. The amount of neural conductivity it takes to do just one simple action is huge, and any movement of the body requires an intense amount of brain power. As we perfect a physical skill, such as yoga asana most of this happens subconsciously. However, yoga can also teach you to have finer control over these movements and you progressively become more skilled.

Yoga helps better tune mind-body connection through conscious conductivity. Ultimately, yoga enhances the way you create motion and move through life. With proper yoga instruction and practice you can train yourself to become more aware and in control of all the physical actions you perform.

Rae Indigo is ERYT 500

Discovering Your Dharma (your true life path)


Discovering Your Dharma

Dharma Wheel

Probably one of the most commonly asked questions in life is “why am I here?” This line of questioning originates from our True Self and leads us to look beyond the world of ordinary appearances. It provides us with the opportunity to discover the divinity that lies within.

There isn’t an exact or accurate single English translation of the Sanskrit word dharma, but it can be paraphrased as “right (or righteous) living”. Dharma is the path we are meant to travel, the life we are meant to live; in general as a human being, but also as an individual with a particular set of lessons to learn, experiences to have, and gifts to share. In a nutshell, our dharma is also our mission in life.

The physical/mental/emotional vehicle we manifest is unique to each of us and is meant to fulfill a purpose only we can accomplish, this is our dharma. Discovering our dharma can be a bit of a laborious task, but once we learn to adapt and live in our dharma’s harmonious flow we become aware of our awesome potentiality. Discovering and living our dharma enables us to create a destiny that includes as much joy and happiness as we want because we remain aligned with our spiritual domain. Here we may discover a different dimension of reality, the unlimited source of all creation and manifestation.

The discovery or realization of our dharma takes some effort in the beginning and for some this can be a time of struggle. But underneath all our worldly aspirations we will eventually find that there has always been something calling deep inside. This becomes clearer as it becomes obvious that our dharma is what “upholds” and “sustains” us as individuals. Each of us is destined to serve a certain need in the universal scheme of things. The significance of an artist is just as important as that of the president. Each and every path has an equal value because they all serve a unique purpose. Whether our purpose is to be an entrepreneur, an artist, an activist, a yogi, a spiritual leader, a parent etc. we must believe in that purpose and not get sidetracked. Additionally, we also need to accept that our purpose is fluid and can change over the course of our life or even the course of a day. Spending time in deep reflection or meditation is helpful in tuning out the “noise” and listening to the call of our personal dharma.

Discovering, accepting, and finally enjoying your own personal path is a not only a great achievement, it’s also a wonderful blessing. When guided by the spiritual wisdom of our dharmic path, we are granted the privilege of stepping into a higher vision of our life, seeing it as an expression of divine universal creative spirit.

From this superior viewpoint, we can look at ourselves with a more objectivity. We can even observe our faults, mistakes and shortcomings without beating ourselves up over it. Knowing our inherent greatness trumps the “ego/self” and increases our self-respect while setting a solid foundation for exploring, refining, and weeding out any aspects of our earthly expressions that are not in harmony with our True or Higher Self.

Take a few moments and say the following words: “I am great exactly as I am.” Say this phrase a few times out loud and then repeat the words mentally with each in-breath and each out-breath for a few minutes. It’s a great place to start.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

God Bless the Child of a Dysfunctional Family

Although this post is a bit of a departure from the norm on my blog, recent circumstances and an increasing awareness of the prevalence of this wide-spread problem have prompted me to speak out.

When can a family be called dysfunctional?

According to this web-page in Psychology Encyclopedia: “A family whose interrelationships serve to detract from, rather than promote, the emotional and physical health and well-being of its members.”

A family can be considered dysfunctional if they are living with conditions that interfere with healthy family functioning. Most families do have some periods of time where functioning is impaired by stressful circumstances (death in the family, divorce, a parent’s serious illness, etc.). But, healthy families tend to return to normal functioning after any of these crisis pass. In dysfunctional families, however, problems tend to be chronic and children do not consistently get their emotional/mental or even physical needs met. Negative patterns of parental behavior tend to be dominant in their children’s lives and the children reflect this, often carried to an extreme.

How do healthy families function?

A powerful quote by psychologist Elvira Avetta Ph.d.: “Respect is the Holy Grail of functional families. All people in the family, brothers to sisters, mothers to fathers, parents to kids must be respectful as consistently as possible. Being considerate of each other is the tie that binds, even more than love. I think too much emphasis is put on love in general. I’ve heard of many atrocities done within families in the name of love but never in the name of respect. Just about all the things on the list come out of respect first.”

Healthy families are not perfect by any means; they may have occasional bouts of yelling, bickering, misunderstanding, tension, hurt, and anger; but only a fraction of the time they spend together. In healthy families emotional expression is allowed and accepted, even encouraged if there are no harmful intentions. Family members will freely ask for and give attention. Rules and expectations tend to be made explicit and remain consistent, but not entirely uncompromising or rigid allowing for some flexibility to adapt to individual needs and particular situations. Healthy families allow for individuality; each member is encouraged to pursue his or her own interests, and boundaries between individuals are honored.

  • *Children are consistently treated with respect, and do not fear emotional, verbal, physical, or sexual abuse.
  • *Parents can be counted on to provide sufficient care for their children. Children are given responsibilities appropriate to their age but are not expected to take on the weight of parental responsibilities.
  • *Finally, in healthy families everyone makes mistakes; mistakes are allowed. Perfection is unattainable, unrealistic, and potentially dull and sterile.

Types of dysfunction

Kansas State University’s Counseling Services web-page claims: “There are many types of dysfunction in families. Some parents “under-function,” leaving their children to fend for themselves. Other parents “over-function;” never allowing their children to grow up and be on their own, or learn to accept responsibility for themselves and their actions. Other parents are inconsistent or violate basic boundaries of appropriate behavior.”

There are also many other influencing factors that may need to be considered, to many to cover here. Parents need to realize how greatly they affect their children’s behavior. Children are like sponges; they soak up everything a parent does and model or incorporate what they see into their own lives, sometime to the point of acting it out.

Children of Parents that are separated/divorcing/divorced…

When parents are separated or divorced there’s a new set of challenges for the child. It is extremely important that both parents are on the same page as far as setting the right examples for their child or children; in spite of their personal estrangement from each other. Negative examples will most likely be detrimental to a child’s development and more often than not will lead to bad behavior.

“In the best interest of the child” is the cornerstone of family law in most of North America. This basic principle (with very few exceptions) insists that children benefit from the continued involvement of both their mothers and fathers after separation or divorce. The problem is,  there are parents no longer “together” that not only don’t have their children’s best interests at heart, but rather have an overwhelming urge to “get back” at their ex, or ex-to-be spouse; and sadly they’ll use their own children to do it. And they do this by demanding huge amounts of support (financial and otherwise), using the children as pawns, airing their complaints via social media, disparaging the “other”, and playing games with access to the child. Some go so far as to inflict damage through parental alienation or go the other extreme, parental abduction of the child/children; both of which are a type of vigilante justice.

What separating parents don’t seem to realize is there are very real consequences of dysfunctional divorce or separation that affects the mental, emotional, and developmental well-being and behavior of the child. Additionally; the effects of divorce trauma becomes more pronounced the longer the proceedings drag on. And to a small child, two, three or five years in their life is a huge percentage of time.

How does divorce/separation trauma affect children?

Penelope Leach, A leading parenting guru and author of the comprehensive international bestseller “Your Baby and Child” says: “Children are being used as weapons in the marital war when actually they are its victims.”

Children have been known to suffer a wide range of dysfunctional behaviors including aggressiveness, fighting, hostility, anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, loneliness, and self-esteem issues. In preschoolers these behaviors often lead to frequent illnesses, severe shyness, low self-esteem, hitting, biting, trouble in pre-school or daycare. Later on this can develop into to even more serious problems, such as stealing, lying, nightmares, eating problems, self-harm, bedwetting, poor school results, being ‘too perfect’, drug and/or alcohol abuse. If these patterns persist into adulthood, victims may find themselves crippled in their ability to have trusting, productive, relationships with family, friends or the community at large.

Parents can work together to resolve many of these issues. If disagreements and arguing among parents is done fairly and with maturity, a child can actually benefit from seeing how conflicts are peacefully resolved. Verbally aggressive, threatening, intimidating fights are extremely hard on developing children. They tend to blame themselves for their parents’ arguments and as a result may be traumatized for years to come. These children commonly develop low self-esteems and may even behave violently toward other children or adults. Dysfunctional families breed dysfunctional children that often repeat the behavior learned in their future relationships.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

How to Live Like a Yogi

Living the life of a yogi doesn’t mean you have to carry your mat with you and roll it out every chance you get. Neither do you need to live in a cave or wear a loincloth; you don’t even have to be all that flexible. There are many misconceptions about how true yogis choose to live their lives and some of the greatest yogis ever might not have even known what a yoga mat is. Here are some commonalities that yogis throughout antiquity shared with those alive today.

How to Live Like a Yogi

Start your day with a sunrise

  • *Rise and shine. Get up early in the morning and accomplish something, even if it’s just watching the sun come up. Simply watching the sun rise helps you remember that the world is a mysterious place and although it sometimes seems chaotic there is a great sense of harmonious order and you are part of the symphony. Marveling at something beautiful in nature is also an awesome way to start your day. By doing this we learn to appreciate life and all its inter-connectedness and learn to grateful for just being alive. The fact that you are alive today is a miracle in itself. So, yogis think about connection, and appreciate all life.
  • *Remember to nourish your body well with good food that suits your dosha. The food you eat gets digested and then becomes part of you and you become part of your food. When you choose your food, also consider the amount of energy and work went in to finding and preparing that food. Everything affects the food you eat; the amount of hands that have touched it or the miles it has travelled or maybe the just how the power of the sun created it or made it grow. Regardless of whether you or someone else prepares your food, assure that the food been made with love? A yogi always does their best to make wise choices for their body.
  • *Get in the habit of spending some quality time every day in contemplation and/or meditation. Don’t fall prey to rushing through life not even considering where you’re going. Set your intention for each day. When you do this your life will naturally become clearer and have more meaning.
  • *Be kind, exercise empathy. The first commandment of a true yogi’s practice is to be kind. Start by being kind to yourself and then be kind to others. The Dalai Lama has been quotes as saying that his religion was kindness. It is possible for us to be kind all day, every day.
  • *Look within. Yoga is a journey of the self finding the Self. Even the purpose of the physical aspect of yoga (asana) is not necessarily to make you bend further, but to use the poses (asanas), techniques and sequences to rid yourself of toxins and harmful elements that contaminate your inner, spiritual life and bring you closer to your true benevolence. Self-knowledge is one of the greatest of all spiritual practices. In this practice we learn to trust our own inherent inner wisdom, stop blaming the (outside) world for our situations and ultimately break completely free from our habitual identify with negative thought patterns.

So, start this practice today and begin to live like a true yogi: Be kind, nourish your body, cherish nature, and contemplate yourself and your connection to the world and those around you.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

Yoga Should Be Fun Too!

Yoga Should Be Fun Too!

Lighten up your practice

Most people tend to be little too serious about their yoga asana practice, but adding some fun to their routine (or sequences) helps them to relax and lighten up.  All across the US, yoga teachers and their studios are now recognizing that a bit of humor can help a yoga businesses thrive, not only by attracting new students but also by keeping them coming back. Students and teachers both to laugh and they soon realize that it helps them relax their muscles, surrender to their practice, and take themselves, and their practice less serious.

There are even scientific studies that show that laughter has the very similar effects as asana practice. They have both proven to lower blood pressure, reduce the production of stress hormones, boost immunity, and reduce pain, plus the actual physical act of laughter can be easily be looked upon as a form of spontaneous Pranayama (yogic breathing).

So, just how can you use humor improve your yoga asana practice? The Sanskrit word for play is leela and when we infuse leela into our yoga sessions we get more creative and broaden our possibilities.  Humor helps us laugh off those poses we can’t seem to get right and helps us to take delight in them when we finally do get them right; it also helps us brave asanas that we’ve never approached before.

Whenever we’re laughing, we are present with the moment and leela can also help us achieve one of the core purposes of yoga which is to stay focused on the here and now.

Successful yoga teachers like to spice up their business with an occasional laugh or two and here are some tips that you can use to help your students “enlighten up.”

  • – When the opportunity presents itself, tell a short joke or relate a funny story, just keep it light easy so doesn’t feel forced.
  • – Facial expressions can often bring an element of silliness to an otherwise awkward situation.
  • – When your students arrive, greet them with cheerful smiles and a friendly hello or welcome.
  • – Add bright and colorful décor to your studio, and watch your students come flocking back for more. Bringing in as much natural light (especially sunshine) as possible makes the space even more cheerful.
  • – If you see someone is having a hard time with a certain pose, tell them to check in the corner of their mouths, there’s probably a smile hiding there.
  • – Have your students introduce themselves to their neighbors before the beginning of class and then encourage them to partner-up, both on and off the mat.
  • – A slight bit of innocent misbehavior and free expression in class often makes practice more fun and playful.
  • – Don’t forget to laugh at yourself, it nurtures joy in yourself and by showing that you are responsible for your own happiness and healing you’ll be able to transmit that message on through your teaching practice.

Yoga asana practice should be a transformational experience, helping students to achieve calm and balanced minds, while they build strong and flexible bodies. But remember to keep your philosophy simple by reminding yourself that yoga should also be fun!

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500

Choose Peace – Embrace Life


Choose Peace – Embrace LifeAs humans our bodies have preconditioned responses to threats and/or challenges, whether they’re real or perceived, anything from the attack of a tiger to hostile words from a coworker tends to prompt the “fight or flight” reaction. This automatic response triggers the production and release of adrenaline and cortisol into our bloodstreams. Unless we are confronted with an actual physical attack (in which case we need to fight or run away), the fight or flight response can itself be physically harmful and literally cause pain and suffering. If this response arises without real situations, we tend to succumb to a series of conditioned or habitual responses. In our relationships with each other, we may see the other person as our enemy and fail to recognize that they may be facing their own set of fears and challenges.

So how can we prevent responding to another as if they were a charging tiger? One way is to consciously choose a peaceful interaction which will defuse an otherwise awkward, unfavorable or even aggressive reaction. By becoming mindful of yourself you expand your awareness and develop your ability to remain calmly present in nearly any situation. You can always choose to focus your attention on your breath and the sensations you feel pulsing through your body, and this will bring you back in touch with the universal needs that we all share as human beings.

Spiritual traditions down through the ages and recent scientific research both agree that focusing on your breath and remaining aware of bodily sensations have huge benefits for us as we relate to others and the world at large. We are then no longer bound to acting out old habitual patterns and we have the opportunity to become aware of the reaction, and remain present with it, enabling us to choose to stay connected with the very source of our thoughts, feelings, and actions, in turn giving us a larger sense of life and keeping us in touch with our basic and collective human needs.

There are many ways to choose peace and embrace life and some of the easiest are…

Be grateful. The more things you can find to be grateful for on a regular basis, the more you will improve your mental, physical and emotional health, along with your overall outlook on life. Gratitude stimulates the production of the hormonal neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which are responsible for feeling good and influencing human behavior in many positive ways. Keep reminding yourself that a little gratitude goes a long way, and communicating your gratitude in words and actions will greatly increase your personal peace.

Become your own best friend. This promotes a sense of peace that radiates from within. The Buddha has reportedly said “You, yourself, as much as anyone in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Loving-kindness and compassion start with you and once you’re able to recognize that they originate within you, you can generate a feeling of warmth and love for others so that they may also get a taste of that peace and know it’s the same peace that resides within them.

Practice becoming empathetic. Empathy and compassion are powerful tools for making peace with others. The active principle of empathy is found through understanding, to “stand under” rather than to judge from above. Seek to become more sympathetically aware of other people’s feelings and you’ll automatically become tolerant and forgiving; essential qualities for establishing peace and embracing life.

*Rae Indigo is ERYT500