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Banana bread & strawberry jam

Who doesn't love a free afternoon spend in the kitchen? This is how I spend my Tuesday afternoon, baking and experimenting in the kitchen.

I like to use these free afternoons to bake healthy snacks that I can take on the go the rest of the week. Today I finally made banana bread again. Same as the cookies (see previous post) I used dates to sweeten the recipe and change it up a bit. I also made a strawberry-chia jam, which can be used as a spread or topping on any other breakfast item. 

Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 2 hours
Makes: 1 banana loaf and 1 cup of jam

Ingredients:

Banana bread

  • 100 g oats*
  • 200 g flour (spelt, whole wheat, GF etc.)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 70 g coconut sugar*
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3-4 overripe bananas
  • 10 dates 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract 
  • 180 ml almond milk (or other milk of choice)
  • 80 ml coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup mixed nuts* 

* A little more to use as topping/garnish.

Strawberry chia jam 

  • 225 g fresh or defrosted strawberries
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp honey 

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 190C and grease the loaf pan.
  2. Grind oats to oat flower.
  3. Remove pits from dates and chop until a ball forms. 
  4. Mash the bananas to a mushy consistency and set aside. 
  5. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. 
  6. Mix all wet ingredients together in a medium bowl. 
  7. While mixing wet ingredients, pour in dry ingredients bit by bit. 
  8. Chop up the nuts and add 3/4 to the batter. Chop the remaining 1/4 fine and set aside. 
  9. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and cover with some nuts. Sprinkle some oats and coconut sugar on top for an extra crispy topping. 
  10. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown. You can always double check by inserting a pricker in the center. 
  11. In the meantime, mash the strawberries with a fork until fine. 
  12. Add chia seeds and honey, and mix well together. 
  13. Save the jam in a mason jar and set in the fridge to cool for about 30 min. 

Enjoy! :) 

chocolate chip cookies

For those who have been following me on Snapchat and Instagram know that I love to spend time in the kitchen. Even though I've been experimenting with guilt-free cookies for a few years and have tried out many recipes, today's batch was different from the previous ones.

Today's recipe contains dates. Many people are celebrating Ramadan at the moment so all the supermarkets are offering all sorts of dried fruits. I'm taking this opportunity to experiment with different ingredients. 

This recipe also contains Tahin (sesame paste), recommended by The Green Kitchen. In their book The Green Kitchen Travels they explain that eggs and butter are key ingredients for crunchy and crispy cookies, and that making crispy vegan cookies were almost impossible until they discovered that adding a bit of Tahin does the trick. 

Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 35-40 minutes
Makes: 18-20 cookies

Ingredients

  • 60 g oats 
  • 120 g flour (spelt, whole wheat, GF, etc.)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 dates 
  • 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp tahin 
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or any other milk)
  • 40 g dark chocolate

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 185C and grind oats to oat flower
  2. Remove pits from dates and chop until a ball forms. 
  3. Cut chocolate into small chocolate chips. 
  4. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. 
  5. Mix all wet ingredients together in a medium bowl. 
  6. Pour wet ingredients into the dry mixture and mix until well combined. 
  7. Form little balls and place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Use a fork to gently press the balls down into cookies shapes. 
  8. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until crispy and golden brown. 

Enjoy these crunchy chocolate chip cookies with a cup of tea, on-the-go, or as a late night snack! Happy snacking cookie monsters :) 

Yoga stretches for Runners

We are all aware that running is known for tightening the muscles in the legs.  To combat that, try out these poses that will not only help you to create flexibility in the back of your legs, but actually create space for the muscles to lengthen and strengthen. So, for all the runners out there with tight leg muscles, these yoga poses are especially for you!

Running puts a lot of strain on the hamstrings, and that’s why these yoga stretches for runners especially target them. For those with real tight hammies, please bend the knees as much as you need. Your pose may not look the same as mine, but that’s okay. Everyone’s body is different, so make the suitable adjustments till you find the right pose for you.

 DOWNWARD FACING DOG

We’ll start with one of the most practiced yoga poses. Downward facing dog is what all dogs do as soon as they wake up from their nap. Take a page out of their book and begin by coming onto your hands and knees, spreading out your fingers and pressing your palms firmly into the mat. Try to push evenly with your hands and feet so that your hips can go up to the sky. It’s okay to keep the knees bent here to get more length throughout the spine. Instead of having your shoulders all the way up in your ears, try to push them away, so you give your neck more space to relax.

DOWNDOG SPLIT

Now sweep one leg up behind you, and come into Downdog Split. Keep your hips nice and squared so that both hips are at the same height. To engage both of your legs, you can also flex your foot by pushing the heel away from you.  Remember to keep pushing equally with both hands on the mat.

Now return the swept leg back to the mat and align the heel of that one with the big toe of the grounded foot. This pose is quite intense so don’t sweat it if you are not able to keep both legs straight. It’s okay! Keep on practicing and you will definitely see improvement in your capabilities.

From a standing position, step one foot about 1 meter forward. With a long and straight spine, try going down towards the floor. Imagine that your heart is leading you forwards and down while keeping the hips squared and aligned. With your left leg forward, guide your left hip back and right hip forward.

LOW LUNGE

The following 2 stretches are easy to come in from Downward facing dog. For the low lunge, you step one foot all the way through and place it in-between the palms. Lower the back knee down to the mat and try shifting both hips forward. You can also rest the hands on the front knee and use this to keep the upper body straight.

Place your hands back onto the mat and shift your hips back, bringing them right above the back knee. Keep pushing your chest forward and try not to round the spine. If possible, straighten the front leg out and flex the foot.

FORWARD FOLD

These two poses are not only great for your hamstrings, but also for the spine. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Fold down from the waist and grab your elbows overhead. This pose is called rag doll. You can keep the knees bent as you fold forward, and with time, slowly try to straighten them out a bit. This stretch can also feel really nice for your back. Bend your knees a little more and let the upper body hang down. Shake your head and feel free to swing gently from side to side to release any tension that you may have built up in the back and neck.

For a deeper stretch on the hammies, try grabbing the big toes with your pointer finger and middle finger. Come half way up and straighten out your back, pull on your big toes and pull yourself closer towards the legs. By bringing the elbows towards the side, you make room for the neck and head.

These were just a few yoga poses for runners to stretch out their leg muscles. Of course there are many more ways to do so!  Remember that all bodies are different, so what might work for me, might not be the same for you. So go ahead and give these poses a try, and modify wherever you need to. Always listen to your body and respect your boundaries. Use your breath in the poses to calm the mind and ease the stretch. 

Happy stretching!

Running recovery

It’s been a while since my last blog post, many months have passed and I finally started to run again. Those of you who read my very first blogpost know that I started my yoga journey because of running. Injury stopped me from getting out there for some time, but now I’m back on track.

MY RUNNING JOURNEY

I used to run 3 to 4 times a week for a long time. I discovered yoga along the way and wanted to deepen my practice, which resulted in less running and of course more yoga. Yoga not only made me stronger physically, but also mentally. There were days where I would put on my trainers and run a 10K without practising or building up on the distance. Mentally I was strong and determined, so before I knew it I would pass 5K and continue running for a few more K’s. Daily yoga practice also increased my lung capacity which made me capable of running even longer, without getting out of breath.

Sadly after months of intense physical practice and exercise I injured my knee and stopped running. I though a few months of rest would be enough to recover, but that was not the case. After months and months of avoiding running, I decided to get back on track and start again.

ROAD TO RECOVERY

A good friend of mine helped me with some exercises that would make my legs stronger, and ready to rack up those K’s again. Also a few deep tissue massages really helped my muscles to recover. I started all over again. Exercises for strong legs (I use the NTC app), daily stretching and slowly picking up distance. I started with long walks, followed by speed walking and eventually back to running. From 1 to 2K, 2 to 3K, and so on. Listening to my body and stopping whenever I feel like it became too much is what I did. There are many ways to recover, but this is what worked for me. I’m happy to say that I finally have my running back under control and I’m feeling great. I try to run 2 – 3x per week (depending on how much free time I have) and still practice yoga every day. I also foam-roll and do some specific yoga stretches after my run.

Just like yoga, running makes me feel alive and present. It doesn’t matter how far of fast you go. Just go out there and start again. Make sure to check out my next post “Yoga for Runners” for some good stretches.

xoxo

Liberty

Yoga 101

D*Tufino Photography

The yoga community is growing so fast and there are so many new people interested in yoga. I made a Yoga 101 for the ones that are curious and would like to know more about yoga. In this article I answer the most frequent questions I get about yoga. 

1. What is Yoga?

The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as “union” or a method of discipline.

Most modern yoga practices rely heavily on the Yoga Sutras of Patajali, a series of aphorisms written c. 250 CE, as the basis for their philosophies. Classis yoga under Patanjali has 8 limbs of yoga: the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (absorption). As we explore these eight limbs, we begin by refining our behaviour in the outer world, and bringing our focus inwards until we reach samadhi (liberation, enlightenment).

2. Is yoga a religion?

Yoga is not a religion, it’s a philosophy. A philosophy that began about 5,000 years ago in India. The Yoga Sutras of Pantanjali provide a framework for spiritual growth and mastery over the physical and mental body. Yoga sometimes interweaves other philosophies such as Hinduism or Buddhism, but it is not necessary to study those paths in order to practice or study yoga.

3. What does Om mean?

Om is a mantra, or vibration, that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of yoga sessions. Coming from Hinduism and Yoga, the mantra is considered to have high spiritual and creative power but despite this, it is a mantra that can be recited by anyone. It’s both a sound and a symbol rich in meaning and depth and when pronounced correctly it is actually AUM.

Chanting Om allows us to recognise our experience as a reflection of how the whole universe moves, think about the setting sun, the rising moon, the ebb and flow of the tides and the beating of our hearts. As we chant Om, it takes us for a ride on this universal movement, through our breath, our awareness, and our physical energy, and we begin to sense a bigger connection that is both uplifting and soothing.

4. Are there different types of yoga?

There is only one yoga and its all Hatha Yoga. The goal of Hatha Yoga is to balance and still energy to make meditation accessible.

  • Iyengar: With a focus on structure and alignment, by using props such as blocks and straps.
  • Ashtanga Vinyasa: The “original” Vinyasa flow that utilises bandhas, ujjayi breathing and Sun Salutations continuing into 6 series of posture sequences of advancing complexibility and requiring extraordinary flexibility.  
  • Anusara: Playful, using creatively worded principles of alignment, life affirming tantric philosophy, and heart oriented teaching.
  • Bikram: The original Hot Yoga. This style uses an ordered sequence of 26 poses and is practices in a heated studio (40 degrees).
  • Power/Flow/Vinyasa: Athletical and physically challenging style. It’s a flowing practice where you move to the rhythm of your breath to get the heart rate up.
  • Yin: This style uses low intensity poses, often seated or laying down, with or without props, and has practitioners relax into the poses for up to 5 minutes or longer.
  • Aerial: fluid, acrobatic yoga in a hammock.
  • Acro: A physical practice which is a combination of yoga and acrobatics.
  • Kundalini: Focused on meditation and breathing to awaken the internal energy.

5. What is a Sun Salutation?

Sun Salutations are an affective full body warm up that can be performed ritualistically with the rising and setting of the sun, putting the practitioner in tune with the rhythm of life on earth. To me, a sun salutation is the foundation of a yoga practice. The sun salutation is a great way to create strength and build up the inner fire.

There are two types of Sun Salutations, Surya Namaskar A and Surya Namaskar B. Click here to see “How to do Surya Namaskar A”.

Continue reading on the next page to find the answers to 6 more important questions about yoga.

6. Do I have to be a vegetarian to practice yoga?

The first principle of yoga philosophy is ahimsa, which means non harming to self and others. Some people interpret this to include not eating animal products. There is debate about this in the yoga community—I believe that it is a personal decision that everyone has to make for themselves.

7. What should I eat before and after practice?

Most yoga practices are filled with twists from side to side, turning upside down, and bending forward and backward. Eating a heavy meal and not letting it properly digest before your practice can be really uncomfortable.

I normally don’t eat before my practice, but this is different for everyone. For people with a fast-acting digestive system, I recommend having a light snack before practice (a fruit, some nuts or a juice). Your body will be asking for food shortly after the practice. I really like smoothies or oatmeal after my practice.

8. How many times a week should I practice yoga?

Yoga is good in so many ways. Even if you only practice for one hour a week, you will experience the benefits of the practice. If you can do more than that, you will certainly experience more benefits. I suggest starting with two or three times a week, variating from 20-60 minutes, depending on how much time you have to practice. You will start to notice that after a while of practicing, your desire to practice will expand naturally and you’ll make more time for your practice.

9. I’m not flexible, can I do yoga?

Yes! Everyone can do yoga. Many people think that yoga is only for people who are flexible and especially women. This is not true! Yoga is for everyone, men and women, old and young, flexible and inflexible. Come as you are and you will start to practice with your own perfect body. Flexibility will come with time and regular practice.

10. What do I need to begin?

All you really need to begin practicing yoga is your body, your mind, and a bit of curiosity. You can wear whatever you feel like wearing. Make sure you can move and breathe in it. A pair of leggings, or shorts, a not too baggy shirt (this will slide over your head every time you go upside down), and barefoot.

Although you can practice yoga everywhere, it is nice to have a yoga mat to practice on. Most studios rent yoga mats, but as you start to practice more often, you’ll build a connection with your mat, so It’s worth buying your own. A place where you can move, breath and just be YOU!

11. What does Namaste mean?

Nama means bow, as means I, and te means you. Therefore, namaste literally means “bow me you” or “I bow to you”. There are so many translations, but the ones I like are: “My soul honours your soul” or “The divine in me honours the divine in you”.

To perform Namaste, we place the hands together at the heart charka, close the eyes, and bow the head. You can also place your hands together in front of the third eye(between the eyebrows), bowing the head, and then bringing the hands down to the heart.

I hope this article answered most of your questions about yoga and if not, feel free to ask my anything. Reach out to me through this blog, leave a message on my website or send me an email libertysuaresyoga@gmail.com. I would love to help in any way I can.

Namaste,
Liberty

Alaïa Fonk Photography