I absolutely love my job. I usually love it because of the calm and playful mood in a studio, the challenge and sweat of the practice, and the opportunity to share something that gives me strength and purpose with my students. That's what I usually love about teaching yoga.
A few days ago I taught a smaller-than-normal group. It was a quiet class, hard for me to read, and when it finished I hoped, as I always do, that something I had done had been good and helpful to at least someone in the class. One woman lingered afterward to ask a question, and we talked about forward folds and tight hamstrings for a few minutes, laughing and very quickly connecting on our love of yoga and what it has done for us.
However, in only a few short minutes, I realized that the someone I had assumed was just another upbeat yogi was actually a someone who had lived a life of tremendous physical struggle and STILL smiled through her movements on the mat. Nearly every two years for the last decade she has undergone some intense medical procedure to address a variety of genetic ailments, the last one being open-heart surgery to correct a faulty valve. She told me of the year-long requirement to abstain from any and all cardio activity afterward and how difficult it was, and that, as soon as her doctor gave her the green light, she headed straight for the gym.
We spoke of how many give up after an experience like hers, and how we can't take our health for granted, and how you never know a person's struggles from looking at them.
I asked if she had seen a noticeable improvement since her last surgery, and her face absolutely lit up,
"Yes!" she burst out, with a huge grin on her face. "In fact, I just ran my third 5k this year!!"
I said before that I usually love my job because it gives me the chance to share my experience with others and hopefully give them something valuable. But this is the real reason I love it. The beautiful people with whom I have the pleasure to associate and learn from. I am so blessed.
This amazing woman's name is Vesna, 'springtime' in Serbian, and so perfectly fitting to what we are all seeking this time of year: strength, hope, and inspiration.
Unlike most salads that wilt soon after dressing, this one is slightly more robust and can be dressed up to an hour before serving. It is wonderful as is, but if you’re the type of person that likes to go the extra mile, try an addition of 1/3 cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts and 2-3 warm hard boiled eggs, cut into quarters.
Honeyed Fennel And Cucumber Salad
1 large fennel bulb, stalks discarded and bulb thinly sliced
1 heart or 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 English cucumber, thinly sliced
1/3 cup golden raisins
¼ cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
¼- ½ tsp red pepper flakes, optional
1 ½ Tbs. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. honey
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Generous pinch kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
In a large bowl, toss together the sliced fennel, celery, cucumber, raisins, parsley, and red pepper flakes. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the mustard and honey. Slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream, whisking the whole time. Once the oil is incorporated, taste for seasoning; add the salt and pepper and additional mustard or honey to suit your liking.
Drizzle the dressing over the bowl of vegetables, and toss gently to evenly coat; garnish with a few of the fennel greens. Serves 4.