Spice for my students


Raw springerle

January 1 this year marked another year of teaching yoga. To celebrate and express gratitude for the trust, opportunity and great energy, I created some gifts for my students and the studio owner. If you’ve been reading or exploring my posts for awhile, you’ll see that these gifts happen most years, and usually take an edible (or at least flavorful) form. There is a typically a theme, depending on what I’ve been studying in my own practice and/or what has been inspiring me personally. For a few years I was on an Ayurveda kick; it paired nicely with spices and herbs. One year I did three different flavors of fudge, because: fudge.

Two years ago, inspired by a chapter from a book I was reading, Yoga of Sound, I started including a poem in the gift. I’ve always enjoyed reading poetry aloud, and I do so at the end of some of my yoga classes. The book gave me additional encouragement for doing so by introducing Shabda Yoga – the yoga of the spoken word. It typically refers to Vedic chants, however poetry from any culture can be considered a form of Shabda yoga. There’s more to it, but consider the notion that bringing sound (voice) to a word, especially a collection of words that have been carefully, lovingly arranged in a specific way, is an expression of energy. Creative energy, perhaps. Or healing energy: connective energy, especially if the meaning of the word or words is kind and/or transformative. How do you feel when you listen to a poem or vocal music?


The bundles

So: I share poems. I’ve mostly been reading works from Rumi, Kabir and Mary Oliver. Now and then, the daily poem that I get in my email inbox from is one that feels appropriate for sharing at the end of a class, as the yogis reanimate from savasana in the silence and dim light.

Around holiday time I was looking for a book of new poetry to read, and found Blythe Baird‘s “Give Me a God I Can Relate To” though an online loan from the Saint Paul Public Library. I read it through in one sitting, which is rare with a book of poetry, for me. Everything in it was rich and real. One particular page brought welcome words, during a busy holiday season. It it also brought clarity to a puzzling cue I’ve often heard in vinyasa classes: “you are exactly where you ought to be.”

That poem is pictured here in the photo of my gift bundles, but here is is, again:


When I wonder if I am doing
the right thing and if I am being
what I am supposed to be being,
she reminds me: Little sister, the only
thing you are supposed to be is
here. I ask her, how do I do that?
And she tells me: You already
have. You already are.

Blythe Baird, 2015

As for the edibles, I offered up three options. Students who showed up for classes in the first week or two of 2017 got to choose from:

  1. A cookie: the surprisingly successful results from my first-ever attempt at springerle, a traditional cookie made in Germany during the holidays. I used a family-heirloom roller (pictured above) that was a gift from my mom, recently. Note: By successful I mean that they were somewhat similar to the terrific springerle that Jerebek’s New Bohemian Bakery used to make.
  2. A tiny jar of sea salt that I’d flavored with hot peppers from our summer garden. It was marginally successful: it turned the salt green or red but it was nowhere near as hot as the store-bought Habañero salt I use on my morning eggs – and also way less incendiary as those Hungarian Wax and Jalapeño peppers were, fresh.
  3. A handful of spiced pecans. I figured a less glutenous, more nutritious option might appeal to a few yogis. That recipe is below.

To my students: thank you again. It’s been a great … 7 years of teaching!

Spiced Pecans


  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons ancho chile powder (heads up: it’s more smoky than hot)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups pecan halves


Preheat oven to 375°.

Combine maple syrup, Worcestershire, chile powder, cumin, salt, and pepper in a large bowl, stirring well. Add nuts to syrup mixture; toss well to coat. Arrange nuts in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan lined with parchment paper or a Silpat mat. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely on pan.