Sweet Success: Yoga & Vegan Brownies

This post is about two things: yoga and brownies. Yes, they can coexist. Read on!

Today is the last day of my 30 day yoga challenge and it has been pretty awesome.  I've learned so much, I've lost about 10lbs, and I've gained a new understanding of what my body can do.  I could write pages and pages about this experience but I think a handy dandy list may be more your speed.

10 things I've learned from 30 day yoga challenge:

1. Honor your weak spots: One of the instructors in my favorite videos mentions to "honor your tight hamstrings by taking a soft bend in the knee".  It seems like pretty simple advice but the underlying message really hit me one day.  I have a knee injury that isn't going to go away - not anytime in the near future anyways.  But that's ok - because I can modify and not feel bad.  Your weak spots provide a challenge and make it all that more interesting.

2. Bring it: And no, I don't mean to sound like Tony Horton or bring back flashbacks of P90x.  But his main tagline is so true, especially for yoga.  You make your yoga session. Whatever you bring to the mat is what you're going to get out of it.  And it's okay if you have a crappy session - at least you know.

3. Your body is pretty badass: It's true. I'm notoriously weak in my upper body and disproportionately strong in my lower body (which is a nice way of saying I have huge thighs) and have constantly struggled with this.  I've put my time in on weights and machines at the gym but let me tell you, nothing, and I mean nothing builds your strength like doing 30 chatarunga push-ups in an hour. I used to barely be able to get into a modified crow pose and now I can hold it for 4 full breaths. Holding your whole body weight on your hands? Now that's pretty badass.

4. Surprise yourself: This ties in with the previous lesson - you can surprise yourself with how much your body is capable of once you let go of the fear. Yeah it may hurt and suck for the time but it doesn't compare to the feeling you get when you're done holding that intense pose.

5. Mindfulness is key: Yoga gives you such an intense awareness about your body, your posture, your breathing, and your presence that it's hard not  to carry that feeling off the mat. I think a big part of my weight loss from yoga is due to the fact that I became more mindful of my body, it's hunger cues, and what I needed.

6. Indulge yourself: The final pose, savasana, is all about indulging yourself with the gift of time.  I think many of us are rushing around, being pulled in too many directions, and trying to be super-people that we don't take time for ourselves.  Being selfish can be a good thing - if I don't take those 20-30 minutes to do some yoga or even just take a walk, it shows. Be selfish, take 10, 20, or 30 minutes a day to do something that makes you feel good.

7. Breathe: Yoga gives such an awareness of how your breath is connected to everything you do.  I can't count the number of times when I was frustrated and wanted to kick something but instead I sat, took a few deep breaths, and decided to use my energy on something else.

8. Focus: This goes along with mindfulness but is slightly different.  I know that prior to doing this, it was difficult for me to really clear my mind and focus on my workout.  Yoga has definitely changed that.  There have been times when I'm on the mat and Brad comes home, makes a ton of noise, and I don't even notice because I'm so focused.

9. Own it: When you have difficult holding a pose or fall out of a pose, you have no one to blame but yourself. You can't blame faulty equipment or something else.  That ownership is pretty amazing because once you own it, you can fix it. Having the knowledge that you really are in control is powerful.

10. Just do it: Nike had it right with that. When you don't feel like doing yoga, just do it. You will feel better afterwards.  I like one quote I heard from a yoga video that states that the pose doesn't really begin until you want to get out of it.  It is so true.  If you push through and do it and challenge yourself, you will be so glad you did.

Now on to the brownies...

Oh friends, these are gooood brownies. And good for you! They totally satisfy a brownie craving without requiring you to do 4 hours of intense vinyasa yoga to burn them off. Oh and they're vegan. Gotta love it. If you're not a fan of fudgy, gooey brownies...these may not be for you.  This is a full on fudgy chocolate assault.

Yogi Brownies

adapted from: Cooking Light

Yields one 8x8 pan of vegan chocolate goodness

3 1/2 oz (100g) g-free flour mix

1 oz (30g) almond meal

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)

2 Tbsp ground flax meal + 5-6 Tbsp warm water (flax eggs!)

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup oil

1 1/2 Tbsp dairy-free milk

1/4 cup hot coffee

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 Tbsp awesome vegan peanut butter (I used this recipe from Edible Perspective to make PB - go try it. now.)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease your pan with oil spray (you can line with parchment as well - also grease the parchment).

2. Make your flax eggs: Whisk together the flax meal with warm water and let sit until it forms a gel. Add water slowly to see when the consistency is reached.

3. Combine gfree flour, almond meal, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk to combine.

4. Sift cocoa powder into another medium bowl.

5. Add hot coffee to cocoa powder and whisk to combine.  Add in dairy-free milk until mixture is smooth and pourable but still still fairly thick (add more milk if needed!).

6. Add your oil, flax eggs, and vanilla to cocoa mixture and whisk until combined.

7. Add cocoa mixture to flour mixture and stir with whisk until incorporated.

8. Pour brownies into pan. Add in your peanut butter and swirl around. It may not make pretty swirls since these brownies aren't cake like but that's ok - just swirl around until it's evenly distributed.

9. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick  inserted into center comes out with a some moist crumbs clinging to it (or slightly underbake for a fudgy brownie)

10. Let cool until you can't take it any longer or to your desired temperature. (I like mine a bit warm so they're still fudgy)