Ayurvedic Oral Care

The Case for Making Tongue Scraping and Oil Pulling Part of Your Routine

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As I continue my Ayurvedic education at Kirpalu, I especially love the ancient science’s approach to oral health.

Two simple practices Ayurveda advocates: Jihwa Prakshalana (a.k.a tongue scraping), and oil pulling. Chances are you’ve heard of both. Oil pulling is a celeb fave (Gwyneth Paltrow approves) and tongue scraping is a practically compulsory part of any cleanse.

So why do them?

Tongue scraping is like popping into your dentist’s office for a quick cleaning. The ancient oral hygiene practice removes bacteria, toxins and dead cells from the surface of the tongue, one of the easiest places in the body for germs to brew.

While we sleep, our digestive system deposits unwanted toxins on the surface of our tongue. If these toxins aren’t flushed out or removed, they get reabsorbed, compromising our immune system and leading to digestive ailments and respiratory woes.

Brushing and flossing will help with the toxin removal, but sometimes these practices just move bacteria around. Better to scrape.

It’s very simple: Using a metal or copper tongue scraper (this one’s great), drag the curved blade down toward the tip of your tongue, rinse the scraper and repeat until the scraper stops picking up residue.

This is best to do in the morning, before you brush your teeth and right after…

Oil pulling, another straightforward practice with natural detoxifying powers.

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The idea is to swish (not swallow) up to 3 teaspoons of high quality, unrefined, cold-pressed oil like coconut or sesame for up to 20 minutes first thing every morning. Try swishing in the shower, while you steep your tea or while you make your bed. Don’t try to talk at the same time.

The actual pulling itself can take some getting used to, but working the oil around the mouth helps loosen the body’s overnight bacteria out from the teeth and gums, resulting in brighter teeth, stronger gums, fresher breath and a cleaner smile.

When you’re done, spit the oil out the window or into the trash to avoid a clogged sink. Follow oil pulling with tongue scraping, brushing and then flossing.

Your dentist will be impressed!

Do You Embrace Your Emotions?

Daily we find ourselves in situations, conversations and thoughts, all of which evoke a certain emotive response. With the wink of an eye we may become happy, angry or grief stricken. Like it or not, we are emotional beings. When we choose to let the emotions move through us in tears or shared conversation, their intensity naturally dissipates. However, when we choose to hide them, the emotions seep deep into our being, awaiting the perfect moment to explode.

Out of fear or pure negligence, we oftentimes bury our emotions. In response to rejection or hurtful words, it is natural to feel the sting of hurt. In the same way, when faced with challenge or uncertainty, we naturally feel fear. Our emotions are a powerful part of our inner guidance – a blessed gift of our humanity- so long as we acknowledge, honor and release them. It is when we fear these emotions that they cause us suffering.

While beautiful, life will always throw us curve balls; obstacles when we already feel weakened by challenge and loss when we feel as though we can lose no more.  In such cases, it is tempting to shove our emotions aside, choosing instead to busy ourselves with distractions. These infamous distractions take a myriad of forms, from seeking the external validation of a prestigious job to seeking a life of perfection. In truth, our current society is a fertile breeding ground for living a life dictated by constant busyness and distractions.

Today, I propose an alternative solution: what would happen if we chose to befriend our emotions instead of ignoring them? How could our lives look and feel if we chose to experience our emotions, instead of avoid them through distraction?

In his book Living Without Regret, Buddhist scholar Arnaud Maitland suggests that we can reduce suffering. He shares that suffering is a choice. One way to do so is to "treat an emotion as a guardian or spiritual friend, instead of a foe.” In truth, our yoga practice serves as a wonderful opportunity to sit with our emotions, allow them to move through us and to be fully present. Through asana, pranayama and moving meditation, we are offered a rare opportunity, to embrace instead of avoid; what a lovely gift.

In your yoga practice, how can you befriend your emotions? What does your anger, sadness or grief, have to teach you?

Heat Up Your Spring Pantry

5 Ayurvedic Heating Spices for Spring

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It’s time to leap into spring! Soon, flowers will be blossoming (if you live anywhere other than North Dakota) to express the new season. A gentle, quarterly reminder from Mother Nature to start shifting lifestyle choices and harmonize with her spring energy. Generating heat and movement internally will support balancing the cold, wet and heavy qualities she exudes in the spring. While helping to prevent common spring imbalances such as congestion, sluggishness and stiffness. A natural antidote for producing internal warmth to break-up and move stagnation within the body are heating spices. The intoxicating flavors and aromas will lure the cook. While their medicinal magic will bless the meal with the ability to heal.

Generally speaking, all spices can be enjoyed year round, simply by adjusting their quantity according to the season. Ayurveda, determines the seasonal recommendations based the spices’ inherent cooling or heating energy. Spices which foster heat, are recommended in the cold season—winter into early spring. The heat warms the cold and dries the wet qualities. Lightening up congestion not just in the chest but also in the gut. Helping to balance the qualities in the body that Mother Nature is now providing within the external environment.

Adding heating spices to meals or teas, before the daffodils pop-up to say hello can start to prepare the body for the seasonal shift. Spring may officially begin on the equinox, but the wet and heavy qualities start manifesting earlier. The progression is slow and often not realized until there is an imbalance. When the days start getting longer, begin introducing heating spices with carminative, stimulating and diaphoretic effects  to the daily menu. Generating internal heat, prior to spring, can help prevent imbalances and begin to align the body to the season.

Five Heating Spices for Spring

1. Black Pepper (Kali Mirchi)according to Dr. Vasant Lad, is one of the most powerful digestive stimulants. It burns ama or toxins, helps digest food, kindles appetite and a sluggish digestion, relieves sinus congestion and headaches. Sprinkle a little extra on to cold and raw foods such as cucumbers and salads. Grind a little extra on an egg scramble, spring soups or stews. Mix a pinch with honey to aide in dissolving and drying up mucous. 

2. Cardamon (Elaichi) – the new cinnamon as it’s often referred to in the States, green cardamom has a naturally sweet taste. A fabulous spice to counterbalance the qualities of kapha dosha—cold, mucous, congestion in the stomach and lungs. It opens up the lungs, aides congested breathing, stimulates digestion, reduces intestinal spasms and mental fog. Add a few crushed pods when warming milk (cow’s) to reduce the mucous-y quality, chew on a pod when craving sugar, or toss in a couple pods when sauté up some veggies, making rice or to a curry. Delicious aromatherapy!

3. Fenugreek (Methi) is that spice in the curry powder that’s hard to place. Fenugreek seeds or leaves are a fabulous spring detoxifier. Used in Ayurveda to treat diabetes, cholesterol, obesity and stimulate digestion. In comparison to cardamom, fenugreek is very heating and should be reduced or not eaten in the summer. Lightly sauté the seeds in ghee when making a curry, add them to a stew or sprout them. The leaves can be added to stews, curries and goes nicely with spinach. Note—a little goes a long way! I’ve also know elders who drink fenugreek water in the morning to balance blood sugar. Enjoy this fabulous spice and be warned, fenugreek can be a little stinky—scrub those pits a little extra in the shower.

4. Garam Masala, not an official spice, rather a spice mix consisting of several spices. Garam masala, literally translates to heating spice mix.  Traditionally consisting of cloves, black pepper, green and black cardamom, mace, cinnamon and nutmeg to name a few. Each spice fosters internal heat. Leading to counterbalance the imbalances caused by an over accumulation of cold in the body.  South Asian families usually have their own ‘secret’ recipe with with their own ‘secret’ ratios. Fortunately, nowadays garam masala is readily available in most grocery stores and specialty spice shops.  Add a pinch of masala to your sauté, when making a grain or as a finishing touch to boost the aromatics. A little goes a long way a pinch or two is all you need.

5. Oregano is a terrific carminative spice. Aiding digestion, dispelling mucous, ama or toxins and stagnation. Similar to the other spices listed here, oregano is known as a stimulating and diaphoretic herb. Generating movement through its heating nature and aiding joint stiffness caused by too much cold qualities. It also helps counter the chills, and breaks down mucous. Use oregano oil in a steam to open up the lungs. It is also terrific in lentil soups, stews, soups, a veggie sauté or herbed grain. Fresh or dry, oregano is a lovely aromatic, digestive friendly, warming, spring spice.

A good party requires a plan, seasonal living and prevention begins with one too.  Let’s the planning begin! Which spice are planning to add to your spring menu?

Feeling Addicted to Your Smart Phone?

Howdy everyone!  We are halfway through January, and I just wanted to see how everyone is doing with their goals/growth this month.

I know the goals we have for this month to help us grow are a bit difficult at times.  Anyone who is currently taking any of my group fitness classes knows that the beginning of class is turning into a therapy session for what we are discovering are some uncomfortable addictions we have developed. 

I have loved our discussions in my classes about what everyone is discovering about themselves, and the goals they are setting for themselves.  It is so wonderful to see a group of people come together in class, share their struggles and growth, and then encourage each other in the same breath.  I truly believe that working together to help each other succeed is what makes our communities and lives better.

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To be honest with you, I thought the most difficult goal for everyone would be giving up technology after 7pm.  However, I've discovered that both giving up artificial sweeteners and technology are proving to be equally difficult for most people, and some are throwing temper tantrums, and asking me why it is even necessary for them to do/try all this. 

Through emails I've received, and discussions we have had in my classes, I've noticed that we all need to realize that we have formed some unhealthy attachments to things that are harming us (myself included...BIG TIME).

Basically, we all have addictions in life (there isn't a person out there that doesn't have an addiction to something) and we need to look at those addictions and decide if they are healthy and fulfilling, or if those addictions are damaging and/or hindering our lives. 

Today's blog post will focus on cell phone usage.  I'll start it off by sharing my struggles with giving up my cell phone for texting, social media, games, etc. after 7pm, because I'm pretty sure everyone can relate to this struggle in one way or another, and sometimes learning about another person's struggles and successes motivates you to try harder.

I secretly suspected that I might be addicted to my damn (yup...I swear) cell phone years ago.  However, I didn't see the need to change my usage or see how my usage affected my life.  This month...actually, just the first week...I discovered that my cell phone usage was hindering my social life with my own family.  For example, anytime (in the past) when I heard my phone "ping" with a text message or social media message, I immediately grabbed my phone, checked it, and then responded.  That response then turned into me having to hold on to my phone and wait for the other person's response.  While doing this, and checking social media (I'm holding my phone, so I might as well get on Facebook and see what others have posted), I was no longer engaging socially with my son and husband.  They would talk to me, but I really wasn't paying full attention. 

How many of you do this?  Do you find yourself sitting with your family in the evening, but instead of talking to them and asking them questions about their day, you are on Facebook or another social media site, or you are sitting there texting multiple people?

I won't lie, the first week I felt like I was slighting my friends by not responding to their texts or getting to everyone's posts on Facebook and "liking" them.  However, as one of my friends pointed out, if someone is upset at you for spending time with your family, then they are the ones with the issues. 

By giving up my phone after 7pm...lately I've been putting it down at 6pm...I have been there with my family 100% and having tons of fun with them.  Not to mention, I just feel this huge sigh of relief and like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders when I put my phone down for the rest of the night.  I don't know why I feel this way, but I'm glad I discovered it so I can change my habits.

Recently I even had a gentleman come up to me and thank me for having his wife put her phone down at 7pm each evening.  He felt like his wife no longer really cared about him, because once their dinner was done she was on her IPad the rest of the night till bed and sometimes in bed. 

This made me think about how our spousal relationships (talking about sex here people) are affected by our addiction to our cell phones.  How many of us climb into bed, and then begin surfing on our phones.  Is this a "turn off" to our significant other, causing them to just roll over and go to sleep?  How does this affect your relationship?  Are you no longer noticing those "come and get me" signs your partner is throwing out there?  Just some food for thought.

After the first week of forcing myself to put my phone and IPad down (I feel that I have be available 24/7 for my job and business) I discovered that I felt less stressed and slept better.

Since I was all of a sudden sleeping a heck of a lot better, I went and did some research on cell phone usage before bed.

A growing body of research suggests that staring at the blue and white light emitted from digital screens prevents your brain from releasing the hormone melatonin, which lets your body know when it's time to hit the sack, so it becomes harder to fall and stay asleep. 

The secretion of this melatonin depends on the body’s circadian rhythm which is controlled by light exposure. A kind of blue light emits from your cell phone which interrupts the body’s circadian rhythm and instructs the brain not to release melatonin hormone. When you have a lack of melatonin, it is more difficult to fall asleep even after you have set your phone down for the night.   Therefore, using your cell phone late at night not only reduces the amount of sleep, but it also affects the quality of sleep. Moreover, if you check your phone message or email, or social media, or news before going to bed, your brain can become tensed which leads to uncomfortable night with intermittent sleep.  

Did you know that less sleeping can create trouble in your professional and social life? It can make your decision-making–skills weak and also your productivity gets poorer. Both short term and long term memory can be damaged which can lead to meaningless stress and anxiety. 

If memory damage didn't scare you enough, less sleep reduces your metabolism rate and makes you feel hungry. Thus, it increases the chances of taking unhealthy light meals and/or snacks throughout the day and leads to weight gain. 

Now I know parting with your cell phone is freaking hard to do, because in one survey 71% of Americans sleep next to their cell phone.  However, the damage it is causing you is worth you really examining your addiction to your cell phone.

Here is a quick video by Dr. Sigel describing the affects our nightly cell phone usage has on our sleep patterns.  I thought you would really lke it.

How to Give up Soda

Ok, you are a few days into your goal of no foods or beverages with artificial sweeteners added.  You are wondering if life as you know it has ended (or maybe having to let go of your social media life after 7pm has done that for you already).  I'm sure you are swearing at me and harboring evil thoughts.  I'm doing the same to myself, since I had to cut down on my caffeine intake (coffee addiction is a real problem for me...I seem to still think I can run on the stuff).

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Well, here are some steps to help you kick your soda addiction to the curb, and become healthier and happier for it!

1.  Don't go cold turkey all at once.

What!?!  You're telling me I can still have soda!?! 

Yup!  You can still have soda if you are someone who was guzzling down over 5 cans of the wretched stuff each day.  When one becomes addicted to something (addiction to artificial sweeteners is a real and horrible thing) you have to slowly come off of it.  Try cutting down to 1 drink a day for a week and go from there.

2.  Drink water!

Time to carry around a water bottle instead of a pop bottle!!  Drink that water when you feel the need to drink soda.  I definitely don't need to tell you all the wonderful benefits of drinking water.

If you are someone who just has to have some kind of "kick" in their water, you can always add/infuse fruit or mint to your water for added flavor.

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3.  Get your healthy eating on!

Instead of relying on soda to give you an energy kick, get your energy from eating healthy!  Getting your servings of fruits, vegetables, and proteins each day will give you the energy you need to get through your day without the extra sugar and caffeine.

4.  When all else fails...DUMP IT DOWN THE DRAIN!

Yup...Go take those cans and bottles, open them up, and dump them down the drain.  When the temptation is not there, you can not cave in to it.  Plain and simple.  AND DON'T BUY MORE!

 

Growing in 2017

Happy New Year Everyone!!

As each year begins, we find ourselves wanting to change something about our future, something about our body, something about our nutrition, something about our finances, etc.  Then, we set these huge goals with great intentions.  After a few weeks or months go by, we forget or throw those goals to the wayside....And, life continues.

Science has shown that it is better to take little steps when changing or wanting to improve upon ones life.

This year my goal is to help everyone #GrowIn2017.  We will take small mindful steps together throughout the year by working on two goals each month.  One goal will involve nutrition, and the other goal will be more of a "mental" goal.  Don't worry, I'm not going to require any extra work or time from you.

Life is always about growth.  We never stop learning or achieving as our life goes on.  Why not view our goals as growth?

Hopefully our small steps will help each of us grow in mindfulness, knowledge, strength, and love.  From there, hopefully, our growth will rub off on those around us.

For now, take this week to get back into your normal routine as you begin your New Year.  Settle in to your post holiday schedule, and we will start our new growth next week!

Strengthening the Muscle of Empathy

Learn how to move beyond sympathy to true connection and support

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If we’re lucky, moving through the holiday season usually means more time spent with friends or family – we spend time catching up on all the highs and lows in our loved ones’ lives. There are many moments of joyful connection, and probably many moments where we feel our buttons being pushed! The holiday season is more of a marathon than a sprint – we need to keep calm, open hearted, compassionate and patient as we interact with others over the next six (long) weeks or so.

To run a marathon you might need to train with a coach. Enter Brené Brown.

If you haven’t already hear of her, Brené Brown is a researcher, storyteller, scholar, PhD, and author of NYT bestselling books Daring Greatly (2012) and The Gifts of Imperfection (2010). She is a calm and illuminating voice on the subjects of vulnerability, shame, and courage, delivering powerful and applicable tools to use in our interactions with others, and in our own self-development.

Her defining Ted Talk really elevated the discussion of the strength in vulnerability to the next level. And now a sweet, simple and informative video is circulating on another important distinction: the difference between sympathy and empathy.

~ Some of us feel like “fixers” and that it’s our responsibility to weigh in on other’s choices and help them “do better” in the world.

~ For some of us, it’s easy to get defensive when a loved one is sharing something that has upset them.

~ Or we might get judgmental when we hear about a conflict in their life.

~ I admit I’ve often experienced all of the above and more: I’ve tried to help find the silver lining of a situation, assuring a struggling friend that “it’s not all bad.” I was surprised to see how even this common response isn’t really empathy!

According to Brown, we can all strengthen our muscle of empathy, lending an ear or a shoulder to cry on in a constructive way. This three minute video points out a couple of simple yet critical differences between empathy and sympathy, ultimately revealing a path to true connection that isn’t that complicated!

Learn more at PsychologyToday.com

Hydrate The Ayurvedic Way

Achieve Your Optimal Wellness

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Want to create a healthy body and glowing skin?

Look no further. Hydrating the Ayurvedic way can help you achieve your optimal wellness.  

By now you’ve probably heard the recommendation to drink eight glasses of water per day. But the reality of hydration is more complex. After all, each of us has a unique constitutional makeup, with diverse needs. We each have different habits that may dehydrate our bodies. Plus, there are quick and easy tips to help your body to absorb water and stay hydrated you won’t want to miss.

Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, looks at the human body as a whole system, affected by seasonality and our environment. Moreover, Ayurveda sees the physical body as both a cause and effect of a person’s energy, state of mind, emotional health, and spirit. 

Ayurvedic practitioners approach health and wellness topics from a holistic perspective. 

According to Ayurvedic science, the physical body and everything that interacts with the body is made up of a unique balance of the five great elements (water, fire, air, earth, and ether or space). Each person’s elemental constitution affects all aspects of their multidimensional being. 

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A person’s original constitution is called Prakriti.This is the inherent elemental makeup of a person determined at conception, akin to eye color or height. A person’s Prakriti is described as having a specific balance of three doshas: Vata (Air), Pitta (Fire) and Kapha (Earth). Each of us is made up of each of the doshas, our Prakriti reflects our individual formula, as unique as our fingerprint. 

So how does this work? If you have a Pitta predominant dosha, for example, you have a lot of fire in your body relative to earth and air. You tend to digest and metabolize food quickly. And your body may run hot. Additionally, you may be prone to rashes or acne. With so much heat running through, a “hot” temper and a quick intellect may define aspects of your personality. 

If you are curious about your personal Ayurvedic constitution, check out this online quiz. Plus you can learn more about the doshas and your Prakriti in our article, Intro to Ayurveda. And, if you want a professional assessment, consider working with an Ayurvedic practitioner.

So how does your constitution relate to hydration?

Discovering your Ayurvedic dosha can help you to better understand your body’s tendencies. Even without turning to Ayurveda, you probably know if you experience water retention on the one hand or if you tend to become dehydrated easily on the other hand. A person who tends to retain water may need to balance their body with exercise, foods, and drinks that act as healthy diuretics, while the person who tends to be dehydrated may benefit from learning about the body’s water absorption process. The goal of discovering the doshas is creating deeper self-awareness and, in this case, discover a balanced approach to hydration and its impact on your overall health and wellbeing.

When you understand your own constitution and personal tendencies, you can begin to create healthy hydration habits that benefit your body. 

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Vata: People with predominant Vata constitutions have a tendency toward dehydration and need plenty of water and tea throughout the day. Since the qualities of Vata are cool, dry and rough, sip warm liquids and add hydrating oils to the skin each morning create balance.

Suggested bevies to pacify Vata? Add some fresh ginger to your water. Sip water with chia seeds to help with absorption. To increase flavor, add sliced strawberries or raspberries.

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Pitta: People with predominant Pitta constitutions run hot, tending to sweat and metabolize nutrition quickly, thus losing liquids at a rapid rate. To stay in balance, consume room temperature liquids and cooling foods, especially during the hot Spring and Summer months. Also, when overheating, cool the entire body with dips into water and cold showers.

Suggested bevies to pacify Pitta? Sip on cooling cucumber and watermelon water or juice. Add a few sprigs of mint and lemon to your water to enhance flavor and soothe digestion.

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Kapha: People with predominant Kapha constitutions tend to retain water and metabolize nutrition slowly. Qualities of Kapha are cool, smooth, soft, slow, and stable. To increase digestive fire and stay in balance, consume warm liquids and add heating spices such as ginger and a dash of cayenne to create a spice water to sip all day long. When the body retains water, yoga asana, exercise, and saunas can help water to move through your body.

Suggested bevies to pacify Kapha?  Enjoy some steaming decaf chai, add ginger, lemon and a splash of cayenne to your water, and sip on warm tea throughout the day.

Why We Crave What We Crave

Understanding Our Food Fixations

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Hunger is as much a physical manifestation as it is a societal and emotional one. Biologically, our bodies are hardwired to want certain flavors, nutrients and combinations thereof. Culturally, we’ve learned to eat in celebration, in mourning, at social gatherings and sometimes in secret. We also seek out food in an attempt to shift our emotional state: sugar, chocolate and caffeine are expansive and uplifting; bread, pasta and gooey cheese are soothing and cushioning. So when we experience cravings, is our body telling us it needs something? Or is our mind telling us it wants something?

If that seems like a lot to unpack while deciding what to make for dinner, you’re right. Taking a moment to identify where our cravings come from means we get to address deep-seated patterns and make balanced and informed choices around something we do at least three times a day. Here are a few factoids to consider when cravings kick in.

The Two Tastes That Dominate Our Cravings are Sweet & Salty

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Sugar cravings make sense on a couple of levels:

  1. Sweet foods flood the brain with dopamine, the chemical that makes us happy.
  2. In nature, sweet foods are energy dense, so we’re genetically predisposed to favor them.
  3. Sugar helps us store fat, a biological advantage for our ancient ancestors whose mealtimes were uncertain.

A salt craving can mean a few things:

  1. We’re dehydrated. Our bodies are 70% water and thirst often masquerades as hunger. Salt helps us retain water, so a salt craving could actually be a cry for more H2O.
  2. We’re conditioned. Most processed foods are super high in sodium, so we may be craving what we’ve been conditioned to think of as a “normal” saltiness.
  3. We need minerals like calcium, sodium, magnesium, zinc and other trace minerals to stay healthy. Since we don’t really know what zinc tastes like we fall for salt when what we really need is nori, kale, chard, or wild caught salmon.
  4. We’re fatigued. Salt cravings can be a sign of adrenal fatigue, especially if accompanied by exhaustion and serious under-eye bags. (If that sounds all too familiar, consider getting your cortisol and adrenal levels tested.)

And a chocolate craving? Minerals again. Raw cacao is rich in magnesium, which women need more of when they’re on their periods. Vindicated!

Here’s one more morsel: When we don’t get enough rest, our bodies produce more ghrelin, a.k.a. the hunger hormone, which the body secretes when the stomach is empty. Or when we’re exhausted. Makes sense.

Sleep more = eat better.

At the heart of any mindfulness practice is the ability to tune in to ourselves. Learning to listen to our intuition and our body’s own inner wisdom is a powerful tool. It’s also a muscle that, like any other, requires regular use. An effective place to start is around our relationship with food. Learning to ask and answer the question what am I craving right now is the first step to empowering ourselves as conscious choosers. As opposed to ravenous maniacs. We’ve all been there.

Seven Steps to Personal Transformation

Practice non-judgement, gather resources, find your tribe, and bliss out!

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We often think of yoga as movement, postures, or stretching… but the art and science of yoga goes so much deeper. Check out these seven steps for personal transformation and healing!

First, we can acknowledge where we are with non-judgment and curiosity, beginning to practice self-awareness on and off the mat. The first yoga sutra says: Atha Yoga Nushasanam, which can be translated to Now the Inquiry of Yoga Begins. 

Second, we can choose to take personal responsibility for our health, our wellness and our lives, letting go of blame (I feel the way I do because of someone else or something external to me) and shame (I am not enough). We begin to focus our attention on creating peace in our inner worlds rather than fixing and changing external circumstances. Our inner worlds begin to influence our external reality.

Third, we can create a vision for where we are going and a personal mission statement based on inner principles to guide our decisions in life. In that sense, we are making conscious choices rooted in character rather than reactive responses based on short term pleasure or fear. To support this process, check out Patanjali’s eightfold path and pay special attention to the the yamas and niyamas, which are observances that lead to healthy habits. 

Practice:  CREATE VISION- What does living a healthy and fulfilling life look like? Feel like? When you imagine a life where you are happy, healthy and living a life full of purpose and integrity, what are you doing? Who are you surrounded by? How do you treat yourself and others?

If we know where we are going and the principles are guiding us, we discover a sense of stability, integrity and inner peace in the healing process. I find my personal mission statement and vision board helps me to align the choices I make in the present moment with my deepest, most integrated self… and this in turn gives me the patience and awareness to sacrifice pleasure in the moment for long-term happiness… most of the time.

Fourth, we can practice presence and and self-awareness on and off the mat… letting go of attachment to end results. We can let go of trying to arrive in some complex posture or at some future destination and, instead, we can become interested in our own experience in the present moment. Here, we take the seat of the witness or nonjudgmental observer within. The asana practice in yoga (postures and breathing exercises translated as “to sit in the seat of one’s self“) is a wonderful tool to support this step.

Fifth, we can discover new information and personal tools to support our process. We identify gaps in our knowledge or support base (perhaps we choose to develop resources for self-soothing, or we find individual or group support systems around issues we face) and gather new resources to aid our growth. And then we can allow these external resources and support systems to interact with our own “gut” or inner compass, taking baby steps in each moment of our lives, knowing these small moments add up to big changes.

Sixth, we can ground our personal understanding, mission and practices in community by discovering our tribe.

Practice: Are there other people who are interested in exploring mindfulness practices, yoga, personal growth, or your chosen spiritual practice? How do you feel when you join this community? Who in your life already makes you feel authentic, whole, abundant, and alive? And where are there people who are being, living, doing, thinking in ways that align with your mission and vision?

We can go through life protecting ourselves and avoiding authentic connection- and yet, when we open our minds and hearts to love (not necessarily romantic love), we find ourselves attracting other people who are asking similar questions and enjoying life the way we like to enjoy life. Although it is wonderful to spend time around people who are incredibly different from ourselves, finding our tribe- people who are aligned with our core values- gives us a sense of connection and resilience in our lives.

Seventh, we can begin to know ourselves as multidimensional beings and “yoke” or “unite” the various aspects of ourselves. Yoga means “to yoke” the sun and the moon, the masculine and the feminine, the light and the dark, the yin and the yang. When we experience moments of yoga (the integration of the layers of our being), we move from darkness into the light… and we bliss out! We access a healing state of inner peace and experience personal transformation that is rooted in a sense of infinite abundance, love and light. 

And we remember the saying Jack Kornfield introduces in his book A Path With Heart: “After the ecstasy, the laundry.” Kornfield goes on to say, “The dazzling effects of lights and visions, the powerful releases of rapture and energy, all are a wonderful sign of the breakdown of the old and small structures of our being, body, and bind. However, they do not in themselves produce wisdom… Even great openings of the heart, kundalini processes, and visions can turn into spiritual pride or become old memories… Spiritual experiences in themselves do not count for much. What matters is that we integrate and learn from the process” (Kornfield, 129).

So the bliss itself is not necessarily indicative of lasting transformation… it is in the life-long, moment-to-moment process of learning from direct experience when personal transformation occurs! Beginning right now…

Winter Blues

Winter Blues to Spring Forward

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Feeling a little slow, sluggish, heavy, or cloudy? Is getting out of bed a process that involves hitting the snooze button a few more times than usual? It’s completely normal. The past few months, we have been replenishing the earth and water elements with us—hibernating a bit more, basking in the indoors, and eating rich foods. Ahhh…the joys of Fall and Winter. Now, we are transitioning into Spring, the time for re-birth. During this time, earth and water predominate the air, bringing with it their heavy, wet, and cold qualities. In combination with all the earth and water energy we accumulated during the past season, we are now overflowing in it. What was nourishing us last season, is now weighing us down.

Some of us, especially those with more kapha qualities, can feel like we are swimming in sludge. Trying to move through and beyond the heavy, moist, wet, cloudy, mucous-y substance. Like the seed attempting to sprout and pop-up through the soil, for a little sunshine. We too need to pop-up and utilize all the energy we acquired in the Fall and Winter and let it be our fuel during the Spring season. It’s not an overnight process. Just as nature transitions, we too have to transition mentally, emotionally and physically to bloom and feel the sun’s heat.

Here are 5 tips to help transition from the Winter blues to Spring forward:

#1 Rise & Breathe: try to get yourself out of bed by 6 am. After 6 is when the elements of earth and water become even more prominent making it challenging to wake-up. Once you are up, take some deep breaths. Practice alternative nostril breathing, pranayama. This will help restore fluidity within the entire body—releasing tension, clearing the mind and revitalizing stagnant energy.

#2 Take a Morning Walk: if you can go on a walk between 6-10 am even for 10 minutes, you begin to ignite the opposite qualities that are predominate in the air. By generating movement, when the air is stagnate, is a good way to generate balance. Remember like attracts like and opposites decrease.

#3 Shower yourself with Aroma Therapy: engage your sense of smell and activate! The nose is the pathway to the brain. In engaging the sense of smell, we can trigger an emotional response. If you enjoy energizing scents like, peppermint, lemon, orange, rosemary, eucalyptus, and/or bergamot, create your own energizing and invigorating Spring shower gel. A few drops of of essential oil is all you need to add a little pep in your step.

#4 Eat Lighter & Greener Meals:  this time of the year is when digestion begins to slows down.  To give it a boost, give the body a break by eating lighter foods like more bitter greens.  Bitter greens are also naturally detoxifying and help the body naturally remove toxins and excess water. Incorporate some greens into every meal starting from your first meal to your last—it does a body good.

#5 Spice it up!: if there is a season to spice it up, its Spring. Spices are not only a great flavor booster, but they have medicinal value. They are also a great source of vitamins and minerals. Add a little extra dash of warming spices can help prevent colds, ignite the digestive fire, reduce excess water from the body, and move out the sludge! This is the season to add a little extra sprinkle of ginger, cayenne, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, rosemary, thyme, cumin, fenugreek, garlic, and turmeric.

The mantra for Spring...“let’s move!”. Move our bodies, our mind, and move out any undigested foods to keep us healthy throughout Spring.

Kapha Dosha

What is Kapha Dosha?

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Maybe the word “Kapha” (pronounced Kah-fah) has been floating aroundyour ether, you’ve seen posts, taken a “what’s my dosha” quiz, you have a kapha imbalance, or you’re curious and want to know more. Well, hopefully, this post will explain what kapha is, how to recognize its qualities, and why understanding this seasonal dosha help you stay healthier during kapha season.

What is a Dosha?

To understand kapha, we first need to know that it is 1 of the 3 doshas in Ayurveda, a time-tested medical system from India. Doshas are particular patterns of energy that are expressed through physical, mental, and emotional characteristics. Each dosha—vata, pitta, and kapha—are composed of 2 of the 5 elements, or pancha mahabhutas. Which are considered to be the building blocks of the universe. Ether, space, fire, earth, and water are the 5 elements, which when paired, produce the 3 doshas.

Doshas surround us and exist in every cell of our body. Although we are composed of all 3 doshas, each of us has a primary and secondary dosha. Similarly, each dosha has a primary function, and a strong presence in certain tastes, places, times, stages of life, and seasons. Keeping the doshas in balance helps foster longevity within our mental, emotional, and physical bodies.

Understanding the particular qualities of each dosha, how their energy manifests within us and seasonally key can be helpful in making healthier choices in our daily lives. Specific to your personal constitution and  in harmony with the season.

What is Kapha Dosha?

Of the 5 elements, earth+water form kapha dosha. The combination of these 2 elements produces 10 qualities. These qualities are the essence of kapha dosha. They lead to the physical, mental, and emotional characteristics that help further contextualize the kapha constitution.

Reminder: No one only has kapha dosha. To say “I am Kapha” is saying you are only earth + water. We are also ether, air, and fire! Trust me, you want to be made up of all of these elements.

To recognize the presence of kapha dosha is to know and understand it’s 10 qualities and when this dosha takes center stage. These 3 things can help guide making healthier and efficient choices related to diet, exercise, activities and to approach life through preventative practices.

10 qualities of kapha dosha— keywords for late winter & spring season: moist, cold, heavy, static, sticky, soft, cloudy, smooth, dull, and slow

For example, one quality of kapha dosha is cold. During the late winter/spring (kapha season), cold has seeped into the earth. It is one quality that begins in the fall and remains until the spring. The air is cold, our hands are cold, the earth is cold. To prevent kapha imbalances, Ayurveda recommends aligning with kapha season. By directing our choices with the opposite quality—warm/hot. One way to do this is through the diet. Choosing to eat warm foods versus cold food, or food that has an inherent warming energy.  To produce internal warmth and counterbalance the external cold qualities.

Cinnamon is a great dietary spice choice in the winter and spring. A few shakes daily of this warming spice will generate internal heat. While also curbing sweet craving by balancing blood sugar and preventing a build-up of excess kapha dosha in the body. Which can lead to colds and congestion, a common kapha imbalance.

How to Identify Kapha Dosha

When trying to determine if something is kapha-dominant, first try and describe it with as many words as you can think of. Then relate the descriptive words to kapha’s 10 qualities. Or take kapha’s 10 qualities and see if it describes what you’re assessing. For example, sadness, an emotion that can feel heavy, create a sense of static-ness, cloud our thoughts and slow us down. It’s qualities align with kapha qualities and is an emotion that can be related to an imbalance with this dosha. In identifying the dosha, we can try and make adjustments in our diet by reducing heavy foods that weigh us down, the quantity of food and increase activity to foster movement, helping bring new qualities to help shift the emotional state.

What is Kapha Dosha Purpose?

  • Primary function is to protect
  • Governs structure, sense of taste, and lubrication
  • Forms muscle, fat, bone, fluids, reproductive tissues, blood, and marrow
  • Controls weight, growth, moisture, and is responsible for our lymphatic and immune system
  • Its primary home within our physical body is the stomach
  • Associated with sweet (earth+water), sour (earth+fire), and salty (fire+water)  tastes—kapha tastes
  • Its energy is apparent from winter through spring—kapha season
  • Strongest from 6am-10am and 6pm-10pm—kapha time
  • Until puberty, we are in the kapha cycle of our life—this is the time we are growing, building immunity, and forming our tissues.

A Simple Practice to Begin…

When I started studying Ayurveda, to help identify kapha dosha, I began taking note of the how the air felt during kapha hours from 6-10 in the morning and the evening. Was the air moister, heavier, cooler, windy, or static, than it was a few hours earlier or later? I also like to garden and would use a similar approach. I would feel the wet soil and assess the qualities. Then I would see where extra earth lived on my body, how did it impact me…did it bring weight and heaviness. In searching for new approaches to correlate kapha’s qualities with my surrounding, my body, and emotions, my understanding grew deeper. Enabling me to get ahead of an imbalance and try and prevent it or to understand how kapha dosha was benefiting me.

Final Thoughts

In the beginning, understanding kapha dosha can feel overwhelming. The 10 qualities are simple, yet multi-faceted. One word can be deconstructed into 10 words. Over time, with practice, the awareness will come. Take baby steps, wear your avant-garde philosophical hat, and memorize kapha’s qualities. Once you know the 10 qualities and 2 elements (earth+water), start looking at physical, emotional and external characteristics, through this lens. Reflect to see if it is in balance or out of balance, how is it manifesting for you. It sounds complicated, but over time it will help to broaden the understanding of the holistic self. Becoming more personal and feeling result less complicated. It’s worth, the sense of empowerment it provides in making choices based in our own awareness.

Intro to Ayurveda

What is it? How does it work...And what does it have to do with Me?

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At Ananda Yoga & FItness, I approach to the total yoga lifestyle is holistic and preventative. I strive to embody a healthy lifestyle, and I draw from Herbalism and other integrative modalities, along with cutting-edge scientific research, nutrition and Western medicine.

For wisdom about how to take care of ourselves seasonally, we often turn to Yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda.

Ayurveda is India’s 5,000 year-old-healing practice, the art and science of health and wellness. Ayurveda gives us tools that are both powerfully-effective and easy to grasp and implement all at the same time. Using the context of the Five Elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space), we can understand the energies around us in nature, and how they are mirrored in our own mental and physical wellbeing.

In is simplest application, it is a dance of balance, adding what we need more of, and regulating what we have in excess. For example, if we’re feeling sluggish and stagnant (associated with Earth element) we might go for a brief, brisk walk (and invite some Air and Space). Or if we have heartburn (which could feel quite Fire-y in the belly) we probably wouldn’t look to hot sauce to soothe our stomachs.

Over time we can attune to the sensations of the Five Elements around us and within us, learning to listen to what the body wants, and developing the tools to give it what it needs.

Here are some basics to help you get informed, empowered and inspired!

Each of the Elements is associated with certain qualities, many of which we might already know intuitively:

~ Earth Element is cool and steady, it is heavy, sturdy, slow/consistent. When we think of fertile Earth we think of nourishment and support for things to grow.

~ Water Element is cool and fluid yet heavy. It moisturizes and nourishes. It is cleansing.

~ Fire Element is hot and active, picture the flames dancing. It burns bright and has the power to transform, as in alchemy or cooking. It can be sharp and intense or warming and light.

~ Air Element is cold and dry. It is also mobile and can be erratic like the wind whipping through the trees.

~ Space Element is the most subtle of them all, with the qualities of smooth expansiveness, lightness and possibility.

These Five Elements make up the Three Doshas or consitutions. Each of us possesses all three Doshas in different ratios, and this might change from day to day, so understanding the qualities of the Doshas and Elements helps us to balance out our wellbeing.

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Kapha Dosha – Earth and Water Elements

Picture the steady, peaceful pace of an Elephant. The grounded qualities of Kapha can show up in our personalities as reliability, stamina, dedication and as a compassionate, nurturing heart. Of course, if we sink too far into Earth Element we might become slow, lethargic and stagnant… you can picture the typical “couch potato” and it’s not an accident that the vegetable referenced here is a tuber! We might need a little “fire under our you-know-whats” to get us moving, or a breath of fresh air to lighten us up. Inviting movement and deep breathing with a walk or flowing vinyasa, or lightening up the diet with a salad or bright juice can help lift us out of too much Kapha. 

Pitta Dosha – Fire and Water Elements

Pitta Dosha can show up as a warm and even firey personality, quick wittedness, eyes alight with ambition and intellect. The qualities of Pitta help us organize, set goals and achieve. However, if we burn too hot we might present a shouting voice or quick temper… frustration might cause our faces to get red and irritated, and a certain vein to bulge out of our foreheads! We might need to “chill out” and remember to breathe. Cooling pranayama and meditation can quell the flames of Pitta, along with a refreshing glass of iced mint tea. 

Vata Dosha – Air and Space Elements

Vata is creative and flowing, inspiration emerges from the expanses of space, and ideas dance like dandelion seeds on the breeze. Vata encourages spontaneity and movement, but in excess can have us spinning out into “monkey mind.” Anxiety can result and we can often feel restless and untethered, “wired and tired” all at the same time. This can lead us to becoming seriously depleted and fatigued. We balance this out by nourishing ourselves and rooting down, cultivating grounding and peace. A warm bath, a cup of ginger tea, a hearty soup and restorative yoga are great for balancing Vata.

If you’d like to Go Deep, there is no more esteemed teacher in the U.S. than Dr. Vasant Lad, founder of the Ayurvedic Institute. His website is an incredible resource. Check it out here, or view his Intro To Ayurveda document here.