Cleansing Spring Kitchari

Kitchari of Amazement

Kitchari is a traditional indian soup or stew made with aromatic digestive herbs, ginger, sprouted mung beans, and rice.  Soups and stews are easily digested so enjoying this meal in the spring where there is much congestion can ensue the digestive system isn't burdened by heavy and wet foods.  For a simple cleanse to give your digestion a break enjoy kitchari twice a day for 2-3 days.  This will ensure there is no undigested food clogging the digestive tract that will most likely promote congestion, weak digestion, and could potentially turn into a spring cold.  Kitchari can also be a nice light fresh dinner to share with friends and family.

 

            So bear with me as I don’t ever measure.  So each batch of kitchari is different!!

  • Assorted spices (fennel, coriander seeds, cardamom, cloves, ground tumeric, cumin seed, black/yellow mustard seed, and salt to taste)
  • 3 tbs minced ginger
  • ¼ cup ginger juice
  • 2 large leeks
  • Any seasonal greens available
  • a bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 3 cups germinated organic mung beans
  • 4 cups femented organic brown rice
  • ½ cup ghee (clarified butter) or substitute Coconut oil
  • optional can of organic coconut milk for creamy result
  • 10 cups of love

To prepare the beans and rice: Germinating the mung beans takes 2 days.  Soak mung beans in water and leave on counter rinse them in cold water daily.   They will show signs of sprouting after 1-2 days.  Fermenting the rice only takes 24 hours.  Soak rice in water overnight, then rinse and let sit on your counter covered with a towel or cheese cloth so the air get to it.  Rinse well before using.  This process will neutralize phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors increasing vitamin content, particularly B vitamins. Tannins, complex sugars, gluten and other difficult-to-digest substances are partially broken down into simpler components that are more readily available for absorption during germination.  In simple terms soaking, germinating, and sprouting grains and legumes make them easy to digest!

To cook the Kitchari: First heat the ghee or coconut oil in large stock pot.   Add in assorted spices (ground in mortar and pestle except mustard seeds) and toast until mustard seeds start to pop.  Add in minced ginger, then chopped leek.  Simmer until leeks are tender.   Add rice and mung (rinse well) with 8-10 cups of water.   More water for soupier kitchari, less for a thick kitchari.  Simmer until rice and mung are tender or your desired consistency.  At this point for a creamy variation you could add a can of organic coconut milk.  Lastly add in ginger juice (this will make the whole thing incredibly nice on you digestion).  For a creamier/full fat version simply add more ghee/and or a can of coconut milk while cooking.

Be sure to prepare in a mindful loving way.  So the resulting food will be nourishing to whomever receives it.  You can garnish with some fresh cilantro, or any seasonal greens available.  The heat of the hot kitchari will steam the greens to a digestible state (raw greens are hard to digest)

Peace and Love

Patanjali in a Nutshell - Sutra 1:2

Sutra 1:2

                                   

Complete mastery over the modifications of the mind is called Yoga

Pandit  Rajmani  Tigunait  and  Edwin  Bryant

 

Yoga is the cessation of the movements of consciousness

Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – BKS Iyengar

 

Yoga happens in the resolution of consciousness

Threads of Yoga – Matthew Remski

 

In the second sutra Patanjali explains what yoga could be (this is open to debate).  To stop our thinking mind or any movements or fluctuations of consciousness.  I agree that it is enjoyable to have an experience free from thought or a clear calm mind but consider that as a permanent state.  If this is the goal of yoga would our lives benefit by being in a state of thoughtlessness? If we emancipate ourselves from thoughts and ascend to the state of "yoga" how will our family feel, how will we make a living and work? Would we still be part of society? 

 

I think it is very important to consider what yoga means to us.  Being aware of our thoughts is a great tool to bring more balance into our life.  As we practice stilling the mind often mental habits, influences, and life experiences come up and inhibit yoga.  This is when the real yoga begins as we shift our lifestyle and habits to support calmness, balance, stillness, and of course, yoga.  The practice irons out the wrinkles of habit, influences, and mental turbulence or at least makes us aware of these factors that draw are attention away from deeper states of focus, mindfulness, or connection. 

 

My thoughts on permanence are influenced by nature.  There is life and death and nothing escapes this cycle.  In the natural world there is no permanence as things come and go. We cannot be in a constant state of inhalation as the exhalation must come to rid the lungs of carbon dioxide.  So to I feel that reaching a permanent state of yoga is impossible.  In the pages to come, Patanjali lays out practices and revelations on how to calm the mind and body and reach states of yoga but then we come down, back to our life, our world.  The practice is there for us to find yoga but not to hold it.  In ancient times sages and ascetics (or yogi's) would renounce life duties to pursue states of yoga (if any succeeded?).  Even in todays world I can't find proof that any practitioners have reached permanent states of enlightenment or yogic consciousness through yoga practice.  So what if experiencing glimpses of the states of yoga help us to wake up to the situations in our lives.  Can stilling the fluctuations of the mind bring clarity and intimacy with our world? Is it possible to have an open understanding of what yoga is?

Patanjali in a Nutshell - Sutra 1:1

Sutra 1:1

 

Then comes the right to undertake the practice of yoga

Pandit  Rajmani  Tigunait  and  Edwin  Bryant

 

With prayers for divine blessings, now begins an exposition into the sacred art of yoga

Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – BKS Iyengar

 

We all inquire into yoga

Threads of Yoga – Matthew Remski

 

I feel that every human on the planet at some point in there life questions what consciousness is and try to understand how to calm the mind to catch a glimpse of what is happening on a deeper level.  We all crave a connection to the inner quietude.

 

In the first sutra Patanjali immediately opens the practice to anyone who wishes to experience their consciousness.  Regardless of caste, religion, or upbringing we are intrigued to delve into the practice of yoga.  This first line instantly sparks curiosity into the reader.  What is Yoga? Why should I practice? Is it my right to inquire further into my state of mind?

 

I feel comforted by the potential of the pages to come that will bring an inquiry or investigation into the deeper parts of myself, my community, and my life.  Yoga has many meaning and those meanings will change as I go through life but committing to this inquiry of yoga I will always have new findings to share. 

 

Check back soon as I will reflect on the Sutras of Patanjali.

 

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali……in a nutshell.

The yoga sutras of Patanjali are a rich and contemplative arrangement of 196 sutras (aphorism) that challenge the reader to consider his/her own consciousness and understanding of what makes up reality.

 

I’m no expert on the Yoga Sutras but am drawn with intrigue towards the teachings as they are open to interpretation.  I’ve decided to share my reflections on the sutras in a very accessible and open presentation.  I hope everyone becomes curious to discuss and comment on what these sutra bring up in their understanding and experience.

 

Was Patanjali a magical sage? A group of philosophers? Half snake have man (really!)? Nobody really knows but the sutras are possibly as old as 400 CE (wiki). I’ve read that philosophers and authors in those times were rewarded and celebrated for removing even one syllable.  So the sutras are dense with meaning.  Sutras were traditionally chanted. A lot!  In order for the student to memorize each one and meditate upon their meaning.  As I have just began to delve into the yoga sutras of Patanjali I’m sure my understanding will change over time as I consider the teachings. I hope you will join my journey!

 

Patanjali’s yoga sutras make up the foundation of modern yoga practice and include the 8 limbs of ashtanga yoga which include; ethics (relations to others or yama), relations to oneself, posture (asana), freedom of breath (pranayama), freedom of the senses, focus, contemplation, and integration (the last 3 make up meditative practices).  The sutras also touch on the patterned tensions of conscious and unconscious life with a goal of possibly unbinding oneself from these happenings.  As there are many translations there comes many understandings of what Patanjali was recommending.  There is no central authority on what the sutras really mean as they are basically void of an author.  I believe the meaning of each sutra is relative to the reader and the culture that she/he is part of.  How can we let ancient teachings benefit our modern lives?

 

This will be a long journey dissecting each sutra (potentially skipping a few).  The beauty of philosophy is the teachings are open to contemplate.  The practices there to experience.  It is up to us to give them meaning.

Healing Back Pain Through Yoga Part 3

In my last edition of my blog on Healing Back Pain through yoga I will finally get to the physical; the body, the muscles, and the yoga poses. Before that I would like to reiterate how important our lifestyle, environment, and how we deal with emotions and mental stress are to our wellbeing.  It is difficult to practice yoga poses mindfully if the rest of your life is in turmoil.  In the following, I’ll try to capture the essence of physical yoga practice as a healing modality.

 

Practicing Yoga Asana (postures)

 

            My first recommendation is to find good quality instruction with a teacher who will support, encourage, and facilitate how to practice yoga postures in a beneficial way. This implies individual attention to your body and back pain conditions.  If you have minimal experience in practicing yoga it is especially important to practice the poses with good alignment and also attention from an experienced teacher – someone who will demonstrate how to stay safe during your practice.  As a teacher observes your body in yoga poses she/he can make recommendations on how to adapt the poses to suit the uniqueness of your body in comparison to other students.  Working 1 on 1 in private yoga classes is even better when starting out. This will assist you to develop a home yoga practice to heal your back.  The relationship between teacher and student should always be supportive to the growth, wellbeing, and most importantly, the independence of the student.  It takes time to understand which poses will relieve your back pain but the teacher can ensure you aren’t practicing in a way that worsens any symptoms you may experience.  Yoga practice also takes time to master each pose and to progress your understanding of how the body functions in the pose.

 

            Once you have learned some poses that bring relief from back pain you need to do them regularly.  This is the independence that the yoga teachers impart to you, the knowledge of how to develop a home yoga practice.  When the body is in pain and we do nothing, there is no change.  When we find yoga poses that reduce or relieve pain, we must experience this relief over and over and over again for a change to take place.  For a new pattern or habit to develop in our body there must be repetition, especially if you have experienced chronic pain cycles.  A home yoga practice is empowering to the students who learn to free themselves from pain! 

 

I’ll shed light on how I began to end my chronic back pain.  As a machinist and engineer I spent long shifts hunched over computers and metal working machines working on high stress projects.  My posture and work environment promoted this chronic pain even after work, while I was relaxing at home.  Practicing yoga, I noticed that a simple spinal stretch with my hands on the wall would temporarily relieve my back pain. It then became my duty that, whenever my pain cycle began, I would end it then and there by taking 30 seconds to practice spinal stretch (wall dog or ardha uttanasana).  I would do this during lunch, while shopping, on the trunk of my car, while skiing or halfway through a movie.  It worked! I broke the spell of what I thought would be a never-ending pain cycle and, more importantly, it happened of my own free will.  Yoga practice will not heal your back by taking one class a week.  It needs to happen on a daily basis so new postural habits are engrained in our cells, our mind, and our existence.

 

Drop any idea you have of what your yoga practice should be.  The mind is a funny thing. It often attaches itself to the idea that doing more, stretching more, or radically changing ourselves will bring about a wellness that will forever end our troubles.  I do feel that we need a positive outlook but, if positivity keeps our mind contemplating what we think our practice should be, it distracts us from actually being in our bodies while practicing. Expecting our yoga practice to magically heal us overnight might also bring disappointment, as there is rarely such instant gratification.  Yoga takes time, care, and patience.  Any movement, stretching, or activity done in good alignment will bring about wellbeing eventually. Yoga practice hones our awareness to observe our body during each pose and during each action executed.  Throughout life we will experience many physical circumstances that will require us to drastically change our approach to yoga practice.  Not only does this diversify our skills as yoga practitioners but helps us break down habits and attachments to certain postural habits, exercises, and way of being.  A yogi is nor just physically flexible but also mentally flexible.

 

            All of this practice keeps us receptive.  We feel our muscles, bones, and skin with great intimacy and even catch glimpses of the inner happenings of the body including the nerves, breath, and energy. The study of the self gives us the knowledge to intuitively heal ourselves. Once we have an understanding of how to feel good in our body that becomes our yoga practice, the maintenance of a light, subtle, and receptive body and mind.

 

My final thoughts about healing back pain with yoga practice are to get some support, practice with others, make new friends and most importantly be nice to your self.  It is possible to physically heal our body all on our own yet the journey is enriched when you share it with others.  Connecting with others, sharing conversation, thoughts, and emotions heals us on a much deeper level as it brings a deep satisfaction to our lives. We all crave friendship and you can find it very easily at any local yoga studio.   There are many seekers on the path to bring more balance to their lives. When you learn to be kind to others you learn to be kind to yourself.  This connection to community and others with similar struggles and goals will encourage and support wellbeing more that words can describe.  I hope you have enjoyed these reflections and have found a new curiosity towards your own body and mind.

 

 

Healing Back Pain Through Yoga Part 2

            In this blog I’d like to shed light on how our emotions, whether current, present or deeply rooted within us, can have a major impact on our nervous system, heartrate, mental state, and physical state.  Also I’ll touch on how external factors in our environment can also influence us.  If you haven’t read the previous blogs in my Back Pain series click HERE.

 

The Emotions and our Environment:

            Emotions are very powerful energies that have an equally powerful influence on our body, mind, nervous system, and life.   Consider some emotional responses you would have for the following situations: losing a loved one, a threat to your job security over a deadline, not being able to save money or buy a house, your boyfriend dumps you (of girlfriend), almost getting into a car accident, falling and breaking a leg, winning the lottery, accomplishing a long time goal.  Take a moment to contemplate these scenarios and how your whole body would respond to each.  For me the responses for each situation would be along the lines of the following; deep remorse and sadness, stress and anxiety, depression, sadness and loneliness, adrenaline, shock, outright joy and happiness, pride and satisfaction.  We are human and have instinctual and cellular responses for the situations we encounter in life.  Our nervous system, the endocrine system, and adrenal glands provide the body with different hormones, chemicals, tensions, relaxations and reverberations that are directly relative to what situation or emotion the body may encounter.  It is normal to cry, have a bout of anxiety, feel sad, feel depressed on a rainy day, and experience raging anger just like it is normal to laugh, play, feel uplifted and experience joy and happiness.  It is when we are in a constant state of one emotion that these energies can have a negative influence on the mind and body.  In fact muscular tensions can form in our body from what we are feeling.  We even use language that supports our experiences like “that guy is a pain in the neck”, “taxes are a pain in the butt”, “A lump in my throat”, “butterflies in my stomach”-- do any of these sound familiar?

 

Anxiety, for instance, is a commonplace emotion felt by many people I know (myself included).  When we are anxious there is a surplus of uprising energies to the mind, we sweat, panic, think too much, and can’t settle down.  With long-term anxiety the body and mind have a really hard time relaxing or feeling rooted and grounded, and the nervous system is overworked dealing with all the surplus of excitement!  This longtime stress for me ends up tightening my jaw, neck, shoulders and upper back, finally culminating in a full on backache that won’t be ignored. I’m getting anxious just writing this! But I have been experimenting with the understanding that by simply noticing these sensations there is a choice we have when observing our state of being.  We can ignore it, bottle it up and mask it with some temporary fix or distraction, or we can take time every day to spend relaxing, meditating, walking in nature, doing yoga poses or whatever it is that slows us down for the mind to become more clear, the nerves to settle, the upward rising anxiousness to ground itself into comfort. This work helps us to make good choices.  We can’t change the body’s natural response to emotions; they are engrained in our genes and cells.  We can begin to contemplate the circumstances from which these emotions arise and make it our yoga practice to skillfully counterbalance the negative responses that stress our bodies and minds. 

 

            The idea of separation brings me to talk about environmental influences. Feeling like a separate entity from the world is built in to the story of the ascent of humanity and our attachment to ego and the self.  The modern day man has conquered nature, solved the mysteries of the planet and stars, cured most disease through science, and has surpassed the need to rely on others.  As an individual we are expected to make a living, own our own house, own a car, consume mass amounts of stuff, and be self-reliant.  It is easy to feel completely segregated and uninfluenced from our neighbors and colleagues, nature, or climate change and global struggles. Deep down I think everyone knows we are connected on very subtle levels to everything.  When we make a bad dietary choice we live and feel that.  When we argue with someone close it is an emotional experience.  When a refugee child washes ashore in a distant country on the news our hearts flutter with remorse. We are unarguably connected to the world in which we live. Living in a toxic or negative environment brings dissatisfaction to our lives.  As we saw how the emotions can spur tensions and responses in the body and mind, so too does our environment.  Consider having really poor conditions in your workplace.  Day in and day out you go to a job you hate, where you are treated unfairly yet are trapped by the need to pay bills, feed yourself, and keep shelter for yourself and family.  Clearly this environment is stressful and would bring a longing for a better job and more time to nurture ourselves.  Don’t quit your job because of yoga, but maybe let your job be your yoga by connecting more with your employer and voice a need for change.  If your wellbeing is in a conflict with work then a shift must take place.  The ecosystem we are part of includes our friends, hobbies, diet, work, home and all factors of our lifestyle. Example of actions that could lead to back pain are:  drinking too much, overeating, lack of exercise, negative company, tension with a loved one, not getting out for fresh air and nature and most other obvious choices that are unhealthy.  Through yoga we wake up to all parts of our life and have a choice in how we live.  I’m not recommending some kind of fairy tale life that doesn’t have its downsides but rather encouraging the need to live in an environment that is comforting, nurturing, and most importantly connects you to others, the food your eat, and mother nature that we are deeply connected to.

 

I hope my words are painting a picture of living your yoga practice.  Yoga is not just physical poses, yoga studio classes, $100 yoga pants, or the spiritual materialism that is trending in the wellness industry.  Your life is your yoga!

 

 

 

 

 

Healing Back Pain Through Yoga Part 1

In my second portion of the healing back pain through yoga articles I’d like to discuss how our mental state plays a role in healing back pain.  If you haven’t read the first blog and need to catch up click HERE.  It may seem along way from our back but there are many deep connections between the brain, mind, our consciousness, and the physically sensations we feel.

Our Mind:

            Our lives and our identity are made up of stories we have been taught or stories we have about ourselves. How often do we attach to stories of past injury, or bodily dysfunctions that may have come up in our lives?  By attaching to these stories are we inhibiting ourselves from healing and writing a new more positive narrative on the direction of our life?  These can be hard questions to ask but our metal outlook on physical wellbeing does have an impact on what we do and how we do it! I don’t want to advocate some new age mantra that you can materialize perfect health just by belief (I’ll leave that to Mr. Chopra) but attachment can leave one foot stuck in the mud of our once injured self.  For example, doctors told me I would never play hockey, go skiing, lift heavy things, or do any of the activities so dear to my heart ever again.  And, devastatingly, I was attached to this advice.  My mind held on to the idea I couldn’t do the things I love and this was a death sentence, my life was over, as I knew it. 

I had a high regard to medical professionals so why wouldn’t I listen to them! But once I started moving, breathing, stretching, and living my life again I quickly realized they were wrong. One night I braved the idea of skiing again (for the fear of god had been put into me that skiing would cripple my hopes of healing). Skiing actually loosened my muscles up and filled my lungs with crisp mountain air.  My whole body pulsed with life and it relieved my backache. I was alive again!   The list of don’t do’s that is offered to those suffering back pain rolls of the tongue so nicely. Don’t sleep on your stomach, don’t forward fold, don’t lift heavy things, don’t engage in vigorous activity, don’t don’t don’t.  This advice leaves us very limited in what we can do and might create phobia each time we have to tie our shoelaces (yup that was me!). Of course a sudden change in my mindset didn’t instantly fix my spinal health and back pain but it gave me confidence to progress daily to become healthy again in order to live the fullest life.  In my mind I become open to the idea of healing.

An injury is an event, it happens, then it is over and the body begins to heal.  Attaching to the idea that we are permanently broken and injured can drown any positive goals of healing ourselves, or alleviating a condition.  Through yoga practice we focus our mind on our body (through postures, breathing, and meditations) and bridge a connection that harmonizes the two into one (the yoking of yoga).  When the body moves, stretches, engages and relaxes, the mind is focused on these happenings and becomes still, aware and present.  When the mind quiets down we have a finer lens with which to consider our thoughts, habits, and the stories we tell about ourselves with less reaction.  A yoga practitioner truly wakes up to the choices and decisions they make that affect their wellbeing.  The heart of Yoga is not to harm ourselves (see Ahimsa), or others, so by being mentally present and awake we can decide for ourselves what choices, lifestyle, yoga postures, and mental outlook best supports our path to healing back pain.  The mind plays an important role in helping us develop a personal yoga practice!

 

That is part 1 of my blog on Healing Back Pain through Yoga and you may be surprised that I didn’t talk much about the physical yoga or tell you what to do.  I’m hoping to intrigue each of you, the reader, to look deep into yourselves and question the inner teacher that has a great wisdom around healing the body.  It’s You!

Healing Back Pain Through Yoga (Introduction)

            Everyone will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Whether it be chronic or debilitating pain, or simply some stiffness and soreness, back pain and discomfort is part of being human!  I’m sure we can all agree that back pain isn’t fun and drains us of energy and lowers our quality of life.  In this series of articles, I will articulate a few thoughts about how practicing yoga can alleviate and prevent current and future back pain.

 

            To start, we must understand what “yoga” is.  The word “yoga” can be defined as to yoke, union, integration or intimacy and it is a practice that entails becoming more conscious of reality.  Meaning we strive to yoke our mind, body, consciousness, relationships, and our environment.  Yoga is being awake and aware of all the wonderful connections that are present in our lives and in the world around us.  To practice yoga one must treat the body as a whole, and this frame of mind gives a different lens from which to approach healing ourselves and maintaining health.

 

            The current model of healing found in contemporary western society can be thought of as mechanical and scientific.  We all want to know why our back hurts and exactly what to do to fix it.  How can I take apart the parts of my body and reassemble them to work properly? The answers aren’t so simple when we consider the totality of our existence.  Many modalities and modern medicine relate to the body as mechanical and compartmentalize our symptoms to specific areas leading often to overly specific diagnoses.  I’m not saying that modern medicine, science, anatomy, and bio-mechanics aren’t miraculously amazing, it’s just usually the language and the need to pinpoint the exact location and factor for pain tends to be insanely specific and gives us a feeling of dysfunction and alienation. For instance, can you receive a “diagnosis” (stenosis between out 4th and 5th lumbar vertebra with a slight fusion of the sacroiliac joint) and still feel like a whole and integrated person?  I’m being facetious but honestly trying to dissect and understand ourselves with this level of detail takes us away from the big picture, the whole picture: the deeply integrated nature of our body, mind and spirit. The viewpoint of what a healthy body is has been reduced to the concept that our physical body was built, has parts that can be broken, and someone else can show us how to repair, reassemble, and fix things back to a mechanically perfect body.  There are some missing links in this outlook.

 

            I would like to share my back pain story to situate how I turned my pain story into a new narrative of change and healing.  When I was a 26 year old active, fit and strong young man I started experiencing debilitating back pain and sciatica.  I paid to have an MRI after numerous therapies garnered no results and found I had severe osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis near the sciatic nerve, and an extreme case of degeneration of the spinal disks (the cushions between the vertebrae).  Needless to say this was devastating news for me.  All of the top back pain specialists I saw suggested surgery after manipulations, steroids, nerve numbing concoctions, and cortisol injections repeatedly failed. None of these specialists spent more than 15 minute with me.  WAIT.  FIFTEEN MINUTES.  In our current system, it was a rarity to find someone with compassion, an open ear, or someone who will sit down and help me for more than 15 minutes.  Of course this is my experience but it is hard to get know someone in 15 minutes.  Every doctor, specialist and therapist I saw took a look at my MRI, but not the person in front of them: me.  There wasn’t any consideration of my quality of life, postural habits, diet, love life, family affairs, or what I do for fun.  They missed all of the contributing factors to back pain in my life like dissatisfaction with my workplace, anxiety, loneliness, heartbreak, depression, and extreme stress.  Every single specialist failed to see the entirety of me and who I am as a person, but rather focused on the symptom, the physical, the mechanical and how my broken pieces might be individually fixed. I came to an important realization: healing my back would be a process of healing myself. I decided to look at my whole life and being and was able to create a new story, and new narrative around my pain. Through a practice of yoga, I found a union within myself and connected to my inner capacity to heal body, mind and spirit.   Luckily the union I found through yoga helped me connect with myself before I was under the surgeon’s knife.

 

There are too many words and too many emotions to tell my whole story and thoughts about back pain in one blog post! Check back tomorrow for the next part where I discuss the role of the mind and the emotions in healing back pain.

 

Why Beginners Yoga is a great introduction to Yoga Practice

So you’ve decided to try yoga, but are a little worried and maybe skeptical about your first yoga class.  When beginning to practice yoga our usual concerns are: we aren’t fit enough; flexible enough; or strong enough to make it through our first yoga class.  This is pretty normal for anyone new to yoga especially if you google yoga and see your stream fill up with advanced poses, handstands and twenty something year old fit women.  This isn’t a very good reflection of what happens in most yoga classes and can create some speculation about what yoga practice really entails.  Yoga practice is an amazing tool to increase strength, balance, fitness, flexibility, and encourage wellbeing while also promoting stress reduction.  Practice is unique to the abilities of each student and complementary to supporting your lifestyle ensuring you can continue to do all of your activities and hobbies.

Here are some reasons you should take a beginners yoga course to help you start practicing yoga without the worry’s and intimidation that comes with being new to yoga.

Learn with other beginners!:

When you take a beginners yoga course you will learn with other students completely new to yoga.  There is something comforting and reassuring about practicing yoga with others that are learning and trying something new for the first time.  A friendly and encouraging environment is so important when learning.  Nobody feels centered out for not being able to perform a pose and the pace of class is slow to give time to comprehend how to move your body, feel things, and most importantly breathe.  There is opportunity to chuckle at difficulties and failures and celebrate all of your successful yoga poses together.  The bonding that happens when learning and practicing with a small group is great way to build friendships and community!

 

You will learn about your body:

A beginners yoga course is a slow paced class where there is opportunity to feel your body in the poses and be receptive to how you practice the pose.  You find a relationship between yourself and the poses. This relationship helps teach you what poses come naturally and what ones are difficult.  You will also learn that your body is completely unique to everyone else’s and therefore so to your yoga poses will differ from others. Yoga should feel good so contorting your body to fit into the pose isn’t the goal.  The yoga pose should fit your body. Learning about yourself and being comfortable in your own skin is the yolking that is yoga.

 

Small class sizes:

It is so reassuring when beginning a yoga practice to have a teacher’s guidance and observation to help be sure you are practicing the poses correctly. In beginners yoga the teacher is there to make your first experience of yoga enjoyable.  The teacher will observe you in the poses and help you to find what works for your body.  The teacher can help with suggestions of what poses would benefit you to practice regularly and advise not practicing poses that aren’t suitable for you. 

Learn the Basics:

There seems to be an infinite number of yoga poses nowadays some of which you will never have to worry about.  This is good as when a new student becomes familiar with the basic foundation of yoga practice the more advanced poses come easier.  Beginners yoga will cover the fundamental yoga poses that you will encounter in a drop-in class.  Each pose is broken down so the student can learn if they need props, or how to modify the pose to suit their body.  It is amazing to see how differently you might practice a pose compared to your neighbor.  Yoga isn’t a “one size fits all” practice and by learning the basic shapes, your practice will become unique.

Explore Different Styles of Yoga:

Beginners yoga will expose the new student to many different ways of practicing.  Sun Salutations are faster-paced movement following the breath, standing poses build strength and stability, restorative yoga relaxes the nervous system, and seated poses held for a length of time have a yin quality to them.  Once experienced, the new students can distinguish what practices might be the most beneficial for them to practice.  Someone who sits at a desk all day would often be invigorated and awakened by a faster moving class, while someone always on the go might calm down in a restorative class.  We acquire a yoga toolbox that can help balance our daily lives.

 

Feel the Benefits Right Away:

Even after your first class of moving, stretching, breathing, and relaxing you will notice the benefits and joy that come from yoga practice.  Yoga builds strength and power while at the same time opens and stretches stiff parts of the body.  This combination helps keep the body resilient and improves overall fitness. Some poses increase core strength while others do the opposite and allow the abdomen and organs to relax.  These oppositions encourage balance in the body.   The restorative and relaxing qualities of yoga let the entire nervous system unwind, significantly decreasing stress levels.  All the benefits associated with yoga practice will ensure you stay fit, healthy, and can pursue an active lifestyle.

Find Your Confidence:

After graduating the beginners yoga course you will have the confidence to go and try any class!  You will have a general understanding of basic yoga poses and know how keep within your body’s capabilities. You will have a personal responsibility of practicing in a way which keeps you curious, encourages growth, provides a challenge but maintains your health and wellness.  The confidence that comes with learning yoga might even have you practicing at home with your own inner teacher guiding you!

 

If you are still on the fence about trying yoga check out our other article about Beginners yoga practice HERE.  We encourage everyone to come and learn yoga if there are any questions or concerns please contact us at practice@liveyoga.ca

Our Beginners Yoga courses run regularly at the lovely Live Yoga that serves White Rock and South Surrey with the highest quality yoga classes.

 

 

 

Slowing Down by Marnie

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast-you also miss the sense of where you are going and why." -Eddie Cantor

I recently was on the Gulf Islands, where the locals talk about ‘Island Time’. There are even bumper stickers that say ‘I’m On Island time’ to notify city people that there’s no need to keep tailgating, I’m not going any faster! After a coffee at ‘Slow Coast Coffee’ (you’re starting to see a theme here too?) I realized that slowing down is something we actively need to value and encourage in our own selves and in our communities.

If we take the time to notice if we are living in such a way that we are constantly feeling rushed and anxious then maybe it is time to ‘untrain’ our brain. Because if we are constantly feeling stressed, anxious, and over worked, our brain becomes stressed, anxious, and overworked. You might even notice when you take a holiday that your brain is so un-used to relaxing that the whirling thoughts continue even when you desperately wish to have a break.

I believe there is a correlation between yoga becoming more popular in the western world as technology continues to increase with texting, emailing and social media. We intuitively know that our mind needs to have rest.

To ‘untrain’ our brain and rest our mind we can actively train our brain to slow down. Meditation and pranayama (breathing) are two ways that we can begin to slow down and really influence our mood state for the better.

This is a good time to take a nice slow breathe in and a lovely leisurely exhale and as you do feel those shoulders soften down.

Here are two very simple practices that you might like to implement into your life.

 

Appreciation Exercise (a breathing exercise)

Make a list of things you appreciate   – people, places, activities, and pets – choose one or two each morning to hold in your heart during the day. Choose an item again at night to hold in your heart while you rest.

After you have done your appreciation list, choose what you would like to hold in your heart for the day and begin to focus your attention on your heart area. If it feels appropriate close your eyes. Breathe a little deeper and slower than normal (check that your shoulders and face are soft). Allow yourself to enjoy the benefits of taking the time to slow down and establish a soothing breathing rhythm.

Next: Imagine breathing through your heart. Picture yourself slowly breathing in through your heart and exhaling out through your heart area. Keep the focus of your breath coming into the heart and exhaling out of the heart.

Now breathe what you have chosen to appreciate into your heart area and exhale it out and all through your body. Continue in this manner breathing in your appreciation and letting it flow through you.  Take as long as you like with this.

How do you feel? Do you notice a greater sense of ease, wellbeing or relaxation?
Practice this daily for a week and notice your wellbeing.
 

Meditation (uplifting if feeling out of sorts)

Meditate on light at the heart center: Assume a comfortable meditation posture (you can sit or lie down), and bring your attention to the center of the chest in the region of the heart. Visualize a bright golden-white light in the heart center. Inhale and allow the light to fill the region, imagine or feel the area softening and then exhale and expand the light in all directions, illuminating every cell of your body, every corner of your mind, your entire being. Visualize the light expanding infinitely in all directions. As you notice your mind wandering, return your attention gently to the light of the heart. Continue to focus the attention on the light at the heart center for the period of your meditation.

You can do this anytime, if you are new to meditation start with one or two minutes, gradually adding on.  You will always benefit from taking a short time out and recharging yourself.

“Just slow down.
Slow down your speech.
Slow down your breathing.
Slow down your walking.
Slow down your eating.
And let this slower, steadier pace perfume your mind.
Just slow down.”
-Doko

Marnie is teaching Gentle Yoga for Stress Release in September, as well as Healing Anxiety and Healing Depression. Her classes focus on slowing down and letting go.

Yoga of Eating

This weekend Sean will be hosting a workshop on the nature of food on Sunday, April 19th.  Usually he sends this article after the session but to give some foresight into what will be covered here it is now!

 

Culinary Consciousness

The Yoga of Eating

 

Cultivating a diet that sustains and nourishes your body, lifestyle, and yoga practice.

 

During the Yoga of Eating workshop/discussion, we discussed the highly debatable and controversial subjects of our diet and the nature of food.  Topics covered included the change in food in the last 150 years, eating mindfully, physical and mental experience, ahimsa, digestion, food preparation, and spices to enhance digestion.           

As our physiology changes through our yoga practice so to does our awareness of how foods impact our wellbeing and digestion.  We begin to feel the effect of foods we eat.  As any yoga practice should be developed to meet the needs of an individual, so too should our diet be formed to meet our own personal needs.

Hopefully after the workshop, you had a better understanding of how to take time to appreciate and feel the foods you eat – so your relationship with food can become more nourishing, satisfying and health-giving. The Yoga of Eating encourages lightness and clarity leaving the mind free, clear, and happy.

Sean prepared a vegetable curry that included germinated chick peas and rice, lots of nutritious veggies, prepared in , garlic, spices and lots of love. We experienced the smell of food, the taste, texture and experience of eating slowly.

 

The Evolution and Nature of Food:

Over the last 100-150 years there has been a dramatic shift in the nature of food.  The nutritional constitution of food has been reduced to nothing more than calories. Farm-fresh whole foods have been manufactured into replicas and there is a serious increase in previously uncommon diseases such as cancer and heart disease.   This leaves the question what transformation has taken place?

150 years ago there were no freezers or fridges, so food storage was done by methods like fermentation, pickling, curing, canning, or cellar storage.  Food did not last so it had to be consumed when harvested or it would go bad.  This brought a need for local supply, seasonal/regional availability, and community around the food we consumed.  Milk was delivered daily and the source of our food was a given.   There was a more intimate relationship with the food provided to nourish our bodies. 

Bring on changing times: the industrial revolution and the mass production of food (processed foods).  With post-war and depression, women were increasinglyjoining the workforce, so there was less and less time for gardening and preparing meals but a new opportunity for convenient, quick and cheap grocery option like T.V. dinners or McDonalds.  Consumerism begins to drive down not only the costs of foods, but also the quality, and suppliers start to find ways to increase production but cut down costs.   The production of foods leaves a disconnect between the origin of food and how it arrives on our plate. Also as food production ramped up, the quality of food decreased while the quantity increased.

With this revolution of supply, demand for cheaper foods comes the introduction of food preservation.  Pasteurized milk, large sodium contents, and chemical additives are some of the things developed to increase shelf life for giant super markets and big box stores to hoard food supply.  Food science becomes an actual thing.  The splicing of fruits and vegetables to get larger yields, sweeter fruits that lack fiber (think seedless grapes or bananas which originally contained seeds).  The sugar intake from over-consumption of these modified fruits can shine light on the increasing problem of obesity and diabetes. Even the seed itself has been modified GMOs (genetically modified organisms) to grow longer and resist pests but struggles to be anywhere near a natural substance. GMOs have been introduced with little research on the effects they have on our body and environment.  This awful reality has lead to depleted earth and soil, as well as farmers struggling with these new strains of seed.  Worst case is the farm owner suicide epidemic in India in which modified seeds were introduced with a cost inflammation of nearly 500%.   Even the meat industry has shifted from a system where farm animals actually assisted the ecology of the surrounding environment and agriculture to a disgusting, polluting, and unwholesome method of raising meat strictly for consumption.  

As technology increases so to does the impact of machinery on our foods.  Now our foods come stuffed in a cardboard box, wrapped in plastic, possibly frozen with a shelf life of 1 year yet somehow ready to consume after 5 mins in the microwave. Food is flown halfway around the world and sold cheaper than crops growing 20 kms from our home. The evolution of food has slowly drifted away from its natural state. All food is processed in some way (i.e. harvesting/cooking) but the more we allow ourselves to consume these quick and processed foods, the more our lives also become quick and processed. Choosing to source food from a known and trusted source, preparing meals personally, and sharing with good company will bring far better nourishment. Luckily there is a shift in the consciousness with the organic food movement and the increase of growing food ourselves.  The choice falls in our hands to know the origin of the foods that nourish us. This remembrance of where our food comes from shows the abundance the universe provides.

 

Mindful Eating:

Eating should be a sacred and divine practice. When did we start to disconnect from the act of eating?  Not only do we distract ourselves during meals with T.V. and cell phones, but also we become unconcerned with the actual physical effects and nourishment of our body.  In his book Food as Medicine, Todd Caldecott states,. “Food is something much more powerful than mere nourishment – it forms the essence of your very being. It becomes who you are. You are food.” 

Our physiology changes with the practice of asana (stretching) and pranayama (breathing) so we become more in tune with our body.  All the physical systems of the body become more efficient, absorbing nutrients and healing at a much faster pace.  This connection, awareness, and efficiency of body allow us to feel the effects of the food we ingest as well as absorb and assimilate provided nutrients.  Continuing to eat a western diet avoiding the results of our food choices can possibly cause harm to our body, as our newfound efficiency will actually absorb more toxins.  “It is the wholesome use of food that promotes the health of a person, and that which is unwholesome is the cause of disease” (Food as Medicine).  Knowing our food and the experience of our food is the core work of the yoga of eating. 

Eating should be a pleasurable experience. Human nature is to seek out pleasure.  At a primal level all beings and animals generally avoid pain and suffering (especially in digestion). Somehow the human race is one of the unhealthiest species on the planet.  Why is it we allow ourselves food that might not serve us?  Why take on a diet that makes us suffer, sacrificing our enjoyment with the idea that it will bring a healthier future?  The body can help to decipher what foods are good for you without having to study encyclopedias on nutrition and health food. Taking time to really enjoy the taste, smell, digestion, and wellbeing that food brings is necessary to conclude what foods are good and wholesome to us.   We must feel the effect of diet on the body and make choices not based on reason (right or wrong) but listen to that very intrinsic knowledge on a very animal and primal level. 

This practice can help to shine light on the confusion surrounding what diet to follow.  A lot of time can be spent trying different diets, listening to what the experts say, or the latest trends in health foods.  The problem is the experts are constantly changing their minds and most diets are contradictory or leave us working hard (and not enjoying) to achieve some super healthy state.  This leads to a lot of confusion and a struggle to conform to a strict dietary regimen that may work for some, but brings suffering to others.  Its not to say that the diets out there aren’t good but the ancient systems like TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and Ayurveda place a very high importance on the fact that every person has a very unique and different constitution as well as dietary need that is in a constant fluctuation.  So when deciding on food choices an inward authority should override an external suggestion.  Finding happiness and pleasure in life should be the goal.  There are more important things in life that eating perfectly.  

 

Physical and Mental Experience:

            In many Asian cultures a common greeting is“how is your digestion?”  How come in North America the subject of digestion and excretion has become so private, impersonal and avoided?  One of the easiest ways to understand how your diet is affecting your body physically is to attune to and be aware of how your body processes food from intake to excretion.  To really listen how you feel during the whole digestive process from start to finish.   B.K.S. Iyengar states, “Success in Asana begins with the first movement to come into the posture until the final movement to exit the posture.”   If we can bring this teaching into our Asana practice, why not use it for our eating habits?  Freeing ourselves from external distractions while eating can also reveal what foods we truly enjoy and receive therapeutic results from ingesting.  So eating quietly with full awareness allows us to learn more than a lackluster involvement in eating while focusing on TV, cell phones, or computers.  

            The mental involvement of eating is very significant.  Food addictions, stress, repressed emotions, habit, and societal influence all have a huge impact on our food choices.  We eat to be skinny, we eat to fit in, and we eat to enjoy but also we can eat to avoid things or distract ourselves from some deep craving or lack in our life.   Caffeine, alcohol, sugar, chocolate, and ice cream all are very enjoyable (and addictive foods) but usually don’t sustain or nurture us. Instead, they leave us with a sensation of emptiness.  We often only enjoy the taste or ecstasy of eating then continuing on with our busy or stressful day never accepting the suffering that our choice may render on our body.  We desire sugar for the lack of sweetness in our life, or MSG for lack of zest in life, or we overeat with a general unrest and dislike for our job, or life in general.  Often pausing to consider the nature of our desire will shine light on if it is a true authentic craving of the body or just the mind trying to escape some emotion or sensation that is unpleasant.  Like a devoted meditation practice investigating our thoughts, we can study our food choices to understand what brings true happiness. 

 

Ahimsa (Non – Harming):

            As stated in sutra 2:35 of Patangali’s yoga sutras “ahimsa pratishthayam tat vaira-tyagah.”  As a Yogi becomes firmly grounded in non-injury (ahimsa), other people who come near will naturally lose any feelings of hostility.  Non-harming (or as I prefer simply loving) should be practiced towards our selves, others, and the environment around us.  Being aware of our own choices and the reciprocating results is very important.   Continuing to buy vegetables or grains grown by earth-pillaging industrial agriculture actually supports that reality and harms the earth.  

Often a vegetarian diet is advised for a practitioner of yoga but what if this actually harmed our wellbeing.  Would it not be against the practice of Ahimsa?  Ana Forest elaborates quite nicely in the following piece. 

            Ana Forrest, the founder of Forrest Yoga, also began her exploration of the yogic diet by focusing on ahimsa. "I was very attracted to vegetarianism and the philosophy of nonviolence for years, but the diet made me sick," she says. "I'm allergic to grains. I gain weight, my brain shuts down, and my bowels stop working. And my yoga practice does not improve."  So with her body screaming for a different regimen, Forrest chose an omnivorous diet, one that consists mostly of meat, especially game, and vegetables. But, she says, this doesn't mean she can't practice ahimsa. "Since I do eat animals," she says, "I honor the elk, buffalo, or moose by not wasting its life force or mine. I use that force to heal myself and others, and to teach, inspire, and help people evolve. My ethics about what to eat came down to my personal truth. Eating in a way that impairs your health and thinking is immoral. And the truth is that an omnivorous diet physiologically works for me." [1]  

 

            Clearly listening to our own internal voice is the final word on our choices.   We also must be careful with identifying our selves with our diet with a “holier than thou” mentality that we are better than others (and their food choices).  Every individual has different needs and freedom of choice.  Charles Eisenstein states in Yoga of Eating, “Judge-mentality of self and others is a primal form of violence”. 

 

            The easiest way of living your diet in harmony with the teachings of Ahimsa is to love yourself, others, and the environment and truly give gratitude to all the abundance the universe provides.

 

 

Food Preparation: 

            With all of the abundance the universe provides we are also provided an endless array of options when choosing how to prepare our food.  As the list is large, covering everything would be out of the scope of this seminar.  But I will briefly touch on a few very important points.

            Since the beginning of time, humans have cooked their foods.   “Fire was the precursor to the exponential rise of technology from the Neolithic onward; its use is the hallmark of civilization.  It is possible that we are adapted to eating cooked food; it may be written into our very biology.” (Yoga of Eating, pg 124)  Cooking foods not only makes for easier digestion and unlocks available nutrients, but also nourishes a state of being that is domestic and civilized.   In both Ayurveda and TCM there is an agreement about the digestive fire within (Agni) that can be dampened by too much wet or raw foods.  So warming, cooked foods help to maintain this internal fire that assimilates and breaks down the food we eat. 

 

Germination:

              Soaking (or germination) is the process by which a seed is transformed from dormancy into its active growing form.  Soaking nuts, seeds, and grains triggers and releases enzymes that break down the anti-nutritional factors of the grain/seed as well as some starches stored with the seed making for easier digestion and assimilation of nutrients.   “This explosion in growth during the first few days of germination not only liberates vital nutrients for the seedling but also dramatically enhances bioavailability of these nutrients.” (Food as Medicine, pg 116)

Germination as stated in Food as Medicine by Todd Caldecott:

Germination is very simple and takes nothing more than the seeds, water, a big jar, some cheesecloth and an elastic band.   Make a point to use whole grains and legumes to ensure the integrity of the protein rich layer just underneath the seed coat, which contains the fragile enzymes required for germination.  Place the seeds in the jar and cover with water for 8-12 hours.  Use a cheesecloth and elastic band to cover the opening and drain the seeds.  Rinse well in cool water and drain again to prevent fermentation.  Put the seeds aside for another few hours and rinse and drain the seeds a few times a day making sure they don’t dry out, but aren’t sitting in water. 

For most grains and legume dishes geminate the seed/grain/legume just until the radical appears, or about 48 hours, in order to preserve the calorie content and starches.  For vegetable sprouts keep them growing for another couple days until tiny leaves appear.  Wow the food is actually alive and growing!

 

Fermentation: 

Fermentation is a great technique for food preservation/storage to help keep some of the yummy garden fresh items readily available for consumption at a later date.   Unlike the heat of cooking used to break down coarse fibers that trap nutrients, fermentation make use of micro-organisms to break down cellulose and anti-nutrient factors to enhance assimilation (digestion).  One key feature of fermentation is the presence of lactic acid bacteria (LAB).  These different strains of bacteria are found in the environment around us, in our kitchen and our bodies.  The added benefit of eating live-culture foods is they help replenish the gut ecology, which plays a key role in regulating immune function and metabolism (Food as Medicine, pg 126).  Here is a small list of live-culture food examples: sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, cheese, sourdough bread, beer, rice wine, tamari, miso, pickled beans, fish sauce, pepperoni.

 

 

 

Spices:

            Not only do spices make food delicious, they have many different qualities that can be used to balance our bodies that constantly have different needs.   Spices help the body assimilate food by increasing Agni (the digestive fire) while helping to rid the body of waste or ama (toxins) leaving the body and mind free and clear.  Here is a list of some of the most healing herbs you can use in your cooking to bring better digestion and nourishment to your body.

Fennel: That lovely slightly ‘licorice tasting’ seed eaten as a digestive at the end of a meal in India, is a sweet and cooling spice that works to balance all the doshas. Part of the three spice blend along with cumin and coriander, which aids in digestion, assimilation, and clears stagnation, works well on it’s own to promote menstruation, increase the flow of milk in nursing moms, alleviate abdominal cramping and for cooling and calming the nerves. This makes fennel especially therapeutic spice for fiery Pitta.

Cardamom: A fragrant spice, used in most chai recipes, cardamom is one of the mildest but most effective digestive stimulants. Removes excess Kapha from the stomach and lungs, and combined with fennel, it acts a soothing digestive for nervous stomach disorders in children. Cardamom stimulates the heart and mind and offers clarity and joy.

Cinnamon: Pungent and sweet, this aromatic bark of tree is an effective spice for strengthening and enhancing the flow of circulation. Particularly good for Kapha and Vata, as it is heating and acts to strengthen the heart and promote agni or digestive fire. It is a widely-used home remedy for colds and flu, and aids in the absorption of other medicines.

Coriander: Whether it’s the green leafy fresh cilantro or the grounding earthy coriander seed, this is a food to always have on hand. The cilantro leaf acts as a cooling balm to Pitta or a bitter refreshment to Kapha and the seeds are humbly gracious to all doshas. Famous in Ayurveda as one of the three spices (along with fennel and cumin) used to balance and reset the body and mind, coriander is used for digestive disorders and to help in the assimilation of other herbs. Works on the digestive, respiratory and urinary systems, valuable for Pitta skin ailments and digestive issues where other pungent digestive spices are usually contraindicated.

Ginger: A must have in every kitchen apothecary, the fresh rhizome brings flavor, pungency and sweetness to food and is used widely as a digestive. Also an excellent remedy for respiratory conditions of Kapha and Vata, ginger is an invigorating spice and is known as ‘the universal medicine’ for its versatility and healing properties. Also used for arthritic conditions to clear stagnation in the joints and stimulating blood flow. Can also be used as a poultice for areas of pain. Excellent as a tea for colds and coughs. Increases agni (digestive fire).

Lemongrass: Subtle and refreshing, cooling, pungent and bitter, this fragrant herb is also known as Malabar grass. Relieves digestive ailments and acts as a coolant to the body. Causes perspiration and increased elimination through the skin, ridding the body of impurities and clearing stagnation.

Cumin: Cumin is an aromatic, astringent herb that benefits the digestive system, help flush toxins out of the body and acts as a stimulant to the sexual organs. Cumin is rarely used in Western herbal medicine, having been superseded by caraway which has similar properties. It is still widely used in India, however, where it is said to promote the assimilation of other herbs and improve liver function.
A general tonic to the whole digestive system, it is used in the treatment of flatulence and bloating, reducing intestinal gas and relaxing the gut as a whole. It is also used in the treatment of insomnia, colds and fevers and to improve milk production in nursing mothers. Furthermore it has powerful antioxidant and anti-cancerous properties.  It is a heating spice that is light, oily, and smooth. It promotes digestion while relieving diarrhea. It stimulates pitta as it decreases vata and kapha.

Fenugreek (seed) is bitter and astringent. It is a dry, heating spice that helps to relieve fever and arthritis. Fenugreek seeds burn fat and help absorption. They lower blood glucose and are therefore helpful for diabetes 2. They are useful for dissolving fat within the liver.  Fresh fenugreek leaves can be found at the farmer’s markets in late winter/early spring. They are nature’s super-food due to their beneficial effect on fat metabolism, bone health, blood sugar and also their cancer-fighting properties. Fenugreek is popularly used as tonic and as anti-coagulant when consumed in various preparations. It helps relieving digestive disorders, stimulates bowel movements due to its mucilaginous content, is used for hair problems like baldness or premature graying. It increases vata as well as pitta if too much is taken. It also decreases kapha.

Mustard seed: is a pungent, heating spice. It is oily, light, and sharp. It relieves muscular pain. Generally brown, mustard seeds are used quite a bit in Indian cooking. Brown mustard seeds are warming, and impart the pungent taste according to Ayurveda. They are balancing for Kapha and Vata, but increase Pitta dosha. In Ayurveda, brown mustard seeds are considered a digestive and good for alleviating stomach discomfort such as gas or cramps.

Turmeric: is bitter, pungent, and astringent. It is a heating spice thought to help in diabetes. It promotes good digestion. Curcumin the active component of turmeric is anti-inflammatory and is medically promising because inflammation and oxidative damage are contributors to many diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, arthritis and various cancers. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s and certain cancers in India is among the world’s lowest. Turmeric blocks the growth skin cancer, and inhibits the spread of breast cancer into the lungs.  Turmeric is a wonder spice and finds much use in medicine. It enhances the tissue sensitivity to hormones besides receptivity to many drugs. In India ground turmeric is mixed in hot milk to strengthen bones and heal injuries. Turmeric increases vata and pitta if too much is consumed, and relieves kapha.

Black Pepper: Pepper helps carry nutrition across the blood brain barrier. Since the brain is over 50% fat, it is nourished by high quality oils. Sautéeing fresh ground pepper in extra virgin olive oil or ghee is recommended for brain nourishment.
Pepper is very stimulating to the digestion, however, pepper is quite heating and potentially Pitta aggravating in nature and must be used sparingly. Black pepper helps correct digestive disorders and its vital component called piperine strengthens immunity and the functioning of the heart and kidneys.

Saffron: Known as an aphrodisiac spice saffron strengthens the whole body, has a particularly powerful effect on the reproductive organs and has been used to enhance fertility. It is a good spice for menopause and menstrual problems, since it is a revitalizer of blood, circulation, and the female reproductive system, as well as the metabolism in general. Saffron is one of the best anti-Pitta spices since it regulates spleen and liver.  It helps with asthmatic and bronchial disorders, reduces inflammation, treats acne and skin conditions, and strengthens the heart.

Cloves: In Ayurveda, cloves are considered to enhance circulation, digestion and metabolism and help counter stomach disorders such as gas, bloating and nausea. The essential oil of clove is used as an ingredient in oral hygiene products to promote tooth health and freshen the breath. The clove contributes the pungent and astringent tastes. Cloves help pacify Vata and Kapha and increase Pitta.

Hing powder (Asafoetida): In Ayurveda, hing is used to aid digestion, cure colic, and stagnation in the GI tract. Hing burns ama. It is a primary herb for Vata.  Hing reduces the growth of flora in the gut, especially candida, directly reducing gas. It destroys worms and has anti-viral properties.

Ajwain: According to ayurveda, ajwain is a powerful cleanser. It is helpful for stimulating the appetite and enhancing digestion. It is recommended to help alleviate gas and discomfort in the stomach. It is also helpful for the functioning of the respiratory system and the kidneys.

 

Conclusion

            Developing a healthier and more conscious diet requires some simple steps and really is not that difficult.  Pleasure is the main goal and ridding ourselves of discomfort is an outcome.  As I said before there are more important things than eating perfectly and having supernatural health.  Living a happily engaged life with community, family, and friends striving to help make a better planet is a far greater calling then being concerned with the effects of your diet.  So live your life fully and let your diet be a reflection of the joy, happiness, and contentment you experience day-to-day.

 

By: Sean O'Leary

Rehabbing Your Body From A Broken Foot and Kneecap; Or, Ramblings of a Rehabbing Yogi by Cindy

Dear Readers,

This is a rather long title, yes? Step on my train (of thought) for a moment, I want to take you for a ride!

Several weeks ago while visiting the loo in the middle of the night, in the dark, I slammed my foot into the door jam, effectively breaking my foot. Then, a couple of weeks after that, while riding a knee scooter, a contraption that helps support a broken foot in an aircast, going too fast, I tipped over, and broke my kneecap! Two huge blows in the space of a couple of weeks!

SO, for several weeks I have been in an immobilizing leg brace. Me. Aircast. Leg Brace. Several days ago, I was given the green light to start bending my knee manually, with no weight. It really is a sweet relief and hot mess at the same time. Pain and pleasure. 

Sometimes it really is just about the body. Ohhhhh that pose feels so awesome on my hips and groins!!!! Then I look, holy cow, I'm not even that far into the pose!! And it feels heavenly with a touch of wonder...As in I wonder if its too far, too much, too soon, too intense? I would prefer that the wonder be about the whisperings of the Universe, but I know if I stay long enough, I will get there. 

All I can say is thank you God for Yin Yoga. It's a beautiful balance. Just like life. That beautiful balance of effort, and then surrender. I keep coming back to the realization that my challenge is the surrender!! Ahhh....there it is...there's the Universe.

Namaste,

Cindy

Cindy is taking some time off her lovely Friday evening Candlelight class while she heals. If all goes to according to plan, she will be back in September. In the meantime, enjoy some relaxing and soothing classes with Laura, Marnie and Jools in her stead this summer!  Happy healing Cindy... We know you will be smiling no matter what happens!

6 Tips to truly enjoy the holiday season

The holiday season is such a wonderful time of year to enjoy family gatherings, visits with friends, giving and receiving gifts, and a generally cheerful state of mind. Much joy is spread around with so much generosity. But beware, all of this gayness can be veiled by the frantic and hectic pace of commuting between gatherings, the consumer culture of large malls and stores, and an overall exhaustion of our own energy. Our days may include sugar and caffeine fueled shopping sprees or a couple more alcoholic beverages than normal. Striking a balance is key to remaining healthy and content. This blog won't preach about not indulging this holiday, but just having a mindful attitude while enjoying the treats as well as the busyness and possible hangovers (sugar hangovers also). Don’t fret, there are ways to ensure you keep calm without falling into the habits of the scrooge. Try these tips this holiday season:

 

  1. Take your time – Rushing around is very stimulating for the nervous system. Rather than treating the holidays as a never ending marathon, give yourself time to arrive at your destination or slow down when feeling frantic. A few moments to enjoy Christmas lights, watch the smiles on others faces, or taking a few moments to enjoy breathing can slow down the pace of your day.

  2. Be Present – This may sound cliché in the yoga world but extrapolating from tip #1, slowing down to smell the roses, pausing to enjoy another's company, and being there to receive others will keep you present to enjoy the holidays. It works in tandem with tip #1! You have to slow down to be present. This is living mindfully. When truly in the moment friends, family, eggnog, chocolate, or a glass of wine are the most wonderful treats!!

  3. Smile – The physical act of engaging all your facial muscles in a way which raises the outer edges of you lips and even shows you teeth is merry, joyful and contagious! Often it even encourages the spine to lift improving your posture as your happiness radiates throughout (think of the Grinch when his heart expands). Smiling will make you feel good and also other people will notice how happy you are! This is an easy way to spread the holiday cheer!

  4. Get Outside – Exercise is the best way to blow of some steam. The days are short, and it is truly tempting to live beside the fireplace in our pyjamas with hot chocolate but the body needs to move to burn off excess energy (or create it). A quick walk outside in the sunshine may be all you need to relax- or get some energy by motivating the physical body.

  5. Don’t be a stranger – People are very receptive during the holiday! You can make someones day better simply by saying hello and asking how they are. You might even make a new friend! As our culture and communities continue to segregate ourselves from each other it warms the heart to connect frequently. This is something we all crave! To have companions and share love with others.

  6. Be the GIFT!- Give yourself! Its not all about presents in the holidays (although we mistakenly might think it is). You yourself are an amazing gift. Showing up to visit, converse, help out, or share meals while mindful and present is the greatest gift anyone could ask for.

 

5 Reasons to do the May Challenge!

It’s the exciting time of year again at Live Yoga where we offer our annual May Challenge!  This is always a fun month for the studio as there is opportunity to support and encourage each other’s yoga practice in a totally different way.  This is no fitness regimen or boot camp style challenge!  We would like to encourage people to explore some other yoga practices like pranayama (breathing), meditation and study some philosophy.   All that is needed is a smile and commitment to complete 28 practices (of all sorts) in the month of May.

Here are the top 5 reasons YOU should do the Challenge!

1. Setting a goal boosts confidence: 

The sense of accomplishment we feel when we achieve a goal helps to build courage and confidence to complete other goals.  Setting our mind to something with vigor and determination helps to manifest our goals into reality.  We then become masterful at making our thoughts and goals a reality all around. 

2. Fire up your body:

Spring time is a great time of year to get the systems of the body moving again.  Yoga and exercise in general can help to remove some of the stagnation and lethargy left behind from the winter months.  Even on a digestive level, exercise promotes the assimilation of food and helps bring a strong hunger and digestive fire back.  All this movement ensures all systems of the body will be in proper working order and ready for the summer. 

3. Surprise Yourself:

Often there is a latent potential the lies hidden within us.  Whether held back by fear, worry, or doubt we can perceive ourselves unfit for some activities.  By committing to a yoga challenge, the body learns quickly and builds strength in the postures through repetition.  This can allow the physical limits of our practice to be tested and expanded.  The results usually surprise us as we might find ourselves doing more than we imagined.  So maybe try a flow class, or hold your warrior pose longer, who knows maybe you’ll be doing headstands by the end of the month! 

4. Find a routine:

Get your groove back and practice daily.  When the body finds a routine and sticks to it, vitality flourishes.  Participating in a challenge can be strenuous so the body requires the proper amount of rest everyday.  Getting up each day at the same time, and going to sleep at the same time allows the body to rest fully.  Practicing this much yoga often brings awareness back to the natural rhythms of the body and our environment.  We feel the natural urges of the body with heightened awareness and as a side effect we eat when hungry (not mindless snacking) and sleep when tired.  With routine we re-sync ourselves with nature and our natural urges this connection encourages wellness, balance and nourishment.

5. Connect with others:

A yoga challenge puts you in the same room with a whole bunch of awesome, like-minded individuals!  As everyone is be facing the same challenges there is an instant bond and relation – you will make friends!  You can share experiences and offer advice on how to accomplish your yoga challenge.  Easily the best part of the yoga challenge is doing it with others.  Much joy comes from connecting with people during the challenge becoming part of something greater than just fellow yoga students. It's an enriching experience!

 

Whatever your reasons for doing the May Challenge! Have a great month yogis!! More info here on joining the challenge. Register now and see what all the fuss is about!

 

Brahmacharya - Wise Use of Energy

Dharma Night discusses the Yama Brahmacharya this Friday, April 18 at 7:30pm. All welcome!

The practice of Brahmacharya essentially can be translated as the wise use of energy, especially sexual energy.  “Brahma” in Sanskrit can mean divine knowledge, universal consciousness or reality, and the root of the word “Brh” means to expand.  “Acharya” is translated as to move, practice, conduct oneself, or routine.  So Brahmacharya could be deciphered as conducting oneself in alignment with Brahma the divine knowledge and universal reality.  This conduct requires the observation of how we deal with energies in the body, including sexual energy. 

Often Brahmacharya is interpreted as celibacy, chastity and the general restraint of sexual energy.  The theory of this restraint is all energy from procreation or sex be channeled towards spiritual energy (ojus) and spiritual advancement.  I am glad to know that even in ancient time the sage Patanjali contemplated how powerful sexual energy is and included it in the 5 yamas of moral observations.  The idea that in order to practice yoga one must be celibate in order to reach deeper states of yoga is redundant.  Many great yogis were householders including the sage Vasista who had 100 children (in myth).  Both T. Krishnamacharya and B.K.S. Iyengar raised families while simultaneously contributing to the teaching and advancement of modern day yoga.  In fact Indian mythology is rich with stories of sexual union including the eternal dance of Shiva and Shakti procreating the universe.  Working with sexual energy skillfully is crucial to ensure our efforts still flow freely towards our passions, goals, and gifts to society.  Our yoga practice and our life cannot be separate but must be intimate.  It is the wise use and observation of powerful sexual energies that assures we stay in alignment with Brahma.  Sex and procreation are natural part of the world in which we live.  Understanding our relationship to these energies allows decision making to encourage balance between body, mind, soul and the environment.

B.K.S. Iyengar is his interpretation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras gives insight into the practice of Brahmacharya:

“Continence or control in no way belies or contradicts the enjoyment of pleasure.  Assuredly it enhances it.  It is when sensory pleasure is the sole motivating factor the brahmacharya is infringed.”

Yoga is rooted in the goal of settling the fluctuations and elaborations of the mind and the practice involves observing through self-study the energies and tendencies that distract us from this universal reality (brahma).  If we fulfill every desire of the mind and senses we develop ignorance towards living in non-attachment.  We could become caught up in satisfying our desires in pursuit of pleasure whether sexual or not. When chasing our desire for the sake of hedonism, we often do not experience the full pleasure and joy of intimacy as we are already craving yet another next desire. Being aware and conscious of the present moment allows union with every aspect of our lives and unveils much joy.  Intimate relations that bring a wholesome loving connection to another are far different than living a promiscuous life moving from partner to partner seeking only to satisfy your desires through the sensation of sex.  There is an existing confusion of how to deal with sexual energy skillfully.

Modern media seems to encourage our pursuit of desire in advertisements portraying half naked models and living promiscuously.  Even celebrities add to the sexual misconduct as it not uncommon to see a 17-year-old “twerking” her butt to a 100 million viewers.  This creates a misconception around what wholesome conduct of sexual energy is.  Promoting the gratification or our senses and desire only leads us astray on the path of yoga.

At the same time as being flagrantly touted, sexual energies have also been repressed in contemporary society.  In religion, schools, and life in general there is a negativity surrounding the subject of sex.   Dealing appropriately with sexual energies is rarely addressed.  It seems strange as the natural act of procreation actually manifested everyone here.  Sex is a natural part of our existence.  It is normal to feel all sorts of energies or emotions and yoga gives us a tool to skillfully observe how we react and handle these sensations.  It is essential to channel and control sexual energy (and other energies) not despise or suppress them.  Rather energies and emotions in general should be respected and esteemed. 

From culture to culture the view of proper sexual conduct changes.  So too should our yoga practice adapt to our environment.  When sexual orientation is considered there is much confusion about the proper conduct.  Everyone has an opinion about the topic but no answer to the right way to live.  Homosexuality and same sex marriage are part of our society and with the observance of brahmacharya we can contemplate a balanced way of living our life that does not lead us away from joy and contentment or leave a sense of wrong-doing. 

The mind is constantly experiencing impermanent sensations, emotions, and energies that require our attention and observation.  When acting unskillfully from habit or desire we deplete our energy. Aligning with an intrinsic universal knowledge there is opportunity to channel our energies towards our life goals, enjoyment, intimacy, and leave the mind pursuing higher thoughts.  Brahmacharya and the yamas require an engagement in all energies, nature and the world to see things clearly, as they are.