I had the great pleasure and honor of facilitating a three day Panchakarma last week. It was for a woman who was looking for a deeper spiritual connection, some clarity of vision for the future, weight loss, and relief from anxiety.
Panchakarma is a transformative process that has been practiced in the Ayurvedic tradition for over a thousand years. The word translates to five actions. These are five cleansing actions to remove toxins, known as ama, from the body. In Ayurveda, anything that enters into the body through the five senses is considered food and needs to be digested. We all know that some foods are easier to digest than others. Likewise, some things that we may experience by watching or listening or feeling may also be easier or harder to digest. A Panchakarma is recommended yearly to help facilitate the cleansing actions of the body and mind. This opens up the channels of the body for greater energy flow and communication within the body/mind.
There were a few steps for my client to take at home before the Panchakarma even began. Once she arrived on the first day, we began with yoga and meditation. This was followed by several treatments including a steam sauna, body brushing, four handed massage, and shirodhara (a warm stream of oil continuously pouring onto the forehead). Each day was similar. I prepared her food and beverages. The conversation was light on the first day but by the last day we were discussing the big stuff. The stuff that matters and needs to be released. She left at the end of the third day feeling lighter, clearer, and more connected to her body and Source.
I gave this client recommendations to continue the process at home and I am happy to know that she is following through on them with great success. I give her a lot of credit. On one hand this seems like a luxurious experience, which it is in many ways, but on the other hand, there is a lot of deep work happening. This process isn’t for the timid or superficial. This is for those of us wanting to dig deep, let go, and move forward with purpose. A Panchakarma is a container which holds the possibility of transformation. I am so grateful to be a witness to such feats of bravery.
I have just discovered my new favorite nightcap. I have been listening to my teachers tell me for years to drink warm spiced milk in the evening. Something about it just didn’t appeal to me. I don’t drink dairy products and it seemed a little gross. But tonight I gave it a try and I’m wondering why I didn’t trust that this would be delicious.
Warm milk is easy to digest and the added spices increase the digestibility even more. The spices are very soothing and grounding. The whole combination is said to be nourishing and rejuvenating for the body and mind. The combination of warm milk and nutmeg is known by many as a sleep aid. I can see this becoming a regular thing.
Here’s the recipe for 2 servings:
- 2 cups of whole organic milk
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tbsp ghee (optional)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/4 tsp ginger powder
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- a couple of shakes of cinnamon
- a shake of black pepper
- dash of Himalayan salt
- 2-3 strands of saffron (optional)
- sugar, maple syrup, or agave to taste
Heat the milk, water and spices (except sweetener) just to a boil in a small pot. Reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes. Use a whisk or fork to stir frequently. Transfer the milk to your cup and add the sweetener to your liking. I used a teaspoon of maple syrup.
When we realize that we are a part of nature and not something separate from it, when we see that we aren’t protecting or destroying something different from ourselves, we can really start to sink into nature’s rhythms and enjoy a deeper connection with all that exists. There are days that this is clearer than others. Or maybe some days just allow us time to reflect on this more than others. The Autumn Equinox is one of those days. A brief period of time that light and dark are in equal balance. We can give thanks for our bounty and set intentions for what we would like to experience in the coming months. I suppose we could do this on a daily basis and I’m sure some people do just that, but for me, I tend to get caught up in daily living and I appreciate the reminder to create space, feel the connection, and move forward with a positive focus. Rituals are important to me as they set the structure and framework for my life. Everything else drapes around that foundation.
On a different note, but still working with the bounty of the season, I have started to ferment my own veggies so that I can reap the amazing health benefits. I started with an easy sauerkraut recipe. Previously I had only had pre-made sauerkraut purchased at the grocery store. I never liked it. I could never even stand the smell of it. I kept hearing and reading how delicious it is if you make your own. The recipe met all of my requirements to try which is a low number of ingredients and minimal time to complete. Besides, it seemed like a fun science experiment on my kitchen counter that I had to check daily. I enjoyed this process. The problem was that I still didn’t like it. I want to like it, but I don’t. In my determination to use what I had made, knowing that there is no way my family will eat it, I found a recipe for coleslaw made out of sauerkraut. It’s delicious!! I’m so happy to have found a way to use the homemade sauerkraut without cooking off the beneficial bacterial that tastes so good.
Ayurvedically speaking, these veggies are “cooked” through the fermentation process so they are great for optimizing digestion and building the digestive fire. This makes it a perfect food to incorporate as we move into cooler weather. I’m curious if you are interested in fermenting veggies and if you already are, what ways are you enjoying them?
There are many things in life in which it is helpful to have an owner’s manual. Sometimes we read them and sometimes we don’t but it’s nice to know that they are there if we need to reference them periodically. Maybe a new light pops up on the dashboard of your car and you need to pull the owner’s manual from under a pile of papers in the glove box to see what this light indicates. Or maybe the clothes dryer isn’t drying so, because you have no idea where that manual might be, you Google the make and model to find a troubleshooting page. Occasionally something will trigger a reaction in our body and throw our health out of balance. In times like this, it’s nice to have trusted information we can reference that is specific to us. Many of us don’t have the correct owner’s manual to our body. We often have someone else’s. We have a manual that belongs to our neighbor who was able to lose a significant amount of weight but when we follow the instructions, we don’t get the same results. Or we have our Grandmother’s manual who was active into her 90s, yet we feel exhausted and depleted in our 40s and 50s. Some of us share a manual with our husband who never seems to need to stop for food so by 2pm he’s raring to go and we feel like crying. Fortunately, there is a simple way to get your specific owner’s manual.
In Ayurveda, the ancient science of life, each person has their own constitution. The Sanskrit term is Prakriti. People generally fall into one of 7 categories. Once you become familiar with your specific category, you are able to assess changes in your body and mind from a different perspective. Understanding a little bit about this art and science can give you the tools to make the proper changes to bring your health back in balance. So just like the light on the dashboard, you may notice signs such as anxiety or a rash. Having your owner’s manual will allow you to look at what would work best for you.
Don’t be intimidated by the use of Sanskrit language. Ignore it if you have to for now. Just focus on what’s comfortable. You may find that you are already intuitively doing the right things for your body. There are many different online versions of the Prakriti or constitution test. Feel free to take a few. Sometimes even after taking a test, we still aren’t sure, and that’s when it’s best to contact an Ayurvedic Practitioner. Here is a good test from Banyan Botanicals: http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/prakriti-quiz/
I’d love to hear about your results and if you find this information to be helpful.
A friend of mine shared an article with me about the difference between Independence and Freedom. It basically came down to Independence being the idea of not having outside oppression, or not being controlled by something outside of yourself. On the other hand, Freedom was an inside job. Feeling free within yourself to say, do, or feel any way without harsh self censoring. I like the idea of distinguishing between the two and figuring out if I felt restriction in either of these areas. It turns out, like in many other things, I have come a long way but I still have far to go.
One of the ways I am gaining independence is by slowly releasing myself from all of the consumerism around me. I no longer feel like bigger is better or that I need the newest item on the market. I have learned to buy many of the things I need on Craig’s List, at thrift stores, and through community swaps. I also, as many of you know, make cleaning supplies and other products out of common household ingredients. It feels really good to me to not be buying chemically laden products to clean my home or put on my body. One of my mantras is, “You vote with your dollars.” If we stop buying the products that are causing problems, they will stop making them. They will be forced to find other solutions. Why would anyone look for better solutions when they are making millions now?
I’m all about baby steps. I’ve been making my own toothpaste and deodorant for over a year. I use coconut oil as a moisturizer, I make my own bug spray and sunscreen. But I have been hesitant to stop shampooing with commercial shampoo. So, in honor of Independence Day, I took the next step. I joined the “no poo” movement. I’m committing to this for 30 days to see how it goes. If you aren’t familiar with no poo, instead of shampoo and conditioner, you use a baking soda and water solution to wash your scalp and then rinse your hair with an apple cider vinegar and water solution to condition it. This is done with increasingly less frequency until you get to a place where you are only doing this once or twice a week. Some people say there is a transition period of a few weeks where your hair looks terrible as your body adjusts and your scalp begins to produce the right amount of oil. One of the things that really appeals to me is that there is supposed to be considerably less frizziness, which if you have ever seen me, you would understand why I find this appealing. One of the things that concerns me is that I dye my hair (I haven’t gotten to that baby step yet), and there are mixed reviews on how this method works with colored hair. Regardless, I have 29 more days to go. I will let you know how it works for me. I’d love to hear any tips or tricks from those of you who are already doing this.
Welcome to summer. For many of us this means fun in the sun, vacations, BBQs, and lots of time outdoors. All of this can equal a fun, carefree couple of months. To make sure that we stay well in the extra heat, we can turn to the ancient art and science of Ayurveda. Lifestyle choices can have a tremendous effect on the way our physical body responds to stress, and the sizzling days of summer can put an extra load of stress on our system. Keeping regular sleep routines is a start. Exercising early in the day or later in the evening is also beneficial during the hot days. Finding balance in our work schedule to allow time for leisure is key to enjoying all the season has to offer.
We need to hydrate inside and out. Drinking plenty of fluids, especially water will keep the body systems flowing. Limit ice if possible, room temp is best on the belly. Mint is a great herb to put in a pitcher of water along with some peeled, sliced cucumbers. This is a very refreshing combination. Just as important as hydrating inside, is the need to hydrate our skin. Coconut oil is an excellent choice for a daily self massage. It even contains a small amount of natural sunscreen (although not enough to protect you if you are sitting in the sun for any length of time). Another way to hydrate from the outside is to put some rosewater in a spray bottle and spritz your face, neck and chest for a beautiful smelling, cooling result that also has anti-aging properties. Eating plenty of fresh, seasonal fruit and vegetables will cool you down at meal times. Enjoy berries, melons, cucumbers, mangos, tomatoes and many others that you will find at your local market or growing in your backyard. Watercress is in season and is making it’s way to be the next super veggie. Try it in you next salad or soup.
If you would like to know more about Ayurveda, I am available for consultations in person, over the phone or through Skype. A consultation consists of getting to know your unique body type, where you may be experiencing imbalances and what Ayurvedic practices may help for you to find more balance in your body and in life. Ayurvedic practices may include nutritional information, life style suggestions, herbal recommendations and/or specific bodywork. Just fill out the contact form below and I will get back to you ASAP.