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Panchakarma: Deep Transformation

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Panchakarma: Deep Transformation

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.

Warm Spiced Milk: the Perfect Evening Beverage

Warm Spiced MilkI 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.

Good night!

Gratitude for the Bounty of the Season

IMG_1011When 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?

What’s your Ayurvedic body type?

imgres-1There 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.

Gratitude

Today’s theme was gratitude. We started our yoga practice bringing to mind something that we felt incredibly grateful for. This could have been anything: a person in our life, a situation we were happy with, or even the fact that we made it to a yoga class this morning. We focused on this idea until we could actually feel a swell of emotion in our chest. It was easier for some, but we all felt the energy. Once this feeling was recognized and cultivated by continuing to keep our awareness there, we began to move our bodies and engage the breath. Our goal was to open energy channels in the body to allow this feeling of gratitude in our chest to expand freely through our whole being. We wanted to end the practice feeling like large vibrating balls of grateful energy. As we came to areas of tightness and constriction we had an option of focusing on the discomfort or focusing on this beautiful flow of gratitude. When we chose to focus on the discomfort, it grew. When we would shift our focus and reconnect with that feeling of gratitude, that’s what grew. We laughed during some particularly difficult postures and thought we would never be able to get back to feeling grateful.

This was one of my favorite classes that I have ever led. As we move through the rest of our week, I hope we can remember to focus on gratitude as opposed to the problems we are dealing with at any given moment. It doesn’t matter if we are in a class or living our daily life, our focus causes expansion. What do you want to expand?

Balancing Tip-Ayurveda tells us that incorporating hot spices into our diet can stoke our digestive fire. We call this fire Agni. Using spices early in the day can keep our digestion humming for the whole day. An easy way to add spice is by adding cinnamon, black pepper, nutmeg, and ginger to our smoothie or oatmeal or any hot cereal in the morning. Don’t be afraid to eat nontraditional breakfast items in the morning. We had blackened salmon last night and I took the left overs and put it over a salad this morning. The spice was a nice addition to the taste but I also know that my body will be effectively breaking down everything else I eat today. 🙂

What is Ayurveda?

The translation of the word Ayurveda is the science of life. It is the traditional healing system of India. This system is over 5000 years old. Ayurveda is the sister science of Yoga. The two systems often work hand-in-hand. An Ayurvedic consultation will help you to understand your own body type and ways in which you can work with your body to preserve and maintain wellness. Digestion is a big focus in Ayurveda. Proper nutrition and the use of herbs can help us to get our digestive system in order. Because food is our fuel, we need to be able to assimilate it properly in order to get the benefits of our diet. I can help you figure out which foods are most beneficial for you and explain how incorporating healing herbs into your diet may support you in moving towards wellness.

In addition to dietary recommendations, an Ayurvedic consultation will include lifestyle suggestions, stress management strategies, and advice on exercise options for your current fitness level. An Ayurvedic practitioner can give advice and support on many levels because it is a system of healing that gives attention to body, mind and spirit. I am happy to be able to offer this not only to local clients but to anyone interested in learning more about how this ancient art can improve their health and well-being. You don’t have to settle for less than vibrant health!

I am giving away a FREE 45 minute Ayurvedic consultation via Skype or phone in exchange for some feedback about detoxing. In my previous post, Free Ayurvedic Consultation, I stated the steps to take in order to be in the running to win the consultation. I noticed that plenty of people were viewing the post but not many were commenting. I am hoping by explaining in some detail about what an Ayurvedic consultation is, we may get some more comments on the post regarding issues with seasonal cleanses. The winner won’t be drawn until the middle of November 2012, so there is still time to get in on it. I look forward to hearing what you have to say. 

Balancing Tip-Pay attention to the words you choose today. Try to find positive ways to say things even if the situation is less than positive. Our words have tremendous power. Choosing our words carefully can have a big impact on how we perceive the world around us. Namaste.

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