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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.

Easy Ayurveda to Stay Cool This Summer

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courtesy of Tess Welsh

courtesy of Tess Welsh

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.

Hello 2014

perfectHappy New Year! I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions but I like to acknowledge the idea of a fresh start. There is something really freeing and exciting when I think of new beginnings. It feels like once again, anything can happen. In honor of this, I am practicing Sankalpa. Sankalpa is an ancient Ayurvedic practice in which we honor the deeper meaning of our life. So even though I have intentions of losing the 8 pounds that I have gained since Halloween, the practice of Sankalpa asks us to dive deeper with our intentions.

The process is simple but certainly not easy. We need to come from the knowledge that we already are who we need to be to fulfill our life’s purpose or dharma. We only need to peel back layers of resistance and old patterns that are no longer serving us. Like I said, simple but not easy. Ideally we can bring forth a statement or vow that we can call upon to remind us of our true nature and guide our choices.

The first stage is to listen in meditation to your heart’s desire. What is it you truly want? This desire is already present within you. You don’t need to create anything. Next, welcome the desire. Feel it with your whole being. The final stage takes courage. The final step is to take the action required. Think about actions that you can commit to that are consistent with this heartfelt desire. Some of the actions will require a strong warrior spirit mixed with loving compassion. This is already a part of you. Let it out.

Balancing tip-So what about that 8 pounds? This is a perfect time to do a mini home detox. When we cleanse in the winter, we want it to be gentle (especially for those of you who are living in colder regions). My plan is to incorporate some self-care practices into my day for the next few days. This will include skin brushing, oil massages, neti, and daily yoga and meditation. I will be drinking at least 1 green juice and/or smoothie each day. I will be drinking herbal teas and limiting caffeine. I will be taking some cleansing herbs and I will be eating plenty of vegetables, mostly leafy greens. My protein and carbohydrate requirements will come from a classic Indian comfort food called Khichadi. It consists of white Basmati rice and yellow mung dahl beans mixed with Indian spices. It is delicious and I will eat it twice a day. This dish is very easy to digest which will give my digestive system a much-needed break from the holiday chaos. The mung dahl beans are soaking as I write.  I (or my husband) will be making the Khichadi tomorrow. If you are local and would like to try a serving, let me know. The recipe makes a lot and I am happy to share.

Feel free to contact me if you would like try something like this for yourself and have some questions.

Finding My Breath

Art and Science of Pranayama

Art and Science of Pranayama

Breathing is something I think about a lot. As a massage therapist, I watch the breath of my client. I use the rhythm of their breath to pace my movements. I allow my breath to sync with theirs and encourage them to breathe when they want to hold their breath.

As a yoga teacher, I tell my students that breath is primary in the practice and that movement or postures are secondary. In yoga we encourage ourselves and others to breathe through difficult situations which hopefully allows for some ease within the challenge. We hope the lessons learned during our practice will translate into our everyday life so that we can stay calm when life throws us the inevitable curveball.

As a meditation facilitator, I have taught many people to become more in tune with their breath. I’ve created countless visualizations to allow the breath to move freely in the body, releasing stagnant or negative energy and allowing an unobstructed flow of life force energy.

When my friend, Emily Seymour from Mind Body Mandala, recently invited me to take a telecourse she was offering in Pranayama (the ancient practice of breath awareness and control), I was eager to find out more. Emily not only has over 1000 hours of yoga training but she holds a Bachelor’s degree in Traditional Eastern Arts. Emily’s approach is always thoughtful and deliberate. I knew this would be an excellent resource for me. My big concern was the time commitment as I am in the processes of learning to not overextend myself. She assured me that it would be no more than 20 minutes a day for a week. I was in.

I had initially expected her to teach me some far out, advanced breathing techniques. I quickly realized this wasn’t the case. It was subtle. Really subtle. The more I opened up to it, the more open I became. I had huge shifts in perspective during the time of the course. At one point, Emily instructs to breathe into my back. I can’t. I try again. Nothing. I am able to feel breath in the entire front of my body but nothing goes to my back. A flood of metaphors fill my mind: what in my life am I turning my back on? What am I ignoring? Etc. Tears flow and I return once again to the breath. Breathing through the discomfort, finding ease in the challenge, sitting in the unknown.

Each day of the teleclass builds on the one before and I could feel my practice getting stronger. This class brought me healing on many levels. Emily is truly a gifted facilitator. I now incorporate pranayama each morning with my meditation. In discovering a part of myself that I had ignored or forgotten or maybe never even saw before, I have found a greater connection between mind, body and spirit. Breath being the common thread.

If you are interested in learning more about pranayama, you will want to check this telecourse out. Emily is offering it at a discounted rate for a limited time. You can find out more by following this link: Art and Science of Pranayama. Make sure you tell Emily that I said “Hello.”

Saluting the Moon

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Saluting the moon

Saluting the moon

As we begin to lead a healthier lifestyle, many people begin to notice that they feel better when they are in line with the rhythms of nature. The art and science of Ayurveda gives us guidelines to follow to help establish routines that correspond not only to the rhythms of the day, but also the month and the season. It is for this reason that we will include this flow tonight in our restorative yoga class at ReFlex Arts. Today is a very powerful full moon. Sometimes just taking a few minutes (or rounds of salutations) to pause, reflect and appreciate the beauty and infinite wisdom of the universe can bring serenity to our mind. When this happens, our whole energy field shifts to a higher vibration as we come into balance with Mother Nature.

Balancing tip-Join us tonight! If time or space prohibits you from joining us this evening, I invite you to move through this sequence. Move slow enough to be able to decipher your body’s feedback and make sure you keep breathing. Allow curiosity and awareness to take the lead. Be fully present to be able to truly experience the practice. Let me know how it goes. Namaste.

**Unfortunately I can’t find a link to the source of this photo to be able to give credit. The name says Susie Anderson so I will just say, “Thank you, Susie Anderson.”

softening my gaze

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yoga workshopI had the opportunity recently to study with some of the greats in the yoga community. My Christmas gift from my boss at ReFlex Arts was a weekend in Miami at a Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman workshop. One word: Amazing!

There was so much information shared. They instructed on poses and breath, led wonderful guided meditations, chanted and spoke of yoga philosophy. I was particularly struck by the energetic conversation. Many of the poses were basic but we were able to tune into a more subtle energy and focus. One of the recurring themes of the weekend was drishti, or gaze. Where are we looking? Where is our focus? I am very familiar with this practice and I often talk about it in my classes. The idea that our attention follows our eyes, that where the gaze goes, the body and mind will follow. What was new and really cool to me was incorporating an element of pratyahara into drishti. Pratyahara is the fifth step or limb in the system of yoga according to the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali (the most ancient and revered sourcebook for yoga practice). Pratyahara is defined as “the conscious withdrawal of energy from the senses.” I have been able to experience this when in deep meditation or in that space between being awake and being asleep. I may notice lights, sounds and sensations but they don’t disturb my stillness. This wasn’t something that I could easily slip into until this workshop. More than once we were told to “pull your eyes to the back of your head.” “Don’t have your eyes bulging out of the front of your head.” Something within these repeated instructions clicked with me. I was able to withdrawal and soften my gaze. Not only that, but I was able to withdrawal the other senses as well by thinking of them moving deeper into my body.

I may have moved through triangle pose one thousand times but I found something deeper this time. Practicing a pratyahara inspired drishti made a world of difference and I have been able to take the practice into my life and bring a softer gaze to areas of struggle and resistance. Pulling my attention inward, where the true answers are, and seeing things from a different perspective is always a step in the right direction.

Balancing tip-Where is your gaze? What are you focusing on? Where the gaze goes, the body and mind will follow. What is on your TV? What are the lyrics to the songs you listen to? If you are a parent of young children, what are your children focusing on? It may be interesting to take a day or two and notice what you are letting into your soul. Namaste.

The Comfort Zone

My comfort zone gets quite cramped after a while. It seems that I fall into a groove with something, it feels good, and then it starts to feel bad and I am forced to grow and change. I never grow and change out of virtue. It’s always due to the strong discomfort of stagnation. Anyway, there’s been a lot of growing and changing lately. The most obvious is that I finally posted my picture on the blog. This alone makes me want to hide in bed for the next couple days. One less obvious change is that I started taking Tae Kwon Do classes at a local studio with my son. This is a big challenge for me. When we left class the other night, he said, “You don’t always seem like you enjoy the class.” He is right. I don’t always enjoy the class. I’m not sure why, though. I don’t want to stop just because it’s out of my comfort zone. It has been good for me, as a teacher, to experience being brand new at something. I have a much better understanding of what adults feel like starting to move in ways that they may have never moved before in their life. I am understanding why some people have such a hesitancy in their motions and why they may not come back after what seems to be a rewarding experience. There are a few reasons that I stay. First of all, I love sharing an activity with one of my children. Second, I don’t want to quit before the magic happens. Third, I will be teaching yoga there and I want a better understanding of what the studio is all about. And, lastly, it’s a good exercise for me to sit in discomfort and know that it’s ok for me to feel uncomfortable.

This may all seem silly to some people, but it is big for me. I have also been expanding in my career. Some cool things seem to be taking off and I have had opportunities to connect with people from all over the country looking for ways to incorporate more wellness into their lives. Stepping out of my comfort zone has renewed my enthusiasm for living fully. I want to experience it all and share it with anyone who’s interested. I no longer want to make any decisions out of fear. There is a momentum moving me forward at this point and I am going to try to ride the wave. I trust my experience that I will arrive safely at a temporary destination. It is at this next destination that I will find my next comfort zone. There will be a brief leveling out and then I will be off again.

Balancing tip-Rethink salt. Table salt is terrible. In fact, it is really far removed from true salt. Pick up some pink Himalayan salt. Use it as you would any other salt. It contains 84 trace minerals that your body needs. This salt comes from deep in the Himalayan Mountains. It is free of chemicals and additives and can aid you in your healthy lifestyle.

Himalayan Crystal Salt Benefits:

  • Controls the water levels of the body
  • Promotes a stable pH balance in the cells
  • Encourages proper blood sugar levels
  • Reduces signs of aging
  • Promotes cellular hydroelectric energy creation
  • Aids vascular health
  • Supports healthy respiration
  • Supports healthy sinus conditions
  • Increases bone strength

 

 

looking for clear skies

Clear sky and clouds

Clear sky and clouds (Photo credit: Archbob)

When we practice mind-body techniques we can fairly quickly start to see some benefits. Whether it’s yoga, tai chi, qigong or meditation we will notice a sense of peace and calm. This isn’t just an emotional response. The  emotional response comes from the physiology in our body actually changing. Our respiration slows and lengthens, blood pressure drops, feel-good neurotransmitters increase, stress hormones decrease, etc. The result is that sense of peace and calm. When we continue to practice whichever techniques we are drawn to, more profound changes begin to take place in our bodies and in our minds. We begin to see that stressors occurring in our lives have less of an impact on us. We feel that we can handle tough situations with some ease. We may even start to feel that we have the ability to overcome long-standing issues. Then, maybe one day after practicing for some time, we have the realization that we are not our thoughts, our emotions, or our titles. We start to familiarize ourselves with who we truly are: the vast being behind all else. This being is not influenced by our idea of reality. This being could be compared to the sky. Always present in the background. Our thoughts could be like clouds. Sometimes light and fluffy and sometimes dark, low and dense. Issues that we struggle with are like storms in the sky, sometimes seeming like they will never pass. But they always do, they pass and the sight of the sky returns, unchanged. Just as the sky seems endless, so is our true nature. There is always more to explore, ways to go deeper. Our access point can be as simple as the breath.

Once we connect to this vastness, we no longer need to be reacting to things around us. We can begin to take positive action and see things on a larger scale. We can let things go that seem minor. We can allow someone else to win the argument or get in front of us in line. We can apologize first and know that we are not less of a person for doing so. When we release fear, we can build others up knowing that their strength will not make us week. This connection is a total game changer. It allows us to widen our lens and change our perspective and see what is really important. Once we stop reacting and start acting with love, we will find we have much more control over our lives. We can stop playing the victim and step into a place of power. I often say “I’m so lucky”, but the truth is that I’m not lucky at all. I have consciously made a series of decisions over the course of years that have led me to the situation that I am in now. My situation may or may not appeal to you, but I am very happy to be exactly where I am today. We do not need to be victims of circumstance. We are powerful beings navigating through a world of illusion. The answers will never be in the illusion, they are always within.

Balancing Tip-Check the ingredients in your vitamins and supplements. Since my friend, Jackie, recently wrote a great article on this topic, I am just going to put the link here for you to enjoy her writing  🙂   The Truth about Vitamins

A Compassionate Warrior

Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion,...

Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, 16th century image from Japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many people in our country and around the world who are feeling the effects of recent events. The vibration of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. has reached far and wide. I have been wondering what I could do from my little corner of the world. Of course, I have been sending love and positive energy to all who are in need. As a group on Friday night, my friend led us through a beautiful meditation helping us to bring love and compassion to this situation and releasing some of our fear, anger and anxiety. She talked about the situation being a dark space and letting our light shine through the darkness. It was very healing. Saturday I cried. A lot. The more I learned about what had taken place, the more shaken I was. I believe the best thing for me to do (besides hold my children super tight) is to keep my heart open, to continue to cultivate compassion, and to continue to strengthen my body. The combination of these three elements will hopefully contribute to me becoming a compassionate warrior. My idea of a compassionate warrior is someone who actively looks for ways to bring more love into the world. It is someone who will stand up for peace and shine so brightly that the dark spaces become a little less scary. Keeping my heart open will allow love to flow easily. Cultivating compassion will allow me to connect with people and situations through kindness and tolerance. A strong, healthy body allows me to do my work at an optimal level.

We can all be our own compassionate warrior, shining our light brightly for all to see. This, of course, was the theme for my yoga class this morning. We practiced heart openers and strong warrior poses. We practiced breathing and silence and we focused on growing a feeling of compassion for all. It was truly a beautiful, sacred space. I’m not sure if everyone felt it but I certainly did. If nothing else, my healing has begun and I have renewed faith in where I am being led.

Balancing Tip–Cultivating Compassion. We are all connected to each other and rely on one another. We are social beings who feel the most joy while in community. Cultivating compassion can not only help us to see others in a different light, but it can also help us to love ourselves more deeply. This is a practice that sometimes comes easier than others. Sit and get quiet for a minute or two. Bring a soft focus to the breath. Bring to mind someone you love that may be going through a difficult situation. Spend a few minutes feeling empathy for them and wishing them well. Notice the physical sensations that arise in the body. Next, bring to mind a more neutral person (maybe the bus driver or mail carrier, someone who you don’t have strong feelings about). Try to continue to have the same empathy and physical sensations while focusing on this neutral person. Wish them well. Finally, bring your attention to someone who brings you challenge. See if you can hold compassion for this challenging person. Wish them well. This practice can get more involved, this is just a quick beginners version. This practice is simple but not easy and may take quite some time before you are truly able to feel compassion as you move your focus away from those whom you love. I can tell you that it is worth any effort you put into this practice. This practice creates freedom. It may even help you to become a compassionate warrior.

gratitude continued…

Goodwill Industries

Goodwill Industries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My focus for the past week has been on gratitude. It started, as most of you know, with being the theme of a yoga class. I decided to see what would happen if I really made an effort to stay with that as my primary focus. Of course I would think of other things and go about my normal life, but my intention was to keep returning to a place of gratitude and look for things to feel grateful about. I even used an app on my iPad to draw a picture of something I felt really grateful for. Whenever I was having trouble finding that feeling in my heart, I pulled up the picture and let myself sink into it emotionally so that soon enough–I was feeling a swelling in my chest and an expansion in my body. I wanted to let you know that I have had an amazing week! Not only do I feel really lucky for all the good things in my life, but I have actually had a bunch of things happen this week that give me reason to be even more grateful! I know it sounds like a bunch of crap but I’m telling you this really worked for me.

I am going to challenge each of you to try it for 7 days. Just shift your focus to the things you are grateful for. If you don’t feel like you can draw, print a picture from the computer of something you are super grateful for and put it in your pocket or purse. Whenever you catch yourself feeling lack or fear, pull it out and look at it for a minute until your focus shifts. Feel gratitude for a couple of minutes when you first wake up and right before you go to bed. It’s that simple. That which we focus on grows. As we focus our attention on gratitude, we are provided more opportunities to feel grateful. Have fun and let me know what happens for you!

Balancing tip-Start weaning off the Teflon! This chemical non-stick coating although very convenient, emits toxic fumes when overheated. Not only that, but as normal wear and tear happen, we ingest tiny particles into our body with the food we are eating. Some of the health dangers include: flu-like symptoms, smaller birth weight and size in newborns, elevated cholesterol, abnormal thyroid function, liver inflammation, and weakened immune system. There are safer alternatives available such as stainless steel and cast iron. You don’t need to break the bank replacing all of your cookware. I picked up a cast iron skillet recently at Goodwill for $10. You can just replace a piece at a time. If you need to continue using the non-stick for a while, do so on the lowest temperature possible to cook your food safely. Learning to cook on these different surfaces takes a little practice but I have found the transition to be pretty painless.  🙂

 

 

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