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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.

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Celebrating Independence with No Poo

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fireworksA 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.

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.

$20 bags or minibar wine

As my plane landed back in Florida on Sunday afternoon, I was greeted with the news of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Like every other recovering addict I know, I felt sick. 2.5 million people die each year from a disease that I tend to forget about. Every so often I am slapped back to reality. This was one of those slaps. It was as if someone was grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking me, saying,  It doesn’t matter that you have been sober for over 17 years, you are still a drunk and a drug addict. You are one slip away from your kids finding you on the bathroom floor. Even while I write this , days later, I can feel the heaviness on my chest and a lump in my throat.

Later that same day, a friend of mine posted something on Facebook which read:  I’m not sure which is more sad, the death of PSH or the small bottles of wine that I keep for cooking that I can’t stop drinking. I wanted to respond to her that these events are equally devastating, that I understood how she felt, that I had been her. I know what it is like to have no control over the substance I am putting into my body. I have lied, cheated, and stole among many other things to get the next drink or drug. But I didn’t. I didn’t respond. I was tired from my trip. The next day the post was down.

I struggled with reaching out to her. It’s not that she doesn’t know that I am in recovery. Everybody knows I’m in recovery. It’s not that I didn’t want to help, I do. I’m not sure why I hesitated. I think it’s a part of me pretending that I am removed from the messy stuff now. It’s funny that this realization makes me closer to the messiness than ever. I sent a private message and I’m hoping to hear back. Either way, I have put the offer out to her. I hope to be able to tell her that she has a chance at another life if she can stay away from the small bottles one day (or minute) at a time. Because that’s what it feels like sometimes, like a whole other life in the same body. I want to let her know that although life has many challenges, everything is manageable when we give up the drink and the drug. I want to show her that there is a huge support system available 24/7 for the times when the urge is stronger than we are. She doesn’t need to do this alone.

As it says in the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous, this disease is cunning, baffling, and powerful. These words are as true to me now as they were the first time I heard them. As a person in recovery, I make choices each day that are either leading me towards a drink or away from one. I am grateful that I have made it through another day and that I have plans tomorrow that will continue to lead me away from taking that first drink or drug.

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.”

What I wish I knew when I started High School

me and my girl

me and my girl

My daughter started high school this year.  As a mother, this feels a little scary.  I am continually reminding myself that she isn’t me and that her life experiences up to this point have been very different than my experiences were at her age. I am happy for her to begin to feel some freedom and explore new things and ideas. I am happy to know that she will build friendships that may last for many years.

There are a few things that I would love to tell her. Things that I wish I knew when I started high school.

  • Even the “cool kids” feel insecure often
  • Not everybody is doing it (that goes for sex, drugs, alcohol and cigarettes)
  • If they are doing it, they aren’t having as much fun as they are saying
  • People respect you when you respect yourself
  • Being mean is not cool
  • Getting good grades matters
  • What your classmates think of you may change from day to day and won’t matter in 10 years
  • It’s more fun when you don’t take yourself too seriously

So far, she is navigating the unknown territory beautifully. She seems to take much of the drama in stride and tries to stay away from trouble. I am grateful for a handful of wonderful woman who serve as a mentor to her when she doesn’t want to listen to her mother. I can’t blame her, I didn’t want to listen to my mother either. Now I can’t get enough of my mom.

I have also started to share pieces of my story with my daughter. She knows that I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. She asks questions and I tell her the truth that I think she can take in that moment. It scares her. It takes her a while, sometimes months, before she asks the next question. I’m in no rush. I want her to know that she has choices in life. Every step is a choice. Every choice has consequences. I don’t want this to be a burden for her, I want it to give her freedom. Freedom to express herself fully without fear, to see the big picture and not feel threatened by the small shit. These years can be a time of experimenting, learning, pushing boundaries and testing the water without diving into the depths of chaos.

I hope that she has the strength to choose differently than I did, that she chooses to listen to her inner guidance even when it is the softest voice in the room.

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