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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.

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

Inviting Ease

A yoga class.

A yoga class. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another lesson I have recently been incorporating from my yoga practice is inviting ease and flexibility into my daily life.
I heard myself telling a class in the middle of relaxing in a restorative yoga pose, “scan your body, notice if there is anywhere inside you that may be holding resistance to the posture. Explore what small movement or movements you could make to allow greater ease within the pose. It may not even be a physical movement. It may be more of an idea or awareness that brings softness and flexibility to any given area of the body.”
This dialogue became a theme in my classes for a couple of weeks, not just in restorative classes but also in my other yoga classes. One day, in the middle of guiding students through this process, it hit me–this isn’t just about a posture. This is something to bring out of the class and into daily life.
When I find myself in uncomfortable situations, when I find myself getting tense, I think about inviting ease and flexibility. I scan and decide if there are small movements I can make to bring some softness into my body. Even if I am not actually moving, the awareness alone helps.
This body awareness has made me realize how much I physically react to emotional stressors. It is amazing how much information I can gain from a particular situation by taking a quick scan of my body and noticing what is happening. Some common physical symptoms that we are responding to an uncomfortable situation are: shallow and /or fast breathing, lifted shoulders, clenching our fists or our jaw, pressing the tongue onto the roof of the mouth, a lump in the throat, pounding heart, and tight or queasy abdomen. At any moment we may be experiencing one or more of these symptoms but we are so caught up in the situation that we often don’t even notice. Tuning into our bodies gives us an opportunity to make small movements to find more ease, to create more flexibility in our thoughts. There are situations in most of our lives that required us to stay in a situation that caused stress, but there are also plenty of times in our lives that we could just walk away, completely remove ourselves from the situation and thereby gaining ease.
Turning toward or moving into ease doesn’t mean we are lazy and looking for the easy way out. Inviting ease allows us to deal with the tough situations in life with grace. Ease let’s us apply the oxygen mask to ourselves before helping the small child next to us.
I am finding this so powerful that I have even started to begin my day with an invitation to ease and flexibility.
Balancing tip–Morning Affirmation: Today I invite ease and flexibility into all areas of my life.

An Evening with the Lama

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This evening I had the pleasure of listening to Anyen Rinpoche speak about emotions and difficult situations. Anyen Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist Lama based out of Denver who travels and teaches ancient Buddhist wisdom. He was soft-spoken, intelligent and full of humor. He explained that we, as Westerners, are attached to a certain idea about what life is and should be. When events happen that differ from our idea, suffering happens. The truth is that we live in a world full of impermanence, yet we continually conceptualize things to be static. Continued suffering. This is not only true in our situations and relationships, but also with our own bodies. Anyen Rinpoche said, “The physical body is only a guest of our Consciousness.” Coming to terms with the fact that we will eventually die can ease much suffering. He briefly spoke of the concept of Samsara which is the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. This idea of reincarnation allows for a continuous flow and less attachment.

Releasing attachment to our ideas of what should be is the first step to equanimity. The next step, as Anyen Rinpoche suggested, was to use the breath. This can be a simple as paying attention to the inhales and the exhales for four or five minutes. Even when in a rush, taking that time will make the remainder of the day markedly better. The third step deals with thought. Not resisting the thoughts and emotions that arise, and at the same time, not chasing the thoughts and emotions. Number three is the hardest for me. When I am feeling strong emotion, good or bad, I have a hard time letting it go. This is where a daily practice of meditation helps. When I am practicing regularly, I have a much easier time allowing things to flow. When I fall off the meditation wagon, I am often in a state of resistance or holding onto something. He spent a little time speaking of the importance of exercise. He spoke specifically of yoga and tai chi. He was quick to add that although exercise can be helpful, we can’t just focus on the physical aspects. Breathwork and meditation are essential to our well-being.

I was able to receive a personal blessing at the end of the talk. The tradition is to present the Rinpoche with a white silk scarf called a Kada. He may keep the scarf or give it to you to keep. I was trying to not be attached to that outcome, even though I really wanted to keep the Kada. He gave me a blessing and gently put the scarf around my neck. I felt lucky for both the blessing and the scarf!

Balancing Tip–You guessed it–Juicing! I think this topic deserves entire posts dedicated to this art. For today, I just want to say that I have begun to incorporate it into my daily life and love it. I haven’t found the best tasting recipes yet, but when you are drinking something that looks like the picture shown, you know you are doing the body good. It also eases the guilt for ordering pizza tonight because I had somewhere important to be!

Namaste.

“I apologize for my fat legs.”

During a massage earlier this week, my client apologized for her fat legs! I wanted to say, “Are you kidding me?” I feel so bad for people who feel the need to ask for forgiveness for their body. I suggested that she try to think of all the things her legs do for her on a daily basis and to begin to look at them with a feeling of appreciation. Through the course of the massage, we talked a little about how she put the extra weight on and how she is beginning to try to lose it. A combination of stress, entering menopause, and a medication that had excessive weight gain as a side effect, all contributed to her present situation. Because of the stress she was under, her blood pressure started to rise. She was put on a medication to control it. Each month when she returned to the doctor, she would say that she was concerned about the fact that she was packing on the pounds. The doctor ignored it for a while and then one visit he finally said to her, “Maybe you should have your stomach stapled.” BASTARD! She soon found another doctor and switched medications. She is left with high stress levels, fluctuating hormone levels, and a lot of weight to lose.

I explained to her that she needed to find ways to control the stress. Once the stress levels come down, losing weight is much easier. Stress is the leading cause of all disease. The good news is that there are many effective ways to help us control it. Part of the problem is that most of the solutions take more time and effort than taking a pill and most people feel they are too busy to do what is right for their body. I am not saying that this is the case with everyone, but I see a great deal of people with stress related issues who choose to stay right where they are and have a long line of excuses as to why this is the appropriate choice for them. Some of our options include:

  • yoga and/or meditation practice
  • tai chi
  • any excercise
  • taking time in nature
  • developing a spiritual practice
  • laughing
  • eating well
  • learning to let go of what we can’t control
  • simplifying life
  • getting organized

Most of these are easier said than done and although the list may look simple, it certainly isn’t easy. Many of the tools require effort and commitment to begin to see positive results. Once those results are felt, we wonder what took us so long.

My client left that evening feeling a little more relaxed and holding a schedule of classes that focus on stress relief. I really hope I see her around the studio soon.

Nutritional tip #6-try kale (a couple of times). This link from mindbodygreen takes you to an article that explains why kale is so good for you and provides some preparation options. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-4072/Why-Kale-Is-the-Koolest-Vegetable.html

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