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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!

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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.

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.

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