Archive for July, 2011
Our mind is a powerful tool. Whether we realize it or not, how we think affects how we feel. This has been proven in medicine countless times. Where a positive attitude and lifestyle can help us build healthier immune systems, stress and negativity often create illness in the body. Similarly, our state of mind has a great impact on our fitness and wellness regimen. It is easy to come onto our mats with the intent of focusing on our bodies, however we often forget the importance of checking in with our minds before beginning the work.
As we move through a Pilates or yoga sequence we may find ourselves thinking things like, “I can’t”, “I give up”, “I am not strong enough”, allowing our minds to play a detrimental role in our practice. Psychologists often call this “stinking thinking.” This mental state creates frustration, defeat, and even fear. On the other hand we might attempt to force our figures into the shape we want. Our thoughts may be, “I should,” “I must,” “I will get it right.” This creates competition, need for perfection, and tension in the body. In either case we have allowed our minds to be at war with our bodies.
We must begin moving away from those unhealthy mentalities. It is time to start taking our thoughts captive. Become aware of our mood, stress level, and any preconceived notions that may be getting in the way of our practice. Let us develop patience as our body works through challenges, and gratitude when we feel our body moving and working well. Mary Bowen, Pilates Elder and Jungian Psychologist said this, “I will not control my body any longer. I will ask it if it would like to join me in doing this or that. The first time I asked it to partner with me instead of directing it a whole new spirit of lightness and appreciation (even happiness) came into the work.”
As we begin to bring a healthy and positive attitude to the mat, recognizing your body is a gift; we will see your practice improve. May we let go of the stinking thinking and start feeling good from the inside out. Let’s reach our highest potential together!
This is the season of sweat! The immense heat of the summer leaves us parched, our skin dry up and the inner workings of our bodies requiring more fluids than usual. Dehydration happens when we don’t have enough of the proper fluids to keep our bodies functioning properly.
Dehydration is technically defined as excessive loss of body fluid, but we can exhibit symptoms of and have repercussions of mild dehydration without being clinically dehydrated. Dehydration occurs when you are losing more fluids than are being put back in. You may be dehydrated and not even know it. Fluid loss of just 15% may result in death, however, we can be considered dehydrated with just 2% of fluid loss. Some symptoms to look out for are from mild to most severe: dry lips, dry skin, sunken eyes, lightheadedness, fainting, nausea, decreased blood pressure, headaches, and if left untreated can cause delirium, unconsciousness and death. We all know we need water to survive, but did you know that sometimes, when a person becomes so dehydrated they may need more than just water to become replenished? Lucky for us, Ayurveda offers fantastic ways to stay hydrated during these hot summer months.
First, drink your water. Lots of it. In average, we require just 32 oz of water a day, but when we are sweating it out every time we go to from air conditioned building to our air conditioned cars, we are still losing a noticeable amount of internal juices. Keep a bottle with you at all times, and be sure to actually drink it!
Secondly, if you find yourself losing a lot of water, enjoy a drink with some electrolyte supplements. Electrolytes are minerals that carry an electric charge. Our bodies need these to regulate nerve and muscle function, maintain acid-base balance and maintain our fluids. Recharge is a healthy alternative to Gatorade that doesn’t have all the added dyes and sugars. You can purchase it at most health food stores. You can also make your own electrolyte supplement by adding a squirt of lemon juice and a pinch of salt to your water bottle. Coconut water has a huge amount of naturally occurring electrolytes. A must have for any athlete out in the sun, and any sun lover out in the summer heat.
Thirdly, eat foods that give you minerals! You need foods that are high in potassium, calcium, chloride, magnesium, and, when you have been sweating a lot, sodium.
Foods containing Potassium
Potassium is also lost when you sweat. Potassium is needed to regulate muscle and nerve function. Many fruits contain potassium and dried apricots have the highest amount. Avocados come in second on that list and other fruits include bananas, dates, figs, kiwis, and melons. Greens such as kale and collards, and vegetables such as zucchini and turnips are a good source of potassium.
Foods containing Calcium
Calcium is used in our bodies to regulate heart rhythm, form bones and teeth and retain their health. You probably know from milk commercials that milk is high in calcium. It is, and so are leafy greens, and vegetables. Broccoli and spinach in particular is known to have high amounts of calcium.
Foods containing Chloride
We need chloride to help maintain electrolyte balance. Many of the foods you find when replacing chloride, also will replace sodium. Chloride is found in salt, cheese, green olives, corn bread, pickles, and sauerkraut, seaweed, rye, lettuce, tomatoes, and celery.
Foods containing Magnesium
Magnesium is used for nerve and muscle function, health of bones and teeth and for the activation of enzymes. High magnesium foods are fruits such as artichokes, bananas, figs. Grains such as barley (a great grain for reducing heat in the body too), buckwheat, and raw oat bran are also high in magnesium.
Foods containing Sodium
Sodium helps your body maintain normal fluid levels within and between the cells. Sweat is primarily made of sodium so be sure to replace this when necessary. This is not one you just want take in a lot of if you don’t need it as it can have negative affects if you have too much. Pickles, meats and cheeses are high in sodium. Our recommendation on replacing this particular mineral is to simply sprinkle some sea salt on your food, or have a nibble of some seaweed.
Lastly, if you notice that you or a person is severely dehydrated, any hospital offers intravenous hydration. This is strictly for someone who is so dehydrated that drinking water and electrolyte supplements are having no effect and/or the person is unconscious and in obvious need of medical attention.
It’s important for our spirit to be out enjoying the sun in the midst of summer fun. Safeguard yourself against becoming dehydrated by eating right for the heat, taking in plenty of water, and taking breaks in the shade if you can. There is no reason that we can’t be out enjoying the sun without taking in the harmful effects of the blazing summer. This season offers plenty of fresh vegetables that give us what we need to be safe in the sun. Let’s take them into our bodies with gratitude for nature’s profound design and the awareness that we are benefiting from the naturally occurring minerals that offer so much to us.
With Yoga Asana Practice we direct the energy flow in our bodies. Each group of yoga asanas (forward bends, twists, inversions etc.) produce certain results. Forward bends as a group, for example, have a cooling effect.
Just what we need in the blazing heat of the summer. We should practice them diligently!
Paschimottanasa, or seated forward bend, helps us to turn inward and find our center. When things get a little too aggravated practice this pose for 2,3,4 5, minutes. It’ll make you feel a lot better – instantly.
Start in a seated position, with legs extended out and a straight spine. If needed, sit on a blanket. Extend arms towards the ceiling and in line with the ears. While pressing down with the backs of the legs, lead with the chest and fold forward. Clasp the feet and push the balls of the feet into the hands. Continue to ground the thighs and move the shoulders back towards the waist. Extend forward through the sides of the body and crown of the head.
Lower back issues. If pregnant, will need to spread legs wide to create room for the belly – which gives you a slightly different variation.
Place blanket under the hips. Use strap around the balls of the feed. Place a blanket under the bent knees.
The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much
even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil
massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age.
Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89
Abhyanga is the anointing of the body with oil. Often medicated and usually warm, the oil is massaged into the entire body before bathing. For thousands of years people have used abhyanga to maintain health, benefit sleep patterns, increase longevity. It has also been used as a medicine for certain disorders. Abhyanga can be incorporated into a routine appropriate for almost anyone.
During Summer Months, Ayurveda recommends a cooling oil for this practice. Because of it’s cooling qualities, coconut oil is perfect.
To get started, simply massage yourself all over before bathing with organic coconut oil. This rejuvenating act of self love will leave your skin nourished – preventing dryness and flaking of skin. It also delays wrinkles, and sagging of skin which normally become prominent with age. Coconut oil also helps in treating various skin problems including psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and other skin infections.
Here is lesson #1:
If you notice any tiny red dots on the tip of your tongue, that means you have too much Pitta/heat in your mind. Too much mental activity, can’t relax, intensity, anger, lots of frustration…. Oooooohhh, might be too dangerous to be in your presence.
If you notice, tiny dots around the rim of your tongue, you have too much Pitta in your Rasa and Rakta dhatus (tissue). That means your blood is overheated. You need to COOL yourself down and CHILL out. Cook with Fennel, do a cooling Yoga practice, drink lots of water or eat some cucumbers.
The cool thing about bringing awareness to something like your tongue is that you start to know what is out of balance. And if you know what’s out of balance you can bring yourself back into balance.
Now how cool is that?!
- ·1 lime (cut into about 6-8 pieces, can use juice of lime only if preferred)
- ·2 tbsp maple syrup or honey
- ·7 fl. Oz coconut Milk
- ·3 oz. ice (about a handful)
- ·Fresh mint (about 6 sprigs)
Combine Coconut milk, lime and 3 sprigs of mint in blender. Blend until well mixed.
Add maple syrup or honey and ice, blend again.
Top it off with mint and serve cold.
Enjoy coffee? You are joined by more than 50% of your fellow Americans who consume this tasty beverage on a daily basis. While you are likely contributing to the success and health of Starbucks, Peets or your local neighborhood coffee shop you are depleting your own health. Ayurvedic wisdom sheds light on the detriments of coffee.
Coffee, while being oh so very tasty and euphoric, is a natural diuretic and stimulant. By definition, a diuretic is a substance or compound that increase urination. They stimulate the kidneys to release more fluid. While this action is sometimes used for the detoxifying affects it has on the kidneys, coffee stimulates the kidneys to push out the water element in the body, while increasing dehydration and depleting your body of needed nourishment. Coffee has a drying effect in the body, and combined with being a diuretic, full time coffee drinkers put themselves at risk for dehydration. Chronic dehydration combined with the stimulant affect of coffee can lead to constipation (the drying effect has a disturbing affect on the colon), headaches, insomnia, anxiety, overwhelm, and/or digestive disturbances. When taken with food, coffee can abolish your body’s capability to function optimally.
But what about the benefits of coffee? While ayurveda does not recommend daily intake of coffee, it can be used as a stimulant which can be beneficial under the right circumstances. However, most of us are best served with minimal to no coffee intake. Think of your energy as your bank account. Coffee simply stimulates your spending of energy. Eventually you will run out of money – or energy. You may not notice this immediately. It could take years, especially if you are young and your energy bank account is big! But, coffee could be a contributing factor if you do suffer from any of the health issues listed above.
Especially during the heat of summer, it is best to eliminate coffee from our daily routine. With its diuretic quality, and the ability to disturb Pitta dosha, we give ourselves great reason to replace our morning cup with an alternative that we love just as equally. During the summer, we can make a simple smoothie in the morning, adding your choice of powdered protein to establish some of that morning kick that you love from coffee. You can also try drinking chai tea or another type of non caffeinated tea that you already know you enjoy. For other options, check out some of our cooling coconut mint lassi recipes in our kitcheree kitchen.
Summer is the time when the fire element naturally rises. The sun is out (she is hot) and there is little rain to cool her down. In Ayurvedic Medicine fire is referred to as Pitta. Too much pitta in the body and mind can cause all sorts of havoc – like burning indigestion, acid reflux, inflammation, anger, jealousy…and so many more. So we need to do everything we can to cool our bodies and minds down – unless you want to deal with the above.
Spices are key to regulating your digestive fire (agni), absorbing your food properly and forming healthy tissue. I.e. spices are key to a healthy YOU! While all spices are ‘pungent’ i.e. composed of the elements fire and air, some spices are more pungent, or hot, than others. Cayenne pepper for example is on the very hot side, while Fennel is on the mildly warming side. Both increase the digestive fire. Cayenne peeper causes a blazing fire while Fennel just mildly fans the fire.
Fennel is a good choice for the summer time. The heat of the sun already feeds our internal fire; no need to feed it externally thru food. If you eat too spicy of food in the summer your Pitta will get way out of balance…and that will show up in, well, not so nice ways…. such as intensity, anger, frustration and jealousy… those hot emotions you wished you didn’t’ have.
Fennel seeds are great for keeping Pitta (fire element) in check. They promote proper digestion and strengthen Agni without aggravating Pitta. They stops cramping and dispels flatulence.
Here are three ways to enjoy Fennel seeds:
- Use them in your cooking
- Dry roast Fennel seeds and mix with a small amount of rock salt. Eat after meals.
- Make a digestive tea; mix 1-2 tsp of fennel seeds with 8 oz of hot water. Let sit for a few minutes. Drink.