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Posts Tagged ‘Natural Health & Wellness’

Deep Sleep

Ever since the Autumnal Equinox two weeks ago the days have been getting shorter and the nights longer. Before the equinox we wrote about preparing for Vata season, a time associated with the untethered elements of Air and Space and the mutable energy of the wind; these outside shifts can easily cause anxiety can rise: We have as much to do, but seemingly less time to do it in.

Any change in the seasons is naturally disruptive to our sleep cycles, and this shift from summer to fall — from Pitta to Vata — really requires a conscious tuning in and slowing down on our parts. If you have trouble sleeping you’re not alone: the sound loop of a box fan has been streamed more than 5 million times on Spotify, one of many wildly popular white noise sounds you can put yourself sleep to.

Need more than a fan on a loop to help you sleep? Yoga’s got your back. These six poses are ideal for winding down and combatting insomnia. You can put them together in a simple posture flow before bed or pick one or two to spend more time in. Either way, give yourself at least two minutes in each shape, inviting your internal metronome to slow and your mind to stop chit-chatting.

It goes without saying that the more serene and relaxed an environment you can do these poses in the better, but just focusing on your breath in these shapes — despite what may be going on around you — will improve your chances for deeper sleep.

More sleep tips: No screens before bed; no screens in the bed; and keep the lights low. Try a simple, seated meditation to tune inward before getting under the covers or lead yourself through a guided relaxation once you’re already there.

Child’s Pose

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Use a bolster or a blanket or a pillow from your bed to give your chest maximum support.

Uttanasana

Giving the head and neck a chance to relax in a Standing Forward Bend sends a subtle message to the brain to chill out. If need be, bend the knees.

Prasarita Padottanasana

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Same deal in Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend. Forward folds are great for reducing anxiety and insomnia and relieving headaches. Put the crown of your head on a block for super comfortable support.

Paschimottanasana

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Literally turn the gaze inward in a Seated Forward Bend. A successful night’s sleep means disengaging from the activities of the outside world. This is a great shape to practice Pratyahara in.

Supta Baddha Konasana

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As with all of these pre-bedtime poses, props of all sorts are encouraged. A serene and supported Reclining Bound Angle Pose stretches major muscle groups and gives the spine, a.k.a command center for the Central Nervous System, a chance to relax.

 Viparita Karani

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Legs-up-the-Wall takes all of the benefits of an inversion and delivers them to you while you lie on the floor doing absolutely nothing. Heaven.

Sweet dreams, yogis.

Photos: Namasty in Bed; the wonderful Elena Brower in Child’s pose; Prasarita PadottanasanaPaschimottanasanaSupta Baddha KonasanaViparita Karani

The Body Whisperer

One of the primary goals of Five Pillars Yoga is to support the heath and vitality of our community. “Off the mat” we can pursue Right Relaxation by working with exceptional practitioners in the fields of medicine, nutrition, body work, acupuncture and so on.

Neil Runyon, the founder of Carnegie Hill Massage, is one of these exceptional practitioners that we simply couldn’t keep secret.

 

Neil has extensive training in numerous modalities — including Swedish and Deep Tissue massage, trigger point therapy, myofascial release, and neuromuscular therapy — and has been working his magic for over seven years. He has been reviewed as one of the most knowledgeable and skilled massage therapists around, as well as being intuitive, caring and compassionate. After a treatment with Neil this summer I can second all of these raves!

 

If you’d like to experience the magic, he is currently offering Five Pillars students a 10% discount on sessions!

 

12961512_802767543189127_1831009344832943948_nCarnegie Hill Massage can be found in a converted garden studio that is sweet, peaceful and utterly convenient – it’s located just two blocks down from Five Pillars on 92nd between Park & Lex. Soft linens filter the light and pale wood and ivory walls create a tranquil atmosphere. Classical music sets the tone for a massage that felt just as precision as an orchestral arrangement. In fact “massage” is too minimal a word.

As Neil applied a combination of techniques specific to my issues (including trigger point and myofacial release) he spoke about the relationships and mechanics of my muscles and connective tissue the way an astronomer might speak of constellations.

His understanding of body mechanics, of anatomy and of modern human afflictions was staggering. He’s perfectly happy to let people drift off into Right Relaxation “la la land” during treatments, but, being the curious yogi that I am, I asked question after question and left feeling like I had taken a master class in my own physiology.

As for my body – the work he did that day was deep, targeted and corrective. I have been working with some issues in the low back and also upper shoulders and once my body had integrated his work, I’d say around 36 hours later, I felt like a whole new woman.

 

Neil has the skills and the intuition to give us each what we might need – one day might be just a relaxing slow Swedish indulgence, another day he might spend an hour working on just one hip. If you have specific issues you’re working with, he can help not only on the table, but also might recommend certain stretches or practices to help.

 

“Opening my own private practice has allowed me develop longer term personal relationships with clients who value the role massage therapy can play in their wellness regimens. My approach is a holistic one – I do believe that our physical, emotional, and spiritual lives express themselves in our bodies…”

 

Neil meets each client with skill and compassion and seeks to treat the whole person. His specialties include:

 

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Low Back, Hip and Pelvic Imbalances

Shoulder Girdle, Neck and Head Imbalances

Post Surgical/Injury Rehabilitation 

Depression and Stress Related Disorders

Certified Pre and Post-Natal Massage

 

 


Neil books books both 90-minute and two hour sessions. Do yourself a favor and book the longer session. While he can work wonders in an hour and a half, with that extra time he can really #GoDeep, sussing out a few of your particular source issues and giving them the time and attention they need to begin to rebalance.

 

Whether you’ve got something specific that needs work or you just crave a little Right Relaxation, take advantage of Neil’s exclusive 10% discount offer for the Five Pillars community. For a limited time only. 

Click here to Contact Neil
Or call 347-324-6745

 

 

Ayurvedic Oral Care: Jihwa Prakshalana and Swish

We are well documented fans of Ayurveda at Five Pillars (here’s an intro, if you’re curious) and especially love the ancient science’s approach to oral health.

Two simple practices we’re advocating: Jihwa Prakshalana (a.k.a tongue scraping), and oil pulling. Chances are you’ve heard of both. Oil pulling is a celeb fave (Gwyneth Paltrow approves) and tongue scraping is a practically compulsory part of any cleanse.

So why do them?

Tongue scraping is like popping into your dentist’s office for a quick cleaning. The ancient oral hygiene practice removes bacteria, toxins and dead cells from the surface of the tongue, one of the easiest places in the body for germs to brew.

While we sleep, our digestive system deposits unwanted toxins on the surface of our tongue. If these toxins aren’t flushed out or removed, they get reabsorbed, compromising our immune system and leading to digestive ailments and respiratory woes.

Brushing and flossing will help with the toxin removal, but sometimes these practices just move bacteria around. Better to scrape.

It’s very simple: Using a metal or copper tongue scraper (this one’s great), drag the curved blade down toward the tip of your tongue, rinse the scraper and repeat until the scraper stops picking up residue.

This is best to do in the morning, before you brush your teeth and right after…

Oil pulling, another straightforward practice with natural detoxifying powers.

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The idea is to swish (not swallow) up to 3 teaspoons of high quality, unrefined, cold-pressed oil like coconut or sesame for up to 20 minutes first thing every morning. Try swishing in the shower, while you steep your tea or while you make your bed. Don’t try to talk at the same time.

The actual pulling itself can take some getting used to, but working the oil around the mouth helps loosen the body’s overnight bacteria out from the teeth and gums, resulting in brighter teeth, stronger gums, fresher breath and a cleaner smile.

When you’re done, spit the oil out the window or into the trash to avoid a clogged sink. Follow oil pulling with tongue scraping, brushing and then flossing.

Your dentist will be impressed.

Photos: Tongue scraper from gaiaguy.com; coconuts from dontmesswithmama.com

Breathwork Basics: Sitali Pranayama

Have you ever wished you had your own portable A/C unit? Or that you could cajole someone into following you around with a giant fan? If you haven’t, then you’ve probably never spent time on a New York City subway platform in the summer, hoping not to sweat through your shirt before you make it to work.

If you have, this pranayama practice has got you covered. A few weeks ago we wrote about balancing pitta — the hot and volatile Ayurvedic dosha associated with summer — and Sitali breath is another tool to help bring your fire and water elements back into equilibrium.

Sitali Pranayama is often translated as “cooling breath.” It calms the nervous system, quenches thirst, adds moisture to the body and lowers your body temperature. 

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How To Practice Sitali

  • Find a comfortable seat (or stance, if you’re on the subway platform).
  • Take a few diaphragmatic breaths to get the oxygen flowing.
  • Open your mouth and make an “O” with your lips.
  • Curl your tongue, making a little alleyway for air to enter in, and stick your tongue out just a bit.
  • If you can’t curl your tongue, curse your genetic makeup and simply slide your flat tongue out between your lips. This is called Sitkari breathe and will do the trick just as well.
  • Inhale through your mouth like you’re drinking from a straw.
  • Close your mouth and exhale completely through your nose.
  • Focus on the air entering in and the cooling sensation against your tongue. Breath in deeply enough for that breath to expand into your lungs.
  • Continue for two to three minutes, pausing if need to take a break.
  • Eventually you can work your way up to a longer practice, breathing through your pursed mouth and out the nose for 10 minutes.
  • End the breath practice gradually, giving yourself time to stay in your new, cool headspace before entering back into the heat.
Photos: Top photo found here; tongue curl found on Well + Good

Feeling Hot?

Summer is Pitta season. This, according to Ayurveda, means it’s the time of year when hot temperatures and lack of water in the external world can impact our internal worlds. More specifically, the fiery and watery elements in our makeup are more likely to fall out of balance, leading to digestive discord and skin flare-ups.

Ayurveda what? If you’re new to yoga’s sister science, this post breaks it all down. Much of Five Pillars’ philosophy draws from Ayurvedic principles of balance and integration, so it’s a good read if you’re curious or need a refresher.

Back to Pitta season: Pitta is the dosha, or constitution, associated with transformation and fast action; its predominant elements are fire and water, and its balances and imbalances affect the stomach (digestion), liver (toxin removal) and skin. Each of us has Pitta elements, but they are more predominant in some; the hot and fast season of summer can aggravate or intensify our Pitta qualities, especially for those of us with more Pitta to begin with.

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If you’ve ever felt “burned out” or like you’ve been “burning the candle at both ends,” that’s likely a sign you’re using up your internal fire more quickly than you can stoke it. The summer sun can be intoxicating and uplifting, but it can also cause active and fiery personalities to over-schedule, overcommit, overreact or overindulge.

Here’s what a Pitta imbalance can look like: 

  • Acne
  • Skin Rashes
  • High Body Heat
  • Ulcers
  • Heartburn
  • Hyperacidity
  • Increased irritability and impatience
  • Diarrhea (or other GI complaints)
  • Hair loss

I know, sounds awful! But don’t panic. Ayurveda is all about regaining internal balance. In this case, Pitta’s fire just needs to be cooled, grounded and stabilized.

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Find balance: 

  • The food you choose is key. Avoid hot and spicy foods and gravitate toward hydrating fruit and vegetables and flavors in the sweet, bitter and astringent families. Cucumbers, avocados, this watermelon smoothie, cilantro, rose water and mangoes are all good.
  • Meditate. A few minutes of seated meditation every morning, in the middle of the day or before bed will help reign in a mind gripped by a “do more” mentality.
  • Take sleep seriously. Rise early (before it gets too hot) without rushing and give yourself a generous thirty minute window to wind down before bed, screen free.
  • As much as possible, spend time by the water. If you can’t escape to the beach, a fountain or a sprinkler will do. Try finishing your shower with a minute-long blast of cold water. When Pitta gets hot, it needs to know it can cool down.
  • Since we’re talking to Pitta types here, you probably still want to get your morning run in (before your yoga class). Get your cardio in as early as you can, and consider switching up your vinyasa classes for Yin.

In general, give yourself space and time to breathe, unwind and cool down this summer, especially if you identify with Pitta’s high-energy qualities. The goal is not to quell your internal fire, but to make sure it stays lit.


Photos: Featured image from deadelmare; dosha charts by Danielle Bertoia; popsicles from Food52;

Watermelon In A Glass

Watermelon is a powerhouse beauty food. Nutrient dense, it packs a high amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in a low amount of calories; plus, it’s collagen-boosting, libido-lifting and inflammation-reducing.

Loaded with lycopene, the phytochemical responsible for the fruit’s rich red flesh (the same one that’s in tomatoes), watermelon has been linked to lower rates of cancer and heart disease. It’s also got a crazy high water content (92%), so it’s an ideal summer snack when hydration is unequivocally important.

All that water plus a generous amount of fiber means watermelon is great for regularity and a healthy digestive tract. A clean inside makes for a glowing outside, and watermelon is doubly effective in promoting healthy skin: High in vitamin C it supports collagen growth, the protein that keeps skin vibrant and elastic. The fruit’s high vitamin A content also aids in the body’s production of sebum, which keeps hair shiny and moisturized.

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Blended Watermelon Summer Smoothie

Make it:  

  • ~ Find a ripe, juicy watermelon, and take note, watermelon rind is edible and just as good for you as the flesh. You can also keep the watermelon in the fridge for about 12 hours to chill it.
  • ~ If your blender is powerful enough, put in some of the rind and all of the flesh and turn it on high.
  • ~ Voila! Watermelon in a glass!
  • ~ Drink this light frothy refreshment right away, refrigerate or freeze and save for later.

This simple summer recipe is perfect on its own. It also lends itself to variations — you can add lemon, lime, cucumber or fresh herbs like basil, mint or rosemary.

But, for best digestion, do keep it simple. Ayurveda counsels against eating raw fruit with other foods; it’s best digested on its own, so eat it at least 30 minutes before other foods or two hours after.

Melon falls into its own category. It moves through the stomach more quickly than other fruits so eat or drink it on its own to avoid bloating or gas.

 

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Oh right, what was that about libido boosting? Watermelon has also been shown to relax blood vessels and increase blood flow to erectile tissue, so please, drink responsibly.

Photos from @livhungry and @alisontheodora

Simple Summer Salad

Early summer meals are the best. The farmer’s markets are stocked with late-spring finds like ramps, garlic scapes and asparagus alongside summer sweets like the season’s first tomatoes, fresh basil and tiny, tart strawberries. Summer cooking can be as simple as assembling — picking up a few fresh items you like and arranging them on a plate or tossing them together in a bowl with a sprinkle of salt and a nice glug of olive oil.

The recipe for this shaved asparagus salad is in the same vein. The flavors are bright and refreshing. The avocado and chickpeas are full of protein, while the lemon in the dressing is a natural detoxifier.

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As for asparagus, here’s the 101:

  • Great source of fiber and folate
  • Full of vitamins A, C, E and K
  • Rich source of glutathione, a detoxifying compound that helps break down carcinogens and free radicals
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Helps regulate blood sugar

Shaved Asparagus Salad with Golden Roasted Chickpeas, Avocado and a Lemon-Miso Dressing 

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 1 cup or 1 can of chickpeas (if using dried, be sure to soak overnight)
  • 1 avocado
  • fresh lemon juice
  • turmeric
  • Himalayan pink salt
  • olive oil
  • miso paste (Miso Master makes a great chickpea-based variety if you are avoiding soy)
  • maple syrup or honey

Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Toss with olive oil, salt and turmeric. Roast at 400° for 30-40 minutes until the chickpeas are firm but still fork-friendly.

Use a mandolin or a vegetable peeler to thinly slice or shave the asparagus. If this is too finicky, simply slice the asparagus very thinly with a knife.

For the dressing, combine lemon juice, olive oil, a dash of miso and a little bit of maple syrup or honey to taste. Use water to thin the dressing out if necessary.

Toss the asparagus in the dressing. Top with the roasted chickpeas and sliced avocado. Season as needed with salt and pepper.

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Photos: Alison Baenen 

Summer Essentials

Last summer we wrote about three very essential oils to keep on hand to stay cool and daisy-fresh when temperatures are anything but. This summer with that triumvirate — lavender, peppermint and sandalwood — already in our bag, we’re playing with new oils and season-specific blends to treat everything from sunburn to bug bites.

Stay cool: 

Since summer can be such a dehydrating time, a water-based face and body mist is a simple way to give your skin a drink. Bonus: You will smell effortlessly lovely and look positively dewy. As noted above and in our earlier post, lavender, peppermint and sandalwood are aces for beating the heat. This blend, below, uses rose water and witch hazel, natural oil-removing astringents, to relieve hot faces and keep pores unclogged. Rose, a noted heart opener, is especially nice to breathe in if the heat has got you down.

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Lavender + Peppermint Cooling Mist and Compress 

Combine equal parts clean drinking water, witch hazel and rose water in a 2oz spray bottle. Leave a little room at the top. Add 12 drops lavender essential oil and 8 drops peppermint essential oil. Seal the bottle, shake, and spray away.

To cool down at home try an old-fashioned washcloth to the head. Use the same oils as above and mix with about 4 cups of cool, clean water. Of course, play with any of these oil proportions to your liking. If it smells good, you’re doing it right. 

 

Stay calm:

More hours in the day = more parties, appointments, deadlines and plans, right? With the sun out late and up early, sleep can get short shrift; excessive heat, especially for the Pitta among us, is another potential irritant. These oils have got your (sweaty) back:

Vetiver: Tranquil and grounding, this is a stabilizing tonic for the nervous system.

Ylang Ylang: Calming and uplifting. Smelling it may induce cheerfulness.

Lavender: There is nothing this oil can’t do. Breathe in and find yourself in southern France.

Frankincense: Earthy and sweet without inducing drowsiness.

Chamomile: As soothing as a cup of tea.

 

Stay sun safe: 

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Coconut oil has a natural SPF, making it a perfect carrier oil for summer sun protection. Most conventional sunscreens are loaded with chemicals that may do more harm to your skin than the sun, so I like to mix a zinc-oxide based one (like one of theses) with coconut oil and a few drops of lavender, a natural skin soother, or eucalyptus, a cleanser and relaxer. In addition to adding a SPF boost, coconut oil makes chalky sunscreen go on smooth, saving you from looking like a ghost or an old-school lifeguard.

There are some oils to keep out of the sun. Citrus-based oils are photosensitive, making you more susceptible to sunburn if you wear them for prolonged periods outside. Here’s the list:

  • Angelica
  • Bergamot
  • Bitter orange
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Sweet Orange
  • Tangerine

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Soothe sunburn:

We’ve all been there. If you are feeling the burn, hydrate, stay out of the sun and mix a few drops of one of the following essential oils with aloe vera (keep it in the fridge for maximum relief):

  • Lavender
  • Calendula
  • Roman chamomile
  • Helichrysum

Try this for a potent after-sun balm:

  • 10 drops frankincense essential oil
  • 10 drops helichrysum essential oil
  • 3/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons shea butter

Combine in a glass jar and place in a saucepan with a few inches of water over medium to low heat. Stir until combined.

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Stay bug free:

Most bug bites are just a nuisance, but ticks, bees and mosquitoes can be potentially harmful. Mom approved warning: Prevention is the first step of treatment. Skip the DEET. Use these:

  • Lemon Eucalyptus
  • Thyme
  • Clove
  • Juniper 

If bugs just really like you and you’re bound to get bit, trusty lavender is there for you. Tea Tree, Basil, Peppermint, and Eucalyptus will also do the trick when you can’t stop scratching.

Photos: Top imgae from Rag and Broke; lavender spray from Traditional Medicinals; sun hat @jamesmichelle; aloe plant @alsorae; bug-free garden party from A Daily Something

The Deep Clean

A few weeks ago we wrote about a simple and nourishing one-day cleanse to mark the beginning of spring. As grounding and fortifying as a day spent in meditative mindfulness is, there may be those among us looking to detoxify a bit more rigorously. Colon cleanses require a few more steps and tools than a cleanse not specifically designed to flush toxins, but, they can be worth it for the deep clean and the built-in intrigue factor (You put what where?!).

In the past few years conventional medicine has embraced the idea that a healthy gut is key to our overall health and vitality. You may have heard that we are more bacteria than we are human — that is, we have fewer human cells than we do bacterial cells. Those microbes make up our microbiome, an essential processing system that does just about everything: regulate inflammation, detox, produce serotonin and dopamine…the list goes on.

So, gut as second brain? Absolutely. We’re actually twice as brainy as we think we are. The microbes in our belly have their own neural network, the enteric nervous system (ENS), that communicates with Brain #1, the central nervous system (CNS). When the gut is irritated or imbalanced it can trigger anxiety or depression in the CNS, meaning our bacteria impacts our emotional wellbeing. Another nerdy cool fact? These two nervous systems go way back: They arose from the same tissues during fetal development.

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Keeping our gut healthy, then, is crucial to strengthening our mind-body connection and ensuring our entire system stays vibrant. Our colon, a.k.a large intestine, is responsible for peristalsis, the final stage of digestion in which leftover food leaves the body. The theory behind colon cleansing is that food waste can get stuck in the walls of the colon, inhibiting the release of toxins and causing a build up of gunk. Flushing it out clears the way for smoother elimination and reduced toxicity. Win-win. Of course, there are those who argue against colon cleansing, fearful that too much flushing will rid the body of bacteria it needs so dearly. So, with any practice, do your homework, use moderation and listen to your gut.

Here are more of the possible benefits:

  1. Cleanses the colon and improves peristalsis
  2. Increases energy levels and improves mental clarity
  3. Mood lifter
  4. Helps eliminate parasites and candida
  5. Improves digestion and eases bloating and constipation
  6. Detoxifies the liver

And here’s the breakdown of ways to do it:

Colon Hydrotherapy

This is the big one. Colon hydrotherapy, also called a colonic or colonic irrigation, had a mass moment a few years ago when celebs like Ben Affleck and Beyonce touted them as part of their A-list body maintenance routine. Performed by a colonic hygienist, here’s everything you wanted to know about a colonic but were afraid to ask:

The hygienist places a speculum attached to two tubes into the client’s rectum. One tube connects to a large tank of filtered water (sometimes enhanced with lemon or hydrogen peroxide), and the other receives and takes out bodily waste and water, disposing of it the septic system. The water from the tank flows into the colon, loosening and moving along any residual food waste. It’s a totally clean/sterile process that will sometimes involve a bit of abdominal or lower back massage to aid in internal movement and relaxation.

A good colonic hygienist isn’t just there to perform the procedure; she or he will counsel about diet and lifestyle, and depending on what one witnesses coming out the second tube, will give targeted advice about foods to avoid. A session takes about an hour. Side effects can be nausea and fatigue; other people leave feeling light as air, fully energized. Drinking water before and after is key, and many people will schedule a colonic at the end of a cleanse, when the body has taken a break from serious food processing and the colon is free of recent food waste. It is also highly recommended to follow a colonic by taking a dose of probiotics.

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At-Home Enemas

The basic principle behind enemas and colonics are the same: use fluid to flush out the colon. The difference in an enema is that liquid is held in the body and then expelled, instead of a steady input-output stream. If colonics were buzzy a few years ago, coffee enemas are having a moment. A coffee enema can function as a powerful detoxifier.

Here’s how: Compounds in coffee (theobromine, theophylline and caffeine) travel to the liver and help it release bile by dilating blood vessels, opening bile ducts and relaxing muscles. Another possible effect: Coffee stimulates the liver to produce Glutathione S transferase, a detoxifier that acts like an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and natural blood cleanser.

In our earlier cleanse post we linked to a great step-by-step guide for doing an at-home coffee enema. Read the how-to here.

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Colon Flush

Perhaps the simplest and least invasive way to clean the colon (besides eating a clean, plant-based diet free of processed foods) is by doing a saltwater flush. Try it in the morning and give yourself time for the water to work its way through the colon (read: do not get on the subway if you’re still waiting to evacuate). The body absorbs the minerals in the salt as the solution moves through, helping to balance pH levels in the GI tract.

To make at home, simply add 1 tablespoon of high quality sea salt or Himalayan pink salt to 1 quart of room-temperature or warm filtered or spring water. Drink the solution slowly, but try to do it all at once. Lie on your side somewhere comfy and wait, sometimes up to an hour, for the solution to process.

As with all holistic health remedies, it’s great to discuss with your primary care doctor the effects, benefits, and what is right for you personally. But whether or not you choose to try a colon cleanse, the importance of a healthy gut and smooth digestion cannot be overemphasized. A great first step is eating mindfully, not only in terms of what but also how. Eat slowly, and chew a lot — digestion starts in the mouth. And consider adding a probiotic to your regular routine.

 

Pink salt photo courtesy of LaurenConrad.com

In Honor of Mother’s Day, Self-Care for Selfless Moms

From praise and tough love to life and dinner, moms are the original givers. But moms, and all others in giving roles (because you don’t have to be a mom to be selfless), often aren’t getting back what they’re putting out. So, in honor of Mother’s Day, take a moment to notice where you’re expending your energy. What are you getting back in return? Just as moms aren’t the only ones capable of selfless giving, all of us have had moments of feeling depleted and out of touch with our own needs.

In Ayurveda the counter to this is dinacharya. the intentional practice of self-love and self-care (reflected on in more depth here). A vital part of right and balanced living, dinacharya feels especially important as we celebrate the givers in our life and as we move into late spring with its seductive pull of long nights and warm days.

Practicing dinacharya doesn’t have to be physical, but, as yogis, taking care of our bodies can feel like an imperative. One of the paradoxes of a yoga practice is that as we open and release through stretching and dynamic breath, we become more aware of places of tightness and holding. Muscle soreness, instead of being a condition we live with, suddenly feels more acute. Coming into alignment means we know when we’re out of alignment; increased awareness of our whole organism means increased sensitivity to its aches and pains.

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In Sanskrit the word sneha can mean both “oil” and “love,” and in Ayurveda, Abhyanga is the practicing of anointing and massaging yourself with warm oil. Here’s how:

  • Heat a carrier oil like sesame or almond until it’s warm but not hot to the touch.

Which oil? Choose your oil by dosha. Light and airy Vata types will like a heavier oil like almond, while fiery Pittas would benefit from the cooling properties of coconut oil. Kapha types can try sesame.

Pro tip: Heat the oil by placing the bottle in a bowl of hot, but not boiling, water.

  • Stand undressed in a warm room (your bathroom is ideal), and apply oil to the crown of your head. Move out from the crown in circles, applying firm but gentle pressure to wake up your scalp.

Second pro tip: If you’d rather not get oil everywhere, lay a towel you don’t mind getting oily down in your empty bathtub, climb in and apply the oil from there.

  • Next massage your forehead, temples, cheeks, jaw, and ear lobes (the site of many nerve endings). Use an upward motion. Don’t be afraid of the oil.
  • As you continue moving down the body, pause at the places that might be calling out for more attention — tender knees, tight shoulders, clenched jaw, constricted low back. You know better than anyone where you need a little extra love, so don’t feel like you’re interrupting the flow if you spend more time in one place or come back to it later.
  • Wake up your arms, legs and joints with long sweeping motions in the direction of your heart.
  • Come back to your abdomen and chest. Make broad, clockwise circles to help the oil absorb. Trace your large intestine to stimulate digestion: move up on the right side of your abdomen, across, and then down the left side.
  • End at your feet, spending as many minutes on them as you can.
  • If you can, let the oil absorb for up to 15 minutes. Take a warm bath or shower, letting the oil sink in instead of scrubbing it away. The heat from the water helps the oil permeate the skin and sink deep into the muscles.
  • Afterwards, towel dry gently, keeping the skin as hydrated as possible.

Here’s why:

  • Nourishes and hydrates the entire body
  • Stimulates muscles, tissues and internal organs
  • Lubricates the joints
  • Increases circulation
  • Aids in elimination of toxins by stimulating the lymph node
  • Calms the nerves
  • Results in better sleep
  • Enhances vision
  • Softens and smoothens skin

As with any self-care practice, intention setting and space creation is key (read about creating sacred space here). Set aside time for Abhyanga daily, weekly, or monthly and consider it as important as eating well and exercising. Self-care doesn’t have to be reserved for holidays.

 

Meditation in the Modern Age

As a young artist, I am constantly trying to create structure and stability for myself within the hectic world of working freelance. I find guidance in podcasts, blogs, and twitter feeds written by professional artists and entrepreneurs who are happy to share their behavioral patterns and “life hacks” with people like me, hungry for any tips that might just be the key to success.

After mining the internet for such information, the most frequently cited practice is some form of daily meditation.

meditation-at-homeUp until a month ago, meditation was something I only did in yoga class. As many of you know, the ambiance at Five Pillars feels much like a high end spa — the warm lights, the sweet smell of essential oils, and the nurturing voice of my teacher allow me to escape into the present moment, and experience a sense of restorative peace that feels a lot like the moments during and after a great massage. Meditation is easy there — it feels effortless. This was not my experience when I first tried meditating at home. I quickly realized the thing I missed most was a soothing voice guiding me through the meditation. My mind was quick to wander in the silence, and I didn’t quite know what I should be thinking about … or not thinking about.

A friend recommended I download a guided meditation app like Headspace or Calm to make this new practice a bit easier. At first, I scoffed – of course there are apps to help you “unplug” and free the mind. But after doing a bit of research, I realized apps like Headspace have over 4,000,000 meditating users from over 150 countries around the world. I had to try it out.

The app is pristine. The design is simple and playful, which makes the experience of working through it accessible and fun.

It starts with “Take 10.” 10 minutes for 10 days straight to get more “head space.”

You begin on your first day with a cute animation, just the first of several instructional animations you’ll watch over the course of your 10 day journey. The first animation gives you 5 quick tips on how to begin the process:

Quick Starter Tips:

  1. Find a place you will be undisturbed for 10 minutes – ideally with some peace and quiet.

  2. Try to practice at the same time every day – it’s easier to create a new habit this way.

  3. Meditating first thing in the morning is a great way to start the day.

  4. Don’t worry! On some days it will be hard and others easy, gently stay with it.

  5. Sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair. Either works fine.

 

You then begin the 10 minute session with Andy as your guide, a British man with an uplifting voice.  Not only does he help you focus on your calming breath, but he offers new ways to interact with passing thoughts.


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The first few days were glorious. Perhaps it was just my excitement about finally being a “person who meditated every day,” but within the first three days of my practice I felt more clear headed, grounded, and relaxed. The intense feelings of change seemed to level out as  I continued my journey, and now that I’m deeper into the practice the effects are more subtle. However, I know what I am doing is good for my mental health.

Overall, I feel less anxious and stressed, and in moments when those feelings arise, I have a few more tools at my disposal to handle them. Through this journey, I have realized that “bad”/negative thoughts are inevitable, but it’s how I relate to them that counts.

 

There have been countless studies that show the positive, long term effects of consistent meditation. Not to mention the positive effects of the focused breathing that come with meditation. But most surprising to me has been how easy it is to actually do it every day. It is a quick 10 minutes that I dedicate right when I wake up. And on those days when I oversleep and am rushing out of the house, I use the subway ride to work to get in my 10 minutes. This small effort allows me the same sense of rejuvenation that an hour long yoga class usually provides, and on days when I can’t get to the studio, I cherish that 10 minute gift.

Sweet & Sensible Indulgences

With the holidays past, many of us turn to New Year’s resolutions – and who’s kidding who? Most resolutions center on food and exercise. Well, after a whirlwind of indulgence and activity, it’s a great idea to get centered and ground into some healthful practices. Bringing attention back to Right Movement by reinstating your exercise and yoga practice is a great place to start, as is inviting balance back to your Right Nutrition. It’s relatively easy to choose a hearty soup instead of a big steak, or have salad for lunch instead of a piece of pizza. But what to do about dessert? If you’ve got a sweet tooth it can be much tougher to work towards your goals.

 

Luckily, we’ve got you covered. Right Nutrition can and should include the delicious flavors of your favorite desserts. Here are a few twists on traditional recipes that transform a potential regret into a worthy, healthy indulgence.

 

 

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Frozen Hot Chocolate from Chocolate Covered Katie

A vegan spin on the delicious Serendipity standard, this playful treat is almost TOO easy to make


 


 

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Peach Crisp from Martha Stewart

This recipe brightens up  grey winter days with the bright summery flavor of peaches. Swapping out the butter cuts saturated fat, and you can try using coconut oil for an even healthier boost.


 

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Dried Fruit Compote with Ginger Syrup from Epicurious

This compote is great over ice cream or shortbread for dessert – and we love it over yogurt in the morning. Dried fruit is perfect for the season, as is ginger, which supports digestion and warms up the body.

Bottoms Up: Herbal Infusions for Modern Health

In the last five years, New York City streets have transformed. Where once there was only Jamba Juice, serving sugar-filled smoothies, there are now Organic Avenues and Juice Press stores every few blocks. We could not be happier about the cultural shift towards drinking healthier, but amidst all the fancy juice names and even fancier storefronts, how do you know which drink is worth your buck?

Well, look no further — the next wave of health beverages is here.

Here at Five Pillars we’re juicing veterans, and no health drink has excited us more than Goldthread Herbal Elixirs — a newly-launched line of delicious herbal infusions, each expertly formulated to support different health goals. Given the power of plants, from ginseng to goji berries and turmeric to good-old-fashioned chamomile, it seems obvious that the answer to restoring balance to the modern diet lies in the ancient practice of consuming medicinal herbs. When enjoyed regularly, Goldthread Elixirs function much like a super-charged multivitamin, delivering the micronutrients necessary to maintain proper digestion, hormone balance, immune health and positive energy flow.

Goldthread is a small, grassroots company helmed by William Siff, an acupuncturist, herbalist and long-time herbal farmer, headquartered in Western Massachusetts. His work begins with a key belief:

“health is more than just the absence of disease, it is also the capacity to maintain balance, adaptability, and grace amidst the continuous demands and shifting currents of modern life.”

This idea perfectly complements the ethos of Right Nutrition, and the mindfulness lifestyle we strive to embody at Five Pillars Yoga. Luckily for us, Goldthread’s artful blend of herbs, spices, citrus, fruit, roots & berries doesn’t force us to sacrifice taste for health! These light and flavorful teas allow you to fully enjoy nourishing your mind, body and spirit. Also worth Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 10.26.31 AMnoting, unlike most “healthy” beverages, they do not contain honey, sugar, agave, maple syrup or artificial sweeteners. Goldthread Elixirs are gently sweetened by the incredible Asian monk fruit — a fruit whose sweetness comes not from fructose but from natural mogrosides (yes, we’re getting technical here) that not only have zero calories but also doesn’t elevate insulin or blood sugar levels.

 

** Goldthread Elixirs are currently available at the Yoga Shop and will be coming soon to a Whole Foods near you. You can also stock up online at Goldthread’s Online Store

 

Here are a few of our favorite flavors, each one crafted to prevent the winter blues from taking root in your mind and body.

El Sol: This bright and invigorating recipe is your source of sunlight during the gloomy winter months. El Sol is a perfect way to kick-start your day, activate your metabolism, support digestion, and get maximum energy and vitality from your day’s foods.

Formula highlights: ginger root, lemongrass, cardamom.

 

Schizaam: Schizaam provides a healthy alternative to sugar and caffeine during the busy holiday season when you need a boost of energy. This powerful elixir will restore harmony in your body, and provide the endurance you need to help get everything done, just in time.

Formula highlights: gogi berry, rose petal, orange peel.

 

Forcefield: An immune enhancing powerhouse! This tangy-sweet flavor is a favorite with kids, and is perfect for warding off coughs and colds! Drink Forcefield when traveling for the holidays, or begin the New Year by packing sweet protection into your child’s lunchbox!

Formula Highlights: elderberry, hibiscus, rose hips.

 

 

 

Pouring Water From An Empty Pitcher?

Many of us have been taught to place everyone before ourselves. Devotion to family, partner, work, friends, charities… somehow we always can find the time to prioritize these responsibilities, while the first thing to get sacrificed is often our workouts, for example. Or we’re running around so much that we “don’t have time to eat healthy food.” Taking time for ourselves feels “selfish.” We stretch ourselves thinner and thinner, without proper fortification, until eventually we burn out.

“In the event of loss of pressure, oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling. Place the mask over your nose and mouth and breathe normally. Please secure your own mask first before helping others.”

How many times have we heard this? And how many times have we practiced that critical last instruction – taking care of ourselves so that we are able to take care of others. Simply put, we cannot pour water from an empty pitcher. And we cannot help others or contribute to the world without coming from a strong foundation of self-care.
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Every now and then I look down at my feet and gasp at how long it’s been since I’ve had a pedicure. It’s not only the fact that I’d rather not have claws where my toes should be, it’s also the ritual of taking a time out to go to the spa, read a book or magazine, unplug and recharge at the same time. I leave with more than a pretty polish job; I enter back into the flow of my life renewed and with more to offer, my pitcher filled by a simple act of self-care.

 

In Ayurveda the phrase used for self-care is Dinacharya – which translates to daily (dina) routine (charya). Emphasis on “daily.” Not weekly, not monthly, and not only when we burn out. There is a magic to the routine of self-care, it’s something we can count on, and the regularity of it builds that strong foundation from which we can live and give. It’s grounding and centering, and over time also calming to the mind.

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Consider how routine it is to brush your teeth. You don’t have to “make time” to do this, it happens pretty automatically. Now consider what else you could add to your morning, afternoon or evening ritual that might be your individual dinacharya

 

Here are some ideas to get you started…. 

~ Take ten minutes in the morning to meditate or stretch before your day gets started

~ Dry brush your skin before every shower

~ “Check out” at 4pm with a cup of tea and read a chapter of your book

~ Do one beauty ritual each night – moisturize your feet, apply a refreshing face mask, take a long bath, etc.

~ Drink a warm ginger lemon tea first thing in the morning

~ Start and end each day with an affirmation

~ Say grace internally before each meal (even takeout!)

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Ultimately self-care is a matter of self-valuing and self-love, which is very very different than “selfish.” So ask yourself how you can value yourself. Ask yourself what areas of your life need support and self-devotion. As yourself what activities you love that you “don’t have time for anymore.” Ask yourself what small rituals you could actually commit to. And then start by adding just one thing and see how it goes.

Let yourself learn to be SELF-ish in all the right ways, because as Oscar Wilde has said “everyone else is already taken.”

 

Age-Defying-Asana

Have you ever seen those incredible yogis who look and feel ageless? Timeless? They might be 45 they might be 65? The wisdom of their years is reflected in their soulful gaze, and their smile lines actually make them look more attractive? Our “cover woman” for this post, Tao-Porchon-Lynch, is one such example – she’s 97 years young and still teaches yoga four days a week.

Put simply: In the quest for youth and longevity – Yoga Works!

In addition to all the things we do internally (such as eating properly and taking supplements) and all the things we do externally (like sunscreen!, creams and body treatments), Yoga offers some activities and principals to help us stay youthful, energetic and radiant!

 

Here is an easy sequence to support “Aging Gracefully”

Shaking Qi Gong – 5 minutes

Begin with this standing movement to get the circulation going, the prana flowing and the skin glowing!

~ This practice supports bone health (in the far east the rates of osteoporosis are negligible, and this movement is practiced by many for 15 minutes a day!).

~ This gentle vibration also supports lymph function and removal of waste and toxins from the body, which helps keep the skin clear and glowing.

** Check out our recent post on Bone Health for a Shaking Qi Gong video demonstration

 

Chair Pose (Utkatasana) x 3

Incorporate strength building by taking chair pose three times. Start with 30 seconds each time with a short rest in between, and try to build your endurance. Eventually perhaps you can hold the pose for 30, then 60, then 90 seconds.

~ Holding this strengthening pose builds the large muscles of the thighs, not only protecting knees from injury, deterioration and pain, but maintaining a shapely derrière!

 

Tree Pose  (Vrikshasana) x 2

Next up: Standing Balancing for a nimble mind and nimble body. Take Tree Pose in whatever variation(s) feel interesting and slightly challenging.

~ By practicing balance we maintain our equilibrium as we age, a key factor in preventing falls and broken bones (like hips) which have challenging recovery periods. To challenge yourself, get into the pose and then imagine a wind blowing – allow your body to flow and blow in the wind to build your stability.

~ Balancing on one foot takes focus! Cultivating our attention and focus in this posture helps keep the mind sharp and agile.

 

Standing Forward Bend x 3

Choose either Uttanasana and keep your legs together (with bent or straight legs) or open the legs into a wide straddle and bend forward in Prasarita Padottanasana. Or mix and match!

~ When the head is below the waist, as in these postures, blood flows to the head delivering oxygen and nutrients, boosting collagen production and cellular regeneration – great for youthful skin!

 

** If you’d like to get fancy – you can collate the three standing postures – instead of taking each one three times, go from Chair –< Tree –<  Forward Bend and repeat!

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Legs up the Wall (Viparita Karani) – 5-10 minutes

Finish up with this sweet restorative posture that delivers a host of rejuvenating effects

 

yoga_legs_up_the_wall_ART~ Inversions like this improve circulation, and “reverse gravity/reverse the flow of time”

~ This posture also helps the lymph system detoxify the body – keeping organs healthy and skin glowing

~ Legs up the wall helps reduce excessive cortisol in the system, which can lead to a host of chronic issues.

 

So there you have it – a quick and easy sequence specifically designed for anti-aging and vibrant longevity. The practice may be age-old, but the results are timeless!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More is More!

The Standard American Diet (shortened to the tragically-appropriate acronym SAD) practically guarantees inflammation.

The food most Americans eat is full of pro-inflammatory compounds, yet lacking balanced nutrition and anti-oxidants that combat inflammation. We’re talking about refined carbohydrates like sugar and white flour (which are nothing short of poisons for the body), as well as many of the unhealthy fats and oils, commercial dairy and hydrogenated oils found in most restaurants and prepared foods regardless of price point.

In balance, inflammation truly is the cornerstone of our immune response. But due to diet and lifestyle many of us become chronically inflamed which is not at all a good thing. 

Inflammation is a root cause for many chronic conditions including:

  • Arthritis
  • Neuro-degenerative Diseases
  • Thyroid Issues
  • Digestive Distress & Leaky Gut Syndrome
  • Food Intolerances and Allergies
  • Osteopirosis
  • Diabetes
  • Even Cardio-Vascular Diseases and Cancers

World-renowned doctors, including Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Mark Hyman, advocate living an “anti-inflammatory” lifestyle.

A great place to start is what we put on our plates.

By choosing anti-inflammatory foods we begin to support

  • rebalancing the system
  • regulating the immune system
  • and healing on the cellular level

So, while there are powerful elimination diets that can re-boot the system – we can also address inflammation by ADDING anti-inflammatory foods into our diet.

 

Here is our list of the top 13 foods to add:

 

Green Leafy Vegetables — Rich in antioxidants that restore cellular health
Celery — balances blood pressure, cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of heart disease
Beets — Their deep color indicates the powerful vitamins and minerals they contain. Chock full of antioxidants for cell repair, plus high levels of magnesium and potassium – a super food for vegetarians
Broccoli — the potent antioxidants in broccoli lower oxidative stress and helps reduce chronic inflammation
Bluberries — slow cognitive decline, improves memory and motor function
Pineapple — improves heart health, high in Vitamin C, B1 and that hard-to-find Manganese
Salmon — preferably Wild Alaskan, this fish is an incredible source of Omega-3s which reduce inflammation and lower risk of chronic diseases including cancer, arthritis and heart disease
Walnuts — the brain food, full of Omegas and manganese, protect against metabolic syndrome and type 2 Diabetes
Coconut Oil — research has shown the lipids found in coconut oil heal arthritis
Chia Seeds — heart helpers! Rich in Omega-3 and -6 which reverse inflammation
Flax Seeds — again with the omegas! But beyond that, also rich in detoxifying fiber and phytonutrients that aid in hormone balance
Turmeric — studies have shown this root to be more powerful than asprin and ibuprofen as an anti-inflammatory. Add the powder to everything or use the root for tea
Ginger — breaks down accumulation of toxins in the body, lightening the load of the immune system

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Bon Appetit!

 

 

 

Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Beyond…

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, shining a light on a health problem that knows no boundaries of ethnicity, geography or socio-economic status. We’re talking about an equal-opportunity disease that will effect one in eight women in their lifetimes, adding up to an estimated 220,000+ women each year in the U.S.A.

The good news is, awareness is growing, as is the number of women taking proactive steps towards prevention and regular screenings. Furthermore, fatalities have been on the decline since 1990 due to greater rates of early detection and continuous improvements in treatment options.

And by the way, it isn’t just women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. So men, please read on and consider incorporating the information below.

 

Is this a serious issue? You’re damn right it is. Is there anything we can do about it? You’re damn right we can.

Each of us is unique, with our individual health challenges and concerns. Our genes are distinct, our risks are distinct, and our strengths are distinct. There are certain factors that cannot be changed, but there are others known as Avoidable Risk Factors where we can have an impact.

It should come as no surprise that most recommendations for prevention fall under the diet and lifestyle categories, including:

~ Reducing Alcohol Consumption

~ Eating a healthy diet – specifically, higher in fruits and vegetables and lower in saturated fat

~ Scheduling regular screenings and regular mammograms once you hit 40

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So where does Yoga Fit in? A regular yoga practice can play a significant role in both Breast Cancer Prevention and Healing & Recovery

 

Yoga For Prevention & Health

~ Lack of physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle have been shown to increase risk of developing breast cancer.

~ Being overweight or obese can increase your risk as well

~ A regular yoga practice contributes to reaching and maintaining a healthy weight

~ An active Yoga practice typically includes both strength building and also cardiovascular exercise, both of which boost immune function and have been shown to balance levels of estrogen and insulin.

 

Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors & Recovery

~ Restorative yoga has been shown to support the healing process by diminishing levels of cortisol in the body and facilitating the “rest and regenerate” actions of the body

~ Active or Vinyasa Yoga has been shown to enhance the flow of the lymphatic system, which not only flushes toxins away from healthy cells, but also helps deliver disease-fighting cells to areas of the body that are under attack

~ Perhaps most importantly, new studies are now showing a dramatic influence on quality of life for patients undergoing treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. There is often a significant psychological and/or physiological impact from these processes, and yoga has been shown to balance energy, support healthy sleep habits, alleviate anxiety and depression and boost overall mood.

 

YBC_Cover_HighIf you’d like to Go Deep on the subject, we recommend the book Yoga for Breast Care: What Every Woman Needs to Know by Bobby Clennell.

The book is information rich and highly practical, covering information on the many conditions women can encounter as well as yoga postures and breathing practices with specific healing applications. Plus, information on women’s health, menstruation, pregnancy, nursing and broader lifestyle recommendations.

The Pleasure of Eating

Modern nutrition and a thriving diet culture has reduced our understanding of food and nourishment to measurements of calories, carbs, fat, or specific ingredients or components of food. This mentality often leads us to limit some aspect of our diet with the hope of feeling energized and reaching/maintaining a healthy weight. Many of the fad diets are restriction-based and suggest that we will finally feel fit and healthy if we simply remove an ingredient or macronutrient from our diets. The problem is that most restriction-based diets don’t work and nutrition fads seem to change each year. And, most importantly, we miss out on what Wendell Berry refers to as “the pleasure of eating.”

A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one’s accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes. The pleasure of eating, then, may be the best available standard of our health. And this pleasure, I think, is pretty fully available to the urban consumer who will make the necessary effort.

We have many incredible leaders in health and nutrition who are responding to fad diets by offering a balanced perspective, recommending farm-fresh, organic food and healthy portion sizes. But even a healthy, balanced approach in the West focuses on macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, minerals, water) and often overemphasizes the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals found in different foods or supplements).

While understanding the basics of nutrition can support a healthy approach to nutrition, ancient cuisine and Aurvedic nutrition helps us to go deeper.

International food cultures remind us fast-paced, “eat lunch at the desk” Americans to slow down, cook, enjoy mealtimes in community, and to relish in the experience of eating. These long-lasting cuisines assume that we will be cooking from raw ingredients opposed to packaged foods, because they emerged before the industrial revolution, which made processed foods readily available. For thousands of years, the only option was fresh and local produce, wild-caught fish/poultry, grass-fed meat, and whole grains. Modern science backs up ancient wisdom, with many well-credentialed dietitians and physicians recommending that we simply slow down and chew our food! Not to mention, it is far more enjoyable to actually taste the flavors in one bite — to savor them in fact — before jumping ahead to the next.  

 

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Ayurvedic nutrition takes a slightly different angle on the pleasure of eating by suggesting that food is medicine. Ayurvedic nutrition suggests that the flavors (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent) and qualities (heavy, moist, cooling, hot, light, dry) of the food and drink we consume provide us with all of the information we need to maintain balance in our bodies. This article from Eat Taste Heal covers the flavors and qualities of food from an Ayurvedic perspective: The Six Tastes: Our Guidemap to Optimal Nutrition.


As I mentioned in my recent article,
Four Ayurvedic Practices to Boost Your Immune System This Fall, Ayurvedic nutrition also encourages us to see vegetables as vehicles for healing herbs. Although fresh produce boasts a long list of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that supports health and vitality, adding healing spices such as turmeric or ginger provides the additional wellness boost by reducing inflammation, optimizing brain function, and preventing/treating cancer. 

Often the pleasure of eating can originate in the pleasure of creating — putting together ingredients that balance flavor, color and texture, for a mosaic of nutritional delight. If you haven’t already included these superfoods in your culinary palette, the excerpts below might inspire you.

Turmeric

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a culinary spice that spans cultures – it is a major ingredient in Indian curries, and makes American mustard yellow. But evidence is accumulating that this brightly colored relative of ginger is a promising disease-preventive agent as well, probably due largely to its anti-inflammatory action.

One of the most comprehensive summaries of turmeric benefits studies to date was published by the respected ethnobotanist James A. Duke, Phd., in the October, 2007 issue of Alternative & Complementary Therapies, and summarized in the July, 2008, issue of the American Botanical Council publication HerbClip.

Reviewing some 700 studies, Duke concluded that turmeric appears to outperform many pharmaceuticals in its effects against several chronic, debilitating diseases, and does so with virtually no adverse side effects. 

Selection taken from Dr. Weil’s article on the super-spice turmeric: Three Reasons to Eat Turmeric

Ginger

As the world’s most widely cultivated spice, ginger may also be the world’s most versatile, evidence-based natural health remedy. Numerous studies have been conducted on the medicinal benefits of this wonder spice for over 100 health conditions. It has a long history of use, and as a testimony to its numerous benefits, it remains a component of more than 50% of all traditional herbal remedies.

In India, Ayurvedic texts consider ginger to be one of the most important herbs available, to the extent of describing it as an entire medicine chest in itself. Ayurvedic practitioners prescribe ginger as a powerful digestive aid since it fuels digestive fire, whets the appetite, and clears the body’s micro-circulatory channels. This helps to improve the assimilation and transportation of nutrients to targeted body tissues. Ginger is also used in Ayurveda as a remedy for joint pain, nausea and motion sickness.

With such staggering benefits, it’s no wonder the spice has been a staple in kitchens and medicine cabinets for over five thousand years. Moreover, it continues to prove to be an effective natural remedy for many modern diseases.

Selection taken from www.ishafoundation.org. Check out the full article on the health benefits of ginger: 10 Health Benefits of Ginger Root: The Wonder Spice.