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Posts Tagged ‘Seasonal Wellness’

Fall Focus: Top Tips For Finding Balance During Vata Season

Happy Autumnal Equinox! Here at Five Pillars we hold the Intention to move through life in synch with the seasons. Listening to the messages and even advice each has to share with us and going with the flow or counterbalancing where beneficial – letting the pillars of Right Movement, Nutrition, Breathing, and Relaxation support and inform our choices.

According to Ayurveda—an ancient traditional system of medicine in India that’s been called Yoga’s sister science—Fall is Vata season. As the humidity of summer begins to wane and the Northeast experiences the incredible annual display of colorful Fall leaves, you may discover some signs and symptoms that suggest your Vata dosha is aggravated. You can adopt Vata-balancing practices to attain optimal health and feel your best.

But first, what’s a dosha? Three primary energies (aka doshas) based on the elements make up our physical and mental constitutions. These energies are Vata (Air & Space), Pitta (Fire) & Kapha (Earth + Water). Each of us has all of these elements, though one will likely be dominant in our constitutional makeup. If you want to #GoDeeper, try an online quiz.

The cooling weather patterns, Fall winds and shifting daylight hours that have arrived with the equinox often aggravate Vata. After all, the qualities of the Vata dosha are cool, light, dry, moving, and erratic—just like the weather patterns—and a basic tenet of Ayurveda is like increases like. Some common symptoms that occur when the Vata dosha is out of balance are anxiety, dry or chapped skin, indigestion, sudden bouts of fatigue, and light interrupted sleep.

Additional symptoms can occur on the physical or mental dimensions.

Common physical signs of a Vata imbalance:

  • • cold hands and feet
  • • constipation
  • • gas
  • • bloating
  • • aversion to cold and wind
  • • irregular appetite
  • • twitches
  • • spasms
  • • restlessness
  • • low body weight
  • • aversion to loud noises
  • • hypertension
  • • arthritis
  • • weakness
  • • restlessness
  • • irregular menstruation

Common mental signs of a Vata imbalance:

  • • nervousness
  • • fear
  • • panic
  • • racing mind
  • • worry
  • • spacey
  • • scattered
  • • inconsistency

The Five Pillars of Fall Wellness can help bring you back into balance, achieving your optimal state of being.


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Right Intention: Want To Book The Next Plane Ticket Out Of Here? Think Again And Dig Into A Steady Routine


When the Vata winds blow, we all need a little more grounding and stability. Now is the time to dive deeper into your mindfulness practices and stick to routines. It may help to begin by creating healthy patterns of eating and sleeping—try to sleep before 10 p.m. and eat regular meals around the same time each day. Beyond the basics, this is the perfect time to pick up or continue a yoga and meditation practice. Set an intention to be gentle and loving with yourself, and allow for plenty of time to reflect and go within. Your inner clarity will keep your health and wellness on track no matter what life throws your way.

Our recommendations: Take time to set an intention to stay grounded and stable during Vata season. Avoid the temptation to discard your routines and book the next plane ticket out of here. Instead, take a moment to organize your days into a soothing routine full of self-care and balance.


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Right Movement: Take It Easy


Choose a Right Movement practice that is light and easy on your body. Focus on flexibility and balance rather than long distances and speed.

Top movement tips: Walk through the park or take an easy breezy stroll with a friend. Power down your yoga practice and opt for therapeutics or gentle yoga, yoga nidra, tai chi or qi gong. Take some time out to practice pranayama and meditation. Focus on breathing deeply and be gentle with yourself.


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Right Breathing: Alternate Nostril Breathing


Pranayama (aka breathing practice) has incredible balancing effects on the entire body and can ward off unwanted stress & anxiety. Our favorite pranayama for inner balance and harmony during the Fall season is Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, otherwise known as Alternate Nostril Breathing. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama synchronizes the right and left hemispheres of the brain, helping to focus the mind and keep unwanted stress and anxiety at bay, providing the very foundation we need to stay peaceful and responsive no matter what the Vata winds blow into our lives.


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Right Nutrition: True Nourishment For the Fall Season


Fresh, cooling crudites were perfect for the hot summer, but the crisp fall air invites forth a natural desire to nourish ourselves with warming butternut squash soups, more protein, and hearty stews. Freshly cooked veggies are easier for our bodies to digest and assimilate than raw produce. If you are already in the practice of eating fresh, seasonal foods and shopping at the farmer’s market, you may notice the natural seasonal shift toward heartier produce that balances the vata dosha.

Begin to see your vegetables as vessels for healing herbs and spices. Each of the ancient, lasting cuisines around the world incorporate delicious, healing herbs and spices into meals. Oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary make their way into Italian sauces. Turmeric, cumin, ginger, and cayenne spice up Indian fare.

As you know, food is so much more than fuel and nutrients. Many of the aromatic herbs and spices have anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, anti-fungal properties. As we spice up our recipes and savor the incredible flavor of international cuisine, our meals become medicine that support the immune system, keeping seasonal colds and the flu at bay.

Try cooking a healing coconut-milk curry with plenty of spices and seasonal vegetables. For inspiration, view this recipe: South Indian Style Vegetable Curry. For more information about Ayurvedic wisdom, check out this article: Vata Pacifying Diet.

Additional Vata-Pacifying Recommendations:

  • *Eat full-sized, well-portioned meals, but avoid overeating.
  • *Sip on tea and warm liquids throughout the day. Avoid chilled beverages.
  • *Sweet, sour, and salty tastes pacify Vata. Favor warming, oily, and heavy foods such as natural grains (particularly rice and wheat), soups and stews, cooked root vegetables, and sweet fruits (bananas, avocados, coconut, figs, grapefruit, oranges, lemons, melons, papaya, peaches, pineapples, dates, etc.). If you consume animal products, warm milk soothes Vata. Buy organic eggs, chicken, turkey and seafood.
  • *Integrate Vata-pacifying spices: cardamom, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, mustard seed, basil, cilantro, fennel, oregano, sage, tarragon, thyme, and black pepper.
  • *Avoid bitter, pungent and astringent foods. Minimize your intake of beans, aside from mung bean dahl and tofu. Light, dry fruits such as apples and cranberries can aggravate Vata. To avoid indigestion, steer clear from cabbage, sprouts, and raw vegetables in general.

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Right Relaxation: Self-Care


Book your favorite masseuse, invest in acupuncture, or get some reflexology done. These practices boost circulation and promote relaxation. Consider investing in a weekly or monthly self-care routine that includes your favorite treatments.

Want to keep it simple and stay at home?

  • *Give yourself a massage using warming oils such as sesame or almond.
  • *Play relaxing music
  • *Connect friends who make you feel calm and relaxed
  • *Try aromatherapy
  • *Take deep breaths often
  • *Pause in between tasks
  • *Take an Epsom salts bath
If you’d like to discuss how best to attune to the season, we’re here to support you! Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns, or for an individual consultation.

 

 

*Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

The Yoga of Swimming

If you love swimming and are interested in deepening your pranayama practice on the mat, you are in for a wonderful surprise. Whether you swim laps or enjoy water recreationally, you probably recognize that swimming can transform the way you feel. Similar to yoga, the before and after effects are astounding! A powerful, low-impact activity, swimming can also become a incredible pranayama.


Pranayama refers to breathing exercises or breath control. Breath control is one of the very first things we learn during swim lessons by blowing bubbles into the pool. Aside from yoga practice and swimming, there are few places in life where we intentionally control our breathing. With intention and awareness, we can transform swimming into yoga.


What was that about pranayama? Most of the time, we breathe automatically. During yogic breathing exercises, we control the breath to create more energy or prana in our bodies. Pranayama is one of the eight limbs of yoga (Ashtanga = eight limbs) in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Ashtanga Yoga is a pathway to ultimate freedom and bliss. Although modern-day yoga is often dominated by yoga asanas or postures, breathing exercises are given equal importance in the Yoga Sutras.



How do we practice pranayama while swimming? When we swim, we hold our breath to go under water and then slowly let the air out while we propel ourselves forward or backward. When we surface, we take another big breath and continue the pattern we have started. The more rhythm we create with our breathing, the more ease we feel when swimming. In essence, we learn to coordinate our breath with movement, which is the foundational concept in a yoga vinyasa class. In fact, the word vinyasa means “a method in yoga in which movements and breath are coordinated.” Paying attention and controlling our breath during yoga practice and swimming alike has the capacity to create a vinyasa, or a moving meditation.


 Swimming and pranayama are mutually beneficial.


Practicing swimming requires breath control and rhythmic breathing, which will deepen your yoga practice on the mat. And practicing pranayama on land can help to enhance your swimming techniques and lung capacity in the pool. Win-win.


That said, you may be thinking to yourself: I swim all summer and even during the other months of the year, but my mind races while I swim and I am hardly aware of how I am breathing… I am on autopilot. How is this like yoga?


Like the ease we feel peddling and balancing once we have learned to ride a bike, breath control while swimming becomes automatic. Even though we are raising our energy levels and opening energy channels in our body when we swim regardless of our intention, awareness and mindfulness gradually shifts our experience in the water.


The Yoga of Swimming = Swimming + Intention + Awareness


Without intention and awareness, yoga resembles stretching, calisthenics, sitting, or even napping. Similarly, without mindfulness, swimming is the act of moving through water. Intention and awareness transforms these movements and postures into what we call yoga. Yoga is the union or yoking of mind with spirit.


When you cultivate mindfulness and intention, swimming can become yoga, leaving you with a deep sense of inner peace, freedom, and even bliss! Ready to dive in?



Three Ways to Practice the Yoga of Swimming:


In the pool: How does your physical body feel before and after you swim? What happens to your energy before and after you swim? Do you feel pulsing, streaming or tingling sensations? How do you feel emotionally before and after your swim? Notice your state of mind before you enter the water. Then notice your state of mind at the end of your practice.


On the mat: While you are practicing yoga on your mat, imagine you are moving through water. Anytime you expand (raise your arms, lift your heart, head, or hips), inhale deeply. And anytime your contract (fold forward, root into the ground, sink your hips, lower your hands), slowly exhale. When you hold postures, create long inhalations. Imagine you are about to dive under the water at the top of your inhalation and pause. Then slowly exhale. At the bottom of your exhalation, imagine you are still under water and pause. Continue this breathing pattern. With a little intention and imagination, you can use your experience in the water to deepen your yoga on the mat.


Practice yoga by the water: Practice yoga by the water. If you are by a pool, take your standing balancing postures into the shallow end of the pool. Then, end your asana practice with savasana on a floatation device or lying down next to the water. Try meditating near water after you swim or practice yoga.


*Be sure to use safety precautions while practicing by water, especially the ocean, and have fun!

 

 

 

 

Spring Self Cleaning – Nice & Easy

As the cold of Winter sluggishly makes way for the energy of Spring, our bodies go through a similar process… Yearning to let go of all we’ve stored for the colder months, our body craves foods and practices that will help us detox and freshen up. Spring Cleaning starts from within!

Bitter greens, like arugula and dandelion, are the first edibles to sprout after the last frost, and it’s exactly these that we should be eating! An example of the genius and perfection of nature that we can use to inform our Right Nutrition. The bitter quality of these greens wrings out the liver and stimulates our digestive system. A far cry from the hearty curries, stews and casseroles that keep us warm December – February (or April this year!?), these young plants alert the body that winter is o-v-e-r! So, put Dandelion Tea and Arugula Salad at the top of your shopping list. Wash, rinse, eat, repeat! Mirroring the warming of the weather, the heating qualities of Ginger also help warm up and melt any stored abundance, while the light cooling qualities of cucumbers and the activating qualities of green tea can help lift us out of hibernation mode.


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Some Recipes to Get You Started:

Easy Sauteed Dandelion Greens

~ Arugala’s Greatest Hits, Courtesy of Marth Stewart

~ Spring Detox Smoothie

~ Easy Ayurvedic Cleansing Tea





As for Right Movement, the same principal applies: out with the old, in with the new! Our bodies crave TWISTS at this particular time.Twists give our organs a deep yet gentle massage, waking them up from sluggish functioning. Just like wringing out a wet towel, twisting enables our body to release stored toxins and acts as a general reboot, bringing about optimum functioning for the lighter, brighter season to come.


Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 3.29.07 PMTwo very basic but yummy options are Seated Spinal Twist and Reclined Spinal Twist. Getting a bit more advanced, you could opt for Revolved Triangle or Twisted Side Angle. Best not to go into deep twisting too early in the morning, before your body has a chance to get the Prana flowing… but practice a couple of these midday (or even at night as the body goes to sleep and into its rest/rejuvenate cycle) and your body will thank you!

Click Here To Check out Yoga Journal’s Encyclopedia of Twisting Shapes To Get Inspired

Or Try This Energizing, Twisty Sequence At Home

 

Warm Up With Our Winter Yoga Sequence

Winter is in full swing and it has been absolutely frigid. If you are feeling stagnant and finding your Right Movement practice challenging, you are not alone. After weeks of freezing weather, you may be feeling a bit lethargic, blue or just not quite yourself. Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Although we obviously did not create the frosty weather, we are often able to choose how we respond to our circumstances. Yoga is the perfect practice for shifting mindset, re-energizing the body and the mind.

So when when the doldrums set in- or better yet, before the blues take hold- take 10 minutes to practice our short soothing sequence to build warmth from the inside-out. You will find yourself renewed and ready to take on your Winter plans with presence and zeal.

This sequence is designed to slowly warm up with breath and continuous movement; and then go deeper into energizing postures that will leave you feeling ready to head out into the brisk air.


Sun salutation variations plus some standing
core-strengthening postures build heat.

This helps to warm the muscles up and prevent injury.

It also begins the process of moving in meditation. 
Once the heat and breath flows, deeper twists, folding and backbending
postures open up stuck energy channels and generate much-needed life force.
Take your time flowing from posture to posture, breathing deeply and moving joyfully.
Hold postures for 3-5 deep breaths.


 


Sequencing is about balance — exploring a posture and then offering the body a soothing counter posture. Winter is a time to balance the natural tendency to turn inwards with postures that open the heart and generate a sense of openness to the world. Rather than push through the stagnant energy that so easily builds during Winter, there is the opportunity to breathe deeply and move into yoga postures slowly and deliberately, paying attention to the subtle shifts that emerge.

Summer Shape Up

 

Recently we were asked by Hamptons Magazine to share our top tips for getting in shape for Summer. They picked just one, but we want to share all 4 with you! While it may seem like beach time is months away, NOW is the time to start working towards that bikini bod.

 

Have fun & let us know how it’s going by sharing your process and progress on our IG or FB!


1. BE FIERCE!

Top yoga asana for getting in shape fast? Warrior III. Every… singe…. day. This powerful standing posture tones legs and hips, strengthens core, works the arms, and it’s even a fat-blasting cardio-vascular challenge! Practice this total-body workout 3x on each side, holding first for 30 seconds each (about 5 long breath cycles) and working up to 60 or 90 seconds.

 

2. BELLY BLAST, FAST!

Our core muscles respond to increased attention and activity faster than any other muscle group. Even just a 10-minute routine done 5 days a week will get noticeable results, fast! Plus, hit the mat a few minutes early and do a little core work (crunches, sit ups, Boat pulses, etc.) before your regular yoga practice — your abs will be activated and firing for the rest of class in a more efficient and more effective way.

 

3. SEASONAL RIGHT NUTRITION

Besides boosting workouts to burn off any extra winter weight, let your diet help shed excess from the inside. Add bitter leafy greens like arugula, baby spinach and dandelion tea to your menu to fire up liver function, which aids in detoxification and metabolization of fats. Plus – bitter greens have been shown to reduce cravings for unhealthy foods! Add either a green salad or a green juice to your menu every day.

 

4. GO WITH THE FLOW

Between the sluggish hibernation of Winter and the body-baring days of Summer, there’s a very helpful season called Spring. In Eastern traditions, Spring is the season of “Get Up And Go!” — plants are sprouting, birds and bees are busy, and it’s the perfect time to rev back up. Spring is a time to introduce more movement, whether it’s a flowing vinyasa class, long walks, runs, biking or spinning, focus on moving rather than just muscle building and let the natural energy of the season support your fitness goals.

 

Winter Solstice Meditation Practice

Today marks the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the day when the sun reaches its southernmost point, relative to the earth’s orbit, in the dome of the sky. We’ve been moving toward this moment since the Summer Solstice in June, when, after hitting peak sunlight, we’ve incrementally lost daylight, bringing us to today’s darkness. Starting tomorrow we’ll reverse course and add length to our days, eventually bringing us back to June’s longest day of the year. Then we begin the cycle again. Check your timezone to see exactly when the sun reaches it nadir today.

A celebration and acknowledgment of life cycles, the Winter Solstice is a fitting time to meditate, journal and practice mindfulness. Many Native American wisdom traditions use the Medicine Wheel as part of their spiritual practice to stay connected to the cycles of the natural world. The circle represents the passage of the sun and the seasons; the shift from night to day; and the cycle of birth, life and death.

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The Medicine Wheel and the Four Directions

Wheels vary from tribe to tribe, but many share similar attributes. The East is the direction of beginnings—the symbol of birth, illumination of the spirit and the season of spring. The South is where warmth and growth abide; in our life cycle, this is the direction where the Self comes into being. The West is seen as a direction of endings and is a space of introspection and growing old. The North represents winter’s tests and purification. It is here that wisdom is attained as the cycle of one life ends before it begin again in the east.

How To Use It In Your Practice

If you choose to set aside a few moments today to observe this stage in the earth’s orbit and in your own life cycle, play with working in these cardinal points. Orient yourself to the compass and sit facing in the direction that most resonates with where you are or where you’d like to be. A meditation using the Four Directions could be as simple as setting an intention for each one:

  • To the East: Something you’d like to begin.
  • To the South: Something you’d like to grow.
  • The the West: Something you’d like to release.
  • To the North: A phase you’d like to complete

For an asana practice, move in a wheel:

  • Salute the sun while facing east.
  • Move into standing postures facing south.
  • Navel-gaze in headstand or Viparita Karani to the west.
  • Take shavasana to the north.

As with all Self check-in and meditation practices, listening to your intuition and following your instinct is key. There is no wrong way to pray, tune-in or connect to the cosmos.

The study of the Medicine Wheel is deep and sacred; an in-depth look would require more space or knowledge than we have here. If you’re inspired to learn more, draw the four directions into your practice more regularly and see where that takes you. If you’d like to learn more about recent protests in the Native American community over the Dakota Access Pipeline, this is a great resource for getting involved.

Images: Winter lightMedicine Wheel illustration
 

Miso Tahini Chickpea Stew

I came across this recipe last winter through one of my favorite Instgram follows, Andrea Bemis of Dishing Up the Dirt, a farmer and foodie in the Pacific Northwest whose feed is full of her fresh-from-the-earth produce and enticing recipes in which to use them. After making this soup once I quickly elevated it to “regular” status and enjoyed it often through early spring.

What I especially like about Bemis’ cooking style is her focus on keeping it intuitive. This recipe calls for turnips and sweet potatoes, but it can easily be made with any root vegetables you favor or have on hand. White or purple potatoes, parsnips, beets and carrots would all work just as well. As with any soup and stew, this one is great to double or triple and freeze. Enjoy!

Miso Tahini Chickpea Stew

 

  • PREP TIME
    15 minutes
  • COOK TIME
    25 minutes
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 medium sized sweet potato, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 medium sized turnip, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup chickpea miso (or white miso)
  • 3 1/2 Tablespoons tahini
  • 1 (14 ounce) can chickpeas, drained
  • a few handfuls of spinach
  • Minced cilantro for serving
  • toasted sesame seeds for serving
  • tiny dash of Sriracha for serving (optional)

Serves 4

  1. Combine the 1 cup quinoa with 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, reduce heat to low and cook until the quinoa has absorbed the liquid and can easily be fluffed with a fork. About 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large dutch oven or soup pot add the chopped veggies, grated ginger and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Pour about 1/2 a cup of the hot water into a bowl and stir in the miso and tahini (this prevents clumping and helps thin out the mixture a bit). Add the thinned miso/tahini mixture to the soup. Taste the broth and adjust seasonings as needed. Add the chickpeas and spinach and stir until everything is well combined and the spinach wilts a bit.
  3. To serve place a generous scoop of the cooked quinoa into each bowl and top with the stew. Add a few healthy pinches of toasted sesame seeds, cilantro and a tiny dash of Sriracha sauce if desired.

Visit Dishing up the Dirt for more recipes and images of farm life. If you’re a fan of this recipe, keep your eyes open for Bemis’ first cookbook, due March 2017.

Images and recipe from Dishing up the Dirt

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

Yoga on the Autumnal Equinox

Today marks the Autumnal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, the true start of fall and a day split evenly between darkness and light. Since the Summer Solstice we’ve been slowly losing daylight; now we hit equilibrium, a balancing pose between sun and earth that, as the days pass, will gradually tilt toward darkness. The process will reverse itself on the Winter Solstice in December, the shortest day of the year, when our days will grow longer again.

To honor the seasonal shift and this fine moment of cosmic balance, we’re practicing a simple sequence designed to bring our dual aspects into alignment.

Autumnal Equinox Flow

  • Start in Mountain Pose, Tadasana. Close your eyes and draw energy up through the soles of your feet. Follow it up the spine and out the crown of your head. Bring your awareness to your breath and trace it up and down the midline for several inhales and exhales. If you work with an intention, set one now.
  • Open your eyes and step your left foot back about three feet. Turn all ten toes to face the long edge of the mat, outer edges of your feet parallel. Square your hips and then set up for Trikonasana, Triangle Pose. Turn your right toes to the top edge of the mat and align your right heel with your left arch.

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  • Lengthen the arms, shift your hips back and hinge forward. Place your top hand on your leg, a block, the floor or peace-wrap your big toe.
  • Stay in Triangle for several breaths.
  • Rise up from Triangle and lengthen your stance. Bend the front knee deeply over the ankle and press firmly through the outer edge of your back foot. Extend through your fingers and sink into Warrior Two.

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  • From Warrior Two, tip forward and place your fingertips on the floor outside your right foot. Shift your weight and gaze forward, get light on your back toes and float the left leg up. Stack the left hip on top of the right, lift the top arm and turn your gaze to the ceiling. You’re in Ardha Chandrasana, Half Moon Pose.

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  • Imagine yourself balanced between two planes of glass, or picture yourself at the intersection of day and night, not leaning more into one than the other.
  • Come out of Half Moon by lowering your top hand to the floor and squaring your hips to the mat. Keep your back leg lifted.
  • Dome your back by drawing your belly into your spine. Bend the lifted knee toward your nose and draw it into your chest. Wrap your hands around the shin below your knee, firm through your standing foot and rise up to stand on one leg.
  • Place the sole of your left foot on the inseam of your right leg. Take Tree.

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  • Stay in Vrksasana for at least ten breaths. When you’re complete, lower the leg and find Tadasana. Restate your intention and prepare for the second side.
  • Move through the poses on the left side. After tree, take rest in Child’s Pose and then relax into Shavasana.
 Photos: Autumn mandala from kosmosjournal.org; Triangle from yogadudes.tumblr.com; Warrior Two from puryoga.eu; Half Moon from www.yogatrail.com; Brooklyn Bridge Tree Pose from relaxandrelease.co.uk

Falling Into A Good Habit

Even though there’s a lingering hint of Summer in the weather — and we’re grateful for that — you might have noticed a shift in energy pre- and post-labor day. A revving-up in pace and stress levels around the city. You might not be sure what to wear because the weather is a bit erratic. You might have noticed people around you getting sick.

 

So while we’re not quite in the crisp-air, leaves-falling, squash-eating, heart of Autumn yet, we’re in the threshold between Summer and Fall and the effects are real. What we do NOW will greatly impact how well we’re able to stay healthy and balanced to fully enjoy the coming season.

 

I was speaking with a student before class the other day. Like many of us, her Summer had been peppered with travel and an irregular work schedule. While fun, the warmer months had lacked routine, and now she felt herself dragging her heels to get back to her regular work, yoga, and life rhythms. It felt harder than it should to get back in the flow of things, yet she was a bit exhausted from all the fluctuations of Summer. Sound familiar?

 

It’s interesting the way this paradox can exist — on the one hand we crave the rooted feeling of a balanced routine, and yet it feels more difficult to plant those roots. According to Ayurveda, this paradox not only makes sense, but is completely predictable.

 

As we segue into Fall we enter the season of Vata Dosha and we begin to feel the qualities of Vata in a more pronounced way. Made up of Air & Space Elements, Vata in the natural world is associated with gusting wind, cooling air temperatures, slowly darkening days, and dry, brittle leaves. Energetically it is a time when anxiety or stress seems to surge — energy is moving towards something. In NYC it feels like back to school/back to reality energy.


Historically the more urgent energy of Fall might have been associated with harvest and preparations for winter. “Hurry Up!” Fall seems to instruct.

 

Just as we see Vata in the natural and energetic landscapes around us, we might also experience elevated Vata within us: often our skin, hair or nails get dry and brittle at this time of year, our joints might ache. We might feel a little all-over-the-place. We might have great ideas but difficulty actualizing them. We might slip into anxious “monkey mind”… thinking which feels productive but actually saps us of energy leaving us “wired and tired.” It is easy to become depleted and fatigued at this time, which then leaves us with even less energy to be productive or “get back into our routine.” As we get depleted our immunity wanes and it’s much easier to get sick, which of course knocks us even further off our course. It can feel like we’re trapped, going around and around on a carousel. And all we need to do is just step off the ride.

 

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-10-08-43-amVata benefits immensely from the anchor of a routine, from the stability and sustenance of roots. This is why, as Vata kicks up at this time of year, it is especially important. And yet it is the dosha furthest away from watery anchors and earthy roots — air and space elements can whip us up into a frenzy, which is why it’s so hard to get back into a routine when we need it most! This is that predictable paradox. And by the way, these predictable paradoxes exist in all the doshas – just wait until we get to Kapha season!!

 

But, for the time being, even though it might feel tough, begin to invite some routine, some ritual, some roots into your daily life. It’s even harder to establish routine once the gusting Autumn winds have kicked up, and much harder to fortify our immunity once it’s been compromised.  Even one little thing done regularly is enough to begin. Many clients have asked, well what is the best thing I can do… and the answer is usually “whichever thing you will do.” It doesn’t have to be complicated; it just needs to be a commitment to yourself that you keep.

The more you can invite water and earth elements in the better. Here are some ideas:

 

1. I’m going to say it right out of the gate: Return to and stick with a regular yoga practice. This time we make for ourselves strengthens us, builds immunity, decreases stress, and on and on. When I was speaking with the student we joked about how even for teachers sometimes the hardest part of yoga is just showing up. Well show up and keep showing up because there’s nothing better for grounding Vata than being embodied.

2. Swap your iced coffee for hot, swap cooling mint tea for ginger root tea. Best of all is a real chai made with those warming, aromatic roots and spices.

3. Include Restorative or Yin in your weekly yoga schedule or your at-home practice – these slower, grounding practices help to center us amid the swirl and they nourish the nervous system, which can be especially overworked at this time.

4. If possible see how it feels to swap your spin class for swimming laps, choosing water element over spinning your wheels. Might be an interesting experiment for a few months.

5. Work your core! Build a little heat from the inside out.

6. Begin to eat more root vegetables, even if they’re still in salad form!

7. Add a good multi-vitamin, probiotic and herbal supplement containing echinacea to your nutrition plan. Many people begin to take echinacea only once they’re sick, but this herb is actually most effective in a cummulative/long-term way, not as an acute medicine.

8. Write a To Do list that feels attainable, either set just a few key goals for a day, or write your list to span the whole week so no one day is too overburdened.

9. Explore what a little Dinacharya, or self-care ritual, might be for you. It might be 7 minutes of meditation every morning, or at 4pm. It might be a curfew for your screen time. It might be taking the extra 2 minutes to apply coconut oil or a nourishing moisturizer before bed. Any little gift you can give to yourself every day can become an anchor. 


By understanding and balancing Vata at this time we can work towards maintaining healthy energy and strong immunity so we’re less susceptible to seasonal colds and flus (and, um, pneumonias!) which are all too common this time of year. The time to fortify is now. Set yourself up for a healthy and stable season to come. So consider which practice or practices you can commit to, understanding that committing to the routine is part of the medicine.


 

Stay tuned for more Ayurvedic inspired seasonal articles over the coming weeks. And check out these related articles to #Go Deep

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 

Tune Into The Summer Solstice and Full Moon

The stars are aligned. Today the sun reaches its highest peak in the Northern Hemisphere — the summer solstice — making it the longest day of the year and the official start of summer. In a rare celestial coincidence (once or twice in a lifetime), the moon is also full tonight, meaning the sky will be illuminated all day and all night.

Full moons are powerful times for manifestation and purification practices. A major cosmic event like the summer solstice — a day that marks the transition from one season to the next — is another time to sit back and tune in. Today’s external forces create a potent platform for meditation or quiet reflection.

There’s even a word for the relationship between our external and internal landscapes:

zeit·ge·ber  \ˈtsītˌɡābər,ˈzīt-/

noun, PHYSIOLOGY

A cue given by the environment, such as a change in light or temperature, to reset the internal body clock.

In other words, the world is moving with you in it. You can resist nature’s energy or embrace it.

Here’s a simple and grounding practice for harnessing the sun’s energy and the moon’s wisdom.

If you have an altar or sacred space in your home (we wrote about creating sacred space here), set yourself up there. Or, since the sun and the moon are bringing their A-games, today would be a wonderful time to practice or meditate outside.

Begin in Child’s Pose. Take several long breathes, eyes closed, arms outstretched, heart sinking toward the floor.

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When you feel grounded and collected, press up and back into downward facing dog (you don’t need a mat or even yoga clothes). Walk your feet slowly to your hands and rise up to stand. Set an intention to honor and thank the sun. From here take at least one Sun Salute, Surya Namaskar.

The Sanskrit word namaskar comes from namas, which means “to bow to” or “to adore,” and surya is the sun. We can’t think of a better day to bow to the sun and honor our own illumination.

Finish in Tadasana, Mountain Pose, hands at prayer. Let your heart settle.

Next, Take a comfortable seat for Alternate Nostril Breath. Just as the sun is hot and fiery and the moon is calm and cool, so are we. Alternate Nostril Breath harmonizes and balances both aspects of our personality and prana bodies; it’s a pranayama designed to bring our inner fire into right relationship with our lunar nature. Set a timer so you don’t have to worry about how long you’ve been there. Close your eyes and sink in.

At the end of your breathwork, settle into a grounded seat. You can set the timer to minimize distractions and let the eyes close again. Sit with any intentions you may have for this new season.

  • What do you want to call in?
  • What no longer serves you?
  • In this bright and boisterous time ahead, how do you want to channel the sun’s energy?

Sit for as long as you like. The sun’s not going anywhere.

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Top photo from Kino Yoga; moon photo by aerospace engineer Jim Nickelson

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

One-Day Cleanse

If the word cleanse has you picturing weird supplements, expensive juices, bone broth or a voluntary enema, take a moment to excise those thoughts from your mind. All clear? Despite its reputation, a cleanse can be, simply, simple. With spring approaching, the outside world is nudging us into awareness of new growth, so now is the perfect time to give your own system a seasonal reboot. Outlined below is a simple one-day cleanse that is easy to achieve yet still delivers some great benefits.

Like any other practice, a cleanse works best if you set an intention: The clearer it is, the more benefits you will receive. Here are a few:

  • To eat joyfully, mindfully and gratefully

  • To give my body a chance to rest and restore

  • To slow down and make space for a day of intentional self-care

First step: Plan ahead. Choose a day for your cleanse at least a week in advance. Give yourself time to look forward to and plan for it. Deciding to fast the day after a boisterous, excessive dinner party may seem like a good idea that morning, but you’ll end up hangry, tired and craving anything by lunchtime. Instead, treat your cleanse day like a hot date: Fall asleep dreaming about all the things you’re going to do (or not do), plan what you’re going to wear, and tell all your friends not to call — you’re going to be busy.

Instead of trying to fit your cleanse into your life, see about reordering your life–just for that day–to accommodate your cleanse.


If you can take a day off of work, do it. Turn on your out-of-office message and turn off your phone. In the week leading up to your cleanse, decide which self-care rituals you’d like to do and gather your supplies. Maybe you’d like to take an Epsom salt bath with one of your favorite essential oils; or take a long walk with the intention of smelling every flower you encounter; or spend an hour journaling, meditating, or drawing — whatever it is that brings you back to center.

Arguably the most important part of advance planning concerns what you’re going to eat. Below is a recipe for a simple, delicious and easy to digest mung bean and rice soup from Puakai Healing‘s Maggie Harrsen and Good Water Farms Brendan Davison. Prepare this recipe a day or two before your cleanse so it’s ready and waiting for you on the day of. Start the morning of your cleanse with a tall glass of room-temperature water with a splash of lemon juice. Keep your pot of mung beans simmering on low on the stove, and enjoy mindful bowls throughout the day.

Here are other rituals to consider:

Start the morning with oil pulling and tongue scrapping. Both part of an Ayurvedic approach to wellness, these practices promote toxin elimination, glowing skin and overall oral health. Swish a teaspoon or so of unrefined coconut oil in your mouth for up to 30 minutes, spit it outside or in your trashcan (so as not to clog the drain), and follow by dragging a tongue scrapper from the base to the tip of your tongue until it feels clean, rinsing the scrapper after each stroke.

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Dry skin brushing is another morning practice that will promote detoxification. Our skin is our largest organ, and using a natural fiber brush to stimulate and cleanse it improves circulation, reduces cellulite, tightens skin and strengthens the immune system. Do this first thing, perhaps while swilling coconut oil, before your morning shower while your skin is still dry. Using long strokes, start at the soles of your feet and work your way up the body, stroking toward your heart and moving clockwise around the navel and buttocks. End at your arms and hands.

Mung Bean and Rice Cleanse

Ingredients:

1 cup green mung beans (or lentils)

1 cup basmati rice

9 cups spring water

4-6 cups assorted seasonal vegetables (carrot, sweet potato, etc.)

2 yellow onions, chopped

1/3 cup grated ginger root

8 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 tsp. turmeric

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. garam masala

1 tsp. red chilis, crushed

1 tbsp. sweet basil, dried

sea salt, to taste

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Rinse rice and beans. In a large pot, add 9 cups of spring water and bring to a boil. Add rice and beans and cook on a medium flame. Begin to chop vegetables and add to the simmering pot of rice and beans. Begin to chop onions, garlic and ginger. In a separate pan, brown onions, garlic and ginger in 1/2 cup of  olive oil or coconut oil. Add the spices to the oil and then combine this mixture with the mung beans and rice, stir often. Add the herbs. Continue to cook together until creamy and soup-like. Top with a dip of plain yogurt and freshly picked herbs or microgreens.

 

If this seems more nourishing and loving than some of the more hard-core cleanses you might have heard about or even tried, that’s because it is! The magic of this cleanse is giving the digestive system a break with a simple mono-diet. When we tax the system with hard-to-digest foods like processed foods, animal fats and proteins, starchy foods etc, it doesn’t often get a chance to recalibrate. In as little as one day you can give this over-worked system a restorative day off. Plus, the other detox methods, like dry brushing, are even more effective on a simple diet. Best of all, this is the type of cleanse you could factor into your regular weekly routine…

And, if after all this, you’re still dying to do a coffee enema, here’s a lovely how-to from mindbodygreen.

Big thanks and much love to Puakai Healing and Good Water Farms for the beautiful image and delicious recipe; tongue scraper and dry skin brush are on Amazon.com; burning sage shot found here