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Posts Tagged ‘Self-Care’

Top 5 Summer Superfoods

So what is a superfood? Superfoods are whole, unprocessed foods that contain a concentrated amount of nutrients. They are nutrition powerhouses. These incredible, natural packages have superpowers such as warding off cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and more! When you consume seasonal superfoods regularly, your skin will glow, your digestion will be incredible, and your inner superpowers will be unleashed as your mind clears and your body thanks you.



Here our our top 5 summer superfoods, plus quick tips for incorporating them into your daily diet. 


  1. Spinach (and other dark, leafy greens)



    Ahhh, the queens of alkalization! Dark leafy greens have been #1 on any reputable list of healthy foods for quite some time now and they are still at the top today. Spinach is often recommended, because it is mild in flavor and can be added to smoothies. That said, kale, arugula, beet greens, Swiss chard, lettuce, and dark green herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro) are also incredible sources of nutrition! Brimming with key vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, low in calories, and full of fiber, dark leafy greens keep the whole body system in tip top shape.


    Add greens to your smoothies, make delicious salads, sauté greens with garlic and olive oil, or make trendy kale chips in your oven! For inspiration, check out our fav Green Smoothie recipe. Consider making this delicious Summer Greens Power Pesto for extra nutritious flavor!


  2. Blueberries



    These sweet blue treats contain a concentrated amount of fiber, potassium, magnese, folate, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Blueberries contain the most antioxidants among commonly consumed fruits or vegetables! So what does this all mean? They help protect our bodies from cancer-causing free radicals and are chalk full of nutrients that support the immune system, nervous system, circulatory system, and digestive tract. They help our brains and our hearts. Need I say more?


    Add blueberries to your morning smoothies, cereals, or yoghurt. Eat blueberries as healthy snacks throughout the day. Check out this Summer Smoothie Bowls recipe and enjoy!


  3. Tomatoes



    Juicy red tomatoes are a sign of summer. Entirely different from out-of-season tomatoes harvested across the globe, in-season tomatoes are sweet, flavorful, and contain an abundance of nutrients and antioxidants that fight disease and keep us healthy. They are also a great source of lycopene, an antioxidant that helps protect us against breast and prostate cancers.


    Add fresh tomatoes to salads, sauce, salsa, and soup! Enjoy fresh with a pinch of salt, or top with mozzarella and basil for a delectable treat!


  4. Watermelon



    Sweet and juicy watermelon is a blissful delicacy on a hot summer’s day. Watermelon’s superpowers include nutrients and antioxidants that promote heart health and bone health, and aid in the prevention of prostate cancer. Watermelon has an alkalizing effect on the body and can act as an aphrodisiac! Each bite provides incredible hydration. True to its name watermelon is 92% water. Providing vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and magnesium, watermelon is a fun and delicious guilt-free summer treat. Feel free to enjoy watermelon all summer long!


    Check out this Watermelon Smoothie recipe for inspiration or try watermelon salad with our fav Sexy Summer Watermelon Salad recipe.


  5. Avocados



    Hass and Anaheim avocados are the commercially grown varieties that are in season during the summer months. Not only delicious, they contain one of the healthiest fats there is: monounsaturated fatty acids.  Plus avos are chalk full of vitamin K, C, E, B5, and B6. They also provide a significant amount of folate and more potassium than a banana. Since our brains are made of fat and we need healthy fats to protect our heart, a daily avocado may be the easiest and most delicious choice we could make for our health. And don’t be fooled by the word “fat.” Avocados can help with weight loss!


    Add avocados to smoothies, salads, guacamole, salsas, and more! Check out this Simple Summer Salad recipe for inspiration.


 

*Photos from Dr. Axe, California Avocados, and Authority Nutrition

 

Save Face

Our skin, our largest organ, absorbs what we put on it: The ingredients in our body lotions, shampoos, lipsticks and sunscreens eventually make their way into our bloodstreams. The products we use impact us in much the same ways as the foods we eat—turns out you are what you apply, too.

So, what’s in all those creams and concealers? For the most part, not stuff you’d want to put in your smoothie. The list of what to avoid and why is long; for an in-depth breakdown of common ingredients and what they do, visit the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics‘ comprehensive Chemicals of Concern list to learn about what’s in your lip gloss.

While the US food industry is attempting to keep up with consumer demand for transparency in labeling and regulations, the beauty industry is lagging behind. Label claims like “organic” and “natural” and even “FDA-approved” mean little to nothing at all, and, for now, it’s up to consumers to be their own fact and label-checkers.

Our advice: Keep it simple. Products with lengthy ingredient lists are likely to have more ingredients to avoid; a pared-down beauty routine—one with fewer products to vet and claims to investigate—is an easy way to feed your skin good food. If an ingredient is unpronounceable, look it up and learn more or move on.

Beauty Brands We Love

There are, thankfully, companies doing it right. We look for brands that champion holistic practices and pure products. Here are a few favorites: 

 

Earth Tu Face

Plant-based skincare from two herbalists in California. Their products are made from organic, high quality and food-grade ingredients.

Product we love: Virgin Coconut Oil + Cardamom Body Butter. 

 

Vitner’s Daughter

Winery owner April Gargiulo created her cult-favorite skin serum in an attempt to simplify her complicated skincare regime. It took two years of tinkering, but the result is a game-changing, nutrient rich face oil that uses anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich plant ingredients to maintain and restore skin’s natural radiance.

 

Tata Harper

Made in small batches in the company’s laboratory in Vermont, Tata Harper products are packed with from-the-earth, active ingredients like red algae (for elasticity) and borage (moisture retention). Many of their ingredients are grown on their own bucolic farm.

Product we love: Be Adored

 

Living Libations

For love-infused products from two high-vibrational souls, look no further than Living Libations. Essential oils, a holistic oral healthcare line and self-proclaimed “renegade” beauty products are all meticulously sourced; the founders, husband and wife Ron and Nadine Artemis, believe that radiance is a birthright, and they manage to capture that philosophy in every offering.

Product we love: Seabuckthorn Shampoo and Shine On Conditioner

 

In New York we love visiting CAP Beauty in the West Village (they also have an excellent website), and Living Libations‘ newly-opened store in Venice Beach, Los Angeles. For treatments, questions, and holistic beauty coaching, pro-makeup artist and Ayurveda expert Jessa Blades is a bi-coastal treasure.

Top image: Splash Happy; all brand images from their own websites; the Living Libations image is Courtesy of CAP Beauty.

Dive Deeper

Cultivating a personal, at-home yoga and meditation practice is one of—if not the—best way to commit to a true off-the-mat yogic way of life. That said, starting and committing to a new wellness or spiritual practice may feel overwhelming; retreats and workshops can offer a strong but gentle kick in the soul to get you motivated and keep you inspired on your chosen path. There are several beautiful and secluded retreat centers across the country that offer participants the option of self-study or mindful, unplugged weekends. If the cost or commitment level of a themed or group retreat doesn’t interest or appeal, a private, self-guided retreat in a sacred space could be the spiritual recharge you need.


Blue Cliff Monastery

Pine Bush, New York

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A mindfulness and monastic training center founded by Vietnamese author, Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, Blue Cliff Monastery sits on 80 acres of undisturbed woodland in the Catskills, about two hours northwest of New York City.

The monastery permanently houses a community of monks, nuns, and lay practitioners; visitors are welcome year-round and can participate in a Day of Mindfulness or stay for longer personal or themed retreats. Hanh, who lives in Blue Cliff’s sister monastery in France, Plum Village, cut back on his traveling after a stroke in 2014, but his East Coast disciples are steeped in his teachings and mindfulness practices.

Visit www.bluecliffmonastery.org for more information.

New Camaldoli Hermitage

Big Sur, California

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The most famous retreat center in California’s stunning Big Sur is, hands down, the Esalen Institute. Less well known but just as gorgeously situated is a Benedictine monastery, the New Camaldoli Hermitage, which welcomes visitors for a minimum of two nights to unplug—there is no wifi or cell service at the monastery—and destress. Private rooms with a half-bath and personal garden overlooking the ocean are available, as are private hermitages, which offer a basic kitchen, full bath, and more chance of seclusion. It’s not all asceticism: The Hermitage’s bookstore features homemade “Holy Granola” and, in the spirit of non-competition, fudge from an order of Oregon monks.

Visit contemplation.com for more information.

Menla

Phoenicia, New York

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Buried in the Catskills’ twisting mountain roads, Menla Mountain is the upstate New York retreat center of Tibet House US. Tibetan Buddhist scholar and Tibet House US President Robert Thurman serves as the center’s Spiritual Director and teaches there throughout the year; the center’s vision, with the Dalai Lama’s blessing (he last visited in 2006), is to draw from Tibetan wisdom traditions to work with integrative medicines now becoming popular in the West.

The Mahasukha Spa offers Tibetan and Ayurvedic therapies, along with massage, sauna, and skin treatments. Guests can book appointments at the spa as part of a weekend-long R&R retreat or when taking part in a Tibet House Retreat.

For a full list of retreat offerings and accommodation options, visit menla.us.

Shambhala Mountain Center

Red Feather Lakes, Colorado

With the 108-foot tall Great Stupa of Dharmakaya on its grounds, you would be forgiven for thinking that Shambala Mountain Center was in South East Asia, not Northern Colorado. The stupa and grounds—the property spreads across 600 acres of rolling hills and native-growth forest—are open to daytime visitors, as are daily meditation practices and meals in the dining room.

Longer stays are available, as well, either in the form of a self-guided getaway or an Arts & Creativity retreat or one centered around Relationship, Family & Work.

The Shambhala Vision is rooted in the principle of human decency and goodness: At our core, we are all okay. Chögyam Trungpa, the author of Shambhala, The Sacred Path of the Warrior, and the Buddhist meditation master to whom the center’s stupa is dedicated, believed and taught that enlightenment and enlightened societies could be actualized. His teachings, and the works of the center, seek to draw out and foster the inherent goodness of people.

For more information, visit www.shambhalamountain.org.

Breitenbush Hot Springs 

Detroit, Oregon

 

Breitenbush Meadow Pool

A worker-owned resort community, Breitenbush Hot Springs is the site of a geothermal springs surrounded by the Willamette National Forest in Marion County, Oregon. With a decades-long history of offering counterculture holistic and spiritual retreats—it is famously clothing optional—Breitenbush was sustainable before that was a buzz word. With over 20 miles of hiking trails, along with rustic cabins, tent platforms, a meditative stone labyrinth, meal offerings and a yoga-meditation sanctuary, this bucolic spot has a loyal following of locals and long-distance peace seekers alike. Personal retreats, workshops, and day visits are all an option.

For more information, visit breitenbush.com.

Images: Top of photo of Menla by JBM Weddings; Blue Cliff Monastery courtesy of Blue Cliff Monastery; Big Sur image by @alisontheodora; Menla meditation room courtesy of Menla; Shambhala stupa by Insight Guides; Breitenbush hot spring by Travel Salem

Morning Breath

Earlier this week we wrote about caffeine’s influence on the body (CliffsNotes’ version: It’s a mood-altering drug.) and suggested a few caffeine-free beverage recipes to try instead of coffee. The caffeine-free and mood-altering substance we didn’t mention was breath. Regular pranayama practices, as part of an intentional morning routine, may eliminate the need for coffee or energy-boosters entirely.

Try a morning practice that uses breathwork to prepare the body for meditation. Commit to a length of time that feels comfortable to you and feel free to adjust the minutes you spend on each component. If you’re new to the practices outlined below, start with five minutes and then work your way up to a 10, 20 or 30 minute practice.

If possible, let this be the first thing you do in the morning, before you check your phone or engage in conversation. For a really mindful morning, wake up with oil pulling and tongue scrapping, and then settle into a comfortable seat.

Morning Pranayama Practice

  • Seated well and free of distractions, start with Alternate Nostril Breath. For a five-minute total practice, do two minutes of this pranayama.

  • Next, take one minute of Kapalabhati or Breath of Fire. A long spine is especially crucial here. Work with your arms extended overhead in a wide V with your thumbs extended and your fingers curled into your palms; or rest the backs of your hands on your knees, palms up, thumb and index finger touching in Chin Mudra.

  • When that round of breathing is done, sit in silence. If you’re short on time, dedicate two minutes to stillness. Otherwise, stay for as long as you like.

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As you gain comfort and familiarity with this practice, try to weight it a little more heavily toward meditation. The breathwork here serves as a way to subtly focus and balance the mind—that would be the work of Nadi Shodana—and then purify the container—the work of Skull Shining Breath or Breath of Fire. Those two, especially, work like an espresso shot on the nervous system: practicing them helps everything come into sharper focus.

For a 10- or 20- or 30-minute practice, try the following breakdown:

  • Alternate Nostril ~ 3 / 5 / 6 minutes
  • Kapalabhati or Breath of Fire ~ 2 / 3 / 4 minutes
  • Seated Meditation ~ 5 / 12 / 20 minutes

If possible, commit to the practice for a week and see what, if anything shifts. If you can ditch coffee that week, too, go for it. Here’s to getting high off your own supply.

Photos: Morning light by Ethanea; Chin Mudra by Cortnee Loren Brown via The Chalkboard.

Yoga For An Open Heart

At the end of a deeply divided election, it’s fair to say that all of could use an injection of happiness, hope and optimism. Before spreading that message to our communities and reaching a hand out to those on the other side of the aisle, we need to first embody those qualities ourselves.

The first step in cultivating an open heart is to literally feel an open heart. Yoga is full of heart openers, postures in which the collarbones widen, the shoulder blades draw together around the spine, the abdomen protects the low back and the heart center lifts and fills.

Heart openers are stress-relieving and uplifting. A balm to the body and mind, they are also vulnerable and exposed. To offer up your heart is to offer yourself up without armor or explanation, a harder task than the most challenging asana. See our earlier post for more benefits and tips on front extensions.

The postures below can be done in sequence or on their own. Explore Yin or Restorative versions, with lots of props and plenty of time, to really open up.

Puppy Dog Pose, Anahatasana

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A combination of Child’s Pose and Downward Facing Dog, Puppy Pose is a deep heart opener that offers the support of the floor to sink the chest into. If the floor feels impossibly far away, support your upper arms with blocks and bend at the elbows, meeting your hands in prayer overhead.

Upward Facing Bow Pose, Dhanurasana

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In the traditional shape, both knees are bent and the outer edges of both feet are grasped. Try a one-sided variation and go for extra lift through the extended front arm.

Camel Pose, Ustrasana

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A strong heart opener needs a clear support system. In Camel, roll the inner thighs toward the midline, keep your hip points stacked over your knees and imagine your legs pressed firmly against a wall (or, better yet, press your legs firmly against a wall!). Start with your toes tucked under, tops of feet lifted, and work your way to feet flat against the floor.

Wheel Pose, Dhanurasana

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Probably the biggest and best known heart opener of all, full Wheel Pose is energizing and demanding. Keep the outer edges of your feet parallel and hips-width distance apart. Rest on the crown of your head before pushing into the full posture and be sure to release any tension or straining in the neck. Play with narrowing the distance between your feet and hands as you breath your heart up and out.

Reclined Bound Angle Pose, Supta Baddha Konasana

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For a chill solo pose or the integrating shape at the end of a sequence, Supta Baddha Konasana cannot be beat. We explored a Restorative version in our Deep Sleep post, and offer a few more supported heart-melters here. If you can, treat yourself to props and extra support. Here, with the floor or a bolster beneath the spine you can feel into the breath filling the length of the torso, from the belly up into the chamber of the heart. Take the opportunity to breathe deeply and offer something, perhaps yourself, up fully.

Photos: Top image; Taryn Toomy in Puppy Pose; Bow; Camel; Wheel; Supta Baddha Konasana

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

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;

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

Love Your Roots

The feet are gateways to our internal organs and, when stimulated, can aid in a powerful detoxification. They also withstand a lot of pressure throughout the day. They are our literal foundation and, be it through unsupportive footwear or unforgiving pavement, often take a lot of abuse. Last month we posted a guide to simple and profound self care practices in honor of Mother’s Day; this month, when summer officially begins and our feet are on display — and withstand hot sand, sweaty shoes and wedding dance floors — we put together a foot-specific treatment plan in the same vein of loving-kindness.

Show your soles some love with an aromatic foot soak and massage. It’s a simple way to recharge from the ground up. Here’s how:

For a cooling soak, fill a foot tub with cool water and a handful of dried lavender and rose petals. If you don’t have fresh herbs and flowers on hand, essential oils work just as well; peppermint is another cooling, calming option.iStock_000011316485_Small-300x300

For a warming soak, use hot water, powdered or fresh ginger (sliced), and a few tablespoons of Epsom salt. The body will absorb the magnesium in the salt, helping to reduce inflammation, and the ginger will increase circulation.

Soak your feet for at least 10 minutes. Resist the urge to scroll through Instagram or answer emails. Use this as a chance to meditate or simply recharge.

 

After patting your feet dry, rub them with a generous helping of sesame, almond or coconut oil. Use oil liberally throughout — the skin, our largest organ, needs hydration any way it can get it, and oil on the skin helps it retain water. Give your toes, ball mounds, arches, and Achilles tendons lots of love and attention. Be intuitive and apply as much pressure as you can handle.

Here are a few ways to get started:

Cross your ankle over your knee and, using both hands, move your ankle in slowly widening circles. Take the circles in one direction and then the other.

Press your foot between your palms and rub back and forth, toe to heel, moving quickly to stimulate circulation and warm up cold toes or slowly to calm the nervous system.

Join your thumbs at the base of the sole and and press up and out toward the ball mound, just below the toes. After several sweeps, move to the toes, pressing all five back and forth at once, like the hinge of door. Then, massage each toe individually, spending time at the base, on each knuckle and at the nail bed.

Take a cue from Reflexology:

enhanced-7505-1409163740-4Our kidney point is located in the very center of the sole of each foot. An acupuncturist once described the kidneys to me as our bodies’ battery packs: they are what keep us charged. Anyone dealing with stress, fatigue, the stimulation of an urban environment, or general loss of “me” time will experience imbalance and strain on the kidneys. In Chinese medicine the name for this point, Kidney 1, is Yongquan, Bubbling Spring. I love the image of an eternally replenished stream, bubbling up and over, never losing energy or flow.

Locate and massage this point to bring your own spring back into action. The benefits associated with stimulating and caring for the kidneys, via the feet, are a grounding down of energy; the alleviation of dizziness, headaches and insomnia; and increased fertility and vitality.

For more opening, consider wearing yogi toe separators before your soak, and around the house in general. They stretch the toes, contribute to a general awareness of how we stand, and make it easier to find “the four corners of the feet” yoga teachers are always talking about; they are absolutely goofy and totally worth it.

 

Photos: Top photo found here; herb photo found here; Reflexology chart courtesy of BuzzFeed;

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.

 

Just Relax – Val More Salon Has Arrived!

I’m a Carnegie Hill resident and some days I really need a blow out, but I don’t have the ambition to walk or take a cab for the journey to my regular spot. Instead, I opt to blow out my, hair believing I can create that “just walked out of a salon look.” Alas, I never quite achieve it, and after an hour of wrestling with the blow dryer and tugging at my hair I invariably end up with a healthy measure of self-inflicted stress and my hair pitifully tied up. This is not what I would call “self care!”

 

Well now it’s time to relax.

Much to my joy (and my locks relief), Val More Salon is part of the new wave of businesses bringing convenience and high-quality services to Carnegie Hill.

With 20 plus years in the industry, Val’s passion for his work stems from many years spent along-side one of the elite stylists in the salon world. His expertise and approach have earned Val the well-deserved nickname “The Hair Whisperer” by the many loyal clients that travel from far and wide to sit in his chair. And after my first visit to his gorgeous new salon, I can understand why.

 

From the moment I opened the door my experience at Val More’s was luxurious and relaxing. I was graciously welcomed with warm smiles from the staff that offered sweets, coffee and tea. I immediately took in the elegant interior, with exposed brick walls, and sleek glass cases displaying a thoughtful selection of hair products. I loved seeing Living Proof and Alterna Caviar — both sustainable and non-toxic products — as some of the items sold. Contemporary photography hung on the walls, lush orchids adorned the counters, and the space’s soothing palate of sleek black, white and grey was illuminated by well-designed lighting. All this prepared me for a feeling of being pampered and spoiled.

 

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I was not disappointed. I nabbed a seat in Val’s chair where he seamlessly transformed my ratty locks into a flowing, smooth hairstyle that kept up with me the next two days. (I’ve already been back a few times for blowouts and can’t wait to try out the many other services too!)

 

Val More is an all-service salon providing:


Hair Services
Blow outs and haircuts for women, men and children ~ Keratin treatments ~ Hair extensions ~ Styling & Up Dos ~ Color treatments – Conditioning masks

Beauty Services
Makeup ~ Eye lash extensions ~ Eyebrow shaping

Body Services
Spray tan ~ Body scrubs ~ Massage ~ Manicure & Pedicure

Plus – Bridal services, house calls and much more

 

With all these amazing services I am thrilled, and I know others are as well, to have this exquisite boutique salon as part of our growing neighborhood community. Val More makes it easy and indulgent to look and feel our best, and we love supporting a fellow independent entrepreneur, especially one as creative as Val.

 

Welcome Home Val More!

Val More is located at 1323 Madison Avenue @ East 93rd St.
212 300-4169
ValMoreSalon.Com