Autumn: In the Mood for Nostalgia, Feeling the Need to Cleanse!

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If you had to choose your favorite season, what would it be?  I believe entering any season brings a feeling of nostalgia, anticipation, excitement, the need to cleanse etc. etc.. For me, autumn takes me back to my childhood where my family and I would drive from our home in Westchester County, New York up to Franconia, New Hampshire. We had a small ski chalet.  Of course, it was not yet ski season; rather, we called it leaf peeping season!  I have such fond memories of taking walks in nature, my Mom packing us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to eat on a newly discovered rock big enough for all of us to sit on.  My sister, brother and myself enjoying goofing around along the river, my parents doing their own thing.  Fall was a season of innocence.  Collecting all the fallen leaves in a huge pile and throwing our bodies right in the center.  Rolling around with pure abandon. Fast forward 40 plus years and fall has a very new meaning for me.  I have spent the greater part of my married life  living abroad experiencing the different shades of autumn.  In Puerto Rico, I yearned to travel back to New England to get a glimpse of “Peak.”  In Beijing, there was one street notorious for its golden yellows.  Unless you lived a distance from this street, Autumn in Beijing was fully accessible. People watching was almost as beautiful as the leaves!  South Africa felt anti-climatic as  summer brushed into fall and landed in winter.

Now I am in Switzerland, experiencing fall “Full  On!”  And yes while I do miss my youth of indulging in the beauty of the White Mountains, I also feel so grateful to have  stunning views outside our patio right here in Nussbaumen.

As I gaze outside our window watching the leaves blow off the trees, I am reminded that inside our bodies we also experience this need to shed our layers.  Unlike trees, we can’t just let our leaves go! We have the same excess heat that accumulates from the summer months and is pounding on our doors asking to be guided out.  Back in the day when I was pounding down peanut butter and jelly sandwiches without a care in the world, I had no inkling I might be weighing down “my leaves,” so to speak.  So again, I fast forward 40 plus years and fall not only brings me nostalgia toward my childhood, it also is a reminder that I too must play a role in shedding excess heat, toxins and metals from my body.

While it may be a coincidence that apple picking is a favorite weekend outing in Autumn, consuming 2-4 tart apples daily can be a great start toward releasing excess heat through purgation. What about some of the other local harvest?  Indulging in raw shredded beets with lemon juice and ground mustard are perfect for cleansing the liver.  Green soups with whatever local greens you fancy are another wise choice for taking care of your body and mind as you transition from leaf season to stick season! Remember, we are not just cleansing our bodies, our minds also take a toll and need to be refreshed through intelligent consumption.  And I use the word consumption loosely.  Not only do we consume whole foods and grains, but our minds take in external stimuli constantly.  Hence, if you do decide to take the time to shed your leaves, you may also want to slow down, find more time for quiet reflection, meditation and gentle yoga.  Go lightly and playfully!

Happy Fall, Lisa

Pre-Ritu Sandhi (Seasonal Transition)!!

From where I sit in Switzerland, I see kids already back to school, biking the streets with their backpacks, small children walking with their reflectors and both parents and children experiencing yet another transition from summer to back to school.  Even if you don’t have children and or they are already out of school, end of summer typically presents this feeling of moving from holiday rhythm to stressful mode.

In Ayurveda, planning in advance for transitions makes for smooth, healthy passages.  We see this with seasonal transitions known at Ritu Sandhi.  Ritu in sanskrit means season and Sandhi means meeting place or junction. In India, there are six Ritu Sandhi’s.  This is interesting to me as there are only four seasons.  And understandable as rainy season is also taken into account.

6 Ritu Sandhi’s (Seasonal Transitions) 

  • Late winter and Early Spring
  • Spring and Summer
  • Summer and Rainy Season
  • Rainy season and Autumn
  • Autumn and Winter
  • Winter season and Late Winter

Ritu Charya is the time in between transitions where sticking to a seasonal regimen promotes balance, health and a peaceful state of mind. Charya meaning regimen.

While the transition from summer holiday to back to school and or work, does not meet the criteria for one of the six Ritu Sandhi’s, it is still a transition.  And, in my opinion should be approached in a similar way to seasonal transition. The rule of thumb with Ritu Sandhi is to gradually change diet, lifestyle and behavior 7 days before the actual change and 7 days after.  Hence, you spend 14 days gradually prepping for the shift.

So what would happen if you spent 7 days transitioning from holiday status to school/work mode? And continued for another 7 days while working and or going to school? What would that look like? Perhaps…..

  • Moving toward a scheduled daily routine
  • Rising with the sun
  • Incorporating a set time in your day for exercise, yoga, meditation and or pranayama
  • Preparing lunch for either your kids and or just you
  • Making a sustainable breakfast that carries to lunch
  • Starting to arrange daily activities and logistics in advance
  • Planning light supper menus early in the week
  • Lights out early, sleeping by 10:00pm!

Summer time lends itself to sleeping late, unscheduled meal times, spontaneity, and late nights.  This seems to be the Ritu Charya, Seasonal Regimen of Summer!  And, since we are moving away from this Season, perfect time to reintroduce daily routine, more emphasis on scheduled meal times, waking with the sun and being in bed before 10:00pm.  Would love to hear how this goes for you!!  Always striving to Find Balance!!

Caught Up In The Kripalu Vinyasa Flow!

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The last few months for me have resembled a perfectly flowing extended Kripalu Vinyasa Class.  I have journeyed back and forth from Switzerland to the United States several times, safely.  Discovered that each trip had a beginning, a middle and an end only to take another breath and find myself beginning again.  By allowing for smooth transitions between each event whether my daughter’s graduation, visits to see my aging parents, family weddings, guiding yoga classes and a 10 day opportunity to assist Kripalu Vinyasa Teacher Training, I have learned that the most gracious way to travel is to travel slow, fully participating in each moment. There has been a natural evolution to my path, each experience building on the previous moving toward a peak reality.  The presence of this reality allowing me to dive inward noticing where the beauty lies, the intermittent kinks reside and the knots build up.  Inviting me to savor the spacious, juicy terrain while also doing the work to release the sticky, sometimes painful inner landscape. I have had to modify my plans allowing for more comfortable travel.  Often creating options to adapt to my needs and the needs of those around me. Of course there were moments of meditation, reflection and introspection, encouraging me to discover what is true and real for me, Om Tat Sat! In addition to finding movement within an underlying stillness. Throughout my journey, there was carefully selected music in the back round ranging from Vance Joy to Kick Bong.  Each song creating the bhav(mood) for my wanderings.

Coming full circle, I return to the perfectly flowing Kripalu Vinyasa class. As you may have detected from my personal journey, there are components to a Kripalu Vinyasa class that coin it “Kripalu Vinyasa.”   The ingredients include and are not limited to:

  • safety
  • a beginning, middle and end
  • movement within stillness
  • modifications, options, props
  • journey
  • smooth transitions
  • moments of inward reflection
  • slow it down, sense and feel
  • evolution of sequences
  • intensity
  • music perfectly sequenced
  • prana response
  • time for meditation
  • an experience for the practitioner
  • Om Tat Sat: that which is true and real

With that being said, my Sankalpa/Intention for the next 40 days is to dive deep into the Kripalu Vinyasa Practice and Teachings both “On and Off” the yoga mat.  Would love to hear what your Sankalpa is?

 

April Showers Bring May Flowers, And Hail?

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It’s been over a month since I posted and it feels like yesterday! Back in March I was all jazzed up about the early Spring we were having here in Switzerland. The temperatures were getting warmer, the flowers beginning to bloom.  Fast forward 5 weeks, we are in the midst of Spring and it feels like winter! This morning I went for a mid-morning jog with my husband, temperatures were in the high 40’s, the sky overcast.  Toward the later part of the run it started raining which soon turned into hail.  I was sorry I didn’t wear gloves. My husband was sorry he didn’t wear a hat, the hail was crushing down on his balding head!

So why all this talk about the weather?! Well, Spring is clearly Kapha season.  Rainy, damp weather is expected, shoes getting stuck in gooey mud the norm. Our bodies also resemble this sense of defrost in the form of excess mucus. allergies and the common cold.

And, this Spring feels different. Temperatures are fluctuating between a high of 70 one week and a high of 48 the next. Our bodies are torn between defrost and freezing!  Ayurvedically speaking, there is a toss up between Vata, the winter dosha and Kapha  spring.  Vata being governed by movement is often thrown out of balance by fluctuating conditions.  Hence, now is a good time to make friends with your Vata qualities and work towards finding balance.  You may be feeling cold, light, mobile, ungrounded, agitated, and or forgetful?  Perfect time to find nourishment with warm, sweet, heavier foods.  Engage in a yoga practice that is more grounding as opposed to vigorous.  Wake up early and start the day with Nadi Shodana, alternate nostril breathing, to calm the nervous system and find balance between the desire to start your day with a bang or stay under your cozy covers.  And just as Vata dosha is governed by movement, be prepared for warmer weather to crop up and your daily routine to return to a more Kapha balancing practice of managing the defrosting temperatures both internally and externally.  More on that when the time comes!!

To Cleanse or Not to Cleanse?

IMG_2455The temperatures are getting warmer, the days longer, the heavy winter coat being replaced by a lighter coat, long sleeve shirts replacing sweaters and sneakers chosen over  boots.  Have you already begun to clear your closets of wool, cashmere and fleece for cotton, polyester and spandex? How about all those papers that accumulate over winter, are you becoming anxious to discard? Having second thoughts about your relationships, job, and or food choices? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you are not alone!

Spring defined as that time of year between winter and summer that signifies rebirth, rejuvenation, regrowth, resurrection and last but not least, renewal, has the propensity to put everything on the table.  Being the Kapha season, I am not surprised! The qualities or gunas of Kapha include heavy, dense, cool, soft, smooth, slow, sticky and stable. Hence as we transition from winter/vata season to spring/kapha season, we take on the qualities of kapha, even if we are not predominately a kapha constitution. And, all of us are exposed to vata gunas in the winter including cold, dry, rough, mobile, light, clear and subtle. Hence as the weather begins to warm, the ground begins to soften, buds sprout on the trees, our bodies take on these similar characteristics.  We also begin to defrost and renew resulting in a viscous, sticky mess inside our bodies and  minds. Homeostasis would suggest we need to bring ourselves back into balance!

So I ask again, to cleanse or not to cleanse?  Knowing what you know now, it becomes clear that springtime is optimal for cleansing.   The great thing about an Ayurvedic cleanse is it’s gentle and suggested for all body types.  Just like a good yoga practice, you can modify the regimen to meet your specific needs. If you would like guidance regarding setting up your individual cleanse, reach out for a consult.  I am also available on skype! 

To get started, try this beet smoothie, great for cleansing the liver and moving the lymph. 

Beet Smoothie:

1/2 raw peeled beet, sliced fresh ginger, juice of 1/2 lemon, 1/4 cup fresh parsley, 1/2 granny smith apple and 1 cup fresh water, cardamom to taste

Place all ingredients in blender until desired consistency. Enjoy!!

 

 

 

 

Transitions and True Nature!

Right understanding of self and right understanding of environment can help us live a healthy balanced harmonious life. In fact, according to ayurvedic philosophy, recognizing our true nature as our spirit is the first step toward living a healthy balanced life! When we see ourselves through our innate spirit, we can let go of all the every day dramas that surround us and live our lives according to our true nature. You may be asking yourself, “so really, what is my true nature?”

True nature is your self without all of the material, emotional and physical disturbances of the world around you. In simpler terms, it is that state of complete calm that washes over you during a really present yoga practice and or meditation practice. The time you were practicing pranayama and you were saturated in your soul, immersed in your inner landscape.

During the change in seasons, it is especially hard to find this balance of holding true to yourself and not be challenged by all the transitions surrounding you. This year in particular! We are in the middle of winter and buds are sprouting from the earth, the jasmines are beginning to bloom and the temperature around us is unseasonably warm. On the one hand, it’s lovely to feel the surprise of an early spring, on the other, not so much. Here is a little ayurveda background information: While ayurveda sees living your life according to your true nature as a way of preventing disease, ayurveda also presents 3 main physical, emotional and behavioral constitutions (dosha’s) including vata, pitta and kapha. These dosha’s are a mirror of our true nature, our imbalanced nature and the surrounding environment. For example, Vata is made up of the elements of air and space. People with this constitution take on the qualities of dry, light, cold, rough, mobile and subtle. Interestingly enough, these are fall and winter qualities too. Kapha is composed of the elements earth and water. People of Kapha nature also present with earth and water and take on the attributes of heavy, slow, cool, oily, thick, smooth, stable and cloudy. The Kapha season is spring. Pitta shows as fire and water. People with pitta constitution present with fire and water and take on the qualities of oily, sharp, penetrating, hot, liquid, and spreading. Summer is pitta season.

Now that we have the background information, lets get back to the change in season and how it affects us physically, emotionally and behaviorally. We now know that winter is vata season and takes on the qualities of cold, dry, light, mobile, rough and subtle. When there is a quick transition to spring or kapha season, we see the opposite qualities including oily, heavy, slow, smooth, stable, sticky, thick and cool. These qualities are not only surrounding us, they begin to manifest inside us. In simpler terms, the soft, thick, sticky mud we feel under our feet, translates to excess water, mucus, and congestion in our body. What use to be cold, dry, light and windy days outside, has become, warmer, more stable, slower and heavier in nature. Our minds will also take on these characteristics. Hence, it is common during change of seasons for us not to be completely on our game. We may experience heaviness, fatigue and lethargy in both our minds and our bodies.

Luckily, Ayurveda gives us tools to glide through these transitions feeling happy, healthy and prepared to embrace each new season. Here are a few suggestions for moving into Spring:

  • Start your day with a cleansing warm glass of water with a few slices of fresh ginger
  • Move toward a lighter, more cleansing diet, green smoothies, berries, legumes and salads are perfect this time of year
  • Gravitate toward more vigorous, flowing yoga practice
  • Twists, heart openers, warriors are all excellent poses to stimulate Kapha
  • Incorporate ujjayi pranayama into your daily yoga practice
  • Try adding 5 to 10 minutes of Kapalabhati breathing into your morning routine

Embodying just these few changes should make a considerable difference in how you feel physically, emotionally and behaviorally during this seasonal transition. In addition, remember to invite your spirit to be your true nature. As you move through this time of change, try not to get ruffled by all the material, consuming drama that will try and disturb your authentic self. Hold on to what is occurring inside, your innate nature, your true spirit!

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring Duality: Sun and Moon

So often in yoga practice, we focus on surya namaskar, salutation to the sun. There’s series A, B, C, Hatha style sun salutation, Iyengar style and I imagine many other sacred variations.  What about the moon salutation? Yes, lots of ways to practice the moon salutation too! Where do you park yourself, sun salutation, moon salutation, a balanced mix of both?

With the full moon rising this week, I began to focus more on creating a full moon practice.  In ayurveda, the full moon resembles many of the gunas, qualities, of Kapha Dosha.  During the full moon, you see fullness and therefore feel indulged, feel coolness and start to unwind; and move slower, finding more time to relax with your people!  You may be asking, how does this affect your yoga practice? Well, in the evening, you may want to feed these qualities nurturing your yin side, the more feminine, cool, nourishing half of your being. Perhaps starting practice on your back, feeling the coolness of the ground below you and gradually moving into several rounds of your favorite style moon salutation.  Nadi Shodana, alternate nostril breathing, may also be a good choice to draw out your more soothing side!

How about the morning after full moon practice? For me, this is where duality comes into play.  Finding that balance between sun and moon, generating heat yet not overheating, creating lightness while still finding your ground, nourishing your spirit, and not getting too satiated! Here perhaps flirting with this duality of sun and moon by incorporating sun salutations to begin practice and moon salutations to end practice?  Combine kapalabhati, breath of fire, with shitali, cooling pranayama? Putting a little savasana into the mix, take a 5 to 10 minute rest feeling the coolness of the ground below you and the warmth of the universe surrounding you!

Would love to hear your thoughts on how this plays out for you?!

 

 

Upcoming Workshop: Kapha Crushing Spring Cleanse

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While I don’t want to get ahead of myself and take out my spring wardrobe, I am beginning to see, hear, taste, touch and smell the presence of Spring all around me.  Buds are sprouting on bushes, the birds are starting to chirp, asparagus is now back on the shelves at Coop, fragrant spring flowers are popping up in garden stores and the ground below me is beginning to soften.  Is noticing enough or do we need to start preparing to transition from Winter to Spring?!  At this point, bringing awareness to the small changes around us is enough.  And, as we get closer, yes, there is some prep work to navigate our way into spring without getting sick, feeling sluggish, heavy, bloated and dull!  Not a coincidence that these are some of the qualities of Kapha Dosha when out of balance!  Kapha is the ayurvedic constitution associated with spring, it consists of the elements earth and water.  Hence, you can imagine with the onset of spring, when we feel the ground beginning to soften and our shoes tracking gooey mud; this soft, viscous liquid is not only surrounding our feet, it is also inside our bodies.  Keep reading, there is a solution!!  By slowly moving from a winter diet of heavier foods to a spring diet that is more reducing, discovering spices that stimulate, switching up our yoga/breathing practices and refining our sleep patterns, we can gracefully stroll into spring avoiding that gooey build up of fluids in the body, wooing us to feel mobile, light, energetic and ready to blossom!

On Saturday March 2 from 10:00am – 12:30pm at Sanapurna Yoga and Ayurveda Center in Zurich, I will be leading a workshop on transitioning from Winter to Spring with Ayurveda.  We will talk about moving toward a spicy, reducing Spring diet, learn about Kapha reducing cleansing techniques and engage in a Kapha Crushing Yoga Practice inviting you to fill your tool box with time tested ayurvedic remedies and lifestyle practices.  To register, visit Sanapurna’s website at https://www.sanapurna.ch

Looking forward to finding our balance together as we move toward Spring!

 

 

New Ayurveda/Yoga Class Offering!

img_2184  Interesting choice of posture on top of this beautiful mountain, hey? I am finding my root, searching for my ground given a few feet more and I am over the edge. Over the years, I find myself moving more and more toward a practice that is in alignment with the seasons, time of day and my particular prakruti.(constitution)  With the constant change in weather around me including heavy snowfall, intense wind, cold and today heavy rain;  I am less likely to invite my body into a vigorous practice that will deplete my energy stores, release an exorbitant amount of sweat and leave me feeling fatigued and shriveled up.   I need to conserve my energy to stay warm, nourish my spirit to feed my well being and lubricate my body to feel lush! Of course, I need to move my body, we all need to move our bodies, finding the juice and essence of feeling completely alive and radiant.

Hence, I am starting a new Ayurveda/Yoga class that will cater to the practitioner, the season and time of day. Together we will explore our current vikruti’s(current state of balance) and move toward finding the perfect balance between what is happening inside our bodies and minds with what is happening all around us.  There will be pranayama to ground our energies and on sluggish days boost them, yoga flow either dialed up or down depending on the gunas(qualities) we arrived to practice with, and relaxation geared toward leaving you inspired to branch out into the rest of your day. Yes, this class will begin in the morning, during the Kapha time of day!

We will meet at Sanapurna Center in Zurich Mondays and Thursdays at 9:15am-10:15am.  All levels are welcome to join on a drop in basis or with abo! For more information you can contact me directly or contact the center: info@sanapurna.ch

Warming up with Dasha Chalanam

About ten years ago, while studying to become an Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist at Kripalu, I had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Scott Blossom. For those of you not familiar with Scott, he is a fabulous shadow yoga teacher, Ayurvedic consultant and traditional Chinese medicine doctor.  During my week with Scott, I learned Dasha Chalanam, which is the warm up for shadow yoga, and the warm up we did every morning during this training.  Dasha Chalanam was a sequence of 9 churns that went body part by body part until the whole body had synchronized movement like Sarpa the Snake! You could make this practice into what ever nourished you.  For example, it could be something that got you from point A to B, warmup  to vigorous practice.  Or, it could be a mindful exploration into your Guna’s, the qualities that make up both your mind and body.  In addition, it could work as an opportunity to build bone strength, delve into your organs and tissues.  For the beginning yogi, I imagine it is seen as a vehicle to get you from point A to B!  And 10 years ago, I wonder if that is how I looked at the sequence?  After practicing this sequence over and over, by myself, with various teachers and with Scott on fortunate occasions, Dasha Chalanam has become a part of me.  A sequence I don’t reserve only for the yoga mat! I practice on airplanes in the galley, outside elevators, in waiting lines and often use as a warm up in the classes I teach.  Secretly hoping, my students will also find nourishment from this warm up that moves beyond getting from point A to B. After all these years, I am ready to put my acquired version of Dasha Chalanam to print, to share with all of you.  Of course, it is best to do with a skilled teacher and I do hope you will join me on the mat.  For those of you who are already practicing with me, you can now take this home and do it on your own!  See where it takes you, could be a deep investigation into your inner landscape, a place of strength and growth, an addition to your daily morning routine?!

Dasha Chalanam Lisa Style:

  • Start Standing: feet heavy and hip with apart, knees bent generously, for men left hand on the belly right hand on top, women right hand on the belly left hand on top, eyes can be open or closed, internal and external gaze at the horizon
  • Pranayama: begin breathing in and out of the nose, spreading the prana(breath) throughout the entire body. Start to notice how you feel in both mind and body. Allow yourself enough time to feel rooted in your self and your practice
  • Feet/Ankle Circles: open eyes, hands by your sides, continue looking at horizon as you step your right foot behind you coming on the top of the foot.  Begin to churn top of foot into earth as you make 16 circles one direction, 16 circles the opposite direction, then change sides
  • Neck Circles: mindfully circling to the right 16 times and then to the left 16 times
  • Shoulder Circles: moving toward shoulders, circling forward 16 times and back 16 times
  • Wrist Circles: opening up the wrists, interlace your fingers, bring elbows together parallel to chest. Make 16 hand/wrist circles to the right, 16 to the left
  • Twisting: open arms like wings, right hand taps left shoulder as left hand taps right side lower back, look left. Then left hand taps right shoulder, right hand taps left side lower back, look right. Repeating 16 times.  Note: shoulder corresponds to lung meridian and lower back kidney meridian
  • Hip Circles: Spread feet a little wider than hip width apart. Ground feet as you begin to circle your hips to the right, 16 circles and to the left 16 circles. Notice how the upper body also begins to get involved!
  • Knee Circles: bring feet together, rest hands on thighs, bend the knees, engage belly as you churn both knees and ankles 16 circles to the right and 16 circles to the left.  Try and keep feet grounded throughout the circles.
  • Sarpa the snake: Feet a little wider than hip width apart, bring buttocks back as you round back, chin to the chest, then bring hips forward, as you open the heart, lift chin up.  Repeat 16 times!  Sarpa the snake puts everything together, feet are grounded, rest of the body mobile as you undulate the body moving from cat so to speak to cow with the whole body!!

I board airplane to US in 10 minutes, now feeling inspired to do my Dasha Chalanam in the airplane galley.  Curious to hear where you enjoy to do your Dasha Chalanam!