On Intention

 

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Happy New Year! As we begin 2019, it seems only appropriate that I bring up intention, commonly referred to as resolution.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, there are a few definitions of intention:

  • Noun form of intention is a thing intended, an aim, a plan. Someone’s intentions, a person’s plans.
  • Medical definition of intention, the healing process of a wound.
  • Logic definition, conceptions formed by directing the mind toward an object.

When thinking of New Year resolutions and or intentions, we typically stick with the noun form, a thing intended, an aim, a plan. However, in most cases, it’s not just one thing or aim, it’s several! Several aspirations that we hold ourselves accountable for in the New Year ahead. When I think of setting my own intentions, I am faced with the reality that there’s a strong possibility I won’t be able to follow through. So I set just a few attainable intentions, keep it simple. Simple enough that if I share my intentions with others, I am more accountable and have more chance of following through.  With that said, I invite you to be  privy to my intentions with the hope that I fully embrace all of them! And at the same time, inspire you too to reflect on your own possibility of fulfillment, sharing and accountability.

My plan focuses on dinacharya or daily routine.(Reference Blog Post On Finding Routine) While I already consider myself to have a strong dinacharya practice, there are a few small refinements I can make to find more balance,  “heal wounds.”  Without realizing it, perhaps your intentions will also be aims that lead to “healing wounds?”

My short list of intentions:

  • Start my dinacharya the night before ie.  work on eating dinner earlier, spend more time winding down without social media or netflix, be in bed by 10:00pm. Hence, a little jump start on a smooth transition to the next day!
  • Move through my day with more love. While I know that love causes the brain to release oxytocin which can smooth out roughness, soften rigidity and alleviate stress, I often lose sight of this.
  • Spend 15 minutes every day practicing nadi shodhana, alternate nostril breathing with the hopes of bringing more balance between my emotional half and my more fiery self!

Ah, my intentions sound so much more realistic when written down, read out loud and shared!  Perhaps this inspires you too to cultivate your short list of resolutions, maybe share with others, and hold each other accountable?! As we move into 2019, I would love to hear how your plans are unfolding, your aims being met and your past wounds being healed. Feel free to share your thoughts, intentions and inspirations with me!

Finding Balance this Holiday Season with Pratyahara.

In Ayurveda, Ahara is the food we take in.  Whether it is through the mouth or our five senses, we are constantly taking in.  As you can imagine, Ahara (food) is a main ingredient for optimizing our health.  In fact, it is one of the three pillars of health according to Ayurvedic Medicine, the other two Nidra (sleep) and Brahmacharya (balanced sex drive.) While Ahara is a key element for good health, overconsumption will tip the scale.  And I am not referring only to food consumed through the mouth!  Especially this time of year, we are constantly taking in from all our senses.

Are you feeling the overload?  Going to holiday parties a few times a week?  Braving the crowded malls to finish your holiday shopping? Enduring the heavy holiday traffic? What if we balanced what we take in with what is already inside? Pratyahara is the practice of withdrawing from external sensations into the world within.  While being the 5th limb of yoga, Pratyahara occurs naturally after practice of the Yamas (moral disciplines), Niyamas (positive observances), Pranayama (breathing techniques) and Asana (posture). Seems like a tall order if you are not a practicing Yogi!

While finding balance with Pratyahara can certainly be mastered through the practice of yoga, not all of us carve out the time for a full practice every day, and yet, the need for introspection lingers.

If this is you and you are too busy for a full yoga practice, here are a few simple tips that lead to the same result.

  • Brahmari, also known as bumble bee breath.  Here’s how: we close off our five senses with our fingers.  Thumbs lightly press ear flaps, index and middle fingers frame the eyes, ring fingers underneath nostrils, pinky’s graze the mouth. Take a deep breath in through the nose, exhale slowly out the nose making the sound of a bumble bee.  Try seven rounds, diving deep into your inner landscape.  Let go of all external thoughts, sounds, smells, tastes and agendas. After seven rounds, sit quietly diving inside, noticing the fruits of introspection.
  • Paschimottanasana, also known as forward fold. Here’s how: find a comfortable, quiet place.  Roll out your yoga mat, or sit on the carpet with your legs fully extended in front.  Take a deep breath in as your arms rise toward the sky, exhale fold forward allowing hands to land on shins, ankles or feet.  Inhale lengthen spine, exhale fold forward drawing your attention inside.  Close your eyes and take ten to twenty full breaths.  Inhaling through your nostrils, exhaling the same. Slow down your breath, allow yourself to completely relax into the space you have cultivated.
  • Indulge in a Hot Bath, Pour your favorite bath salts and essential oils into running hot water, light a few candles, close your eyes, let go of the day and enjoy some you time!

Wishing you a Balanced, Joyful Holiday Season!

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One of my favorites….

Being vegetarian/pescatarian I often struggle over being creative with our dinner choices.  When our children lived at home, we consumed so much pasta, I feel I have had more than my fill.   Another go to, the loaded salad, is delicious. And, cold, dry/rough, similar to the weather outside and the terrain inside many of our bodies during the colder months.  I do enjoy a nice piece of grilled salmon with roasted brussel sprouts and nutty grains, but still seek a more juicy alternative.  This morning, I woke up thinking about one of my favorites, my husband’s too: Coconut and Red Lentil Soup!  I discovered the recipe in Kris Carr’s book, “The Crazy Sexy Kitchen.” If you haven’t seen the book, have a look, it’s amazing!  What I like about this particular soup is it’s loaded with protein from the lentils and perfectly spiced so that each spoonful becomes an investigation into the plethora of mouth watering tastes, sweet, sour, salty and pungent.  If you want to add some bitterness, incorporate a side of steamed dark leafy greens, for a bit of astringents, sprinkle dried cranberries on top.  Now you have all six tastes in one meal with a concentration on sweet, sour and salty the tastes of winter.  There is also quite a kick to this soup adding the perfect amount of heat.  Give the recipe a whirl, let me know what you think!

Coconut and Red Lentil Soup, Serves 8:

Ingredients: 

1.5 Tablespoons cumin seeds, 1 Tablespoon coriander seeds, 2 Tablespoons olive oil, half of a red serrano pepper chopped, 1 small white onion finely chopped, 1.5 cups red lentils, 4 to 5 cups vegetable stock or water, One 12 ounce can coconut milk, 2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger, .5 Tablespoon Black Pepper, .5 Tablespoon sea salt, 2 Tablespoons lemon zest, 5 Tablespoons lemon juice. Garnish with chopped cilantro and sliced avocado

  1. Toast cumin and coriander seeds in dry pot on medium heat for 2 minutes until robust aromas unleash.
  2. Add olive oil, red pepper and onion, stir until golden
  3. Add the next 6 ingredients
  4. Put on low heat, stir well and cover.  Allow to cook for about 30 to 35 minutes stirring occasionally until lentils have melted. You may need to add more water
  5. When soup is done, add lemon zest, lemon juice and chopped cilantro
  6. Remove from heat and serve with sliced avocado

A few variations from a little experimentation:  Add 2 teaspoons of turmeric to the spice mix. good for the skin and inflammation. Try serving over coconut rice or basmati rice. Whip up a side of steamed or sauteed dark leafy greens with sea salt, black pepper and roasted cumin seeds with a sprinkle of dried cranberries.

Ayurvedic Note: While the tastes of winter are sweet, sour and salty, it is nice to have all six tastes in each meal with a greater focus on sweet, sour and salty!

 

 

 

 

On Finding Routine

With the days getting shorter, the mornings feeling darker, motivation to get out of our cozy covers begins to get harder….for some.  In Ayurveda, each dosha ie. vata, pitta and kapha correspond to a particular time period throughout the day, the season, and time of life.  Kapha, the dosha composed of earth and air, holding the qualities of heavy, cold, dense, cloudy, stable, smooth and oily coincides from 6:00am/pm to 10:00am/pm.  Whether our constitution is kapha or not, it can be hard for us to take that first step out of bed in the morning!

So what becomes the motivating force?!  Is it the hot, brewed coffee you dream about that takes you from the bedroom to either the sofa or kitchen table?  Or, knowing you have to roll out of bed quickly to be on time for work? What if you set your alarm a half hour earlier each day and woke up to a new routine? A routine that revolved around making you feel warm, cozy, nourished and invigorated outside of those comfy covers.

Dinacharya/daily routine has been around for thousands of years.  It can mean different things for different people.  However, the intention is to wake up each morning before kapha takes its hold and begin the day with cleansing the five senses, 15 to 30 minutes of exercise, yoga and or meditation, followed by a warm breakfast.  In the summer, this is easy because the light exuding through your windowpanes encourages open eyes.  In the winter, the dark mornings may lend toward hitting the snooze button again and again.

So I challenge you to 40 days of working Dinacharya into your daily routine.  Resist the urge to hit snooze; rather, hop out of bed with the motivation to nourish your senses,  spirit and well-being.  Who knows, 40 days could turn into a lifetime!!

Tips For Dinacharya: Picking 5 to 11 of your favorites from below list is a great way to get started!!

  • Wake up 6:00am or half hour before your usual wakeup call
  • Evacuate Bowels
  • Brush teeth and scrape tongue with stainless steel tongue scraper
  • Drink warm glass of water, may add lemon and fresh ginger
  • Use Neti Pot followed by Nsaya Oil
  • Drop 1 to 2 drops of pure rose water into each eye
  • Drop 1 to 2 drops of warm ear oil into each ear 2 to 3 times per week, other days massage warm sesame oil around and inside ear lobes
  • Enjoy warm organic sesame oil self massage over the entire body.  Long strokes on the muscles, round strokes on the joints
  • Take some time for meditation, pranayama, yoga and or light exercise
  • Treat yourself to bowl of hot oatmeal with sweet spices, soaked nuts, juicy dates and a dollop of plain yogurt.
  • Have a great day!!

 

Practicing Yoga Similar to Eating Locally?

IMG_1954  Living in Switzerland, I feel fortunate to be surrounded by local farms growing seasonal vegetables, fruits, flowers and even Christmas Trees.  Depending on where you are on the map geographically, it is often difficult to decipher what is local harvest and what is being imported.  In South Africa, there is an abundance of vegetables and fruits year round. And, the observant eye will still know when avocado’s are no longer in season, fresh berries hidden from shelves.  The streets of China become there own informant as you witness rickshaws arriving early morning to respective fruit vendors. In tow, the latest cropping from their rural surroundings. In the US, supermarkets overwhelm.  And, if you look closely this time of year, the produce section overflows with root vegetables, citrus fruits, dates and nuts ensconced in their shells.

Yes, eating locally can be similar to practicing yoga!

  • Cultivating mindfulness as you journey through your neighborhood supermarket. Noticing the abundance of produce indigenous to the winter season,  just like you might notice the many varieties of yoga being offered at your local studio. Both scenarios inviting choice.
  • Beginning to find nourishment “On and Off” the Yoga Mat. For instance, partaking in Yoga Asanas that bring the same fulfillment as your favorite dish.  Taking the time to plan your meals, diving in to the local harvest. Resulting in fulfillment from the inside out.
  • Experiencing what is present in the moment, not longing for the future and or the past.  Comparatively, staying focused on your yoga practice rather than mentally updating your calendar during child’s pose! In winter, choosing oranges over blueberries, butternut squash over asparagus.
  • Taking into consideration the qualities of food and your yoga practice. Such as, opting for moist, heavy and warm foods during the colder months. Favoring sweet potatoes, legumes and whole grains over salads, smoothies and ice cream. Winter time yoga also has its essence.  Practice resembles the same qualities we find in our winter diet i.e.  heating, juicy, and grounding. Spending more time in seated poses, engaging in syrupy hip openers.  Perhaps indulging in a longer shavasana covered with a toasty blanket just like you might linger over dessert?!

 

Finding Warmth from the Inside Out

As we move toward winter, you may find yourself becoming uncharacteristically cold, dry, rough, mobile and light.  These are some of the physical qualities or gunas that characterize the Vata Dosha.  You may be thinking, I am not Vata, why  would I experience this?!

Whether you are primarily Vata, Pitta or Kapha, winter is the Vata season.  And, for this reason, you may take on qualities that are typically foreign to you during the other seasons.

So, how do you stay warm both inside and out?! 

**Start with moving toward a Vata balancing diet that favors warm cooked foods as opposed to cold, dry foods.

**Consider incorporating Vata balancing tastes: sweet, sour and salty.

**Treat yourself to daily warm sesame oil massages.  This is called Abhyanga, and can be a self oil massage and or a partner oil massage.  Winter is a great time to snuggle together.  Hence, try both!  Share with your children, who doesn’t like a warm oil massage lovingly applied?!

** Sip warm/hot water throughout the day or try a Vata balancing tea(recipe to follow.)

Recipe Vata Balancing Tea:

3 cups of water, small piece of chopped fresh ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom seeds, 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 small cinnamon stick a pinch of clove. Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to boil.  Turn down heat to low and cook for additional 10 minutes.  Strain and serve.  If you are feeling something sweet, add a little honey.  Drink after meals.  Can be kept at room temperature for 1 day.