Life Knowledge - Ayurveda

Bodhi Tree - Friday, December 21, 2012

Many of us in the yogic world are familiar with the term Ayurveda, while many others respond with a blank stare. Although becoming more common place, Ayurveda is still very much an elusive concept and healing art to the Western world. Ayurveda can be defined as a system, which uses the inherent principles of nature, to help maintain health in a person by keeping the individual’s body, mind and spirit in perfect equilibrium with nature.

Ayurveda is the ancient healing medicinal system used in India, and dates back as early as 300A.D. It’s goal is to aid in the treatment and prevention of dis-ease by bringing the body back into its own natural state of homeostatic equilibrium.


Ayurveda teaches that we are a microcosm. A tiny universe exists within the self that not only mimics the world at large, but also interfaces with the external world around us. This healing system combines lifestyle with nutrition to create a holistic model of health by examining how the many different qualities of relationship play out as internal forces within the body or external forces from the environment. 


Practice listening to the body and how it interacts while implementing these few Ayurvedic rituals into your daily lifestyle regime:


1. Upon rising, start your day with a warm glass of purified water with fresh lemon. This will help activate digestive fire, also known as agni, and get peristalsis moving in the digestive tract. The lemon is rich in natural vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes that will help cleanse the liver and pull toxins, or ama, out of the gastrointestinal tract.


2. Invest in a tongue scraper (or a metal spoon). Have you ever looked at your tongue in the morning? Most often there will be a white, even yellowish coating that resides along the middle towards the back of the tongue. This is built up ama or toxins that have accumulated in the gastrointestinal tract overnight. By scraping the tongue back to front 7-14 times, this will help dislodge unwanted ama while stimulating the taste buds to prepare for your morning meal.


3. Embrace the cold! There is no better way to enliven the system up than by splashing the face with cold water roughly 7 times in the morning. In addition, you can also bathe the eyes with cold water while blinking the eyes open and closed, moving them from side to side and up and down. The body becomes incredibly dehydrated overnight and bathing the eyes and face with cold water helps rehydrate the skin while the cold stimulates the optic nerve in the eye and sensory nerves in the face.


By Caryn Kilback - Ayurvedic Marmatherapist

Gratitude

Bodhi Tree - Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A split second is all it takes to change one’s life forever. While racing in the World Championships a few years ago, I collided with another athlete. As wheels clicked and bodies crashed, I was helplessly airborne before slamming headfirst into pavement. The impact fractured my skull.

At the time, I didn’t realize the implications this event would have on my life, nor the challenges that would follow. In hindsight this accident, quite literally, knocked some sense into me. Until that day, I’d never stopped to consider the wonder of moving my body, the blessing of each breath, or even appreciated being alive.  Since then however, my ability to move is something I’ll never forget, nor cease to give thanks for.

Life with an acquired brain injury is both a blessing and a curse. Readily concussed, I routinely struggle with simple tasks. I’m a master of compensation. I look at my hands to tell left from right, and carry a journal like a pensive. With my brain on paper, I scribble names and numbers, dates and times. Frustratingly, when I become overtired or stressed, my brain stops working. This never ceases to upset me. So too does it teach me patience. Each time this occurs my only option is to rest until the fog lifts and I can think again. Enforced naps at age 29 are no more fun than they were at age 3...but at least now I can say “I am grateful.”

By definition, gratitude is a noun. It is a state of thankfulness. There is much in my life that I honour. But in the years since that fateful injury, it has come to mean far more than what I just take for granted.  Through the vicissitudes of trauma and recovery, I have discovered that gratitude is also a verb, a way in which to live - and through the practice of yoga, a celebration of the light that shines within.

So I am grateful. Even when my brain doesn’t work my body still can.  On these days especially, I feel blessed to stand on my mat and breathe words of thanks.  I am indebted for nothing in particular, and everything in general.  To appreciate one’s ability to move does not require perfection. Gratitude in its finest form is to realize that nothing is insignificant. I am thankful that my body still works despite all its cracks and that I can still think and marvel at the wonders of this world.

This past week in class, I gazed around the room. As always, I was stunned by the diversity of students at the Tree. It struck me how, despite all our differences, regardless of each person’s past or present, we are unified through our bodies. With yoga’s joyful mind/body connection, in every breath and gesture, we are fortunate to be able to move, breathe and live.

As you turn to the person beside you and whisper “Namaste”, smile and appreciate their abilities.  They may not be perfect, but the cracks that make them unique also let their light shine through. In this journey surrounding my brain, I’ve finally found the elusive answer to the question that flits through the scattered neurons.  What does my body have to do with gratitude?  Everything. Blessed be the cracked who shine in the light.

Namaste

Om Cooking 19 - Spring Greens Detox Salad

Bodhi Tree - Friday, April 27, 2012

Spring is here and with it the promise of warm weather. Many people decide to do a detox around this time of year as we shed the cold of Winter, the heavy foods we ate and the cozy activities we took part in.

Just as this month’s newsletter intro was talking about allowing yourself time to emerge as Spring or any other season does, be patient with yourself if you are embarking on a detox of your own. Going through the process can be trying at times, exhausting at others, and downright unpleasant. Don’t give up! Generally you won’t feel great while detoxing; the body is getting a chance to feel hungry, dive into its fat stores and reset its metabolism. Our body fat is where toxins from what we normally eat, our environment and our emotions is stored. Thus, feeling rundown while detoxing.

It’s important to eat well while detoxing - really, all the time - and have a plan. Map out what you’ll eat every few days, make large quantities of a few dishes to always have ready, and have all the ingredients you need on-hand. This will help you stay on track and reach your goals.

This month’s recipe is sure to be a staple in any Spring detox and work to quell any cravings that arise. Make a large batch of dressing separately, store it in a mason jar, then use it when you need it.

Happy Cooking!

Jacinthe

Yoga teacher & kitchen advocate

Find more recipes at 

www.foodwithpresence.com


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Spring Greens Detox Salad (slightly modified from Naturopathic Medicine Health Care Centre)

2 cups dandelion leaves (kale, beet greens or endive)
1 cup spinach leaves or mesclun
1/4 red onion, thinly slice, soaked in 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar and water
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, stems and leaves, chopped

Dressing:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flaxseed oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, or freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon anise seed (optional)
2 teaspoons fresh peppermint, chopped
2 teaspoons tamari
2 1/2 teaspoons grainy mustard or miso

Place all greens, onions, almonds and cilantro in a large bowl. Mix dressing ingredients separately. Pour over greens just before serving.

When is Enough, Enough? Contemplating Food and Yoga.

Bodhi Tree - Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We will start here: once you are full, anything else is waste. You can put the waste in the compost/worm bin or you can put the waste inside your body as a third helping.

Garbage is better outside the body then inside. The body uses what it needs and anything else is extra to be passed on, or put out of the way if it cannot easily be gotten rid of. Drinking all of your daily water needs in one sitting first thing in the morning is a good example of the way the body thinks. You can imagine what will happen and it is clearly not going to help you in your evening yoga class. Just like this water situation, eating past the point of contentment adds stress to the body; because it takes longer for waste food to be dealt with than waste water, this stress lingers for days, if not longer.

The body does not worry nearly as far into the future as we do; it knows only the present. I often like to contemplate this trust that the body displays, a knowing that there is enough and that tomorrow is another day. This trust can be seen all through nature as well. Watch the apple trees in the park or the grasses alongside the road, unable to move to find water, shade, or shelter. I wonder what it is that they know to allow such patience and fearless acceptance, complete trust that things will work out. They have some understanding of larger cycles, a wisdom that merges our concepts of scarcity and abundance into balanced expression.

Too often our attention is drawn to the gravity of lack, to the point where we lose our ability to surrender fully to the counter action of abundance. Nature avoids this trap. Notice the complete thankfulness she shows in these times of abundance: a flower in full sun is able to feel the warmth of each ray as if it has no memory of cloudy days, and a leaf dripping with rain is fully content as if everyday after will be drought free. The same wisdom is available to be directly experienced in the body. When you feel hungry, the first helping of food feels like a celebration. There is lightness and clarity when we allow abundance to fully take hold. Our contentment only changes to heaviness and stagnation once eating becomes mechanical and our thoughts of past lack or future scarcity crowd our experience of present abundance. Eating with awareness and without distraction leads to being able to pick out this changing experience and gives the chance to trust and experience this abundance that nature knows – fullness without excess.

The same principle can be practiced on the mat. Just enough expression or depth in a pose provides the feeling of exuberance and challenge and you leave feeling light and clear. But over doing it causes the sore heaviness of injury and a cloudy disconnected feeling. Practice slowly, aware of when the sensations turn from challenge and embracement into defensiveness. Stop before inclusive strength gives way to desperate gripping and before directed conscious flexibility warps into disconnected laxity.

If disease is a state out-of-balance then perhaps its primary cause is too much food. If it happens on this obvious level then surely it happens on subtler levels too, with too many thoughts. But please, don’t think about this one too hard!

Hari OM!

By John Pattison

Seniors' Yoga and the Benefits of Yoga for All of Us!

Bodhi Tree - Monday, March 26, 2012

Our very own, Kristen Ingram, was on Breakfast Television a few weeks ago to chat about seniors' yoga and the benefits it has for participants. Click here to watch Kristen and her helpers, Trudy and Carolyn, demonstrating a few poses.

The benefits of yoga are universal, no matter what your age. Here's a quick summary:

Circulation
Oxygen gives life to every cell in the body: it heals our wounds, kills germs, and ensures the strength and vitality of all our tissues. Blood carries oxygen throughout the body, and physical activities like yoga increase the circulation of oxygen rich blood.

Yoga is beneficial because the postures boost blood circulation to often-neglected areas of the body like joints, connective tissues, and internal organs.

Detoxification
Toxins are everywhere – we breathe them, we eat them, and we drink them. Fortunately, our bodies can eliminate these poisons through the skin, the breath, the blood, and the organs of elimination. Yoga practice stimulates each of these mechanisms. During yoga, you sweat, you breathe deeply, your circulation increases, and you massage and stimulate the organs of elimination. A regular yoga practice is an extremely effective method of detoxifying.

Strength & Flexibility
Yoga postures strengthen and lengthen the body's connective tissues through physical postures called asanas that have been practiced for thousands of years. Whether you are flexible or stiff, weak or strong, yoga can transform your body and mind and improve your overall health. Stress Relief Chronic stress and pressure can lead to serious illness and disease if ignored. A regular yoga practice calms the body and mind, boosts the immune system, and eliminates the toxins that stress creates. Yoga is the body's elixir after a hard day at work.

Self-Confidence & Self-Esteem
Yoga makes you feel healthy, strong, and limber which will boost your self image and self confidence. Learning yoga postures creates an enormous sense of pride that you will carry with you in your daily life.

Breath Control
The quality of our breath reflects how we are feeling. When we are upset, the breath tends to be fast and shallow. When we are at ease, the breath is usually slow and deep. We can learn to control the breath through yoga practice by maintaining deep consistent breathing through all the postures. Once we achieve this "moving meditation" we are more able to calm our mind and body regardless of the daily stresses we encounter.

Weight Loss
A regular yoga practice may reduce your appetite and will encourage better food choices. Yoga cleanses the body, increases metabolism, stimulates waste elimination, and reduces cravings.

Aerobic Benefits
Aerobic exercise occurs when an elevated heart rate is sustained for twenty minutes or more. Aerobic activities are particularly helpful for strengthening the heart, burning excess fat, and increasing the body's metabolism. Yoga can be a great aerobic workout, but it depends on you, the class, and your level of participation.

Overall Fitness
Some physical activities such as running, tennis or weight lifting are a mixed blessing. They are good for your health, but they often create imbalances like knee and back problems and arthritis. Yoga promotes whole body wellness - physically and psychologically - without creating injuries (provided you practice within your bodies abilities) that could lead to complications later.


Liquid Assets: Hydration

Bodhi Tree - Monday, March 12, 2012

The human body is primarily made up of water - in fact, about 70%. Where does all this water reside? While much of it is in our blood, most of it forms our tissues such as the organs, brain and bones.

Our body needs to be properly hydrated to provide nourishment, lubricate joints, eliminate waste, and a host of other functions. Most people are surprised to learn that they really aren’t sufficiently “topped up” on a daily basis. That’s right - it’s possible you might not be consuming enough to get you through the day!

Just like being in a drought, when you have insufficient water, the body’s environment becomes seriously stressed. Our nervous system’s “fight or flight” response kicks in and we begin producing stress chemicals to try and alleviate the situation. To keep our cell structures healthy we need to minimize the exposure of sending these urgent messages. When excessive amounts of these chemicals are produced over long periods of time, chronic disease is often the end result. To avoid exposing your body to any kinds of dehydration-related stresses, consider this: just because you’re not feeling thirsty, doesn’t mean that you’re hydrated.

While we’re at it, why not consider this thought-provoking scenario? What if doctors wrote prescriptions for water? After all, the remedy is sound; Water has proven to help treat allergies, asthma, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, headaches, chronic fatigue, colitis, lower back pain and neck pain, - and best of all, anyone can afford it! Simply put, regularly drinking enough water reduces our exposure to many illnesses and discomforts.

So, how much water should you drink? One common guideline is eight 250ml glasses a day. While this could be your routine, you could still be dehydrated. Truth is, the real answer is deeply individual. Your body shape, geographic location and activity level all have an influence. Throw in consideration of your personal levels of electrolytes, minerals and tissue salts as well and it becomes apparent that our hydration needs are very personal and can even change daily.

Just like there are no shortcuts in life, hydration takes time. You can try to flood the body with water, but it will still take 6 – 24 hours for your body to find normal hydration levels. The more off-balance you are, the longer it takes, and only so much can be accommodated at once. Drinking numerous small sips consistently throughout your day is the best strategy.

As someone on the path of yoga, bring added hydration awareness into your routine! Consider your personal chemistry and listen to your body. Proper hydration is a personal practice that requires only a little effort and is a fundamental piece of your holistic wellbeing. Drink up, explore and notice what you absorb.

For some thought provoking experiments about water visit: http://www.life-enthusiast.com/twilight/research_emoto.htm

By Céleste Needham
yoga teacher & curiously inspired