The Art of Nothing

I consider Dr. Claudia Welch to be one of my primary teachers on this path of being an Integrative Medicine Practitioner. While I surely spent more many, many more classroom hours with many other teachers, my short but sweet time with her has grounded me in my principle of practice.

Today, August 16th, 2017, she sent out one of her relatively infrequent newsletters -the infrequency of which makes them all the more anticipated. It was such important information – and also very relevant to my own experience – I wanted to share it here with anyone who might stumble upon this seldom-updated blog page. If you connect with what you read below, and I hope you do, please visit Dr. Welch’s site to learn more about her offerings.

“Dear Friends,
 
Hi. I hope you are navigating life with well-founded aplomb, and any assistance you might require.
 
I’m awfully close to turning 50…
 
I was thinking to share some of the physical, spiritual and energetic changes I’ve encountered in my forties, and how things are going. I’m doing this for a couple reasons. The first is to give a heads up to younger women. Another is to share experience with sisters in the roughly the same age ball-park, so we can learn from each other (I’d love to hear from you, and did hear from many of you with such interesting experiences and observations on the Dr. Claudia Welch fb page). And, I suppose, to share with anyone else who might be interested in musings on this transition phase of a woman’s life.
 
Let me start with the physical and get progressively more esoteric. You know, just to ease us into The Weird.
 
The Physical 
When I was, oh, about 43, I was driving on Interstate 40, heading east in Albuquerque, NM. I was asking myself, “am I going insane?” I considered going to an MD to just check that nothing horrible was going on. I was panicking a little.
 
I took some deep breaths, disciplined my thoughts and asked myself, “is this discomfort physical or energetic? What is my actual experience?” I named it with something like, “I I feel like I am seeing things differently, and that is freaking me out.” Naming my experiences was a good start at addressing them. So, I thought, let us attend first to the freaking out part, and then go from there. Since I often like to treat energetic problems with energetic medicine, and freaking out lands in the, “energetic” category, I went to have an energetic, polarity-ish treatment with a gifted friend, Dr. Don Cornwell. Afterwards I felt good. I knew nothing was wrong physically. Though something was indeed changing physically. And it was exactly what I’d named. I was seeing differently. My vision was different.
 
Honestly, from the time my vision started changing, it took me a couple years—years (!) to realize it was the reading glasses thing. The change wasn’t—and still isn’t—drastic. But my vision has changed, and it doesn’t only affect reading—though that is the obvious change. When vision changes, we see the world differently, even if only subtly so. And this is a big deal. In Ayurveda, when we look at manovāhasrotas –the channel system of the mind, we see that the two vessels associated with the two eyes are two of the ten, “vessels” that hold considerable sway over the mind. When vision changes, the mind is altered. When the mind is altered, we perceive things differently. If we don’t roll with that, we feel like the ground is shifting and might even wonder, “Am I going insane?” But no. Our world view is just shifting.
 
Since then, I have progressively less and less enjoyed things that strain my eyes. And I have come to feel that there is a natural wisdom in gradual depletion of the sense organs’ acuity (leave aside for the moment that there are Ayurvedic—and other—approaches to dealing with this such that the vision may not change or can be restored).

I feel I am being invited to look inwards more and focus outward less. Going with that has taken a bit of courage, even though (or maybe because) it is a direction I’ve always wanted. When I have an urge to research or read but my eyes feel tired with that effort, find it feels right to do something else that feels natural, easy and good. Sometimes that is nothing.

For someone practiced at looking for the Big in life, in my younger years, surrendering ambition at the altar of Reality has been a call that began in my early 30s. In my late 40s, surrendering my desires to research, read and scrutinize as much as I used to, to the apparent limitations of my vision is another manifestation of that surrender. It nudges me to choose to do nothing more often.
 
There are tons of other physical changes worth discussing. I go into some in Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life, and in my in-person women’s health workshops and online Healthier Hormones course. Today I just picked the vision thing and its role in doing less, or nothing, more often, because it is one of the more interesting facets of physical change, to me.
 
The Energetic
In Chinese medicine, we consider a human being a conduit between heaven and earth: the upright human’s head reaches towards the heavens and feet are grounded in the earth. The heavens represent the immaterial, the earth the material. The heavens the spirit, the earth the corporeal. The heavens the subtle connection to ethereal concepts and thought, the earth facility with flesh and bone.
 
For a human being to effectively be a conduit between heaven and earth, we need adequate circulation of prāṇa or qi (same thing—the life force or energy of the mind/body). Qi from the earth needs to rise, and qi from the heavens needs to descend; the qi and the qualities it carries need to circulate throughout our organisms.
 
While qi needs to reach and nourish every cell of our body, it concentrates where our attention is focused.
 
One phenomenon I often see, is that our attention is often coopted by our senses: smelling, tasting, seeing, hearing, and touching. Since most of our sensory organs are situated in our heads, and we easily indulge in excessive thinking, worry, scheming and planning, we can tend to keep our attention focused in our heads, without allowing sensory impressions, observations and thoughts deeper into our organisms, to digest, assimilate and circulate, or connect with the earth energy. if our attention stays in our head, qi follows, and stagnates there. Stagnation causes discomfort, so we can get headache, eye strain, insomnia and worry.
 
One thing acupuncture does very well is to move qi. When I was in private practice, I noticed that, if I released qi that was stuck somewhere in the body, the liberated qi would simply rush to the head, if the patient’s focus was in their head. This would cause them a headache. For these patients, before I could address other issues, I would first have to stimulate some strong distal points on the hands and feet, to pull the qi down from the head. That way the qi liberated by the needles would circulate instead of beelining for the head.
 
In practice, I clearly learned and experienced more times than I could count that, if you have a headache, you want to move qi down, out of the head. Ground it to the hands, feet, lower body. To the earth. Get it away from the head—and the heavens—and it will start circulating and the headache will resolve.
 
But there’s another possibility. One I didn’t think too much about until recently.
 
About a year ago, I was at the tail end of teaching a two-week intensive—a process whereby I felt a palpable connection to the heavens, but was also managing a lot of details of earthy affairs. All was going well (save the only sinus infection I’ve ever had in my life).
 
And then, on the last day of the two weeks, I felt like my head might explode (despite the fact that said sinus infection had resolved). I felt energy was stagnating in my head. My previous experience led me to think grounding it would be the right medicine. I kept trying, and it didn’t help. So I asked my friend and colleague, Emily Glaser, if she would give me a cranio-sacral treatment, to assist me in this process. She agreed.
 
As I was laying down and Glaser was working, my eyes were closed. I felt a clear wave of qi move from my feet, and begin to move up through my body, towards my head. I thought, “No, that’s not right. The qi should be moving down.” But, gratefully, awareness vetoed thoughts. It felt right and healing, whatever the qi was doing. I let the wave move up. It moved up and straight out the top of my head. Like it blasted a hole in the top of my head, and allowed all the qi stuck there to move out—towards the heavens. The qi was no longer stagnant. And the headache was gone.
 
This was a healing moment for me. And a tremendous education. I realized that grounding and circulating qi are possible ways to release stagnation. Another way is to allow it to move up. In different circumstances, different strategies are called for.
 
My recent experience doesn’t change my previous strong experiences of the value of grounding qi, but I am more curious now, when qi is stuck, about which way it is wanting or needing to move to relieve the stagnation in the most cooperative, natural way.
 
In India, we talk about four roughly consecutive stages of life, that can sometimes overlap. If we look at these in connection with the Daoist ideas of heaven and earth, we might say that that the first two stages—roughly the first 50 years of life—are more related to earth and earthly matters. The second two stages more with the heavens, as we move closer to returning to the ethereal.
 
These thoughts have made me consider whether, as broad generalization from which to experiment, when we are stuck in our heads if, in the first half of life it might be more effective to draw the energy down to the earth and, in the second half, support its liberation to the heavens. Naturally there are considerations other than life stage, including how the person is spending their time, or which way the qi naturally wants to move, but this new awareness has made an impression on me and refined the way I understand stagnation.

The Spiritual
Speaking of the four stages of life, as I push 50, I am entering into the vānaprastha (forest dweller) stage of life–the stage where one begins to detach more from earthly pursuits of profession, money, position, family, stuff and affairs, and to retreat into the (literal or figurative) forest part time. It is an acknowledgment that we are closer to death and, ideally, a time to cooperate with that ultimate detachment.

In practicing this, as I mentioned above, doing nothing seems to have a real part to play.

Doing nothing is quite a thing. For someone who has historically done a lot (and often enjoyed it), I have felt increasingly that the courage it takes to do nothing is a courage worth mustering. And it has taken courage. In doing nothing, I am not actively pursuing bookish knowledge, I am not increasing my fame or fortune, my facebook following, or my knowledge of current affairs. And that, from a certain perspective, could be downright humiliating.
 
Those of you who have known me or followed my work over the last couple decades know that slowing down, stopping, taking time to do nothing is not a small part of my prescription for a hurried, worried, spent world. I have filled that prescription for myself on many occasions. But there has often been a motivation akin to, “okay, I’m tired. I’ll stop now, so I can keep going later.” I’ll stop so I can start again.
 
Increasingly for me, the stopping is becoming longer and it is not a medicine to take to fuel the continued pursuit of my endeavors. It is more of an end in itself. Stopping to stop. And I’ve consciously both taken steps towards Nothing and cooperated with the natural shifts in my body and energy, that are requesting more of Nothing.
 
I had Big plans for Nothing. The resulting space in my life was to be an invitation to Grace. And Grace would rush in to accept the invitation. And Grace would feel Big. 

As I did more nothing, space did start to open up. 
 
And, lo, I felt empty.
 
At moments, I wondered if I was just marking time until I die. I found this confusing because, while I saw evidence of Grace everywhere in my life, I didn’t feel it. 
 
At one point, I was walking with a friend and I shared, “Sometimes I ask myself: Am I sacrificing everything for Nothing.”  Because, while I’d hoped to sacrifice everything—professional ambition and projects and personal material gain, etc.– in order to make an invitation for Grace, I felt nothing. I didn’t feel grace.
 
Until I did. Sometimes.
 
I don’t always feel it. When I do, it’s rarely flashy or BIg. And I realize that the efforts in my life thus far to curb my ambitions or tendencies toward Big may well apply to a new life stage. Assuming or expecting Grace to feel Big all the time may be as foolish as chasing the Big in other forms in other life stages. I’m only just embarking more fully in a new phase of life. This is, God willing, not the end of the story.

Recently I read something my Guru said about living a simple, humble, loving life at the feet of the Divine going a long way to creating heaven on earth. It was not exactly those words, but that was the gist.

Which rather brings us back to the idea of humans as conduits between heaven and earth. And adds the idea that a simple, loving, humble life is an aid in that ideal. (NOT that I’ve got that down, friends.)
 
I think nothingness is worth inviting, sacrificing for, and embracing. And that the courage it takes to do this is worth it. Just a hunch, but one I care about.
 
Okay, dear friends. That’s all from me for today.
 
If you feel comfortable sharing, I’d love to hear from any of you who are in your very late 40s or later….what did you feel in your late 40’s heading towards menopause? I don’t mean so much the nitty gritty physical changes like irregular periods and hot flashes, though you are welcome to share that if you like. I more mean the good, the hard, the different, the weird: What FEELS different about life, about God, about how energy moves…I think this will be nice for the younger women to hear, as well as curious for those of us who are older—so they know where they might be heading, and so we might become more aware of subtle changes in ourselves. What is different? Please feel free to email me your experiences, let me know if you are okay with me sharing them publicly, and I will plan to post some of them in a newsletter, for the benefit of many, God willing, in a newsletter to come.

Okay. Thank you for being there.
in Love, 
cw

ps. Stuff on the horizon: One -day women’s health workshop w/ me, Nov 4 in Burlington, VT, 3-day event on sensory refinement with Dr. Robert Svoboda and me Dec 1-3 near San Jose, CA and we just added a Dec 16-17 Women’s Health weekend with me, in Albuquerque, NM. More about those on our events page. Plus there’s a free, live Q&A call for alumni of our Foundations of Ayurveda Parts I, II or Planet courses. Ask us about it if you want more info on that.
 

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Smoothies: Good or Bad?

zelenismoothie3_jpg_1360410717My teachers in Ayurveda school made an extremely good case against smoothies: They are [often] cold, they contain too many ingredients, they [often] contain incompatible ingredients and this makes them difficult to digest -which means that they should be avoided. I admit, I had been occasionally sneaking smoothies of various kinds for years (especially cold, fruity ones in the hot Texas summers), but I had certainly not, like many people, been making them a regular part of my daily diet… until the past month when I started making a green smoothie for breakfast each morning. What?!?

I know, right? This sounds like a classic Prajnaparadha or “Crime Against Intelligence”, one of the 3 causes of disease in Ayurvedic theory. But after a month of using my green smoothie recipe, I think I may have shifted my blanket attitude about smoothies -for the time being at least. Contrary to what could have “theoretically” happened, I can report that I don’t have indigestion at all, I feel better generally and I certainly haven’t acquired a dreaded funky tongue coating that would indicate the presence of Ama, the toxic sludge that results from poor digestion.

It is, of course, probably that this is because the ingredients of my particular smoothie are just what my Pitta/Kapha body needs right now to balance residual heat and dampness from the Endless Summer of Central Texas and that in a few more weeks, my body may decide to tell me that it’s had enough green smoothie. It’s also probable that this particular smoothie would be a nightmare for another person (a high Vata constitution or someone with very low Agni) or someone in another climate -Austin is often warmer during the winter than the rest of the country. It’s also possible that using some Ayurvedic principles (shared below) I managed to concoct a reasonably digestible smoothie recipe.

General Rules for Making Smoothies More Digestible:

no_ice-Make sure they are room temperature. No ice, balance frozen fruit with non-frozen items, rinse cold greens in warm water bring them to room temp, add a touch of hot water, etc.

-Don’t add dairy (milk, yogurt, kefir) to your smoothie. I tried kefir and almond milk in my smoothie and neither gave me noticeable trouble, but they are best left out as per Ayurvedic Food Combining Rules. I found that using flax, chia seeds and coconut oil, I was able to create a nice creaminess.

-Don’t make your smoothie a Carb Bomb! Keep fruit low. I only use 1 cup of blueberry (and sometimes one apple) in my smoothies which are for two people. These are low glycemic fruits. Apple has lots of healthy pectin/fiber for the digestive system and helps with Liver and Gallbladder health and blueberries are a veritable super food, help with eyesight and cardiovascular health and also help balance insulin levels.

13bb7ee4431ada27b95969c2f215588e_large-Add fresh ginger and/or fresh turmeric root to help warm the smoothie and aid in digestion. They are also anti-inflammatory!

-Spinach and chard contain a phytonutrient called oxalic acid that binds to calcium and also give some people (like me) digestive trouble. Best to avoid them raw -cooking deactivates the oxalic acid. If one is hypothyroid, avoid large amounts of kale and other veggies from the Brassicaceae family as they can depress thyroid function.

Vivian’s Pitta/Kapha Balancing Green Smoothie (makes 2 generous servings): 

1 cup blueberries

1 small apple (your choice of variety)

1/2 – 1 bunch of rinsed Dandelion greens (green or red)

2 leaves of Kale (rinsed in warm water, de-stemmed)

1/2 – 1 inch of raw ginger root

1/2 – 1 inch of raw turmeric root

1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon of powdered flax seed

1 tablespoon of chia seeds (powdered or soaked overnight in water)

1 scoop of organic Wheatgrass Juice Powder

1 tablespoon of powdered nettle leaf

1 teaspoon of Coconut oil

room temperature water

Directions: Soak the wheat grass juice powder and powdered nettle in 12 oz of water overnight (you can also add in and soak any other powdered herbs you take regularly, for instance I add some goji berries and shatavari). You can also soak the chia seeds in 12 oz of water overnight as well (or powder them in your dedicated herb/seed coffee grinder and toss into the smoothie). In the morning, just combine all the other ingredients into your blender and hit “play”. If the smoothie is still a little cold, add some warm water into the blender and re-mix.

Additional Benefits: As the recipe title states, this is a Pitta/Kapha Balancing Smoothie, which means that it is both cooling and drains excess dampness. Because it is super high in fiber, it is also bowel cleansing and promotes healthy elimination. The mega dose of dandelion greens, wheatgrass and nettle is great for balancing Pitta (cooling) and Kapha (drying) and also contains a good dose of iron for building blood. (If you use freeze-dried nettle -available online- the nettle will also have an antihistamine effect). Chlorophyll is also said to bind toxins and help ferry them out of the body. Flax and chia also help promote regular elimination which is important to detoxing the body. Flax and chia also contain inflammation-reducing Omega-3 fatty acids. Coconut oil is antiviral, boosts metabolism and supports the health of the cells that line the digestive tract. The fats in this smoothie also help give it a “smooth” texture and increase satiety so you feel full longer. Flax is also great for helping balance estrogen in the body, which is important for women, especially those who get PMS or have estrogen-excess conditions such as uterine fibroids.

Cautions and Contraindications: This smoothie may not be a great fit for a Vata-type person with delicate digestion who is prone to gas when consuming raw veggies/greens. It is also probably not recommended for someone in a cold winter climate. As with all things, it is best to consult with a qualified practitioner to find out what will work best for your body and it goes without saying that if you try this recipe and it does not agree with your body, do not keep using it!

Disclaimer: these recipes are not intended to diagnose or treat any health condition. Consult your healthcare practitioner and use at your own risk. They are intended for use by Vivian Linden’s clients who have been assessed in her practice. 

 

 

 

Cedar Fever: Breeding Juniper Trees Wrecking Havoc on your respiratory system…

SandySanders-JuPin

In Austin, Texas winter weather gives us a well deserved respite from the blazing heat that plagues us for a good portion of the year. Unfortunately, winter is also the time for Cedar Fever. Cedar Fever actually has nothing to do with cedar trees, but is caused by the pollen of our local Hill Country Juniper trees. For some people, this time of year brings allergies so bad that they can hardly go outside at all for fear of triggering a strong allergic reaction. For others, it’s just mildly bothersome, causing itching eyes and irritated respiratory membranes. Although I’ve never had a really strong immune reaction to Juniper pollen, on really high pollen count days, it feels like being coated with fine particles of fiber glass… Delightful!

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photo credit: Ashley Neese

Both Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda have some great strategies and treatments to help combat the symptoms of pollen allergies caused by Juniper or other pesky plants. There are also courses of treatment that can help modulate the immune system in general for those who experience very strong hay fever-type immune system responses to pollen allergens.

Book an appointment with us and we can discuss treatment options and give you some acupuncture and herbs to help you start feeling better immediately. Remember, at Rosewood Acupuncture & Ayurveda, we have a super awesome sliding scale Monthly Membership option for weekly visits. We’re also exploring the idea of an All-Inclusive Allergy Season Package which would include all your allergy herbs and once (or twice weekly) acupuncture treatments for duration of the Cedar Season. Let us know if you’re interested in this. We are here to help you!

Book an Appointment

Digestive Tea Recipes

Ginger Tea

Ginger-Tea

There are several ways to make ginger tea:

Fresh Ginger Root:
Cut/grate/chop some fresh ginger root and put into a cup. How much you use will depend on your personal preference.
Then just pour boiling water on the ginger and allow for it to steep for several minutes and drink. This method is called an “infusion”. (You can strain the ginger out before drinking, if you want).
Alternately, you can also place the cut/grated ginger into a small saucepan, add water and boil for 5-10 minutes. This preparation method is called a “decoction”. This version will be stronger than the cup infusion, but either way works. If you used chopped fresh ginger in a cup, you can actually re-use the ginger for several cups of tea!

Dry Ginger Tea:

This is the easiest way to do ginger tea when you’re not at home. Just buy some ginger root tea bags, such as Traditional Medicinals or Yogi Tea brands. Prepare as usual (boiling water over teabag).

Another way to use ginger on the go is to carry a small baggie of dry ginger powder. Just add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon to a cup of hot water, mix well and drink. If you are sensitive to particulate sludge, just let the let the ginger powder sink to the bottom of the cup, then drink.

Cumin, Coriander & Fennel Tea (AKA: CCFT)

ccf teaThis digestive tea mix is considered a little more cooling and is preferred for those who have a very high Pitta constitution, are experiencing a Pitta aggravation or for those of us who will be enduring long, hot summers!

Mix equal parts of whole cumin, coriander and fennel seeds together into a jar or baggie. Then make tea by using 1-3 teaspoons of seeds in a tea ball strainer in a mug of hot water. You can also make the tea in a jar or teapot and then strain into a cup to drink.

Any combination or single one of the above seeds is also a fine tea on its own, so if you only have fennel seeds, do not fret! Fennel is a lovely and healing tea on its own! You can also use Anise seed in the same fashion (or mix it into the CCF tea blend).

Disclaimer: these recipes are not intended to diagnose or treat any health condition. Consult your healthcare practitioner and use at your own risk. They are intended for use by Vivian Linden’s clients who have been assessed in her practice. 

Recipes: Rice Cereal, Mylk & Ojas Drink

Breakfast:

IMG_20150903_110444Super Easy Tridoshic Rice Cereal: This simple meal can be made to suit all doshas and seasons. Plus it’s gluten-free (and dairy-free if you use a milk-sub).

Directions: In a clean coffee grinder, grind 3 tablespoons of white basmati or sushi rice until fine. Place in a small saucepan, cover with cold water (at least an inch). You many need to add more if it seems too thick. Heat and stir frequently (to avoid lumping). Add in dried fruits like raisins, currants, goji berries, etc. Add in digestive spices like cardamom, fresh ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric. Add 1-2 teaspoons of ground flax seed and a teaspoon of maca powder. Once smooth and completely cooked (~10 minutes +/-), spoon into bowl. Add a tablespoon or two of toppings like hemp, sunflower, or pumpkin seeds and a teaspoon of ghee or coconut oil. Finish with the milk of your choice -organic, low-heat pasteurized cow/goat milk, or a vegetarian substitute like almond, sunflower, coconut etc. Enjoy!

Pitta: Use ghee or coconut oil, more turmeric (or even some fennel). Use almond, coconut or sunflower milk.

Kapha: Use a nut/seed milk instead of dairy. Reduce or delete the ghee/coconut oil. Reduce the amounts of dried fruit and seeds. Increase digestive spices, especially ginger. Add a teaspoon of raw honey (after adding the milk sub).

Homemade Nut/Seed Milk (aka “mylk”):

Shiva_Sunflower_Exports-22-880x587Nut/seed milks are a great way to get the milk function satisfied without using dairy. While organic, non-homogenized, full-fat, low-heat/vat pasteurized milk is perfectly acceptable in Ayurveda and is actually considered a “Sattvic” food, there may be situations where nut milks will be preferable -such as for those who are dairy intolerant, those with high Kapha or when high quality dairy milk is unavailable. Here is a link to YumUniverse’s exhaustive nut/seed milk How-To. Common sense caution: Do not use nut/seed milks as infant formula. (photo credit: The Local Rose).

Ojas Building Bedtime Drink (one serving)

  • 1 cup of full fat, non-homogenized organic milk or almond milk (w/out carrageenan)
  • 10 almonds, soaked overnight, peeled and chopped (you can also do a quick soak for 10 minutes in hot water)
  • 2 whole dates, chopped (if you are avoiding sweets, you can delete the dates)
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered cardamom
  • Optional: Pinch of saffron threads
  • Optional: ½ – 1 teaspoon of ashwagandha root powder

Place all ingredients (except saffron) in a saucepan. Bring to a low boil. If you like, use a standing blender or immersion blender to blend the mixture to a creamy consistency. Pour in a mug and add a pinch of saffron. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: these recipes are not intended to diagnose or treat any health condition. Consult your healthcare practitioner and use at your own risk. They are intended for use by Vivian Linden’s clients who have been assessed in her practice. 

Yoga + Ayurveda: Sister Sciences

 

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Shiva, The Transformer, the patron deity of Yoga

Ayurveda and Yoga are sister sciences. They both have roots in Vedic philosophy and developed side-by-side through the last several thousand years.

“The link between yoga and Ayurveda is prana, or the life force. Yoga is the intelligence of prana seeking greater evolutionary transformations, while Ayurveda is its healing power…” ~ Dr. David Frawley

“Yoga is a work-in, not a work-out.” ~Dr. Indu Arora

Ayurveda uses yoga as a therapeutic modality, especially to calm and focus the mind and to move prana through the body (similar to tai chi and qi gong). Traditional 8-Limbs yoga was also historically used as a method to purify and prepare the mind to receive information through insight meditation, communion with the Divine and teachings from a guru or mentor.

Ayurvedic yoga focuses on creating a practice that is appropriate for one’s Constitution and Imbalances. For example, vigorous yoga heats us up and gets us moving, which may be what is needed on a cold, cloudy day or if we are feeling heavy, slow and cold. But too much heat can be aggravating to Pitta and too much movement can be aggravating to Vata dosha. Furthermore, vigorous yoga practices during the hot summer/midday can also aggravate pitta, leading to inflammation of both the body and mind.

In our culture, yoga has been relegated to the role of “exercise” but yoga does not mean exercise -it means “union” -with the divine in ourselves and the universe, seeing all things as One or Unified, the core of Advaita Vedanta or Non-Dual philosophy. The physical practice (asana/vinyasa) of yoga is a wonderful tool for keeping us limber and building strength, but if done without regard for the spiritual aspects or the the particularities of each individual, it can be of only limited service. It can also injure us or further aggravate our doshic imbalances.

Yogini extraordinaire Shiva Rea wrote a great article for prAna about how Ayurveda informs her yoga practice and how she practices yoga in a way that preserves and enhances health and well-being rather than squanders it.

FOOD = NOURISHMENT :: Basic tips for Eating

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The Basics: Eat real food! Always favor organic over conventional, especially animal products like dairy and meat. Cook at home as much as possible. Avoid GMO’s and processed foods. Support your local farmers. Try to eat food as ripe as possible.

“Whatever can be digested is food, whatever enhances digestion is medicine” -Ayurvedic saying

Here is a link to Dr. Lad’s complete food guidelines chart listed by body type/dosha. Each doshic type has lists of foods to favor and those to avoid. It can be important to remember that this doesn’t need to be a heavy thing! Even getting it right 50% of the time will go a long way to enhancing health -and when in doubt, just keep in mind the basic flavors and qualities that are balancing (or aggravating) to your particular constitution. If, on the other hand you are actually experiencing a more serious condition or dosha aggravation, it is better to try to stick more strictly to the guidelines.

Joyful Belly! Here is a link to a great Ayurvedic site that has lots of recipes listed by body type/dosha, seasons, tastes and qualities.

Food Combining is an important concept in Ayurveda. Of most concern are improper food combinations that can reduce digestive fire/function, increase indigestion, gas and bloating and create undigested toxic food sludge called “ama” in Ayurveda. Here is the link to Dr. Lad’s incompatible food combinations chart. You may notice that some of your favorite food combos may be listed here! Yes, it’s true that many of the things we like to eat together are actually considered incompatible! Try avoiding the combination(s) and see if you notice any improvements in your digestive function. If you do only one thing -avoid eating fresh fruit -especially melon- with your meals! 

Why Eat Only Three Meals a Day?

According to ancient Ayurvedic theory, it is optimal to take at least 4 hours between each meal. This allows the body to digest food (especially moving it through the stomach and upper intestines) before we give it more material to deal with. In this way, we are less likely to produce “ama” -the Sanskrit term for undigested food sludge that results from improper digestion and is the cause of many diseases.

During the “fasting” time between meals, after the body has used the quick energy (short-chain carbohydrates) obtained in the most recent meal, the body will dip into its fat stores to produce energy. This allows us to become efficient metabolizers of body fat, which provides a longer-lasting type of energy. An added benefit is that this fat metabolism also allows us to burn through and eliminate natural and non-natural chemicals that might be stored in our fat, thus reducing our toxic load on a daily basis.

Disclaimer: these suggestions are not intended to diagnose or treat any health condition. Consult your healthcare practitioner and use at your own risk. They are intended for use by Vivian Linden’s clients who have been assessed in her practice. 

Nadi Shodhana: The Breath That Balances

Vayu-Devata-The-Hindu-Wind-God
Vayu Devanta, the god of Wind. The breath is the wind of the body.

 

Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing, is a powerful technique we can use to enhance our well-being. *Please consult with your healthcare practitioner to make sure breathing exercises are appropriate for you at this time.

Click this link to watch a video for basic instruction

Below is a thought-provoking article on the potential benefits of Nadi Shodhana. [from Holistic Online]

“If you don’t do anything else, this is a simple yoga breathing exercise that can be done virtually anywhere, anyplace. You will be glad you did. It is simply dynamic!

The name alternate nostril breathing is due to the fact that we alternate between the two nostrils when we do the breathing. Yogis believe that this exercise will clean and rejuvenate your vital channels of energy, thus the name nadi sodhana (purification of nadis or channels).

With this exercise, we breathe through only one nostril at a time. The logic behind this exercise is that normal breathing does alternate from one nostril to the other at various times during the day. In a healthy person the breath will alternate between nostrils about every two hours. Because most of us are not in optimum health, this time period varies considerably between people and further reduces our vitality. According to the yogis, when the breath continues to flow in one nostril for more than two hours, as it does with most of us, it will have an adverse effect on our health. If the right nostril is involved, the result is mental and nervous disturbance. If the left nostril is involved, the result is chronic fatigue and reduced brain function. The longer the flow of breath in one nostril, the more serious the illness will be.

Benefits

1. The exercise produces optimum function to both sides of the brain: that is optimum creativity and optimum logical verbal activity. This also creates a more balanced person, since both halves of the brain are functioning properly.

2. The yogis consider this to be the best technique to calm the mind and the nervous system.

The Scientific Confirmation of Alternate Nostril Breathing

Medical science has recently discovered the nasal cycle, something that was known by the yogis thousands of years ago. Scientists have recently found that we don’t breathe equally with both nostrils, that one nostril is much easier to breathe through than the other at any particular time and that this alternates about every three hours. The yogis claim that the natural period is every two hours, but we must remember these studies were done on people who do not have an optimum health level.

Scientists also discovered that the nasal cycle corresponds with brain function. The electrical activity of the brain was found to be greater on the side opposite the less congested nostril. The right side of the brain controls creative activity, while the left side controls logical verbal activity. The research showed that when the left nostril was less obstructed, the right side of the brain was predominant. Test subjects were indeed found to do better on creative tests. Similarly when the right nostril was less obstructed the left side of the brain was predominant. Test subjects did better on verbal skills.

Medical science has not quite caught up with the ancient yogis yet. The yogis went one step further. They observed that a lot of disease was due to the nasal cycle being disturbed; that is, if a person breathed for too long through one nostril. To prevent and correct this condition, they developed the alternate nostril breathing technique. This clears any blockage to air flow in the nostrils and reestablishes the natural nasal cycle. For example, the yogis have known for a long time that prolonged breathing through the left nostril only (over a period of years) will produce asthma. They also know that this so-called incurable disease can be easily eliminated by teaching the patient to breathe through the right nostril until the asthma is cured, and then to prevent it recurring by doing the alternate nostril breathing technique. The yogis also believe that diabetes is caused to a large extent by breathing mainly through the right nostril.” (Excerpted from Holistic Online website)

Disclaimer: the information contained in this blog article is not intended to diagnose or treat any health condition. It is intended for use by Vivian Linden’s clients who have been assessed in her practice. Consult your healthcare practitioner and use at your own risk. 

Beauty from the Inside Out

Outer Beauty is an Inside Job!

~Follow the guidelines for balancing your specific constitutional type (make a consultation appointment to find out your unique constitution).

glass-of-water-w-lemon~Upon waking, drink a large glass of warm water. You can add a squeeze of fresh lemon.

~Dry brush skin (towards the heart) to activate lymph flow (to de-stagnate from inactivity during the night)

~Mini-self oil massage (also called abhyanga) with plain sesame oil or an oil that is specifically for balancing your constitution or imbalance.

~Shower (add in 30 seconds of cold water rinse if your constitution is strong. Especially get cold water on the upper chest and throat areas to stimulate the thyroid. This stimulating “hydrotherapy” helps to activate the metabolism and also moves lymphatic fluid).

~Pranayama: Nadi shodhana (see the Nadi Shodhana page for instructions) and Brahmari pranayama support relaxation and the endocrine system.

~Cat/Cow: Helps to lubricate the spine and move cerebral spinal fluid.

~Meditate or do any other relaxation practices that you enjoy.

~Walk or do other enjoyable, stress-reducing forms of exercise.

~Drink plenty of non-caffeinated, non-sugary beverages. Try to sip warm water throughout the day (it helps hydrate cells and move lymphatic fluid)

~Eat high quality organic fats, especially ghee and coconut oil, especially if you have a high Vata constitution.

~Cultivate appreciation for beauty of all kinds! One of my favorite “beauty icons” is elder Georgia O’keefe -no Botox for for this beauty!

Disclaimer: the information contained in this blog article is not intended to diagnose or treat any health condition. It is intended for use by Vivian Linden’s clients who have been assessed in her practice. Consult your healthcare practitioner and use at your own risk.