This may be why your diet isn’t working...

It’s not just about what you eat, but how you eat it that impacts your weight management routine.

When I was a corporate worker, meal time was a major inconvenience- taking time away from my work / life schedule to ‘do the needful’ - to fuel up. We would eat in the car, during meetings or on con calls, and before the last bite was swallowed, we were on our way to the next task or project. This reckless lifestyle contributed to inflammation and stagnation leading to chronic pain and disease.

When I began treating meals as a necessary step in personal healthcare, and respected it as the exact thing that builds the cells in my body, brain and blood, my health and quality of life began to change.

No diet on the planet will keep you healthy you if your digestion is stagnant, too sharp, or irregular. These simple steps provide a foundation for your digestion to serve you best.

1) if you haven’t already done so, begin eating fresh, seasonal, whole foods, and fewer processed / packaged foods. This generally means shopping around the edges of the grocery or finding your local farmers market or neighborhood produce co-op. Real food builds better brain matter so you can make better decisions for your health and wellbeing. Avoid leftovers after 2 days, as they’ve lost their solar power, or life energy, also known in yogic science as ‘prana.

2) so ‘No’ to iced drinks. Ask for water-no-ice when you’re out, and drink sips of room temperature or warm water during your meal to avoid extinguishing your digestive flame. Consider drinking your milk as a snack or warmed before bedtime with nutmeg for better sleep.

3) avoid eating fruit with your meals - they should be taken as a snack between meals and never with dairy. Those blueberries and bananas in our oatmeal, cereal and smoothies aren’t as healthy as we thought. Life is science and digestion is like chemistry class. Certain food combinations create a hostile environment in your belly, causing gas, bloating, constipation, heaviness, and/or inflammation.

4) finally and most importantly - slow down. Treat meal time as a sacred opportunity to appreciate the bounty of nature - the gift of life in form of nourishment. How blessed are we that food is fairly clean and abundant. See, smell and taste your food in eat bite. Chew well. Take meals with people you enjoy or even alone so you can allow digestion to peacefully do its job. Sit, don’t stand or drive while you eat. Give your food sufficient time to reach your belly before rushing to the next project or task. After eating, rest and digestion 3-7 minutes - read a book, observe your surroundings, remember what you loved best about your meal, write in your journal - any or none of these can help you pass the time so you won’t end up passing the gas!

Conscious living begins with mindfulness of what we think, feel and do. Simple changes and an open mind can introduce great benefit and a basis for long life and happiness.

Read more about Ayurveda, the ancient science of life. Over 5,000 years old this holistic menthol of living provides personalized guidelines for the foods, spices and oils that best suit you, your digestion, body type. Contact me to learn more, or to develop a meal plan to support your goals. Kirsten@PraniLife.com

Śhiva Saṅkalpa Sūkta - a Mantra for your Mind

Shiva means: auspicious; meditative; of divine mind; benevolent; beneficent. Sankalpa is an unbreakable resolve. Sukta means well said. It is practiced for developing calm clear thoughts, alignment to purposeful living, and for strengthening mental resolve.

Shiva Sankalpa Sukta is a powerful six-verse hymn from the Rig Veda that asks the mind “to dwell on the auspicious will of the Divine”. It helps cultivate conscious resolve in alignment with one’s unique purpose and most fulfilled life. The cadence of this recording is in the style of Swami Veda Bharati, a successor of Swami Rama and former spiritual head of the Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama, the Himalayan Tradition’s ashram in Rishikesh.

It is a practice to rewire the brain and nourishes the subtle tissues to pair with the light of one’s Soul and reason for life. Best used when seeking answers, calming the mind, or to bring fuel to your continue your path well.

Swami Veda Bharati of the Himalayan Sage Tradition taught that the entire 6 verse Mantra could be remembered in its last phrase:

Tan me manaha siva sankalpam astu

and that this phrase especially, is very useful during the day when in a pause, rest or transition from one thing to the next. It is also best chanted before bedtime, as verse 1 asks our roaming mind to come rest. Much healing & refinement of the mind can occur in our sleeping hours after chanting this ancient prayer. It will harness thoughts and sweep your mind into a one pointed focus. This mantra cultivates mental purity and harmony, and strengthens your relationship with your mind as an instrument under your control, to be used for the benefit of your Dharma (unique purpose in life).

It also aids in the will power and determination to continue your daily practice, and gives you the calm and nurturance to support a life of practice and a practice of life.

According to Swami Rama, mantra practices such as these were very important to the ancient forest dweller yogis; they didn’t have ready access to physical objects traditionally used for rituals in Kaula (left handed path) Tantra. “Their way of worship was symbolic and internal, so were their methods of meditation. Their methods of worship were lifted to the mental level and then finally, to the spiritual level.” Practices such as this allow them to follow the path, inside and out.

Śhiva Saṅkalpa Sūkta

OM yad jāgrato dūram udaiti daivam

tadu suptasya tathaivaiti

dūraṅgamam jyotiṣām jyotir ekam

tan me manaḥ śiva-saṅkalpam astu

May my mind be calm and focused Which while we wake soars into the heavens And even in sleep roams about The far-ranging one light among lights

yena karmāṇi apaso manīṣiṇo

yagye kṛṇvanti vidatheṣu dhīrāḥ

yad apūrvam yakṣam antaḥ prajānām

tan me manaḥ śiva-saṅkalpam astu

May my mind be calm and focused With which the mindful initiate actions And the insightful perform rituals The unprecedented, mysterious being within all living beings

yat pragyānam uta ceto dhṛtiśca

yat jyotir antaḥ amṛtam prajāsu

yasmān na ṛte kiñcana karma kriyate

tan me manaḥ śiva-saṅkalpam astu

May my mind be calm and focused Which includes intuitive knowledge, consciousness, and mental stability That immortal inner light in all beings Without which no action can be performed

yenedam bhūtam bhuvanam bhaviṣyat

parigṛhītam amṛtena sarvam

yena yagyas tāyate saptahotā

tan me manaḥ śiva-saṅkalpam astu

May my mind be calm and focused The immortal one by which all that has been, is now being, and will be in the future is grasped By which the seven priests extend and perform the selfless giving

yasmin ṛcaḥ sāmaḥ yajūṁṣi yasmin

pratiṣṭhitā rathanābhāvivārāḥ

yasminś cittam sarvam otam prajānām

tan me manaḥ śiva-saṅkalpam astu

May my mind be calm and focused In which the verses of the Vedas are fixed like spokes around the hub of a chariot wheel In which is interwoven the consciousness of all living beings

suṣārathir aśvān iva yan manuśyān

nenīyate'bhīśubhir vājina iva

hṛtapratiṣṭham yad ajiram javiṣṭham

tan me manaḥ śiva-saṅkalpam astu

May my mind be calm and focused That which by mindfulness is controlled as a skillful charioteer controls horses Leading the powerful forces of the senses by their reigns Which is seated in the heart, though agile and speedy

To listen to this Mantra on SoundCloud - click here

Sources:

Swami Veda Bharati Articles

Ashram Manual from AHYMSA

Jon Janaka (PDF translation)

Wild Temple Wisdom

How to determine your Dosha

The life science of Ayurveda explains that we are born perfect creations, with a unique balance of space, air, fire, water and earth – the 5 basic elements of all things. This is our Prakruti. Then life happens, - the food we eat, coupled with our activities and environment skew that perfect balance. This is our Vikruti. Imbalance leads to illness, and when we can’t curb the illness, it can lead to chronic disease that we are taught to live with, such as arthritis, allergies, thyroid problems and inflammation.

Who are you? What is your unique blueprint?

A simple Dosha Quiz will tell you what your Dosha is – this helps us understand our basic nature.

Our Vata friends exhibit qualities of space and air – always on the move, creative, flowing and great conversationalists! Usually very flexible in body and mind, they tend to be very tall or very short. They are like happy butterflies and antelopes.

When they are out of balance, they can become scattered, fearful, anxious and loose their appetite. Things that push Vata out of balance include dry, light, airy foods, excessive travel, cold windy weather and too much talking.

Our Pitta friends are fire and water – they tend to be sharp, always solving puzzles, reading books they love to transform experience into knowledge. They are competitive and like to take charge. Medium and intense, they have amazing appetites and can easily control their weight through rapid digestion. They are like prowling tigers, observant and strong. When out of balance, they can be hot heads, and experience IBS, sour stomach or rashes.

Things that push Pitta out of balance include spicy or sour foods, hot weather, excessive competition, and too much work / too little compassion.

Our Kapha friends are like water and earth – they are steady, calm and resilient. They love to love and will be the first to give you a hug. Slow to change, their consistency can be a benefit or get them stuck. They are softer and rounder in physique, with large eyes, thick hair and amazing smiles. They are like plush teddy bears and Koalas. When out of balance, they can become depressed, lethargic and may become overweight.

Things that push Kapha out of balance include heavy, sticky or sweet foods, inactivity, and cold damp weather.

We are a combination of all 3 doshas in varying degrees with one usually being predominant, however, a person can be a combination of Pitta/Vata, Vata/Kapha, Pitta/Kapha or show equal qualities from all 3 Dosha.

This basic Ayurvedic principle gives us an understanding of our constitution, and acceptance of our true and perfect nature (Prakruti). It teaches us to recognize the basic nature of every large and small thing around us, and how they cause imbalance (Vikruti). This is the blueprint to a healthier diet and lifestyle to support long term health and happiness, through each season and stage of our long and healthy lives.

Let me know if you'd like to learn more!

 

 

Source: Photo by Olga Bast on Unsplash

Blessing Way- A New Old Tradition

My dear step-daughter Candice is expecting her second child, a son this time named Basil – we’re over the Moon excited for this little sage to be welcomed into this lifetime alongside sister Paisley Jayne, so when I was offered the opportunity to throw a shower, I was delighted.

With the kids being in Tampa, I’m not always able to do on-the-spot family events, so I missed the first shower with ‘Mimi’, and the second shower hosted by Nik’s employer. Third shower – OK – I got this. Then Candice called; ‘we’re doing a Blessing Way – Google it.’

On a last minute of inspiration, I did a quick search of headlines to get the gist of things.

Blessing Way isn’t the usual shower, with baby gifts, oohhs and aaahhs as you pass around plush, nice smelling baby things, with games and rituals. Rather, it's about the Mother and the amazing journey she’s on, as we lift her up with support and intention, to welcome our newest loved one. It’s literally blessing the way for a graceful birth and a circle of unconditional love and joy for the baby.

We’ve come a long way to get back to the roots of family, compassion and community.

Meghan welcomed us into her plant store – I was in heaven. We made space for tea and goodies (thanks to co-host and Candice’s BFF Christy), and I set about meeting the people that Candice considers her spiritual circle. I was among pranic healers, doulas, and teachers of boys (thank you), I met midwives, mothers, massage therapists and more. These were the Wise Women and Mothers of her beloved community; a haven of healers from so many wisdom traditions in one place…BOOM just like that. It was easy to be inspired beyond my original vision.

We opened with a meditation to enliven the elements and join our hearts. We enjoyed stories of how we met Candice, tales of laughter and remembering, paired with tears of love. I led The Chocolate Meditation, inspired by my recent training with Elena Brower, releasing more joyful tears, bringing forth loved ones lost. Then the radiant mother Candice passed around feathers for our Intention Setting Meditation – they hang over Basil’s crib in a handmade mobile, so he can feel our love daily.

I’m grateful to the women who joined us, to Candice who has clearly touched all of their lives with mutual love and respect. I see a future where women raise children in homes of meditation and mindfulness, regardless of their background or income. I'm hopeful this momentum will bring a wave of peace the world so desperately needs right now.

Fear cannot grow where seeds of love have been planted. 

#aditi #blessingway

Better Digestion = Better Health

Digestion is critical for optimal health and according to Ayurveda, it is the primary key to longevity and radiance.  Ayurveda (translates as the Science of Life) is the oldest holistic science, and the concept of Agni  is documented in the oldest Indo-European text in existence, which dates to around 1700BCE. Managing Agni through the science of Ayurveda results in better weight management, more radiant skin and eyes, improved mood and clarity of mind.

The fire of digestion and transformation is not equipped to digest food in our bellies, but also provide transformation at the cellular level, in every tissue, every organ and every system of our bodies. Agni is the intelligence that metabolizes, regenerates, and removes waste in our body and mind.

Digestion (Agni) that is too sharp, too slow, or irregular causes health imbalance, which leads to disease. In the Science of Life 101 - there are a few simple tools to ensure your Agni is performing at its best!

Take your time.

–Take the time to appreciate the food you are eating. Consider putting your utensil down after eat bite and savoring the taste, chewing well to aid digestion. After you eat, wait for the last bite to enter your stomach – no more eat and run – spend 3-5 minutes just relaxing, then 10 minutes after your meal take a short walk to aid the churning of digestion.

Avoid eating while upset, or with people to tend to upset you.

-Emotional upset reduces the capacity of your digestion, the juices cannot flow and you cannot fully relax your digestive organs. Take a moment to process your emotions and approach mealtime with a more loving demeanor.

Remember your drink can douse your digestive fire.

-Ice drinks put out your digestive fire and weaken your digestive enzymes. Large quantities of water will also weaken your natural hydrochloric acid. Sipping water throughout the day helps you stay consistently hydrated, and allows you to reduce fluid intake during meals. Avoid ice water or cold drinks. 

 Eat your main meal for lunch, avoid eating after 7pm

Eat when the sun is the strongest, (mid-day) when your digestive fire is at its peak! Take breakfast as small, warm moist meals. Add digestive spices: cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg kick start your sleepy digestion. Dinner should be a meal easy to digest, preferably before the sun goes down. Check out www.SimpleVeda.com for recipes!

 Satisfy your senses!!

Breathe deep and appreciate the smell. Enjoy the taste. Notice the color, texture and vibrancy of the dish. Can you detect the different spices and flavors? Having satisfaction on the tip of your tongue reduces cravings at the table and in life.

Don’t overindulge - this is really difficult in our modern society!

Your stomach capacity is as large as the 2 palms, cupped together. Eat to 2/3rd that capacity to allow sufficient room for food to churn, aiding the digestion process. 

Reduce sensory input while eating so you can focus on your food.

 Avoid distractions such as your phone, laptop, TV. Your digestion cannot function properly while your senses are busy watching screens, having meetings, driving the car (please don’t) or otherwise too distracted to be aware of the taste of your food. When your digestion is watching TV, it can't focus on its job!

 Before you indulge, ask yourself: are you hungry, or does it just seem like a good time to eat?

Close your eyes, slow your breath and tune into your body. Bring your attention to the part of the body where you feel the hunger. If you’re truly unsure, drink a cup of warm water – if the hunger does't go away, it’s time for a meal!

Agni regulates temperature, performs digestion, absorption, and assimilation of ingested food, and transforms food into energy. It's vital to our health that we support our body's brilliant skills!

To boost your digestion, try this recipe from the Ayurvedic Institute:

Agni Tea Ingredients:

  • ·      1 quart water
  • ·      1 pinch cayenne
  • ·      2 handfuls minced ginger root
  • ·      2 Tbs. Sucanat or other sweetener
  • ·      1 to 2 tsp. rock salt

~Bring all of the above ingredients to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes.

Take the pot off the burner and cool for a few minutes.

Add the juice of 1/2 lime. Do not boil the lime juice.

Pour into a thermos and enjoy throughout the day.

Ask your Ayurvedic Counselor how your digestion rates, and what simple lifestyle changes might help you thrive!

 

 

 

 

How toxic are your eating habits? (quiz)

Americans have an interesting relationship with food, and as a result, our digestion suffers. When our bodies cannot properly digest our smoothies, snacks and meals, toxins will accumulate in our tissues, encouraging disease to bloom and spread, affecting the quality of our life.

Symptoms of toxic build up include:

·      Waking up tired, even after a good night’s sleep

·      Feeling heavy and lethargic

·      A coating on your tongue, especially first thing in the morning

·      You don’t feel hungry, even though it’s been hours since your last meal

·      General aches and pains in your body and joints

·      Mental fogginess, or lack energy and enthusiasm

·      Dull, gray skin

·      You experience frequent gas, bloating, indigestion or heartburn

·      Blockages such as sinus congestion, constipation, or difficulty breathing 

This quiz adapted from my Teacher, Arpita Shah of Om Yoga Journey can help you determine your level of toxins, known in the ancient science of Ayurveda, as Ama.

 ___I experience constipation, congestion, or breathing problems

___I feel foggy when I wake and need coffee to get going

___I go a day, sometimes 2, with no bowl movement

___I have a coating on my tongue in the morning

___I feel general aches, pains and tiredness in the morning

___I lack mental clarity, energy and enthusiasm

___I feel heavy or tired within 30 minutes of eating a meal

___I eat canned, frozen, packaged, or fast food at least 4 times a week

___I eat meat or animal protein at least 4 times a week

___I am a fast eater

___I watch TV, or read while eating

___I eat on the run, in the car, standing, while working, or on my computer/phone

___I drink ice water or cold beverages

___I eat past 8pm

___I enjoy naps during the day, for more than 30 minutes

___I get sick, or catch colds throughout the year

~A score of 4 or less and you’re on the right track, consider ditching the final few unhelpful habits.

 ~If you checked 4 – 8 boxes, it’s time to review your habits and invite a more healthy routine.

~More than 8, we invite you to consider meeting with an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counselor or Health Practitioner to determine how to ease yourself into more balanced digestion and routine, to reduce chronic issues and help you feel more free and satisfied.

A toxin free body experiences a fresh and blissful morning, a healthy pink tongue, clear glowing skin, bright balanced energy all day, a clear mind, and a weight that is normal for your body and constitution.

 Ayurveda is The Science of Life, or the Art of Conscious Living. It provides logical and time-tested guidelines to healthy living based on our own unique constitution, gifts and weaknesses. It considers ‘good health’ to be holistic, including body, mind and soul.

 Prani Lifestyle Consulting provides customized programs to help you answer the fundamental questions, Who am I, Why am I Here, and How do I work this Thing? Leveraging studies, direct experience, and certifications in Yoga, Ayurveda, Tantra and Vedanta, along with a background in Western medicine, we can help you develop simple lifestyle changes to support longevity, and wellbeing in the body, mind, energy, heart and soul.

For more information, contact Kirsten@PraniLife.com 

(Ayurveda: /eye – your – vay – duh/) – dates back well over 5,000 years (some say 10,000) for a system of healing that includes: internal medicine, ENT, OB/GYN, longevity / nourishment, psychiatry, surgery. Ayurveda is called ‘The Sister Science of Yoga’, and traditionally was taught prior to beginning the education of yoga and meditation. Yoga is a technology used in Ayurveda to support health, stability and overall wellness. Ayurveda is a technology to support and sustain an evolving Yoga Practice.

In Search of Sattwa –or- The Evolution Revolution

The Bhagavad Gita tells us that humans, as well as all other things in Nature, have a mixture of Sattwa, and its companions, Rajas and Tamas. These three Maha Gunas (qualities) determine our behavior, actions, thoughts and emotions.

Sattwa is clarity, light, purity and wakefulness. It is stability, essence, compassion and love. Sattwa is required for our mental and physical health, and is the path to personal evolution and spiritual maturity. 

  • Sattwa and Sattvic activities are pure, illuminating, free from illness and impurities. They awaken us with knowledge and happiness. (14.6) People with a Sattvic temperament have clean, healthy bodies, their behavior is pure in intention and their conscious is clear. They tend to be spiritual people and believe in the existence of a higher awareness.
  • Rajas is a roller coaster of passion and is born of desire - Rajas keeps us in action. (14.7)Primarily Rajasic people are focused on business, wealth, prosperity, power / control, spreading their name or position. They can be extroverted and showy, or intensely focused on achievement, outcome and expectation. While they may have a belief in God, their opinion can change easily. They can be very political or opinionated.
  • Tamas is evident in the darkness and animal instincts of human nature. It is ignorance (ignoring Truth), and the cause of delusion, or the veil that blinds us from higher knowing. It binds us with indolence, carelessness, sleep and inertia. (14.8) Tamasic people can be destructive, slothful, selfish and dark. They have little respect for themselves and others and tend to be a-religious and non-spiritual. Their thoughts and activities are focused around themselves.

~Our goal in life is to move from Tamas, through Rajas and ultimately into Sattwa. How are you spending your time?

Proactively evolve, or be at the mercy of external circumstances:

What we eat affects our Mind. Our Mind is the instrument that affects our thoughts, which affect our actions, emotions and attitude. Caring for your mind with Sattvic foods moves you in a Sattvic direction! This can be done with most fresh fruits and vegetables. Try seasonal mango, pomegranate, peaches and pears, figs, coconut, and dates. Consider sweet potato, yellow squash, asparagus, and leafy greens. Add basmati rice, quinoa, blue corn and barley. Favor mung beans, dal, red & yellow lentils. Sattvic spices include saffron, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, cumin and fennel.

Rajasic foods are salty, sour, spicy, artificial, beans, crunchy nuts, popcorn, or otherwise activating. Tamasic foods are heavy, dull, left-overs, meats, caffeine and alcohol.

What you do affects our Mind.  Sattvic practices include meditation, chanting mantra, walks in Nature, silence, Yoga Nidra, spending time in the company of wise people. Reducing the amount of ‘sensory input’ in all forms is an important step to uncoupling ourselves from the grip of Rajas, making Sattwa more attainable and sustainable, allowing you to experience more love, compassion, forgiveness, and provide you with the state of mind that evolves your personality and supports / transcends your meditation practice.

Modify the Rajas you experience each day by reducing Rajasic foods, large crowds, being too talkative, competition, too much working, watching or playing. Our society and the world we live in is 90% Rajasic, which means we actively need to seek balance to remove ourselves from this continuous state of go go go!

Replace Tamasic activities with Rajasic ones in order to find the pep you need to progress to the Sattvic stage. Instead of pubs, visit friends who are pleasant and happy. Instead of a horror movie, choose an action flick or comedy, reduce time in front of the TV and other activities which keep you glued to the couch or screen. Do more Yoga – try a few gentle Sun or Moon Salutes every day to set your momentum.

If your goal is to progress in life to stability and contentment, it’s important to understand these three primal attributes in ourselves and all things. Each day we can take ownership of our choices and ascend the ladder of growth, contentment and enlightenment.

For the benefit of everyone alive today and all the generations to come – it’s time for the Evolution Revolution.

Following an Ayurvedic diet according to your Dosha and current imbalance is recommended to prevent disease and improve the quality of body, mind and spirit. For a specific diet & lifestyle guidelines, contact me!

 

 

Steps for Creating your own Happiness

Modern society is so super advanced - we can thank science & technology for many inventions over the past 200 years! However, our personal and spiritual evolution, our ability to be content and fulfilled hasn’t growth past our ancestors from the Stone Age. We still exhibit anger, greed, jealousy, ego and insatiable desires. Our mind constantly spins with anger over past experiences, anxiety and fear over what may come to pass. We have lost sight of the beauty that exists, ever present, in the here and now.

The Wisdom Tradition of Yoga & Meditation tell us that there are 8 basic steps to achieving a life of fulfillment and peace. This goal cannot be found in the external world, we cannot consume our way to happiness regardless of the size of our paycheck or the taste of our food. True happiness is our own creation. Inner balance and harmony is possible when we master the art of joyful living.

*Step 1: Self-regulation / Self-control
In Sanskrit the word is Yama – the literal meaning is ‘that which helps us stay within our boundaries and not trespass others’ boundaries’. It can also be translated as Live & Let Live.There are 5 attributes to this state:

  1. Non-violence – being nice to yourself and others (note this is #1 of the #1)
  2. Truthfulness – being honest with yourself and others
  3. Non-stealing – avoid attempts to take ownership of what is not legally yours, mentally or physically
  4. Non-indulgence – abuse or misuse to your body, senses or mind - rethink food, drink, and other non-helpful habits. Consider how your habits of media, the company you keep and the actions you conduct affect the serenity of mind. Enjoy life’s gifts but don’t let them drain you of the vitality required to fulfill your life’s purpose.
  5. Non-possessiveness  - avoid holding on to physical, emotional and prior experiences – this causes your home, mind and heart to look and feel like a junkyard – too full to find peace and space for stillness.

Practice these 5 guidelines and you will be at peace with yourself and others.

*Step 2: Self-discipline / Self-commitment
The Sanskrit word is Niyama, which also has 5 components:

  1. Cleanliness – be clean in food, body,  and mind (thought & speech) – let the world around you be clean and work towards purity on the inside.
  2. Contentment – work as hard as you wish, but be content with the fruits of your labor. Perform your actions without suffering fear or anxiety around the outcome.
  3. Austerity – allow for a lifestyle where your thoughts, words and deeds shine – be a light to yourself and others.
  4. Self-study – be aware of your body, mind and senses. Check in with your thoughts, moods and emotions and question if and how they might be stifling your happiness . Study your habits, strengths and weaknesses in order to gain an understanding of yourself and the environment that surrounds you.
  5. Surrender to The Divine – recognize that everything everywhere is a creation of the Divine. Regardless of the religion you were raised in, the spiritual quest is the same; something out there that we can’t fully understand or see has created us and everything around us. We are a drop of that Divine along with every other living creature, mountain, tree and stream. Higher Intelligence abounds within and without.

*Step 3: this one is simple….Asana (yogic postures)
Classic yogic texts outline 84 classical postures, broken into 2 categories: physical and meditative. Physical postures restore health through strength, balance of the nervous system, and organs, leading to quietude of mind. Meditative postures directly impact the cultivation of a peaceful mind, with a lovely side benefit of restoring and maintaining physical health.

*Step 4: Pranayama – Breathing techniques
Prana is the vital life force. The root is broken into Pra (that which pervades everything – the smallest unit) and Ana – breath or movement. Together they mean ‘life force’. Ayama means ‘expansion’. Pranayama is more subtle and potent than asana and is the method for infusing the body and mind with energy to nurture mind, heal emotional wounds, nourish the senses and revitalize the body, systems, tissues and organs. It requires a healthy diet and clean, fresh air.

*Step 5: Pratyahara – literally to disentangle yourself wisely and skillfully
In the West we call this ‘sense withdrawal’, which sounds scary, but when the word is broken down, we see it truly means to pull your senses and mind from unhelpful / unhealthy (undesirable) objects and activities, to gather your scattered mind, turn them inward and unite with the higher dimensions of life. This is the natural evolution of your Soul’s journey. At some point in life we find ourselves tired of the external woes, strains and strife and look for more meaning and purpose to the endless race. This is when we re-evaluate who we are and why we are here.

*Step 6: Dharana / concentration
Once you have gathered your forces and faculty of mind, you can focus on a sattwic (pure) object and find one-pointedness of mind. This is the process that leads to meditation and cultivates retentive power. A cautionary note: be careful where you put your attention – the mind absorbs the quality of the object you concentrate on! The best object is breath awareness – this leads to a qualitative change in your state of being.

*Step 7: Dhyana / meditation
This is simply a state of advanced concentration, which makes the mind steady. Meditation allows the mind to expand and touch the field of Intuition, gaining a higher clarity of mind not found in ordinary situations. The more advanced you become through the practice of meditation, you can reach the 8th and final step.

*Step 8: Samadhi – fully established in supreme consciousness
This gives the practitioner an indescribable equanimity to understand bliss, which can only be found on the inside – you are the world and the world is you – there is no division, no duality. This is true transcendence of the mind into a state not limited by time, space or causation – independent of the senses, experience or self-identity. This state provides freedom from loneliness and allows you to remember that your beauty comes from the inside, and is not dependent on what others think. This is the final step to mastering the art of joyful living.

This process is available to any person of any age, race, creed, gender preference and geography. These are the steps to creating your own world, by your own choices – this is the source of happiness and peace.

This blog was inspired by Brian F. because you’re a seeker and you care!

Taken from the book, Happiness is your own Creation, and in honor of the guidance of my Guru, Sri Swama Rama, whose teachings and Teachers have led me well on my journey of the path of Fire & Light.

Gratitude to my step-daughter and granddaughter for permission to use the attached photo of pure, innocent joy & delight!

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But first, get calm: Benefits of Brahmi

After spending last 2 weeks in Asia, I’ve added a new practice to my daily routine – “Brahmi” (Gotu Kola) shots. It’s like yogi happy hour - we toast to the health benefits of this bitter, dirty, spicy, grassy flavored herb! Why would I put myself through this routine if it makes me shake my head and squinch my face after downing a shot of this green elixir?

The ancient Chinese texts tell of an herb to increase longevity. The Daoist Master and herbalist Li Ching-Yue reportedly lived to the ripe old age of 256! Along with other practices, he took Gotu Kola (Brahmi) daily.

The Indian text, Sushruta Samhita, penned over 2,000 years ago, lists a plant, whose leaf is shaped curiously like a human brain. It improves cognitive function, increases intelligence and concentration, repairs and restores nerve function, increases collagen, restores digestion, heals wounds, improves circulation, and as a side benefit, supports enlightenment.

WebMD and dry scholarly articles agree with its benefits and safety, so it sounds too good to be true!

Our yoga resort in Thailand had fresh Gotu Kola at the juice bar, a luxury I hadn’t been expecting. My Ayurveda Teacher recommended a daily dose for healthier skin, a calmer mind, and increased longevity. I'm glad I tried it!

A modern day yogi enjoys a daily practice of meditation, and works to follow ayurvedic guidelines… but life happens, schedules are busy, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in social drama that makes our minds spin – stopping this spinning is the goal of yoga, according to the Yoga Sutra.

Yoga Sutra 1.2 loosely translated says: Get calm. Stay calm. Master your mind, then experience a state beyond time, space and causation; the source of your greatest potential - unify yourself with That.

OK, so how do we get calm, much less stay calm these days?

Yogarupa Rod Stryker says "Just Practice". OK, practice always helps, but there's more to the science of living - it's simple, but not easy, but there is safe*, effective herbal support.

So consider adding the SuperHerb Brahmi / Gota Kola - applauded by Ayurveda and Chinese medicine alike as the most pure and beneficial remedy to repair and balance the human condition, to fight the common cold and flu, improve circulation and immunity, heal skin issues, improve digestion, and increase your mental calm and capacity. Having all of this makes the rest of life so much easier.

~Check with your Ayurveda Counselor to put this in your goodie bag: Brahmi powder (in milk or as a tea according to your constitution), Brahmi capsules or tincture for on-the-go yogis, Brahmi in coconut oil to the top of your head and soles of your feet at bedtime. Trusted sources include Banyon Botanical and Organic India.

*Herbs are not a replacement for your current prescribed medications or your doctors recomendations, do not take if you are pregnant or breast feeding, and keep your doctor informed of any new regimes. For any new herbal product it is recommended to start off slowly, never exceeding recommended dosage, and work up to higher dosages as you become familiar with its unique effects on your body and mind. It is found that Gotu Kola taken according to recommended dosage is safe to take long term, but many practitioners suggest taking 3-7 days break in between periods of extended use.

Enjoy this medical article on the benefits and risks of gota kola

And see what WebMD has to say about it as well.

 

 

 

Ayurveda's 10 pair of opposites – the delicate dance of balance

Everything you see around you, and everything you don’t, can be described by 10 pair of opposites. In Sanskrit they are called gunas (qualities, or attributes).

  1. Heavy/Light
  2. Dull/Sharp
  3. Cold/Hot
  4. Oily/Dry
  5. Smooth/Rough
  6. Dense/Porous (or liquid)
  7. Soft/Hard
  8. Still/Moving
  9. Gross/Subtle
  10. Cloudy/Clear

Look around you to find examples. Recall how these qualities have been present in your mind, body and behavior over the majority of your lifetime.

1. Historically and for the most part, has your body frame been light, or heavy throughout your life? What about your mind; mood, thoughts, actions. 

2.Consider your wit, speech and perception – are your words dull & slow or sharp and efficient?

3.Do you run cold, even in the summer? Hot head or do you have a cool temper?

4.Is your skin historically oily or dry?

5. Are your cuticles and nails smooth, or rough? Your voice? Feet and elbows?

6. Does it take a long time for an idea to sink in, but when it does you never forget? Or do you learn things fairly easily, then forget things fairly easily? 

7. It’s not just about a soft or hard body, consider your emotions, your reactions, your facial features. Do your friends love your hugs, soft heart, or shoulder to cry on?

8. Are you constantly on the go, or do you prefer to sit still. Some people like to run, some like to meditate. 

9. When you walk across the floor, are your steps loud, or subtle? Consider the tone of your voice?

10. When you wake in the morning, do you feel foggy and need coffee to begin your day, or do you like to get out of bed with a clear head?

Take note of your qualities – be grateful for who you are – these are the attributes you embody – this is your unique nature and it’s perfect!

Sometimes our qualities go out of balance and your normally smooth, oily skin gets rough and dry. Your thoughts and speech get too fast, your temper too hot, you’re just not seeing clearly. Check your daily balance and incorporate activities and foods into your life to balance your qualities. Every day is a new day for health.

The basic rule of the science of life, is like increases like, opposites balance. If you are hot, drink a bit of coconut water or limeaid to cool off. If you feel heavy, hang out with light hearted people and laugh - you'll feel lighter.  If your skin (or poop) is dry, you add more fluids and healthy organic oils to your diet. If your personality seems too hard, consider more softness in fabrics, scents and activities. Today, observe how you feel and when appropriate, apply the principles of the opposites to find balance.

Do the people around you share your same qualities? Or are they opposites. Way qualities do you balance with, and what qualities can be exacerbated with your friends and loved ones?

Each day is an opportunity to reverse age-old imbalance caused by ingrained habits - develop a new patterns of health by first understanding who you are, recognizing when the food, people, and lifestyle exacerbates our innate qualities (like increases like), and seek the opposites to reduce accumulation. Find balance by the power of your choice.

 

 

 

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Balancing Vata During Seasonal Change

This morning I watched Vata blow in, signaling the continuing change of seasons, and I was reminded by my dear friend Christina from SimpleVeda, that when we grab the fall hoodie it’s also time to check the summer routine at the door.

*Here are some helpful hints to keep Vata from sneaking out of the house!

Just as the Moon revolves around Earth and Earth around Sun, Mother Nature depends on a simple and reliable routine to stay on track. Guess what Dear Vata Yogi? So do you…
~Routine Routine Routine – go to bed at the same time each night, wake at the same time each morning and eat your quiet and healthy meals at the same time each day. Vata rests in the dependability of schedule – your daily routine is called dinacharya.

After scraping the morning toxins off your tongue, include a glass or 2 of pure warm water with a squeeze of lemon. This is a 'good morning I love you' to clean your GI tract, refresh your kidneys and awaken peristalsis (that which makes you poop!).

“too much” of anything is imbalancing to Vata so SLOW DOWN.  Selectively reduce the ‘outside’ commitments, hustle and bustle and be mindful to reduce driving time.

Daily Abhyanga (oil-massage) – As part of your dinacharya, take 5-10 minutes for a warm sesame oil massage before your shower or bath. Your dry skin will soak up the warming, soothing and calming nectar to reduce muscle tension and improve circulation. Light a scented candle, put on that playlist of love songs and sing them to yourself. Your mood will be elevated and your dry, popping joints will feel better. Now you can glide through your day with a get-calm-stay-calm attitude. *DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THE OIL....*

Pranayama (breath techniques) is a powerful process to balance hormones, strengthen your nervous system, improves mental capacity and purify your nadis (energy channels). Try Alternate Nostril Breathing in your dinacharya – start with 5-10 rounds and work your way up to 40. Your mind and your family will thank you.

Be Still. This is a big one friends and fairly difficult for active, creative and on-the-go- Vata:
~Between each project, activity and task, take a mindful pause to bring closure before beginning the next task. This reduces the loose ends your mind subconsciously has to keep track of.
~Find time in daily meditation (begin with 3-5 minutes at the same time each day) to systematically relax the body from head to toe, then observe the feeling of your breath in your nostrils.
~Try to reduce time spent driving here there and everywhere, reduce the amount of time in spin class and on the bicycle. Lean towards slow yoga and other consistent, low impact activities such as walking, swimming, tai chi or chi gong. We should only exercise to about 50% of our capacity, or until a mild sweat appears on the forehead, under the arms and along the spine, or until your mouth begins to get dry.
~Most of all - be gentle with yourself! Just like re-booting your laptop, your nervous system craves the re-set.

*As always in Ayurveda, food is super important!

~3 meals at regular times each day is key – Vata is Space and Air and when we’re empty, we increase our spaciness and airiness!
~Prefer warm, slightly oily, heavier meals – it’s OK! Sesame, ghee, and olive oil – this is what you need inside and out!
~Include cooked food with warming spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. It’s the season for 1 pot meals such as savory kitchari (mung beans + rice and veggies), stews and casseroles.
~Things to avoid: ice and bubbly drinks (drinking Air increases your Air), light, dry, cold, crunchy foods, green juices, leftovers, white sugar, caffeine, dried fruits and dry nuts (try adding the dried fruits & nuts to your morning-spiced oatmeal made with ghee is lovely and plumps them up nicely!).
~Remember that raw fruit is a snack and should not be eaten as part of your meal – digestion begins with the sweet taste. Fruit + Meal = fermentation in the belly, which leads to bloating and passing gas (pardon me!).

*Agni – this is your digestive fire and keeps the motor running – this is important Yogis!!

~15 minutes before meals, stoke the fire by chewing a tsp. of fresh ginger with a touch of salt,or if you’re feeling fancy, add a drop of lime and a bit of honey – this is your appetizer to awaken the furnace in your belly.
~Spice up your life with cumin, coriander, fennel, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, dried ginger, a little pinch of hing (asafetida) black pepper, mustard seed, and just get spicy!
~Drink more ginger tea and take sips of warm water throughout your meal to avoid dousing the fire all together! Avoid dandelion tea (drying) and Yerba Mate.
~Eat when you are hungry and avoid snacking all day – try to take your meals 3 times a day and if you must snack, wait at least 2 hours between meals.
~For each meal, consider that eating more than what fits into 2 of your palms overtaxes digestion, your liver and creates ama (toxins) that lead to disease. Avoid over-eating those holiday goodies!

*And finally – how you eat is as important as what you eat:

~Meals should be taken according to your regular routine, when you are hungry.
~The atmosphere should be pleasant but not over-stimulating.
~Before taking the first bite, take 3 slow breaths and smell the amazing meal you’re about to enjoy. Give thanks and realize that the food you eat is nourished by the Sun, whose energy is now being passed on to you.
~Conversation should be light, non-emotional and friendly.
~No TV, no loud music and no reading –your belly can’t digest efficiently when your senses are being asked to ‘digest’ other experiences.
~For the love of the deity of your choice, please don’t eat on the run, standing or in the car.
~After taking the last bite, wait 3-5 minutes before standing, allowing sufficient time for your food to make its way to your belly. This is a nice time to journal, be still and observe your surroundings or chat with friends.
~10 minutes after a meal is a nice time for a nature walk, to help your belly churn and digest.

Wow – that’s a lot. If you want to learn more, or chat about any of the above, just reach out. Feel free to ask!!

Live, Love, Learn and Grow

In Love and Light,
Kirsten Joy
Prani Lifestyle Consulting
Yoga~Ayurveda~Tantra~Wellbeing

*This blog is dedicated to Natalie - may you love, respect and nourish yourself - you are a Divine flowering of Mother Nature! Never forget it! -KjB

Beginning Meditation - Month 1

Learning to sit….

1. Environment matters
Find a clean, quiet space in your home where you can sit undisturbed, away from the distractions and pressures of the external world.
The air should be clean, fresh and well ventilated but not breezy.

2. Cleanliness is a factor
Your face, hands and feet should feel clean and fresh, adding a certain respect and vibrancy to your practice. If you practice meditation in the morning, you will want to evacuate your bladder and bowels first.

3. Preparing the body, energy and mind
If you have time, spend 5-10 minutes stretching the muscles, soft tissues, joints and glands, to circulate the blood, regulate energy channels, calm the mind and prepare the hips and back to sit. It should be gentle and mindful. You should consult a qualified Teacher for the Hatha postures most appropriate for your stage and dosha (constitution).

4. Consistency is key
Agree to sit at the same time every day, without fail, as this will train your Mind to develop your new habit automatically. Depending on your schedule, either early in the day or in the evening will be most accessible.

5. Sitting options may vary!
You can sit cross-legged, keeping your head, neck and torso in alignment. The first month you can sit with your back against a wall, while your muscles and soft tissues are being trained. You may also sit in a chair, with your feet resting comfortably on the ground or use blocks or blankets to bring the ground to you! It’s best for your low back if your hips are level with, or slightly higher than your knees. If sitting on the floor, use folded blankets, or a sturdy pillow or bolster to elevate your hips.

6. Relax your body...please!
Scan the body from toe tips to scalp, acknowledging where you might feel yourself holding or tense, and observe the tension release; ust feel each segment of your body relax. Then move from the scalp to the toes again, spine tall, body relaxed. Be effortless.

7. Meet your breath – it’s the secret we so often overlook
Without changing anything, experience your body breathing. Observe where and how it breathes, and then gently begin to shape your breath. Take 10-15 smooth, even, quiet breaths, neither to deep nor too shallow, allowing the breath to become smooth. Resolve any hesitations or shakiness. Feel the body relax and release on the exhale, and experience refreshment and clarity on the waves of your inhale. When your breath becomes smooth, release all effort. Relax. Then bring your attention to the effortless breath beginning at the tips of your nostrils, and experience the sound of ‘So’ on the inhale and ‘Hum’ on the exhale. Repeat, relax, and sit as long as if comfortable or as time allows. If the Mind wanders, it's ok and natural, just bring your attention back to your breath and the sound and feeling of So Hum.
(There are several breath practices that are beneficial to meditation preparation, which can be suggested by a qualified Teacher.)

To finish your meditation and transition from the inner experience to the outer world, become aware of your breath again and allow it to gently deepen. Observe your body, and how it feels to be held by the surface on which you are sitting. Place your cupped palms over your closed eyes and as you become ready, gently open your eyes on an inhale. Then slowly lower the hands, and in your own way, give thanks for the time you had to dedicate to your practice and experience the joy of looking forward to the next practice.

Mindfully transition back into your day – when stress hits, just remember your happy place of peace and calm.

Process and methodology comes from the tradition of the Himalayan Masters, and the teachings of Swami Rama.

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