‘Tis the season… 

Stuffy noses, coughs, and sneezes, oh my! I am very aware of cold season because the snot factor in my classroom increases exponentially. Sorry for that visual. So, I am being proactive this year! Yogi tea, healing soup, and neti-potting have already started at my house and I’m very hopeful that this year I won’t catch the kindergarten crud. Here are a few recipes to help warm your soul.

Step 1… 

Yogi tea. This homemade tea straight from Yogi Bhajan himself will help boost your immune system and fight the winter crud. (Original recipe found on the Birmingham Yoga website.)

Ingredients… 

  • 1 gallon of water
  • 30 cloves
  • 30 black peppercorns
  • 30 cardamom pods
  • 5 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 inch of ginger (or more) thinly sliced
  • 1 tea bag of black tea (leave out if you are sensitive to caffeine or planning to drink at night)
  • *Milk/almond milk or honey to add taste — Milk helps to ease the shock of the spices on the stomach and intestines so drink with milk if you’re sensitive.

Directions… 

  1. Bring water to a boil
  2. Add all spices except the black tea bag. Boil 30-45 minutes. If you want a stronger brew boil longer and add more water as needed.
  3. At the end, add black tea bag and boil another 5 minutes. **The black tea is added last because it amalgamates the spices and seals them. Also the tannins help assimilate the spices into the body.
  4. Add milk and sweetener to an individual cup as you desire. This will allow you to store the raw tea in the fridge and prepare with milk and sweeteners as you like.
  5. If you go cup by cup, you can leave the raw tea on the stove on the lowest flame to enjoy all day.

Step 2… 

Jala neti. Jala Neti is a nasal cleansing technique that rinses the sinuses with warm saline with the aid of a teapot-like vessel called a neti pot. It helps to lubricate and cleanse your nasal passages.

Ingredients…

  • Distilled or previously boiled water
  • non-iodized salt or over the counter mixtures (I use Neil-Med)
  • Neti pot

Directions… 

  1. Pour a cup of warm water (sterilized by boiling the water or purchasing distilled water)into a neti pot.
  2. Add 1/4 teaspoon of non-iodized salt (kosher or sea salt or I use over-the-counter mixtures that can be found in the pharmacy section of your grocery store), stirring until it dissolves.
  3. Insert the spout into your left nostril, lean over the sink, and tilt your head slightly to the right so the water flows through the sinus passages and out of the right nostril.
  4. Gently blow your nose and repeat on the other side.

Step 3… 

Healing soup. Adapted from The Clean Eating Mama.

Ingredients… 

  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cups sweet potato or russet potato (about 1 large potato)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups water or vegetable broth
  • handfuls of herbs on hand: basil, parsley, thyme (if using fresh, chop and add towards the end). I added dried herbs at the beginning and tasted throughout.
  • any fresh vegetables on hand – I used the last little harvest of tomatoes and okra from our garden. What’s more healing than veggies grown in your own back yard?!

Directions… 

  1. In a large heavy bottom pot (or dutch oven), heat on medium and add oil. Let the oil heat for a few minutes. Add copped onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Let cook down for a few minutes until onion is soft. Add remaining vegetables, dried herbs, salt and pepper and let cook down for about 10 minutes or so.
  2. Add liquid of choice (water or vegetable stock) and turn the heat up to high. Bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, reduce heat to medium/low and cover with lid. Stir occasionally. Let cook for an hour or so. You can always add more water if it becomes too thick. For this vegetable soup you want it to be rather brothy because this is where the where the healing magic is!

Happy Fall y’all!

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There’s a pose for that…

Your stress level.

“Stress is as old as civilization itself. The ancient sages understood the impact on the mind and body of the turmoil of daily life. Yoga helps to detach the mind from this turmoil and allows you to face the effects of stress with equilibrium.” ~ BKS Iyengar

I have been planning this post for what seems like forever. I first thought about it when I started graduate school and now I’m 4 semesters deep. My yoga practice has become an important part of my stress reduction (and sanity) techniques. These pictures were taken over Christmas break from school and work at my parents lake house. When it’s too cold to practice by the water I move to the fire place. What wonderful parents I have.

Iyengar says:

“We experience stress from the moment of birth, and spend our lives adjusting to it. Some of us manage better than others for a variety of reasons. It could be because of one’s personality, environment, or one’s physical condition. But everyone has to deal with the effects of stress at some time or another, and in order to do so, he or she has to cultivate and discipline the mind, the physical body, psychological body, and spiritual body. We all evolve ways of coping with stress, checking and minimizing its effects with varying degrees of success. Yoga provides one of the most comprehensive and effective solutions to this problem…”

“Different people respond to the same stressful situation with different levels of intensity. Some may become angry, others confused or depressed, ultimately stress leads to disease, premature aging, or even fatal illness. The science of psychoneuroimmunology has established the connection between the body, mind, and emotions, but the ancient yogis recognized this a millennium ago. According to yogic science, the health of the psyche is reflected in the body. Psychological pressures stress all the systems of the body.”

“To reduce stress, the body and mind must be treated as one. The tension associated with stress is stored mainly in the muscles, the diaphragm, and the nervous system. If these areas are relaxed, stress is reduced. The organs of perception and the central nervous system also react physically to stress. Yogic methods of deep relaxation have a profound effect on all the body systems. When a part of the body is tense, blood flow to that area decreases, reducing immunity. Yoga works on that area to relieve tension and improve blood flow to the entire body, stabilizing the heart rate and blood pressure. Rapid, shallow breathing becomes deep and slow, allowing a higher intake of oxygen, and removing stress from the body and mind.”

How props help…

“A yoga prop is any object that helps to stretch, strengthen, relax, or improve the alignment of the body. It helps to sustain the practice of asanas for a longer duration, and conserves energy. These props allow asanas to be practiced in a relaxed way, balancing the body and mind actively as well as passively… The yoga asana practiced with props is unique in that it is the only form of exercise which allows both action and relaxation simultaneously. It activates the muscles, tones the body’s organs, and relieves undue mental and physical stress or strain. Props help to increase flexibility and stamina and, at the same time, relax slack and tired muscles. They help to rejuvenate the entire body, without increasing physical fatigue.”

Asana… The poses

Always warm up before practicing these poses. I like to practice 5 rounds of surya namaskara A & 5 rounds of surya namaskara B (sun salutations A & B, 5 rounds each) before I begin. Hold each pose for at least 5 deep breaths. Feel free to hold to supported poses (using blankets or bolsters) for 10-20 breaths. Stay in savasana as long as your body needs!

*As with most all of my posts with photos, the dog is optional, but highly recommended. She reduces my stress too.

Tadasana Urdhva Hastasana – mountain pose with arms stretched up

lindseyogabliss, tadasana urdhva hastasana

Utthita Trikonasana – Extended triangle pose

lindseyogabliss, utthita trikonasana

Utthita Parsvaknasana – Intense side stretch

lindseyogabliss, utthita parsvakonasana variation

lindseyogabliss, utthita parsvakonasana

Ardha Chandrasana – Half moon pose

lindseyogabliss, ardha chandrasana

Uttanasana – intense forward stretch

lindseyogabliss, uttanasana

Prasarita Padottanasana – intense leg stretch

lindseyogabliss, prasarita padottanasana

Adhomukha svanasana – downward facing dog stretch

lindseyogabliss, adhomukha svanasana

Dandasana – staff pose

lindseyogabliss, dandasana

Virasana – hero pose

lindseyogabliss, virasana

Urdhvamukha Janu Sirsasana – Upward-facing bent knee pose

lindseyogabliss, urdhvamukha janu sirsasana

Baddhakonasana – Fixed angle pose (aka butterfly)

lindseyogabliss, baddhakonasana

Paripurna navasana – complete boat pose (supported)

lindseyogabliss, paripurna navasana

Upavista konasana – seated wide-angle pose

lindseyogabliss, upavista konasana

Paschimottanasana – intense back stretch

lindseyogabliss, paschimottanasana

Janu sirsasana – head on knee pose

lindseyogabliss, janu sirsasana

Adhomukha virasana – downward facing hero pose

lindseyogabliss, adhomukha virasana

Parsva Virasana – side twist in the hero pose

lindseyogabliss, parsva virasana

Halasana – plough pose

lindseyogabliss, halasana

Viparita karani – inverted pose (legs up the wall pose) (please excuse the old picture!)

lindseyogabliss, viparita karani

Setubandha Sarvangasana – bridge pose

lindseyogabliss, setubandha sarvangasana

Ustrasana – camel pose

lindseyogabliss, ustrasana

Supta padangusthasana – reclining leg, foot, and toe stretch

lindseyogabliss, supta padangusthasana

lindseyogabliss, supta padangusthasana variation

Supta Baddhakonasana – reclining fixed angle pose (reclining butterfly)

lindseyogabliss, supta baddhakonasana

Supta virasana – reclining hero pose

lindseyogabliss, supta virasana

Savasana – corpse pose

lindseyogabliss, savasana

Happy journey,

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Reference: all quotes and information come from “Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health” by BKS Iyengar

Healing meditation…

What do you do after such a horrible tragedy? If you’re like me, you feel guilty for going on with your everyday life when there are people mourning the loss of their little ones. But what can I do? I have pondered this since I heard and here is my conclusion (with the help of others)…

All you can do is cultivate joy and peace in your own life. When we do this we make the world a more peaceful place. When we are joyful in other’s time of need they can feed off of our healing powers. Trust that in your time of need someone else in the world is cultivating joy for you. This is how our healing powers as a human race work. As a compassionate person it is okay to mourn and have a heavy heart but try not to think of “why” because there is no explanation for such a horrific act.

“Honor those grieving by thinking twice before saying a harsh word or giving someone the finger in traffic. All violences, big or small, affect our fellow humans. Seek to create peace always.” ~Melissa Scott (a fellow Birmingham Yogini)

Here is a beautiful healing mantra you can use to help you send healing powers to those in need:

The healing meditation done with the mantra RA MA DA SA SA SAY SO HUNG is one of the most popular mediations taught by Yogi Bhajan. This meditation can be done alone or in a group for self-healing and to heal others and the world. Those who practice this meditation participate in anchoring the healing vibration on the planet. Do this mantra seated in a comfortable position with your palms facing up and elbows tucked into your sides. I also like to practice this mantra silently during savasana.

ra ma da sa

RA MA DA SA is the earth mantra. This part of the mantra pulls the healing vibration into the physical plane.

SA SAY SO HUNG is the ether mantra. This part of the mantra resonates with the universal healing frequency.

  • RA – Sun
  • MA – Moon
  • DA – Earth
  • SA – Infinity
  • SAY – Totality of infinity
  • SO HUNG – I am Thou

Love on your babies, love on your neighbors; hold them tight and be thankful.

Namaste,

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There’s a pose for that…

Your Immune System.

Are there really yoga poses that can help boost my immunity? Yes, indeed. Iyengar says, “The immune system is the defense mechanism of the body and protects us from disease. Its main agent is the blood, a fluid consisting of plasma and red and white corpuscles or blood cells. It is the white corpuscles that inhibit the invasion of the bloodstream microorganisms. There are two types of immunity: natural and acquired. Yoga strengthens both, and regular practice of the recommended asanas can help to counter the disorders that affect them.”

A practice that includes supported or inverted poses increases the circulation of lymph – a clear, watery fluid that moves through the body picking up bacteria and viruses and filtering them out via the lymph nodes.

Unlike blood, which moves as a result of the heart pumping, lymph moves by muscular contractions. Physical exercise, such as yoga, is key for keeping lymph flowing. The movement of lymph is also affected by gravity, so anytime your head is below your heart – for example, in Uttanasana (standing forward bend) and Sarvangasana (shoulderstand) – lymph moves into the respiratory organs, where germs often enter the body. When you return to an upright position, gravity drains the lymph, sending it through your lymph nodes for cleansing.

The research I have found recommends resting your head on a support in each pose to allow your neck, throat, and tongue to relax fully, thereby encouraging the lymph to flow freely through the nose and throat. Hold each pose for two to five minutes, breathing deeply from your diaphragm for the entire time.

Don’t wait until the sniffles start up to attempt this practice! By that time inversions could agitate both body and mind. Instead, use this sequence to build up your immunity throughout the winter and keep common bugs away!

The sequence… I used poses from the Iyengar method (Path to Holistic Health) along with other poses to help drain the lymph system. Props are used in the Iyengar method to truly relax into the pose and get the full benefits, so use your props if you have them!

  • Setubandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose)

  • Supta Baddhakonasana (reclining fixed angle pose aka. reclining butterfly)

  • Supta Virasana (reclining hero pose)

  • Setubandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose) again.

  • Adhomukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog stretch)

  • Salamba Sirsasana (headstand)

  • Viparita Dandasana (inverted staff pose)… I did not have a chair for a prop so here is me in the full expression of the pose. And Iyengar’s model (from the book) in the relaxing modification.

  • Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulderstand)

  • Halasana (plough pose)

  • Setubandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose) again.

  • Viparita Karani (inverted pose aka. legs up the wall pose)

  • Savasana (corpse pose)… Supported savasana as shown by the model in the book.

  • Ujjayi Pranayama (conquest of energy aka. ujjayi breath)… To be done in savasana (as shown above).
  • Viloma 2 Pranayama (interrupted breathing cycle aka. breath holds)… To be done in savasana (as shown above).

Other holistic ways to boost your immune system… A healthy diet and some natural remedies should do the trick!

Reference: Yoga the Path to Holistic Health (BKS Iyengar), Yoga Journal 2011.

I just wanna be upside-down…

Do you ever have the itch to be upside-down? Or is it just me? Maybe I’m weird. But I’ve always felt random wants to be upside-down. Even before yoga, I remember in my first year of college I would lay on my back and hang my head off the bed. And often, I feel the want to kick up into a handstand at work. I don’t know why. But I crave them all the time!

So recently I’ve wondered, “What is it about inversions that makes me crave them?”

Crave-worthy benefits… 

  • Calms the mind and relieves stress 

A full body stretch upside down can be rejuvenating and help the body to effectively relax. A study conducted by physiotherapist LJ Nose found that EMG activity (a measure of muscle tension) declined over 35% within ten seconds of inverting. Showing how helpful inversions can be in relieving the tension and pain in your muscles that is often caused by stress.

  • Enhance Ability to Concentrate and Remain Focused 

Inversions help increase oxygen flow to the brain, which consumes 25 percent of the body’s oxygen intake.

  • A Positive State of Well Being

Your endocrine system is responsible for hormone delivery. Inversions, especially shouder stands, are recommended for perimenopausal and menopausal women due to the belief that the pose stimulates the thyroid and parathyroid glands, which regulates metabolism. Most inversions will stimulate your pituitary gland, which is your master gland, and promote a positive state of well-being.

  • They are Fun!

When was the last time you went upside down? You probably did it all the time as a child and loved it. Start practicing again today and bring back some of that outgoing childhood spirit!

Other awesome benefits…

  • Helps Improve Circulation (This explains why if you have a headache and go to yoga, it’s gone by the end of class.)

The cardiovascular system is your body’s transportation system, carrying food and oxygen to your body’s cells. It also retrieves blood from your legs and lower torso, carrying it upwards against the force of gravity. Inversion allows your body to work with gravity to ease the circulation process.

  • Strengthens the Immune System

Your lymphatic system, according to Yoga Journal, is a closed pressure system with one-way valves that keep lymph moving to the heart. This system is responsible for waste removal, immune-system response and fluid balance. When your body inverts, this stimulates your lymphatic system and, in turn, strengthens your immune system.

  • Reduce Pain in Overworked Muscles

Athletes prone to stiffness or sore muscles after a workout can benefit from the lymphatic wash provided by inversion. The lymphatic system has no pump, putting the body upside down helps speed up the process of removing waste from the body.

  • Strengthens Ligaments

Ligaments are flexible but not very elastic. They can tear when stretched too much. The gentle reverse loading and movement that occurs while you invert strengthens ligaments and connective tissue.

  • Can Reduce Shrinking 

Most people will lose from 1/2 inch – 2 inches in height during their lifetime because of thinning discs. As a baby, your discs are 90% water. The water content in the discs decreases to 70% by age 70. An active inversion program can help maintain more of your original height.

  • Improve Balance and Body Awareness

Inversion helps to develop balance awareness, which occurs when the upper regions of the inner ear are stimulated.

  • Strengthens the Core

Holding a non supported inversion and moving in and out of poses develops deep strength. This strength is necessary to stabilize yourself upside down.

  • Back Relief

Years of gravity’s pull and spinal compression often wreak havoc on people’s backs, creating pain that most cannot explain. Inverting can be a natural way of counteracting the pull of gravity. EnergyCenter says practicing inversions, especially with the use of an inversion table, can benefit your spinal discs, strengthen your ligaments and soft tissues, and relieve muscle spasms.

  • Decreases Mood Swings

When blood circulation gets fine, this releases neurotransmitters, balances the hormones which make a person feel light hearted and more happy than usual. Inversions are said to control depression, premenstrual symptoms and mood swings.

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Excuse me… I feel the need to go stand on my head.

More reading… Everybody Upside-Down (Yoga Journal.com)

Backbend lover…

Confession: When it comes to my yoga practice I’ve never really liked backbends. But it turns out that two hours per day in the car will make you crave backbends (well, at least for me). Sitting in the car is making me stiff in places I’ve never been before! I’m not making it to near as many yoga classes as I would like but when I do it feels soooo good. So I wanted to share some of the poses with you that I’m loving these days (forward folds, inversions, and backbends, oh my!). If you drive a lot or even sit at a desk all day you may benefit from these poses as much as I have.

The {new} favorites… Photos taken at my favorite spot for an early morning yoga practice: my parents lake house.

*Dog optional. Although I do highly recommend it.

Padangustasana (big toe pose)

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Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel pose)… Possibly the one I crave the most.

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Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (one-legged king pigeon pose)

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Prasrita Padottanasana C (wide legged forward bend)

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Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog)

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Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand)

Still using the assistance of a tree wall for this one but still crave it nonetheless.

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Supta Virasana (reclining hero pose)

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Dolphin pose

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High lunge variation (hip opener)

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Balasana (child’s pose) knees apart for a little hip opener

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Marichyasana I (pose dedicated to the Sage, Marichi)

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Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend)

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Janu Sirsasana (head-to-knee forward fold)

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And of course, most simply… Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog)

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Don’t forget Savasana! (corpse pose)

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*These poses are in no particular order of sequence. Make sure you are warm before practicing these poses and always be mindful of your body and your abilities.

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Shanti,

How the New York Times can Wreck Yoga…

Okay, so I stole that heading from Marshall Hagins, but I loved it too much not to use it. So here’s the article that has gotten so much attention lately…

And here are the responses…
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When I first read the article I wasn’t as worked up as some yogi’s. I took it with a grain of salt knowing that the flaws in anything can be taken out of context and made believable. Yes, it’s unfortunate that the article may scare some people away from yoga. But I think that Leslie Kaminoff said it so well that I just have to use his words… “This article said ‘shoulderstand, plow, and head stand are dangerous.’ It didn’t say, when certain people do it who have certain things going on in their body in a certain way, it can be dangerous. That’s a big fat ‘duh.’ I mean, who didn’t know that?”
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The reason yoga is held so high and has so many health claims is not just simply because of the poses. It’s not simply the activity. It is the state of mind that you fall into while breathing deep and stretching your body in such a way that it feels good. If you go so far that it doesn’t feel good, you shouldn’t be there. Simple as that.
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“When there is a great potential for making money, quality is usually the first thing to be sacrificed. Fast food, anyone? It is unfortunate that this is exactly what we are facing now – yoga has been McDona-fied. It has been reduced from a practice that traditionally demanded dedication, discipline, sacrifice, humility, surrender, love, devotion, and self-investigation – and yes, suffering through rigorous practice – to something that one can now learn to ‘teach’ in a weekend. Or, more popularly, in a mere 200 hours you can become a bonafide, registered yoga instructor. 200 hours is spit. It is a joke. And it is a joke that is leading a tradition – one which, granted, has even in India been subject to ridicule – to an even greater harm.  We have an opportunity, in the West, to bring these transformative teachings to places where they will result in the greatest good. It is true that this is already happening – in schools, prisons, hospitals, with veterans, and as well with people who simply walk into a class off of the street – but it is also true that a rotten apple can spoil the barrel, and the yoga industry apple is a mighty big apple.” ~ Marshall Hagins
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We shall see what The Science of Yoga book has to bring. Hopefully not so many inaccuracies.
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Happy and healthy practice to you,