Local Food is the New Super Food (Summer)

Acai, Maca, Goji Berries, what do all these foods have in common?  They are considered super foods, but what if there is an alternative in your own back yard that could be even more healing?  Foods that grow naturally and easily in the area that you live, work best for calming the doshas and treating issues that are common to your area.

Benefits of Locally Grown Food- cheaper (no travel expenses), naturally calms doshas, more prana (energy, which starts decreasing as soon as a plant is picked).

Summer is considered a Pitta time of year, depending on your location though there may be other qualities.  In Fort Collins, Colorado where I live the *windy, dry desert adds more of a Vata quality to every season.  Foods that grow in the summer digest quickly and are high in prana (energy) for increased outdoor activities. 

Farmers market is one of the best places to guarantee freshness, but you can also buy produce that is in season at your grocery store as well to get the natural benefits.

Cooling Local Foods

Greens (Astringent and cooling)- Kale, Romaine, celery, cucumbers.  Tricky heating greens- Spinach, Mustard Greens, Brussels Sprouts.

Fruit- Ripe sweet fruits, are considered cooling, and help calm Pitta.  Tricky heating fruits- oranges, tomatoes, pineapples, grapefruit.  Fruit can be hard to digest, try eating fruit first during a meal or away from other foods.

Omegas– Fresh Water Fish and Avocados.  (Red meat and salt water fish are heating and are recommended in small amounts during the summer.)

*Most cactus are Natural Laxatives that grow in the dessert, where the high winds and dehydration can cause constipation.  Some laxatives such as Senna can be habit forming and it is best to work with digestive herbs like fennel, or the famous mixture Triphala to help bring about proper elimination.

Healing With Nature (The Sky’s the Limit)

IMG_4127I recently returned from visiting my family in Wisconsin, it was so fun and beautiful.  Leafy green trees everywhere.  Now I’m back in Fort Collins, which is a high elevation dessert with its golden hues and gorgeous sunsets.  August 10th I will be up in the mountains for the Healing with Nature: Rocky Mountain Meditation Immersion.

An Ayurvedic Look at Healing with the Sky

Did you know that watching the clouds pass across a beautiful blue sky for 10 minutes helps erase hundreds of visual impressions (stressors like blinking lights, tv, computer ext.)?  You don’t even have to go outside to get the effects, you can turn your office chair and look out the window.IMG_4598

Sunset is a very healing time, its golden hue is very nourishing and helps heal the eyes.  Watching the sunset also helps your body’s inner clock relax and start preparing to go to bed.  You can simulate this in your house by slowly lessening the amount of lighting in your house as you get closer and closer to going to bed.  There is even a computer program that runs on a timer and slowly gets dimmer and dimmer.

IMG_3987Want to learn more about the healing properties of nature?  Join me for the Healing with Nature: Rocky Mountain Meditation Immersion August 10th from 9am-2pm.  Explore the healing qualities of Nature, through guided meditation, intuition, and time-honored tools and techniques for working with and interpreting nature for healing.  It is your choice of what you are asking to receive guidance and healing for, whether it is for healing a marriage, a nagging physical pain, stress, exct.  You will be able to use the tools you learn, to continue your healing journey at home.  Click here for full itinerary.

How to Read Your Tongue

Traditional Medicine has known for some time that the tongue is a tiny map of the body’s organs.  By knowing a couple of things to look for you can get a rough idea of what you need to focus on to get healthy.  Here is a simplified version of how to read your tongue.IMG_3240The tongue is one of the only places on the body you can physically see ama/toxins.

1.  Ama on the tongue shows up as a sludgy type of mucous that will coat an area of the tongue.  Ama will show up as 3 different colors:

Yellow is Pitta.

Grey is Vata.

White is Kapha.

(Ama is usually a sign that there is stagnation in the area of the tongue it is covering.)

Tongue scraping is a great method whenever there is ama on the tongue to help remove toxins from reentering the digestive system, it also helps remove bacteria that causes bad breath.

2.  Cracks in the tongue are a sign of dehydration.  Deep cracks are a sign that someone is severely dehydrated in the tissues for a long period of time.  (Cracks are considered overall as a sign of Vata imbalance.)

Make sure to stay hydrated properly which I talk about in my post Is Water Drying you Out?

3.  Scalloping (which looks like your teeth indented your tongue) is a sign of malabsorption.  Malabsorption can come from:

Not eating enough nutrient rich food.

Fecal matter staying in your digestion for too long (Vata).

Fecal matter eliminating too quickly (Pitta)

Low digestive fire.

The one tip that can help the last three is eating and cooking with neutral spices such as fennel that help bring the digestive fire back into balance.

The best time to check your tongue is before brushing your teeth in the morning.

Do want more information on reading your tongue?  Check out Dr. Lad’s Book, Ayurveda: The Science of Self Healing: A Practical Guide.

 

Don’t forcet to check out the Upcoming Events!

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Is your Digestion a Pain in the ***?

IMG_3104Is your digestion a pain in the leg?  What three-letter word were you thinking?

As we near summer your  digestive fire continues to grow stronger.  You may start to notice a pain in the back of your calf.  A lot of people think it is caused by dehydration or pulling a muscle, but this is actually a Marma Point (Ayurvedic Pressure Point) that correlates with digestion.

The Indrabasti pressure point is found on the center line of the calf almost 2/3rds the way between the ankle and knee.

Three ways to Activate this Point to Relieve Soreness and Improve Digestion:

1.  Gently massage the marma point or arround it.

2. Add  essential oils, diluted with a carrier oil to the point if you have:  Loose stools (Pitta-Fennel, Mint), Constipation (Vata-Chamomile, Lavander, Lemon Grass ) Slow stools (Kapha-Ginger, Black Pepper)

IMG_3105

3.  Yoga poses like  Downward Dog and Warrior one with back heel lifted help gently stretch the point.

Have you noticed this yoga pressure point before?  Let me know in the comments below.

Check out the upcoming Yoga and Ayurveda Events click here.

Is Water Drying You Out?

a toddler drinking water from a garden hose

It is a fact that we need water to survive, but why have you been drinking the alloted 62oz. of water, and you still feel thirsty?

If you think about it when water is referenced from a Spiritual or religious standpoint the literature speaks of water as being purifying and cleansing.  Purification reduces body mass.   Water removes toxins as well as some of the good things like healthy oils, vitamins and minerals if your cells are unable to retain moisture.  This means the 62oz. of water rule only works if your cells are properly hydrated.  Keeping your cells healthy can be even more difficult in Pitta and Vata aggravating climate, such as places that are  dry, windy or hot.

Are My Cells Healthy?

To keep your cells healthy, you need to eat *healthy oils and omegas as well as externally applying healthy oils in the form of Abhyanga.  Healthy cells allow water in and out and retain the proper amount of moisture/suppleness in your skin.  If you try to rub oil into your skin and it doesn’t sink in , or you have post nasal drip, your cells need more moisture. (Note:Keeping your cells hydrated is not the same as bloating.)

*Healthy Oils and Omegas – avocado Oil, Olive Oil, Ghee, Sesame Seed Oil, Salmon, Chia Seeds, Hemp Seeds.

Beverages for Staying Hydrated:  

(These beverages are recommended for people with Pitta and Vata who have trouble staying hydrated. )                                                                                                                                                                            

Recharge is a natural Gatorade you can make your own by diluting juice and water, and add a pinch of salt.

Herbal Tea– helps your cells stay hydrated  Mint is cooling. Hibiscus is great for helping you feel quenched.  Chamomile is grounding and a natural antihistamine (helps with allergies).

Coconut Water-is not only a demulcent, but it also helps as an anti-inflamatory.

What do you use to stay hydrated?  Let me know in the comments below

Interpreting Nature to Allow Healing (Summer Prediction)

MH900438097Snow on May 1st in the high elevation desert here in Fort Collins, CO was not something I would have guessed, but mother nature knows how to take care of herself, and you.  Wet snow is one of the most affective ways of hydrating the desert without causing a flash flood. 

“Our bodies mirror the changing seasons.” -Shiva Rhea

Just like in our bodies we need hydration, but not chugging a bottle of water.  Drinking smaller amounts of fluid through out the day is much more affective and making sure you are getting plenty of healthy oils and fats to keep the hydration in your cells.

The snow also gets rid of weak trees and branches, to help reduce kindling, for possible upcoming fires.  The random snow also causes the trees to have to rebud allowing them to be stronger, work harder, and produce more resilience. 

Two things can be taken away from this for us: 

1.  The snow is allowing us to be more resilient at fighting off viruses, and allowing us to calm down, take a break and regenerate  from all the effects of the fires that increased  respiratory issues, before spring allergies truly start.Bean Sprout

2.  The animals are eating a lot of extra sprouts and roots, which we should copy.  *Sprouts are common for the spring but the continued snow and then regrowth has caused even more.  The cold has caused the tubers/potatoes and winter vegetables to be sweeter and knocked out the beginning of fruit season.  (Spring is usually marked as a Kapha season, but the overall  crazy change in weather is considered Vata.)  The sweet root vegetables allow Vata to ground and the dense sprouts help counteract the Kapha and increase prana.

Fresh Gourmet Salad

*You can buy sprouted pumpkin and sunflower seeds  and dahl at the store, or try sprouting on your own.

Let me know in the comments below how you are dealing with the weather?

To Be, or Not to Be Gluten-Free (Guest Post by Dr. Samantha Brody)

Woman Holding a Baking Tray with Freshly Baked BreadChoosing not to eat gluten is becoming more and more popular. “Faddish,” even. Celebrities are doing it. Chelsea Clinton is doing it. Olympic athletes are doing it. Even Keith Olbermann is doing it.

The thing is, you can’t know something is a fad until it’s passed as a fad.  By definition is short lived. Given how many people feel better on a gluten-free diet, it’s hard for me to imagine that it will be a fad. And just because something’s a fad doesn’t mean that it’s not good for you.

So how do you know if Gluten Free is right for you?

I had been off of wheat for years, intermittently off of gluten. Cutting out gluten on top of being off of wheat didn’t really make a difference….. until it did. I decided to do an anti-inflammatory diet for a chronic shoulder condition I’d developed. My shoulder pain? No change whatsoever. But lo and behold I had another effect I never would have imagined. My state of mind changed profoundly. My little one had just turned five and I was still a bit of a mess on the heels of becoming a mother. I was anxious and irritable more often than I really cared to admit. It wasn’t until I was off of gluten for a month that the cloud lifted and I realized just how much my state of mind was not where it should have been.

In my practice I had always been on the lookout for Celiac Disease for my patients with gastrointestinal issues. I had diagnosed it many times, but after my own experience I started recommending a gluten-free diet to more of my patients. The results have been remarkable. Chronic neurological issues, migraines, digestive disturbance, mood issues, inflammation..…were all vastly improved if not eliminated from cutting out gluten.

Is it the answer for everyone? Absolutely not. There are people for whom it does not make a lick of difference. Some people do fine eatingMP900177958 whole wheat and other gluten grains, and it may be the healthier choice for them.  But is it worth a try to see how you feel? As a rule I’d say yes, but swapping out an unhealthy gluten filled diet, for an unhealthy gluten-free diet may not be a fair trial. Be assured there are scads of unhealthy things out there that are gluten-free. For instance, packaged foods that have always been gluten-free but are now being labeled as such for commercial purposes. Take gummy bears for example, or Spam.

If you do decide to give it a try, make sure you work with someone to help you understand what your diet should look like to make it a healthy choice. Avoid processed foods, even if they are gluten-free. Eat plenty of vegetables. Eat plenty of protein. Make sure the food you eat is food. And give it some time. You’ll know if it’s right for you.

Dr_Samantha_web_028Dr. Samantha Brody is a licensed naturopathic physician, acupuncturist, and owner of Evergreen Natural Health Center in Portland, OR. When she’s not seeing patients or blogging, you can find her cranking out her upcoming class series on healthy and easy gluten-free living. She’s a powerhouse speaker and has been a featured in numerous print and online publications including the Wall Street Journal and Shape. Connect with Dr. Samantha on Facebookand Twitteror sign up for her newsletter here.

Spring into Energy and Good Digestion

MP900227568Spring is almost here (March 20th), there have been tiny glimpses of the warming weather.  Spring is Kapha (Earth and Water) when the ice thaws and causes mud and built up pools of water draining off the streets.  Everyone has at least a little Kapha in them, the more Kapha traits you have the more Spring will affect you, causing mucous (mud), lethargy, melancholy and water retention (excess water).  All of these Kapha symptoms cause a dulling of the digestive fire because of  the excess water and earth quality.

10 days before Spring, March 10th marks daylight savings.  The increased sunlight, allows us to be more active to counteract the spring, but it can also cause a disturbance in your digestive system as well.  As the time change sets into effect, your meal time automatically becomes out of alignment, with no fault of your own, shifting forward an hour.  That means that if you normally eat at 5pm your digestive fire is now strong at 6pm.  But don’t worry your digestive fire will figure this out, but it may take up to a week.  This may feel like a sluggish digestion, or feeling your food after you eat it.

Move into Spring with ease:

Roasted Fennel Seeds– Eating this neutral spice before meals helps stoke digestive fire.  If you have more Kapha symptoms you can use dry ginger instead, to remove ama (toxins) and congestion.

Cooked greens, especially Kale- Greens are a natural source of fiber removing ama (toxins) and keeping bowels moving.

Fish Pose/MatsyasanaThis pose is great decongestant for the lungs, increasing oxygen flow and enhancing your mood.  Start laying on your back.  Place palms under sit bones or next to hips palms down.  Push through the forearms, hands and elbows as you lift your heart towards the sky, as if you were being poked with a broom between the shoulder blades.  Feel the biceps rolling outward allowing the shoulder blades to engage down the back.  (This action also activates Marma Points, (Ayurvedic pressure points) at the crease of the arm, where the shoulder and body meet, increasing lung capacity and oxygen absorption.)  Engage the legs pointing through the balls of the feet.

yoga fish

Modification:  Start Sitting with legs extended.  Place palms on the floor 8-10 inches behind you, fingertips pointing towards toes.  Push down through the palms of the hands, shoulders away from the ears. Lift your heart towards the sky, as if you were being poked with a broom between the shoulder blades. Feel the biceps rolling outward allowing the shoulder blades to engage down the back.  Engage the legs pointing through the balls of the feet.

 

Want more Ayurveda right now check out this post I wrote for the Yoga Connection about Kitchari and Cleansing click here.

Are you a runner?  Check out the 31 miles in 31 day challenge and learn how you could win a FREE Yoga Coaching for Runners session. Click here.

Meditation Practice: 5 Things I’ve Learned in 5 Years (Guest Post By Jill Salahub)

meditation22“Many of us are slaves to our minds. Our own mind is our worst enemy. We try to focus, and our mind wanders off. We try to keep stress at bay, but anxiety keeps us awake at night. We try to be good to the people we love, but then we forget them and put ourselves first. And when we want to change our life, we dive into spiritual practice and expect quick results, only to lose focus after the honeymoon has worn off. We return to our state of bewilderment. We’re left feeling helpless and discouraged. It seems we all agree that training the body through exercise, diet, and relaxation is a good idea, but why don’t we think about training our minds?”  ~Sakyong Mipham

At its most fundamental, meditation is the act of focusing your mind, giving all your attention to one thing. This practice can pull us out of our conditioned ways of thinking, habitual ways of being, the stories we tell ourselves about who we are and what is going on, and can ground our experience in reality, the present moment, what’s really happening and who we really are.

In this state, we can allow room for and begin to accept all that is, and in this open space, we are awake and in tune with our fundamental wisdom and compassion, we can remain sane and “keep our seat” no matter what circumstances arise in our environment, no matter what distractions, irritations, thoughts or strong emotions occur.

I’ve regularly practiced meditation for the past five years, have experienced great benefit from it. I could write an entire book about my experience, but for now I’d like to share with you just five of the things I’ve learned as I’ve practiced.
1. There is a style of meditation that is right for you.

Over the past 20 years or so, I have dabbled in meditation, tried many different practices. I have sat alone on the floor of my room with no cushion guided by nothing but a stick of incense and instructions from a book. I have meditated with my eyes open and my eyes closed, on various types of cushions and chairs, in various physical positions and postures, alone and in groups, practiced the styles of many different traditions.

In the end, I determined that Shamatha style meditation, as practiced in the Shambhala tradition, a Tibetan Buddhist lineage, was right for me. This calm awareness, peaceful abiding sitting practice, done with eyes open but gaze soft in order to remain present, to connect with your environment, with reality, is the one that works for me. It is up to each one of us to discover the style that fits us, and no one else should suggest that they know the correct or only way for us to meditate.

2. Meditating for even 5-10 minutes a day can transform your life.

Sometimes when we think of meditating or of starting a practice, we turn it into a big deal. We think we need special gear, chants and mantras, specific kinds of incense, a shrine with all the right elements, a certain kind of attitude before we can even begin. We turn the whole thing into such a big production that we either have a confused experience of it, or we don’t end up practicing at all.

It is good to have genuine intention, to honor the practice, take it seriously, but one must understand that the point is to meditate—to simply be, no big deal, and to do so regularly. Even one minute attempting this state, allowing this open space can have a significant impact.

Think of it this way, if you were a runner, you wouldn’t attempt a marathon your first time out, wouldn’t attempt to go that far during every daily run, but rather you would train, and you would know that if you kept trying you would eventually be stronger, build your endurance and stamina, that your continued effort would add to your health and wellbeing.Woman Placing Palms Together

3. Meditation is not about the cessation of thought.

Some people actually believe that we can somehow force our brain, whose primary function is to think, to be entirely empty, and that this emptiness should be the point of meditation. In the same way we cannot make our eyes stop seeing, we can’t train or bully our mind into stopping what it does. What we can do is place its attention on something and train it to stay there. When thoughts arise, as they will, we can teach it to simply let those thoughts be, to notice them, be aware of them arising and to allow them to dissolve as they will, to soften and relax into the present moment.

4. You will never do it perfectly, that’s not the goal.

As with any other practice, you will have some good days and some bad. Some meditation sessions will feel like the best thing that ever happened to you, and others you will spend the entire time locked in struggle, being hooked by every thought that arises, carried away by every strong emotion. And yet, there is no failure. The fact that you attempt your practice, that you show up and try is what matters.

5. Your practice will follow you off the cushion.

We don’t meditate to become the perfect meditator, “We meditate to wake up and live, to become skilled at the art of living,” (Elizabeth Lesser). We meditate so that we can learn how our mind works, so we can calmly watch how it speeds up and wanders off, and to learn that we don’t need to follow. We practice surrendering to the present moment, letting go of hope and fear, resting with and relaxing into reality. We meditate so that we can become friends with ourselves, accept our full humanity and experience, discover and learn to value our true nature. We practice meditation with the intention of understanding how our mind works, to train it to hold still in sanity, no matter what our external circumstances might be. All of this work and training will follow us off the cushion. Meditation practice can cause a fundamental shift in how we approach and experience our whole life.

Guest Writer: Jill SalahuJillb, you can find out more of her deliciouse writing at http://thousandshadesofgray.com.

In her paid work, Jill Salahub has taught writing at Colorado State University for the past 12 years. As her heart’s work, she’s practiced yoga and meditation for five years, been a writer most of her life, and has been rescued by three dogs. Her superpowers are generosity and gentleness, and she loves to laugh. Jill writes about the tenderness and the terror, the beauty and the brutality of life, and of her efforts to keep her heart open through it all on her blog, A Thousand Shades of Gray (http://thousandshadesofgray.com).