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Archive for the ‘Ayurveda’ Category

Chakrasana…wash away the weekend’s toxins in Wheel pose

An early Monday morning Chakrasana (or Urdhva Dhurasana) Wheel pose out in the backyard...mid-modification with the heels off of the ground

An early Monday morning Chakrasana (or Urdhva Dhanurasana) Wheel pose out in the backyard...mid-modification with the heels off of the ground

After a wonderfully sunny and eventful weekend filled with July fourth barbeques and fireworks, I am sure most of us are in the need of one word…DETOX.
Well, you are all in luck, because I have the perfect detox pose for you today…
 

Chakrasana

The name of this pose comes from the Sanskrit term chakra, meaning ‘wheel’, and asana, meaning ‘pose’.
An alternative name for this pose is Urdhva Dhanurasana, stemming from the words ‘elevated’ or ‘upward’, Urdhva’, and ‘Bow’, Dhanur.

The picture above is actually a deepened variation on the pose in which the heels lift off of the gound, while the tailbone presses towards the sky and the feet walk closer to the hands and then the heel release back to the ground after.

Wheel pose acts as a cleansing tonic for the body.
This exhilirating pose has actually become a part of my daily morning practice, after surya namaskar, because it increases confidence, clears my head and soothes my mind, leaving me filled with vitality for the rest of the day.
The pose is very popular in Kundalini and Hatha yoga, in which the pose may be held for upwards of 3 minutes. When held this long, the full respiratory and meditative benefits may be received.

When just starting out, I recommend practicing the pose about 3 times, consecutively, per practice. Push up into the pose and hold for a few breathes, increasing the time you stay up each time. Breathe deeply when up in the pose through the nose using ujjayi breathe, or “the ocean breathe”.

Use Ujjayi Breathe, the ocean breathe, in this pose to cleanse and revitalize....each new breathe is a new wave (photo taken by my dad while visiting me in Cape Town, South Africa last Spring...thanks dad!)

Use Ujjayi Breathe, the ocean breathe, in this pose to cleanse and revitalize....each new breathe is a new wave (photo taken by my dad while visiting me in Cape Town, South Africa last Spring...thanks dad!)

When coming down, release to the ground slowly, close your eyes, and lie down for a few breathes with knees remaining bent and hands on your stomach.

Notice and perceive the sensations through your body and if you see anything mentally. Sometimes, coming down from bow can be a clarifying experience for certain thoughts, visualizations and emotions.

Release the old toxins in your body and create something new and beautiful in wheel pose... (photo courtesy of worldofstock.com)

Release the old toxins in your body and create something new and beautiful in wheel pose... (photo courtesy of worldofstock.com)

The pose tones your digestive and respiratory systems, helping to release toxins out of your body. Doing chakrasana frequently can help your reproductive system and increases flexibility in your spine, hip flexors, wrists, elbows, biceps, triceps, legs, glutes, and shoulders. The pose improves physical and mental stamina, especially if you hold it for longer periods of time, and can help prevent osteoporosis.

The pose  is a mood enhancer and can help treat symptoms of depression, while it aides in the function of the thyroid and pituitary gland.

An advanced variation on this pose is Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana from the Sanskrit words for ‘one’, Eka, and ‘foot’, Pada. It is performed by shifting the weight onto one foot and lifting one leg to a 45 degree angle, or higher, and holding for a few breathes.

For a visualization of how the more basic  pose should be done at abc-of-yoga.com… click here.

You can also find variations of this pose in B.K. Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga” in the section on the Viparita Dandasana Series. To order the book from Amazon, click here.

The philosophy behing Chakrasana:

The pose invokes the “Wheel of Life”  from Hindi and Buddhist culture. The Wheel of Life is present in everything from Hindi texts, to the theory of the energy chakras, to visual art in Tibetan mandalas. The Wheel of Life, or Devanagari, in Ayurveda represents the balance we must find within ourselves and all the elements in our external and internal world. 

The Devenagari  Wheel of Life

The Devenagari "Wheel of Life"

However, in Tibetan  Buddhism, the Wheel of Becoming, or  Bhavacakra, can be understood as the cycle of samsara that we repeatedly experience until enlightenment and nirvana is reached, and we can escape it.

The Tibetan Buddhist Wheel of Becoming or Cycle of Samsara

The Tibetan Buddhist "Wheel of Becoming" or "Cycle of Samsara"

In both interpretations, the visualization of the wheel is represented through spokes. In Ayurveda, the spokes are filled with different elements to be balanced, while in the Tibetan understanding, the spokes represent the six forms of unenlightened existence.

Former Tibetan Buddhist monk, Losang Samten, working on a sand mandala of the Wheel of Life

Former Tibetan Buddhist monk, Losang Samten, working on a sand mandala of the "Wheel of Life"

A practice some Tibetan Buddhist monks partake in is the creation of beautifully intricate mandalas of the “Wheel of Life” made with sand, and then the destruction of them. It is a practice of no-attachment to one’s achievements. I was fortunate enough to witness a creation and destruction of a “Wheel of Life” sand Mandala by former monk, Losang Samten.

Visit Losang Samten’s official site here.

A close up of Losangs work from www.tusconcitizen.com

A close up of Losang's work from http://www.tusconcitizen.com

The Self is the hub of the wheel of life,

And the sixteen forms are only the spokes.

The Self is the paramount goal of life.

Attain this goal and go beyond death!

Prashna Upanishad

Note: To [prepare for the pose, warm up with other spinal flexibility related poses (such as Bow and Bridge). You will not want to do this pose if you have had injuries to you back, shoulders, elbows, or wrists, or if you have carpel tunnel, a headache, high blood pressure or heart problems. Always attempt a new pose in the presence of a seasoned yoga instructor!

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‘Wine’ not?

Okay so drinking wine may not lead us to spiritual enlightenment, and it may be frowned upon in  efforts to cleanse oneself…but something I have learned in my life is “everything in moderation”.

some red wine in moderation is good for the skin, heart and soul!

some red wine in moderation is good for the skin, heart and soul!

Wine, red wine in particular, does have its health benefits in its restorative ‘reservatols’, as many of you know. Red wine (a glass per day) can decrease cholesterol and decrease your risk of heart disease, heart attack , and diabetes.

In Ayurveda, red wine is called arista and is known for all these benefits and also helps decrease the effects of the aging process by relaxing blood vessels. There are even wine spas in India, meanwhile wine facials have become popular in some places like Jaipur! These wines, however, are made with a more herbal base than other international wines. They incorporate fennel seeds and other unusual ingredients, that, when applied to the skin, can draw out impurities. For more info on wine facials in India click here.

Indian woman picking grapes (photo courtesy of static.guim.co.uk)

Indian woman picking grapes (photo courtesy of static.guim.co.uk)

Wine + facial + India = Im there! photo courtesy of rajasthantravelportal.com

Wine + facial + India = I'm there! photo courtesy of rajasthantravelportal.com

Red wines in general contain antioxidants and Organic wines are now becoming a new trend in the business despite the argument that organic wines don’t contain the sulfites necessary to produce “good” wine. Just head to your local wine store and ask the manager what they recommend for organic wines, they will probably have a few in stock.

Here are some tasty organic wines I have found recently….for a primer on organic wines…click here

some award winning wines from Frey (click for website)

some award winning wines from Frey (click for website)

My dad and I enjoyed this Organic Syrah from the North Coast of California…partially because their name was Frey…at $13.99 it was a great, medium acidity, low tannin, fruity and moderately sweet wine with light body and a misleading tart smell, but it wasn’t tart at all! Hints of cinnamon…mmmm (freywine.com)

Bonterra....makes me want to move to northern California

Bonterra....makes me want to move to northern California

bottle of Bonterra organic merlot

bottle of Bonterra organic merlot

We loved this Organic Merlot from Bonterra in Mendocino County, CA (2006). At $15.99 it was a little more expensive, but a good oaky and soft subdued simi-dry wine. (bonterra.com)

Black Swan Shiraz-Merlot

Black Swan Shiraz-Merlot

For a good cheap wine try this Australian Shiraz Merlot blend by Black Swan (2008) at only $6.99 (we found ours at Trader Joe’s)  it was a steal!

Carmenet Cabernet Franc Moon Mountain Estate from Chalonewinegroup.com

Carmenet Cabernet Franc Moon Mountain Estate from Chalonewinegroup.com

And if you’re looking to splurge (for around $35) try this Carmenet Cabernet Franc Moon Mountain Estate (1998) from the chalonewinegroup.com…with a full body and hints of roasted chiles, concentrated figs an other dried fruits…its magical.

A great idea, especially in these economic times, is to ‘google’ some local vineyards and go have a free wine tasting! great for a first date or weekend day trip with your girl/guy friends!

Buying locally can be a great way to support local businesses in the economy and find more natural wines. My friend James (the running partner) and I, had an impromptu wine tasting at the previously mentioned Russell Orchards in Ipswich a few weeks ago. It was a foggy morning, much like today, and the manager brought out some fantastic homegrown fruit wines. We ended up going home with four bottles at about $13 a bottle! These fruit wines have a lower alcohol content (about %11) but were wonderfully original and made from fruit grown right on the farm. Russell Orchards gave us a pamphlet of their different types of wine and what they would taste good with (from Strawberry wines to Blueberry wines to Dandelion wines and many more).

photo of Russelll Orchards Cherry wine...click for their website

photo of Russell Orchards Cherry wine...click for their website

I fell in love with Russell Orchards Dry Blueberry Wine while their Raspberry Peach is a bestseller!

Another local winery...Alfalfa Farm Winery (click here)

Another local winery...Alfalfa Farm Winery (click here)

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Rain, Rain, Go Away….I feel like I’m in Wuthering Heights…or a depressing British novel…All of us in the northeastern region of the U.S. need a mental/sensual pick-me-up STAT!

Ayurvedic solution: Orange!

courtesy of strawberryhedgehog.com

courtesy of strawberryhedgehog.com

A yoga teacher of mine informed me last week that the scent of an orange is an instant vitality booster and energy driver! So I immediately ran to whole foods, where my mom and I stood in the natural oils and essence section for a good half and hour while we smelled every natural soap/oil/candle that looked orange to us. We had a blast and it was true: after each whiff, we became more and more energetic…and were chatting like little school girls in a mall.

Here are some orange-scented steals we found- great natural energy boosters for a bargain!


Grandpa's natural Orange Essence Soap (direct link)

Grandpa’s Orange soap is a great buy for its scent, all-natural body-softening cleansers- only about 3 bucks at Whole Foods!

Bergamot Orange essential oil

Bergamot Orange essential oil

This “Uplifting” Organic Bergamot-orange essential oil is wonderful and you can find it here

Tsi-las Fiori DAranico

Tsi-la's Fiori D'Aranico

These gorgeous and NATURAL  eau de parfum mini’s are made by Tsi-la and are a splurge at $45 bucks a pop- but the delicate bottles and enchanting scents are spell-binding. The company makes 100% alcohol-free andnatural perfume that actually fight free radicals and boost your skins immunity! The Fiori d’aranico and Ilang Ilang are infused with uplifting citrus scents…what economic downturn?

My yoga teacher also informed me that visualizing orange colors and wearing orange clothes also revitalizes the senses.

Luckily a few weeks ago I found these Orange Paisley embroidered pillows on clearance at one of my fave stops: Pier 1. Adorable on some living room sofas, or an instant pick me up if they are in your bedroom. The backs of them are also a wonderfully soft orange pattern.

Orange Paisley PIllow from Pier1 (direct link)

Orange Paisley PIllow from Pier1 (direct link)

This citrus-ly chic dress from Anthropologie is a must have for the summer to brighten up everyone around you during these doldrum days….

Final Note Dress (Direct Link here!)

"Final Note" Dress (Direct Link here!)

I recall one yoga teacher informing me once that keeping oranges in your freezer is a great tool for stress. How? Instead of a stressball, grab one out of your freezer when you are stressed, and squeeze it the same way. The temperature will cool your hand and demeanor, while the scent and color will give you a joyful lift!

Another tip: In true Indian Ayurvedic tradition- make an Orange Lassi (kind of like a milkshake) using organic yogurt, some suga, a little cinnamon and about 3 freshly squeezed oranges…blend and enjoy

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