A place of Harmony Balance and Health

This blog has grown from its base in Ayurveda into a more expansive view of health, wellbeing and spirituality. Mind, body and spirit are explored using Ayurveda, Yoga and Energetic Healing. I hope that you find my posts helpful on your journey.
More information can be found on my new website Harmony Balance Health

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I got a massage room!!



I will very soon have a room on Sundays in Balmain. It's so cute and has amazing energy, a beautiful view of green out the window, art on the walls and lovely people. I am blessed and very very excited!
I will be having discounts for new clients and other goodies to entice people to come and experience an amazing form of massage and healing. Relaxation and rejuvenation.
See my entry on massage.

But basically I will pour warm sesame oil over your body and then treat you to am amazing grounding experience.

Your marmas will be stimulated which will send healing prana into your body. Your physical body that we use for eating walking and daily activities will be sent positive energy. Your subtle energy responsible for the more subtle aspects of our existence will also feel the love of prana. You will leave feeling like a new man or woman.


* This is not a picture of the room. I will put one on when I get one. This is a beautiful room though and I would love that to be the place that I work too. 






Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dandelion


I have become a big fan of Dandelion tea over the last few months. The more I am drinking it the more I am enjoying it. 

I stated drinking it because it is excellent for breasts problems as well as reducing pitta or heat in the body. So I have been drinking it about 2 times a week for the last few weeks or so and find it really satisfying. It is quite bitter and as I don't drink coffee it took a bit to get used too. For this reason it is a really good substitute if you are trying to reduce of eliminate coffee from your diet. 

It helps with the detoxification of fatty and fried foods which is a pretty big part of a lot of peoples lives. If you are also looking to reduce the amount of meat you eat this will help your body detox from that as well. The liver is the second largest organ in the body after our skin and along with the gallbladder plays an important part in the digestion of our food. Both these organs are cleared and cleaned by dandelion root, so is good for anybody who has issues with these two important organs. 

As I said earlier it is beneficial for the breasts and mammary glands as it helps with breast sores, cysts, tumors, suppression of lactation and swollen lymph glands. Have a look on the internet there is quite a bit about the use of dandelion with breast cancer patients. I can vouch for the effectiveness of dandelion in respect to sore, heavy, dense breasts before menstration. I have experienced no pain or discomfort this month leading up to or during menstration. This is a major change form the past months when I had considerable discomfort. Thank you beautiful dandelion!

Dandelion is also used to treat hepatitis, diabetes, edema and jaundice

The last great thing about dandelion - it grows everywhere! Just go for a walk and I'm sure you will find some. How lovely for nature to provide us with something so beneficial in such abundance!

I have mine with a little milk and honey. Enjoy!

* Ayurveda cautions people with high vata from using dandelion. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Postpartum therapies


There have been lots of beautiful babies come into my life this year and another just entered the world on the early hours of Saturday morning so I thought I'd have a look in my books to see what Ayurveda has to offer the postpartum mum.

I think we tend to focus a lot on the mother while she pregnant but once the baby has been born all the focus goes off the mother and onto the baby. This is of course fantastic for the baby but what about the mothers who have just spent 9 months making life and then hours in pain bringing it into the world. How much TLC do you think they need? In India things are different. The mother is really well looked after at least the first 2 months after the baby has arrived. They are also given ample help and support so they can gain their strength and nurse their baby. Their housework will be done by family and friends, their meals will be made, they are encouraged to sleep when the baby does and  they are massaged everyday!  I'm sure a lot new mothers living in a state of exhaustion would appreciate such treatment.

I have never had a baby so have no idea what happens to a woman during and after pregnancy. I can only imagine that there are a lot of changes on all levels, their body, mind and spirit would be all in a state of change and adjustment. As for how full of love for another life they must be that is something i guess only a parent can truely understand. How life altering becoming a mother must be! earlier this year I was able to see my nephew being born and have nothing but  total respect for any woman who has experienced labor!

So what are some Ayurvedic recommendations? Firstly, as is always so important in Ayurveda - look after your agni. Follow the rules on the link and make sure you are getting all the nutrients, flavours and energy possible from your food. Check your tongue. Are the edges scalloped? Does it look like your tongue has an imprint of your teeth on it? If it does you are not assimilating your nutrients and need to tend to your agni, your digestive fire.

Teas

Fenugreek tea is an easy and simple digestive tea that is also good for postpartum mums as it tones and strengthens the body.

  • 1 teaspoon of fenugreek seeds (can find them in most supermarkets in the spice section)
  • hot water
  • honey optional

Another plus for those new mummies is increases milk production.
Other benefits of the tea is it strengthens the reproductive and respiratory systems and is good for anybody who has issues with water retention. 
It's a hot spice so it will increase pitta but will bring down both kapha and vata.

Cumin, coriander and fennel tea is also recommended.
  • Just add the three types of seeds to boiled water or simmer in a small pot for about ten minutes.
It is a good digestive, and will help with milk production. It will also regulate hormones so a great all round therapy for recovering mums.
It is also good for the nursing baby. If the mother drinks this tea regularly then the babies digestion will improve and gas will become less of an issue. 

Borrage, raspberry, nettle mint tea. Yes a little more obscure but a recommendation no less. Borrage is also known as starflower so ask around you might be able to get it where you live. It's worth a try.

Gokshura (Goatshead) tea.  From what I can gather goatshead is an obnoxious weed in the States. So if you happen to life in that part of the world get picking!
Apart from it being a reviving tea postpartum mums, gokshura also calms and soothes bladder infections,  benefits the kidneys and encourages fertility.

Essential oils

Sore nipples - 1 drop of rose oil to 20 mls of almond oil. Massage gently  but make sure you wash off completely before breast-feeding.

Post -natal depression- a jasmine is good for hormonal adjustments so lay in a bath with some jasmine oil, put a few drops on your pillow or burn it in an oil burner.  Ylang-ylang and clary are also good too.

Lactation- 2 drops of fennel oil in honey water every 2 hours helps to increase milk.

Mastitis- make a compress of 1 drop of geranium oil, 1 drop of lavender and 2 drops of rose in 850 mls of cold water.

Perineum healing- 2 drops of cypress oil and 3 drops of lavender in a shallow bath. Cypress with its constricting properties and astringency will work to close raw blood vessels. While lavender is healing, encourages new skin growth while protecting any raw areas.

Yoga

  • Chair Seated twist- Sit on a chair facing forward,  turn to the left and hold onto the back of the chair, twist and place your left hand on the outside of the right thigh. Repeat on opposite side.
  • Reclining twist- lay on your back and with your right leg bent so that the foot is on the floor. Twist to the left and let your knee drop. Hold your knee in place with your left hand and look over your right shoulder. repeat on opposite side.
  • Feet up wall - lay on your back and place you feet up the wall.
  • Boat with feet against wall. Lay on your back and bend your knees so that your feet rest against the wall and your knees form a 90 degree angle.
  • Bridge- lay on your back with your knees bent about hip width apart. raise your hips into the 
  • Knee to chest- lay on your back and hug your knees to your chest.
  • Corpse - lay straight on your back and relax.


All these poses are great for rebuilding the body after pregnancy and labor and for strengthening the body 




for motherhood. Hold all poses for a few breaths, breathing deeply focusing on the breath and sinking into the pose. 


* The above section on essential oils and yoga is taken from "The Ayurvedic Encyclopedia: natural secrets to Healing, Prevention and Longevity" By Swami Sadashiva Tirtha. Thank you Swami for your gift of knowledge.

And last but not least as I mentioned earlier all new mummies should be given a daily massage for at least 30 - 40 days after delivery. The baby should also be massaged and this should continue well into childhood.

Warm sesame oil is poured over the mother and massaged in. Use long strokes along the limbs and circular motions around the joints.  Allow the oil to soak in before gently washing it off. Pay special attention to the back and abdominal region. Sesame oil is very warming and good for balancing vata. It is also good for calming the nervous system, alleviating fatigue tone the uterus and detoxify the body. and on top of all that it feels amazing, relaxes you completely and nourishes the soul. It's a great way for the mother's partner to connect with her and support her. it's also a great way for both parents to bond and nourish their child.

So I hope that this helps all new mums and that they have a beautiful recovery and enjoy the beauty of motherhood.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Gunas




The Gunas are a major aspect of Ayurvedic and Yogic philosophy. They are the three qualities of nature that all things are made up of - energy, matter and consciousness. They are in everything that we see, hear and touch. They are in our food, in our bodies and in our mind. Just like the doshas these three qualities are evident in each and everyone of us but the proportional balance will differer due to our thoughts, feeling and actions. Let's have a look at each one individually.

Tamas is mass, it is heavy and dull. It is the quality that holds us back or keeps us down. Like all things in nature it has a purpose and without the mass of our body, our muscles and bones we would not be able to stand. Without the Earth we would have nowhere to live. Most of us live a very tamassic life, we sit for hours, drive everywhere and do little exercise. This is not good and does not help us in any way. So we need to work towards reducing our tamassic way of living as much as we can.  

Rajas is action and transformation. It is what we need to move and change. It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning and keeps the planets circling the Sun. The energy of rajas is very positive but we must remember that although fire is helpful in many ways if it not controlled it can be destructive.  We need to watch that we do not have too much rajas in our lives. 

Sattva is clarity, light and and illumination.  It is a state of peacefulness and serenity. Sattva is what we want most of in our lives. It is the goal of meditators, yogis and most people on a spiritual path. It is harmony and bliss and is achieved but reducing both tamas and rajas and following a sattvic diet and lifestyle. 

As BKS Iyengar said in his book ‘Light on Life” - “The interplay of these three forces are of crucial importance in your yoga practice. You have to learn to identify and observe them in order to be able to adjust their proportion and as you penetrate inward, bring the beauty of sattva to the surface.”
                                                                             
So how do we adjust the proportions? How can we change our guna balance? Well we can start with our agni- what eat and how we digest it. We have all heard the expression “you are what you eat”, it is very, very true. What happens when we eat a big bowl of pasta in a rich creamy sauce? We feel heavy. The food is heavy so we too become heavy. How about a chilli? It’s hot a spicy. When we eat it we become hot. So as you can see the guna quality of the food will effect our bodies. The ancient rishis of India studied food and determined the qualities of the gunas in what we eat and categorised them accordingly.  You will notice that not only are different kinds of foods listed, but also their tastes and preparations, as all will effect the quality.



Tamasic foods

Meat
Poultry
Fish
Eggs
Onions
Garlic
Fermented foods
Over ripe
Left over foods
Alcohol
Tobacco and other intoxicants
Foods that are over-processed, no longer fresh and difficult to digest are tamasic.



Rajasic foods

Hot
Bitter
Sour
Dry
Salty
Coffee
Meat
Fish
Eggs
Chocolate
Many ground foods 
Eating in a hurry


Sattvic foods
Light soothing and easy to digest
Sprouted whole grains
Fresh fruit
Land and sea vegetables
Pure fruit juices
Nut and seed milk and cheese
Legumes
Nuts
Seeds
Sprouted seeds
Honey 
Herb teas
Sattvic foods are those that don’t aggravate the stomach at all.


Agni is our digestive fire and usually when people hear the word digestion they think about food. But what about all the things that we digest everyday that we have not eaten? The world is full of images and sounds that we digest with our eyes, ears and thoughts every second of every day. Images and sounds that are what I call junk food for the soul. Just as I don’t want to eat a big mac, I don’t want to watch or see violence. It makes going to the video store a real challenge! TV is another big mind and spirit polluter and at the start of the year I stopped watching it. Apart from the programs that TV is filled with there are all those commercials. That subtle brainwashing that we need certain things, or need to be a certain way to make us happy, part of the norm or to show our success.  I feel so much better since I turned it all off. I feel more at peace and less agitated not having to digest such negative images and thoughts. How can I meditate and find peace if I am surrounded with the very opposite?  

So to feed you mind well. Turn off the TV, put on some lovely music, light some insence and read some spiritual or positive books. Talk to your children, partner or friend. Sing, dance, draw, do something that makes you happy and leads you to a good place. Give without wanting anything in return. Stop thinking so much and pushing your self. Learn to meditate and join a yoga class. If your in a bit of a rut or have lost motivation then work on your will power. Set a goal and stick to it. Get off the couch and out into the world. Live life as it was intended, full of positive energy, positive thoughts and positive words. 



Eat sattvic, live sattvic, be sattvic!




Friday, August 13, 2010

The Kapha reduction plan continues


So how is your fight against kapha going I hear you ask. (Well nobody has actually asked anything but I am imagining that someone out there is wondering how it's all going but they are just too shy to comment.)

Well things are going really well. Not eating all the yummy sweet foods has been hard but I am so proud of myself for keeping with it (what a good little vata I am!) Of course there have been times when I have been a bit naughty and had a bit of cake or a biscuit but I have kept it well under control. I am taking a far more accepting approach to this. All or nothing is not the answer.Deprvation only increases desire. If I deprive myself it will only make it harder and then I will eventually break and when I do I will go crazy. Then I will feel bad and it will all be over. It's better to know what you should avoid but understand it's not the end of the world to have an occasional treat.  It will actually help to keep on track. 

It was really tough at first and it was really interesting as I was able to see my bad habits. So many times when I was hungry and wanted a snack I would eat something sweet. A chocolate, cake,or a pastery. And if I wasn't eating something sweet it would be a nut bar. All these things are going to increase kapha and create ama and they have.  It also showed me how the food industry is designed around eating these kinds of food. Cafes and convenience stores are full of lovely tempting food that is not really what we should be eating on a regular basis but many of us do. But what are the alternatives? For me it has been fruit or sheer old abstinence. I think a lot of my snacking was just habitual. After work is generally the worst. I found that certain places or activities would trigger my mind to think about food. I also found that if I ignored it and thought about something else I would be able to control myself. The mind is a very powerful and manipulative thing. We need to earn how to understand it and not let it control us.

Apart from drastically cutting down on all sugary food I have also reduced heavy food. So I made a lot of stir fries or steamed vegetables. I also used heating spices, ginger and garlic to increase heat, fire up my agni (digestive fire)  and help to burn the excess kapha and ama.  I have also reduced the amount I drink. I used to sip all day and probably would have 1-2 liters of water a day. Probably a good idea in summer for a vata like me but not really necessary during winter. As I am trying to reduce kapha, and kapha is water or liquids, I thought it was another thing to focus on.

An interesting and surprising result has taken place sine I started this diet. I have been avoiding all spicy and heating food to try to control my eczema but I decided to not worry about it, get my kapha and ama under control and deal with my eczema later. As predicted my eczema flared up with in a few days but then it went away altogether! The only thing I can say is that I burnt out all the ama that had been causing the problem. It had been trying to leave my body (through my skin) but was unable to. All the heat was just what it needed. I am very very happy as I have had this latest case for over 4 years!! Other things that may have contributed could be the B12 supplements I started taking and the sandalwood oil I started using instead of hand lotion. I'm sure they all played a part but I firmly believe all those heating herbs, ginger and garlic literally burnt it out of my system!

Here's another interesting story that highlights how food affects the body. Last week I couldn't eat the lunch I had prepared and ended up eating pasta. I haven't had pasta for ages and generally don't eat it a lot anymore. But I didn't have much choice (anybody who is vegetarian knows what I'm talking about) so bought it. That night my boyfriend was home and decided to cook and would you believe he decided to make pasta! He never cooks pasta or wants pasta but he hadn't cooked for a while and I was on my way to yoga so I smiled and told him he was great.  It was great but so opposite to what I should be eating. Not only was it pasta but it had a creamy, eggy sauce! To make matters even worse he told me that he had put some aside for my lunch. So again I smiled and thanked him and ate pasta the next day. Sitting on the bus after work I was so tired. I was yawning and felt very unmotivated. It got me thinking about how often this had happened in the past. I hadn't had an unusually busy day and the only thing I could think of was the pasta. Heavy food makes you heavy, dull and slow. I'm glad it happened as it showed me how easily we are affected my our diet and how Ayurveda is such an intelligent science of the body. And to think all these theories were developed thousands of years ago, way before that were laboratories and advanced scientific technologies. These people listened to their bodies and thought about what it all meant and from that they devised the therapies and practices that I am studying.

Other changes I have noticed have been an increase in energy and motivation. I have also noticed a more positive outlook but maybe that has something to do with my morning affirmations that I have started doing again since I wrote about the  morning routine

So I will keep at it and continue to keep you updated with my progress. I am planning to do a gall bladder cleanse once I have a free weekend to stay home a poop all my toxins out. Hopefully that will be in the next few weeks as I 'm keen to get rid of all the toxins that have lodged in my body and taken up residence. Once they are out I will be an new woman and everything that I do will be even more beneficial. 



Glorious Ghee


Ghee is clarified butter and highly valued in Ayurveda. It is used therapeutically because it is a yogavahi, which means it carries the medicinal properties of herbs into the 7 tissues of the body. This means that the absorption and assimilation of the medicinal properties and nutrients of whatever herbs you use when you cook with ghee will be greatly improved. 

A lot of people have issues with adsorption. They may even be eating a really healthy diet but if they have problems with absorption then all those good nutrients will be of little benefit. So how do you know how well you are absorbing nutrients? Have a look at your tongue! The tongue is used as a form of diagnosis an Ayurveda and can tell a person a lot about their body, especially their organs. Just as the eye is a map of our internal functions in iridology, so too is the tongue. If there are teeth marks (scalloping) along the edges of your tongue than you are not absorbing or assimilating your nutrients as well as you should. The deeper the marks the weaker your assimilation is. So if you do feel you are not getting the best out of your food then consider switching to ghee for your cooking. 

Some other benefits of ghee include:
Ghee is really easy to make and stores in the cupboard for ages. It makes all food taste so much better. I pretty much use it for all cooking where oil is required.

How to make Ghee

What you need:
  •  a block of organic unsalted butter
  •  a saucepan (a heavy one if you have it)  
  •  a sieve or cloth for straining.
I think it's really important to use organic butter. As with all products that are animal based organic is always the best option. Animals are given so many chemicals these days to make them grow faster, fatter or whatever and when you eat something from an animal treated that way you in turn eat all those chemicals. 

What you do:
  • Put the butter in the pan and place it on medium heat until the butter melts.
  • Reduce the heat and continue to cook.
  • Do not cover.
  • Gently stir occasionally.
  • After about 12- 15 minutes it will start to bubble and splatter a bit then it will go quite.
  • It will start to smell like popcorn and will have foam on the top. When the foam has started to brown the ghee is done.
  • Take it quickly off the heat so it does not burn. (If it has a nutty smell and is brown then it is burnt)
  • When it has cooled but is still warm and in a liquid state pour it through a sieve or clean cloth into a clean jar. 
So there you have it - simple, delicious ghee.

* As you can imagine being made from butter it is fattening and should be avoided by people who have     issues with their weight.
  It is also advised that anyone suffering from high cholesterol be cautious of using ghee.
  People suffering from high ama are also advised to avoid ghee until ama has cleared


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Easy, nutritious lunch for work


Here is a great idea for a nutritious hot lunch that I got from an Ayurvedic cooking class my teacher runs. It's called a thermos lunch and it's so, so easy. 

All you do is heat up some spices, throw them in a thermos with some rice and lentils, add some boiling water and close the lid. When you open it at lunch time it's hot, cooked and waiting for you. 

I made it today and it was so nice to eat something fresh and hot. Usually I take something out of the freezer (leftovers) and microwave it for lunch. So I was thinking that's a lot of left overs and a lot of microwaved food. Even though when I make my dinner I make everything from scratch, so I can really limit the amount of processed food I have, once it is frozen and reheated there is very little nutritional value left. In summer it's not a problem because I just make salads or wraps or something but in winter it's a bit tricky having something hot and fresh. This is the perfect solution! 

With the spices I dry roast them first then put them back in the fry pan with a little ghee add the lentils and rice so that they get coated and then put them in the thermos. You can also add veggies for some added nutrition if you like. It takes about 10 minutes, not any longer than you would take to make a salad or a sandwich. You can choose the spices according to your dosha, your current imbalance, what you have or what you feel like. Experiment and see what happens. 

This is a great adaption of a very traditional Indian meal called a kichadi (ki-ch-ree).  A Kichadi is a very important part of Ayuredic healing because it is nutritinal, suits all doshas and is very easy to digest. 

When I was eating it today at work my coworker commented that it looked like gruel but don't let that put you off. I prefer my boyfriends comparison. He is Japanese and when I first made it he called it zen food. So that is now how I think of it and I think it's a really good description. 

* Make sure you get a good thermos as the first time I tried this I opened it up to find raw rice and lentils. I took it back and got the one that you see in the picture. My food was cooked and piping hot.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Dinacharya - The Ayurvedic daily routine



In Sanskrit the daily routine is called the Dinachrya. Din means 'day' and acharya means 'to follow' or 'close to'. So you could think of it as being 'close to the day'.

Making the start of the day something special, bringing some ritual to your life and taking the focus off your job or daily chores is something that I think we could all benefit from. And vatas in particular need the stability that a routine gives them. The routine is quite detailed and will take some readjustments in your life and that is often something we find difficult. You will have to get out of bed earlier, so start slowly if you need to and then once you are feeling the benefits you will have no trouble shaving a little more time off your sleep. Try just one or two things to begin with and then add to them as you become more accustomed to waking up earlier. If you miss a day don't give up and don't be hard on yourself, just try again the next day. Remember that every day is different and new. 

Morning

Wake, ground and connect with the day. As soon as you wake up, before you do anything else, ground yourself. Don't think about what you are going to do, connect with the moment, say "I am here". Then before you get out of bed develop awareness of the day you are about to begin and the connection you will make with the earth. Say a mantra if you wish. It could be "I am going to have a positive day" or "Today is a good day" or "I am going to live today with awareness", whatever works for you.

Wash. Wash your face, scrape your tongue, brush your teeth and empty your bowels. 

Exercise. Jog, swim, or do sun salutations. Get your Prana (energy) moving, remove the stagnation in your body and strengthen your digestive fire.

Self massage. Connect with your body. Massage your whole body if you have time and if not massage your feet, face, head and ears.

Shower. Use a gentle natural soap to clean your body.

Asana and pranayamaDo some yoga poses, use your breath and focus. Pranayama (focused breathing) will make your day more productive by enhancing physical and mental stamina.

Meditation. Sit or lay in a comfortable position with your spine straight. Calm your mind and focus on your breath. 

Breakfast. Eat a healthy breakfast made from unprocessed, whole foods. Eat slowly making sure to chew each mouthful. Be present.

Evening

Be home. When you get home  take the time to make the transition from your work, studies or whatever it was you were doing to being at home. Change your clothes, massage your feet, do some gentle stretches/yoga and focus again on the breath. Lay on your back, relax and come back into your body.

Dinner. This should be the lightest meal of the day. Try not to eat after 6-7 pm as the body does not have time to digest food eaten late at night. A light early meal at night will give you more energy the next day.

Slow down. Turn off the TV, turn the music to something relaxing, read a book, have a bath, relax. Let your body and mind know that your busy day is over and soon you will be sleeping.

Meditate. Breath, centre, bring your focus within.  

Sleep.


mmm....massage



Now onto one of my favourite Ayurvedic therapies - massage.

Ayurvedic massage is a truely nourishing experience. I starts with warm oil being poured over the body. This in itself is a wonderful experience! The oil is specially prepared in relation to  the clients dosha and present imbalances. Once the body is covered in oil the body is massaged using fluid systematic strokes and marma manipulation. The results are increased energy flow, improved digestion, and the release of stress, emotional baggage and toxins. Rejuvenation and detoxification in one completely blissful experience!

This form of massage is also called marma therapy due to this manipulation of marmas. Marmas are Pranic (energetic) centers throughout the body. There are thousands all over the body,  107 are essential points and 43 are most commonly treated. They are the places where we store and hold ama (toxins), stress, and negative emotions. Marmas on the head, face, ears, back, stomach, legs, arms, hands, feet, fingers and toes are all massaged during a treatment, making Ayurvedic massage a true full body massage. 

When marmas are stimulated there is an increase of prana throughout the body. This works to unblock all those stored toxins and negativity allowing for the free flow of energy throughout the body. This energy flow is not on the physical level alone. Marmas are the physical energy centers that connect to subtle energy centers known as the chakras and nadis. So ayurvedic massage is a great therapy for anyone working with their chakras or subtle energies and makes Ayurvedic massage a wonderful therapy for healing the mind and emotions.

Self massage is a great way to work on your body on a daily basis. Warm up some oil and rub it over your body. Go around the joints and down the limbs. Leave the oil on for about 10 minutes and then wash it off with a mild natural soap. Do this every day or several times a week and you will look and feel so much better. 

I have found a room in Balmain Holistic Health. I will be working there with in a few weeks so will let you know the details soon.