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Monday, January 31, 2011

Cooling down in summer

Ayurveda believes that we are all made up of varying degrees of the five elements; ether, air, fire, water and earth. Summer as you can imagine is a time when we need to pay special attention to the fire element so that we do not become overheated in our bodies, minds and emotions. So if you would like to cool down over the hot summer months follow these simple guidelines to reduce the fire element.
Heating things to avoid:
Spices and spicy food especially ginger and garlic
Alcohol & Tobacco 
Salty, sour or fermented food
Tomatoes, raw onions, yoghurt
Excessive exercise especially when it’s hot
Stressful people and situations
Cooling things to do:
Eat and drink anything sweet 
Drink saffron milk or add saffron to your cooking
Follow a pitta reducing diet (see here)
Give yourself a massage, head and feet will do, with cooling coconut oil
Have cool baths with cooling essential oils such as; chamomile, lavender, sandalwood, geranium, jasmine, lemongrass, peppermint, rose. Or if you’re not into baths burn these scents as incense or in an oil burner.
Drink Aloe vera juice or if you are suffering from sunburn rub the plant pulp straight on the skin
Practice alternate nostril breathing (see here)
Drink herbal teas such as; alfalfa, chamomile, dandelion, hibiscus, licorice, marshmallow, mint, rhubarb, rose. Pop them in the fridge after they have brewed for a refreshing iced tea.
Think nice thoughts and do things that make you happy and bring you peace. 
I know I only recently put up a post about this topic but had to write a piece for my clinics newsletter and found some more information so decided to share it with you. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Our first Ayurvedic Sangha

I am very pleased to announce the beginning of something really special. My beautiful friends and fellow Ayurvedic practitioners will be running an Ayurvedic Sangha every month from next month. What is a Sangha I hear you ask. Well quite simply it is a monthly get together where we will be sharing our love and knowledge of Ayurveda with you and anyone else who comes along.

Each month there will be a different topic of focus and we will even have guest speakers from different modalities to speak as well and Ayurvedic practitioners. Sangha means community in Sanskrit and that is what we are hoping to achieve. It will be very relaxed with us sitting around on cushions, drinking tea, chatting about the topic of the night, getting to know each other. It will be a monthly get together of like minded  people who have a desire to learn and grow. Everybody it welcome and we hope it will become an important part of people's lives.

Each night will begin with pranayama and meditation which will help us to leave the day and all our worries behind (well as much as possible and more so as we progress). Then we will present some information on the chosen topic, answer questions, give demonstrations and practice if applicable and have a good chat together. We will then finish with some chanting or singing so that we can go home with a smile on our faces and a song in our hearts. If you don't like chanting or singing then that's OK most people find it a bit intimidating, silly or strange at first so you can just sit and listen. Over time you might find yourself humming or mumbling along and before you know it your singing at the top of your voice and are loving every minute of it! Well that's what happened with me anyway. The evening will start at 7:30 and go for about 2 hours. It's totally free but we do ask for a donation to help us buy teas, candles,  incense and cover the costs of the handouts.

Our first Sangha will be on the 9th of Feb in Leichardt Sydney and the topic will be pranayama. If you are interested in coming along either give me a call or send me a message.  We'd love to see you. 

Follow this link to see the flyer and find out the details

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Summer - here comes the sun

The hot weather is well and truly here, so it's time to take care of our pitta. Even if your constitution is not predominately pitta you can still suffer from imbalances during the summer. Overheating, heartburn, anger, any form of inflammation are some of the signs that you have too much fire in your system. If this is the case the best thing to do is to keep cool. Go to the beach, swim in the ocean or pool, stay out of the sun and have cool baths and showers. These are all great ways to stop over heating. But don't stop there. Think about your diet. What we eat has such a major affect on our body and emotions and changing our diet is a great way to take control of our life.

At this time of the year it is best to follow a pitta reducing diet. This means you favour cooling foods, such as mint, coconut, coriander and sweet fruits.  The tastes play a pivotal role in the delicate balance of the elements that every one of us are made up of. For balancing fire sweet astringent and bitter are great. If you want to know more about how the tastes influence our mind and bodies please read the six tastes.

OK so that covers what to eat to cool down but what about foods that are heating? What will add fire to your mind, body and spirit during the hot months of summer? Well unfortunately alcohol is very heating and not good at any time for pitta and will add heat to most people during the summer. Have you ever noticed how hot you get when you sleep after a few drinks? So, sad but true, as enjoyable as that cold beer is on a hot summers day once it is in your system it will start to heat you up. Maybe that is why so many fights occur when people have had a few drinks. Other heating foods are of course, garlic, chilli, and a lot of different spices, print out a copy of the pitta reducing diet to find out more. And the tastes? Which will heat you up? Sour, salty and pungent. Have them sparingly. Again if you are not sure what foods have what tastes read my post on the six tastes.

The good thing is Ayurveda is all about balance and with that moderation. If you have very high pitta or are suffering from excess fire in your life then you should be very careful with your diet in summer, but if you are more of a watery or earthy type then you can still indulge. Limited indulgence that is. And as I always say listen to your body.  Sometimes the consequences of overindulging aren't apparent right away, it might take a few days to show up, so if you do feel some shift have a think about what you have been eating over the last few days. It might not be just one thing it could be an accululation of several. It's all about moderation, blance and awareness.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Food guidelines for your dosha

I have been busy making handouts that people can print and keep for a reference to see what foods they should be including in their diets and what foods are best avoided. I have tried to make them as user friendly as possible and would love some feedback. There are three seperate documents, one for each dosha or constitution; vata, pitt and kapha, and foods have been grouped according to their type, for example, grains, fruits, herbal teas.

So if you want to put the principles of Ayurveda into your daily diet print off the one or ones that relate to your dosha. If your not sure what dosh or imbalance you have then have a look at my post on the doshas, it's pretty easy to work out what you are. Then use the information and choose your food based on your diet and see what a difference it makes. Some changes will be noticeable quite quickly while others will show themselves over time. Give it a good month and see how you are feeling, physically, mentally and emotionally. An even bigger test will be if you do follow the guideline and then have something that is not favourable to your constitution, you body again will tell you. If your a vata you might feel bloated or get indigestion, if your a pitta you might find your body and emotions heat up and if you are a kapha type you might notice a little less energy or motivation. You'll be amazed at how foods effect your and how often your body tries to tell you what it thinks and feels.

Each document is 4 pages, please download, bookmark or print and use them to bring better health and healing to your life. Unfortunately there seems to be no way to add these documents through this site so you will have to go to an external site. Sorry for the inconveniece and I hope you come back.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ayurvedic Cooking Western Style

I just bought the best Ayurvedic cookbook. It's by Amadea Morningstar and it's called "Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners. Familiar western food prepared with Ayurvedic principles." I already have another book by her "The Ayurvedic Cookbook" and have found the information on the different food groups and individual foods invaluable and really don't know why it's taken me so long to get this one.  Both books give an introduction to Ayurveda that is easy to understand and all recipes indicate the effect they have on each dosha and how to make adjustments if needed.  The book I got today also has a section on the gunas with a list of Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic foods and all recipes indicate which of the three they are. It's a great book for anyone wanting to understand the principles of Ayurveda and food. This information alone makes it a great book.

The recipes are great, lots of stuff we have eaten all our lives, know and love. There are recipes for pancakes, pasta, cakes, bread, salads, everything we western people eat on a regular basis. And they are easy too! What more could you want?

So inspired by my new cookbook I made a lovely simple dinner. I had mashed sweet potatoes with nutmeg and honey. I would have never thought about adding nutmeg or honey to my mashed potato, but I can tell you I will be doing it again, it was so delicious! I also had broccoli, summer squash (the cute little yellow ones) and snow peas lightly cooked in butter and then tossed in lemon juice and pepper. It was a quick, simple and really delicious meal. Perfect for the end of the day.

I think a lot of people think  they have to eat Indian food to follow an Ayurvedic diet but that is not the case at all. As the cover of the book says, all you have to do is follow Ayurvedic principles. Chili is chill and increases Pitta not matter if it is in a curry, pickles, tacos or a pasta sauce. Ayurvedic cooking is all about the ingredients and their taste and how they relate to the doshas, so it doesn't matter what you cook, Indian, Italian, Japanese or Thai, it's all about how your body reacts to it. I for one do not cook Indian food everyday. I love Indian food but also love other food too. But when I cook I am thinking about what I am using, how I am feeling, what my doshas are and try to use ingredients that I know will not aggravate me in any way. Of course there are times when I will eat or cook with something I shouldn't but I am still mindful of what I am doing and will undoubtedly notice how my body or mind reacts afterwards. It's like when we eat a big piece of cake or drink a bottle of wine, we know we shouldn't but do it anyway. It's OK to be naughty sometimes as long as it's not always and you balance it out with lots of healthy food that is right for you most of the time. Life is meant to be enjoyed after all.

So if you are interested in learning how to cook in a way that will balance your doshas and bring harmony to your life then this is probably the best place to start. Happy reading, happy cooking and happy eating!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Spiced Milk

In India the cow is sacred and the milk that it produces is highly regarded in Ayurveda. We know it is high in calcium and great for bones and teeth and that too much of it can cause us to put on weight. From a doshic(personal constitutional) and therefore Ayurvedic perspective it is good for vata and pitta but not great for kapha due to its mucus forming properties (try goat's milk instead).

When I first stared studying Ayurveda we were told  that cold drinks and therefore cold milk were not good for us as it would create an imbalance, and Ayurveda is all about maintaining balance to maintain health. The reason is our bodies are not cold so if you drink or eat anything cold or icy then our body has to work at not only digesting what has been eaten or drunk,but it also has to try to regulate the body temperature. So basically the body has to do more than it is naturally designed to do. Refrigerators and freezers are fairly new inventions in the whole scheme of things when you compare their existence to ours.

So what are we to do? Heat it up with spices! At first I was quite put off the idea and resisted for a long time. Warm milk on my muesli!? No way! But eventually I gave it a go and haven't turned back. I heat it gently and add 2-3 cardamon pods that I break open, some cinnamon and fennel and pour it over my muesli. It's so much better then the cold boring alternative I had been using all my life. I add the cardamon because it is a bit of an anti-mucus herb so good to use in milk. It's also good for digestion as it stimulates agni. I add cinnamon because it tastes so good in milk and it's also good for digestion. The fennel is also good for strengthening agni and assisting the digestive process. It is also has a cooling post digestive so helps to keep my pitta in check and balance the heat of the cinnamon and cardamon.

I have made dietary guideline forms for each dosha (Ayurvedic constitution) so you can easily see what spices you should and shouldn't have depending on your dosha and current state, click on the one appropriate for you - vata, pitta  and kapha. The list of spices are on the 4th page so you will need to scroll through.  If you don't know what your dosha is have a read of my post on the doshas and you will be able to determine which one or ones relate to you, it's quite easy and usually very obvious. There are loads of spices you could use, experiment and see what you like and pay attention to what you body has to say about it too. It's like having chai on your cereal! Enjoy

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Beautiful Nature

I recently had the opportunity to spend time in nature over the Christmas break. Between Christmas and New year I went camping in a beautiful little town called Narooma (see picture) along the south coast of New South Wales Australia. It is a really beautiful part of the world and thanks to all the rain we have been having it is also lush and green. We camped in a caravan park full of trees between a river and the ocean . It was so wonderful to get out of the city and connect with nature again.

I woke up early and went to the beach each morning to meditate by the power of the ocean. It really is different to meditate outside away from buildings, traffic, and electricity. Sitting there doing pranayama breathing in the freshness of the air and the energy of the ocean made me feel so alive. Then sitting in meditation with the waves crashing on the shore helped my mind to still.

Camping is such a great way to spend time off.  Sleeping in a tent under the trees, living by the moon, cooking and eating outside is such a wonderful experience, one that I think we deprive ourselves of way too much.

my other holiday experience with nature was on the last day of my break. I went to an amazing national park just outside of Sydney. It was hard to imagine we were so close to such a huge city as there were nothing but trees as far as the eye could see. We walked along the cliffs and soaked up the energy and the beauty that Mother Nature has been so kind to provide. Strolling along I felt a real sense of peace and the fact that I was on uneven ground and had to pay attention to where I was going helped me to stay more present. My mind wandered of course but I kept being brought back to where I was either but having to check the path or because of the beauty around me.

So if you are a city dweller and need a break from the hustle and bustle of urban living make a trip into the wilderness. Get in the car, on the bus or whatever it takes and get out of the city. Go for a walk, meditate on the beach, revisit nature, you won't regret it. Enjoy the fresh air and the positive, cleansing energy of nature. Bring a little sattva into your life.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Resolution

Is 2011 the year to get healthy? Need to detox after Christmas and New Year? Did you make a New Years resolution to lose weight, get fit or eat better?  Tried before and didn’t make it to the end of February? Need someone to help you? Need a different approach? Why not try Ayurveda? 
Come and see me and I will sit down with you and devise a plan of action for your New years resolution. I will create a diet that is specially designed for you, your body type, your needs and the life you lead. I will teach you what foods will bring balance and harmony to your life and what foods will cause you problems. I will give you recommendations on exercise, yoga, meditation, hobbies and create a daily routine to help you to further enhance harmony and health in your life. 
Then the icing on the cake - a full body massage! This will kick start the detoxification process and your connection with your body and wellbeing. You will leave feeling rejuvinated, nourished and inspired. And that will not be the end of it. Making changes to your life is not easy so Anthea will be helping you along the way with follow up consultations (and massages if you wish) to see how things are going, to keep you motivated and to make any adjustments that might be needed. 
As a special offer for the New Year I have created a very special
New Years‘s Resolution Package
Consultation + Massage (2 hours+)
Only $130
Plus your 5th follow up consultation is free!