Melody Tijerina

Manifesting with Meditation

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Spring has sprung and the solar eclipse cleared the slate for us to start anew! So, get your meditation cushion ready because meditation is the first step in setting intentions and goals to create positive change in your life. 

To begin, it’s important to get into a meditative state and tune in with your heart. Reflect on the first few months of the year.   What did you accomplish and where did you fall short of your goals? Are there any habits, behaviors or relationships you’d like to foster or perhaps there are some that need to dissolve? 

After reflecting on the past few months,  it’s time to get really clear on what you want. What would you like to accomplish by the end of the summer or the end of the year? Sometimes you need to ask yourself this question multiple times and just quietly see what comes up. If nothing comes to mind that is totally fine too. The important part is that you’ve asked yourself these important questions with an open mind and heart. The answers will come in due time. 

By quieting your mind and focusing on your desires, you can better understand what you truly want to achieve.

Once you’ve meditated and reflected you can journal or write down all that you wish to release and foster in the coming months. Writing your goals down not only helps you clarify your intentions but also serves as a reminder of what you are working towards. The act of writing down your goals can also help you stay motivated and focused on your objectives.

After writing down your goals, create a plan for how you’ll take action toward achieving them. Break down your goals into smaller, manageable steps and take a tiny step toward your goals everyday. By creating a plan and taking action you will stay organized and make progress toward your goal.  You will also signal to the Universe that you are certain of your goals and the Universe will start to orchestrate events in your favor so you can reach your goal. 

One easy action step could be to remind yourself of your goals in your daily meditation. Meditation can also play a crucial role in maintaining momentum and staying on track toward your goals. So why not take a moment in your meditation to remember your vision for the future. 

Finally, surrender the process and the timeline. Trust that the Universe will guide you towards your goals in the right time and in the right way. As long as you are taking action you can let go of the need to control every aspect of the manifestation process and have faith that your intentions will come to fruition.

By following these steps and incorporating meditation into your goal-setting process, you can set yourself up for success and create a fulfilling year.  Good luck on your journey towards manifesting your goals this spring!

Anastasia is a certified meditation teacher and the host of Salud SA, a local public access TV show that features alternative healing modalities in San Antonio, Texas. With her background in communications, her education experience and a passion for all things wellness related, Anastasia develops and delivers, wellness seminars and workshops that engage, inspire, and inform. 

Neti: What You Need to Know

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Introduction: 

In the yoga tradition, there are list of daily cleansing rituals named, shatkarmas. The word “shat” means “six” and the word “karma” means, “action”. The purpose of the shatkarmas and hatha yoga is to create a balanced flow of prana in the body. 

The first of the shatkarmas is neti. Neti is a nasal irrigation process that cleanses and purifies the nasal passages. Netis have been used by millennia to facilitate deep breathing. When we breathe, we take in much more than simple oxygen. We draw in Prana, life giving energy with every breath. Prana is the very essence of life. It animates the entire planet, the stars, the ocean, every blade of grass and every cell in our body. The concept of Prana is similar to the Great Spirit in the Native American culture. Like the Great Spirit, Prana creates an intricate connection between us and everything around us. We are one with nature and the life force that connects us all is Prana. Prana travels through the body through a series of energy channels. 

According to Ayurvedic medicine, there are 72,000 energy channels (or nadis) in the body and all channels spring from three primary channels, Ida, Pingala and Sushumna.  Ida begins at the left nostril. Pingala begins at the right nostril. Ida and Pingala wrap around Sushumna which is located in the spine like a double helix. The places where Ida, Pingala and Sushumna intersect are the Chakras. 

Two of the primary entry points for Prana to enter the body is Ida and Pingala, so it is important that we breathe clearly and effectively. Neti is used to clear the nasal passages to allow the proper flow of Prana. Hatha yoga shares the same purpose. Hatha is performed to clear tension and energetic roadblocks within the body, so Prana can flow freely through the nadis. Due to the expansive definition of Prana and the many ways Prana supports life, Prana is deemed highly intelligent and thus, essential to good health and healing. 

Benefits of Neti: 

Breathe Better: One of the primary ways that Prana, life giving energy, enters the body is through the nostrils. If our nostrils are obstructed, we cannot breathe properly and we cannot absorb a proper amount of oxygen (and Prana). It is also difficult to exhale carbon dioxide. Struggling to breathe, even if we are just slightly congested, is disruptive to the body and places the body in a high alert mode, which is taxing and exhausting. We must breathe properly to sleep, think and function properly. 

Improved Immunity and Infection Prevention: Neti helps to clear congestion from the nasal passages by washing them out into a basin and thus, preventing the congestion from sitting and festering in the nasal cavities or traveling into the throat, lungs, or stomach where the congestion can further tax our body’s immune system and digestive system. For many years, I contracted a sinus infection every year. I came to think of it as a “normal” occurrence. In all those years, none of the doctors who treated me, shared with me that if I washed out my sinus cavities regularly, I might be able to prevent an infection. It seems so obvious to me now, but I did not know about neti back then, so I took the same actions and got the same results year after year. In 2012, I attended my first yoga teacher training, and we used a neti every day. I have continued to use it. Since then, I have not contracted another sinus infection to date. 

Balance: The left nostril, Ida, represents moon energy. The right nostril, Pingala, represents sun energy. When we are breathing evenly or appropriately through both nostrils it helps to balance the energy within our body and mind. In Ayurveda, there is an entire science, Swara Yoga, dedicated to understanding and utilizing dominant nostril breathing to refine our thinking and life.  

How to Perform Neti: 

You will need a neti pot, stainless steel or ceramic is recommended over plastic. I personally prefer a stainless steel neti pot. I found that the ceramic ones are generally too small and one must fill it and prepare the saline twice to irrigate both nostrils. The spout on a ceramic neti pot is often too large and I find it uncomfortable on my nostril.  The stainless-steel pot is large enough to irrigate both nostrils. 

Fill your neti pot with warm water. Be sure to use clean water. Filtered or distilled water is recommended. I boil filtered water that I allow to cool before using. The water should be warm, but not too hot. Your nostrils are more sensitive to heat than your skin, so you can check your water with your skin and make certain it is warm, but not too hot. 

Salt is added to the neti to protect the lining of your nostrils. Be sure to use non-iodized table salt. ¼ tsp per cup is what is recommended, but you may want to experiment to determine what feel best for you. Note: There are a lot of saline/salt packets sold exclusively for neti pot use today. I have not used any of these. I use plain old non-iodized salt that I purchase at my local supermarket. 

If the salt to water ratio is correct. Pouring the saline solution through your nostrils should not hurt or sting. It is an awkward feeling to pour water through your nose, but it should not be painful. 

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Fill your neti pot with clean warm water. 
  2. Add saline solution or salt whichever you have decided to use. 
  3. Check to see which nostril is dominant, by capping off one nostril and breathing through the other and then, capping off the second nostril and breathing through the first.
  4. Begin by pouring the water through the dominant nostril. Let’s say your right nostril is dominant and your left nostril is congested. Standing over the sink, in the shower or a basin, tip your head to the left. Bend forward slightly, so the water runs into the basin and not down your chest. Place the spout of the neti pot in your right nostril snugly, so water goes into the nostril and not down the side of your face. Gently pour the solution through your nostril. (If the solution is too hot, stop and allow the water to cool before using.) The water should pour out the opposite nostril. Breathe calmly through your mouth as you pour the saline through your nose. Pour about a cup of the prepared fluid through the first nostril. Then, tip your head in the opposite direction and pour another cup of prepared fluid through the opposite nostril. 
  5. When you are done irrigating each nostril, you can wipe your face, but do not blow your nose immediately. Allow the water time to drain out for a few seconds. Cap off one nostril and blow gently, then cap off the opposite and gently blow. Once again, do not blow your nose to hard. You will find that your nostrils may drain for the next 10-20 minutes. 
  6. Be sure to wash your neti after each use. Leave it upside down on a clean surface to drain and dry completely, before your next use. This is particularly important if you are using a stainless steel neti pot. If you leave salt water in a stainless-steel pot, it may rust. If you are using your neti pot and you have a cold or infection, be sure to wash your neti pot properly with dish soap and hot water or you can run the risk of re-infecting yourself. 

The best time to use your neti pot is in the morning as a part of your morning ritual. I recommend doing your neti before your morning sadhana or yoga practice. The downward facing dogs, sun salutations and movement can help empty any remaining water from the sinus cavities. 

When you finish neti, notice how you feel. Take note if you feel more energetic or clear headed after using a neti pot.

Please check with your doctor to make sure neti is safe for you.

If you are interested in purchasing a neti pot, I included a product recommendation on my shop page: 

Melody is a former Corporate Sales and Marketing director and an independent consultant who is personally dedicated to sharing health and wellness information with others. She is a highly experienced yoga, meditation, group fitness instructor, a NASM certified nutritional coach and a Chopra Health coach. Utilizing her unique skill set, her intuition and corporate experience, she creates wellness content and programs that resonate with patrons in a meaningful way. 

Seven Simple Recommendations to Calm Seasonal Allergies:

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Written by: Melody Tijerina

As the seasons change our bodies sometimes struggle to adapt. Like a fish in water, we eat, breathe, and live in our environments. Changes in our environment require adjustments in our bodies. Our bodies are designed to adapt to change in temperature, the redirection of the wind currents, the blossoming of the fauna and flora around us, and the foods that are in season.  Even so, many of us often develop allergies during seasonal transitions. 

What is an Allergy: 

An allergy is an abnormal reaction to a substance in our environment such as a food, chemical, mold or pollen. Generally, the allergic reactions we experience are due to a chemical your body produces to protect itself called histamine. Allergies develop when the histamine production is excessive. 

Some reactions can be quite dangerous and require immediate medical attention. Other reactions are mild. 

Here are 7 Simple Recommendations to Calm Seasonal Allergies: 

As always, this is not to be considered medical advice. These recommendations are informative only. Please see your doctor for medical advice.  

  • Drink water. Water can dilute the excessive histamine in the body and mitigate allergic reactions, so be sure that you are drinking plenty of water. In addition, proper hydration will help you liquify congestion and assist your body in expelling it. There is a lot of differing opinions on how much water we should consume each day. I think the best recommendation is to take your body weight in pounds, divide it by 2 and drink that many ounces of water per day. To illustrate, a woman who weighs 130 pounds would drink 65 ounces of water each day. 
  • Drink Nettle Tea. Per Gillian McKeith, Ph.D. and the author of, Food Bible, nettle tea can help normalize histamine production, especially in the spring to minimize hay fever.
  • Eat Foods that will improve the way your immune system can adapt and respond. According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, a medical doctor and author of the book, Super Immunity, he recommends the following list of foods for what he terms “super immunity”:
    • Kale / collard / mustard greens
    • Arugula / watercress
    • Green lettuce and cabbage
    • Broccoli and brussels sprouts
    • Carrots and tomatoes
    • Onions and garlic
    • Mushrooms 
    • Pomegranates
    • Berries (all types)
    • Seeds (flax, chia sesame, sunflower) 
  • Use a neti Pot. In Ayurveda, a neti pot is considered a medical device as well as a personal hygiene tool. Running warm salt water through the nasal passage to irrigate and cleanse the nasal passages is a recommended daily practice. According to Dr. David Frawley, one of the world’s leading experts on Yoga and Ayurveda, using a neti pot will increase your ability to draw in prana and improve your immunity. I use a neti pot most days. In the Spring when pollen is high, I may use my neti more than once in a day. It helps me to breathe more evenly and consistently through both nostrils.  I feel much calmer and more focused when I can breathe properly. 
  • Get good quality sleep.  Eight hours of sleep is the standard recommendation. The number of hours needed can vary person to person based on your dosha. I think the key is to do your best to get good quality sleep. Rest is essential to good health and healing. 
  • Meditate. Meditation calms and settles the mind. It helps to downregulate the stress response and upregulate the parasympathetic nervous system. Our parasympathetic nervous system helps us to adapt to the new season by restoring balance and calming the inflammatory response. 
  • Start your day with Sun Salutations. It has been said that movement is medicine and this medicine is more potent first thing in the morning. Start your day with movement, even 15 minutes of movement can improve your mood, your circadian rhythms, your digestion, your immune system, and your overall health. To maximize the benefits of your efforts, it is recommended that you face toward the rising sun (or simply East) when you perform your morning sun salutations.

Hope these simple suggestions assist you during this seasonal transition. These practices are recommended all year around, especially for those suffering from chronic allergies and/or inflammation. I encourage you to do what you can to integrate the practices that feel right for you into your daily life. Best Wishes and Namaste!  

Melody is a former Corporate Sales and Marketing director and an independent consultant who is personally dedicated to sharing health and wellness information with others. She is a highly experienced yoga, meditation, group fitness instructor, a NASM certified nutritional coach and a Chopra Health coach. Utilizing her unique skill set, her intuition and corporate experience, she creates wellness content and programs that resonate with patrons in a meaningful way. 

A Step-by-Step Guide to Reset your Living Space to Support Your Intention

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Written by Guest Contributor: Anastasia Saenz

As the winter months come to an end and the vibrant energy of spring begins to awaken, it’s the perfect time to embark on a deep spring-cleaning journey for your mind, body, and spirit. Incorporating mindfulness into your spring-cleaning ritual can bring a sense of peace and intention to the process, allowing you to create a harmonious and balanced space both inside and out. Plus, the physical process will get you moving and burning calories! What a nice bonus!

Instructions: 

Step 1: Start by focusing on one area, such as a closet, bookshelf, junk drawer, pantry, or fridge. If your intention is to clean the entire house, take it one area at a time and complete one area before moving to the next. Please know that you are in control of the timeline. Allow yourself the time you need to work mindfully through your home. It may take a day, a week, or several months. 

Step 2: As you work with each space, reflect on the intention you have for that space and express gratitude to the space and the objects within it. Setting an intention for each space in your house can bring mindfulness and gratitude to your cleaning routine, helping you appreciate the space and the role each item plays in your home. Additionally, setting intentions can help you declutter and organize your physical space, reducing stress and anxiety and creating a more peaceful environment for relaxation and rejuvenation. When you work through your home in this way, you imbue a sense of serenity in all corners of your home. 

Step 3: If you can, remove everything from the space and sprinkle some salt in the area you’re cleaning. Salt is a potent energetic cleanser and can remove stagnant energy and purify the space. Let the salt sit for a few minutes then vacuum, sweep, or wipe the salt from the space. Then, clean any surfaces that need wiping or scrubbing. 

Step 4: Reset the space with objects that fulfill the intention you have for your home and your life.  

Step 5: Take a mindful look at the objects you’ve removed and group the contents by function, size, color or however, you see fit. Look carefully at the leftovers that don’t fit into a group. Sometimes those things have been misplaced or need to be disposed of or donated. Dispose of unwanted items in the trash or donation box and return the rest to their designated space. Then, as soon as possible take out the trash or donate your unneeded items.

Incorporating mindfulness into your spring-cleaning ritual can bring a sense of peace and intention to the process. As you declutter and organize your physical space, think of the act of cleaning as a form of self-care and self-love, nurturing not only your physical environment but also your mental and emotional well-being. Clearing out clutter and tidying up can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.  On a physical level, spring-cleaning your home can improve indoor air quality by removing dust and allergens from your living space. Engaging in physical activity while cleaning, such as scrubbing floors or dusting shelves, can also help increase your heart rate and promote circulation, contributing to a healthier body. 

So, remember, deep spring cleaning is not just about cleaning and decluttering your physical space; it’s about nurturing your mind, body, and spirit. By embracing the energetic benefits of spring cleaning and incorporating mindfulness into your routine, you can create a sense of peace, clarity, and renewal that will positively impact all areas of your life.

Anastasia is a certified meditation teacher and the host of Salud SA, a local public access TV show that features alternative healing modalities in San Antonio, Texas. With her background in communications, her education experience and a passion for all things wellness related, Anastasia develops and delivers, wellness seminars and workshops that engage, inspire, and inform. 

Trataka: A Quick Guide to an Ancient Practice

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I recently watched, “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” on Netflix, and I was delighted to see that the story centers upon a traditional yoga practice called, trataka. 

In the story, Henry Sugar, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, stumbles upon an ancient practice that promises him the ability to see with his eyes closed. As a gambler, he is immediately intrigued. He begins to practice the technique religiously with the goal of becoming a card reader. After three years of regular practice, he masters the skill of card reading. He feels triumphant! He rushes out to his local gambling house to test his hard-earned skills. 

Unbeknownst to Henry, the practice of trataka has changed him. When he began his quest, he was a wealthy man seeking to acquire more personal wealth.  He was motivated by greed. This delightful short story, written by Roald Dahl, is about greed, motivation, discipline, and personal growth. 

This story is also a great introduction for the practice of trataka. The word trataka is a Sanskrit word that means “to look” or “to gaze”.  In its initial stages, trataka involves focusing the eyes upon an external objection without blinking. As the practitioner advances, the eyes are closed, and the focus is redirected internally. 

In one of the classic yoga texts, trataka is listed as one of the shatkarmas or daily cleansing practices. The Sanskrit word, “shat” means “six” and “karma” translates to “action”, so shatkarmas are the 6 daily actions that are recommended for purifying the body. 

There is some debate as to whether trataka should be included in the list of shatkarmas, since many consider trataka a meditation technique.  Trataka is a way of focusing the mind and establishing concentration. It is also considered a way to clear or clean the mind.

There are many ways to practice trataka and all fall within 3 general categories. The three categories are listed in progression from less difficult to more advanced: 

  1. Focusing upon on an external object. This is known as bahir. 
  2. Focusing upon on an external and internal object.
  3. Focusing internally.  This is known as antar. 

Bahir Trataka 

Bahir Trataka involves gazing upon an external steady object with unfaltering attention and without blinking. The traditional object to gaze upon is a candle flame, but you can gaze upon just a about anything. Here is list of popular images or objects to gaze upon: 

  • Aum symbol
  • Image of a flower
  • Yin and yang symbol
  • The sky
  • Mandala 
  • Tip of the nose (Also known as Agochari mudra)
  • Black dot on a white sheet of paper
  • Yantra

Yantras are a type of mandala. They are specific geometric art pieces that are said to subtly generate the cosmic force of deities, elements or other properties. They are visual aids for meditation and can be used when practicing trataka. They are often combined with mantra to increase their effect. One of the most popular yantras is Sri Yantra, pronounced “shree yantra”, which is said to represent the energy of all gods and goddess, the union of all masculine and feminine energies. It is considered a graphic visual representation of pure energy or universal energy. Within Sri Yantra is a bindu or “dot” in the very center of the image. (See the red dot in the center of the Sri Yantra below.) This is the point, you gaze upon if your using Sri Yantra for trataka. 

You can choose any object for trataka, but commit to using only one object and use it consistently for several months to make progress. 

Bahir and Antar Trataka

This trataka practices involves gazing upon an external object, then closing the eyes and moving your unwavering focus upon the after image of the external object. A candle flame works well since the brightness imprints upon the retina. A black dot or a single black star on a white piece of paper can work well, due to the contrast and simplicity of the design. 

Antar Trataka

This form of trataka requires a steady mind and a clear picture in your mind from memory with no external prompting. As such, it is considered more advanced. For most of us, it is difficult to create a clear picture of something in our mind. It is emphasized that we do not rush to achieve Antar trataka. It is best to wait until we can create a clear, unwavering image in our head. If we are still struggling to create an image in our head, we should continue to practice the two previously described stages of trataka. Antar trataka is used for introspection and exploration of the mind. 

Benefits of Trataka: 

The story of Henry Sugar is an extreme example of what can be accomplished with trataka. His ability to learn and master trataka to such an extent, so quickly is described as, “one in a billion” in the narrative. 

Although you and I may not develop the ability to see with our eyes closed, we can still derive benefits from a trataka practice. Benefits of trataka include: 

  • Improved concentration
  • Ability to focus the mind at will
  • Increased peace of mind
  • Strengthens and corrects vision
  • Bring forth dormant potential of the mind
  • Improve memory
  • Overcome insomnia
  • Improved self-knowledge. 

Trataka is said to brighten the light of our eyes and mind, helping us to gain clarity by improving our attention. In India, some believe that trataka can lead to psychic powers.

How To Practice Trataka:

As discussed there are many different ways to practice trataka, but here are the basic directions for bahir trataka with a printed page with a single point at the center or you can print a yantra with a bindu:

Sit near a wall on the floor with your spine tall and erect. Adhere the page or yantra to the wall in front of you. The bindu should be at eye level. Be sure there is no air circulating in the room that will cause the page to move. The page, the point or bindu should be steady and still.

Adjust your seated position until you are an arm’s length from the page. Set a time for 3 minutes. For the first minute, close your eyes and relax your body while keeping your posture erect and aligned. Draw all of your awareness into your body. Regather and steady yourself. Grow still and tell yourself that you will remain perfectly still during the practice. Sit for few moments more with your eyes closed, paying exclusive attention to how your body feels on the inside. Create a sense of calm, steadiness in your body and mind.

After the first minute has lapsed, open your eyes, keep the eyes relaxed and let them settle upon the dot or bindu. Lock your eyes on the bindu. Keep the breath slow and rhythmic.

Gaze upon the bindu with complete and total awareness. Do not strain. Be focused and relaxed. Resist the urge to blink or look away, but once again, do not strain your eyes. If you must blink, close your eyes, re-gather yourself, check back in with your breathing and open your eyes. Begin, again. Practice like this for 2 minutes, then close your eyes and notice if you see an after image. If an after image appears steady the image in your mind. Hold the projected image steady and gently gaze upon it until it fades away. If an after image does not appear, do not worry. Simply sit with your eyes close for a few moments before resuming your day.

This was a quick introduction to trataka. There is so much more than can be discussed on the subject of trataka and of course, there is much to be learned and gained by practicing trataka.

If you watch the movie on Netflix or decide to give it a try, be sure to share your thoughts! Take care and Namaste.

Tips for Holiday Dining:

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Dining with friends and family is one of the many pleasures of life. We love to celebrate with food, delicious decadent food!

With the holidays approaching, we find ourselves wondering how to enjoy all the celebratory gatherings without taxing our bodies with excessive calories and unhealthy choices.  Here are a few tips:

Before the Gathering:

Hydrate – Before you go, make sure you are well hydrated. We often confuse thirst with hunger. When we are well hydrated, we feel more satisfied and content and this will influence all of our habits and choices, including our food choices.

Eat – Eat wholesome balanced meals before you meet for the gathering. Consider a high fiber breakfast such as oatmeal and chia porridge. A good amount of fiber early in the day can assist you in properly digesting a larger meal later in the day.  Don’t show up “starving” hungry. When we are hungry, it is much harder to make good choices.

Plan ahead – If time permits, take a look at the menu before you arrive. Conveniently, most restaurants have their menus online. Take time to look at the menu before you arrive and identify some healthy options in advance.  If attending a gathering at someone’s home, volunteer to take some healthy dishes to share with others, like vegetables and whole grains.

Don’t rush – Allow plenty of time to arrive at your destination. When we rush, we set off an entire chain of neurological stressors within our bodies. These stressors don’t just fade away when we arrive. We carry our stress into our activities and stress influences all of our choices, including our food choices.

During the Gathering:

Take a Moment – Before you eat, take a moment to check in and make you are present and aware of your environment. This is one of the many benefits of blessing our food before we eat. It acts as a mindful transition between the busyness of preparing the food and setting the table to the act of enjoying the food. Preparing the food and eating the food require very different energy. When preparing the food, you are often rushing and attempting to complete multiple tasks at once. The sympathetic nervous system is activated and digestion has been shut down. When you are eating your food, you want to be calm and at ease to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, thus signaling your body to re-prioritize digestion.

Food Sequencing – Make wholesome, nutritious food the priority and eat those foods first. Begin the meal with vegetables, whole grains, and salads. If you are going to have dessert or alcohol, eat your vegetables, proteins and healthy fats before to buffer the glucose spikes these foods can cause and also to temper your appetite before consuming high-sugar food choices.

Avoid empty calories – Desserts and alcohol are generally highly caloric and not nutrient-dense, so you’ll want to avoid or minimize consumption. In addition, sauces and salad dressings can be laden with sugar and unhealthy fats so you may want to skip these or ask for these condiments on the side, so you can consume them in moderation.

Slow down – It takes a while for your brain to recognize when you’ve had enough to eat, so you want to eat slowly to allow the brain time to get the message. Often times when we are eating with family and friends, we become so consumed with the conversation that we lose track of how much we are consuming. Be cognizant of this while sitting at the table and make it point to eat slowly and mindfully.

Stop Before You’re Stuffed – I know this one seems like a no-brainer. Many times, we are enjoying our food so much that we don’t stop eating even after we know we are full. We stuff in a few extra bites after our brain is signaling that we are full. Do not overburden your digestion. Many people feel obligated to finish everything on their plate. This may be residual conditioning from our childhood. Give yourself permission to stop eating when you are full.

After the Gathering:

Take a walk – It’s important to take at least 100 steps after each meal, especially a large holiday meal. Walking will raise your metabolism, improve digestion and encourage peristalsis. If you cannot take a walk, help clean the kitchen and clear the table. Any moderate movement after a meal can be helpful.

Sit tall – If you must sit after a large meal, be sure to sit up tall with posture aligned to avoid compressing the abdomen. When we slouch, we create compression through the front side of our body which impacts our digestive system and makes it harder to digest our food. If and when you sit, sit tall with your spine properly aligned in an upright position to aid your digestion. Sit either cross legged which is said to divert energy from the legs into the digestive tract and heart center. If you cannot sit cross legged, sit with your feet on the floor. The contact with earth helps to ground the body and increase the downward moving energy which signals peristalsis.

Continue to hydrate – Your body needs water to aid in digestion. Casually sip water; don’t chug. Ideally, the water should be warm or room temperature. Stop drinking 2-3 hours before bed to avoid having to get up in the middle of the night.

Enjoy – Finally, enjoy your meal. Don’t stress about any of this. Breathe calmly and deliberately. Enjoy the company of your friends and family!

Pitta Pacifying: Tips to Beat the Heat

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Summer is almost over but the hot days are still here. Here are some tips to help you cope with the persistent heat.

Ayurveda recognizes that we are intricately connected to our environments. We are constantly absorbing and consuming information from our environments. The information is received through our five senses. The five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch and smell) are known as the 5 gateways. They are the five entry points to the body and mind. Everything we absorb or consume subtly affect our nervous system. The high temperatures affect our nervous system and the effects are reflected in our physiology and behaviors. Inflammation in the body is considered a sign of excess heat in the physiology. Bursitis, tonsillitis, pancreatitis, and other ailments that end in “-itis” are considered signs of excess heat. Anger, frustration, impatience are considered excess heat affecting the mind. We can use the 5 gateways to reset the nervous system and calm the body and mind Here are a few suggestions:

Sight

There are some images that calm the mind and others that aggravate the mind. Think of a clear, blue sea. How does it make you feel? In contrast, consider a busy highway with cars driving by aggressively and honking. Just imagining these scenarios will subtly affect your nervous system. Could you feel the effect?

Your body responds to the real experience and the imagined experience in almost the same way. Consider this as you think about how many of us sit in front of the television and watch a true crime story or the evening news as a form of relaxation? How do you think these viewing choices affect one’s nervous system?

Bringing more mindfulness into our choices can help calm the body and mind.

Sound

We all know that music has the power to heal. When we listen to music, we are absorbing sound waves. Those sound waves cause our cells to vibrate in a particular manner. Some sounds wave can be very calming to the body. Other sounds cause our cells to vibrate in a way that make us feel excitement, aggravation or the undeniable urge to dance! Some excitement is good for us!

Here is a calming playlist I created on Spotify:

Taste

In the Ayurvedic tradition, it is understood that there are 6 different tastes and each taste has a heating or cooling affect on the body.

The tastes that help to cool the body and mind are: sweet, bitter, and astringent. The taste that heat the body are: sour, salty, and pungent (spicy). When Ayurveda recommends sweet, they are not referring to cupcakes or ice cream, but rather fruits like apples (sweet), pears, avocados and coconuts. Whole grains such as wheat berries, bulgur and basmati rice are considered sweet. Even some vegetables are considered sweet. Sweet vegetables include zucchini, peas and potatoes. Green leafy vegetables are bitter as are broccoli and celery. Astringent is more of a property than a specific taste. Pomegranates, chickpeas, unripe banana, green apples and okra are considered astringent. In the summer or times when our body is showing signs of excess heat, it is recommended that we favor foods that are sweet, bitter and astringent. These foods will help to cool the body and mind.

Touch

Multiple studies have proven that touch can accelerate healing and encourage relaxation, pain relief and general comfort. Scheduling a massage everyday may not be practical, but a quick foot massage can also be helpful. Ayurveda teaches that the energy lines of all the major organs course through our feet, so when we gently massage our feet we are calming the organs.

Some oils are cooling and others are heating. Oils that are best suited for pitta are: coconut, sunflower and olive oil. Simply massaging cooling oil onto your feet before bed can help the body relax.

Note: You may want to allow enough time for your feet to absorb the oil before climbing bed or place a pair of socks on your feet to protect your bed sheets from the oil.

Smell

Smell is the most primivitive of the senses. Aromas and scents directly affect the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus influences many bodily functions such as sleep cycles, blood sugar, body temperature and emotions. This is why aromatherapy can be so effective. Cool, soothing and sweet scents such as: sandalwood, mint, rose, lavender, jasmine, ylang ylang all pacify pitta. A simple way to utilize the power of smell is to Invest in a diffuser, and use it in your office and personal space.

Savasana: A Part of the Life-Death-Life Cycle

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Life offers many different experiences. We will have adventures that make our heart soar, encounters that make us giggle with delight, losses that are heartbreaking and setbacks that make us question who we are. We are forced to re-evaluate our goals, our actions and ourselves, time and again. We are inspired or perhaps, frightened into assuming new approaches and to find new ways to live to keep ourselves safe and sane. 

This is the human experience. All of life – in the animal kingdom, the plant world, and the human race – is subject to what is called: The life-death-life cycle. 

One moment we can be flying high and the next we are on a quick panicked downward tumble. Life presents us with lot of ups and downs and how we deal with all the turns and twists of life will determine our happiness and sense of well-being.

A yoga class is a metaphor for life. As we practice our asana, we may experience moments of feeling quite glorious and accomplished, only to feel completely humbled by the next posture. We work through the asanas and settle into Savansana at the end of class. As we lay there on the floor, most of us feel restless because “laying around and doing nothing” is seriously discouraged in our culture. In addition, when we lay around, awake and alert, we are left with our thoughts. For some of us, that does not feel like a safe place. For these reasons and others, Savasana can be one of the hardest of all postures.  However, if we can master Savasana, then it is said that we can gain more mastery over life. 

Savasana is Sankrit for corpse pose or dead man’s pose. The objective of the posture is in the name. Savasana is the practice of “dying” or letting go of our old self. To master Savasana, we must let go of the ego, our desire to control things and just be. Savasana is a sacred pause between our yoga practice and picking ourselves up and carrying on with our lives. 

In Savasana, we allow the benefits gained from the asana practice to trickle down deep into our cells. We allow the deep relaxation to bring forth the deep wisdom from the shadows of our mind to the forefront, from the subconscious to the conscious mind. We gently let go of the false roles we have assumed and allow ourselves to rise from our mat more aligned with who we truly are.  It is similar to life; we must let go of old experiences, emotions, and limitations to ascend to new heights. 

It is recommended that you allow 15-20 minutes for Savasana at the end of each yoga session. Allowing 15-20 minutes can be extremely challenging, so I encourage slowly lengthening your Savasana in your personal practice.

Nutrition: The Fundamentals

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March is National Nutrition Month.

In my role as holistic lifestyle director at an integrative clinic, I felt I needed to learn more about nutrition since nutrition is a cornerstone of health.  In 2021, I completed an online Nutritional Science Course offered by Stanford Medicine. The program was a lot more intense than I had anticipated. It included a lot of chemistry, lots of scientific facts and research. I do not know what I was thinking. The word, “science” was right there in the title. I had to write weekly essays and multiple case studies with proper AMA citations for the first time in what felt like forever. I had inadvertently jumped into the deep end of the pool and felt like there was no retreat. I learned a lot not only about nutrition, but also about myself. :0)

I won’t bore you with all the nutritional details, but here is the conclusive lesson from the program: Eat more plants. 

Here are the fundamental nutritional guidelines from Stanford Medicine. 

What to Eat: 

  1. Consume a variety of vegetables and fruits every day. Make half of each plate vegetables and fruit, mainly vegetables. Vegetables and fruit will ensure you are consuming fiber, essential vitamins, and minerals. 
  2. Consume legumes regularly. Legumes such as beans, lentils, and peas are an excellent source of protein and fiber. 
  3. Consume whole grains. Choose whole grains over refined grains as often as possible. Whole grains will provide fiber and all the valuable vitamins and minerals that have been stripped from refined grains.
  4. Consume small amounts of dairy. Diary is an excellent source of calcium, potassium, and protein, but you only need small amounts. Choose fat free or low-fat dairy. 
  5. Consume healthy proteins. Legumes, soy, nuts, fish, eggs, and poultry are excellent sources of protein. Fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and tuna offer omega 3 fatty acids and are good for cardiovascular health. Lean red meats in small amounts can be a healthy source of protein. Incorporate plant protein into your diet regularly for it does not contain cholesterol and it has little to no saturated fat. 
  6. Consume healthy fats and oils. Unsaturated fats such as fish, seeds, nuts, olive oil and avocado oil are better for you than saturated oils. 

What to Limit: 

  • Added sugar: Less than 10% of your daily calories should come from added sugars. 
  • Saturated Fats: Less than 10% of your daily calories should come from saturated fats.
  • Trans Fats: Keep trans fats to a minimum.
  • Sodium: Limit sodium consumption to 2300mg per day.

First New Moon of the New Year!

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Harness the Expanding Energy of the Moon to Fortify Your Success

Saturday January 21st is the first new moon of the new year. The new moon initiates a period of expansion. The moon will grow brighter over the next few weeks until it reaches a full moon. The moon will then slowly fade back into darkness and the cycle begins again. The new moon ushers in a time of building and creating.

As the illumination of moon grows brighter, we are encouraged to work toward bringing our intentions to reality. We carry forth our dreams from the subconscious to the conscious, from the dark into the light of day. In this way, our actions are fortified, encouraged to grow and propagate in unison with the anabolic energy of the moon. This is a subtle, but powerful way of living in harmony with our planet. 

This is not a new concept. It has been practiced for hundreds of years. The Farmer’s Almanac was first published in 1818. Since then, farmers have used the almanac to plant their seeds in accordance with the cycle of the moon to achieve a bountiful harvest. Like plants, we too are biological beings responsive to the pull of the moon and tides. In the same way that a seed is planted in the dark, it is recommended that we plant our intentions in the obscured light of the new moon. 

More recently, scientists have been intrigued by the many effects the moon, sun and seasons have upon our human physiology. The research has been so extensive that it has merited the creation of a new term, chronobiology. In years past, you may have read about circadian rhythms. The study of circadian rhythms is a primary subject of chronobiology. 

Chronobiology is also a central tenet of Ayurveda, but since Ayurveda dates back 5000 years, the practices were developed long before the terms, “chronobiology” or “circadian rhythm” existed. There is much to be said about this fascinating subject both from the burgeoning scientific perspective and the Ayurvedic perspective. It is interesting to see how contemporary science bolsters some of these long-standing traditions. Ayurveda has a more nuanced and in-depth understanding on the subject. I am curious to see if future scientific research will continue to support the recommendations created by the sages of India who lived centuries ago. Time will tell. 

For now, let’s now focus on the how to utilize the expanding and constructive power of the moon. 

Here is the process I recommend: 

  1. As with every crucial endeavor, it is important to begin with stillness. In quiet stillness, it is easier to hear the gentle calling of the heart. It is easier to separate your true aspirations from those which have been placed upon you. For many of us, this is a difficult differentiation to make. We have grown so accustomed to caring for others and placing another’s needs ahead of our own that we cannot discern what is ours to solve and achieve and what is not. Establish clarity about what you truly want.
  2. With clarity, set forth a goal or intention. Start small. Be reasonable and gentle with yourself. Take time to ensure that the intention comes from a place of self-love rather than self-criticism. As a fitness instructor, I have heard so many people criticize their bodies. An example of a goal set from vaguely disguised, self-loathing would be, “I’m going to work out three days a week to get rid of this muffin top!” For this exercise, we want the goal to be aligned with our highest good.  To illustrate, choose to work out three times a week to honor your body, to feel exhilaration, to work up a sweat, to feel more energetic or to feel gratitude for being able-bodied and alive. You get the jest. I’m certain you’ll think of something. Whatever it is, be kind and loving with yourself as you set your intentions and goals. 
  3. If your goal is large and will require more than two weeks to achieve, isolate some actions that can be achieved in the next 14 days. Recall, we are working with the cycles of the moon, so break down large goals into smaller tasks. In truth, this ability to break down large goals into small achievable tasks is a basic skill required to achieve any goal. In this first attempt, I recommend working with a 14-day cycle, new moon to full moon so I am writing the article accordingly. You may also work with a longer cycle of new moon to new moon if you choose.  
  4. Next, write down your goal in a journal. If you can, set key milestones between now and the full moon, which will be on February 5, 2023.
  5. Every morning, review your goal and commit to yourself that you will utilize the day ahead to do what you can to move a bit closer to achieving your goal. 
  6. Every night after you have fulfilled the commitment you made to yourself, look at how the moon has grown brighter from the night before and smile knowing that your goal has also grown closer to becoming a reality. On the days, you were not able to achieve the tasks necessary to bring your dream a little closer to reality, be kind to yourself.  Step 5 and 6 allows us to continually reflect on our goal, so it remains present on our mind. It is not necessary to remind yourself throughout the day. The simple act of giving it your conscious attention briefly in the morning and evening will be enough to secure it in your conscious and subconscious mind.  Even when you are not thinking about your goal or actively working on it, the subconscious will be scanning your environment for opportunities to move you closer to your goal.  When opportunities arise, your subconscious mind will recognize them and prompt you to act. 
  7. At the very end of the day, take a moment to focus on why you’ve set the goal in the first place. Remember the goal was set with your highest well-being in mind. Go to bed; sleep peacefully trusting that everything is working in your favor. The next day begin the process by recommitting. Step 7 adds positive reinforcement and detachment. It is easy for us to get discouraged when things do not work out as we planned. However, I cannot tell you how many times my plans were completely ruined and what transpired in the end was so much better than what I had planned. 

“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors where there were only walls.”

Joseph Campbell

I am writing this on a Thursday afternoon as I sit on the beach watching the sun set eating crispy baked chickpeas, I made earlier today in the quaint little kitchen of my Gulf Coast home. 

There was a time when I spent a large portion of my waking hours in a high-rise office building overlooking a loud and bustling city scape. I was an up-and-coming corporate executive. My stress induced acne and digestive issues were tell-tale signs that I was defining “success” all wrong, at least for me. I did not want to spend hours behind a computer pushing a corporate agenda that I did not feel passionate about.  The strain and stress I observed in the people around me was palpable. I wanted to make a living in a manner that uplifted me and the people around me. At that time, I did not know what was possible, but I set an intention to transform my life many moons ago. Here I am years later incredibly delighted and grateful for how things have evolved.

I write this article in the hopes that it will expedite your trip from where you are to where you want to be.  Best Wishes and Namaste.