Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Staying Hydrated Through the Seasons

Drinking enough water is vital for our overall health and wellbeing, but also how we drink it is equally important.  Keeping our digestive fire alight and bright so to speak enables our body to digest well and eliminate the toxins from what it is we are ingesting, and from the process of ingesting, drinking iced drinks is like throwing water over that fire and invariably compromising our digestion, causing indigestion and increasing the toxins.  It is better to drink a little warm water with your meals that will soften and aid digestion, and to not drink too much an hour before we eat and an hour after we eat allowing the digestion to perform well.  Drinking and eating on the go are a definite no no as this confuses the function of digestion, try to take time for the process of hydrating and nourishing yourself as something special, a time for you, a time to enjoy your food or your drinks, fully focusing on the taste and goodness you are taking and giving a little thanks to all those who have worked to put that nourishment in front of you. 
Often we get so busy through the day that we simply forget to drink, and in evening classes I see students muscles cramping because they are suffering with dehydration without even realising.  If drinking just plain water is a turn off to you then here a few tips to make it a little more interesting and to keep in line with the seasons –

This season can bring a little heaviness and loss of physical strength so warming up our water can help.  Add a little honey with lemon, fresh or dried ginger or cumin seeds to lighten the heaviness.

Summer can be hot and fiery (depending on where you live!) so cooling properties are good, add mint or fennel seeds.  Chewing on fennel seeds also can refresh the breath, and treat indigestion, heartburn, gas, bloating and irritable bowel.

Autumn can be windy, dry and a season of change where grounding and warming are needed to maintain balance.  During this time squeezing fresh lemon and adding a little honey to warm water will be beneficial, or a little cardamom. 

During this time with less daylight a little cinnamon, fresh or dried ginger, tulsi or star anise will help to keep agni (internal fire) balanced.  Winter with these shorter days is more a time for journeying inward and like the plants a time for rest.

With these seasonal mocktails to spice up our water consumption we can stay more in tune with the seasons, stay hydrated and balanced.  Remember that if you are using honey the water should be warm as adding honey to boiling water will turn all the goodness into to toxins. 
Let us stay healthy and glowing with our water intake
For now have beautiful days and enjoy every ray of light and every drop of water!
Om Om Shanti Om
Mangala / Nicky

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Flowers have a Voice and a significance

Everything that surrounds us is also part of us; everything has a consciousness and can give energy.  The things that surround us have an effect on our beings either positive or negative, the colours we observe, the smells, the shapes and feel of things can all bring healing or disturbance to the balance of our inner selves.  Flowers can hold so many different meanings and symbolise many different aspects of this human existence, they share their beauty with anyone willing to notice them.  I found these words by Shambhavi Lorain Chopra the author of Yogini, and found them so lovely I wanted to share, so enjoy!
“Each flower symbolises an aspiration, an emanation, and a Divine quality.  A flower radiates beauty, joy and tenderness, a sweet aroma to all that surrounds it.  The Indian woman always adorns her hair with flowers.  Beauty is the joyous offering of Nature.  Flowers symbolise the deep connection between the cosmos and our psychic world.  They absorb the pain, negativity, stress and excessive heat from our beings and release it, giving us peace and happiness. 
Flowers find expression through silence, stillness and beauty.  This is because their means of expression is less developed than that of the human being, but their soul still has a voice.  They are truly a manifestation of the psychic in the plant world.  Forming a deep love and consciousness contact with flowers will make us receptive to our higher self and awaken us to our psychic or heart consciousness. 
Plants need sunlight to live, there whole lives is a true worship of light, a light that contains divinity.  The sun represents the supreme consciousness.  Plants aspire intensely to catch the rays of sunlight and will make every effort to reach out to it for their survival.  This is their consciousness their will to live! They will find a way to touch the strains of sunlight even at the cost of mangling their shapes.”

When I do my sun salutations I think of these words and the plants and flowers reaching for the light and I learn from them.  Reaching reaching for that wonderful light to bring it to my heart, bringing creation and illumination. 
Oh for the joy of plants and their generosity giving us beautiful flowers, we too can blossom with this beautiful practice of yoga.

Have beautiful days
Om shanti shanti shanti
Mangala / Nicky

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Taking care of our Back

Many people often are complaining of lower back pain or twinges or a nagging sensation in the lower back, this could be caused by many different factors and can also cause disturbance for the mind.  In fact to determine what is causing the pain is very difficult with back problems, and often it is not anything physical that is root cause.  However excessive straining whilst bending forward can be closely related to the pain, or a sudden pain can come whilst just picking up something from the floor or doing something that you regularly do like gardening etc etc, and it can be related to weak muscles and ligaments due to sitting in chairs and sofas for too long with bad posture and not taking the time to strengthen the supporting muscles and ligaments. 
In our yoga practice we can start by being very mindful with our forward bends making sure we are keeping the spine straight, it is easy in such a pose as Pachimotanasana (seated forward bend) to round the spine trying to bring the forehead to the knees, but it is imperative that the spine be kept straight avoiding any compromise on the lower back and protecting the vertebrae and disks.  Here the focal point should be the toes keeping the crown of the head lifted the nose pointing forward to keep the spine straight. 
As a result of over straining it is possible that a disk could tear and cause it to protrude outward which may push on a nerve ending causing a great amount of pain, so being mindful over those forward bends, bending the knees when we want to pick something up and asanas to strengthen and preserve flexibility to the back muscles and ligaments are very important.  Here are four postures to help-

1 sphinx pose – lie on your abdomen, legs a little bit apart the toes pointing backward, then raise the upper body up and rest on your forearms, fingers pointing forward.  Take time in this pose to just feel the gentle bend to the lower back and breathe.  Feel all the sensations within the body, the tummy gently connecting with the mat as you inhale, the expansion around the chest area and the front of the thighs connecting to the earth.  This tones the spine and pops anything back in that may be out of line, gives a compression and stimulation of the lumbar region, the lower back.
2 Half locust pose – lie on your abdomen the arms underneath your body, backs of the hands flat to the mat, stretch out your chin in front of you.  As you inhale raise the right leg up keeping the leg straight, hold for a few moments and exhale down, then repeat with the left leg, for about 8 rounds.  This can release tensions in the pelvic region and strengthens the lower back.
3. Snake pose, this is a variation of Cobra pose – lie flat on the abdomen the legs straight out behind you and the feet together, interlock the fingers behind you keeping the arms straight, using the lower back muscles raise the chest up as far as you can as you inhale, squeeze the shoulder blades together and look forward, breathe there whilst you are holding and exhale as you come down.  This has a profound effect on strengthening the back muscles and helps to correct posture particularly rounded shoulders.  It keeps the whole spine healthy and supple.
4. Easy bow pose – lie flat on the abdomen the legs apart, bend the knees and bring the heels up grasping the ankles with the hands. (Be careful not to hold the tops of your feet, keep hold of the ankles.) Roll your shoulders back dropping the forehead to the mat, then as you inhale raise just the upper body up, tensing the thigh muscles and pushing them down into the mat to help bring you up.  Hold for as long as is comfortable and exhale as you are coming down.  Note this is easy bow pose not full bow, so the legs remain on the mat and are not lifting.  Here the spinal column is realigned and the ligaments, muscles and nerves are activated removing stiffness, helps to prevent hunching of the back and is very useful for lower back pain due to slipped disk.

One of the best things though for taking care of our back is to come down from the sofa and simply sit on the floor, this in itself will begin to strengthen up those back muscles.  You could start with a short amount of time like 10 minutes and gradually build yourself up until you don’t need that sofa at all!

For now have beautiful days and let us take care of our backs, looking forward to seeing you on the mat,
Om shanti shanti shanti
Mangala / Nicky

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Gentle lymph massage for the face.

Lymph is a vital system of vessels that removes cell waste, proteins, excess fluids, viruses and bacteria, it filters and cleans the spaces between the cells and when it works well we feel healthy and have a strong defence system against illness.  When its not working well our immune system is down and we can feel fatigue and low.  Now that the sniffle time of year is here and the digestive fire can be a bit low (see previous post) it is a great time to give yourself a lymph drainage massage for the face, thus reducing congestion and puffiness and reducing congestion and pain in the sinuses.  Also it keeps us looking fresh and younger and if you are like me living in a heavily polluted place then it helps to remove the toxin build up.
Here is how, but go gently with your touch as the lymph glands are near to the surface of the skin so we don’t want to damage them.

  1. Cross your hands at the wrist, this is just to make your touch lighter, then place your fingers at the venus part of the throat – the little indent just above the collar bone, then gently stroke the fingertips outwards along the collar bone X10
  2. Keeping the hands crossed then place the fingertips to the back of your ear and stroke downwards following the jaw line to the throat X 10
  3. Again keeping the wrists crossed then place the fingertips at the centre of the chin and stroke outward along the jaw line X 10
  4. Then uncross the wrists and place the ring and middle finger to the side of your ear and stroke downward to the jaw, (along the sideburn line)
  5. Next place the fingertips to the point between the eyebrows and stroke outward along the eyebrow line towards the temple X 10
  6. Then gently place the middle finger to the point on the cheek bone under the eye (towards the outer side of the eye) and gently press and release slightly pulling the skin outward, X 10 then do again but placing the finger a little more underneath the eye X 10.
  7. Then repeat the whole process backward starting at point 6 to 1.

The lymphatic system is tied to the immune system if the flow of lymphatic materials slows then the immune system is weakened so this is another way to increase the immune system and keep ourselves healthy and glowing!  It is also a great way to reduce the aging effect and increase the antibodies that fight off infections.
It is best to practice this in the morning but you can also practice it throughout the day to keep that fresh look and feel.  Make it part of your daily routine and morning asana practice you could begin with this gentle massage also leading you into your practice in a gentle and mindful manor. 
For now have beautiful days and allow the energy of nature to surround you, and nurture you, let us breathe life into our hearts through every moment being ever present here and now.
May we all experience what is good and pure and be free from suffering
Om shanti shanti shanti
Mangala / Nicky.