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31 Aug

Chants of a Lifetime

India has given us many different practices through which we can learn more about ourselves and our true nature: meditation, yoga, vastu, and ayurveda are just a few.  Krishna Das has written a wonderful new book that explains the practice most dear to his heart, chanting, or kirtan.  “Chants of a Lifetime: Searching for a Heart of Gold” is autobiographical, with beautiful stories of his journey.  This book is filled with wisdom.  In one chapter he talks about Lila: “It’s very difficult for people like us, who are identified with our bodies and minds, to understand the concept of lila – the divine play.  It’s called “play” because there’s no selfish motive in the action.  God’s lila or the lila of a great saint, his or her action in the world, is done only for the sake of helping others.  There is no personal motive.  The saint’s actions come out of the awareness of the oneness of all life and compassion for all beings.  It’s impossible for us to understand fully.”

Chants of a Lifetime includes a CD with Krishna Das to help you start your own personal chanting practice.


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31 Aug

Ayurveda and Heart Health

Ayurveda says that heart health is best approached holistically.  It gives us specific recommendations for how to do that.  First of all, eat heart-friendly foods.  Include more servings of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet.  Stewed apples or pears are a great way to start the day with breakfast.  Blanched almonds that have been soaked overnight are also really good to include in the mix.  Avoid processed foods, and leftovers, and instead each fresh foods.  Choose light foods over food that is rich, or has been deep-fried.  And eat food that is warm and cooked rather than food that is cold and heavy.  How you eat is also important.  Eat moderate portions, and don’t skip meals.  Make lunch the largest meal of the day, and don’t eat late at night.  Exercise moderately, on a regular basis.  Ayurveda recommends an early morning 30 minute walk daily for everyone.  A walk helps the heart, and also your circulation and metabolism.  Sleep is also key to a healthy heart.  Get to bed by 10 pm, and keep the bedroom free from distractions like computers, television, and work material.

According to Ayurveda, maintaining a healthy heart has an emotional component that involves letting go of fear, anxiety and other repressed emotions. Heart Formula from Banyan Botanicals, taken in conjunction with the practice of yoga and meditation, may help release these emotions while calming and soothing the heart. Its main ingredient, arjuna, is a powerful rejuvenative that has been used as an all-around heart tonic for hundreds of years. It is said to impart courage and strengthen the will, while encouraging us to follow our hearts.

Banyan Botanicals Heart Formula


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31 Aug

The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs

Ayurveda promotes the use of herbs in healing and in self-care.  Herbs are edible plants that can be potent in supporting our body’s healing response.  Herbs can be used whole, in teas, powders or in recipes.  There are so many different herbs in the world, and each one has different properties and can help in different areas.  My friend KP Khalsa and his co-author Michael Tierra have written an amazing new book called “The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs: The Most Complete Guide to Natural Healing and Health with Traditional Ayurvedic Herbalism.”  There’s so much to love about this book!  It explains the basics of Ayurveda and how herbs are used.  It also looks at diet, and foods that can be used for particular conditions.  Then they go through several herbs, and ayurvedic formulas, and break down where each can be used, and how, to various ailments.  And then they look at specific diseases and go over treatments for each.  There is so much information in this book, and it’s all useful.  It even has some wonderful recipes including one for Yogi Tea!  Here is an excerpt straight from the book:

Yogi Tea

This is the original recipe given by Yogi Bhajan.

For each 8 oz cup, start with 10 oz of water.  For convenience, make at least 4 cups at one time.  For each cup of boiling water, add:

3 whole cloves

4 whole green cardamom pods

6 whole black peppercorns

½ stick cinnamon

Optional: 1 slice of fresh ginger root

Boil for 20-30 minutes, then add ½ teaspoon of any black or green tea.  Let sit for 1-2 minutes, then add ½ cup milk and reheat.  Strain and serve with honey to taste.

Black pepper is a blood purifier, cardamom is for the colon (gas), cloves are for the nervous system and cinnamon for the bones.  Ginger has a delicious taste and is helpful when suffering from a cold, recovering from the flu or for general physical weakness.  The milk aids in the easy assimilation of the spices and avoids irritation to the colon.  The black or green tea acts as an alloy for all of the ingredients, achieving a new chemical structure which makes the tea a healthful and delicious drink.


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31 Aug

Ayurveda and Closure

When you know about the doshas, you know about your nature, and the nature of other people.  This helps us in every area of our lives, including our relationships.  We learn to be more accepting of people, understanding that they are the way they are for a reason.  We learn to love what is, rather than what we think should be.  There is a power, a positive energy that comes with love, and we can utilize it for our spiritual growth.  Vedanta explains that our love for others is unselfish and without motive when we can see the spirit within them.  It is this spirit whom we truly love.  Because we are all connected, relationships do not end, but they do change. And how we respond to this change can greatly impact our lives.  I worked for two years with the Law of Relationship to come up with a five stage process by which we can achieve the closure we seek when any relationship changes.  Whether the change has come from a death, a divorce, a break-up, a move, or even age, now there are clear steps to help you can get over it and get on with it in a powerful and positive way!  I am so happy to introduce you to my new book “CLOSURE and the Law of Relationship: Endings as New Beginnings.”  This is a book for all of us, because we each have relationships: with parents, spouses, partners, children, friends, co-workers, and even with our communities, and our environment.  And we all go through changes and need closure at some point.  I have a video on my new website that outlines the five stages of closure, so check it out. 


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31 Aug

The Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita is one of the most revered Vedic texts.  It is considered the essence of India’s Vedic philosophy.  The Bhagavad Gita is actually one chapter of the much longer Mahabharata, and it contains deep insight into the universal laws of nature.  Although Vedic literature comes from a Hindu origin, there is much to learn no matter what your faith is.  Ayurveda, a part of Vedic literature, teaches us to maintain health and balance in life, and is practiced by people of many faiths who benefit from the wisdom.  The Bhagavad Gita is the story of Arjuna, an archer who is forced into a battle.  Krishna is by his side and becomes his teacher.  The battle becomes a metaphor for life, and Krishna teaches us what it takes to be happy.  The message is that material objects only bring temporary happiness, but true happiness comes from that which never stops giving: love, peace, faith.  I have explored the Bhagavad Gita on and off over the years, and have finally found a book that has a commentary which explains it in a way that westerners like me can understand.  Swami Sadishiva Tirtha, the author of “The Ayurveda Encyclopedia,” has written beautiful commentary in his book “Bhagavad Gita for Modern Times: Secrets to Attaining Inner Peace and Harmony.”  The best part is that now we have easy access to this ancient wisdom, and can apply it to so many areas of our lives gaining greater understanding and spiritual balance.


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31 Aug

Face Reading

We read faces all the time.  We know when someone is happy, or angry, or worried because it shows on the face, they don’t even have to say a word.  Yet there is much more to face reading than this.  Face reading is a science that is practiced all over the world, and is thought to have originated in India as a part of Vedic Psychology.  Face reading studies the relationship between facial muscles and emotions.  There are 196 muscles in the face, and each muscle can have from two to nine different positions.  So there is a lot of subtlety in our emotions that is expressed on the face.  In Sankya Yoga, emotions are discussed as to how they are influenced by desire, and unfulfilled desire.  According to Vedic philosophy, emotions are the most prominent result of the soul’s self-realization.  Face reading gives us a system to examine the information that the emotions convey through the body.  I haven’t found any books specifically on Vedic face reading readily available, but there is a great website that offers more of an explanation: howtoreadfaces.com.  The Vedic system is very intuitive, using pattern recognition.  The Chinese science of face reading, while similar, is more linear and gives more emphasis to specific physical features.

The Wisdom of Your Face – on amazon


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31 Aug

Energizing Foods

In Ayurveda, the foods we eat have a big influence on the amount of energy we have.  We can be mindful in what we purchase, and what we choose to eat, to get the most energy from our foods.  Here are some tips:

-Fresh fruits and vegetables give us lots of energy right away.  It is important for us to both cut and cook the vegetables ourselves for optimum energy.  It may be convenient to buy pre-cut up veggies in the market, but those have already lost some of their prana, the vital energy energy that is in this produce and also in the air that we breathe.

-Avoid frozen, canned, processed or leftover foods.  Foods that have been altered with artificial flavorings or preservatives are more difficult to digest.  These foods can make us feel more fatigued.

-Choose locally grown and organic foods.  Organic means that no chemical fertilizers or pesticides have been used, so the body doesn’t have to work overtime to try to purify itself after eating.

-Variety is the spice of life!  Choose foods with each of the six tastes at each meal: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent.

-Watch food combinations.  Avoid foods that don’t digest well in combination.  For example, milk should only be eaten with sweet tastes, such as rice, wheat, or sugar.  Milk should never be eaten with yogurt, eggs, or fish.

-Avoid caffeine, in soda, coffee or tea.  Caffeine taxes the liver, creating fatigue and a build up of toxins.  Instead choose water, or herb teas.

-Choose restaurants carefully.  When you cook at home, you know that you are using the freshest ingredients, and cooking with mindfulness and love.  In restaurants, be aware of what ingredients are used as well as the cooking methods.

Sattwa Café


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31 Aug

Yoga Sutras for Focused Attention

In Ayurveda, focused attention is valued because it helps us in many areas of our lives.  The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali break down for us what it takes to achieve this.  These are qualities that we can embody, ways of being rather than things to do.

-Shraddha: Faith, trust.  We need to trust in the intelligence of the Universe and welcome any experiences that come our way.  It is about accepting and loving what is, rather than what we think should be. 

-Virya: Strength.  This is inner strength, fortitude.  It is the ability to remain undistracted by disturbances, and to be resilient when things go wrong.

-Smrutti: Memory.  When we have certain things learned by memory, whether it is the times tables or our social security number, it gives us more mental energy because we don’t have to bother with trying to remember.  A good memory allows us to think more clearly and effectively.

-Samadhi: Balanced Consciousness.  This is about being fully present in the moment.  It is non-judgment, experiencing things as they unfold without criticism.

-Prajna: Discernment.  This is knowing what is real and what is not real.  It is understanding where we need to put our attention.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali


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31 Aug

Ayurveda and Depression

More than 19 million adults in the United States alone suffer from depression.  Women are affected twice as often as men, especially after childbirth and during menopause.  Some people experience depression during the winter months when there is less light.  Others can feel depressed during stressful times.  Depression manifests in many different ways, including insomnia, social withdrawal, weight fluctuation, and feelings of low self-worth.  Ayurveda says that the heart is the seat of consciousness, and that the main cause of an emotional imbalance like depression is the inability to process emotions.  When we can process emotions quickly, then we can let go of them and move on.  When the process takes too long, then that negative feeling remains and has an effect on our other thoughts and emotions, leaving us feeling depressed.  That’s why even when things are going well in the present, if we didn’t completely heal from past pain, we can still feel depressed.  What can we do about this?  We need to raise our “Sadhaka Agni” – the fire that helps us to process emotions.  Meditation is vital to this because it helps to dissolve stresses from the past and to also become more resilient to current stresses.  Sleep during prime sleep hours is also important – in Ayurveda is it recommended that we get to bed by 10 pm and wake up at 6 am.  Take a walk outside in the morning sun and breathe deeply.  Exercises elevates the mood and the energy of the sun is beneficial for everyone.  Eliminate every morning, as constipation can cause or aggravate depression.  Drink plenty of water and eat meals at the same time each day, with lunch being the largest meal of the day.  Eat fresh, wholesome foods that are balancing for your dosha.  Abhyanga, a daily sesame oil self-massage, helps to calm the mind and soothe the emotions.  And most importantly, surround yourself with loving people.  Choose friends who are positive and supportive and who also follow a healthy lifestyle routine.

Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way: Creating Happiness with Meditation, Yoga, and Ayurveda


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31 Aug

Dosha Specific Oils

Abhyanga is a self-massage that is part of the daily ayurvedic routine.  I have written about this before, and the many benefits: it helps to tone the muscles, to help the skin release toxins, and it soothes the nervous system.  The oils used in abhyanga can also be used in other massage techniques.  Vata types respond best to a gentler, slow massage.  Pitta types prefer tapping and rolling, with medium pressure.  And Kapha types appreciate the stimulation of a deep tissue massage mixed up with short, firms strokes.  Some massage oils have been specifically created to be dosha-balancing with the additional benefits of herbs and aromatherapy.  Nature’s Formulary has massage oils for Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.  The Vata oil includes essential oils of ylang ylang, frankincense, and carrot seed to be especially calming.  The Pitta oil has added the essential oils of camphor, rose otto, and peppermint to be particularly cooling.  And the Kapha oil is wonderfully warming with the essential oils of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cumin.  These oils can also be applied to the feet just before bed for a good night’s sleep.  And the oil may be added to the bath to help soothe dry skin.

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