- People want to be having better sex and more intimacy with their significant other.
- People feel fat.
- People feel totally unworthy of their dreams.
- People do one or more things “too much.” They eat too much sugar, drink too much wine, smoke pot, and the most shameful one – they eat for comfort. The crazy part? They know it.
- People don’t do one or more things that they really want to be doing. For some reason they gave up yoga, meditation, painting, writing, or singing. And the soul weeps for their lost muse.
Alright ladies and gentlemen, it’s the New Year. We are all a-buzz with that excitement of new vistas and catalytic potentialities. And, wanna’ know the best way to super-charge your dreams? Start taking care of your body. Your mind will thank you.
Here is my basic Daily Ritual, pulled straight from my soon-to-be-published book on living healthy, happy and sexy with ancient Ayurveda:
Your morning routine begins the night before: Getting in bed by 10 or 10:30 PM (can be a little later in the summer) will help you start the morning off right.
- Wake up at sunrise: If you are exhausted, sick or elderly, please sleep as long as you like. Upon waking, do not get out of bed right away. Try to be aware of your body and feel grateful to be alive before your toes touch earth. Pray.
- Drink warm lemon water: This helps to wash the G.I. tract, flushes the kidneys and stimulates peristalsis. If your digestion is sluggish, add 1/2 tsp ginger root powder.
- Nature calls: Going to the bathroom upon waking will help clear your digestive system. A healthy “motion” will have a soft brown log quality, little odor and will be well-formed (like a banana). Undigested food, foul odor, mucous, excessive dryness or “pellet-like” quality suggests a digestive imbalance. Altering diet, lifestyle and using herbs will help better this.
- Gently scrape your tongue: Buy a silver tongue scraper. Scrape from back to front 5-8 times. The tongue is a mirror of your intestines. When there is a thick white coating on the tongue, it is indicative that ama (toxins) are present. Tongue scraping helps prevent diseases of the oral cavity, improves our ability to taste, gets rids of old food debris and prevents bad odor in the mouth.
- Wash the face, mouth, teeth and eyes: Splash your face with cool water. Wash the eyes with cool water or real-deal rose water. You can also buy an eye cup at most pharmacies and use for washing the eyes. Massage your gums with sesame oil. This improves oral hygiene, prevents bad breath, increases circulation to gums, heals bleeding gums and helps us maintain strong healthy teeth.
- Mouth detox: Take 1-2 tablespoons of pure sesame oil (not toasted) in the mouth. Gargle and swish until it creates a liquid texture (about 10-15 minutes), and then spit out into trash can. This strengthens teeth, gums and jaw. It also improves the voice, and is said to remove wrinkles from the cheeks! I know you may think 10-15 minutes is a long time – but, just swish it around while you do something else (like your self-massage).
- Use a neti pot: Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt to warm water in the pot and drain through each nostril. Afterwards, put 3-5 drops of warm sesame oil or ghee in the nostrils to lubricate the nose. This keeps the sinuses cleans, improves voice, vision and mental clarity. Our nose is the door to the brain. Nose drops nourish our prana and enhance intelligence.
- Abhyanga (Self-massage): Massage is one of our greatest allies for total health. It nourishes and soothes the nervous systems, stimulates lymphatic flow and aids in detoxification. It also improves circulation, increases vitality, nourishes the skin and promotes body/mind balance.
- Exercise: One of greatest allies in moving towards balance, exercise boosts the immune system and is an excellent way to counteract depression. Exercise daily to half capacity. We want to get a little sweaty glow, but not burn out before our day begins.
- Bathe: Use natural products.
- Meditate: Begin your day with some form of breath-work and meditation. Start with five minutes and work up to at least 20 minutes daily. I sometimes do my meditation before exercise, which is also fine.
- Eat breakfast.
- Try to make lunch your biggest meal of the day. Eat in a pleasant, calm place without distraction.
- Take some time to bless the food prior to eating.
- After eating, if you can lay down on your left side for 5-20 minutes, this is ideal. Why? Because it helps the digestive organs to do their work to assimilate the meal. If you are at work, even just leaning to the left side in your chair will be helpful.
Afternoon/Early Evening routines
- One afternoon routine that helps you deeply relax into your evening is the practice of yoga nidra – a yogi nap. Its also nice to do this prior to dinner, just before sunset.
- Eat light at night: Having your last meal before sun-down, and at least 3 hours before bedtime will ensure better sleep. If you feel don’t feel hungry, drink one of my nighty-night tonics like my Golden Yogini Milk.
There is no excuse, anymore, for us to not be sleeping. Women need sleep. Men need sleep. Bunnies need sleep. Everybody on the planet needs 6-8 hours of sleep on a regular basis. As Ayurveda expert and author, Dr. Claudia Welch says, “Every cell in the body needs stimulation, and every cell in the body needs nourishment.” Just as we need to exercise, we also need to surrender into rest.
It is also impossible to accomplish your goals if you are chronically sleep-deprived. Plus, your mind/body uses sleep as the washing machine for the subconscious mind. If we aren’t slipping into deep dream-time every night, much of our toxic, unprocessed emotions and experiences don’t get drained away. As Dr. Robert Svoboda says, “Sleep is the wet nurse of society.” Raise your hand if you feel like you need to be wet-nursed?
Ayurveda offers an ideal way for transitioning from the activity of the day into the sacred chamber of sleep. Following these routines will make sleep come effortlessly, and will help keep you asleep through the night:
- Set the mood: Depending on the season (in the winter it may be earlier), start turning off overhead lights after dinner. Avoid fluorescent lights always, but especially at night. Low lighting helps tell your body it is time to go to sleep. Lots of light confuses your circadian rhythms and messes with the natural hormones that pull you into the “sleepy feeling.” One of the first questions I people who suffer from insomnia is, “Are your overhead lights still on at 8 and 9 PM?” Switch to low level lighting, candles, or install dimmers on your overhead lights to set the mood for sleep.
- No more screen-time: Set an intention to turn off all screens (computers, cellphones, TVs) by 8 or 9 PM. Science now confirms that screens and lighting are also messing with our circadian rhythms.
- Be in bed by 10 PM: Have you ever noticed that you get a second wind around 10:30 PM? That’s because the metabolic energy your body normally uses for detoxing you while you sleep gets diverted to mental energy, and we get activated. Our body detoxifies and rejuvenates from 10 PM – 2 AM. When we stay up late, we truly do miss out on beauty sleep. If you currently go to bed at mid-night, use the fifteen-minute rule. Each night, trying going to bed a mere 15 minutes earlier. Within a few weeks, you will soundly sleeping at 10 PM.
- Take a warm bath: Taking a scented warm bath can help reset the nervous system towards sleep. Use oils such as frakenscense, myrrh, lavender, honeysuckle, jatamamsi, sandalwood, chamomile, neroli or pure rose for deep slumber.
- Avoid too much mental stimulation: Don’t watch evening news. It’s toxic for your dreams. Similarly, avoid planning your future, having intense conversations or any other activity that promotes mental movement before bed.
- Light a candle, read a sweet book that makes your heart melt. Say some prayers, and turn in.
- Unravel the day: There is a powerful meditative practice for unraveling the day. It actually builds your power of assimilation and boosts memory. Once in bed and laying down, mentally go backwards through your day in increments of 30 minutes. Try to simply register what was happening to you during the day without judgement. Notice your feelings, relax and let all events go. End with the point where you woke up in the morning. Gently drift into sleep.
Whether you suffer from insomnia or sleep like a log, the ancient teachings of the Vedas tell us that the way we set up our bedroom can have a powerful impact on the depth and quality of our sleep. It can also boost the sensuality-factor for deeper connection with our loved one.
Vastu shastra (literally the ”science of construction or architecture”) is an ancient science that arranges dwellings in accordance with natural elements and directional alignments. Think Indian feng shui.
Here is my modern interpretation on a simple vastu bedroom wisdom. Use it to optimize your sacred sleep chamber. In general, these pointers will help you create an atmosphere that begs for sensual ritual and deep sleep:
- Keep the room light and airy. Open windows as much as the seasons allow.
- Keep the temperature mild and pleasant. I recommend avoiding overheating or over-air conditioning the room. Make sure your body feels comfortable. Sometimes just feeling cold is enough to cause insomnia.
- Get rid of the clutter. There should be nothing in the bedroom that reminds you of work. Move the stacks of papers you need to file at the office out of this sacred sleep chamber. Take the spare change and those piles of mail off the top of your dresser. (Go do it now, you know you have a stack like that!)
- Bring in harmony by keeping the room clean, well-painted and orderly.
- The room should be private.
- The room should be empty of machines or technologies. They kill the buzz of sensuality, and increase restlessness in the body and mind.
- Create some boundaries on your e-life. Life changes when we make the adult decision to turn off our electronic devices after 9pm. Seriously, the iphone may be one sexy technological wonder, but your significant other is sexier. If you are single, relish this time alone to read your favorite books.
- Avoid all forms of news media in the bedroom.
- The room should smell good, but not too scented. Avoid heavy incense. Use fresh romantic scents such as ylang ylang, sandalwood, jasmine, and rose.
- The bed should be comfortable, not sag in the middle, and made with sheets should be made of natural organic fibers.
This article was originally published on the Yoga Journal blog on September 13, 2013.Continue Reading
Despite the ancient Charaka’s beautiful promise of trimmed, strong, charming bodies, the western woman seems intent on buffing, exfoliating and dermabrasioning oil from her skin. As I work with women, I keep pleading with them, “Please mama, oil your body,” and yet it seems like one of the hardest premises to integrate into the daily routine. This may be because it seems hard to believe that by lovingly massaging a clean oil into the body, many diseases and imbalances can be both prevented and treated.
Our lack of love for our innate oiliness may also be partially to blame. Our current cultural paradigm sells us the myth that oily is gross. Anything unctuous or juicy is to be promptly waxed, astringed and exfoliated away, leaving no sign that we may be, underneath our expensive designer beauty products, a juice-producing, oil-secreting woman. Ladies of the land, may we let this idea die, and may our new mantra be, “Oily is Beautiful.” Repeat – “Oily is Beautiful.” In fact, oil is what keeps the skin young, taut and supple. Have I convinced you yet? If not, read on.
The simple truth is that the simple practice of oiling the physical machine is, quite possibly, the best thing we can do for the body, and the nervous system, on a daily basis. In fact, there is a phrase in traditional Indian healthcare that says, “Either pay the oil man today, or you will be paying the doctor tomorrow.” And as our skin is the largest organ of the body (in fact, it weighs anywhere from 6 to 10 pounds), we may do well in caring for this large biologically active organ.
Why do it? How about:
- a boost in your skin’s ability to breathe
- baby’s-ass smooth skin
- less cellulite
- a deep feeling of self-love – touch is ten times stronger than verbal or emotional contact. The skin is one of the primary seats of emotion, feelings, and desire.
- a release of a feel-good-hormone cocktail – the skin is as rich in hormones as the hypothalamus in the brain. When we self-massage, we literally release a cascade of feel-good, life-enriching growth-factor chemicals into our bloodstream.
- boosts vitality by preventing dehydration and providing deep nourishment
- stimulates the immune system
- cleanses the lymph – the rubbing and stroking actions dislodge accumulated toxins and impurities from the body and move them into the digestive system.
How to Oil Up – Ayurveda Style
- Choose an oil. If you tend to run hot, coconut oil is cooling. If you run cold, sesame oil is warming. Sunflower oil is a good oil to blend with either of these two as it lessens their smell and heaviness (if you find them too intense). If you run really oily already, you may try dry brushing your skin instead of using oil.
- Start by warming up your oil. When you warm the oil it “cures” it, allowing your skin to better absorb it. You can heat your oil in a small sauce span on the stove. I usually just put some boiling water in a glass measuring cup. Then, I put the smaller glass bottle of oil into the measuring cup and let the oil heat for about 15 minutes before applying it. You can also just simply place the glass bottle directly in your bathroom sink. Close the drain and fill with the hottest water possible. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes before applying to the body. Truth be told, sometimes I don’t have time for curing it, so I just rub it strong in my palms to “heat it” before applying.
- Get naked.
- For the full bliss treatment, you can start at the top of the head and pour the oil directly onto the crown. If you are doing this before work and do not want an oily head for the rest of the day, you can skip this part and save it for a day when you do not need to be “presentable.” That said, Ayurvedic tradition placed heavy emphasis on massage the head and neck. Of the 107 energetic points of the body (called marmas), 37 are located on the head and neck.
- Continue onto the face (gently) and the rest of the body. On the long arms and legs, use back-and-forth strokes. On the joints, use circular strokes. If you are looking down at your belly, do circular strokes in a clock-wise motion, as this is direction in which our long intestine moves, and will stimulate proper digestion.
- How long should you spend massaging the body? Ideally, 15-20 minutes. If time is an issue, spend at least five minutes in total communion with your body vehicle. And by the way, notice the spots of the body you avoid. The thighs? The feet? Spend the most time there, as these are the bits that need the most love.
- Sit for some time. I recommend 20 minutes. Why not use this time to do some meditation?
- Rub off any excess oil with a towel and then take a shower. It may be a good idea to have a few towels designating for oiling, as they will not be of much use for drying the body after a few weeks. Showering causes the pores to open, allowing the herbal oil to penetrate even deeper into the skin. You do not need to soap-off the oil. The body will, most likely absorb it all, especially if you are quite dry.
- Make sure not to leave the oil on for more than 45 minutes as this can actually clog the channels we are trying to cleanse. Also, make sure to use chemical-free, organic, cold-pressed oils.
- Leave the house covered in a layer of L.O.V.E. (well-oiled).
The yoga world has a lesser-known sister and her name is Ayurveda. For thousands of years, yoga and Ayurveda were seen as necessary compliments to one another. But somewhere along the way, we fell in love with yoga and yet forgot about Ayurveda.
And although some famous mamas like Madonna, Christy Turlington, and the Grand Priestess of Get-Your-Act-Together (Oprah) have touted its health-boosting benefits, Ayurveda remains largely an exotic Indian mystery.
I heard about Ayurveda in India. I was studying with a sweet old Brahmin man named A.G. Mohan. I remember thinking, wow, this is amazing and its never gonna’ be applicable to my life back in the U.S. But the more I studied it, the more I realized that it was all about developing deep self-awareness. It was also about humbling the ego (that tells you that you really deserve an entire bar of dark chocolate) to the laws of Nature.
I feel like its time for yoga’s powerhouse sister to come out of hiding and begin infusing our practices and lives with rich, time-tested wisdom. I wanna’ help her, so here is my mini-Ayurveda primer, just for you.
Ayurveda – which means “Science of Life,” holds the following premises as true:
1. If Ayurveda were a religion (it’s not), Nature is God and the only sin is not listening to your higher-knowing.
2. Nature has cycles – daily and seasonal. When we learn them, we can ride them and glean some of their power. When we ignore them, we suffer. When we tune to natural rhythms, our body becomes more balanced naturally. (e.g. being in bed asleep by 10 p.m. instead of surfing Amazon is one example of tuning to natural rhythm).
3. The body is a wise, Spirit-infused, breathing-animal, mind-matrix charged with an electro-intelligence called prana (energy). When prana is flowing where it should, you GLOW. Plain and simple.
4. You are a unique, special snowflake, just like everybody else. Because each individual is unique, you will have different needs. This holds true whether we are talking about what you eat, how many times a month you have sex, or how often and what you do for exercise.
5. Disease can be caused by a number of things – but at its core, disease is caused by forgetting who we are – A Timeless Spirit Being.
6. There is one answer to any question in Ayurveda: It depends.
7. Energy follows focus. Our experience of life, how we see the world “out there,” and whether we are happy or not, is largely determined by our energy. When we change our energy, our thoughts change. When we change our thoughts, energy shifts in that direction.
8. Oil your machine – don’t wait for your body to start creaking and cracking before you oil it! Like any fine-tuned instrument, the body needs to be oiled. So go slap some coconut oil on your fine thighs. Now.
9. Many people are fatigued and depressed/anxious because they aren’t living the life they want to live.
10. You can’t stop constipation by eating more raw cauliflower. Okay, this one is a stretch, but raw food, if you are already constipated, ain’t gonna help. Ayurveda understands that anything can turn to poison in the body if your metabolism can’t digest it. Yes, even raw organic goji-berry-acai-kale smoothies. Lay off the cold beverages, cold sandwiches, carrots, raw nuts and raw veggies if you suffer from anxiety, insomnia or constipation. Drink some warm ginger tea, eat some soup and rub your body in oil.
I hope this list will get you started on at least becoming curious about what this philosophy and science has to offer your life.
Share it! Live it!
Here’s my go-to list for getting more core vitality – essential for being healthier, happier, and a whole lot sexier!
Go organic: Eat foods that are seasonally-aligned, organic and when possible, local.
Cleanse and purify, then rebuild and renew: If you are full of toxic gunk from over-indulging in meat, sugar, drugs, alcohol or processed/fried foods, don’t start eating a ton of ghee and dates. First, take a few days to eat super-simple and clean – mainly whole grains, lentils, vegetables and high-quality fats such as olive oil and avocado.
Stop eating out so much: Ojas lies in the love of home-made meals. By and large, restaurant cooks don’t pour their love into your dish.
Avoid overeating: This depletes the digestive fire.
Get rid of excess stimulation while eating: If you want to build core vitality, no more watching the evening news, or eating lunch in front of your computer at the office.
Sleep “your” hours: You know what your hours are. Some women need seven to feel perky, others thrive on nine.
Oil the body: Use an oil that is appropriate for the season and/or your body constitution. If you have alot of mucous or are extra toxic, start by dry brushing your body for a few days, while eating clean and simple foods. Then, begin to oil up.
Rest: Do deep, restorative yoga, yin yoga and yoga nidra (checkout our workshops page for yoga nidra)
Love the one you’re with – Any form of real love and devotion boosts our vitality and immune health.
“There are three supports (pillars) of life. They are food, sleep and observances of bramacharya. Being supported by these, the body is endowed with strength, complexion and growth, and this continues up [until] the full span of life, provided that the person does not indulge in regimens detrimental to health.”
This Ayurvedic quote reminds us that sleep is one of the most critical elements of health and well-being. Flip ahead a few thousand years to modern times, where lack of sleep tops the charts for chronic health complaints. Ayurveda holds sleep as the “wet nurse of the world.” It is a time when our body heals tissue, detoxifies and does a major sub-conscious dump on any undigested life emotions and scenarios. And so, if we aren’t satisfied with our nightly slumber, we just aren’t getting enough of the wet nurse.
In that light, I wanted to give you some super-practical, easy home remedies that will help ensure that you sleep like a baby this season. These pointers will help you turn bedtime into sacred ritual:
Make it cozy. Make sure your body feels comfortable. Sometimes feeling cold is enough to keep your body from relaxing into dreamland. Invest in eco-friendly, soft sheets and other bedding.
Get rid of the clutter. There should be nothing in the bedroom that distracts the mind from relaxation. Remove stacks of papers you need to file at the office. Take any spare change and old piles of mail off the top of your dresser. Throw out anything that has lived under your bed for more than a year.
Eat light at night. Have your last meal at least 3 hours before bedtime.
Set the mood for sleep. One of the first questions I ask insomniacs is, “Are your lights still on at 8 and 9 pm?” Start turning off overhead lights an hour or so before bedtime. Avoid fluorescent lights always, but especially at night. Low lighting helps inform the body that it is time to start turning in for sleep. Try using lamps and candles instead, and if you do have overhead lighting, think about installing dimmers.
Turn off the screens. Set an intention to turn off all electronic screens (computers, cellphones, TVs) by 9 pm. Screens and artificial lighting can disturb the circadian rhythms that produce sleep hormones.
Be in bed by 10 pm. I know, I know, this one is tough. But have you ever noticed that you get a second wind around 10 or 10:30? That’s because the energy and metabolic processes your body normally uses for cleaning itself out while you sleep get diverted to mental energy if we’re awake. According to Ayurveda, our body detoxifies and rejuvenates from 10pm through 2 am. When we stay up late, we truly do miss out on beauty sleep. If you typically go to bed at midnight, try the 15-minute rule. Each night, head to bed a mere 15 minutes earlier. Within a few weeks, you will be soundly sleeping at 10!
Take a warm bath. Taking a scented, warm bath before bed almost always induces amazing slumber. Add a few drops of essential oils, such as myrrh, lavender, honeysuckle, jatamamsi (an Ayurvedic herb that grows in the Himalayas), sandalwood, chamomile, neroli, or pure rose.
Oil up. Rub some pure sesame oil in your ears, nose, on the crown of the head and on the soles of the feet before bed. This is a tried-and-true Ayurvedic sleep enhancer.
Unravel the day. This powerful Tantric practice actually strengthens your ability to assimilate life, and can enhance your memory. Once in bed, mentally go back through your day in increments of 30 minutes. Try to simply register what happened during the day, in the 30 minutes before bedtime, then 30 minutes before that, et cetera, without judgment. Notice any feelings that come up as you go through the catalog of your day, then let them go. End with the point where you woke up in the morning. Gently drift into sleep.
Brew a cup. Herbal teas soothe the mind and body, and are a lovely way to wind down before sleep. Try lavender, chamomile, oat straw, or lemon balm. Add a little ghee or coconut oil for added lusciousness, or a few strands of saffron and some warm milk.
This article originally appeared on the Yoga Journal Blog on November 15, 2012.Continue Reading
If you have ever been in love, you know that there is an incredible amount of power, or shakti, behind falling into the wild rapture of delighting in someone else. There is so much power in the experience of love, in fact, that we have created a whole culture and consumer landscape around trying to get more of it.
Yogis understand that where there is power, there is potential fertile ground for connecting deeper into our heart and soul. But the object of love was way less important than the act of loving itself. Yogis fall in love by realizing that what they love, and the part of themselves that is able to love, is actually the same thing.
A yogi also uses the remembrance of love to connect to the release of bliss-bombs in their own heart. Now, this may sound very “dolphins and rainbows,” but science supports the bliss-bomb theory. When we are in love (or feel deeply understood, or cuddle a kitty, or get a massage), there is an increase of the hormone oxytocin in our system. This blissful hormone has been shown to be the polar opposite of our stress hormones, allowing us to feel relaxed, safe, trusting and generous. Studies show that people with high amounts of oxytocin experience less loneliness and physical pain. They were also shown to be better communicators, and to feel more connected to their work and the people around them.
We can learn from the yogic philosophy of love. We don’t necessarily need an external event, or lover, to catalyze our own waterfall of juicy oxytocin and emotional fulfillment. We can use some simple yogic practices to fall in love from within. And the best part? When we fall in love from within, we may actually attract more love from the outside—teddy-bear-shaped hearts and all.
Four Tips on Getting More Yogi Love
1. The power of loving what already is. Take pause to appreciate what surrounds you in the moment. Gain pleasure from what already is, without grasping for what could be. Ask yourself, “What is it about this moment (or this room, person, place) that is absolutely worthy of my love and appreciation?” Feel that love fill you up as you express contentment with exactly what you already have.
2. The power of loving touch. Yoga teaches us how to soften ourselves enough to be touched by life. On a physical level, any kind of appropriate touching has been shown to increase oxytocin and reduce stress hormones in the body. Whether it be a gentle massage, a warm hug, or the intimate touch of a lover, fill your life up with opportunities for skin-rubbing sweetness. If you live with love ones, try giving more touch. If you live alone, surround yourself with friends who don’t mind doling out the tender embraces.
3. The power of loving selflessly. My teacher, Rod Stryker, encourages us to meditate on “love without ownership.” This is a beautiful practice for cultivating non-attachment around the people and things we already have in our lives. The yogis knew that we could love better, and more authentically, when we loved people without trying to own or change them. Practice daily acts of selfless love with no expectation for returns on investment. My fellow yogini, Rachel Meyer, used to make a love-filled cake every Saturday and give it to someone who may have had a hard week. Do you knowanyone who may need an unexpected and heartfelt treat?
4. The power of loving remembrance. There is a powerful Tantric practice for increasing the feeling of love in your life. Begin by allowing yourself to close your eyes and settle into your breath. As you become more and more relaxed, allow yourself to remember a time in your life when you felt very deeply and utterly “in love.” It may have been through the experience of a lover’s embrace, receiving a drawing from your child, or a sunset in your backyard that called your heart to open. Remember this, and feel the remembrance of the love in the body. Then, leave the memory behind and pay close attention to the feeling sensations of the “being in” love. Watch how it grows and expands on its own as you experience the delight of objectless love.
This article was originally published in the Yoga Journal Blog on February 10, 2012.Continue Reading