Canggu, Bali, August 2016

Buddhist Monastery, Banjar, Bali, August 2016

Yogi at Hindu Monastery, Kauai, Hawaii, March 2014

 

Rest & Rejuvenate in the beautiful retreat Mana offers in the Coromandel.

Mother's Day Relax 12-14 May 2017 $190

Winter Relax Weekend 9-11 June 2017 $190

These weekend prices include accommodation and nourishing vegetarian meals.

https://manaretreat.com

 

Source: Yoga International

FEBRUARY 20, 2017    BY KAREN COSTA
 

The psoas muscle has gained a great deal of attention in recent years. Wellness expert and holistic doctor Christiane Northrup calls it “the most important muscle in your body.” I became intimate with my own psoas muscle a couple of years ago, after developing chronic lower back pain.

Learning how to find the perfect balance between stretching and strengthening my psoas became my mission in life, and it led me to attend a five-day workshop at Kripalu with Michaelle Edwards, founder of YogAlign. I learned so many things from Michaelle, but the psoas lunge is my absolute favorite. It has become a regular part of both my home practice and my teaching. Every time I teach it, at least one student will approach me after class with bright, wide eyes and say “That new lunge you taught us—It. Was. So. Awesome.”

Here’s how to incorporate the psoas lunge into your own practice.

Step 1: Think: “The Opposite of Sitting”

I find it very helpful to keep in mind the phrase “the opposite of sitting” when I’m practicing or teaching the psoas lunge. Picture yourself seated in a typical chair. Notice that your hips are in flexion, with your knees bent toward your belly. Chances are that your back is resting against the back of the chair (which means the chair is doing the work of your core muscles). Your shoulders may be hunched forward slightly.

Sitting has been called the new smoking, and the negative outcomes of too many hours spent in this position are countless. Since the psoas muscle connects the hips to the spine (it’s actually the only muscle that connects the spine to the legs), it becomes short, weak, and tight from too much sitting.

 

 

 

Recognizing the negative impact of sitting inspires the question: What does the opposite of sitting look like? One answer: the psoas lunge.

Step 2: Balance Strength and Stretch

 

 

 

As a result of an initial visit to an orthopedist, subsequent physical therapy, my own anatomy detective work, and various yoga trainings, I learned that I am hypermobile—with loosely set hips, as confirmed by an X-ray. Overstretching had pushed my body past its natural edge. The experts I spoke to believed that to be the source of my back pain, and they suggested I develop a greater focus on strength rather than flexibility in my practice. That’s what makes the psoas lunge so powerful: It’s a dynamic stretch in which the muscle is engaged and active (versus passive).

With two blocks handy at the top of your mat (on the lowest level to start), come to your hands and knees in tabletop position. Step your right foot between your hands. Shift your left knee back so that your weight is slightly above the kneecap rather than directly on the center of it. You’ll immediately notice a nice opening in the front of the left hip here in low lunge (anjaneyasana). The toes of your left foot should be pointed, the top of the foot resting on the ground.

Place a block beneath each hand. Depending on the length of your arms, you may want to use the medium or taller height of the block, with the goal of making sure your hands feel steady and supported. Bringing hands onto blocks also keeps the heart open and prevents the back from rounding. Bring your gaze toward the floor and slightly forward so that the back of your neck is in its natural alignment. Avoid either pressing the chin to the chest or lifting it toward the sky. Notice your shoulders: If they’ve crept up toward your ears, allow them to soften. Take a breath here.

To come into the psoas lunge, press evenly into the top of your left foot, making sure not to let it collapse either left or right. This will lift your left knee off the ground. Your hands remain on the blocks. Stay here for three to five breaths. Silently saying “the opposite of sitting” can help you visualize the anatomical work being done in this pose. You might wish to draw your breath and attention to your deep core, envisioning your psoas muscle being both stretched and strengthened in this posture. On an exhale, allow the left knee to return to the floor.

Return to your starting point on hands and knees. Then repeat on the opposite side by stepping your left foot forward between your hands, drawing the right knee back, and pressing into the top of the right foot, with toes pointed.

Step 3: Harness Your Breath

As with any yoga posture, the use of your breath can greatly complement the psoas lunge. Since the psoas is connected to the diaphragm through ligaments and fascia, making sure that you are using the full capacity of your breath, with deep belly breathing (also called diaphragmatic breathing), will allow you to harness the maximum benefit of this posture. The breath works the lunge from the inside out, creating powerful shifts in your deep core.

Step 4: Sit Differently

Writer Annie Dillard once famously said, “How we spend our days is, in fact, how we spend our lives.” Be mindful that spending most hours of your day in a hunched, seated position cannot be balanced by an hour on the mat, although it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Start by noticing how you sit, and how often. When sitting, don’t lean against the back of the chair—instead allowing your core muscles to do the work for which they were designed.

Take regular walking breaks, try a standing desk, or sit up on a yoga block while seated in a chair (another one of Michaelle’s great recommendations for decreasing hip flexion). Sitting on an exercise ball can also be a good option, if the ball allows your hips to come higher than your knees—as that’s the indicator of the quality of your seated position. Be mindful of keeping both legs forward, and consider how tucking or crossing one leg could lead to long-term imbalances.

Added to your practice of the powerful psoas lunge, these various modifications to your daily habits may gradually have their effect on your strength, your comfort, and your confidence. And finally, you may find that spending your days differently will change how you spend your life.  

Click on this link for more information on the psoas by Holistic Doctor Christiane Northrup http://www.drnorthrup.com/psoas-muscle-vital-muscle-body/

 

 

by Dr. Ilene Ruhoy 8 February 2017

 

Many health discussions focus on heart disease. And while this is an important discussion because it can help many prevent heart attacks, just as importantly, the blood vessels that feed the brain (known as cerebral vasculature) are equally as vulnerable and in need of protection. And it is the health of these cerebral vessels that's important in preventing a stroke. 

 

Ever wondered how blood gets to your brain?

 

Briefly and simply, the brain receives its blood supply from the two internal carotid arteries that course up the sides of the neck and the two vertebral arteries that travel up the back of the neck. All of these arteries combine and form what is called the circle of Willis, a ring of vessels from which all major cerebral vessels arise. Before combining, the vertebral and basilar arteries also send off branches to feed the other parts of the brain like the brainstem and the cerebellum.

 

A stroke is a blockage of a cerebral vessel and can be devastating, resulting in impaired quality of life or even in end of life. The area of the brain affected by the stroke is based on the specific vessel that has been unable to deliver proper blood supply to its corresponding brain tissue. And each region of brain tissue has an associated function, whether its motor, sensory, visual, perception, speech, or cognition. There can be some stroke warning signs—but oftentimes there are none.

 

To prevent a stroke you have to tackle inflammation.

 

Known risk factors for cerebral vessel disease include elevated blood pressure, elevated lipids, diabetes, smoking, alcohol, obesity, genetics, underlying disease such as autoimmunity or blood disorders, medications and drugs, stress, poor nutrition, poor sleep as well as sleep apnea, age, or a previous stroke or heart attack. The common pathway for many of these risk factors? Inflammation. Many of these risk factors result in inflammation of the vessels, known as vasculitis.

 

So what can we do? Some of the very same things we do to hopefully prevent a heart attack can also help to prevent a stroke. And remember: Your lifestyle choices always matter.

 

1. Adopt a plant-based diet.

 

The vast array of vitamins, nutrients, and essential compounds that are found in plant-based foods help to lower blood pressure, improve glucose control, reduce inflammation, and help in weight loss. Try to minimize or eliminate pro-inflammatory animal products.

 

2. Normalize your sleep.

 

If you have sleep apnea, get it treated because sleep apnea results in less oxygen delivered to the brain during sleep—a critical time for many of the brain's functions. For example, sleep helps to form and retain lessons and memories from the day before. Sleep hygiene is important, so try to go to sleep and wake up at the same times each night.

 

3. Don't skimp on fresh air and exercise.

 

Regular daily exercise—preferably outside for the added beneficial effects of the great outdoors—is important to reduce blood sugar, lower weight, and reduce stress.

 

4. Avoid alcohol and tobacco.

 

If you need help quitting, please reach out for help or speak to your physician.

 

5. Supplement to fight inflammation.

 

Herbal formulations are great for preventive purposes. Boswellia lowers brain inflammation and N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a powerful antioxidant that will work to scoop up those inflammation-causing free radicals. Meadowsweet and white willow bark are natural sources of salicylate acid, the active ingredient in aspirin. Important: If your risk factors are great enough that you need aspirin, these herbs are not a substitute.

 

6. Give acupuncture a try.

 

Studies have demonstrated the positive effects on cerebral blood flow with particular head acupoints.

 

7. Start the day with a juice.

 

Start each morning with a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant combination that includes turmeric and ginger, along with fruits and vegetables. It is the perfect time to infuse your hungry cells with crucial vitamins and nutrients to set them up for physiologic success!

 

 

You have the power to heal your body, improve your health, and prevent disease. So harness that power and take one day at a time.

 

 

SWEET PEA & PEARL ONION PESTO SMOTHERED ZUCCHINI NOODLES

We can’t wait to try this alkalising take on pesto pasta, perfect for a romantic night in - or a dinner party for 10.

You'll need

2 large zucchinis, julienned or spiral cut, preferably organic

24 fresh pearl onions, peeled (substitute frozen if need be)

2 cups organic frozen peas

3 tbsp fresh mint, roughly chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp maple syrup or 3 drops liquid stevia

pinch himalayan salt or good sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

To make

Using a spiral noodle slicer or a julienne peeler make your noodles from the zucchinis. Place in a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Place the pearl onions in a covered steamer basket over boiling water and steam for 8-10 mins till layers just begin to separate and they appear translucent. (If using frozen pearl onions your steam time will be a little less). Add frozen peas and steam for 2 minutes longer, stirring at the one-minute mark to ensure even cooking.

Remove from heat and pour half the mixture into a small bowl and the other half into your food processor–be sure to divide the onions evenly.

To the food processor, add the olive oil, lemon juice, mint, salt, pepper and maple syrup. Process until creamy but not completely smooth, leaving a little texture.

Now let’s put it altogether. Pour the creamy pea and onion pesto over the noodles, Top with remaining steamed peas and pearl onions. Garnish your bowl(s) with fresh mint and freshly ground pepper.

Source: My New Roots & Welleco

 


Pablo's Cabana, Great Barrier Island, New Zealand, January 2017

Because sometimes lying under the trees and walking barefoot on the earth is the most spiritual thing you could ever do in your life.

 

 

by Dr Leo Galland - 7 January 2017

When allergies or inflammation strikes, you may be quick to blame some common culprits like pollen and ragweed, pets, pollution, or food. But what you may not know is that one of the biggest causes of allergy and inflammation is actually your mind. 

How you feel and the amount of stress you experience—from work, to family, to your health—can have a direct impact on how your body feels. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that stress is a major factor in causing chronic inflammatory conditions but that stress reduction interventions can actually help reduce symptoms. 

The combination of stress and allergies creates a snowball effect. 

Ohio State University scientists found that the persistence of mental stress can increase the frequency of flare-ups in allergy sufferers. And more episodes of sneezing, running nose, and watery eyes can lead to more stress and worsening symptoms. Conversely, less stress is associated with fewer flare-ups. They also found that stress and mood could affect allergic sensitivity. Nasal allergy sufferers who were asked to perform mental arithmetic in front of an audience experience bigger hives in response to a skin test. Participants who weren't given the math questions didn't have the same allergic response. 

But the good news is that your mind can outshine your allergies. These seven simple tips can help you reduce stress, calm your body, and kick pesky allergies.

1. Give meditation a try. 

While meditation has been touted as the answer to everything from pain relief to improving your athletic performance, it really can help reduce your body's response to allergy and inflammation. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that mindfulness-based stress reduction—which combines mindfulness, yoga, and body awareness—not only helped participants cope with stress, but it also decreased inflammation in the body compared to other healthy practices like exercise and music therapy. 

 

In another study on people with migraine headaches and abdominal pain, scientists from Case Western Reserve University found that meditation and visualization reduced pain and signs of allergic inflammation. Meditation with visualization has also been shown to improve lung function and respiratory symptoms in groups of people with asthma. Try this simple meditation: 

  1. Sit in a comfortable place. 

  2. Imagine a hand resting on your forehead, giving your mind comfort and soothing your thoughts.

  3. Let any stressful thoughts float out of your mind and into the imaginary hand. 

  4. Notice the sense of spaciousness and calm without those extra thoughts.

2. Make sleep a top priority. 

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, those who experience chronic stress report shorter sleep duration and lower quality of sleep. A group of Italian researchers found that the lack of adequate shut-eye can also lead to increased oxidative stress and altered inflammatory response—among other health concerns. 

Sleep is one of the best ways to heal and rejuvenate your body. To get the best sleep, be sure to avoid caffeine late in the day and create a calming bedtime ritual. And don't forget to turn off your screens! Exposure to blue light can suppress the release of melatonin, your body's sleep-facilitating hormone, and shift your circadian clock.

3. Take an Epsom salt bath

A warm bath is super relaxing, but it can also help your body recharge. Stress can reduce levels of magnesium in the body, and Epsom salts—which are composed of magnesium sulfate—can help replenish these stores. Researchers from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom found that soaking in an Epsom salt bath for 12 minutes a day for a week raised magnesium levels measurably.

4. Get outside and clear your head.

Sometimes just getting out in nature is all we need to banish stress. In fact, researchers from Stanford observed that those who took a stroll in a parklike setting had meaningful improvements in mental health including less brooding compared to those who walked in an urban setting. Scientists from Finland found that even a brief visit to a green space can reduce stress levels.

5. Journal to reduce the impact of stressors. 

Who hasn't scribbled in a journal after a stressful, emotional, or traumatic event? And there's good reason. Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin observed that writing about stressful events can reduce the impact of those stressors; it helped lessen the intensity of the feelings and lowered symptoms of depression. Even more interesting, researcher from the United Kingdom shows that expressive writing improves lung function in asthma sufferers.

6. Hang out with friends. 

Instead of staring at your phone or computer screen, hang out with your friends. Social connection can be a strong buffer against the effects of stress. A study from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of California found that participating in a meditation group not only decreased feelings of loneliness, but it decreased systematic inflammation in the body by decreasing the activity of a gene that promotes inflammation in the body.

7. Dance your allergies away.

Yes, dance! Researchers have discovered that dance therapy can benefit those with high blood pressure, depression, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma. Music influences mood in a positive way, and, more importantly, relaxing music may reduce levels of cortisol—the main stress hormone in the body. 

The bottom line is that allergies and inflammation involve a lot more than just our environment and what we put in and on our bodies. They are also directly connected with what's going on in our mind. For more information about ways to reduce stress and combat allergies, check out my book The Allergy Solution: Unlock the Surprising, Hidden Truth About Why You Are Sick and How to Get Well.

 

Wanderlust

Wairakei, Great Lake Taupo

Thursday 2 - Sunday 5 February 2017

A 4 day Celebration of Mindful Living

You Need This: The Definitive 3-Day Gut Reset Diet

By Dr Amy Shah MD
2 January 2017

 

In my practice, I try to blend the best of ancient medicine practices with modern medical wisdom. This three-day gut cleanse utilizes modern science and Ayurveda. In both Ayurveda and modern medicine, we're learning just how much gut health is the crux of our general physical and mental health. This quick, easy cleanse will make you feel better in your belly, body, and brain.

 

1. Before you begin, do an intermittent fast.

 

Just like you, your gut needs a period of rest and rejuvenation to function optimally. Giving your gut a break can reduce inflammation, shed water weight, and reduce bloating. Studies are coming out all the time supporting the benefits of intermittent fasting, which gives the body a break for a set number of hours so that your gut can repair, reset, and rest. The night before you start your cleanse, I want you to plan to fast for 12 to 16 hours. This is easier than it sounds—a 12-hour fast simply means ending your consumption at 7 in the evening and not eating breakfast the next day until 7 a.m.

 

2. Start your morning with water.

 

Drinking water, especially warm water on an empty stomach, is one of the best things you can do for digestion. Warm water takes less energy to digest and stimulates digestion while detoxing the system and aiding digested food through the digestive tract. Start your day with at least one full class of room-temperature water before you consume any food.

 

3. Have a sugar-free breakfast.

 

Fruit sugars are OK (berries are best), but make sure they're accompanied by plenty of fiber and fat, so you don't have a blood sugar crash. Try this green smoothie recipe or this sweet potato hash. Buckwheat overnight oats are a great choice, as is a quinoa breakfast bowl.

 

4. Midmorning, have a cup of chai.

 

Boil 1 cup of water, then add in 1 heaping tablespoon loose chai tea. To this, add additional gut-boosting spices: ½ teaspoon each of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger. You can also add nutmeg or clove. Strain tea and add a splash of almond or coconut milk for creaminess if you'd like. Enjoy!

 

5. Have a broth-based meal with probiotics for lunch.

 

Not only is broth mentally soothing, but it aids in the production of gastric juices and strength of intestinal lining, soothes the gut, and aids liver and kidney function. Choose bone broth from high-quality animals or a vegetable broth, and add some vegetables to it for a filling, gut-friendly meal. Adding 1 tablespoon of kimchee, sauerkraut, or some pickles to your meals is an easy way to work gut-friendly bacteria into your lifestyle. Try 1 teaspoon or less (it packs a punch!) of miso in your soup or sip on Kombucha, nondairy kefir, or kvass with your meal.

 

6. Don't snack between meals.

 

If you're feeling peckish, have another glass of chai instead.

 

7. Add prebiotics to your dinner.

 

Hunter-gatherer societies ate 200 grams of fiber daily, while we get 15 grams with a typical modern-day diet. The best source of fiber is from complex carbohydrates from fermentable plant fibers or "prebiotics," which are likely to encourage the growth of good bacteria already present in the gut. Endeavor to eat more cellulose fibers, present in the tough parts of veggies and fruit (think of broccoli stalks, the bottom of asparagus, kale stems, and orange pulp). The following foods are especially rich in prebiotics:

 

Yams and other tubers

Potatoes

Ginger

Leeks (green and white parts)

Fibrous parts of fruit and vegetables

Legumes/beans

Try to include at least one serving (extra credit for two or three!) of prebiotic food in your dinner. These curried sweet potato noodles are a great option, as is this lentil soup or this squash salad.

 

8. Minimize stress.

 

Stress, as you can imagine, has a negative effect on the gut. When you're stressed, you release peptides that lead to increased inflammation, gut permeability (leaky gut), visceral hypersensitivity, perception to pain, and gut motility. Today, try one of the following to minimize stress:

 

Try a mini-meditation: Take three long deep breaths, with five counts in, and five counts out. Try not to think about anything but the breath going in and then going out. Do this two or three times a day.

Do at least five yoga stretches. Moving and stretching your tight muscles can really help get you into your calm state. I recommend a standing stretch, standing forward fold, seated twist, backbend, and a seated forward fold. Forward folds are especially helpful for stress.

Think to yourself when you start to get rushed: "I have plenty of time; there is so much time." This will give you the calm to do your task without being rushed. You'll be surprised by how much faster you are when you're calm!

When you get angry, repeat this mantra: "I am peaceful. I am happy. I don't let anyone change that."

 

9. Go to bed early.

 

Getting adequate sleep—more than eight hours a night—helps overall physical and neurological health and has a significant impact on stress levels, which will give your body the rest it needs to heal and reset your gut.

 

Repeat on Day 2 and Day 3, then check in with how you are feeling.

 

If you can take away just a few of these changes, you'll be setting yourself up for long-term gut success. I recommend minimizing sugar, eating tons of fiber every single day (I always tell my patients not to counter calories—count fiber!), eating more fermented food, sleeping a lot, and getting dirty regularly. Remember pills, colon cleanses, hydrotherapy, enemas, and all these other quick fixes aren't the answer. In fact, they can do more harm than good. The power is in your food and in your life choices!

 

 

be your own leader yogalign leonie main mount maunganui new zealand charlie ambler leader meditation meditate peace love joy compassion abundance life

Written by Charlie Ambler 10 November 2016

Photo from Pinterest

“Self-control is the chief element in self-respect, and self-respect is the chief element in courage.” ― Thucydides

 
Whenever I see people getting so upset about politics, I wonder— do these people truly care about one another or are they using this as an excuse to get upset about how little control they have over their lives? Everywhere I see people with no control, people with terrible habits and ugly beliefs about those who disagree with them. These individuals feel they have no power over their own lives and are pretending that this is because of some big bad ‘evil’ out there. Is it really? Has this mindset of external demonization ever worked for anyone on any side of a political or religious spectrum? No. I think meditation has helped me shift my mindset.

 
The sky is not falling. You’re not dying any faster than you are on any other day. No one else is in charge of you, and if you are going to waste your energy worrying so much about theoretical possibilities in the external world, you will not have any energy left to direct inward or towards the people you love. You will not grow. You will not learn anything new. You will complain and whine instead of acting. Worst of all, you will live in fear, making you weaker than that which you fear. Life is not fair, nor is it easy. This is why we meditate.

 
People want so badly not to have to take responsibility for themselves. They want an external enemy to blame. This is a weakness that the meditative mind seeks to overcome. You are wholly responsible for your sense of well-being and your understanding of yourself. You are your own leader. Why can’t we just assume this role? Why must we blame others for our problems? I sincerely believe that this impulse to blame and demonize comes from a place of deep spiritual weakness. To overcome such a simplistic mindset, we have to develop mindfulness.

 
Over-involvement in abstract politics is, in principle, the same thing as thinking that lots of money will make you happy. Nothing in the external world makes you happy. You make you happy. These external stimuli are arbitrary and interchangeable. And yet people continue to act so stupid. Half of America is happy right now, for example. The other half is furious. Is this not some sort of extremely simple lesson in perspective? It’s not about out there— it’s about you.

 
If you cannot be satisfied with yourself right now, you will never be satisfied with yourself. And people who do not find contentment within try to force the world to accommodate them. The world owes you nothing. It is full of beauty. It is full of terror. It is overflowing with every energy of every kind. But this is not about you specifically anymore than it is about a tree or a grain of sand. You are merely a brief glimpse of this massive whole. Sit, take a deep breath, and lead yourself towards wisdom rather than ignorant whining.

full moon ocean meditation stillness love peace light enlightenment yogalign mount maunganui new zealand world
by Amy Williams November 14, 2016.  Photo from Pinterest.

Meditation was a gift I gave myself for my birthday four months ago. I started with a simple 10-minute, guided meditation in the mornings, and some days felt so rejuvenated that I finished the day with another, longer meditation.

I found beautiful places in my neighborhood where I could sit comfortably by the water and stare out at nature, completely unburdened by the confines of my home.

I meditated every single day, and my life was changing rapidly for the better. My relationship with myself was easier, my anxiety was more manageable, and my relationships with others were improving every day. My professional life was taking off so rapidly that I really believed I was manifesting abundance and creativity through my daily meditations.

And then I went on vacation and didn't meditate because I didn't need it because my day-to-day anxiety didn't follow me on vacation. So, I took a break.

And then I came home from vacation, and there was laundry to do and bills to pay and work to catch up on, and I convinced myself
I would meditate tomorrow. At the end of two weeks of ignoring my daily meditation practice, I felt terrible inside and out.

My body and mind were craving something as simple as the routine of sitting alone for a few minutes each day, clearing my mind, and meditating. I never would have anticipated how rapidly I would feel the absence of meditation in my life, but after two weeks, here's what happened:

1. I was exhausted.

I wasn't sleeping, and my bedtime routine fell to the wayside. Even if I managed to stay in my bed for eight hours, I was having restless sleep with anxiety dreams that would keep me up. Some nights I would be too tired to even make it to my bed and opt instead to fall asleep on the couch. I started the day tired and ended the day exhausted.

2. My creativity tanked.

I had hoped that a week in the Rocky Mountains would lead to creative breakthroughs in my writing, but returning home only returned
me to the minutiae of everyday life, leaving no room for the creative rebirth I had been anticipating.

3. I said yes too often.

Too often, I made plans on top of plans when I should have been carving out time to meditate and to reengage my self-care routine. Instead, I made plans when I was exhausted and came home only more exhausted and unable to carve out the 10 minutes
I desperately needed to meditate to reset.

4. I stopped eating well.

Takeout and delivery became the norm while I ran around in a constant state of busy. I started using "busy" as an excuse for why I wasn't meditating and watched it morph into an excuse for eating junk.

5. Everything hurt.

My head, my back, and my stomach were all in a knot after two weeks of forgoing meditation. A combination of anxiety, lack of sleep, and a poor diet contributed to the complete dismantling of my physical health in real time.

The next time I catch myself thinking meditation can wait until tomorrow, I'll try to recall how quickly I felt the effects of slipping out of the routine. The good news is, meditation is always waiting right where you left it, allowing you to hit the reset button on the damage done.

menopause women beauty grace love yogalign inner strength resilience meditation

4 Questions Every Woman Needs To Ask Her OB/GYN — Before Reaching Menopause

by Dr Mary Jane Minkin November 4, 2016 

As an OB/GYN, I hear all kinds of issues from my patients—from painful intercourse to vaginal discomfort—especially when there are questions about the way the female body ages and what to expect. Having practiced as a gynecologist for over 40 years, I've heard and seen it all.

And the more open our society has become, the more comfortable my patients have become asking me personal and important questions about the changes in their bodies over time. On the other hand, I still find myself surprised by how many women feel uncomfortable talking about these topics.

Many women are ill at ease discussing the physical changes they'll undergo, specifically after menopause, for reasons we can all relate to: They're embarrassed or feel that their health care provider, or partner, or close friends may not understand.

But let me remind you how normal and important it is to discuss anything you might be struggling with. You're not alone, and there's no need to suffer in silence.

I want to shed light on some of the most common concerns and questions my postmenopausal patients have asked me and will provide recommendations for approaching your health care provider to start this seemingly tough but important conversation.

1. Is any stage of menopause related to loss of libido?

Often my patients will note that they have been experiencing a low sex drive. As I continue the conversation I often learn they are actually experiencing painful intercourse due to vaginal dryness.

Women may feel embarrassed and avoid talking with their partners about vaginal dryness, and rather than bring up the uncomfortable topic, avoid intimacy altogether. While each patient will require a unique treatment based on their medical history and symptoms, once a patient is in treatment, these uncomfortable urinary or vaginal symptoms may be relieved.

2. Is vaginal dryness a normal symptom of postmenopause?

Yes, up to 40 percent of postmenopausal women experience vaginal atrophy, and painful intercourse is a common symptom. While most women are familiar with and talk about hot flashes and night sweats, fewer women are aware of these vaginal symptoms or may not connect them to a treatable, medical condition called postmenopausal vaginal atrophy. Postmenopausal vaginal atrophy is caused by lack of estrogen, which can lead to atrophy, or thinning of tissue, of the vagina and lower urinary tract.

Symptoms may include vaginal burning, itching, and dryness. Other symptoms include urinary symptoms such as urinary urgency and painful urination. There are a number of FDA-approved treatments currently available including a ring, vaginal tablet, pill, and topical cream or gel. It's important to work with your health care provider to find a treatment option that's right for you.

3. Why doesn't my health care provider bring up menopausal symptoms during my visit?

There are a number of reasons health care providers may not bring up menopausal symptoms during your annual visit, and I can't stress enough—you are not alone. There's generally a checklist of items health care providers are interested in learning about during any average annual visit—all of which they need to address in a short amount of time—allowing important topics such as sex during and postmenopause to slip to the back burner as the checkup and medical history usually take priority. On top of that, patients may not be aware that symptoms such as painful intercourse and vaginal dryness are part of a treatable medical condition.

A recent survey of women who experienced vaginal dryness showed that only 7 percent of women had health care providers who actively inquired about postmenopausal vaginal atrophy symptoms. That is just not enough!

4. How can I initiate a conversation about postmenopausal symptoms and my sex life?

The best way to ensure you are getting what you need from your health care provider is to step up to the plate and start the conversation. Come prepared to your appointment with questions or topics that have caused a concern for you. By having your questions written down, you may feel more at ease, and if you are still nervous about discussing the symptoms or your sex life with your health care provider, bring a partner or close friend who may help you feel more comfortable during this conversation.

As the conversation progresses, if your health care provider seems a bit distracted or if there is not enough time to discuss everything you'd like, feel empowered to make a separate appointment to specifically discuss the menopausal changes you may be going through. You can find additional resources to help guide your conversation by visiting talkchange.com.

Of course, it's important to note that not every patient–health care provider relationship is perfect. If you feel that your health care provider may not be the right fit for you, I encourage you to find a menopause specialist at the North American Menopause Society (NAMS)'s official website, where you can search for a NAMS-Certified Menopause Practitioner (NCMP) in your area. When you find a health care provider that is right for you, phrases such as "painful intercourse" and "vaginal discomfort" should be open, comfortable topics. And that's something to celebrate!

photo - Pinterest 

7 Ways Feng Shui Can Clear All The Toxic Energy In Your Life

by Dana Claudat October 31, 2016 

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We love costumes, candy, and pumpkin-carving as much as ever. But we also know there’s a whole other side to Halloween—a world of spiritual significance to tap into. So, for the past week, we’ve been sharing content aimed at helping you connect with your transcendent potential and more effectively creating the life you want, from the inside out. In other words, to manifest magic.

Today, we’re exploring how to use feng shui principles to cleanse your life of negative, ghostly energy and welcome great vibes.

Everything—from the ground under your feet to the electronic device you're reading this on—is energy.

At the core of all feng shui and Eastern (and now, most Western) traditions of healing, energy is everything. Stagnant, stuck energy contributes to blockage and illness while open, flowing energy is the basis of great moods and every kind of abundance.

If you've ever been to a chiropractor or a healer who practices kinesiology, you've likely experienced "muscle testing"—a diagnostic technique where you hold out one arm parallel to the ground and attempt to keep it strong while a practitioner applies light pressure to it. If you're holding an object with energy that your body likes, maybe your favorite fruit, in one hand, your arm will likely stay strong when that pressure is applied. But if you were to hold, say, a bowl of sugar or something you're allergic to in place of that piece of fruit, your arm might get very, unexplainably weak when pressure is applied.

When you clear the negativity and stress from your space, you free up stagnant energy and open up the flow of strong, affirmative, creative greatness.
While I don't make major medical decisions using this method, it's a great physical demonstration of how our energy is affected by the energy of everything around us. To paraphrase Dr. Bruce Lipton, the pioneering cellular biologist whose studies of cells revealed that our lifestyle and beliefs affect our thriving well-being: "Good vibes make you strong, and bad vibes make you weak."

It makes sense, then, that when you clear the negativity and stress from your space, you free up stagnant energy and open up the flow of strong, affirmative, creative greatness. Here's how to get started:

1. Get up and outside early in the day.

Sunshine invites massive doses of happiness, and the more time you can spend connected to nature and out in the sunlight, the better you'll feel. Even if it's overcast, you can connect to this light with a sun-simulating light box and lots of houseplants.

2. Keep things colorful.

If your desk feels drab, a package of rainbow colored pens or Sharpies can be enough to brighten it up. Pops of colors that you love help to add more energy that's in sync with your body and life.

3. Open windows.

It's so important to open your windows daily—even if just for a few minutes. Fresh air will revitalize your space and get the flow going.

4. Reinforce the good stuff in your life in actions.

Saying affirmations out loud is always helpful, but taking action is what really creates radical energy shifts. You can remind yourself that you are a talented, ingenious artist throughout the day, but it's the practice of making art that is really going to rocket your life higher. Making a gratitude list is a great start, but actually sending thank you notes or expressing gratitude directly to people takes it to the next level.

5. Remove all the bad memories.

When you're feeling brighter and lighter, it's easier to look at bad-memory objects (think clothes that lower your self-esteem or trinkets from a relationship that's past) with an objective eye—and let them go. All the stuff you keep close to you that makes you feel bad is actually making you weaker in many ways, and you definitely don't need to be held down by anything in your home.

6. Disentangle toxic ties.

The most effective way to clear your energy is to keep your life free of anyone and anything that drains you, squashes your spirit, or is in any way harmful. If you're feeling roller coasters of turmoil, take the time you need to declutter these toxic ties. It will benefit you in every way imaginable to take responsibility and clear this space in your life.

7. Aim for love every day.

Grudges and resentments keep you stuck and stagnant while love transforms life in expansive ways. So tell people you love them. Find things to love in even the more mundane tasks. Look for love for the people who've wronged you. Love is open and flowing and light.

Good vibes are your superpower. Surround yourself with the sights, sounds, scents, people, pets, art, and actions that light you, and you'll have endless inspiration to create a life filled with ease and positivity.

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photos - pinterest 

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Tune Into Your Circadian Rhythm + Make The Most Of Your Morning Routine

by Soizic June Hagege

October 28, 2016 

Almost everyone has heard of detoxifying, but most of us don't really know how it works. Contrary to popular belief, detoxing your body isn't complicated and doesn't require you to go on an expensive raw juice retreat—it happens naturally in your body, every day.

According to circadian circles, morning time is the perfect moment to help your body get rid of toxins. These few steps we've gathered for you will help you have energy all day and go back to a state of well-being and bliss.

1. Tongue scraping

Tongue scraping is a practice from ancient Ayurvedic rituals that consists of removing (literally scraping) bacteria and toxins from the surface of the tongue. It is usually performed in the morning since our digestive system spends the night removing toxins by moving them to the tongue.

Removing these toxins first thing in the morning helps us avoid swallowing them back into our system, which in turn prevents digestive issues. Tongue scraping is said to be more efficient than brushing your teeth since most of the toxins in our mouth are located on our tongue.

Scraping your tongue, albeit unusual, is easy and quick making it a great way to ensure that you start the day with a detoxified digestive system and increased immunity.

2. Oil pulling

This practice, which also comes from Ayurveda, has gotten attention in the media for its numerous benefits. Swishing coconut or sesame oil in your mouth for 10 or 15 minutes in the morning on an empty stomach improves not only oral health but also overall health. It is said to help draw toxins out of the whole body.

You can add a drop of tea tree essential oil in the oil you use to further benefits. Once you are done, make sure to spit the oil—don't swallow any! (Pro tip: Spit it into the trash can, as it can clog drains.)

3. Warm water

The morning is all about replenishing your body with liquids. Did you know that drinking warm water on an empty stomach is said to increase metabolism? Drinking water in the morning stimulates your digestive-colic reflex, which will help you eliminate what is sitting in your intestines from the day before.

For bonus points, you can also add a few slices of lemon in your water, or even lemon and honey, especially if you can get them from a local farmers market.

4. Morning smoothie

A smoothie is one of our all-time favorite recipes to start the day. It's a great way to ensure you get everything you need, from healthy fats to greens.

Starting your day with a liquid meal is also a good way to avoid the "food coma" feeling and bloating. Less energy will go toward digestion than with a heavier meal, leaving you feeling lighter and more energetic throughout the day.

These four steps will help you start feeling better quickly, especially if you've had bloating or digestive issues. Even if you try a different step four days of the week, taking time to nourish your body is an essential step to be able to be present and energized throughout your day.

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How To Tell If You Have Inflammation + 5 Things To Do To Fix It: A Doctor Explains

by Dr. Amy Shah October 27, 2016 

I still remember the day in medical school when I first understood the duality of the immune system. The same immune system that heals a wound from a car accident (or historically from an animal bite) is the same immune system that goes to the coronary artery of the heart and causes a heart attack. How can something be so good and then so bad?

It is now that I understand that the immune system has the power to do both—inflammation for good and inflammation that causes disease. So you might be wondering: Do you have inflammation in your body right now?

The answer is an unequivocal yes. The real question is: Do you have inflammation that chronic, low level, causing harm to your blood vessels, your muscles, or causing you to gain weight, for example?

If you have symptoms like headaches, bloating, joint pain, rashes, fatigue, weight gain, allergies, asthma, or mood issues—you are most likely inflamed. Sometimes inflammation can be "silent" or difficult to detect. The reason it is such a huge problem and why I'm telling you about it today is because it's the root cause of diseases like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, hypertension, and cancer.

Patients ask me all the time how to detect and calm their (bad) inflammation. My protocol is to first measure it with either a blood test, symptom store, or both. Then we go on to a host of solutions. Although it has to be personalized there are a few solutions that I have found immensely helpful in this arena. Here are just a handful!

1. Eat inflammation calming superfoods.

Food is the best lever for change in your inflammatory state. Eating more antioxidant- and polyphenol-rich foods can fight free radicals, which can calm inflammation. My favorite recommendations are green tea, and six to nine servings of green leafy vegetables like bok choy and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Also omega-3-rich seeds, nuts, and oils. Lastly, other superfoods for inflammation include garlic, ginger, turmeric, pepper, and blueberries.

2. Eliminate fructose, white sugar, and white flours.

Sugar and refined carbohydrates spark inflammation by deregulating glucose and insulin, leading to oxidative stress. In short, insulin resistance triggers the inflammation cascade. My recommendation to patients when starting out: Use stevia for sweetness and sprouted grains for an occasional bread fix.

3. Do Inflammation-lowering activity.

In the past I was a glutton for punishment when it came to exercise. No pain, no gain, right? Actually, not right. Pushing yourself to the limit every day plus living a stressful life outside of that lead to chronic inflammation. For patients who do participate in heavy exercise we make sure to build in long and deep rest days.

4. Consider adding adaptogens to your diet.

Adaptogen refers to a plant's ability to adapt to its environment, to survive, and to adapt to exterior stress.

Adaptogenic herbs—such as rhodiola, ashwaganda, ginseng, phosphytidyl serine, and maca—help strengthen and stabilize the body, thereby mollifying the impact of stress. Adaptogens also improve the entire body's resistance to stress (not just a particular organ or system) and create balance and harmony in the body, helping to reduce chronic inflammation.

Stress is one of the top aggravators of inflammation. Making time in your schedule to include exercise, meditation, yoga, and moments of mindfulness really do make a difference.

5. Sleep and mindfulness are the secrets keys to a stronger immune system and lower inflammation.

Lack of sleep makes the body ripe for infection, while getting adequate sleep has an anti-inflammatory effect. A study from the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta found that short sleep durations and poor sleep quality are associated with higher levels of inflammation markers. In fact, individuals who reported six or fewer hours of sleep a night had the highest levels of inflammatory hormones and changes in blood vessel function.

Mindfulness is the newest component of an anti-inflammatory plan (yet, ironically, it is ancient). We are now finding out through brand-new studies that the immune system is directly connected to the brain—therefore lowering inflammation can treat diseases like depression and anxiety. This also gives more credence to the fact that daily mindfulness/meditation is anti-inflammatory.

This is not exhaustive—I have many more things that I would recommend for you—this is just a place for you to start on your journey!

photo from Pinterest

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