Claudia Ghetu WELLness

The Wisdom of Ancient Science for Advanced Healing and Transformation


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THE HEALING SCIENCE OF RAJA YOGA: PRANA & THE EIGHT LIMBS OF YOGA

Claudia Ghetu is certified Holistic Health Coach (HHC) specializing in Vedic Yoga Therapy and Holistic Nutrition, Yoga Instructor (RYT-500) trained by Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman in the Raja Yoga and Iyengar methods, the basis for Urban Zen Integrative Yoga Therapy; LifeForce Yoga Therapy for Mood & Stress Management practitioner, and a Kriya Yoga Meditation practitioner. IMG_1629

It is common knowledge by now that the practice of yoga leaves one feeling good both mentally and physically, with the added bonus of an expanded sense of wellbeing and centeredness. Even in its most diluted and derivative form, as is often taught and presented in the West, yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system, due to the combination of sequenced poses or asanas, in combination with regulated, calm, even breathing. The parasympathetic system is part of the nervous system inducing our mind and body to slow down, and is responsible for sending the message to the muscles to relax, also boosting immunity, improving digestion, assimilation, and helping us sleep. It also normalizes blood pressure and lowers the heart rate. The parasympathetic nervous system also counteracts many stress related symptoms and the toxic overload of the cumulative negative by-products of our modern lives – primarily manifesting in the body as severe stress, culminating in disease and mental imbalances. Unfortunately, the type of yoga being practiced widely these days doesn’t do very much for the parasympathetic nervous system, nor does its fulfill its original purpose as an integrative therapeutic practice, as it has been diluted and removed from its proper context.

Yoga has digressed so much from its original form and scope, that it is often misunderstood and unfortunately taught as a form of exercise, to encourage weight loss, tone and strengthen the body, which of course has its own benefits. According to the  ancient precepts of Raja Yoga, the asana practice, which is only one of eight teachings or branches of yoga proper, encompassing: yamas, niyamas, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, and samadhi. The asana yoga component follows the yamas and niyamas (the moral and spiritual lifestyle precepts which one is encouraged to practice) and precedes pranayama. This integral holistic mind-body wellness system made up of eight branches, which are to be practiced in the aforementioned sequence, is known as The Eight Limbs of Yoga. Hatha yoga focuses on physical component of the practice, the emphasis being on detoxing and purification techniques which free up the flow of Prana or lifefoce energy, which ultimately culminates in the ultimate sense of unification and expanded consciousness, conquering and transcending the physical body into Samadhi. To omit one of the eight branches, and practice just one is like expecting a car to run with only 2 wheels. Sure, a car can be redesigned to operate on 2 wheels, but that’s not how it was tested and intended to run best, or how it was originally designed as a utility vehicle. Also, just as a car or any device we depend on cannot run without having all its parts, so yoga, if not applied in its entirety as in integral system, cannot fulfill it’s true scope.

The primary function and scope of yoga is to promote and increase the flow of vital energy to every living cell in the body, balancing and supporting the physiological functions of the human mind-body. The spiritual component of yoga is also part of the holistic system, as it is believed that mental, physical, and spiritual disease or ignorance are the root causes of imbalance or illness. The vital energy, also known as life-force-energy, is called prana in Sanskrit, and is considered the unifying universal energetic force pervading all of life and nature. In living beings, this underlying life-force-energy is considered responsible for all bodily functions. It is acknowledged more or less in every tradition under different names: the Chinese call it chi, the Polynesians mana, the Amerindians orenda, and so forth. Regulating, expanding, and directing the flow of prana is the very foundation of yoga and ayurveda, the two sister sciences rooted in the ancient Vedic tradition, originating in India over 8,000 years ago. Yoga and Ayurveda are known as the oldest sciences, together comprising perhaps the most elaborate and scientifically accurate integrative mind-body healthcare system. Ayurveda is the science of treating and mapping out the entire system at a sub-atomic, molecular level, and yoga is the multi-layered integrated practice of the ayurvedic science through the practice of the Eight Limbs of Yoga – aimed to keep the body and mind functioning at optimal levels.

YogaPrana is harnessed through the instrument of breath, through inhalation, retention and exhalation techniques and sequences, which comprise the practice of pranayama, an inextricable part of the practice and science of yoga and the Eight Limbs. Through the practice of pranayama, also known as the ‘yoga of breath,’ prana is supplied to every atom and cell in the body, oxygenating and re-fueling the energy channels, known as nadis, throughout the body, and balancing the nervous system. Yoga literally means ‘union’ from the root word ‘yuj’, which means to yoke or bring together. It is the union of the mind, body, and spirit, through the flow of PRANA, which allows us to move beyond physical and psychological obstructions, allowing for transformation and healing, and ultimately higher consciousness. Another major component of yoga is dhyana, which literally translates as meditation. It has to be practices after pranayama, and is preceded by pratyahara and dharana – which are interiorization and deep concentration techniques.

In light of the above information, one begins to realize that the ubiquitous yoga practice, which is the basic yoga asana mainly taught in the West today, offers a fragment of the health benefits that the ancient integrated Vedic system of the Eight Limbs of Yoga offers. Of course you get the high you would naturally get from exercise with the release of endorphins and dopamine, but the therapeutic interlinked mind-body-spirit benefits are nominal. A fast paced vinyasa style class is NOT yoga, nor is it how yoga was physiologically intended or designed to benefit the body, omitting pranayama and the other integral critical components, replacing the slow and prolonged asana postures – which were designed to calm the nervous system and to strengthen and stretch the body before the meditative stages (dhyana and samadhi) – for a fast competitive form of pseudo-yoga. Vigorous vinyasa, or other types of yoga incorporating or focusing on backbends, handstands, and arm balances can be strengthening and beneficial, but they hardly stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, not to mention that the chances of injury are very high. Plus, as Ayurveda highlights, due to everyone’s unique doshic mind-body type constitutions, most yoga asana styles ad classes are a one-fit-all, not taking into consideration that certain poses and sequences can be counterproductive if not damaging for some. Not to mention the effects on the nervous system, which can be overly stimulating for someone who already is prone to anxiety, high blood pressure, or suffers from adrenal dysfunctions, etc. To activate and properly stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system and open up the body and energy channels so that healing can begin, you need a specific series of poses that encourage deep relaxation: forward bends and hip openers, poses that emphasize restoring mobility and aligning the spine, more sitting or supine poses as opposed to standing ones, as well as safe inversions supported by props and supervised by a highly trained instructor. You also need to engage and ignite the flow of prana, and end the practice with pranayama and meditation. The Iyengar Yoga method is by far the safest and most refined classically rooted (Hatha) yoga style, taught and designed by the late legendary yoga authority B.K. S. Iyengar, founder of Iyengar Institute worldwide. Iyengar not only incorporated all of the branches of yoga within his asana practice, stressing pranayama and meditation, but he designed and encouraged the use of specific props for optimal support and functionality, to induce highly therapeutic restorative results and avoiding injury. Vedic Hatha Yoga Therapy incorporates props for the asana practice in the Iynegar tradition, with the addition of other traditional Vedic practices, such as sound therapy (mantras and bijas), advanced pranayama techniques, and yoga nidra, also knows as ‘deep yogic sleep,’ which is a very deep state of shivasana with guided meditation, similar to hypnosis. The results of Vedic Yoga Therapy are remarkable in terms of integral healing for the mind and body, expediting recovery from injuries, chronic pain management, mental and emotional healing. Yoga after all is meant to be medicine for the body and mind; its very purpose being to preserve and transform – and furthermore help us transcend to highest levels of consciousness and self-awareness.

UPCOMING WORKSHOP ON SELF-HEALING WITH VEDIC HATHA YOGA THERAPY:

MAY 14, AT THE SUMMIT CLUB IN PACIFIC PALISADES & OTHER LOCATIONS TBD

In this workshop you will learn about:

  1. The original scope and traditional application of Yoga, as a complete and integrative therapeutic mind-body holistic system dating over 8,000 years ago.
  2. The definitive meaning of ‘Yug” or Yoga, comprised of 8 branches, known as THE EIGHT LIMBS OF YOGA, and its application; yoga asana (exercises and postures) being only one of the 8 practiced in the West.
  3. Advanced techniques of harnessing your own body’s subtle energy force and directing PRANA into the body to purify, oxygenate the tissues and blood, and revitalize the limbs and internal organs.
  4. Restorative and energizing Prana building daily exercises or practices, in conjunction with Dharana and Pratyahara (deep concentration techniques), Dhyana (meditation), and Pranayama purification and breathing techniques.
  5. The importance of developing self-awareness to tune into your own body’s intelligence; and self-care tools as a pathway to long-term health and wellness, working with your body’s own energy system to self-heal and transform.

PLEASE GO TO THE CONTACT PAGE TO BOOK A PRIVATE CONSULTATION OR SIGN UP TO RECEIVE AN EMAIL WITH INFORMATION ON THE MAY 14 EVENT OR OTHER  UPCOMING WORKSHOP. SPACE IS LIMITED.

 

 


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Ayurvedic Nutrition Tips for a Healthy Winter

ayurvedic_pulse-diagnosis-artLiving in the modern world we have lost sight of the fact that everything we need to stay healthy is readily provided to us by Mother Nature, with a seasonal bounty of delicious and healing foods. The ancient Rishis of India, understood long ago that we are intrinsically connected to the Cosmos and the Earth and to its natural cycles. We are part of nature, so we are composed of its very elements! Through their advanced studies and intrinsic understanding of life – Ayurveda literally means The Science of Life – and how everything is connected, it made perfect sense not to eat cold or drying Vata aggravating foods in the winter, when the body needs to be insulated from the cold and drying effects of the weather. Long before blood types were discovered, the yogis and Vedic doctors already had an advanced system of preventative natural medicine based on the three blood types, which they called the three doshas: Kapha, Pitta, and Vata. The latter body constitution types also correspond accordingly to the seasons Kapha – Spring (Earth Element), Pitta – Summer (Fire Element), and Vata – Winter (Wind Element), so  each person’s body type more or less corresponds to the dominant characteristic of one of the three elements and seasons. For example, Vata types are prone to dry skin and sensitivity to the  cold, and and Pittas have fiery temperaments and get hot easily. Regardless of wether one knows his specific or dominating dosha (an Ayurvedic physician can identify one’s type or combination, although one can also deduce his own type by taking a survey of his dominating traits and tastes), one foul proof way to stay balanced and maintain good health is to adhere to the Ayurvedic lifestyle prescriptions for each of the seasons. Here are my Top  3 Ayurvedic Health  Tips for the Winter Season:

Walnuts-and-hot-drink1 – Eat less raw foods, and increase warm and moist cooked dishes, and warm beverages. Try to stick to seasonal vegetables, as Mother Nature intelligently supplied us with specific foods which are harvested during colder months. You want to prevent more Vata accumulating in your body, characteristic for its ‘windy’ effects in the winter, so avoid foods that produce wind like beans. If you must have beans, neutralize their gassy effects by adding cumin. Also, anything that is drying or lacking in moisture – like cold cereals, or cold foods should be avoided. Drink more warm or hot beverages, and especially avoid icey drinks. In Ayurveda all cold beverages should be drunk at room temperature, and milk in particular is never drunk cold, unless it is a lassi yogurt beverage, which is usually enjoyed in the Summer for its cooling effect!

2- Increase healthy fat in your diet. Since everything hardens and gets dried up in the cold months, you want to make sure that you keep your body lubricated and warm, including your sinuses and internal organs. Amping the intake of such healthy fats as nuts, seeds, and oils is imperative. For meat eaters, this is the best time of year to enjoy hearty stews, although meat should be consumed in moderation for its overall toxic effects and saturated fat. Best oils and nuts recommended come from walnuts, avocado, olive, grape seed, cashew, sunflower seed, sesame, and almond. You can even take it one step further, and treat yourself to a nightly ‘Abyangha’ or gentle self-administered full body massage, using  the traditional sesame or almond oil. Remember, healthy fat is absolutely necessary for the body to function properly, process and digest food. As a matter of fact, the body needs fat to be able to emulsify and flush excess fat out of the body. People have been known to gain weight on a fat-free diet, because they deprive their body of this major dietary component.

3- Avoid or cut down on all dairy, and make sure you only consume raw or unhomogenized milk products if you do so. Also, do not drink cold milk! Milk, in India and in other cultures, is traditionally drunk warm before bed, with cardamon, cinnamon and ginger, to further aid digestion. In India yogurt, ghee, and milk have very therapeutic qualities, however their dairy products are not pasteurized, homogenized, and laden with antibiotics and hormones. Our dairy products have been stripped of all the digestive enzymes and essential nutrients in the process of homogenization, when the milk is shaken and pushed through tiny seeves at very high speeds and temperature to prevent separation. It is no wonder that most people today are lactose intolerant. Invariably dairy congests our system and creates extra mucous in the body, which creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. If you don’t want your kids catching colds this winter, don’t give them cold milk – and skip the cold and sugary cereal in the morning!

For a complimentary Dosha Type consultation, or Holistic Health Evaluation, contact me via ClaudiaGhetuWEllness.com/Contact.

 


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WORKING OUT THE KNOTS: 3 BEGINNER STEPS TO MEDITATE AND BREATHE THROUGH YOUR EMOTIONS

Here are three simple steps to develop your Mindfulness and Meditation skills, and begin to shift into healing emotions and physical imbalances that are preventing you from living at your highest potential. Meditation will significantly lower your anxiety and stress levels, as well as center you, so that you can shift with a new sense of clarity into a more empowering place in your life.

  • Be Present and Notice: This first step is to help you to begin focusing on an intention. It is important to be able to commit to something before beginning anything! Three times this week commit to practicing being present and listening to a friend, someone you cross paths with, or a loved one. You are not practicing agreeing or disagreeing, just listening. Note what this gives you access to.  It’s a free ticket to sit back and enjoy the show – ‘your mind show’ that is. Notice any judgment rising in you. Make an effort not to judge or get attached to anything that you hear even if you disagree. Curb your impulse to jump into the conversation, interrupt, give advice, etc. This is the perfect way to fine tune and tame your ‘monkey mind’ as the yogis call it, which is always trying to bounce around from idea to idea, judgment to judgment, etc. The mind needs to be watched before it is tamed. So, take a seat back and just notice. Developing awareness if the first step in learning how to settle into yourself, and develop your ability to non-objectively hear and notice what comes up during mediation.
  • Listen to the Breath or Listen to the Sound Itself: This is known as Nada Yoga – the yoga of sound, which also encompasses the sound of ‘emptiness,’ or no sound at all – except the breath. This one of the best mediation techniques for beginners. You sit and just listen to the incoming sound of the inhalation, following the course of the breath as it travels through your lungs and fills your whole being, and naturally flows into the exhalation. Breathe in and out through the nose only. Try to make the breath audible as much as possible (hear it in the back of the throat like a long S), as in Ujai yogi breath – mimicking the sound of the ocean. You can do this anywhere (even when driving). It’s best however to set some time aside and sit upright in a chair quietly with your eyes closed, or eyes slightly open softly gazing 3 feet in front (whatever feel safer). If eyes are closed gaze inwards at the center between the brows or bridge of the nose. If that is difficult, gaze down as if you are looking inside your heart. Picture a glowing healing sphere of light surrounded be feelings of love energy and peacefulness. Try extending the inhale and exhale so it’s longer than your usual breathing. I recommend a 4×4 second inhalation/exhalation ratio. Two times this week, practice listening to the clarity of this sound or the breath itself. Notice how it feels, where the breath might get stuck if at all, and allow your body-mind-spirit to be open to receive whatever insights might arise – without focusing on them. Let thoughts drift like clouds, noticing not grasping on to them, gently getting back to the breath. Just breathe and listen. Gaze at a candle (3 feet in front of you) if you find your eyes shifting, or feel you need a focal point for better concentration.

    Photo by Mila Cochran @theroseweddings.com

    Photo by Mila Cochran @theroseweddings.com

  • Sit with Your Feelings & Breathe Through the Emotions: Work with the fear or discomfort that may arise in you as you just sit and listen. You may find that a loneliness, sadness or anger becomes more visible or wants to rise to the top, or you might discover a part of you that wants to problem solve, or begin perseverating on a thought or problem. Acknowledge what comes up and note to yourself to write down any thoughts or feelings that arose afterwards. NOW BREATHE LIGHT INTO THESE FEELINGS OR EMOTIONS – ON THE INHALATION BREATHING IN WHITE LIGHT, ON THE EXHALATION EXHALING DARK SMOKE. You are now transmuting these emotions. Picture a sense of lightness and release as the negative emotion leaves you body and psyche in the form of dark smoke. Use the 4×4 ratio. It is important to experience and move through the fear, sadness, or loneliness, and not shut down these emotions. While doing this try to shift into a feeling of ‘being a Witness’ to these emotions rather than being the emotion itself. Investigate further by sitting with the emotion, acknowledging the part of the body where it is coming from. But don’t perseverate on memories related to the emotion. Just see what is. Say to yourself “I am a human being. I am separate from the human learned emotion of fear, sadness, etc. These are conceptual things. I am not that emotion. I am merely an observer now.” The aim down the line, as you are able to sit more and allow these ‘feelings’ to arise and move through your emotional and physical body and awareness, is to access viable information about what is behind the feeling/emotion, and where it comes from – it’s root. The ability to heal only comes when we sit down and listen to what needs to surface, but often bury deep down and mask with activities that occupy us from doing the healing we are all meant to experience to shift into a higher consciousness.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN A ONE-ON-ONE PERSONALIZED ‘BEGINNER’S HEALING WITH BREATH MEDITATION SESSION,” PLEASE MENTION THIS ARTICLE, AND RECEIVE 20% YOUR SESSION. MORE ADVANCED “VEDIC YOGA THERAPY MEDITATION & PRANAYAMA” INDIVIDUAL AND GROUP SESSIONS PER REQUEST. NAMASTE AND BREATHE LIGHT! Connect with me via ClaudiaGhetuWELLness.com/contact OR through Facebook.


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SVADHYAYA: Freedom From Suffering – From Mental Darkness Into Light Consciousness

THE UNIVERSE RE-ARRANGES ITSELF TO ACCOMMODATE YOUR PICTURE OF REALITY. THE QUESTION IS, WHICH REALITY DO YOU LIVE IN, OR THINK TO BE TRUE? HOW WELL DO YOU THINK YOU KNOW YOUR TRUE SELF?

IYENGAR-MEMORIAMRight after Buddha attained enlightenment, he was recognized by a someone who thought knew him before he underwent his spiritual transformation. Not sure if he was indeed the same person he once knew, the man looked at him quite perplexed and asked, ‘Who are you?’ to which Buddha answered, ‘I am AWAKE.’ The late B.K.S. Iyengar, who inspired my yoga practice and that of million others around the globe said, ‘There is only one reality, but there are many ways that reality can be interpreted.’ Most of us live in a state of ignorant bliss. We are not only unaware of who we really are, but we are also unaware that we live in a world perpetuated by our own delusions. Buddhists call this delusional state maya, and the yogis refer to our ignorant state of existence as avidya. The moment we are adept enough to reason, we begin to manufacture a complex mental framework comprised of infinite perceptions and interpretations, based on our myopic, egocentric, and biased viewpoints and relationships. Unfortunately, we are born and cast into a pre-existing society and/or dogma which is held together by a rigid status quo infrastructure. Unbeknownst to us, we are automatically endoctrinated into a ‘mental culture’ that is already biased, afflicted, and divided by a an already corrupted worldview. These machinations of the mind, shaped by our culture, past, and society, blind us from recognizing the ultimate TRUTH, and seeing the true REALITY behind our biased opinions. It blinds us from seeing that who we think we are, is actually not who we really are at all. Therefore, it is safe to say that our thoughts are not entirely our own. In a sense, we are bi-products of the past and the present. But we can be the masters of a new present tense, and certainly of a future that is entirely of our own making. I recently took a one week Yoga Therapy & Mood Management training with Richard Brown, renowned psychologist, Qi Gong and yoga practitioner and author of ‘The Healing Power of Breath,’ and listened to him compare the mind or our psyche to a clean, pure white tablecloth that gets stained with false perceptions and psychological scars over the course of a lifetime. The tablecloth inevitably changes color completely, until there is not longer a speck of white remaining – just stains. Another Buddhist and yoga metaphor I like to share with clients during a yoga or meditation session, is comparing the mind to the crystal clear surface of a lake; if you stir up the sand at the bottom, the water will get murky and cloudy; likewise, the mind must be kept still and undisturbed of chaotic thoughts and false perceptions (through meditation) in order to attain and maintain true clarity. The whole premise of Buddhism and Yoga Psychology is to present us with powerful long-tested tools, or that perfect mix of ‘magic ingredients’ that will wash or dissolve all those ‘tablecloth stains,’ or keep ‘the sand’ from obscuring the clarity of our minds – bringing us back to our ORIGINAL state, before the stains set in. But without being able to acknowledge or recognize that we are in part responsible for those stains and clouded thinking, we cannot begin to do the real work. It is only through cleansing our minds and getting to know who we really are, behind our many masks or the multiple stains or layers of non-reality, that we can awaken to find our way from the darkness of ignorance into the light of self-awareness.

Lao Tzu photo-69In yoga, we use pranayama and kriyas (breathwork techniques) that act like the detergent on the stained tablecloth, cleaning and purifying everything away before we engage in meditation, which in and of itself is like the pressing iron that smoothes all the wrinkles away, leading us to the ultimate state of samadhi (union with the divine). This is where and when the real work begins – sitting in meditation or self-reflection – where the seeds toward transformation are sown. This is where and when ‘unreality’ begins to let itself be seen, as we begin to slowly peak behind the veils of maya and avidya; when the answers to our long-awaited questions or dilemmas suddenly begin to surface out of the depth of our consciousness. Deepak Chopra said that when we pray to God we ask him for answers, whereas in meditation he reaches out to us and gives us the answers. Buddha’s first sermon after his enlightenment or ‘awakening’ was on the Four Noble Truths, which if pursued and clearly understood can lead us all out of our ‘mental darkness’ and relinquish us from pain and suffering. The First Noble Truth is that we all suffer. The Second Noble Truth is the truth behind the suffering, or the cause. The Third Noble Truth is the truth of the end of suffering. The Forth Noble Truth is the path leading us out of suffering. The elemental truth which we are to arrive to via The Four Noble Truths, is the core revelation that we suffer because we live in a perpetual state of ignorance and denial, rather than being fully awake to what truly is. Through our erroneous judgements and perceptions we create our misery, self-induced pain, weaving a persona subjugated by the whims of a self-defeating, self-satisfying ego. The Fourth Noble Truth or path, is actually the ultimate and final doorway that leads us out of the darkness into the light. Thankfully, Buddha didn’t stop there. He gave us a precisely delineated path to follow, and called it The Eightfold Path, which Sage Pantajali, a contemporary yogi and follower of Buddha’s teachings adapted into The Eight Limbs of Yoga in the 6th Century AD, as part of his systematic approach to the practice of Raja Yoga, adding yoga asana (the physical practice of yoga, via the postures). What most people call yoga in the West is just a small fraction of the entire discipline and philosophy of Yoga, particularly Pantanjali’s Raja Yoga branch from which the most widely practiced form of yoga, Hatha Yoga, emerged. It’s like running a quarter mile rather than completing an entire marathon, and hoping to be awarded a medal. There are Eight Limbs of Yoga, not one. There are Eightfold Steps, not one. There are no short-cuts to be taken if we are to truly attain enlightenment and permanently free ourselves from suffering.

How do we get there? We undertake this journey by studying OUR SELVES! That’s what yoga is. The yogis, following Buddha’s advanced teaching, prescribed one of the most advanced psychological techniques, which would ultimately lay the foundation for modern-day psychotherapy. It is called ‘svadhyaya,’ translated from Sanskrit as ‘self-study’ or self-analysis. It literally means studying our selves and our behavior, training to cultivate self-awareness and accountability for our physical, mental, and emotional states and actions. As mentioned, The Buddhist approach is outlined in The Eightfold Path, which directly influenced the yogic approach as authored by Sage Pantanjali. The yogic approach to attaining enlightenment through self-study and meditation differs slightly, only because yogis believed that in order to get through to the mind and tame its neurotic nature, before completing the entire Eight Limbs of Yoga, one must first conquer the limitations of the physical body through the practice of asana – Asana being the Third Limb of Yoga, which is preceded by the Yamas and Niyamas, the moral and physical rules of conduct towards self and others, which were directly influenced by contemporary Buddhist ethical mores. Yogis used the body as an instrument (via advanced breathing techniques, mudras, and asanas) to eventually conquer the mind, and as an initial point of self-mastery and self-awareness; if we can discipline the body first, we will then have a cleaner vehicle to work with and conquer the limitations of the mind, fine tuning our spiritual practice. Svadhyaya or self-analysis can then shine like a flashlight, lighting up our subconscious and illuminating those dormant parts of our consciousness that will ultimately shift into higher awareness, allowing us to finally see things as they really are.

In the end, we are not the wounded, flawed, and imperfect individuals we act out to be, or falsely identify ourselves with. We are essentially walking through life dormant, until that moment when we realize that things are not right somehow, or something beckons us to look deeper within to find the answers to some hard questions. In order to understand the complex reasons behind our self-induced suffering, we ultimately must engage in the most advanced kind of psychotherapy – with Our Selves. Thankfully we have Buddhist Psychology and Yoga Psychology, long referred to as the original ‘Sciences of the Mind.’ It was inevitable that the fathers of modern psychotherapy, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, would use many of these previously pioneered psycho-analytical precepts as techniques to unlock and heal complex psychological issues. Jung’s breakthrough terminology of ‘the Shadow’ which refers to the hidden and repressed dimensions of the Self, encapsulates that which the yogis and the rishis have referred to for centuries as the ‘non-Self,’ afflicted by avidya, or ignorance of the true nature of things. It is this fragmented self, the Shadow or the Ego, that wants to emerge from behind its multiple false masks, from darkness into the light. It is not us, but our Ego which entraps us and perpetuates all suffering, forever craving and pursuing those things which only satisfy material and primal needs. I am convinced that if we choose to bravely pursue any of the paths carved out by our wise immortal teachers, we can can get to the other end of the tunnel. We can become once more that immaculate white tablecloth, that tabula rasa onto which we can write our own story.

13319946_630243450485170_1222448104449714639_nYOGA THERAPY ASSIGNMENT: Get a journal and write down the Four Noble Truths, and then try to turn each one into a question. Of course, first and foremost you must acknowledge the First Noble Truth – that you do indeed suffer or are emotionally wounded on some level. That will be your #1 Statement. Then question-answer the remaining Four Noble Truths: #2) What is the real truth behind my suffering; #3) How can I get to the end of my suffering; #4) What is the path I have to follow to get there? Then go back and elaborate on what might have been the root cause of your suffering, and set an intention on what you are willing to do to reclaim your true identity and life beyond suffering. Don’t harbor on the past or the suffering. Stay detached from identifying with any negative emotions. It is just ‘a story’ after all. Write down Four Noble Things About Yourself – things you know deep down about yourself to be good and lovable. You can ask others if you have difficulty with this. Lastly outline, the steps you will take – you can begin with 3 – each day or each week, to work towards shifting into a higher self-awareness and consciousness, manifesting a life filled with, peace, joy, and love of Self. Then wait and notice how the Universe will re-arrange itself to accommodate your new version of REALITY.
MAY TRUTH, LOVE, AND CLARITY SHINE UPON YOU. NAMASTE.


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Spring Allergies Bee Gone!

No need to panic and run to the pharmacy for those over-the-counter drugs to remedy your pollen-driven allergy symptoms. Nature has a remedy for everything it has created! Instead look inside your kitchen, or make a quick trip to your local natural food market. Here are my favorite natural cures.

Little_Girl_Sneezing

 Top-5 Holistic Spring Allergy Remedies:

1. Organic Local Honey – We all know by now that honey has amazing anti-bacterial benefits, but did you know that it also acts as a very delicious and highly efficient antihistamine? While those local bees were busy pollinating, they were also ingesting the anti-dote to those histamines that would eventually tickle your nose, throat, and cause your watery eyes. In a study of 169 children afflicted by Spring allergies, as posted on WebMd, local honey beat out commercial pharmaceutical brands. So a big kudos to those clever little bees! Way to get the consumption of local, organic honey elevated. Raw, creamed honey is my favorite.

2. Probiotics – Increasing your intake of probiotic during allergy season seems to be a very smart idea, not only for the digestive tract but for easing those itchy, sneezy, congestion symptoms. I recommend skipping the dairy, as it will cause excess mucus in the digestive tract. Instead, load up on natural Probiotic Supplements containing Acidophilus, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, and add more fermented foods to containing live-cultures to your diet, like sauerkraut, miso, pickles, kimchi, and kombucha. Non-dairy yogurt options are also great for kids, like the SO Coconut Milk or Almond Milk dessert-like creamy alternatives.

3. Digestive Enzymes – The combination of  natural Papaian and Bromelain, often sold as a chewable duo in natural food stores, will not only make your tummy feel great after a heavy meal, but it will also alleviate those allergic symptoms. You can go straight to the source and eat pineapple which contains bromelain, or papaya. Malic acid, which derives from apple pectin is also great at breaking down all that stuff, easing digestion while cleaning your pearly whites. A teaspoon of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar will do wonders for your health and digestion (including acid reflux!), keeping your immune system in tip-top shape. I love the combination of Bromelain and Turmeric in the NOW Natural Gate supplement – since turmeric is highly effective for inflammation.

4. Neti Pot with Saline Solution – It makes perfect sense to flush those congested nasal passages with naturally salted warm water. This is probably one of the healthiest things for your respiratory system and immunity, and it will work wonders during the cold and flu season of the winter months.

5.  Goldenseal and Butterbur – These two amazing herbal supplements have been used for inflammation and allergy relief for centuries, possibly for millennia! Native indigenous people knew how to keep allergies and disease at bay, so when in doubt look to the earth and to our ancestors.

Neti Pot with Saline Solution

Neti Pot with Saline Solution


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TOXIC OVERLOAD: Top-10-Ways To Improve Your Health, Love The Earth, And Lower The Toxicity Inside Your Home And Body

As a Holistic Health & Wellness Counselor, Nutrition, and Empowerment Coach, I support individuals and families in transitioning toward a healthier lifestyle, which includes a more sustainable, toxic-free home environment in addition to a non-toxic wholefood diet. After all, if one is to detox his body internally one should make sure his external day-to-day environment is congruent with the latter. Believe it or not, indoor living spaces are often more polluted than city air. Without proper ventilation they remain in our home in concentrated amounts and silently wreak havoc on our health. It goes without saying that the products we use inside our living space and on our bodies, cumulatively, can have detrimental side effects. In time, this toxic overload significantly alters the health and function of your immune, nervous, and respiratory system. Why do you think lung cancer is so prevalent, even in non-smokers? Or why so many people suffer from heavy metals toxicity, chronic allergies, asthma, and headaches? Do you see where I am going? Also, I want to share the Earthing ‘movement’ – something that the yogis and nature lovers have practiced for millennia. In order to stay healthy, get healthier and expedite healing, you must connect to the natural healing energy of the Earth! There is a earthing website dedicated to natural products that will give you a lot of information and resources on healthy personal and home products which will greatly improve your lifestyle. Also look into buying an anti-radiation adjustable magnets for your phones and computers, like VortexBioShield that neutralize EMF emissions. This is a good foundation to start.

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TOP-10 KEY WAYS TO MINIMIZE THE TOXICITY INSIDE YOUR BODY AND LIVING ENVIRONMENT:

1. PLASTICS & CANS – Eliminate and stop buying BPA-lined canned foods and plastic food containers which leak dangerous cancer causing chemicals into your food, especially when heated. The Breast Cancer Foundation clearly warns on their website about the evidence linking plastic usage to breast cancer. Discontinue any single-use products, such as individual water bottles and cups, adding styrofoam to the list. Think of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is more than 7 million square miles! And, don’t forget shower curtains. Ever get a headache from the smell of a new shower curtain or liner? Bingo!

2. COOKWARE – Cook food only in ceramic, stainless steel, or glass containers, and avoid most non-stick pans coated with Tefelon, which when heated release toxic fumes into your home. Also, “self-cleaning” modes on some oven models, emit poisonous gases that give most people headaches. It’s just best to clean the old fashioned way, so get your non-plastic gloves out and get moving!

3. MICROWAVES & EMF’s – Get rid of the microwave, and heat up your food without radiation! Microwaves kill most of the live nutrients in foods, by irradiating them and changing their molecular structure. I am always shocked that most people are aware of and want to avoid the effects of direct radiation, yet fail to acknowledge that the radio-magnetic fields emanating from microwaves, and the food mutation happening inside them is equally dangerous. Also, everything surrounding us now emits powerful EMF’s which affect us at a cellular level. Many people suffer unknowingly from EMF sensitivity. Also, if you are not 100% healthy at the moment and are trying to heal, try to de-activate and control the powerful radiation effects in your environment which significantly affect your immune system! Amazon is a good place to start to look for products that neutralize EMF’s.

4. PERSONAL CARE – Purchase and use personal care products that are free of such horrible ingredients as phthalates, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, and petroleum, and have natural oil or botanically derived non-artificial scents. Don’t forget cosmetics either. Did you know that lipsticks contain lead? What can I say, the list is long and scary. For a comprehensive listing of what chemicals to avoid in personal care products go to the Environmental Working Group website www.ewg.org, and search ‘top tips for safer products.’ Trust me, you will still smell and look good! But live longer.

5. HOUSEHOLD CLEANING – Purchase household utility cleaners that are free of synthetic toxic solvents, like the usual suspect present in most products, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). If the label reads ‘may be hazardous to humans and domestic animals,’ take the hint and toss it out. Go to www.organicconsumers.org and find out what you need to avoid.

6. AIR FLOW – If you live in a warm climate, check the filter of your air conditioner often and don’t let it clog up. If you are blessed to live close to nature or in a minimally polluted area, open your windows for at least 2 hours daily and let the fresh air come it. Remember, it’s what finally eliminated the spread of The Black Plague. Oh, and let’s not forget the wonderful felines that helped too! If opening windows is definitely not feasible, invest in an Ionic Air Purifier. They start at about $75. Watch the ventilation in your laundry room, and make sure you use toxic free detergent.

7. FOOD SHOPPING – Seen or read Food INC. by any chance? We all have a choice as consumers, to either support companies that promote environmental pollution, animal cruelty, and the use of horrible lab-made synthetic foods, or choose to spend our money on companies that ought to be rewarded for supporting sustainable and organic products, small local farming communities worldwide, and fair trade. Let’s not forget about livestock and humane animal farm practices, and high quality non-GMO foods made from nature not made in labs. Among great companies to support are Trader Joes and Eden Foods. And watch out for microwaveable and BPA-lined canned foods, and ready-to-eat foods that are packaged in questionable containers.

8. PET CARE – Avoid using Pet Guard tick and flea collars or any other similar commercial brands, which are doused in heavy poisons. There are many plant derived powders, essential oils, or sprays which repel parasites. Just do the research, or go to a natural food  or pet market and ask! And don’t forget pet shampoos, if you use them. Keep them natural, so that when you snuggle with your furry friend neither you or him breathe in allergens or chemicals! Stay away from anything laden with synthetic odor-blocking perfumes, including cat litter made with clay or synthetic ‘crystals’. Go for natural pine and recycled paper versions. And finally, choose good quality, organic pet food brands without corn or soy GMO fillers and bad animal bi-products.

9. WATER FILTRATION – Most people don’t realize that when they shower, the steam that is released in the bathroom from the combined fluoride, chlorine and the pre-existing toxins and metals in the water release powerful hazardous fumes, and get breathed in and absorbed into the skin. This has been linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s and high levels of metal toxicity in the body, the first signs of which are slowed mental capacity or ‘brain fog’ and fatigue. Invest in a central water filtration system for your entire house if possible, otherwise buy sink and shower head filters which are very affordable and worth their weight in gold. I like the Aquasana AQ-4105 Showerhead Filter System, which sells on Amazon for $69.99.

10. PAINT AND FURNITURE – Did you know that there is such a thing as ‘furniture polish poisoning?’ The petroleum distillates and solvents which make up the ‘finish’ or polish of most commercial furniture are highly neurotoxic. Tempurpedic synthetic foam from body conforming mattresses and pillows emits toxic fumes while it heats up, and is especially highly toxically odorous upon purchase. Think shower curtain smell. Everyone knows about asbestos these days, and although it’s been absent or officially banned from paint in the US, there are other toxic ingredients you should worry about. If you are building a house, or consider re-painting, do some research and look at natural-based primers and paints. Now you should be able to breathe in peace!

Please forward this article to all of your friends and loved ones. I think it can make a  huge difference in the quality of their lives. Happy Health & Happy Earth Day!


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Glorious Fennel: An Herb Fit for Gods, Champions, and Most Distinguished Guests

In the ancient world fennel was more than a mere aromatic herb used to accentuate certain dishes – it was elevated to super-herb status, much like the bay leaf and olive branches. Fennel was favored by the Egyptians for its culinary taste and medicinal properties, and elevated to champion status when it was carried by the ancient marathon runners like a torch, then hung in doorways during the Middle Ages to ward off evil spirits.Fennel1-of-1-3

The great mythological hero Prometheus used a fennel stalk to steal fire from the gods, and the original marathon or marathos, which literally means fennel in Greek, was named as such to commemorate a legendary Greco-Persian battle fought in a field covered by this aromatic herb.  Revered since time immemorial for its superior digestive and carminative properties, fennel boasts a unique combination of phytonutrients and powerful antioxidants, with added anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering benefits. Whereas in many parts of the world, particularly in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and East Indian cuisine it is used amply for its distinct aromatic anise-like flavor as well as its digestive benefits, here in the States fennel is largely neglected.  But not in my kitchen!

Hence, on a recent food-shopping excursion in preparation for a friend’s improptu lunch visit, I was perfectly inspired to create a last-minute ‘meal of champions’ – a challenge I often like to undertake. I usually like to pack plenty of nutritional value into everything I prepare, especially during the colder months when maintaining high energy levels and strong immunity is key. So I decided to make a creamy aromatic soup using ginger to boost immunity and add a kick to the delicate aroma of fennel, paired with a refreshing salad loaded with antioxidant and vitamin-C rich citrus and pomegranate seeds. Enjoy these delightful and festive dishes, and serve them anytime you want to impress you guests!

Fennel and Arugula Salad with Clementines and Pomegranates

Combine the ingredients listed above, sprinkle with roasted pine nuts, and finish with a drizzle of first-pressed extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of mixed artisanal coarse salts.  For a bigger wow factor add some gorgonzola cheese.

Fennel-Carrot-Ginger soup recipeginger-pumpkin-soup

2 medium fennel bulbs (with leaves)

1 pound carrots, quartered lengthwise

1 medium onion, quartered

1 garlic clove

1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger

3-5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 bunch of fresh thyme (with springs)

2 1/2 cups organic vegetable or chicken broth

2 1/2 cups water

Slice fennel bulbs 1/4 inch thick and toss with carrots, onion, garlic, and drizzle with olive oil, then add springs of thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Spread in a sheet pan and roast, stirring occasionally, until browned and tender, about 25 to 30 minutes at 450°F with rack in lowest position.

Blend half of vegetables in a blender with the broth until very smooth, removing thyme beforehand. Transfer to a medium saucepan. Repeat with remaining vegetables and water. Thin to desired consistency with extra water and simmer 10 minutes. Season with extra salt and pepper, and add thyme springs  or parsley to garnish.