Abracadabra!

img_1390Not long ago I read and chuckled at a post by Mammasaurus where she lashed out at the word ritual and its “all-trendy” status making it the rage these days. Now, I love the word ritual. I loved it all the way back when it was not the hype and puff it is now, blame the Owens sisters. And yes like her I realise its implied connotation of routine, domesticity, the habitual and ordinary. Yawn. But I also strongly feel we can turn this around on its head.

Ayurveda is all about daily practices and I think using the word rituals makes it exciting, fun and slightly sacred – as in my-body-is-a-temple kind of sacred. Ayurveda is literally practical magic for the body, mind and soul. The nourishment one gets from performing simple conscious acts every day in its due time firmly builds us up for strength, energy, and an all-around powerful sense of wellbeing.

Indian Summer or not, as we enter the witchy season with the end of summer harvest and Halloween not too far around the corner I am enchanted by all the little things Ayurvedic self-care preaches about the turning of the season. From cozying up at home in the evening looking for the warmth and the ceremony of tea to autumnal recipes of baked apples and the smell of spices in the cauldron. From a mushy bowl of kitchari garnered with garden vegetables and a drip of oil to family gathering around a good old hocus-pocus film and turning in early for well deserved ZZzzz-time. It’s all about the hubble-bubble, conjuring the joy and buoyancy of the colours and smells this time of year, the ripening of the natural rhythms of the earth cycles. At Mabon, the agricultural autumn equinox festival, we feast at the altar of life enjoying the fruits of our work in the kitchen. Add a healthy dose of mischief with cake and ale and Paul Hollywood would be proud! If this isn’t hygge then what is? Oh look at us, we’re right on trend again.

And as for the simplicity of Ayurveda, a wise wizard once said “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” Happy birthday Roald Dahl!

P.s. Just for fun since we’re all about sorcery today here’s an interesting fact about Brownies. I never quite made it as a Brownie but I once was a Rainbow. So here in England it seems Brownies pledge allegiance to the Queen. I, on the other end, born and raised in France, pledged allegiance to Joan Of Arc. Burnt at the stake as a witch by the English. See the irony there?

 

Make it a habit

Working on my online course today, I am writing about evolving and creating new healthy habits, starting by considering our “crimes against wisdom” or Pranjapradha as Yoga and Ayurveda calls it. It sounds very serious and scary but basically why do we continue to do what we know is not good for us? All this to say that thanks to Amy Landry’s last newsletter I came across this great little TEDx talk about “crimes against wisdom”. Not so scary I promise, quite inspiring actually…

One for the mothers of young children

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“Baby, where’d you get your body from? Tell me, where’d you get your body from? I got it from my Mama” Will.I.Am

A lot of my friends and readers (friends readers…) are mothers with little people and although there are no two mums alike, no two kids alike and no two families alike some common ground is helpful to flourish as a Mum.

1. GET TO YOUR BED EARLY

The golden rule. As much as is possible, get some sleep. Evenings are often when we Mums want some adult conversations or me-time and that’s all good and necessary but don’t linger well passed curfew. You can’t be a happy caring Mama without your due rest so take it when you can. Go to bed for 10 o’clock eyes shut especially when feeling taxed and if needs be have a little siesta in the day time when the kids are taking theirs.

2. QUICK FLEXIBLE PRACTICES

You’re not gonna have time like the rest of them so you might as well agree now to take a few minutes here & there to do a mini-version of those activities you used to do before the kids were born.  Meditation is refreshing for the mind if you can even spare a minute to be fully and utterly present. And if motherhood teaches you one thing it is to be present! Dance around the room like nobody’s watching or take a pose, a yoga pose that is. Even better, download a Yoga Nidra deep relaxation tape or record your own shorter version if time is really sparse and whenever you have your 15, 10 or even 5 minutes immerse yourself. Yoga Nidra, the yogic closing relaxation at the end of classes is the deepest rest you could give yourself.

3. EAT BREAKFAST LIKE A PRINCESS, LUNCH LIKE A QUEEN &  DINNER LIKE A PAUPER

And be good to your digestive system as well as your stress-levels. The simplest trick for eating food that’s easy to digest to support you against stress and overwhelm is to eat your meals from a bowl. Make that a nice looking wooden or ceramic bowl. And eat simple curry-like mushy food. Cooked or roasted vegetables with oils, rice, lentils or beans. Add salt, pepper, turmeric or heating spice and some fresh herbs. Throw some basic flavours together and make a warm pot. In the hot summer days you could make that into a gazpacho (cold soup) dish but a little heat is actually supportive for when you need that extra comfy nourishment to help you through the day.

4. PLAN & BE WITTY

You’re out to work,  a class or playground with the kids, plan your meals ahead and put a few healthy ingredients in your slow cooker to be ready for when you get back and avoid that mad rush and temperaments flaring when it gets to the kids meal time and you then reach for the back of the cupboard’s less-than-wholesome ready bites – which won’t help anyone because as well as being damaging to their health it will also get the kids wired for hours on end.

5) DINNER AT 6pm, LATEST (ok roughly)

Eating as a family is nourishing for all and since the kids will be hungry early you will benefit from it too, giving your digestive system and consequently other body functions a rest between dinner time and breakfast (breaking the fast).

6) BE PRESENT IN ALL YOU DO

That word again, but yes don’t multi-task out of a wish to get everyone sweeped up to bed or wherever on time. Do one thing at a time with full intent and full attention (I’m still working on that one but the result of not following my own advice are showing up in ways I don’t want in my life!) Engage in that task alone and do that, and that only. Don’t disperse yourself. If the task is household or less than inspiring, use it as a meditative tool. Follow your kids example.

7) READ FOR INSPIRATION, every day even if just one line before bed. I can’t live without my books so this is one I take for granted but you could do something else you love and find inspiring, even for 1 minute. Make it uplifting and something that talks to your soul. Something that stays in your heart and core  throughout the rest of the day or week.

8) DRESS NICE

Add a little colour or whimsy to your outfit and you’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel

What else do you do to support yourself? Let me know in the comments. Always love to hear!

 

Creating a morning routine

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Start the day as you mean to go on.

We’ve all heard it but in truth this advice is worth its weight in gold. How you prepare for your day every morning from the moment you wake to the moment you start – be it your work, school, productive activities of the day – that time is precious in forming what your day is going to shape into. Either a good day or a bad day. A day spent frazzled, rushed, stressed or a day where you feel present, grounded, calm and together.

This reasoning is very trendy amongst the health gurus nowadays but that knowledge is age old and Ayurveda is very strong on designing healthy rituals that you perform day in day out to create wellbeing. It’s like working from the ground up, you wouldn’t build the wall of your house before you’d dug the foundation. Morning routine is your foundation for the day and it’s an inside job. The self-care we practise and the time we dedicate to ourselves daily before we go out in the world builds our stamina for facing the day ahead.

In Ayurveda the optimal daily routine is called Dinacharya and here is a little flavour to give you an incentive. Do what you can when you can. Create habits by starting somewhere, anywhere, and adding a little to your daily regimen. What you focus on will grow in your day. If you focus on self nourishment and serenity then guess what, you’ll see more of it pop-up in your day.

WAKE UP EARLY

Timing is everything. Our days are sliced into cycles of energy. Wake before 6am to benefit from the Vata cycle and rise refreshed, energetic and light. You’ll be more alert than if you wake later and you hit the Kapha cycle risking feeling weighed down and sluggish. You’ll also gain the time you need for your self-care practise (that’s if you haven’t got a toddler-in-tow like me obviously, in which case you need to become a bit more resourceful or wake still earlier…)

ELIMINATE

Early morning is the time of Apana Vayu, a downward flowing energy in the body which supports the body’s clearing functions.

TONGUE SCRAPE (& brush your teeth)

I’m not going to re-invent the wheel, I already wrote about it here.

DRINK WARM LEMON WATER

I wrote about that there.

MEDITATE

Make the best of the early hours’ peaceful environment to cleanse your senses and center your mind. You needn’t meditate for hours on end but regularity is what will bring a real difference to how grounded you feel in your days. Start with 5 minutes and build up if you have the time. Try to keep a loving attitude to balance the airy energy of vata prevalent in dawn and to create a relaxed energy, helping prana – the life force – flow.

EXERCISE

Move your body. Raise your energy. Perhaps find out what your metabolic make-up is here and exercise in accordance, though yoga and walking are generally good for everyone; helping you loosen up, warm up and prepare for activity and digestion. Jumping up and down on a trampoline might be a good way to wake up all your internal pipes.

SLATHER ON SESAME OIL & shower or vice versa

For this one see my post here (this is turning out to be an easy post!).

EAT A NUTRITIOUS BREAKFAST

Fuel your body with fresh quality food that releases energy slowly to keep you going until your main meal of the day (lunch).

All systems go!

Start the year with a fresh palate

I am slowly waking up from my deep winter hibernation to wish you all a happy new year. And so you’d have guessed I’m not referring to a new colour scheme for your wardrobe but mouth hygiene. Where’s the glamour in that? Better health begins this January. If we want to start the year the way we mean to carry on then now is as good a time as any to introduce a new habit. I would like you to consider a simple technique to do daily to help eliminate toxins and freshen up the breath: tongue scraping. New habits are more likely to stick if they can easily squeeze in to your schedule and are small but impactful which fits the picture perfectly.

img_1399Why do it?

The benefits are multiple and run deep.

Cleaning your tongue first thing in the morning is like brushing your teeth only it is even more important. Ayurveda makes it an essential practice. The body uses the tongue as a tool for detoxification. During sleep our digestive system continues to remove toxins from our body which will regularly show up on the tongue. Using a tongue scraper to cleanse the depot (ama) on your tongue will give you a fresh feeling and protect teeth from bacteria, removing both the bacteria and gunky phlegm that coats your tongue on waking – preventing them being re-absorbed. This supports your immune system. Scraping helps prevent bad breath and a side-effect is to improve the taste of foods when eaten by increasing your sense of taste. In “Ayurvedic tongue diagnosis” Walter Kacera D.N. Ph.D explains that using tongue scraping allows to use less toothpaste “which simply kills the mouth and throat flora, allowing those substances to reach the stomach and intestine”. So tongue scraping = taking in less nasties from your toothpaste.

Brushing your tongue with your toothbrush does not do the job as it will only move the bacteria and gunk around and you risk being too harsh. It is best to use a stain-steel tongue scraper which you can easily buy online. Holding each side of the scraper start at the back of the tongue and scrape gently towards the front 7 times to activate the tissue layers. The procedure is said to boost your digestion also by improving your tastebuds & causing saliva production. It decreases plaque, dead cells and oral debris.

Finally tongue scraping will also stimulate all the pranic nadis (energy channels) that terminate in the tongue and massages the internal organs that are linked to different parts of the tongue. A pretty punchy benefit for such an easy, quick practice.

See Lorien’s clip for a fun illustration right here.

Blessings of love and light for the new year!

 

When life throws you lemons

Organic Bush Lemon's (3)This beautiful picture of organic Bangalow Bush lemons is my inspiration this week and it comes credit to Lorien Waldron from Wholesome Loving Goodness all the way over the pond in sunny Byron Bay, Australia.

I absolutely love this picture and from now on it will be my blog profile picture and a banner on my website, alongside some of my more humble shots of a local Dorset beach and the Shiva Temple at the Ganga Talao lake in Mauritius from a recent trip.

But back to Lorien! I have been following her through social medias for a few years now and she’s been a bit of a muse with her business sharing Ayurvedic wisdom as a Lifestyle Consultant. She has a real passion for pursuing healing through food and teaching Ayurvedic cooking to the community. What a wholesome goal! She’s also a photographer so check her out on Instagram or via her website, details in the Resources page.

In a previous post I made a quick suggestion that you start your day with a glass of warm water & a dash of lemon with perhaps even some grated ginger and/or honey. Lemon water is a kitchen staple in Ayurveda. Make it fresh every day. It is cleansing upon waking and prepares your digestive system for breakfast. It helps flush toxins out and you’ll feel much more energetic once your digestion is back on track, which this simple technique will help with.

Although lemons are a citrus fruit and acidic in nature they actually have an alkaline effect on the constitution when metabolised, after the minerals dissociate, and so help counteract acidity in the body and over-acidity in diet which is a well-spread issue nowadays. Long term acidic environments are damaging to the cells structure & function and to the human tissues which causes health problems.

Some of the benefits of lemon water first thing in the morning are:

– fighting bad cholesterol

– relieving abdominal colic pain & gastritis pain due to indigestion

– reducing mucus

– helping with weight loss

– detoxifying (reducing ama) and alkalising

– boosting immunity

– glowing skin

– generally supporting to the digestive system, it improves digestive enzymes

There are multiple ways to use lemons particularly as a salad sauce mixed with herbs. Here is a side-dish recipe from “Eat, Taste, Heal” which can’t fail to give you some zing and takes absolutely no time to rustle up:

” Steamed Kale with Lemon and Dill Butter

Ingredients

3 to 4 cups chopped curly or flat kale leaves

1/3 cup organic unsalted butter, softened

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill or fennel leaves

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

1) Bring about 1 inch of water to a boil in the bottom half of a steamer or in a saucepan with a steamer insert. Put the kale in the steamer, cover, and cook until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes

2) Put the butter, dill, lemon juice and a lemon zest in a small bowl and mash them together with a fork. Season to taste with salt and pepper

3) To serve, spoon a dollop of butter on each serving of kale

Vatas can add thyme or rosemary; and Kaphas could replace the butter with safflower oil, and the dill with thyme or rosemary. The Kapha version is dairy-free and gluten-free.”

If you liked this post, join the tribe and leave me your email address to receive weekly inspiration and calls to action. And in return I’m delighted to announce that you’ll get a copy of my freshly pressed free new guide: “The How-To Of Food Shopping, My Top 10 Tips” (and you’ll recognise Lorien’s lemony picture in the background again).

 

Self-love in the shower

Do I have your attention yet?

From Ashes
From Ashes

It sounds a bit kinky but a very innocent post afterall.

Snehana is the Sanskrit word for oleation or lubrication – and Sneha expresses a feeling of “stupendous love and immense tenderness” (Maya Tiwari).

For years now I had been meaning to introduce daily Abhyanga (warm oil self-massage) but life taking over as it does it is only when I started my Ayurvedic studies with my teacher in the US – Cate Stillman – and listened to her strategy video for the course that I was totally sold on the idea that I must make it an absolute necessity in my daily routine. And I did! A few words from her and I was hooked. From one day to the next I started oil massage as a morning bathroom ritual and have continued without fail. And I’m very glad I did too.

Here are some of the benefits it claims:

– radiant skin

– better circulation

– better sleep

– tones the muscles

– improves elimination of toxins from the skin, blood, plasma and lymph system

– regulates the digestive system

– feeds the inner tissues of the body (dathus)

– boosts the immune system

– calms the nervous system, reduces anxiety

– nurtures body and soul, grounds & gives you that feeling of connection

The list goes on…

And here is how to do it:

Allow between 5 and 20 minutes depending on how much time you are able to give yourself.

Use sesame oil especially in the autumn and winter and all year around if you are of a vata constitution, coconut is best for pittas in the summer time. Kaphas may like olive or mustard oil but will be fine with sesame all year around too. The benefits of sesame oil, and coconut oil for that matter, would require a full post of their own. Always buy food grade oils, organic from a health food store – if good enough to eat then it’s good enough on your skin, after all you are feeding your skin as well as the deeper tissues.

Warm the oil by placing the bottle in hot water for 5 minutes, or if possible to higher than body temperature.

Ideally you would want to start with your head but I for one understand the logistic & time-management restrictions with a 2 year old in toe. If you do then take a small amount of oil then use fingertips to work the scalp deeply, slightly pulling the roots of your hair.

Next massage your face using circular movements all over not forgetting important points like the third-eye, temples, around the eyes by circling along the eyebrow line then along the lower lid area, laugh lines (a face lift tip right there) and also the chin.

Be especially intent when massaging the ears, placing a few drops inside the ear and applying pressure all around the outer ear.

Move on to the neck, front and back, in long strokes then the shoulders with circular movements, the top of your chest including the collarbone in strokes. Next are the arms.

The rule is generally massage in firm long strokes with the palm of your hands on long bones and circular movement on joints, shoulders, elbows, hips, wrists and ankles – and you are massaging from top to bottom and always towards the heart.

Continue moving through the body, one arm then the other, paying extra attention to the hands (palms, knuckles & small joints of each fingers). Abhyanga will help keep breast tissue healthy. The abdomen should be massaged circularly, be gentle though. Massage the liver, pancreas & spleen by reaching under the ribcage. Proceed on to the side of the body then your back, hips, bottom and legs. Again pay extra attention to the feet including sole and toes.

If time allows keep the oil on a few minutes then have a warm bath or shower to both wash the oil off and deepen the benefits of the massage.

Totally overwhelmed by my instructions? Watch this video with Alicia Diaz. She’s a cool cookie in the world of Ayurveda and I’m a bit of a groupie.

I do believe that the massage helps activate the marma points (vital pressure points) and even though I have been a bit shy about owning up to it in public to start with, I truly believe that daily massage has contributed to my weight loss and with feeling and looking better than I have in years. So here you go, now you know my secret!