Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Ayurveda: Get Glowing!

Ever since reading Deepak Chopra's "Perfect Weight" all those years ago, Ayurveda has been part of my healing. It's a book filled with sound wisdom instead of gimmicky promises, so it didn't sell well. Ayurveda is the antithesis of our culture's pharmaceutically obsessed belief that all we need are some little pills to make everything go away. Here's a list of some fascinating and pretty simple guidelines for better health and well being. I don't do them all, but give it my best shot. There...I just admitted to being a part-time food combiner. Check it out and see if any resonate with you.

The following tips are from Vaishāli, author of "You Are What You Love®" and "Wisdom Rising" http://tinyurl.com/WisdomRising

Sometimes learning just a few simple tips for more conscious living can make the most useful and positive changes in our lives. To that end, listed below are a thirteen understated yet profound tips for improving the quality of one’s health as well as assisting in that perennial task of getting an edge up on anti-aging and weight management.

1. Walking after you eat
Walking is actually a very powerful digestive aid. The Eastern Indian system of self-healing called Ayurveda advocates for “the journey of a 1,000 steps” after consuming food. The walk doesn’t have to be long; it just needs to be embarked upon after mealtime. So if you have a dog, take your fur-covered friend for a once around the block. Your pet will be grateful, and it will serve as a post-digestive gift to yourself. If you can’t walk, massaging the feet relaxes the body and strengthens the digestive system. There are many reflexology points on the foot that connect with our internal organs, thus bringing immediate benefit and support.

2. Waking up at 6am and exercising gets you the best return for your workout investment
This is especially helpful if you are large framed and prone to gaining weight easily. In Ayurveda, different times of the day have different qualities of energy. For most corpulent people, getting up early in the morning is absolutely the hardest most unpleasant task of the day, because the energy influence of 6-10am has a heavy, sedentary quality. According to Ayurvedic philosophy, overweight people will actually gain more weight the longer they sleep in past 6am, as this is when their metabolism is the most sluggish and energy conserving. Getting up at 6 a.m. and working out counterbalances that natural slowing down, lethargic, weight gaining tendency. It puts one’s metabolism in fat burning mode rather than fat accumulation mode. If you are going to bite the bullet and work out routinely, getting up early and starting it first thing is the smartest way to maximize your benefits.

3. The body likes a temperature of 98.6 degrees, because the organs in the body function best at this temperature
As a matter of fact the body can even function well hotter than that, like when we get an infection and the body turns up the heat. But it does not like to get colder. Internalizing cold food and liquids stuns the organs by forcing them to run colder than they are designed to function. Think of the stomach as a pot that sits on your stove. You want there to be a consistent flame under that pot so that everything you put into it gets cooked thoroughly.
Refrigerators and ice machines are fairly new advents in the history of humankind. Our bodies have not historically evolved into ingesting cold foods and liquids. In addition to adverse effects on organ function, there are emotional repercussions from internalized lower temperatures as well. Ingesting cold cuisine shocks the stomach and spleen/pancreas, which in turn creates an emotional backlash of worry and anxiety. The habit of eating cold foods and drinking iced beverages may be behind your waking up at 4am worrying about various issues in your life. Another point to consider is that when the internal organs get colder, that will cause a slowing down of the digestive system and its calorie burning efficiency, thus increasing weight gain from whatever is consumed. Consuming cold food and beverages literally freezes weight in the body, stunts the digestive system and promotes the release of cold-related emotions such as stress and worry. Drinking warm liquids and avoiding cold foods will assist you in gaining less weight as well as processing and releasing toxic emotions. So, if you have to have that ice cream sundae or root beer float, make sure you have a hot beverage that you sip frequently, giving your body a chance to warm up and recover before overwhelming the internal organs by lowering their preferred inner temperature.

4. Food combining is a topic that gets very little attention
Most people will go out of their way to buy and prepare an organic and nutritious meal. But if the foods are combined incorrectly the internal results can be disastrously unhealthy. There are many food-combining rules that can be refined indefinitely and endlessly, making them too rigid and hard to follow. For the sake of simplicity we will focus on some elementary points.

Do not combine fruits with grains, meats or vegetables. Fruits are mostly water and take about an hour to digest. Grains, meats and vegetable matter takes about three times longer. So when fruits are combined with these slower digesting foods, they will putrefy within the digestive tract. This means that even if you eat organic cereal with organic milk, and throw on some organic fruit, the whole thing will become a toxic mess in the body.

Fruits have their own food-combining rules as well. Citrus fruits should not be combined with non-citrus fruits. Melons and strawberries should be eaten by themselves and never mixed with anything else. That means that strawberries and bananas may taste great together, but your body will not benefit from the combination. Melons and strawberries go in the “eat them alone, or leave them alone” category. Ayurveda calls mangoes the “Queen of fruits,” and mangoes are immune to the rule of fruit combining. According to Ayurveda the mango is the only fruit that can be combined with other foods and not become toxic. So enjoy that mango lassie with a guilt-free conscious. Ayurveda calls asparagus the “King of Vegetables,” and says if you are going to eat only one veggie, make it asparagus. It is a deeply detoxifying and nutrient enriched food. Asparagus is a pricy vegetable, but if you treat food as medicine, this is one dish well worth considering.

The bottom line when in doubt about food combining: eating a kosher diet will always ensure the healthiest dietary combinations. (A kosher diet follows Ayurveda food combining.)

5. Eating root vegetables heals, supports and sustains the root chakra
All root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, beets, radishes, etc. are medicine for the body’s root chakra energy system. The root chakra is an energy center located on the pelvic floor. It is all about supporting life and survival on the most basic of levels. Especially during times of extreme stress, when the body is under pressure, think of root vegetables as your first wave of medicine for the root chakra.

6. Laughing before eating relaxes and opens the gall bladder duct
Eating during a sales meeting, while emotionally upset or in the company of people you do not like or trust will cause the gall bladder duct to constrict and narrow. When stressed or emotionally compromised this tiny duct between the liver and the gall bladder can be the first part of the digestive system to contract and the last to relax. If you have a history of gall bladder challenges, laughing and lightening up can be your best digestive aid.

7. Better Posture
Everyone wants better posture, but forcing that result by tightening the back muscles is not the best way to achieve that goal. A more efficient way to achieve better posture is to lift up from the sternum, which expands the chest naturally, instead of tightening the back muscles. Then turn the thumbs outwards and back when you stand or walk. This will gently rotate the shoulders back and correct slouched posture without over correcting.

8. Ayurveda suggests that any organ that is exposed to the air needs oiling on a daily basis
Edgar Cayce also agrees with Ayurveda in suggested there is value in placing a few drops of organic castor oil in each eye just before going to bed. By the time you wake up the body will have completely absorbed the oil and your vision will be clear and refreshed. Beyond lubrication, another advantage to castor oil in the eyes is that it supports the liver. According to the Eastern systems of self-healing the eyes are connected to the liver. When the body is forming in the uterus the eyes and liver develop at the same time from similar tissue. When the liver is ill, such as with some forms of hepatitis, the eyes will become a discolored yellow. So whether or not the eyes are windows to the Soul, they are definitely a window to the health of the liver. When we stare into a computer or television screen for long periods of time or spend too much time in the sun, the eyes can overheat the liver energetically. Castor oil, when applied externally, is energetically cooling and will literally pull the excess heat out of the liver and the eyes. When castor oil is taken internally it is heating, that is why taking a spoonful or two of castor oil will inspire a bodily waste evacuation.
There is an Ayurvedic oil especially designed for the nose. It is called “Nasya” oil. This oil is to be used in the morning and evening. One lays on a bed or floor with the nostrils pointing upwards. Then 5-7 drops are placed in each nostril and inhaled deeply, driving the oil back up into the nasal cavity. In addition to lubricating the nasal passageways, inhaling this oil does wonders for clearing up allergies to animal fur and various forms of pollen. It also helps to ease shoulder and neck tension and stress.

There are several types of oil specifically for the hair, scalp and detoxifying the brain. Brahmi and Bhringaraj are the most popular. Ayurveda describes the head as actually having a type of energetic vent system. These oils enter the vents and lubricate not only the hair shaft and scalp but also the brain itself. These oils can be used individually or in a formula of half and half that can be mixed and combined to get the full spectrum of oilation benefits.
Ayurveda suggests that the movement of life itself is drying to the body. Since the skin is the body’s largest organ and has the most exposure to the elements, oiling the body head to toe before showering is recommended as one of the top three daily routines for a long and healthy life. Once in the shower do not soap the oil off. Allow the water to drive the oil deeper into the skin, and then towel dry as normal. The body is designed to clean itself from the inside out. Using the typical soap and water shower protocol will dry the top layer of the skin which compromises the body’s natural cleaning from the inside out. Oiling the skin supports the body in cleansing itself from the deeper tissues outwards. The type of oil that one would use would depend on the body type of the person in question and their proclivity for imbalance. Almond oil is one of the few oils that can be used by nearly every person, although for best results, one should consult an Ayurvedic practitioner for an exact determination.

9. Getting to bed between 9 and 9:30 p.m. will provide a better quality of sleep
Our bodies go through natural cycles daily and nightly. The body is designed to begin to slow down at night in preparation for sleep. This why it is best to stop eating after 7pm, as the digestive system is slowing down as well. When going to bed with enough time to drift off to sleep before 10pm the body will be primed for the best recuperative rest. After 10pm the fire in the mind will start to rise and become more active. If you are awake and doing things, you will most likely experience that second wind and find yourself possessed by the need to just get that perennial “one more thing” done. Needless to say, as most people have already noticed from personal experience, the more active the mind, the more difficult it is to fall asleep.

10. Menstruation wisdom
This tip is just for women. Avoid a strenuous workout the first 3 to 4 days of your menstrual cycle. The menstruation process is one of the more profound ways the female body detoxifies. Working out is all about building the body up; detoxing is about supporting the body in releasing. These are widely divergent activities. When you exercise during the menstrual cycle you are telling the body to both build up and let go. Energetically this is very confusing to the body’s natural intelligence. Also avoid bodywork such as deep tissue massage or Rolfing above the waist. The energy flow of the body changes during menstruation. Bleeding, from an Eastern perspective, is a fire event, and fire naturally rises. This upwards energy flow is not ideal during the menstrual cycle so the body naturally shifts the energy to flow downwards for this localized fire event. Endometriosis, from the Eastern perspective, is caused by the fire energy flowing back upwards, instead of flowing downwards during the menstrual cycle, thus taking the endometrial tissue with it. When a woman engages in any activity that brings the body’s energy attention upwards, it is in direct conflict with the body’s natural downward shift of energy flow during menstruation. This downward energy movement is designed to help purge the toxic blood down, out and away from the body. Women prone to endometriosis need to be especially carefully in preserving this natural downward energy flow and not confuse the body by directing energy upwards. This means even avoiding the upwardly inhaling the nasal oil in addition to any energy work done around the head. Foot reflexology and bodywork downwards along the legs is fine, since it will encourage a downward movement of energy.

11. A tongue scraper is a simple and low cost health feature
At night while we sleep one of the many things the body is doing involves detoxifying. All of the body’s internal organs are connected to the tongue. This is why Ayurvedic and Chinese Medicine practitioners ask to see the tongue. From examining the shape, color, pits, dents or other topical features, a good alternative health practitioner can discern a great deal of information about the overall health of the body.

In the morning after waking up the best way to start the day before eating and drinking is to use the tongue scraper. Start as far back as is comfortable and bring the tongue scraper forward. All the discolored material that is scraped off the tongue are toxins the body has taken the time during the night to bring up through the internal organs and push out through the tongue. Using a tongue scraper is also a very effective way to make changes in your diet, by seeing directly the next morning what your body is discarding on the tongue as toxic and non-useable. The tongue can be lightly scraped until the residue is no longer appearing on the scraper. Usually this is about 10 times. Then clean the tongue scraper as you would your toothbrush

12. Swishing sesame oil in the mouth for ten minutes will enhance dental hygiene
Statistically India is the country with the highest number of diagnosed cases of diabetes. Yet it has the lowest cases of dental decay. Swishing organic sesame oil in the mouth for ten minutes has been a time-honored way of improving oral health. This can be done while watching television, reading, washing dishes or any activity that does not also involve talking. This only needs to be done once a day, and is best to do before bed, as it will also help keep the mouth from drying out while sleeping. A dry mouth will encourage the growth of bacteria. The magic number is ten full minutes, and then spit the oil out. Do not swallow.

13. CCF tea is the ultimate beverage for a long and healthy life
Take equal amounts of organic cumin, coriander and fennel seeds. Boil for 3-5 minutes, then strain out the seeds. According to Ayurveda this tea formula has long been valued as the best tonic for what ails you. The combination of seeds is a great digestive aid as well as internally cleansing. There is a saying in Ayurveda that nothing bad can happen to you if drink enough CCF tea. Freshly sliced ginger can also be added and boiled with the seeds to add a fire balancing digestive quality. The tea by itself is slightly bland so honey and lemon can also be added to make the taste more interesting.

Summary: When making changes in your diet and lifestyle it is also best to start out with what is easy and simple. Making changes gradually is the best way to ensure that you can incorporate beneficial habits routinely as well as keep your life balanced by not overwhelming yourself with too many changes too quickly.
Also remember that food is your first wave of medicine. When you are grocery shopping for yourself and family, if what you are throwing into your shopping cart is not useful as medicine to the body, don’t buy it.

These tips are designed to be a simple, quick and easy way to bring some profound improvements to the quality of your life with the least amount of effort. Remember, radiant health and a balanced lifestyle start and build on itself with every conscious choice you make.

Vaishali is the author of Wisdom Rising http://tinyurl.com/WisdomRising and You Are What You Love http://tinyurl.com/Your-Are-Love . She is a columnist for the Huffington Post and an international health & wellness speaker who has appeared on The Dr. Oz Radio Show and Oprah.com. Vaishali learned to transform her life from the threat of two terminal disease diagnoses, domestic abuse and financial devastation. Completely recovered, she shares her wisdom @ www.purplev.com/mediakit or email press@purplev.com To see Vaishali live in-person click here: http://conta.cc/cHzvg0


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Back In White

I hope you'll pardon the immodesty, but I consider this to be tantamount to humans landing on the moon.

Why? Because for more than 20 years I wore nothing but black, head to toe. It was my magic eraser...or so I thought. It was my tool for vanishing into the void and disappearing and pretending that I wasn't who I was physically.

Remember that immortal whack job Burt (played by the late, Brilliant Richard Mulligan) from the 70's sit-com Soap? Whenever Burt had a little too much reality for one day, he'd decide to become 'invisible' by suddenly snapping his fingers and declaring, "That's it, I'm not here!"  Burt was so good at being delusional he convinced himself that simply snapping his fingers could vaporize his physicality.  I relate. It's what I believed black would do for my size, which I spent a lot of time and energy ignoring. I got so good at being dishonest with myself, I almost had me fooled about adoring the color black...until last week when, for the first time since childhood, I donned a color of an entirely different vibration.

Yes, it felt etheric. Yes, I felt like a brand new person. And yes...it was worth all the effort. ♥

Oh, and for those new to the blog, here's basically how I did it.  The short version is, I gave up the following:

 1.  Self-Loathing
 2.  Gluten
 3.  Cow Dairy

And I added:

 1.  Generous amounts of Self-Love
 2.  Liberal doses of movement (http://www.yrgfitness.com/)
 3.  A cache of supportive people in my inner circle (note:  this may cause you to do a little long overdue house-cleaning, but you're worth it, so go for it)

...For more complete details, catch up on past posts

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Getting Ready for The Ultimate Risk

The unconscious mind never fails to amaze me with the breadth of its power. Its moves are far more rapid than a ninja's and its precision infinitely sharper than any laser. And I know, even without awareness, that its powerful stealth drives me. So I’m writing this more as an open letter to that vast, unseen, and ferociously powerful part of my being that drives the bus.

Unconscious, when you read this letter, perhaps we can make a little peace. Like the truce we’ve happily settled into where food is concerned. After years of negotiating, we no longer drug ourselves with it. Because of our collaboration, I’ve drop kicked lots of emotional baggage out of my life and the ensuing 170 pounds that went with it.

But like most complex situations in life, I find myself wielding the weight of a mighty sword with two distinct edges. What do I mean? The good news: I have my life back. The bad news: I have my life back. And now that the realm of food addiction is relatively smooth sailing, I feel the next challenge approaching in the distance…and one I’ve made every effort to avoid these past two decades: men. Actually that’s not entirely true. I didn’t avoid men completely; I did time in a 20-year relationship. What I really avoided was Love. Somewhere in that vast unseen mystery that is 90 percent of my mind, I equate it with pain.

I’ve only been in Love once in my life. There were lots of mini-infatuations along the way…and then, one deep and dizzying, hurling-through-a-distant-galaxy kind of Love where ticking watches and calendar time cease to exist.

Years before he and I met, a tea leaf reader predicted our liaison and its potentcy, reciting his first initial, describing his physical appearance, and announcing the time of year we would meet. She even saw that he’d be wearing a flowing wool muffler around his neck…all this from a clump of wet tea leaves. But sure enough, it came to pass one bitter cold night on a college campus in February.

I don’t have time or energy for the full script, but it was exhilarating, intense, and consumed every part of me. We both dove in full throttle. And I would have done pretty much anything he asked of me, including move to his country, learn his language, and adopt his religion. Only he never asked. Our liaison was also short, less than a year. And he ended it suddenly, with no real explanation. A few months later he transferred to a school on the west coast. To say I was devastated doesn’t come close.

Truly, I put all my eggs in a single basket with him…and he dropped it. And you can imagine what happened with the eggs. A real, ‘all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put me back together again’ scenario. So I died. Went about killing the sexy identity I crafted via Weight Watchers and daily aerobics. I also offed the ivy-league student on the rise, and the traveling adventurer. I ate whatever I wanted with enough frequency that the weight came back and I didn’t have to feel a damn thing. I dropped out of the shiny, prestigious school, and moved back to the town where I grew up and never left.

Since I didn’t like being hurt, the unconscious swung dutifully into action. Did I mention that it operates in the most literal of senses? For example, Attractive=Incoming Men= Pain. The new operating instructions from below deck came loud and clear: Comforting Food=Numbed Feelings+Walls of Fat to Keep Men Away=Safety.

22 years after losing at Love, I rose out of the ashes in a way I never thought I would. There was the repetition of the glorious transformation of another triple-digit weight drop and all the ooohs and aaahs that come with it. No false modesty here, I Love being complimented. But it’s in perspective now and definitely not my daily bread. There were the joys of a shrinking waistline and burgeoning wardrobe…in a rainbow of colors I hadn’t worn since childhood. And eventually, men started looking again. That alone took some adjusting to. I knew I'd better get OK with it or risk another downslide.  And since I really do like dressing in color, I've decided downsliding is not an option this time.

I realize there may come a time when a guy decides to do more than look. Everyone’s asking me if the D-word has started and if not when??? The truth is I don’t know when…I’ve got mixed feelings because I’ve never been adept at it, never did it in high school. It’s always struck me as a forced and painfully hollow ritual. I suppose I’ll know when something feels right. I’m in no hurry. I’ve learned from watching others try and skip the post-break-up grieving process by frantically seeking out a warm body and making huge messes in the interim. Then again, I didn’t work this hard to end up living a monastic existence either. The funny thing is, I’m learning that I don’t need the weight to keep men away. Perhaps the unconscious still senses danger and is emitting a silent but shrill ‘Get the F*ck Away From Me’ vibe I’m not even aware of….sneaky little unconscious….let’s agree to work on that, OK?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Spontaneous Moments of Joy

...they come to me more frequently now than ever.  And here's who and what I have to thank for it:  Dallas Page and YRG (http://www.yrgfitness.com/), my role model Terri Lange, eliminating gluten and cow dairy, eating mindfully, feeling the feelings, long-distance walking, pumping iron a few times a week, and a good old-fashioned lightening bolt of Divine Intervention that got the ball rolling in the first place back in January 2009.

Today as I drove to belly dance class in my new and very compact car that I couldn’t have wedged myself into two years ago, I was struck by how amazing I felt. In a span of seconds came the awareness of the fortitude of my skeletal system, the fact that my abdomen is actually concave now, and of course…the elevated energy levels that come from physical activity and clean eating.

The fruits of my labor are my new normal now, but at 3:05 p.m. today I was really thunderstruck at how good balance feels. There is nothing that’s better than having the body, mind, and spirit aligned and humming.

It’s astounding what a generous a payback the YRG lifestyle yields. People who know my story (which includes regaining 100 pounds twice in my life) know I have a strict rule against being strict. My experience is that it’s a set up for a prison break, and prison breaks for me mean dividing my time between the potato chip aisle of the supermarket or the KFC drive thru.

I can’t say enough about the benefits of eliminating the poisons of gluten and cow dairy. In a month I’ll be 46…and I look and feel exponentially better than I did at age 20 or 18 or 16. I even look better than the two occasions in my 20’s when I lost 100 pounds. Must have had something to do with the fact that they were nothing more than white-knuckle episodes of excruciating and prolonged dieting. I was miserable and it showed, and not surprisingly, the unnatural state could not be sustained. I couldn’t wait for the arrival of the inevitable moment: a precision-executed swan dive off the wagon that would have made an Olympic diving coach proud.

And about that non-strictness policy…two nights ago I thoroughly enjoyed a fried chicken dinner (on the side was kale instead of butter-infused mashed potatoes and biscuits), the week before that when I was really feeling ready to enjoy it (this was not a moment of feeling-avoidance) I ate a g-free cupcake that was crowned with a thick, gorgeous butter cream frosting. The process of ingesting that cupcake was slow, deliberate, and liberating. These were things I used to binge eat in shame when I was ‘bad,’ or would declare banished forever when I was ‘good.’ And while I’ve made the choice to largely eliminate cow dairy, I start my day the way I have for the past 15 years: with a steaming double espresso splashed with light cream and a little honey. As I realized early on this time around: it’s not about eliminating pleasure, but managing my misuse of it.

I still get lots of pleasure from food. More, actually, than all my years of binge eating, because I’m actually paying attention when I eat now. Last night, I was up well past midnight making a triple-batch of gluten-free zucchini bread. It’s glorious. People who’ve tried it have no clue it’s gluten-free and absolutely swoon over it. I promise to post the recipe soon.

Tomorrow I’m heading due west to a family reunion near Buffalo. It’s a long drive, but I’m packing the bread for the legions of curious relatives who’ve been asking me via e-mail how I manage to survive not eating wheat.

It’s a small offering and only a tiny part of the puzzle, but I’m hoping that a moist slice of perfectly sweetened, homemade bread and the visual of my completely transformed body and spirit may be enough to convince them that change can and does happen – with minimal suffering.


August 2010