Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cleaning the House

Somewhere in a small corner of my everyday world I'm starting to feel hints of Spring. There's something in the air, and here in the cold northeast, no matter how subtle it rarely goes unnoticed. There's a bit of happy anticipation mixed with cabin fever and a few who perhaps feeling a little stir crazy, jumped the gun and have bravely donned a pair of long shorts a bit too early in the season. The feelings ebb and recede. Here today, gone tomorrow back again sometime next week, but this time of year, with each passing day a little giggle of excitement comes over us as hope springs eternal!
Each year as Spring comes closer many of us begin to feel the heaviness of Winter. General vitality can be weak and there's a sluggish feeling in the body. This is a great time of year to begin a detoxifying regime to cleanse the system and ready it for warmer weather. One of my yoga teachers Clair has been speaking a lot about the body feeling lackluster this time of year partly due to extra mucus in the abdomen that builds up from the long cold months. In reality a lot of stuff we don't want in our system can get stuck there and may need a little help to be sent on it's way.
This is a great time of year to begin to clear the kidneys, spleen and liver and refresh the system. Each year around this time I do a small lemon cleanse to help the system clear out the junk that may have accumulated during the winter months. The lemon cleanse includes the use of paprika which is an excellent tonic for the kidneys and spleen. A good cleansing of the liver is always beneficial. Adding fresh parsley to the daily diets helps cleanse the system and has beneficial qualities for the liver. I have also been juicing in the morning with grapefruits. Grapefruits boost liver enzymes that clear out carcinogens. It also significantly increases the production and activity of liver detoxification enzymes responsible for preparing toxic compounds for elimination from the body. I don't have time to juice every day, so once a week I juice enough for two large containers and leave them in the fridge. I have one glass in the morning and another in the evening. Fresh juice is a hit with everyone in the house, and juicing at home is a quarter the price of buying fresh squeezed at the store, so it's a win win all the way round. Water is hugely important in helping to flush out the system and revitalize the body. Water is plentiful, free and should be the easiest part of a health regime, except for the fact it isn't. Few of us drink as much as we should and only a rare few drink the recommended eight glasses a day. Tap water in many areas is disgusting and I personally think it should be boiled or filtered before drinking. My solution is to buy huge cases of bottled water and always carry a bottle with me. My personal philosophy is that Rome was not built in a day. If you haven't been drinking water regularly start with one glass or small bottle a day as a goal. Last, incorporate yoga twists into your practice. Twists squeeze and massage your organs moving toxins and other undesirable stuff out of the body. Twists also provide a blood rush to organs in the abdomen taking out the old and revitalizing with fresh oxygenated blood which helps the system preform more efficiently.
Spring cleaning now so I have more time and energy to play later!
Wishing everyone good health and a very merry March.

Friday, February 19, 2010


"The flowers of late winter and early spring
occupy places in our hearts
well out of proportion to their size."
Gertrude S. Wister

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Winter Morning

Snowy days can be wonderful but as winter settles in, a little tiresome. One of my yoga teachers said in class the other day, "I think I'm coming down with February" Our bodies have a tendency to stiffen in cold weather and we're more than likely to not want to get out of bed in the morning. Sun salutations are a great way to greet the day and wake the body, but honestly when your tired and stiff and looking toward a long day, there always seems to be less time and interest to do a few rounds first thing in the morning. This little sequence is for those days when time is not available but the winter doldrums seem in abundance. This sequence is done seated or in supine (on your back) and requires less than 10 minutes. (best done in your pajamas with socks and a comfy sweater.)
Begin in a seated position and start with a simple breathing exercise:
Single Nostril Breathing /Surya Bhedana Pranayama
Sit in a comfortable position. For Surya Bhedana block your left nostril and inhale through your right. Then close the right and exhale through the left. Continue in this manner, inhale right, exhale left, for 1 to 3 minutes.
(Precaution: Surya bhedana pranayama should not be practiced by people suffering from heart disease, high blood pressure and epilepsy. )
A supported version of wind removing pose
This 'back bend' pose stimulates the adrenal glands which helps release energy in your body. It's also good to do if you've been desk-bound, to literally straighten you out.
How: If you don't have a block place a few folded towels or blankets on your mat, and sit on them, with your feet flat on the mat. Slowly lie back, so that your upper back rests on the mat, with your arms down by your sides. Be sure to keep your chin off your chest, so that your neck is in a neutral position. Take three to five deep breaths inhale and then pull your knees to your chest to stretch your back. Exhale and release. Do Three to five rounds for a count of 10 each.
Happy Baby Pose
This pose releases the lower back and opens the hips. This pose is known as a heart opener as well.
How: Lie on your back (remove towels or blocks) and bring your knees to your belly. Grab a big toe in each hand (or a foot, ankle or shins) and allow your knees to fall open wider than your torso. Next, bring your knees toward the direction of the armpits to allow the hips to release more deeply. Keep your ankles in line with your knees, so that your shins are perpendicular to the floor. Hold for several breaths.
Viparita Karani
Upside down, or inverted, poses are perfect for helping you feel both physically and mentally rejuvenated. Upside down poses bring fresh oxygen to your brain, warding off that sluggish, sleepy feeling.
How: lay down on a mat and place a block or blanket under you sacrum, lifts both legs in the air perpendicular to the ground. If you prefer find a bit of wall space and bring your legs to rest on the wall. Stay for two to three minutes with relaxed breath.
When you have finished bring your legs down and move your body to one side in the fetal position stay for three breaths then push yourself up to a seated postion.
That's it, finished. The day is yours. Go have a great one!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Western Research in Yoga

Sat Bir Khalsa
A growing number of clinical trials are being published investigating to what extent yoga is a benefit for psychological and emotional health. A PubMed search for "yoga and depression" yielded 25 clinical trials published in 2007, 2008 and the first quarter of 2009 relating to yoga and emotional and psychological health. In addition, three review articles and three systematic reviews published during this period investigated the effects of various combinations of yoga, meditation and yogic breathing on mental health.
Sat Bir Khalsa, PhD Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School is currently conducting a research study on evaluation of a yoga intervention for post-traumatic stress disorder on veterans of the war in Iraq. This 18 month study is hosted by Brigham and Women’s hospital and is funded through a grant through the Department of Defense.
The 10-week Kripalu-style yoga treatment will consist of 20 biweekly 90-minute group training/practice sessions. In addition, subjects will also receive CD's and written instructions for daily 15-minute sessions, which they will use to guide them through the yoga procedures to be done at home.
"The main objective of this study is to establish efficacy and feasibility of a yoga-based treatment for PTSD in military veterans. Secondary objectives are to evaluate PTSD characteristics that may also be improved with the treatment and acceptability and compliance with the treatment. "
This study began in August of 2009, as its an 18 month study don't expect to read the results for at least another year. There are many factors which gave me cause for celebration when I read about this study. There are a growing number of classes for veteran's with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research must be done to find the most effective techniques within yoga to address this disorder. Not only if a practice is effective in decreasing symptoms, but the safest and best medicinal practice for this specific disorder. There is another huge factor which makes this particular study so compelling. Funding is crucial in order to develop proper research conditions. If the data indicates treatment is beneficial, since the department of defense is funding this research, it's far more likely the the military will be open to using yoga as a form of therapy for it's veteran's.
It's an exciting time and I have high hopes for the very best outcomes.
Wishing peace to everyone.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Something for Brigid

Something for you Brigid, help me keep the faith till the flowers bloom.
The Human Seasons
Four Seasons fill the measure of the year;
There are four seasons in the mind of man:
He has his lusty Spring, when fancy clear
Takes in all beauty with an easy span:
He has his Summer, when luxuriously
Spring's honied cud of youthful thought he loves
To ruminate, and by such dreaming high
Is nearest unto heaven: quiet coves
His soul has in its Autumn, when his wings
He furleth close; contented so to look
On mists in idleness--to let fair things
Pass by unheeded as a threshold brook.
He has his Winter too of pale misfeature,
Or else he would forego his mortal nature.
John Keats