Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Turmeric Milk
It’s cold tonight in Santa Monica. Damp, biking home with my nose running, feeling rundown after a long day socializing and connecting and trying to pick out gifts and talking and listening to music and biking to and from the annual Eco-Gift festival in Santa Monica. I have to get up tomorrow for BKS Iyengar’s birthday bash of 108 sun salutations and then I have to do the socializing all over again. What to do? Ayurveda.
One of my favorite Ayurvedic remedies is turmeric milk. Hot milk cooked with turmeric powder and then a pinch of sugar and a little bit of ghee. Warm, two cups, it’s my favorite remedy for colds, flus, for those run-down days for calming the windy airy dry energy of the vata dosha while simultaneously soothing and reducing the hot fiery agitating energy of the pitta dosha. From the first sip I can feel it. And it’s easy to make: one cup of milk with 1/4-1/2 tsp turmeric, heat until warm and blended, pour into a cup, add ghee and sweetener, drink while lying in bed, hot water bottle at my feet, body wrapped up in a recovery bag from Get Earthed. The next morning, I woke up congestion clear, muscle aches gone, no headache. I let myself sleep in as well, to facilitate recovery.
When I went to the Iyengar Center of LA, Rupa reminded me of another ingredient to add to the mix: a pinch of black pepper. I’ve also made turmeric milk with a pinch of saffron (delicious, sattvic/promotes clarity, and warming for cold nights), or some crushed cardamom (helps to increase prana, the subtle life-force). The next night, I made turmeric milk again: one cup milk, 1/2 tsp turmeric, pinch of freshly-ground black pepper. No sweetener tonight because I felt that I ate too much sugar already. Then I added a little ghee to smooth it out. It’s actually delicious. Be careful, though, turmeric stains everything. A little care is well worth it, as turmeric is shown to be anti-inflammatory, a natural anti-histamine, anti-microbial, and even is believed to have protective effects against cancer. Turmeric milk is easy to make and a soothing home remedy for colds and flus, and it works for me without fail.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Biking through Santa Monica
It wasn’t a dark and stormy night but it was a foggy and cloudy evening. So foggy that the mist enveloped my skin, blanketed me, felt at home on my skin, soft, like lotion, soothing, like standing out in the rain. I loved the smell of it, biking through it, my pedals rotating in circular movement. The perpetual motions creating a counteracting force to the thick heavy kapha energy of the marine layer settling in over the streets. I love the fast breath that comes with the rhythmic circulation of the pedals; it’s the perfect counterpart. Cutting through the air with the a car would only dampen my spirits, make me feel ever more sleepy, tired, lethargic, heavy.
No matter the season, whether the dry windy fall of the airy vata months or the sunny overwhelming heat of the pitta summer, a kapha day can fall like a quilt. Sometimes comforting, it can also be heavy, dulling. The experience can instigate needed rest or slow everything down too much. In Ayurveda, kapha is the earth and water elements, carried on rain clouds, deposited in mud. Yet kapha also gives structure to rocks and stone, earth and balustrade. Kapha gives an energy like the energizer bunny, going and going and going. Stamina, steadiness. But when we are unprepared or already slow, the stagnation can be overwhelming.
The remedy: sweat, move, sing, call out, sprinkle hot peppers over food, favor warm drinks and eschew ice. Bake potatoes instead of serving cooling potato salad. Ladle bowls of warm soup. After I biked home, I warmed tea, I heated water to place inside a hot water bottle (one of my favorite indulgences for seasons tinged by either vata or kapha cold), served myself a bowl of hot soup. Warmed myself inside and out. Enjoyed the smell of fog.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lately, I’ve been going nonstop, full speed ahead, spinning like the Tasmanian Devil. It’s been a whirlwind of deadlines, articles that seem much more agonizing than they need to be, demands and obligations, appearances, teaching, doing laundry, eating. I’m tired just thinking about it. But then I found Sunday morning that everything stopped. My brain stopped. I couldn’t go anywhere; I didn’t want to see anybody. I canceled everything I was meant to do… And I just rested.
It’s easy to forget sometimes that rest is an activity. It’s an activity different from sleep, although it shares many of the same characteristics of slowing down (hopefully!), closing the eyes (sometimes, but not always), frequently lying down, reducing stimulation….I could go on. It’s easy to forget that it’s necessary, obligatory, to rest, although I remind people all the time. If we don’t, then the consequences can be disastrous.
Whenever I get sick, or start to feel as though something is coming in and I’m that worn down, there’s really only one solution. Sleep. Well, I guess two solutions. Sleep and Rest. I think that I can take all the herbs in the world, and I often do try to take a few known remedies, but if I’m not sleeping extra, more than I normally do, it’s doesn’t do enough to actually help me feel better.
I’m also needing to come to the realization that there is only so much any of us can do in one day, only so many hours that the on button can be turned on, only so much socializing, talking, doing. There has to be some time of quiet, of being, of regeneration, of renewal. That’s the other important part of rest. I’m practicing.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Doing new things in life, things beyond our comfort zone, stretch us and inspire us to grow. It may sound like a platitude, but it really is the truth. This past week, I officiated at a wedding ceremony, and last night, stood on stage in a theater full of people and read a story that I wrote. In both instances, I was terrified beforehand, but once on stage, I took a deep breath and just spoke. I was prepared, I had rehearsed. I had also lost sleep, gotten wound up, facing and refacing and working and reworking the words on the page, preparing and repreparing. When onstage, a part of me wondering, what was all that fuss about? Why was it so hard? But the preparation was a necessary part of the process. If I hadn't spent days writing and rewriting, feeling the agony, going through the ups and the downs, the breathlessness, the rehearsals with friends, the writing of nonsense to uncover the essence of it. That's the tapas, the walking on coals, the steaming ourselves in the fire, that gets us to where we need to be, that helps us grow. Ultimately stress helps us to grow, stretches us. It's the stress of the muscles ever-so-slightly tugging on our bones that allows the mineral to be deposited, that makes us stronger. On stage, I felt the high of sharing laughter, of reaching out. Thanks to yoga teacher and great friend Denise Kaufman for her excellent coaching. Thanks to Karin Gutman and everyone at SPARK for being so awesome. SPARK is a storytelling series that takes place the first Monday of every month at the very cool Powerhouse Theatre in Venice. Last night, the theme was Space, December it's the Seven Dwarves. Cool Stuff

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I can't believe it's been a month since I posted. It seems like the world is accelerating around me and so much has happened--including another issue of LA YOGA Ayurveda and Health magazine, as well as the National Ayurvedic Medical Association conference in Chicago.

Noticing the dates flying by on the calender reminds me of the all-important Ayurvedic fact: we are constanly buffeted by the effects of the vata dosha, the energetics of air and space and movement. And even more so now, as compared to the way the world was and the people were in it during the time when many of these written texts were actually pent. The society we live in is characterized by an excess of the vata dosha, leading us to have problemes with anxiety and fear.

So, each one of my days is foucesd on reducing stress and calming vata. There are many proactices that do so, and my current favorite is a hot water bottle. It's easy to use, easy to reuse or recylce the water (planting trees0. I have a water bottle right now, sitting at my feet.
Every night, it helps me feel more relaxed, calm, grounded, centered.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Chocolate for Breakfast

Chocolate, only chocolate, for breakfast is just not a good idea, no matter how I try to justify it. Vegan, raw, agave-sweetened, no refined sugars. Going hours with only eating chocolate has repercussions. In the moment, though, there’s nothing better.

I really do think chocolate is a food group. A good one, too. I can’t really imagine going many days without eating some chocolate. But now I’ve been up for six hours and I’ve only eaten chocolate. It’s a weakness of mine.

I can give you all the reasons why chocolate is the Ayurvedically perfect food. It’s bitter and sweet. There’s antioxidants, minerals,magnesium.

And I know all the Ayurvedic reasons to have something else, something more. I have food at home. And I’m about to make salad with broccoli and pine nuts and leeks, lightly cooked. Until then, maybe one more piece of chocolate. But I will eat it consciously. Doing everything consciously, with intention, is part of my practice for today, as I try to open the boxes in my room that need opening, organize the receipts and financial paperwork. And that really needs chocolate.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mindfully being exhausted.
I push myself, often, even aside from my job, which in and of itself is demanding. (I’m always on deadline, always take work home, am always thinking about ideas, about what I could be doing, what’s hip, what’s hot, what’s new, what’s balanced.) And then sometimes I just hit the wall, like today. Where there were places I wanted to be, said I’d be, but between the loose ends and the massive migraine and the exhaustion, all of which were telling me to stay in bed.
This is where I get hard on myself. I shouldn’t be in bed. I should be at yoga class, I should be well, I should be at six events. No. Sometimes I can’t do it. I’ve noticed this, anytime I get sick, I can take all the herbs in the world, every remedy known to Ayurveda, and sometimes the only cure is sleep. And water. And quiet. So that’s what I did today, feeling I was on the verge of my body giving out and the only remedy was sleep. And water. And quiet. And to be compassionate with myself about it. It is after all, a human body.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wednesday: Taking a Break for Yoga

I had scheduled my morning meeting around getting to take a yoga class. It had been a week, and I was feeling the need do to something other than sit in front of a computer trying hard not to hunch over, or riding my bike to and from the office. This comes up for me particularly since I edit a yoga magazine, since I teach, since early that morning I had delivered a stack of magazines to the Exxon Mobil refinery where they were going to have a health fair and someone wrote me telling me that they had classes and could they have some LA YOGA magazines for their health fair. Could they? Of course.

So that I would walk my talk, or flow my message, on my way back to the office I drove right by Yoga Works South Bay, just before the next Yoga Works Flow class, taught by Casey Coda. I have to admit that I spent the first part of class feeling a bit impatient as we focused on our breath, strapped and blanketed, and then moved with the breath initiating all movement. Repeatedly. Then the rhythm made me pause, and moving, breathing, I found myself breaking a sweat, not that breaking a sweat is what it’s all about.

From an Ayurvedic perspective, it is better to work below your capacity, half your capacity is the recommendation. This doesn’t mean that you just laze around and do nothing, and never progress. In fact, if you work at half your capacity, or maybe two-thirds, consistently, you will get in better shape, have better conditioning and be able to do more with that half or two-thirds. And even better, your bodymind doesn’t think that you are in stressed-out emergency mode, firing up the adrenaline afterburners. When we fire up the adrenaline afterburners, it actually diminishes our capacity in the long run, even though we get this short-term buzz. It’s deceptive.
Casey’s manner was encouraging, soft, yet attentive. I could easily picture her teaching seniors for a research study, as her bio announced.

After I ducked out, it was meetings, work, meetings, cover choosing, proofreading, checking pages, finishing all the final loose ends for preparing the magazine for print which seem to take forever. But that time to breathe, to clear my head, was worth the time away.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Friday night

Biking away from the lights on the Santa Monica Pier on a Friday night after listening to Andrew Harvey talk at Exhale, I think about what it means to be radical. Radical. In one sense, what it means to me is that the world is a better place because I am in it. Better in a more conscious sense.

Dinner before the talk. Hot water with lemon and a salad, bread and butter. The butter and the salad dressing may be the most important parts of the meal, what with the fact that my life is in constant motion: more than constant motion. So through that, I have to do something to stay grounded, more than grounded. Oil and heat are two of the best ways to stay grounded no matter the day, so hot water for the heat, salad dressing for the oil. And after that, biking is easy; freeing myself from the tyranny of being behind the wheel of the car. So in negotiating a bike day in L.A., which in and of itself is enough to make a person feel ungrounded, and after driving to LA from Santa Barbara. After a day of meetings, and teaching and trying to get my class covered for tomorrow morning and writing a newspaper column, as if that weren’t enough to make a person feel scattered, its necessary to stay grounded. Through Ayurveda, its about oil and heat.

Why are we here? Andrew Harvey asked the Dalai Lama. To embody the transcendent. Embody, not have a conversation with; embody. What does that mean, to embody? It is a call to be radically, radically honest with oneself, because only that radical honestly is worthy of the divine.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I biked to work yesterday, and I’m getting ready to bike in again today. It’s a combination of the wind in my hair (through the bike helmet, of course), the mechanical feeling of my body pedaling, taking the long way there and back again to ride along the bike path and see the prana-infusing expanse of the Pacific. It’s also because, during deadline week, it may be the only exercise I get all day with feeling the weight of what’s looming over me.
And, on the way home, it’s easy to stop and duck in and out of stores without having to negotiate parking spaces. Yesterday, it was Lululemon to check out the new purples and then Santa Monica Co-Opportunity (one of my favorite places in this fine city) where I ran into a friend. It’s a amazing how a conversation over the merits of raw coconut ice cream and the vata-calming benefits of hot tea can turn into an impromptu Ayurvedic consultation where I’m dispensing advice in the grocery store aisles about adrenal exhaustion, building vital ojas—our immunity and reserves—and reminding her to spend some time each day with her feet on the earth.
So, even though I wear shoes as I bike, there is an aspect of it that is feet on the earth, propelled by my own muscular power. Fueled by vegetable soup and hot tea.
Ayurveda is the holisitic system of medicine native to India. Many say that it is a revealed tradition, passed down by the gods. Although this revelation is important, even more germane is the ability to tap into one's own intuition, to find one's inner revelation. I believe, at its heart, that Ayurveda is a wisdom tradition, and it is through tapping into our own inner wisdom, intuition, ability to look within and find our inner power of self-healing, that we can find true inner balance and health.This blog is going to cover my attempts, journey with integrating the ancient tradition of Ayurveda into a modern lifestyle, complete with beer, pizza, too many late nights, the challenges of adding meditation practice to already full days, and yoga to continuously unwind tight hips. I have found over the past 15 years that Ayurveda has been a part of my life, that it has allowed me more expanded health and well-being.