If you have ever had a pedicure, chances are you will also have had a ten-minute session of foot reflexology as part of the package. So what is foot reflexology? Massage Envy defines it as: “Foot Reflexology massage can be a deeply relaxing and therapeutic modality for those suffering from plantar fasciitis, ankle injuries or even everyday work and play. This will not only help relieve toe pain, ankle pain, plantar fasciitis and common forms of arthritis, but can also decrease stress and anxiety in the entire body. In addition, a variety of stretches can be beneficial. With pain and sensitivity in the foot, heel and calf areas, be sure to communicate your pain levels with your massage therapist during your treatment. It is also a good idea to rest after receiving the reflexology massage.”
Reflexology is not technically a massage, though the technique itself involves massage of certain points in the foot. Usually, these points are tender due to overuse, wrong or uncomfortable footwear, impact sports and injuries, fallen arches, weak tendons or ligaments, or even excessive weight. The technique itself involves applying subtle to firm pressure on reflex zones or areas of the foot to help relieve pain and stress.
The therapist will usually use a lotion or a light oil to help with ease of movement, as also to minimize pain while applying pressure to the pain points in your foot. You can choose to go in for an exclusive reflexology massage of the foot, (the massage can also involve the ankle area and calf muscles to help ease the soreness), or as part of an overall body reflexology session. The therapist is acutely aware of the common tender points in your feet: he or she will focus on the heel, sole, and between the toes. These are common reflex zones: you use all these zones to perform a variety of daily tasks like slipping into shoes, walking, turning a corner, adjusting your toes while wearing evening shoes, or just sitting with your legs stretched out, flexing and extending your feet muscles. Along with this, the therapist will also use a variety of techniques. Your foot will get stretched and torqued in every direction to bring the natural alignment back. Using a gradation in pressure and touch, your therapist will help relieve the tension and soreness you don’t even know you have in your foot.
But a foot reflexology session needn’t always be a massage. Some other effective foot reflexology techniques are stuff you do every day to ease the soreness: walking on your toes, walking on your heels, calf stretches, ankle rotations while at the gym, long stretches, etc.
Foot Reflexology: Do It Yourself
Here is what Mind Body Greenrecommends: “By stimulating reflex points on your feet, hands, face and ears, reflexology subtly impacts the whole body, affecting the organs and glands. A simple reflexology routine that works on just the feet can help you or a loved one to drift off to sleep naturally. There are nearly 15,000 nerves in your feet alone, one of many reasons that foot reflexology is so calming, soothing and effective.”
And from Healthy and Natural World: “For optimal results in reflexology you have to find out which nerves need stimulating. You do this by matching your ailment up with the right zones on your hands and feet. Once you’ve found the corresponding zone you can either have someone else apply pressure or simply do it yourself.
The pressure is spread among the many nerve endings, there are more than 7000 on one foot alone, and opens up pathways of energy that may have been congested.”
Healthy and Natural World also has a great chart to help you do your own foot reflexology.
My own fitness trainer makes us perform foot reflexology sessions on gym partners. We pair up and sit facing each other. Using either the tips of our fingers, or the blunt end of a pain, we sit down with a chart like the one above, and do our own version of a foot reflexology session. It’s great fun, for starters. Secondly, it helps us bond with another person after a workout.
Try one today, either on yourself, or have your partner give you a foot massage.
In the insane pace of this world, sometimes we could all do with a realignment of our energies: energy healing sessions are particularly beneficial for those of us who need to rid ourselves of negative energies and blockages. And there are numerous ways to do an energy cleanse all by yourself. In this post, I examine a few energy healing techniques, using various props, for those times when you need a spiritual pick-me-up.
Simply put, energy healing sessions are those that help clear mental and emotional fog that may be bogging you down without your knowing. Energy healers are those deeply in tune with light and dark energy. When you are in the company of someone who makes you feel light emotionally, unburdened, then you are in the presence of light energy. You would have heard someone use the term “good vibes”. When the emotional energy of a person or a group of people are in perfect harmony, not at all at odds with another, existing in serenity, you feel it. And yes, when you are in the midst of an emotionally charged situation, or just stepping into the home of someone where two people have had an argument, you can feel the sparks of negative energy all around you. This is when you are said to be in a field of dark energy.
And these vibes, good or bad, inhabit places too, not just people. You can think of your own relationships: you are wont to not visit certain people or places because you don’t “feel good” in their presence, or in a certain place that makes you feel uncomfortable in your own body. But when circumstances make it so that you have to be in that kind of energy, you will do good with an energy healing session: centering your energy with light energy, with good vibes, with a thorough aura and cosmic cleanse, so as to feel whole again. Reiki is one of the most popular energy healing techniques practiced around the world, as is meditation.
Energy Healing Techniques and Props
Crystal Healing: “Crystal healing is an alternative medical technique in which crystals and other stones are used to cure ailments and protect against disease. Proponents of this technique believe that crystals act as conduits for healing — allowing positive, healing energy to flow into the body as negative, disease-causing energy flows out.
“In crystal healing, stones are assigned various properties, though healers have different ideas about which stones possess which properties. Amethyst, for example, is believed by some to be beneficial for the intestines; green aventurine helps the heart; yellow topaz provides mental clarity. Colors red through violet are associated with seven chakra points on the body.”
Aroma Healing: From an earlier post on aromatherapy: Stress relief oils help you unwind and focus more on your inner calm. In tense situations, when cortisol runs roughshod through your system, our jaws tend to clench, muscles to strain or tighten, and our blood pressure rises. All of this, added to any external cause such as an irate boss, a rude store assistant, or just bad weather, can weigh you down and make you internalize the feeling of stress more so than usual. Aromatherapy works on one of your key senses, i.e., the sense of smell. The aromatic molecules directly impact your brain, helping your nervous system to calm down from the inside. And as your brain begins to calm down, it regulates the levels of cortisol in the body.
Sound Healing: The benefits of sound healing are manifold, research proves. As it is a natural way to bring relaxation to the body and mind, and entirely non-invasive, sound healing is finding favour even in modern medicine as supplementary therapy for healing. Sound healing therapy is seen as a particularly effective add-on in the treatment of chronic and acute disorders for the simple reason that it impacts our emotional state as well as our physical body positively.
Nadi Shuddhi Pranayama: Whatever you want to call it — Nadi Shuddhi, Anulom Vilom, or Alternate Nostril Breathing — yoga endorses this breathing technique to help energy flow in the body without blockages of any kind. Some of the immediate benefits to alternate nostril breathing are a subtle cooling down of the body’s temperature, a clearing of the respiratory passages, and the welcome sense of calm that deep breathing always brings with it. When practiced regularly, over time, Nadi Shuddhi Pranayama can help not only clear blocked energy channels, but also prevent further blockages.
Sage Cleansing: “Ancient and pagan cultures swear by this ritual. If you feel there is bad juju in the air, or want to cleanse your living space of all dark energy, or are just coming out of an argument and need an energy uplift, light a stick of sage. Sage cleansing as a practice is also in tune with Feng Shui or Vaastu ideologies. To align the living energy into perfect harmony, Feng Shui or Vaastu will have you move objects around, place countering elements in the form of pictures or other representative symbols if you cannot move certain sections around. Along the same principles, a sage cleanse will help eliminate all that is perceived to be harmful in your living space.”
If you watch Grace and Frankie on Netflix, you will remember seeing Frankie going around the beach house doing a sage cleanse: waving a burning stick of sage around to ward off bad energy, singing one of her made-up chants. Also known as a sage smudging ritual, or a sage burning ritual, this involves lighting a dried stick of sage and allowing the vapors arising from the stick to waft in all directions as a cleansing mechanism.
Tiffany Maloney writes about this ritual over at MindBodyGreen:
“This is the smell of thousands of years of spiritual communion and ritual. Smudging your sacred space, your home or office, or even your body with sage is like taking an energetic shower, or doing a deep metaphysical cleansing. The smoke from dried sage actually changes the ionic composition of the air, and can have a direct effect on reducing our stress response.
Smudging is ritual alchemy — changing and shifting the air element, and transforming our current experience to a mystical one. The use of incense and other smoke and vapor to connect humans to the spirit world, can be easily traced throughout the East in parts of Asia and even dating as far back to Ancient Greece.”
Ancient and pagan cultures swear by this ritual. If you feel there is bad juju in the air, or want to cleanse your living space of all dark energy, or are just coming out of an argument and need an energy uplift, light a stick of sage. Sage cleansing as a practice is also in tune with Feng Shui or Vaastu ideologies. To align the living energy into perfect harmony, Feng Shui or Vaastu will have you move objects around, place countering elements in the form of pictures or other representative symbols if you cannot move certain sections around. Along the same principles, a sage cleanse will help eliminate all that is perceived to be harmful in your living space.
How to Perform a Sage Cleanse
Consider performing a sage cleanse when you move in to a new place. Perhaps the previous occupants might have left some dark energy behind. Or you might be living in close quarters to a kind of energy that doesn’t align with you. Perhaps your new apartment or office does not get enough natural light and air. Maybe you are recovering from an illness. Or you have just come out of a bad experience. Any situation or experience that leaves you feeling down and out merits a sage cleanse. Here is how to do it.
- You can look for a sage bundle at a mulch or tobacco or hookah or metaphysical store, or even an ethnic market near you. You may also find it at some yoga centers or holistic healing gatherings. Alternatively, you can buy sticks of sage online. The stick or wand is usually bound by a piece of string to keep the fibers together.
- Place the stick on a heat-resistant surface like a plate or an abalone shell. Light one end of it until the flame takes. Once it lights up, you can either fan the stick or shake it or blow on it until it’s just a burning ember. The burning tip will give off vapors that smells distinctly like wood smoke on an autumn night. Depending on the amount of nascent moisture in the stick, you may have to light it a couple of times to get it burning again.
- Holding the non-burning end of the stick in your hand, or just picking up the surface that the burning sage rests on, you can then walk around the house, waving the vapors in every direction of your living space. Also practice the art of creative visualization: imagine all your troubles and cares and worries disappearing into the ether, carried by the smoke emanating from the burning end of the sage stick. If it helps, you can chant either a mantra you strongly believe in, or a song that holds special meaning to you. The incantation, along with the vapors, have a soothing effect on mind and breath.
- Once you have covered all the spaces you want to, you can choose to place the sage in a central location, where the natural movement of air can continue to carry its cleansing vapors to all the nooks and corners in the room.
That’s it — you are done! Let us know how you felt after your first sage cleanse in the comments.
Why is Sanskrit so popular? From Wikipedia: “The oldest Indo-European languages for which substantial written documentation exists, Sanskrit holds a prominent position in Indo-European studies. The body of Sanskrit literature encompasses a rich tradition of poetry and drama as well as scientific, technical, philosophical and religious texts. It continues to be widely used as a ceremonial language in Hindu religious rituals and Buddhist practice in the form of hymns and chants.”
Sanskrit, like Latin, has its charm in that it is said to be metrically the most perfect language ever written. Here’s a fun read about Sanskrit prosody. It is even said that some of the greatest verses of Sanskrit have the ignominy of being considered inferior because they were constructed. ‘Rasa’ or aesthetics in Sanskrit prescribe that for the language to be truly authentically experienced, a piece of prose or poem should do so through aesthetics and not through meter so much.
All this to say that the study of Sanskrit is said one of the most unique language learning experiences. The Vedas, Hinduism’s sacred texts, were written in Sanskrit. All yogic chants, meditation chants, and pranayama literature are Sanskrit-based. You know all you can about yoga and meditation and pranayama already. So how about learning a few common Sanskrit words, their etymology, significance, pronunciation, etc.? Perhaps you can throw them into conversation at a gathering!
- Ananda: Supreme state of bliss. From Ananda.org: “In yoga philosophy it is said that God is “sat chit ananda” (existence consciousness bliss). Paramhansa Yogananda adds that ananda is different from temporary joy that comes from sense pleasures such as eating, listening to music, and seeing beautiful things. It is also not a monotonous joy that is always the same. Ananda refers to a joy that “changes and dances itself in many ways to enthrall your mind and keep your attention occupied and interested forever”.”
- Ahimsa: The practice of non-violence and compassion. From Mindbodygreen.com: “Ahimsa isn’t simply the practice of refraining from violent words or actions, it’s also about abstaining from violent thoughts. Ahimsa is the total and complete absence of violence from one’s mind, body, and spirit. It’s not only about evading harmful deeds, but about lacking the capacity to engage in harmful thoughts whatsoever.”
- Om: Om literally means the original mantra, a primordial and universal utterance, said to resonate in nature through every living being. We have already covered it here on the blog.
- Aham: The awareness of the self or “I” or ego. From Yogapedia: “Aham is a Sanskrit term which means “self” or “I.” Aham Brahmasmi is a popular saying used in the Upanishads, the ancient philosophical texts of Hinduism. With Brahmasmi referring to Brahman, or the Absolute Reality, the saying may be translated to mean “I am Brahman.”
- Namaste: It means the divine in me sees or acknowledged the divine in you. From Yoga Journal: “The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another.”
- Mantra: AN instrument of the mind. From Wikipedia: “A “mantra” is a sacred utterance, a numinous sound, a syllable, word or phonemes, or group of words in Sanskrit believed by practitioners to have psychological and spiritual powers.Mantra meditation helps to induce an altered state of consciousness. A mantra may or may not have a syntactic structure or literal meaning.”
- Prajna: (Pronounced Pragnya) Wisdom, or the absence of ignorance. In Buddhist belief (from Mindbodyvortex.com): “The term Prajna originates from Sanskrit — the ancient language of Buddhism — and is composed of two terms. “Pra” refers to “before” and the “jna” means “knowledge”. Together, these two terms signify profound knowledge, before knowledge or root knowledge.”
- Sanskrit: Anglicization of the word “Samskriti” or “Samskruti” meaning culture. (Pronounced sum-skru-thee) Here is a snippet from eSamskriti: “The English word ‘culture’ is derived from the Latin term cult or cultus, meaning, ‘tilling, care, refinement and worship.’ In sum, it means cultivating and refining a thing to such an extent that its end-product evokes our admiration and respect. This is practically the same as samskriti of the Sanskrit language.”
- Pranayama: Life force, breath, awareness of breath, or the regulation of breath using certain techniques. Corresponds to “Qi”. From Yogapedia: “Pranayama is the conscious awareness of breath: the life force that both energizes and relaxes the body. The term is derived from the Sanskrit, prana, meaning “life force,” and ayama, meaning “extension.” Pranayama is an integral part of yoga. The controlled breathing enables both the rhythm of performing yoga poses and relaxing the mind for meditation.”
- Shakti: Divine feminine energy. From Wikipedia: “In Hinduism, Shakti (Devanagari: शक्ति; from Sanskrit shak, “to be able”), also spelled as Sakthi, meaning “power” or “empowerment” is the primordial cosmic energy and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe. Shakti is the concept or personification of divine feminine creative power, sometimes referred to as ‘The Great Divine Mother’ in Hinduism.”
I have news for you — you may have a gluten allergy and not even know it. Do you feel bloated all the time? Are you prone to migraines but not sure what the trigger is? Do your joints ache and complain and feel creaky? Do you have a constant case of brain fog? Have you been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, or find yourself bogged down by some inexplicable malaise? Are you prone to candida and yeast infections? Is your immunity down and do you find yourself falling ill all the time? Does your digestive system need an overhaul? In spite of eating whole grains and whole foods, do you find yourself unable to lose weight? Tired all the time?
The list actually goes on if you are allergic to gluten. KJ Callihan writes about gluten for the Kind You blog: “If you feel lethargic after ingesting gluten, you may be intolerant and can find out by trying a gluten-free diet for a month or so. If you find you are gluten-sensitive, then you may not only be getting tired from it, but also depriving your body and brain of vital nutrients and carrying extra weight unnecessarily. Headaches and other signs of nutrient deficiencies may accompany your condition as well.”
Gluten is one of the trigger foods or common food allergens as covered here on the Elimination Diet post. Some of the common side effects include chronic carbohydrate intolerance, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, joint pain, lethargy, rashes, sleeplessness, general malaise, chronic inflammation, leading to a horde of conditions like type 2 diabetes, fatty liver, arthritis, respiratory illnesses, digestive irregularities like ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome, affinity for visceral fat, water retention, bloating, to mention just a few. Most common side effects are metabolic syndrome related issues like diabesity, chronic respiratory ailments, and chronic fatigue. And research demonstrates that gluten allergy and gluten sensitivity can lead to most, if not all, of these reactions. If allergic to gluten, chances are you might have celiac disease. Some of the other outcomes of this is chronic inflammation in the body and a leaky gut. But you could also have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Here is a list of the most common symptoms of gluten allergy and gluten sensitivity. If you have/suspect you have any of these symptoms, you should consider consulting with a nutritionist in the relevant field. You could also consider a gluten elimination diet, wherein you will deprive your body of all forms of gluten for at least 4-8 weeks and monitor your responses carefully. All this needs is the will to stay off gluten and to communicate with your body. If most of the troublesome symptoms disappear during the elimination period, you could well be gluten sensitive or allergic to gluten. This is not to say that you should self-diagnose, but sometimes, a clear mind and a light body is all the relief you need. Even if you do follow the elimination diet, it is always advisable to consult with a professional to manage your diet and lifestyle.
Signs You May Have Gluten Allergy
- Bloating and Digestive Issues: More than 80% of those with gluten sensitivity will experience bloating, acidity, GERD, and other related digestive issues like constipation and diarrhea. These might become so chronic that you just accept that that is how your digestive system is designed to function. But what you might not know that this is the onset of the dreaded leaky gut syndrome.
- Chronic pain and tightness in the abdomen: This is the most common symptom of gluten sensitivity. Again, you might be so used to experiencing this that without knowing, you may be taking it in your stride.
- Headaches/Sudden Migraines: If you have sudden headaches or migraines without any obvious cause or trigger, you might be sensitive to gluten. In fact, gluten intolerant people seem to be more prone to migraines than others.
- Chronic Lethargy, Brain Fog, and Joint Pain: If you constantly feel tired, and if that feeling exacerbates after a meal of pasta or bread, then yes, you could be sensitive to gluten. Ditto with creaky joints and pain in the knees, elbows, and fingers.
- Acne-prone skin: If you are constantly breaking out, you could be allergic to gluten, dairy, or sugar.
- Emotional Stress: Anxiety prone, or do you fall into bouts of depression? Gluten could be to blame.
- Auto-Immune Disorders: Gluten allergy or celiac disease can also make you more prone to other auto-immune disorders T1DM, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and liver inflammation.
This is getting repetitive, isn’t it? As someone who tried the elimination diet for three months and gave up gluten altogether, I vouch for all of these. I had most of these symptoms, and ever since I gave up gluten, all of them have disappeared, only to resurface when I eat anything gluten for a couple of days back-to-back. No more joint pain, headaches, brain fog, or digestive issues. But I also did consult with a dietitian after my “self-diagnosis”, and her advice to me was simple: always listen to your body. If you have any of these symptoms, get yourself tested for gluten allergy.
At Kind You, we have written extensively about yoga, basic poses, pranayama, meditation, and related topics, but we also wanted to share with you our favorite yoga quotes. You will also have read about the chanting of Om and its divine secrets. Here is what The Art of Living says about yoga: “Derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, Yoga means union of the individual consciousness or soul with the Universal Consciousness or Spirit. Yoga is a 5000-year-old Indian body of knowledge. Though many think of yoga only as a physical exercise where people twist, turn, stretch, and breathe in the most complex ways, these are actually only the most superficial aspect of this profound science of unfolding the infinite potentials of the human mind and soul. The science of Yoga imbibes the complete essence of the Way of Life.”
Patanjali writes about the wisdom of yoga in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: ““Here is, in truth, the whole secret of Yoga, the science of the soul. The active turnings, the strident vibrations, of selfishness, lust and hate are to be stilled by meditation, by letting heart and mind dwell in spiritual life, by lifting up the heart to the strong, silent life above, which rests in the stillness of eternal love, and needs no harsh vibration to convince it of true being.”
Patanjali has also said that yoga is the practice of quieting the mind. Yoga and the wisdom of yoga have been embraced the world over as a path to holistic and spiritual evolution. Here, we bring you some yoga quotes that we live by, inspirational yoga quotes, the wisdom of yoga, yoga’s eternal mantras, and yoga as a way of life.
Inspirational Yoga Quotes
- “When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath.” – Hatha Yoga Pradipika
- “Yoga, an ancient but perfect science, deals with the evolution of humanity. This evolution includes all aspects of one’s being, from bodily health to self realization. Yoga means union – the union of body with consciousness and consciousness with the soul. Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day to day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.” – B.K.S. Iyengar
- “The autonomic nervous system is divided into the sympathetic system, which is often identified with the fight-or-flight response, and the parasympathetic, which is identified with what’s been called the relaxation response. When you do yoga – the deep breathing, the stretching, the movements that release muscle tension, the relaxed focus on being present in your body – you initiate a process that turns the fight or flight system off and the relaxation response on. That has a dramatic effect on the body. The heartbeat slows, respiration decreases, blood pressure decreases. The body seizes this chance to turn on the healing mechanisms.” – Richard Faulds
- Yoga is a science, and not a vague dreamy drifting or imagining. It is an applied science, a systematized collection of laws applied to bring about a definite end. It takes up the laws of psychology, applicable to the unfolding of the whole consciousness of man on every plane, in every world, and applies those rationally in a particular case. This rational application of the laws of unfolding consciousness acts exactly on the same principles that you see applied around you every day in other departments of science.” – Annie Besant
- “Usually there’s about a three-month love affair with yoga. ‘I feel sSHort o good.’ After about two months of practice, people think they are practically enlightened. Then usually around the third month, something happens and the yoga actually starts to work. And the first thing the ego structure does is to look for an escape route. People start heading for the door just at the moment when they should stay.” – Richard Freeman
In closing, some short, pithy yoga quotes:
- “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” – The Bhagavad Gita
- “Yoga has a sly, clever way of short circuiting the mental patterns that cause anxiety.” – Baxter Bell
- “The most important pieces of equipment you need for doing yoga are your body and your mind.” – Rodney Yee
- “To perform every action artfully is yoga.” –Swami Kripalu
- “Yoga science is not just a scholarly pursuit. It is a moment by moment and thought by thought practical guide for living.” – Leonard Perlmutter
- “You cannot do yoga. Yoga is your natural state. What you can do are yoga exercises, which may reveal to you where you are resisting your natural state.” – Sharon Gannon
- “Letting go is the hardest asana.” –Anon (My absolute favorite!)
Probiotics as a term has been bandied about for decades now, but they have never been more important to one’s diet as they are now. Sedentary lifestyles, addiction to gadgets, dependence on processed/ready to eat foods for energy, added sugar and HFCS in everything, the lure of junk food and instant gratification: all of these have led to urban lifestyle related chronic conditions like insulin resistance, chronic inflammation in the body, obesity, T2DM, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc. And the key thing that drives these away — a gut with healthy flora/microbiota that has the potential to digest anything you put into it — is suffering.
Simply put, probiotics are living microorganisms that keep your gut healthy, thriving, and working hard to rid your body of toxins. And while you can take supplements to get your daily recommended probiotic intake, as with everything else, it’s best to consume natural probiotics to reap their full range of benefits. Instead of resorting to detoxing, just introduce these natural probiotics to your daily diet.
You will also have heard of prebiotics: these are the precursors, in that they are food for probiotics for your gut to function to its full capacity. From an earlier blog post: Just apply the same logic to them as you would with “pro-biotics”. Probiotics are pro living microorganisms like bacteria, and pre-biotics are those foods that are food for these helpful microflora. Isn’t that amazing? A kind of a food ecosystem for those friendly bacteria in your belly! That is to say, prebiotics are the foods that allow, nay, help probiotics do their work. And when there is a chronic lack of probiotics in your diet, you could develop the dreaded leaky gut syndrome.
I am aware that not all of us can eat everything. Every single human body will have its own quirks and tolerances for foods. But surprisingly enough, most of us, if not all of us, need probiotics. Natural probiotics don’t warrant categorization either under allergens or trigger foods. In fact, natural probiotics might well be what you have been missing out on in your diet. Most cuisines tend to balance out their diets with fermented foods. Culturally, this has been a no-brainer for ages. But just in case you don’t quite like the taste of something, here is the full list of what I know to be probiotic foods that work. Treat yourself to a cup of one of these everyday, and prepare to be thrilled with the results just one month from now.
Natural Probiotics: The Full Monty (With links to our favorite recipes)
- Kimchi: “Kimchi is a traditional Korean dish made of seasoned vegetables and salt. Koreans eat it at nearly every meal. It can be fresh, like a salad, or it can be fermented. While the most popular variety is spicy kimchi made of cabbage, there are hundreds of different types of kimchi made of different vegetables, and not all of them spicy. Kimchi is also a main ingredient in many other Korean dishes.”
- Sauerkraut: “Sauerkraut is often one of the first fermentation projects recommended to curious DIY-ers, and with good reason: It’s beyond easy to make, it requires very little special equipment, and the results are dependably delicious. All you need to do is combine shredded cabbage with some salt and pack it into a container — a crock if you have one and want to make a lot of sauerkraut, but a mason jar will do just fine for small batches. The cabbage releases liquid, creating its own brining solution. Submerged in this liquid for a period of several days or weeks, the cabbage slowly ferments into the crunchy, sour condiment we know and love as sauerkraut.”
- Yogurt: Need we say any more about yogurt, the wonder food? Greek yogurt is best as it is low in sugar and moderately high in protein and fat. Stay away from the sweetened ones – plain yogurt is the way to go. Look for those with live cultures of the bacteria. Or you can make them at home.
- Kefir: From The Kitchn: “It’s extremely simple. Add about a teaspoon of these kefir grains to a cup of milk, cover the glass, and let it sit out at room temperature for about 24 hours. During this time, the healthy bacterias and yeast in the kefir grains will ferment the milk, preventing it from spoiling while transforming it into kefir.” You can use regular milk or nut milk to make kefir.
- Dark chocolate: Look for 85% cocoa and above to get the maximum benefits. Something I have always maintained. Chocolate IS good for you. Just move on to the dark side.
- Miso Soup
- Micro algae like spirulina and chlorella
- Pickles: Nope, no link. If you don’t know how to make pickles by now…
- Tempeh: Enjoy these great tempeh recipes!
- Kombucha: Seven reasons to drink kombucha every day by Dr. Axe.
Add prebiotics to your diet regularly, and give ’em probiotics the punch they need to thrive in your gut. List below:
- Jerusalem Artichokes
- Dandelion greens
- Raw garlic/onion/leek
- Cooked onion
- Legumes like black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, etc.
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Raw banana
- Wheat or oat bran
- Whole grains
- Milk (Has a prebiotic called Lactulose)
- Raw Chicory (Get your neighbourhood coffee place to grind some up in your coffee next time.)
- Mung bean
- Raw jicama
- Crucifers like cabbage, kale, broccoli, kolrabi, cauliflower, etc.
Doctors are now recommending meditation as a treatment for everything from stress to heart health, and Vedic meditation is one of the techniques that everyone is talking about. What exactly is Vedic meditation? Is it just one of those fancy prefixes to add another layer of the exotic to what is essentially a simple practice of letting your thoughts run freely? You know that we have already covered different types of meditationhere on the blog. And we also have written about deep breathing exercises and their extensive range of benefits. Do they work in harmony with each other? Is that what Vedic meditation is all about, because think Vedic, and you will likely picture a Hindu sage or rishi by the riverside, inhaling and exhaling softly without causing a ripple.
Is there a bridge between the two? Well, yes and no. Meditation techniques fall into two broad categories: one requires you to contemplate on a thought, and the other requires you to concentrate on a thought. Contemplative meditation is usually one where you contemplate or reflect on something to arrive at its deeper meaning. Sometimes, this could also be a guided meditation as you visualize in your mind the thoughts, eyes closed, that the master will gently vocalize. Deep breathing meditation is one of the concentrative meditation techniques where in you train your mind to focus on one thing: your breath. Other focus points might include a thought, a visual aid, or allowing your thoughts to form and go without engaging with them.
Where does Vedic meditation fall on this spectrum? You could roughly equate Vedic meditation with transcendental meditation, as also with mindful meditation, in that Vedic sages are known to have transcended their thinking faculty to reach higher spiritual planes. And if you would like to practice Vedic meditation, you need neither a yoga mat, nor a master to guide you, nor any special place or time to perform it. That is the beauty of Vedic meditation.
First, you should know what it is not. Vedic meditation is not accompanied by bells and sounds. It is not a monastic technique that requires you to renounce the world as you know it, leaving society far behind to prepare to ascend spiritually. Vedic meditation does not require you to practice vegetarianism or veganism as one of its diktats. It does not require you to continually chant ‘Om’. ‘Empty your mind of all thoughts’ is something you would have heard in a meditation class, and we all know it’s easier said than done. The core principle of Vedic meditation is to help free your mind from the shackles of either remembering the past or projecting into the future. All you need to do is allot a few minutes everyday to this practice and sit comfortably, close your eyes — and just be.
From Meditationplex.com: “What we’re doing is something called ‘effortless transcendence.’ It’s in a completely different category of its own. We’re not trying to make the mind settle down. We’re just allowing it to spontaneously do so. We’re not thinking about thinking, we’re learning to transcend thinking.
Vedic meditation is a very effortless and natural form of meditation that you simply do sitting comfortably with your eyes closed: 20 minutes in the morning, and 20 minutes in the evening. What were actually learning to do with this technique is to transcend activity, to basically de-excite the mind and take it into a very settled state.”
The technique can involve learning a mantra, and each participant or attunee is usually given their own mantra. However, repetitive chanting of the mantra is not practiced. Here’s what the Ben Turshen techniquesays about this.
“A key feature of this technique is that it does not involve concentration, forced repetition or ‘chanting’ of the mantra. It also does not involve the student learning how to develop a way of paying attention to or monitoring thoughts or activity, as is the case in some other types of mediation. It is effortless, enjoyable, and requires no focus. Due to these attributes, Vedic Meditation can be practiced successfully by anyone, without a lengthy or complex learning process.
Using this technique, your awareness settles down to experience a unique state of restful alertness, an inner wakefulness beyond thought. The state of going beyond thought, or transcendence, that is provided by the Vedic Meditation technique also allows a direct experience of your most essential self, of the ‘you’ that lies beyond all your thoughts and stress and struggles.”
So go ahead and get comfortable. You can choose to attend a seminar or two to learn this practice, but honestly, all you need is you and some quiet time.
New beginnings: we all need them, don’t we? Stagnation, whether in your work life, or your relationships, the feeling of being stuck in a situation that isn’t welcome, not being able to move on — these are experiences that life throws at all of us. Every single journey towards a better sense of self brings with it valuable lessons, and as we grow, we learn somehow to be more at peace with ourselves. Most of the times, these battles are hard-won. Especially so when we have broken free of shackles of things that were weighing us down. And while most of us are averse to change, embracing a new beginning is how we learn to move on. Like Heraclitus once said: change is the only constant in life.
Here are some of my favorite quotes about new beginnings, because every morning when we wake up, there’s a new day waiting. Pick up a new habit today and treat yourself to a new beginning. Be it the New Year, your birthday, your graduation, the start of a new job, or a new relationship, or the endless possibilities that each new day brings: a new beginning is waiting for you.
“Begin today. Declare out loud to the universe that you are willing to let go of struggle and eager to learn through joy.”-Sarah Ban Breathnach
“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way, and not starting.” -Buddha
“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.” -Alan Cohen
“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” -Saint Francis of Assisi
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” -Maria Robinson
“The secret to a rich life is to have more new beginnings than endings.” -Dave Weinbaum
“What appears to be the end may really be a new beginning.” –Unknown
“Perhaps that is where our choice lies — in determining how we will meet the inevitable end of things, and how we will greet each new beginning.” – Elana K Arnold
“We grow up with such an idealistic view on how our life should be; love, friendships, a career or even the place we will live ~ only to age and realise none of it is what you expected & reality is a little disheartening, when you’ve reached that realisation; you have learnt the gift of all, any new beginning can start now and if you want anything bad enough you’ll find the courage to pursue it with all you have. The past doesn’t have to be the future, stop making it so.” – Nikki Rowe
“It is your turn now,
You waited, you were patient.
The time has come,
For us to polish you.
We will transform your inner pearl
Into a house of fire.
You’re a gold mine.
Did you know that,
Hidden in the dirt of the earth?
It is your turn now,
To be placed in fire.
Let us cremate your impurities.” – Rumi
“Celebrate endings, for they precede new beginnings.” –Jonathan Lockwood Huie
“When you feel that you have reached the end and that you cannot go one step further, when life seems to be drained of all purpose; what a wonderful opportunity to start all over again, to turn over a new page.” – Eileen Caddy
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.”- Mark Twain
“The beginning is the most important part of any work, especially in the case of a young and tender thing; for that is the time at which the character is being formed and the desired impression is more readily taken.” – Plato
Treat yourself to this whenever you feel unsure of starting a new thing. Remember, new beginnings are the first step to your rebirth. They might scare you, they might make you feel uncertain, they might seem entirely unnecessary when you have settled into your comfort zone, but reach for that chance to start anew and watch your soul soar.
Alternate nostril breathing — also known as Nadi Shodhan pranayama or Nadi Shuddhi Pranayama — is an energy cleansing technique. But let me clear this up: the word ‘Nadi’ doesn’t translate to nostril literally. Nadi in Sanskrit essentially means energy channeland shuddhi/shodhan means cleansing and purification. Alternate Nostril Breathing is a breathing technique that helps to clear any blocks in the body’s energy channels. Another term you might have heard is ‘Anulom Vilom pranayama’, which essentially means the same.
Owing to a lifestyle of excess, stress, and years-long abuse through diet or erratic sleep patterns, our body’s energy channels can sometimes get blocked, leading to stagnation of blood. Stress, trauma, depression, anxiety, ingestion of toxins knowingly or unknowingly: all of these can have subtle but lasting impact on energy channels in the human body. Our bodies perceive these events as alien and unwelcome, thereby putting up ‘blockages’ in order to ward off the effects of such stimuli.
Yogic belief is that there are several energy channels in the body, but the three most important channels are as below.
Blockages in the first channel, Ida, can lead to respiratory, emotional, and digestive issues; the Pingala nadi is said to cause the body to overheat and react aggressively. Those with so-called ‘short fuses’ are believed to have blockages in their pingala nadi. And blockages in sushumna nadi (also known as the brahma nadi) runs up the length of the spine, connecting all the seven chakras.
Whatever you want to call it — Nadi Shuddhi, Anulom Vilom, or Alternate Nostril Breathing — yoga endorses this breathing technique to help energy flow in the body without blockages of any kind. Some of the immediate benefits to alternate nostril breathing are a subtle cooling down of the body’s temperature, a clearing of the respiratory passages, and the welcome sense of calm that deep breathing always brings with it. When practiced regularly, over time, Nadi Shuddhi Pranayama can help not only clear blocked energy channels, but also prevent further blockages.
Alternate Nostril Breathing: The Technique
- Sit in your preferred pranayama position: vajrasana, padmasana, or even sukhasana. Spine straight, shoulders relaxed, and eyes closed.
- You can keep your palms in chin mudra for a couple of minutes while you pace your breathing to slow down naturally and sustain at a regular pace.
- Now open your right palm into the position for this breathing technique: the thumb of the right hand for your right nostril, and the middle finger/ring finger, or ring finger/pinkie for the left nostril.
- Closing the right nostril with the right thumb, breathe in through the left. Now using the other two fingers for the left nostril, close the left nostril (gentle touch) and breathe out through the right.
- Repeat vice-versa.
- This completes one round of alternate nostril breathing. Continue the process for a few more rounds. Pranayama prescribes nine rounds of this technique.
- Remember to breathe in and out through the same nostril, completing the alternate breathing session with the nostril that you started out with.
- You can also attach a count to the length of time for each round to equalise the two sides. The norm is to hold for 2-4 counts between inhalation and exhalation.
- Breathe silently. No one else should hear you breathe, not even yourself. As you go through this technique, you will your body grow warm when inhaling through the right nostril, also known as ‘Surya Nadi’ or the sun channel. And you will also notice the body will cool down with inhalations through the left nostril, also known as the ‘Chandra Nadi’ or the moon channel. Your left nostril will begin to feel icy cold after a while, and your right nostril that is much warmer will balance it out.
Dos and Don’ts:
- Remember, no forceful breathing – gentle breathing is key.
- No need to apply pressure to your nostrils with your fingertips. Your fingers only serve as aids to concentrate on one nostril at a time.
- Yoga recommends a short meditation prior to starting the alternate nostril breathing technique.
- Practice regularly, preferably on an empty stomach for maximum benefits.
Everyone talks about the need to lessen stress and reduce cortisol in the bloodstream, but who actually knows what cortisol actually is? Wikipedia defines cortisol as: “Cortisol is a steroid hormone, in the glucocorticoid class of hormones, and is produced in humans by the zona fasciculata of the adrenal cortex within the adrenal gland. It is released in response to stress and low blood-glucose concentration.” To de-biologify that, our adrenals produce cortisol in response to stressful situations and low blood sugar. And elevated levels of cortisol in the blood stream can lead to chronic inflammation and chronic illnesses.
Which is funny, because cortisol is *released* in the body in response to stress, so it has to be a good thing, right? Wrong. Incidentally, cortisol is also taken in the form of medication: hydrocortisone. The adrenals are little organs near the kidneys, and cortisol production is a funny mechanism: too little or too much can impact the body negatively. When the body is in a constant state of agitation (fight or flight), the adrenals produce more cortisol as a response to that state. Since cortisol is produced to give you more energy when in a fight or flight mode — that is, to deal with the added stress — your appetite increases. And one of the immediate solutions to increased stress is eating the wrong kind of food, also known as stress eating or emotional eating.
Here, we examine some remedies to combat increased cortisol – we guarantee some of them will surprise you!
Reduce Cortisol Naturally
- The one assured way that will always, always, always help reduce cortisol naturally in the body is to exercise. That’s right, a means to use up the extra energy. For ages, people have been “blowing off steam” at the gym or with a run around the neighbourhood park when in a stressful situation. The next time you fight with your partner, just focus for a moment and see what your immediate response is. You will likely slam the door in their face and go for a walk around the block. (If you find yourself heading for the refrigerator, don’t. Walk around the block.) Or hit the cross trainer or the treadmill at the gym.
- Drink herbal relaxants: No coffee if under stress. Caffeine ramps up the impact of cortisol in the human body. Choose chamomile tea or dandelion tea instead. Herbalists swear by the efficacy of these drinks as a way to reduce stress and bring about a state of relaxation. Try not to drink wine as a way to relax, though that is helpful on a normal day. You would do better to choose herbal tea in stressful times.
- Practice mindful meditation: That state of being where you accept things as they come without trying to influence or change them in any way is mindful meditation. This may seem hokey at first, but try it. When practiced, it brings about a sustained state of calm and unfazedness (if you will). What’s more, being mindful and reminding yourself to enter a state of zen over time will become second nature. And over time, your cortisol levels will learn to regulate themselves even during stressful situations. We even cover meditation techniques for beginnershere on the blog. Win-win.
- Listen to soothing music: The benefits of sound healing are manifold, research proves. As it is a natural way to bring relaxation to the body and mind, and entirely non-invasive, sound healing is finding favour even in modern medicine as supplementary therapy for healing. Sound healing therapy is seen as a particularly effective add-on in the treatment of chronic and acute disorders for the simple reason that it impacts our emotional state as well as our physical body positively.
- Relieve stress with aromatherapy: We’ve already covered our favorite aromatherapy oils for stress relief. Stress relief oils help you unwind and focus more on your inner calm. In tense situations, when cortisol runs roughshod through your system, our jaws tend to clench, muscles to strain or tighten, and our blood pressure rises. All of this, added to any external cause such as an irate boss, a rude store assistant, or just bad weather, can weigh you down and make you internalize the feeling of stress more so than usual. Aromatherapy works on one of your key senses, i.e., the sense of smell. The aromatic molecules directly impact your brain, helping your nervous system to calm down from the inside. And as your brain begins to calm down, it regulates the levels of cortisol in the body.
Try one of these when you find yourself in an agitated state. Staying positive and approaching stress with a forward-thinking attitude is sometimes all that you need to reduce cortisol naturally in the body.
Dandelion Tea and dandelion tea benefits are fast becoming the rage in the field of health and nutrition. Once considered a weed, dandelion is on its way to being the next chamomile. Or perhaps it always was and we are hearing of it now.
From Livestrong: “You know those pretty yellow puff-tops that pop up on a meadow? The humble dandelion is much more than a weed that invades your backyard every spring. It has been used as a medicinal herb for centuries across many different cultures, as early as 900 AD. Its roots and leaves are dried and used to make dandelion tea, which contain vitamins A, C and D, and significant amounts of zinc, iron, magnesium and potassium. Rich in vitamins and minerals, the dandelion contains more beta-carotene than carrots per serving. Lowly weed no more: The dandelion packs a serious nutritious punch for a plant generally thought of as a nuisance.”
Many celeb nutritionists and fitness experts swear by dandelion tea benefits. Dr. Axeswears by the efficacy of ingesting dandelion in various forms as a healthy treatment for many daily and chronic ailments. “In fact, humans have been using dandelions in food for much of recorded history. Dandelion is used for the treatment of muscle aches, loss of appetite, upset stomach, intestinal gas, gallstones, joint pain, eczema and bruises. It also increases urine production and serves as a laxative to increase bowel movements.
Some people use dandelion to treat infection, especially viral infections and even cancer. It’s also used as a skin toner, blood tonic and digestive tonic. Dandelion greens can be chopped up and used as a garnish or an addition to a sauce, or they can be eaten raw or cooked to minimize their somewhat bitter flavor. You can also use the dandelion root, stems and flowers to make a delicious and super-healthy tea. Either way, you reap the benefits of this unexpected nutritional plant.”
Here are some of the key benefits of drinking dandelion tea.
- Helps reduce water retention and bloating: It has been demonstrated that your urine output increases with regular consumption of dandelion tea, thereby helping your body get rid of unnecessary water weight.
- Promotes liver health: Your liver is your body’s defacto detox factory. In traditional medicine, and in ancient cultures, dandelion tea has been used as a liver tonic for centuries. Naturopaths are inclined to believe that drinking dandelion tea speeds up the efficacy of the liver, helping it to perform its functions optimally. And you know you need your liver to detox your body so all your vital organs, sense organs, skin, and hair can glow with health.
- Healthier beverage choice: Granted that it does have a slightly bitter flavour and aftertaste, falling somewhere between hay and chamomile on the taste spectrum. But once you get used to the bitterness, not only does it give you all the benefits of a hot morning beverage, but the taste is also said to enhance the receptivity of your taste buds over time. Isn’t that bittersweet?
- Kidney Cleanser: Dandelion tea benefits extend to the kidney as well. With its natural diuretic function, dandelion tea can help the kidneys function better, preventing the formation of kidney stones. Added to this, dandelion tea is also another ingredient like cranberry that can help prevent and treat urinary tract infections, and potentially, fungal infections like candida and yeast.
- May have anti-carcinogenic properties: Dandelion tea is being researched for its potential benefits against cancer, though there is no concrete scientific evidence as yet. Since it has anti-inflammatory benefits on the body, dandelion tea could prove to be yet another ingredient that may help the body guard against cancer.
Jillian Michaels’s detox drinkuses organic dandelion root tea as one of its ingredients. However, like with trying out anything new, it is better to do your research, because you know that overconsumption of anything can be harmful. Also, overdependence on one miracle ingredient to negate all the bad effects of an unhealthy lifestyle never works. From WebMD, here are some of the potential side effects of over drinking dandelion tea.
“Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of dandelion during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.Ragweed allergy: Dandelion can cause allergic reactions when taken by mouth or applied to the skin of sensitive people. People who are allergic to ragweed and related plants (daisies, chrysanthemums, marigolds) are likely to be allergic to dandelion. If you have allergies, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking dandelion.”