Category Archives: Tantra and Ayurveda

KAPHA SEASON : Time to boost the inner-fire and refuel the energy

According to Ayurveda, at this time of the year when winter brings colder and wetter days, we move from the Vata to the Kapha season. Condensing the Earth and Water elements, the Kapha dosha* is a rather “sticky”, cold and muddy combination… so how does this affect us ?

In our northern hemisphere, from late winter till spring, the cold temperatures and humid weather influence our “inner-atmosphere”, creating more dampness in the body, disturbing our energy levels, our moods, our digestive and immune systems.
When Kapha soars up and gets out of balance, the body is likely to create more mucus, making the body more susceptible to colds and coughs, respiratory disorder, congestion, and sluggish digestion. On the mood level, it can also translate by stagnation, sluggishness, feeling less inspired, less spontaneous, a difficulty to “get going” and complete the tasks we set for ourselves.

When in balance, Kapha is the principle of stabilizing, grounding energy, it governs growth in the body and mind. It is concerned with structure, stability, lubrication, and fluid balance. So what can we do to make the most of the season and balance Kapha in our body ?

If you haven’t got a very active lifestyle already, it is a good idea to practice some kind of “yang” activities which stimulate the cardio-vascular system, increase the blood circulation and boost the metabolism. These can range from power walking, running, dancing, martial arts or some form of flowing Hatha / vinyasa yoga, encouraging dynamic asanas, including gentle warming Pranayama techniques such as the Ujjayi breath (also known as “ocean breath”), or kapalabhati (“skull shining breath”), stimulating the physical or digestive fire (Jathara Agni).

As we look after the body, it is just as important to soothe and balance the nervous system, so that we cultivate inner-calm, feel replenished and nourished inside. This can be achieved by practicing Yin activities such as Yin and  restorative yoga.

As we get our inner fire going, it is also crucial to create more “fuel”, also known in Ayurveda as “Ojas” (‘the sap of  life energy’’, one of the three vital essences which generates and maintains physical vitality, mental clarity, and overall health). In order to build Ojas, a very effective Abhyanga massage can easily be practiced from home. Amongst its numerous benefits, this self-pampering technique helps nourish the entire body, lubricate the joints, increase circulation, improve sleep and calm nerves. Another wonderful way to increase Ojas is to regularly practice Yoga Nidra (deep relaxation with a slight trace of awareness), deeply calming for the mind and the nervous system.

During the Kapha season, it is also a good idea to pay attention to what we eat, reducing sugar and eating warm, nourishing food. Depending on which dosha is prevailing in one’s body constitution, some of us can really benefit by adding warming spices to broths, soups and stews, such as ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper. As a winter warmer and good alternative to coffee, you can also try a DELICIOUS TUMERIC LATTE which is a great alternative to coffee. So here are a few ideas to think about and see what works best for you during the Kapha season. Enjoy !

Dosha* : literally means ‘’that which tends to go out of balance’’. According to Ayurveda, the doshas are three bodily Bioelements that make up one’s constitution : Pitta, Vata and Kapha. They are highly unstable and always fluctuating in the body.

WINTER BOOSTER : Delicious tumeric latte

Also known as ‘’golden milk’’, this is one of my favourite winter booster!
A delicious ayurvedic recipe which has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties..

Ingredients
–    1 cup of unsweetened non-dairy milk, preferably almond or coconut milk
–    1 cinnamon stick
–    1 tablespoon of virgin coconut oil
–    ¼ teaspoon of cardamom powder
–    1 pinch of crushed saffron
–    1  fresh small turmeric root, unpeeled, thinly sliced, or 1/2 teaspoon dried turmeric
–    1 small piece of ginger, unpeeled, thinly sliced
–    A pinch of black pepper (to activate the turmeric anti-inflammatory properties )
–    Ground cinnamon (for serving)

–    Optional :  a teaspoon of raw honey

PS : If you drink the above in the evening, before going to sleep,  it is best not to add the ginger which can be too stimulating.

Preparation
–    Whisk the milk, with the above ingredients in a small saucepan; bring to a low boil.
–    Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
–    Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into mugs and top with a dash of cinnamon.

Optional  : to add a  bit of sweetness, when a drinkable temperature is reached, add 1 teaspoon of honey (raw preferably)

You can froth the above preparation to  give it a ‘cappuccino’ like effect.
Quickly done and so delicious ! Enjoy.

RELAXATION AS THE ANTIDOTE…

When the days become shorter and colder, our body tells us to slow down, go to bed earlier, make our lifestyle a bit more nurturing. However, as the holiday season approaches, I find that life often gets busier and more frantic…
According to Ayurveda, autumn is the Vata Dosha season. What does this mean?  Vata literally means “wind”-a mix of air and Ether/space; Dosha means that which tends to go out of balance. The signs of excess Vata are anxiety, fear, spaciness and exhaustion. There are a number of things we can do to reduce Vata, and feel more grounded and nurtured:
First of all, look after our diet and eat warm, grounding food with plenty of root vegetables (take a look at my Hearty beetroot and bramley apple soup recipe).
Second, look after your joints by massaging the body with warm organic, untoasted sesame oil, before having a shower or a bath.  It gives a warm nurturing feeling and instant wellbeing.
Finally, and most importantly, slow down your practice: even if you are keen on Yang types of activities or yoga which requires stamina and muscle power (power yoga, hot yoga, vinyasa yoga etc.), it is important to allow time for more Yin (gentle, calming) practices such as Restorative Yoga, Yoga Nidra (deep relaxation with a slight trace of awareness), Pranayama and Meditation.

Regardless of the time of the year, fast pace modern life, multi-tasking, too much time spent on electronic devices, often triggers stress, fatigue and anxiety, even more so in a busy capital city like London. Stress is a very natural and necessary process which in small doses, helps us to keep motivated, pro-active, and eager to achieve something. Stress can also be a life saver when we are presented with a life threatening /dangerous situation. The mind alerts the body that danger is present and as a result, the adrenal glands, located above the kidneys starts secreting “stress hormones”, which act upon the autonomic nervous system , and prepare the body for the “fight or flight response”. The heart beats faster, increasing the blood pressure, the mind becomes more alert. The muscle tension is increased, ready for “spring/ explosive action”.
However, when stress becomes too much and too often, the mind becomes confused and starts triggering the “fight or flight” physiological response, even though there is no dangerous situation as such. As a result, the adrenal glands become depleted, affecting notably the kidney chi (the pranic energy/ vital force in the kidneys). In Chinese medicine, the kidneys are considered amongst the most important organs as their health reflects on the smooth running of other vital organs, the cardio-vascular and digestive systems, and also the joints and the bones. “Bad stress” also affects the metabolism, and the ratio of good/bad cholesterol in the body. It creates physical and mental tension, often leading to poor posture and shallow breathing, and also affects the quality of sleep. In time, this can lead to a state of chronic fatigue, anxiety, and can act as an “activator” to all kinds of dormant medical conditions.

Relaxation is the antidote. A good way to start is by introducing “Relaxation snacks”, so that on a daily basis you get some kind of quality time for yourself, whether it means to spend time in silence to walk in a park, read a book, paint or play music. Something which fits into your lifestyle and that you will easily keep up with. The next step to reduce stress and build reservoirs of energy is to practice Yoga, especially Restorative and Yin Yoga, which both focuses on holding postures for a longer period of time, often using props (bolsters, blankets, bricks and blocks,etc.) . This allows the body to safely open and release stress and tension. It creates space in the body and the mind, so that our innate natural healing process can occur. As stated by Judith Hanson Lasater, renowned ‘Relax & Renew’ yoga teacher and therapist: “We work very hard in our lives, and while we may sleep, we rarely take time to rest. Restorative yoga poses help us learn to relax and rest deeply and completely. During deep relaxation, all the organ systems of the body are benefited, and a few of the measurable results of deep relaxation are the reduction of blood pressure, serum triglycerides and blood sugar levels in the blood, the increase of the “good cholesterol” levels, as well as improvement in digestion, fertility, elimination, the reduction of muscle tension, insomnia and generalized fatigue.”

So, see how you can start bringing more relaxation into your life and let it work its magic… In time and with consistency, notice how it makes you feel, how it impacts your life in general, and how you carry this into the world… how it reflects on your surroundings and your relationship with those around you.

MAHA NAVARATRI… OR THE TIME TO CELEBRATE YOUR DIVINE POTENTIAL.

Today is a special day in the Yogic, Tantric and Ayurvedic Traditions: It is the first day of Navratri or Maha Navaratri , one of the most important Hindu Festival, symbolising the triumph of good over evil, celebrating the Divine Mother in all of Her forms.

It is considered a time to worship the auspicious  Godesses Durga, Lakshmi and Saraswati, who are representing the three different manifestations of Shakti (universal power or cosmic energy).

Navratri lasts 9 days : On the first three days, prayers and worships focus on Durga, who destroys all  impurities, old patterns, anything which no longer serves one’s highest potential. The next three days, Lakshmi is celebrated and worshipped to empower  spiritual wealth, health, abundance and prosperity. The final three days, worships and prayers turn onto Saraswati, goddess of knowledge, music, arts, wisdom and learning.

Even though I don’t consider myself a hindu, I like to honor the traditions and celebrate this in my practice, on and off the mat, expressing gratefulness to the Divine Mother: the expression of God, the Universe,  the supreme Creator, with whom I resonate the most.

I like to see Navratri  as an auspicious time to celebrate the Divinity inside each of us, the Sacred Feminine, which empowers our inspiration, our creativity, and our natural healing power. So, for the next 9 days, my self-practice will become a little bit more devotional : On the mat, my asanas (postures) become more like a moving prayer, incorporating  a bit more chanting, Pranayama and  Meditation. The whole practice become a ritual (Puja), an offering to the Divine. Outside the mat, Navratri is the time to acknowledge and celebrate all the wonderful women in our lives.

So on this first day of Navratri, on this special New Moon, auspicious to new beginnings, let it be a time of inner-exploration, a time of reflection on how we can empower our practice, fuel our meditation and come closer to our Divine potential. How can we best embody our goddess energy in this lifetime? What do we need to let go, what are those old habits that no longer serve our purpose? How can we declutter our mind, our body and our home so that we create space for new energy, new opportunities ? Let it be a time to celebrate and share the fruits of our seeking and reflections with the other amazing women in our lives, little spark of goddesses in disguise.

Namaste

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