Bit of Wisdom {24}

Carry your yoga practice off the mat and into life! No matter the situation, stay at peace and go with the flow. Practice navigating your little boat steadily while waves of life change around you. Happy Friday. Namaste. xo

4th Dosha Uncovered!!

Heehee. A wee bit of nerdy Ayurvedic humor for ya. There are only three doshas – you should know them! Have a great day!

MonicaB’s Lassi Recipe

Yeah! I’ve got my coworker hooked on lassi. She discovered it because she had the flu a couple weeks ago and we helped repair her digestion with lassi. Like magic!

Lassi is a yogurt drink made especially to enhance digestion. Please note that while made from yogurt, lassi is not yogurt. In fact, they have completely opposite qualities. Yogurt as we know, is a channel clogger. I know you might not believe me, you might even be mad at me for saying that, but according to Ayurveda it’s the truth. The marketing people at yogurt companies might sell us stories about probiotics and acidopholopohous or whatever it is, but I stand by my belief that yogurt clogs.

If you have any problems with allergies, slow metabolism, cloudy mind, lethargy, tendency toward being cold, sinus problems and/or chest congestion, try stopping the yogurt. Just try it for a week and see how you feel. You can always go back to yogurt if you want but my guess is that you will feel better. Ok, I digress.

BUT! We’re not talking about yogurt, we are talking about lassi (I wish I could put a pink tutu on that word because I love it so much. hmm…idea for a graphic! Love it when that happens)!! Beautiful, channel opening lassi!! Lassi is made from yogurt, but it’s properties are changed by adding water, herbs and spices and then churning it. Churning adds heat which changes the yogurt from cold, gloppy, goo-glue into a fluid substance that is channel opening and great for aiding digestion. It’s easy to accumulate ama with yogurt, but lassi doesn’t clog so you stay ama free. It’s also great for indigestion and hyper acidity as it’s cooling. Great for pitta types who like yogurt – yogurt imbalances and lassi balances (like a ballerina!).

A very magic secret about lassi is that it’s THEE  cure for hemorhoids! Have one after dinner or for a snack daily and your hemorhoids will go away. Not kidding.

I think you will find that lassi’s are quite delish and there are many recipes for them (just google). Below is my recipe that I use (pitta-vata type). Sometimes I even skip dinner and just have a lassi because it makes a nice light meal to aid digesting food from the day.

Monica B’s Lassi Recipe
1 part plain, full fat yogurt – 1/3 cup is good to start
2 (vata, pitta) or 3 (kapha) parts water
ginger powder, cardamom, honey, all to taste
Use a whisk or hand blender and CHURN!! For about 2 minutes. It will get liquidy and a little frothy. Pour into a cup and you can sprinkle extra cardamom on the top if you want. MM!

Tip: Safflower oil great for skin

Hey!! Safflower is a GREAT oil to use in place of body lotion (a la chemicals) for spring and summer. It’s natural, lightweight, non-heating and makes skin sooooo smooth. I LOVE it! Also apply at night around the eyes to reduce crows feet. xo!

Tip: Honey is heating

Hello Honey! ;) Honey might seem sweet, sticky, and heavy. But! It has a special quality (kinda magical) in which it digests hot, sharp, and drying. Great for heating up spring colds and clearing out kapha. That’s why honey is great for colds, mucus in the chest or snotty sinus problems. Oh and use the raw, unpasteurized stuff so that you get honey in it’s purest, most medicinal form. Go get em, honey. Mmmwaah!

Kapha Graces us with Spring

Ok folks, vata has left the building and it’s time to make way for the graceful entry of kapha season, spring! March 21st officially marks the start of spring when nature starts to wake up and become alive again. If we live in a climate with harsh winter we might feel REALLY refreshed when the snow melts and we see tulips or crocus poking out of the ground. Our first glimpse of grass might feel like heaven (I used to live in Wisconsin and I know their winter pain :). Rain nourishes all that was sleeping all winter. And after the rain is the sweet reward of buds on trees, flower beds, and the fresh smell of cut grass. And if you notice…peoples’ moods start to improve. Right!? Don’t forget that the weather makes a huge difference on us because weather (nature) governs our beings.

Kapha is the energy of lubrication and structure which nourishes our bodies just as it does in nature. Contrary to vata energy that is dry, light, cold, mobile and rough, the nature of kapha is wet, heavy, cold, static and smooth. It is a heavy energy responsible for creation and renewal. Unfortunately kapha season also brings spring colds, allergies, asthma, to certain people. If these things affect you, that’s a good clue that you have some kapha in you. The heavy, wet, sticky energy of kapha will grab onto particles in the air and “hold” them, which might cause excess mucus in the chest or nasal passages.

Here are some tips to stay healthy and balanced in spring, especially if you are a kapha person. If you’re not sure, take the dosha quiz!

Like increases like. To stay balanced in spring, we want to incorporate all things opposite of the wet, heavy, cold, static and smooth qualities of kapha. Eating foods that are dry, light, warm/spicy, liquid and fiberous will help kapha move so that it doesn’t get stuck in places! Ginger is great

Lighten up. Since kapha energy is heavy, this is a great time for lightening our load. Choose lighter foods, incorporate daily exercise (to keep bodies light), or donate clothes we no longer wear. Keeping light is key for kapha.

Clean it out. It’s not weird at all that we feel AWESOME when we’ve done some spring cleaning. It’s because nature wants us to! And that’s not just for the house either. Consider doing a spring cleanse for your bod as it will remove toxins due to sluggish winter digestion. Fasting is a form of cleansing and kapha types should fast by skipping dinner one night a week. Their metabolism tends to be sluggish and fasting will help their digestion catch up!

Neti Pot. The neti pot is the magic cure for all kapha allergies and sinus problems. I swear it works and have had numerous clients sing it’s praises. If you are snotted up or have pollen floating around in there, rinse it out! ;)

Light and Small Food. Because kapha is naturally heavy, it easily gets weighed down. Having small meals will be key. Really pay attention to your hunger so as no to overeat. Overeating is the quickest way to imbalance kapha.

No Yogurt. Yogurt has identical qualities to kapha and it’s a channel clogger which can make allergies, colds, asthma much worse.

Aromatherapy. Bergamot, citrus, lavender, basil.

So the basic rules are, if you are a kapha-type person stay light, dry, and warm. And keep moving! Enjoy the graceful, peaceful and refreshing entry into spring!!

Health Freedom Expo, Long Beach

Hey, folks in the LA area!

There is a cool Health Freedom Expo in Long Beach coming up on March 26th & 27th. Unfortunately I will be out of town that weekend but if you are interested in going, I have been given access to free tickets. NOW who’s your favorite Ayurvedic chick!? Just kidding. These tickets were generously given to us by the fabulous folks from The Business Muse. Thank you thank you Business Muse!!!

East vs. West

East vs. west. I try and spread the good word on Ayurveda authentically, yet as American-friendly as possible. It’s funny though because people will come to me and say, “I’m congested! What should I do?” And I might say, “Are you eating yogurt? It’s a no-good channel clogger which can increase sinus congestion and mucus goo in your chest. ” They might say, “But yogurt is so GOOD for you with all the probiotics and everything…” And then I say, “Well, that’s what ‘they’ say but they are not Ayurvedic and Ayurveda is different.”

Then very quickly they get confused as to why something in Ayurveda can completely contradict what we have been told or sold (don’t forget about marketing, you guys! It makes companies a lot of money…) in the western world. But that’s just the point. If someone is asking Ayurvedic advice, it’s going to differ that what their MD has told them or from what they see on tv…because it’s different!! Ayurveda takes time and definitely requires a willingness to try something new. If our old habits (and prescriptions) had worked, we wouldn’t be on the search to try something else.

So my dear friends, if you seek something different, expect something different. The philosophies of Ayurveda vs. Western (east vs. west) medicine are very different and therefore so are the treatments. I’m not saying one is good or bad because both have their place. But please keep them in different buckets because they don’t overlap much. Below I’ve created a little chart on how they differ and I hope this helps.

And for the record! Ghee is NOT butter. Buttermilk (churned yogurt or lassi) is NOT yogurt. Their properties differ making them almost opposites and in Ayurveda the first is healthier than the latter (for most folks). Please o’ please just believe me. xoxoxo.

Bit of Wisdom {23}

Choosing the path of self-healing (no matter what form) is choosing the path of self-LOVE! Once you start to truly love yourself, you will heal. Cross my heart.

The Flu Caught Me

Rats. After escaping India with out ONE digestion problem and despite knowing general tips on how to avoid the flu, I got it this weekend. The Flu. I got it at 3:30 am on Saturday and thought it was food poisoning, but then came the aches and a slight fever. I’ve never had food poisoning but was pretty sure it didn’t come with aches and fever. Then I found out that two coworkers had it too. Double rats.

In Ayurveda we say that when the body is trying to rid something either thru-est thine butt or thru-est thine mouth (IF ya know what I mean) we have to let it take its course. Here’s why. If we stop something like diarrhea, the body can’t get rid the problem, so it’s never good to take a diarrhea stopper. However! If there is a point where the diarrhea turns to water, then we have to stop it because then the person is just losing fluids. Make sense?

Allow me to be gross for a minute (if I haven’t already). I assumed the same was true for throwing up. And I got to the point where it was SO painful and there was nothing left but water and bile, so I knew I had to stop it. <<gross part done!>>

SO! Here is what I did! I managed to slooowly creep downstairs to make myself a lassi. You know it? Lassi is a digestive buttermilk (hang on, I’ll explain) drink made with spices depending on the person. Lassi opens all the channels, aids digestion, coats the stomach, calms pitta (bile!) and vata, and for some reason my intuition told me to make one. Here’s how I made it:

1/3 c plain full fat yogurt
1/2 tsp ginger (helps all digestive problems)
1/4 cardamom (calms vata & pitta)
brown sugar to taste

Combine in a bowl and then churn for 2 minutes! You can either use a whisk or put it in a blender. Or if you have one of those wooden mallot things that you can spin (I found mine in India), you can use that. This will add the heat element to the yogurt and water and make it frothy. The heat element is what changes the properties in the yogurt. Yogurt by itself is a channel blocker, but lassi is a channel opener!!

The resuls?! I didn’t throw up any more! It was instantly cooling, soothing and my cramps stopped. My stomach felt a million times better. That said, the rest of me still felt like garbage but at least the trips to the bathroom had stopped. After that I just tried to sleep and I took one ibuprofen (yes I did! I am human and I was in pain!) to stop the aches. When I’m more advanced in my studies maybe I’ll come up with something that stops aches, but for now I’ll just be happy that lassi works!! The good news is that this nasty lil flu only lasts 24 hours, so if you get it rest, rest, rest. Be well my friends.

Sit n’ Eat

Hey hey! A while back I was counseling a dear coworker of mine who was a bride-to-be. Like many brides she wanted to trim up through diet and exercise, so one of the things I suggested she do is STOP walking around with food in her hand. It’s true right?! Whether at work, a social gathering, or even while cooking our own dinner (I’m guilty!), we might mindlessly snitch foods, walk around and yap.

The problem is, this totally disconnects us from the process of digestion. Digestion starts in the mouth and when we don’t pay attention to it, we a) don’t enjoy what we are eating and b) don’t remember that we ate. If we don’t enjoy our food, we won’t feel satisfied nor will food digest properly because the mouth (first stage of digestion!) relies on taste for digestion. On top of that if we don’t remember what we ate we are VERY likely to overeat.

The best thing we can do is keep our mind in our food. Cause dude remember, mind rules our body and when our mind is not connected to our actions, it’s almost like it didn’t happen! Crazy. The downfall is that calories DO happen whether you remember them or not ;)

So here’s my MonicaB Challenge: For the month of March avoid eating while standing up or walking around. Yeah? Can you do it?

The goal is to feel REAL hunger and practice mindful eating rather than just mindless snackin’!


Bit of Wisdom {22}

Anything can become poison, anything can become nectar. It depends on how much you take and where your mind is when you take it. – from one of MonicaB’s fabulous Ayurveda books but she forgot the author…

Jet Lagging

If you’re a jet-setter you might also be a jet-lagger. Yeah? You know, like when you get home from your flight and it’s hard to get back into routine? You might have a headache, lethargy, feel extra sleepy or cloudy in the mind. And it might be hard to wake up and stick to your normal routine. You know, jet-lag! Jet-lag happens because we are traveling SO fast up in the air and space (vata!) where it’s cold (vata!). And we’re crossing time zones (vata!), ungrounded (vata!), and dehydrated (vata!) from the puny 1.5 oz glasses of water the airlines provide.  All these things added up will increase one of the doshas. Can you guess which one? I’m not seeing any hands…ok give up?! It’s vata! Vata, the energy of movement made up of the elements air and space severely increases when we fly. And as we know like increases like according to Ayurveda, so with all that movement, cold, dryness and change, vata goes through the roof.

I got back from India a little over a week ago and prepared myself for the crazy long flights back and forth. I didn’t feel any effect of jet-lag going there. And except for one day of feeling wiped, I really didn’t feel that jet-lagged when I came back either. The secret is to pacify vata before and during your travel day(s) by warming and grounding the body. Here are a few simple things you can do:

Thing 1. The night before your flight, fill ears with warm sesame oil. This will not only help avoid jet-lag, but if you have any ear problems (popping or pressure) while flying, this will significantly reduce if not completely stop those affects as well. One of the places where vata lives is in the ears so we want to protect that space, ground it, and keep it warm. Lay on your left side and fill the right ear with warm oil – fill it but don’t spill it (wah wah wah). Lay there for 10-20 minutes. Then cover with a towel because oil might drizzle out. Switch sides and repeat. After this you can sleep.

Thing 2. Oil massage before your shower the next morning. Take that same warm sesame oil and give yourself a full body massage with all strokes toward the heart and clockwise around the joints. If that’s too much, then just do your feet. Let it sit for 10 minutes and shower off. This lubricates and warms the entire body through the skin, which is another place where vata lives. I like to think of it as a resistance shield to all things chilly.

Thing 3. Have warm ginger tea in the morning. Ginger is heating, so a nice cup of ginger tea will keep the insides warm. Feel free to take some with you and ask for several puny glasses of warm water on the plane.

Thing 4. You can take ghee in a glass of warm water (optional). Ghee is very lubricating and will help coat the insides of our body with oil. It sort of covers up and fills in delicate holes and spots where vata could get trapped. It’s sort of like an inner resistance shield to all things chilly, dry, and spacey. If you can stomach it (it’s really not that bad, it’s like drinking butter) melt 1 tblsp in a glass of warm water and chug. Chase it with a little more warm water.

Thing 5. Drink warm water on the plane. Cold water is counterintuitive to balancing vata, so ask for warm water. Or, let the puny glass of water sit for a spell because it won’t take that long to reach room temp.

Thing 5. Do So Hum on the plane to calm any anxiety.

With over 24 hours of flying and 3 stop-overs on my way to India, I did all of the above and didn’t have any problem with jet-lag. On the way home we had 5 flights (five! I did not plan the trip. Did I mention, five!?!) and only on the very last one did my ears start to crackle. Usually on only two flights my ears are a clogged disaster. So! Don’t be afraid to take some well sealed oil with you on the plane or in your luggage for when you land. It will be your best friend! You can use and repeat these things on the way home too. Enjoy your travels and stay healthy. It’s more fun to be a jet-setter than a jet-lagger!!

Tip: Eucalyptus for Sinuses

Hey! For sinus problems and congestion, put a few drops of eucalyptus oil on a paper towel and sniiiffff! You can also put the drops on the floor of your shower in the morning for instant steam therapy.

Jai Ho!

(I wrote this around Feb. 1st, but the computer I was on was super slow. Posting it now that I am back :)

Friends! I’ve returned from an amazing, AH-MAZE-ing trip. I wanted to share a very special part of it with you. Last week we went to the Asha Jyothi Handicapped Wellfare Society which is an orphanage for handicapped children (you can donate!!). These kids stay at the orphanage for their entire childhood where they are given food, shelter, toys, beds and schooling. I have to admit that I was kinda nervous before we got there thinking that I might have a major meltdown once I saw children without homes. What I experienced was quite the opposite.

We got there at about 1:00pm and we were told that the children had been anxiously waiting for us since 9:00 (your typical “India time” – nothing is on time here. Ever.). When we walked up, they had trays of flower petals that they threw on us in celebration of our arrival (our arrival? incredibly humbling). Once we got in the room and sat down, one child per person came in and gave us a flower. The MAJOR HIGHLIGHT (of my entire trip) was an explosive Bollywood dance by the children to, “Jai Ho!” from the movie Slumdog Millionare. A-mazing. We cried. To my surprise, I didn’t cry because I felt sorry for them. I cried because I was so humbled by their generosity, beauty, joy, and talents. They made this dance for US. Sooo humbling.

I captured it on video – take a peek! It’s about 4 min long and worth every second.

Jai Ho Video!!

Prior to arriving I thought for sure I would be emotionally drained, but I never expected to feel as good and FULL as I did. A truly delightful treat of life. The children were warm, kind, unspoiled, considerate, loving, super fun, and most of all grateful. Most of all, they loved what they HAD rather than moping about what they didn’t have. Maybe we can learn something from them by adopting some of their vigor and positivity. Imagine what the world would be like if we all took this attitude with the challenges we face? Our jobs, families, communities, and world would be totally different.

I went to the orphanage expecting to hand out books, clothes, etc., that would help enhance their lives. Turns out they gave way more to me. Thanks for everything kids, Jai Ho! xoxo

my favorite little guy

The girls! the girl in the red dress looooved to get her photo taken. What a doll, hey?!

Donata and I joined in their dance. I’m in the way back on the left in purple. SO fun!


In India

Hey! I’m in India (well, not yet but I am en route. well, not really but tomorrow I will be!). I am going with a group of Ayurvedic students and will be led by Dr. Shekhar who is the Founder of Ojas Wellness Center in Allentown, PA. I’ll be there until mid-February.

First we are going to a place outside of Chennai to work at a medical camp for 6 days. One of Dr. Shekhar’s life goals is to treat 100,000 people for free in his lifetime :) After that we fly down to Kerala where we get in-depth and hands on training for panchakarma (the fancy cleanses).

I don’t think there will be wifi for the first part of the trip, so I probably won’t be blogging until I get to Kerala. Even then, I will be focused on my studies and soaking in my surroundings so I may not blog as much. But I PROMISE to keep a detailed journal and learn lots of great things to bring back and share with you. That’s the main reason why I’m going afterall, so I can bring this back to YOU!

THANK YOU my dear readers for having interest in Ayurveda. It all starts with a little interest, which spreads and creates more interest…and before you know it there is a little community! Together we can grow Ayurveda into something more mainstream and accessible for all people. That is MY dream! I take that intention to bed with me now cause it’s certainly past 10 ;) Namasté friends and be well. xoxoxox!

Tip: StudyTime

Hey Students (and learnees of all kinds)! Studying in the early morning for one hour is equivalent to studying in the evening for 3 hours. Why? Because the mind is empty in the morning and it’s ready to absorb information! In the evening after a full day, we may have difficulty concentrating because of the day’s events racing through our minds. It might feel like our minds are already full, and that’s because they are! Studying in the morning also gives us the opportunity to review the information throughout the day. And in repetition, there is learning. Yeeha!

So avoid the pitta trap of staying up past 10:00pm and studying late. Your clock will be backwards. At about 10:00pm pitta comes in and cleans house of all thoughts, emotions and food from the day (while we sleep), so that we can wake up empty. Therefore your hard work from the night before just left the building. When the mind is fresh we will spend less time studying and get more out of it. Three cheers for studytime!!

Crazy Blessings

Hey! Do you have anybody in your life that drives you crazy? I mean, CArrraaazy? Rather than thinking bad thoughts and getting frustrated, try blessing them. Are you looking at me funny?

Here’s a little story. When I was freelancing as a designer a couple years ago, one of my my managers was consistently rude and quick tempered with me. She was always kinda rude to everyone, but this was the “last straw” and I got very angry with her. She kept pickin’ on me! Anyway, I had Ayurveda class that weekend and I said my classmate Rose, “My manager is SO rude and unprofessional and I can’t stand working for her. I need to find something else.” Rose said, “Bless her.” “WHA!?” She cupped my face with her hands and said, “Just bless her.” Ugghhh, are you kidding me!? I have to bless her!? She’s the one being crummy and I have to bless her? I didn’t say anything else. But I decided to try it, figuring it couldn’t hurt.

Monday I sat at my computer with lingering feelings of anger from the Friday before, I clenched my eyes, gritted my teeth and thought, “I bless you, I just bless you, I friggin bless you…” and after doing that a couple times, it actually began to feel genuine. I blessed her for working too hard and for being lonely and seemingly sad. I blessed her because I know that she is not mean-spirited, she’s just lost. I sent good wishes her way in hopes that things would lighten up for her. I also blessed myself and went through a gratitude list.

HERE’s where the magic comes in!! Within 20 minutes she called and asked me to come into her office. Now get this, SHE APOLOGIZED about being short with me on Friday! Unreal!

I share this story with you so the next time you have someone driving you batty and you think you can’t handle any more, send them a blessing. Bless the crud out of them and be sincere. Find a place in your heart where you can shift from frustration to love. It’s not easy, but it’s also not as hard as it sounds.

When your energy shifts, you shift the energy of the world around you. Health comes from the inside out, not the outside in. We cannot control other people, but we can control ourselves. It’s within our power to choose the path of love and forgiveness rather than anger and frustration. Next time you’re at your wits end, send a blessing. I bet things will change for you. xo

Cinnamon Oatmeal with Almonds & Milk

YAY! I love The Joyful Belly! They have great Ayurvedic recipes and you can create an entire menu just for YOU! All their recipes break out according to your constitution (vata, pitta, kapha), so their meal plans are totally individual. Just like Ayurveda! AND it’s free to sign up. How ’bout them apples!?

Their recipe of the month is Cinnamon Oatmeal with Almonds & Milk. MM! Oatmeal is perfect to balance the vata energy of winter. It’s warm, grounding, heavy and sweet. It’s also sattvic which helps fight droopy winter feelings of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Remember to enjoy a small breakfast* because we want to stoke our agni (digestive fire) for the day. If we put too much food on agni, it will get put out. And if we ignore our hunger, agni will get smaller because it has nothing to burn.

Enjoy the oatmeal and be sure to check The Joyful Belly often for new recipes. They are great folks there and will also answer any questions you may have. Happy Oateys!

*If you at a large dinner and you are not hungry in the morning, don’t eat. You may not have digested dinner from the night before! Let your body catch up and drink ginger tea instead.

Monica B’s Top 10 for 2010!

Happy New Year! And Happy NEW Decade! So, have you come up with a resolution yet? I always go back and forth on whether or not I like resolutions. I feel like we should be mindful of our health every day all year long, so why only focus only at the beginning of each year? Then again we have to start somewhere, right? We are constantly evolving and if the resolution is simple enough to adopt as a life-long habit, then I say do it!

As we know Ayurveda has an individualized focus, recognizing each one of us as a special combination of space, air, fire, water, and earth. However, there are some basic rules that apply to everyone too. In my lectures and in my healing practice, it is usually the most simple things that I tell people to hold on to.

Below I have listed my top 10, most helpful and most easy changes. Choose ONE (just one, only one, no matter how badly you want to do three) and try it for a week or a month. See how you feel. The reason why I say choose one is because often my clients want to change five or six different things and they end up failing because they can’t stick to them. Pick ONE and do it well. If you get ONE down pat and it becomes a habit, add another. This is how we slowly make changes and adopt new healthy habits. Perfect health does not come overnight (nor does ill-health, fyi!), but if we work at it slowly, we will make HUGE strides. I promise!

And if you try one, let me know how it goes. I would love to hear your success stories. Go get em!! Rah!

Monica’s Top 10 for 2010

1. Do not resist your urges | Resisting urges reverses our natural flow. Don’t hold your pee, a sneeze or your hurt feelings. Let it out!
2. Eat a light dinner | Lose weight, wake up energized, reduce toxins, think clearer
3. Bed by 10:00pm | Don’t wait for your 2nd wind, it’s against nature’s clock
4. Write a gratitude list once a day
5. Omit ice water | hampers digestion, counterintuitive for good circulation, shocks the body
6. Wait to feel real hunger before eating | Sip herbal or ginger tea if you are not sure
7. Stoke your agni! | malfunctioning agni is responsible for 90% of all disease
8. Walk 20-30 minutes a day | Without fail, just put on your shoes and do it
9. So Hum meditation for 5 minutes a day
10. Do Kapalbhati 5-10 minutes in the morning before breakfast | good for weight loss, energizing start to your day, mental clarity, spirit clarity, creativity, and it’s a cardio work out!