The Shining Jewel – Manipura

20161221_093408

Fire. Transformation. Metabolism. Energy. Vitality. Joy. Vibrant. Happy. Self-esteem. Radiance.

Manipura chakra (located in the solar plexus region) means ‘shining jewel’ in Sanskrit. It is the body’s centre for our inner fire, ruled by the sun. It is the fire with which we transform and digest our food, emotions and relationships with the world around us. This is the center of radiant health and vitality, self-esteem, self-worth and power.
The body oil I used for my massage was ila’s Vital Energy oil, which is very stimulating, with Juniper, Geranium, lavender and lemongrass.
My yoga practice started with kapalabhati,, or breath of fire, to heat up the body and especially the abdominal area. It is a very energizing, stimulating and detoxifying breath, which brings a lot of heat as well as strengthens the abdominal area. My yoga practice was Shiva Rea’s solar Manipura Chakra vinyasa practice, which focuses on sun salutations, arm balances and core strengthening exercises. Seated forward bend and twists are also great for activating this chakra. The practice ends with a solar meditation gazing at a fire (the one on the screen, or a fireplace, or even a candle will work) and reflecting on its transformative power. Savasana was long, grounding and relaxing.

20161221_094717
After yoga, I made my own sugar scrub, using brown sugar, argan oil, and essential oils of lemongrass, lavender and geranium. I massaged my entire body with this stimulating, energizing scrub and then hopped in the shower. I always make my own body scrubs, because this way I can always change the scent depending on what I want to achieve, using pure essential oils (I have quite the collection). I prefer using sugar instead of salt in my scrubs, because salt is quite drying, whereas sugar is a humectant (attracts moisture). The combination of sugar and oil (you can use any base oil you want…almond, olive, coconut, jojoba, apricot..) leaves your skin really soft, and you don’t even really need to moisturize after.
To keep the internal fire going, I nourished my body with warming foods and spices…ginger, chai tea, warm, stewed apples with cinnamon for breakfast, hot veggie soup with warming spices for lunch….
Throughout the day, it is important to smile, laugh, and keep it light…avoiding over-stimulation.
It is also important to balance our internal fire with relaxation and grounding practices as well, so we don’t “burn out”. In the afternoon, I practiced 30 minutes of Yoga Nidra, which is the most healing and restful practice for me. I described this wonderful practice here.
“May you feel the power of life manifesting through you and rise up in the fullness of your strength, stamina and joy for life.” – (Quote from Shiva Rea’s Chakra Vinyasa course)

Swadisthana

20161219_0951381

Swadistana Chakra. Water, fluidity, flexible, flow, pleasure, fun, contentment…’savouring the feeling’, enjoying the senses…touching different textures, listening to beautiful music, enjoying a beautiful nature scenery or some art, tasting different delicious foods . Balancing the second chakra is to connect with life’s flow, be happy, experience the pleasures life has to offer. The colour of this chakra is Orange.
The Essential guide to chakras offers many wonderful tips on balancing this chakra…from lifestyle tips, to yoga, to meditation. I also followed Shiva Rea’s Chakra Vinyasa course to complement my practice for today.
For my morning massage, I used warm Monoi oil, which is coconut oil with frangipani oil.
My yoga practice was fluid and playful, almost like a dance, honouring the water element. At the end of my yoga practice, I had a mineral bath. I love these Alkabath salts, because they use crushed agate, carneol, citrine, chrysoprase, onyx, rock crystal, sapphire and chalcedony, so it is packed with minerals! You could also use pink himalayan salt, which is also high in minerals. I also added pure essential oils of rose, jasmine and sandalwood. These are great to balance Swadistana. I lit up candles, played some soothing music, and had the most relaxing candlelit bath for 30 minutes. There is one tip I learned a long time ago that I find extremely relaxing. When I am having a bath, I submerge my whole body and head under water, except for my face.(I have a big tub 🙂 ) Since my ears are under water, all the sounds are muted, and all I can hear is my breath and a very faint sound of soft music. There is also a sense of floating and extra fluidity. There is just something so therapeutic for me to have my head in the water…the water enveloping my entire head feels so peaceful, so soothing… It is extremely relaxing!
After my bath, I massaged my skin with pure argan oil and applied ila’s aroma oil on, which has rose, tuberose and vetivert. Today is about getting pleasure through all the senses!
My meals today were delicious, full of flavour, lots of fruit and veggies. (think sweet and juicy:) )
Today is also the perfect day to go for a walk in nature, and to also enjoy art like this:


My meditation this evening will be following Shiva Rea ❤ Again, I always begin with alternate nostril breathing. The breathing practice for the second chakra is full abdominal breathing, followed by a flowing seated meditation, which feels almost like dance, and you begin to feel fluid, like water.

2016-12-20-08-40-56

Please consult with your doctor if you have any medical conditions and would like to try any of these practices.

A good Night’s Sleep

71AbJYlDjhL._SX450_ (1)

A good night’s sleep can do wonders for our health and wellbeing. During the day we are in a metabolic phase, when our cells require and burn energy. While we sleep, we go into an anabolic  state, where our bodies repair and rejuvenate. After a good night’s sleep, we wake up with more energy, a clearer mind and usually a better mood.
There are a few steps we can take in order to get a deeper, more restful sleep. I have read quite a few books and articles about this, and watched quite a few documentaries. Here are some things I have learned:

  • Spend as much time as possible in natural daylight during the day. Go for a little walk outside after lunch if possible, and soak up some sunshine and some fresh air.
  • Avoid over-stimulating the mind in the evening with caffeine and technology. If you must be on your phone or laptop, install a blue-light filter. This filters the blue light emitted by your screen after sunset and applies a pleasant soft red filter (think of the way it looks outside when the sun is setting). The filter intensity is gradually adjusted to the sun cycle based on your location.
  • Don’t overnap during the day. If you feel tired, try practicing yoga NIdra instead (I talked about this in a previous post), try meditating or do something relaxing . Afternoons are the time when physically we tend to hit an energy slump, but it is a great time to do something that rests the body but keeps the mind engaged. Things like reading a book or painting are great options.
  • Have an early, light dinner. This is because a big meal, or a meal too high in sugar will spike your blood sugar and boost your metabolism which will keep you up for longer.
  • Don’t perform any strenuous physical activities. Instead, a 20 minute walk outise after dinner or some gentle yoga or stretches, followed by breathing meditation will help the body and mind unwind after the day.
  • Create a relaxing bed-time ritual. Maybe turn off your phone or TV an hour before bed and read a book instead. Meditate. Write in your journal. Sip on some herbal tea like chamomile, hops, lavender or peppermint.
  • Have a 20-minute bath before bed. I once watched a documentary where they explained that it is the steep drop in our body temperature after a hot bath that puts us in a deeper sleep. With my two children who also love baths and only one bathtub in the house, I don’t get to have a bath as often as I would like to (every night), but when I do get the chance (once a week), I make it luxurious…candlelight, luxurious oils, soothing music, herbal tea, eye pads soaked in rose water, my favorite face mask…and finish with a really nice self-massage with body balm with rose, tuberose and vetivert or a body oil with jasmine and sandalwood and acupressure facial massage with my favorite rose face oil. So maybe it is not as often as I would like, but when I do get the time, I make sure it’s pure bliss
  • Your bedroom should be aired out, cool and dark. Using aromatherapy like lavender, basil and jasmine can help you relax even more. I put a few drops of lavender or jasmine on a handkerchief and place it in my pillowcase.
  • Try going to bed around the same time every evening….ideally at around 10-10:30 pm.
  • When you are in bed, use a relaxation technique to help the body relax. For me, I cover my eyes with a silk eye pillow, filled with flax, peppermint and lavender. I absolutely love the gentle coolness of the silk, the weight of the pillow gently helping relax tension around my eyes and the aromatherapy of lavender and peppermint. It even helps relieve tension when I get a headache. I used to use a silk eye mask, but I personally find the heaviness of the eye pillow much more relaxing. I can feel the tension of the muscles around my eyes just melt away. I also use the Intelligent Nutrients Destress Express elixir on my pressure points. It has peppermint, spearmint, ravintsara, cardamom, cinnamon, chamomile, lime, vanilla and red raspberry, and it is a personal favorite of mine, but you can use any other aromatherapy you may prefer. Lavender and jasmine are also known for their relaxing, sleep-inducing effects. I practice some deep breathing and then a full body relaxation or body scan. I usually fall asleep before I complete it.

Here is a really delicious dinner recipe I learned to make from the Neom Guide to Sleep book for a good night’s sleep:

 

what to eat1

what to eat123

And here is a body scan – relaxation technique:

Begin by laying down and taking 10 slow, deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Feel your mind and body slow down and begin to unwind. Feel the tension start to release.

The next part is a visualization to help relax your body. As you inhale, you visualize a warm, healing bright light enveloping the part of the body you are focusing on. As you exhale, you release it. Feel that body part energized, healed and relaxed. I think of this almost like a very relaxing, healing massage with pure, white light.

Begin with moving your attention to your toes. As you inhale, visualize a warm, bright white light travelling through your toes. As you exhale, let this light energize, heal and relax your toes.

Move your attention to your ankles. As you inhale, visualize a warm, bright white light enveloping your ankles. As you exhale, feel this light energize, heal and relax your ankles.

Keep repeating this for the following body parts: middle of your calves, your knees, middle of your thighs, your sacrum, your hips, your pelvis, your navel, your heart, your lower back, your entire spine, vertebra by vertebra, your shoulders, your fingertips, your palms, your wrists, your forearms, your elbows,  your upper arms, your neck, your face: your chin, jaw, lips, tongue, throat, your nostrils, your cheeks, muscles around your eyes, eyes, eyelids, eyebrows, area between the eyebrows, forehead, temples, ears, the back of your head, the crown of your head.

Once the whole body is relaxed, focus on this healing energy enveloping your entire body. Feel your whole body fully relaxed and healed. Take 10 deep, slow breaths, in silence.

If you are not sleeping already, or if you are doing this in the afternoon, you can begin to wiggle your fingers and toes, rub your palms together and gently place them over your eyes. Then, slowly sit up, still with your eyes closed. When you are ready, open your eyes.

Top image found on Google images.

Mindful Eating Part 2

20914add-5352-47c2-9670-f9f7ba180e7b

Two months ago I started a program for mindful eating. I have read books in the past, have seen nutritionists, homeopaths, naturopaths and Ayurvedic doctors and. I had bloodwork done to see what foods are best for me and what quantities work best for my body, so I can feel my best and remain my healthiest. The only problem was, although I had all this information, which can be helpful, I didn’t have the right mindset to go with it. Food became an obsession. I HAVE To eat at this time, and these foods are POISON (but taste soooooo good), these foods are good for me (but taste like cardboard), I am not hungry now, but I MUST eat every so many hours…because it is written in the books….because someone told me to….because it’s the way it’s done. Food was on my mind 24/7 and not in a good way. I would chug these green smoothies that I unfortunately REALLY didn’t enjoy at all (I know they are healthy but I just didn’t like them), I had to force myself to eat all these foods that were boring, tasted boring, looked boring…and I just felt completely uninspired to cook for myself.
One day, I thought…I can’t live like this for the rest of my life! Food is a part of my every single day! I can’t be miserable about it every day like this for the rest of my life…Of course, for my husband and for my children it was different. Have you ever tried feeding a very picky 3-year old fish and veggies? (Or even a 33 year-old male who was basically raised on lasagna, hot dogs, grilled cheese and a lot of ketchup…on everything). It has to look and smell perfect before they would even consider touching it! (Well, my husband would still probably eat it…just make a few faces he doesn’t even realize he is making…letting me know, subliminally, how he really feels about what I just fed him). And then you have to keep flavours fun and exciting. I want my whole family to be healthy, but I also want them to enjoy what they are eating. I made them beautiful, nutritious meals that they loved. Tried new recipes for them all the time! It’s funny how much effort we sometimes put into a meal (to taste good, to look good, to smell good) when it is for loved ones, or when other people are coming over for dinner. We want to please others, but what about us? My tastes are just as important as everyone else’s.
So I decided to put my meals at the same level of importance as my children’s, my husband’s and my guests. My meals had to look just as beautiful and taste just as amazing, and still be nourishing. No more boring foods for me! So I bought a whole bunch of new cookbooks with meals that are easy to prepare and are healthy. I wanted to learn and experiment with new foods and new flavours, new herbs and new spices. That was the first step.
The next step, which in my opinion is THE MOST IMPORTANT, was figuring out how to develop a new relationship with food. So I found a great program, and I started. The first step was just noticing…noticing what my behaviour was around food, what my thoughts were, what my emotions were… What associations I had with certain foods. The last part took some digging into my past and into my childhood. Why did I love certain foods so much? Did I really love the actual food or the associations and connotations it had for me? Next step, which was also an eye-opener was noticing how it felt to be actually hungry, compared to “hungry because I was told I have to eat every so many hours…and it’s now time”. How did my body feel when it was actually hungry? What thoughts came to mind? How was my behaviour?
Next, when it came to eating, I began to ask myself…what do I want to eat? What tastes good to me? What would I like to try? I learnt how to prepare a shopping list mindfully, how to prepare food mindfully and then how to fully enjoy my meal. I learnt to pay attention to how I feel and how my body feels before, during and after the meal. I SLOWED down at my meals. Took my time, to really pay attention to all the textures and aromas and flavours and to how how everything looked. I learned that it is important after a meal to quickly scan your body and see if you feel fully satisfied. This way, you know that when you get up from your meal, you got exactly what you needed.
Mindful eating is not about obsessing with what foods are healthiest. It is about savouring every moment with all your senses. The thing is, when you do this, you tend to realize which foods actually agree with you or not. You may think some foods taste good when you eat them mindlessly and in a rush, but when you slow down and try to savour them, you might find they are not that great afterall.
I am so excited about food again! I am excited to go grocery shopping, to buy all these fresh ingredients that I can make into something delicious…that I can share at the table with my family every single day. I have been cooking a new recipe from my new cookbooks every day in January. Some take 5 minutes to prepare, some take an hour and a half. My family and I found new favorites that I will be making again and again, and there are still so many other things to try! It takes planning…mindful planning…and it’s beautiful and exciting!

PS: The new cookbooks I have been using are “Cook. Nourish. Glow.” by Amelia Freer, “Green Kitchen Travels” by  David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl , and The Detox Kitchen Bible by Lily Simpson and Rob Hobson and the mindful eating plan is “RELISH” by Emma Mills.

How to add more wellbeing to a busy day

12407581_1032790690100187_1500599556_n

“time This man-made phenomenon makes us squeeze beautiful moments into square boxes. We try to beat the clock and pack out twelve-hour days with purpose and meaning. We try to stop. We try to do nothing. But old cultural myths creep into our psyche, like a whispering mantra, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”. Yet we continue going through life, measuring our progress by a round object that hangs upon a wall and ticks. Time terrifies us. Henri Berson, a French philosopher […] re-invented time. He proposed that time was the “inner” time of experience. He called it “La Duree”. Immeasurable and purely qualitative, it never begins and never ends. It is the constant event of becoming. It is the immortal moment. Time flows, it does not tick and when experienced as such it is the vehicle for self discovery. Take time. Face time. Enjoy your time.”

This is an excerpt from the book “Time to Spa” (from Steiner). It is probably one of my favorite parts from the entire book, and it is something I definitely try to live by. It is so perfectly said, that there is no point in me elaborating on this, so I will get straight to the point: here is a list of little wellbeing tips I have found to add joy into my own life when I have a busy day. They are mostly simple, small things you can do when you have a packed schedule, but they make my life so much more enjoyable, more joyful, more…worth living:)

  • Start the day on a positive note. When I wake up, instead of jumping straight out of bed, I pause and take a few deep breaths, then I think of at least 3 things I am grateful for in that moment….my family, my body, the sunshine peeking through the curtains, whatever it may be (so many things to be grateful for)
  • I keep a couple of small bottles of essential oil blends on my night table. One is a blend for energizing (for the morning), and one for relaxation (before bed). I apply a few drops on my pulse points, rub my temples, inhale, then give myself a mini scalp massage and end with a little mini neck self-massage. This is not elaborate, just a couple of minutes.
  • Use positive affirmations when you find yourself in front of a mirror. When I am doing my makeup in the morning, I practice a few positive affirmations.
  • If you commute, use this time to listen to a podcast you enjoy or some uplifting music. Sing out loud!!!
  • When stuck in traffic, practicing a few deep breaths can add more calm to the moment, and it’s good for your health:) I actually practice deep, mindful breathing whenever I am waiting …either in traffic, for an appointment, for my daughter at school… I use all the free moments I have to squeeze as much mindful, deep breathing as I possibly can.
  • Anytime throughout the day, tune into all your senses (I described this in more detail in a previous post). It takes only a minute, and it can be such a powerful practice.
  • Spend some time in nature every single day, even if it is just for 15 minutes. If you work during the day, maybe go outside on your break even for 15 minutes and go for a little stroll and a little bit of fresh air. In the evenings, if you are at home, go for a little walk after dinner. It helps with digestion, and the fresh air will set you up for a better night’s sleep.
  • Cook with love. Prepare your meals just like you would for your loved ones. Use your nice china, your nice tea set. Put a vase of fresh flowers on the dinner table. Make each meal feel like a little bit of a luxury.
  • If you are on the phone with someone, use this time to give yourself a mini shoulder and neck massage with your free hand.
  • When you are sitting at the computer, roll a tennis ball under your foot for a little self-foot massage. It feels amazing!
  • If you watch TV, use commercial time for some neck stretches, or if you are like me, or like my sister, take out the foam roller!
  • Before bed, light a candle with natural essential oils to help you unwind. (I did take a course in aromatherapy, and I will eventually write a post about it, and how you can incorporate different essential oils throughout your day and other aromatherapy tips.)
  • I also like to put a few drops of lavender or jasmine on a handkerchief and put it inside my pillow case. It helps me relax even more while I practice my body scan (I talked about this in detail in a previous post) in bed, right before i fall asleep.

I hope this helps you find some inspiration for adding a little bit of extra -wellbeing into your day, no matter how busy your schedule may be.

“To see a world in a grain of sand and a heaven in a wild flower,

hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.”

-William Blake

Mindful Eating

11326969_137959976539824_836796808_n

Eating…this is a really big subject for me. I used to be a really healthy person. I didn’t think of food much when I was in my 20’s. It was just part of life, and I only ate foods that I enjoyed during and AFTER the meal. They were healthy foods for ME, they made me feel good and that is all I cared about. I didn’t read articles on what was hot and what was not. I only knew what I liked and what made me feel good. I never even thought of labeling people as certain “types” like “vegetarian”, “vegan”, “Paleo”…and so forth. I didn’t think of numbers of meals or snacks or any kind of numeric values. I just ate what, when and how much I felt was good for me, and assumed everyone else did the same for themselves…

I don’t even know how I got sucked up into all of this food craze. I started reading all these articles on what is the best ingredient, what is the best ratio of carb-protein, pro-snacking, against snacking, smoothies, cleanses, fasts, veganism, AAAAAAAH!!! I got overwhelmed and somehow I got lost…I tried to be vegan and after a year I looked anorexic (I am 5’7 and size 0 was loose on me), then I tried the workout like a maniac and protein smoothies and juices and cleanses, then metabolic balance. It was not even to lose weight! I was at a healthy weight, but I just wanted to do whatever was “HEALTHY”. Whatever “THEY” considered healthy. Well, it definitely didn’t work for me.

I may have not looked it on the outside, but I had developed a HORRIBLE relationship with food. Something like guilt/confusion/obsession/addiction/frustration…and more guilt.

During my mindful journey so far, I have introduced so many wonderful little practices in my day that have been helping me tremendously, but mindful eating is the biggest stepping stone for me. In my search, I came across Emma Millss’ “RELISH”. This is THE guide to mindful eating in my opinion.

I started watching and getting curious about my patterns…like when I start feeling hungry, how is my body feeling? How do I know I am hungry? What are my thoughts? How am I acting? What level of hunger am I at before I actually eat? These questions were HUGE for me! The first day, I waited 5 hours between my meals. I wanted to really get curious, to really explore what real hunger feels like for me. It was such an incredible experience! You learn so much if you just listen to your body, to your thoughts…

The next step was figuring out my cravings…was there a pattern? I realized every time I had cravings, it was at about 3pm. I call that stress o’clock, when my older daughter is home from school, and my younger daughter refuses to nap. At this point I am usually a bit tired and I want to rest, but my girls don’t allow it, so I noticed, that every single time I sat down on the couch at this time and tried to rest, and my daughters disrupted me, I got “hungry”. Now, I paid attention…and this was definitely not the “hungry” my body felt in the other exercise, nor did I have the same thoughts as I did when I was truly hungry for food. I realized I was just craving REST! So now, at 2:30 pm, I stay off the couch, out of the livingroom. I go to the bedroom and read a book with the girls, or I play a game with them in the kitchen, or I put on some good music and do a few house chores, I practice a little bit of mindful breathing, and then I start preparing dinner. This has made a HUGE difference for me!

So for the last few weeks, not only did I completely stop my cravings and stress o’clock became relaxing o’clock, but I have been also preparing my food mindfully, from making my grocery list with foods that are nourishing to me and my family, to shopping, to cooking (at least one new recipe each day this week), to sharing these meals at the table with my family.

After each meal, I pause and do a quick body scan to see how I am feeling and if I feel fully satisfied, or if I truly need an extra bite.

I finally feel free again. I no longer think of food all day long. I feel no guilt whatsoever. I no longer feel confused. I have been looking at food from my youngest daughter’s perspective. I am re-learning and re-discovering what foods I truly like, what tastes good to me, what textures, what flavours I like, and how my body and mind feel before, during and after I eat.

 

PS:

I am not affiliated  with Emma Mills. This is my just my own experience. Her guide to mindful eating has made such a huge impact in my life , and I truly cannot recommend it enough to anyone who has a bad relationship with food like I did.