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Tantra Yoga

Tantra yoga

Tantra yoga uses breathing techniques and poses – called asanas – to reach a state of deep awareness and enlightenment.  “The aim of Tantra Yoga is to expand awareness in all states of consciousness, whether waking state, dream state or sleep state,” according to the Sanatan Society, an online tantric site. “Tantra Yoga teaches us to identify the various factors that influence our thoughts and feelings and to transcend the obstacles to our evolution arising from ignorance, intolerance, attachment to our animal nature, and selfishness.”  Spirituality aside, as if that were possible, just some of the other benefits of tantra yoga include:

  • Improved muscle tone
  • Weight loss
  • Decrease in back pain and problems
  • Mood elevation
  • Reduced stress

In general, tantra is style of meditation and ritual that seeks to connect its practitioners to every aspect of the world around them and within themselves, as contrasted to styles which seek to block out all extraneous stimulation. It isn’t one codified system, but rather an accumulation of many ideas and practices.

Of course, it’s hard to mention tantra without mentioning sex. In fact, the two are synonymous in many minds. And it’s no wonder.  Whereas many spiritual practices teach asceticism and the deflection of desire, tantra yoga accepts desire, and teaches its students to embrace this desire as a force of creativity and connectedness.

“The real purpose of Tantra is to channel the life force energy to accelerate emotional and spiritual unfoldment,” writes Dr. David Simon,  co-founder of the Chopra Center. “The beauty of Tantra is its lack of dogmatism. Rather than preaching one way to enlightenment, Tantra draws on wisdom from many branches of Eastern spiritual traditions including yoga, Ayurveda and mantra chanting.”

For further information: http://www.sanatansociety.org/yoga_and_meditation/tantra_yoga.htm#.UnhJmbK9KSM http://www.tantrayoga.us http://www.healthcentral.com/diet-exercise/c/299905/158291/spiritual/


Layered Blueberry and Mango Smoothie

Layered Blueberry and Mango Smoothie

For the mango smoothie: 

Ingredients:

  • 1 sixteen ounce bag of frozen mangos
  • 1 small frozen banana
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1-1/2 cups orange juice (don’t pour into blender until ready to blend)

Directions: Blend all ingredients together very well. Only turn blender up to the lowest speed you need to make this happen. Pour into bottom half of glasses.

For the blueberry smoothie:

 Ingredients:

  • 1 sixteen ounce bag of frozen blueberries
  • 1 small frozen banana
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1-2 tablespoons barleygreen powder (optional but very healthy & you can’t taste it!)
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberry (or another sweet juice, like apple) juice (don’t pour into blender until ready to blend)

Directions: Blend all ingredients together very well. Only turn blender up to the lowest speed you need to make this happen. Gently pour into top half of glasses over the mango goodness.  Garnish with blueberries and a sprig of mint. Layered, slushy, cold and gorgeous. They make everything feel better.

 

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Stroke

Stroke

A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted, depriving the brain of oxygen. The bad news is that brain cells begin to die within minutes.  The good news is that immediate help and prompt treatment can minimize damage and complications.  The even-better news is that strokes can be treated and prevented, and many fewer Americans die of stroke now than even 15 years ago, according to the highly respected Mayo Clinic. You can read more here:  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stroke/DS00150

They say that better control of major risk factors, including high blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol, and factor into the decline.  Some risk factors, like the ones above, are potentially treatable.

Other treatable factors include:

  •  Diabetes
  •  Being overweight or obese
  •  Physical inactivity
  •  Obstructive sleep apnea
  •  Cardiovascular disease – heart failure, defects, infection or abnormal rhythm.
  • Use of estrogen-based birth control pills or hormone therapies
  •  Heavy drinking
  • Use of certain illicit drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamines

Unfortunately there are certain risk factors that are beyond anyone’s control. These include:

  •  Being 55 or older
  •  Having had previous strokes or transient ischemic attacks (TIAs)
  •  Being African American
  •  Being male

The National Stroke Association believes that up to 80 percent of strokes are preventable. You can use their interactive risk factor assessment tool here:  http://www.stroke.org/site/PageServer?pagename=riskfactors

While none of this should substitute for actual medical advice, the worksheet can give you a good basis of topics to bring up with your doctor, should you be interested in finding out more about your stroke risk, and preventing this potentially devastating condition.

There are two major types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. An ischemic stroke happens when a blood vessel supplying the brain becomes blocked by a blood clot. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a weakened blood vessel in the brain bursts, causing blood to leak into the brain.

Symptoms of stroke can vary, with some of the common signs including headache, weakness on the left side of the body, dizziness, trouble with movement, coordination and walking, mental confusion and vision problems.  Commonly people can experience difficulty with swallowing, speaking, walking, memory, emotional regulation and self-care following a stroke, but for many these problems improve with therapy in the weeks and months following a stroke, although there are others who will require full-time care indefinitely following a stroke.

Treatment depends on the cause of the stroke but usually includes blood thinners. In addition, many types of therapy -occupational, physical and speech therapy- can help ease the after effects of stroke.

Of course we all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so any healthful habits – eating well, maintaining a healthy weight, having an active lifestyle, reducing stress – may help ward off risk of stroke.


Orange Pineapple Carrot Smoothie

Pineapple Orange Carrot Smoothie 

  •  1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/2 cup carrots (about 2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped)
  • 1 1/2 cups pineapple
  •  1/2 frozen banana
  •  1 handful of ice

Instructions: Add all the ingredients to a blender. Start on a low speed, slowly increasing to high. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Serves 5.

 

Garcinia

Garcinia

Garcinia is a genus  of evergreen trees and shrubs native to Asia known  for fat-fighting fruits.  Often called monkey fruit, mangosteen, malabar tamarind or saptree,  garcinia have fleshy fruits which vary in color from yellow and green to  orange and purple. A chemical constituent, hydrocitric acid (HCA) has  been linked to weight loss, feelings of satiety, and decreased spikes in  blood sugar following consumption.  Loaded with antioxidants and vitamins, garcinia can be eaten as a whole  fruit or dried and powdered. The rind is sometimes used as a spice and  preservative.

In some parts of the world – including Malaysia, garcinia is an  ingredient in weight-loss soups, as it is known for satisfying the  appetite early, and making dieters eat less overall.  Additionally, scientific research is finding merit in folk wisdom.  Although more research must be done, preliminary evidence shows there is  something to the way that garcinia not only makes eaters feel fuller,  faster, but also slows down after-meal spikes in blood sugar.

There is some evidence to suggest that HCA can affect serotonin levels,  and may be particularly useful for people who tend toward emotional  eating, or eating to fill a void that is more mental than physical.

If you want to read more about the weight-loss benefits of garcinia try  this article which is fairly easy to digest, no pun intended:  http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/garcinia-cambogia-hca

Another group of chemical constituents, xanthones, are currently being  studied for their antiviral, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial  qualities. There is some interest in whether or not these compounds can  even be used to shrink tumors.  If you want to read up on some of the scientific nitty-gritty, check out  this link: http://www.zoranvolleyart.si/images/Mango/01.pdf

 

 


Honeydew Kiwi Lime Smoothie

Honeydew Kiwi Lime Smoothie  

  •  2 cups of honeydew melon cubed
  •   4 kiwis
  •  juice from 1/2 lime
  •   ice (optional)

Directions: Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth. Makes 2 servings

 

Chiropractic

Chiropractic

Chiropractic is a health care specialty focusing on the musculoskeletal and nervous systems.  While considered alternative treatment or complimentary medicine in the United States, chiropractic care has been gaining more acceptance, especially for musculoskeletal problems like low back pain, the most common reason people seek out chiropractic physicians.  Increasingly, insurance companies are covering chiropractic care for certain conditions, and consumer demand remains high.

Common conditions treated by chiropractic include:

  •  Headaches, migraines
  • Upper, mid, lower back pain & stiffness
  •  Neck pain and stiffness
  •  Pinched nerves, muscle spasms
  •  Leg and arm pain, tingling, numbness, weakness
  • Sports injuries
  • Leg and arm joint pain or dysfunction
  • Carpal or Tarsal tunnel syndrome

According to the American Chiropractic Association, chiropractors  “practice a drug-free, hands-on approach to health care that includes patient examination, diagnosis and treatment.”  Trained in nutrition and rehabilitative therapies, chiropractors perform joint manipulations – or adjustments – in order to restore joint mobility.  Appointments require no special preparation. Generally first visits include a thorough health history and a physical exam paying special attention to the spine. The chiropractor may recommend x-rays or other diagnostic tests.  Other treatments may include:  Heat and ice, Electrical stimulation, Relaxation techniques, and Dietary supplements.

Considered generally safe, most side effects of care – any pain or soreness – usually disparate fairly quickly.  The non-invasive, drug-free, whole-person approach has been derided by much of the mainstream medical community since chiropractic was developed in the late 1800’s. In fact, in a federal antitrust case that went on during the 70’s and 80’s, a group of chiropractors had to sue the American Medical Association to effectively end a boycott of the profession. The judge sided with the chiropractors, and now doctors were free to refer people to chiropractors for appropriate conditions.

You can learn more at the following links:

http://www.acatoday.org/level2_css.cfm?T1ID=13&T2ID=61 http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/chiropractic.html

http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/guide/chiropractic-pain-relief


apple almond smoothie

Apple Almond Butter Smoothie  

  • 1 med organic Granny Smith apple – refrigerated
  • 2 Tbsp almond butter or other nut butter of your choice
  • 1 cup almond milk or other non-dairy milk of your choice
  •  1 tsp raw agave (optional)
  • 1 cup ice

Instructions: Core and peel the apple then cut in large chunks. Blend all of the ingredients except the ice together. Add ice and blend until smooth and creamy. Enjoy.

Yield:  makes 1 serving.

Gymnema

Gymnema

Native to central and western India, tropical Africa and Australia, Gymnema sylvestre is a slow-growing, climbing plant that has been used to treat diabetes for 2,000 years.  Although scientific research and large trials are lagging, the area of study is picking up as diabetes grows as a world health concern. With more than 150 million people currently living with diabetes, and not all able to afford (or desiring to use) pharmaceuticals, research is going back to the body of medicine long practiced in India.

Considered an astringent in Ayurveda, Gymnema pacifies Kapha and Pitta and reduces blood sugar levels.  Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes, is basically a disease caused by they accumulation of a lifetime of bad eating habits and over-consumption of refined starches and unhealthy carbohydrates, such as sugar. This type of diabetes accounts for about 90 percent of all diabetes cases in the world.

Gymnema leaves have been demonstrated to have an “anti-sweet” effect, although the exact mechanism is unknown. The leaves are also noted for lowering serum cholesterol and triglycerides.  In addition to its use in diabetes and metabolic disorders, Gymnema is used in Ayurveda to treat the following conditions:

  • asthma
  • constipation
  •  cough
  • dental cavities
  • eye complaints
  • inflammations
  • malaria
  • snakebites
  • dental cavities

Check out the following link if you would like to read more about Ayurvedic treatment of diabetes: http://www.chopra.com/files/docs/teacherdownloads/actpapers/Diabetes%20-%20Madhumeha,%20Angela%20McGinnis.pdf

Additionally, Gymnema has antimicrobial properties and acts as a natural  caterpillar-deterrent in fields and farms. It’s also used in cosmetics.  If, like me, you happen to be the kind of person for whom too much information is never enough, you can read more about Gymnema sylvestre in The Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2170951/


Spiced Pear Smoothie

Spiced Pear Smoothie 

  • 1 medium pear, cored, quartered
  • 1 cup almond milk
  •  1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled, minced
  •  1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •  2-3 ice cubes

Directions: Place ingredients into a good powerful blender until smooth and creamy.  Thin with water or thicken with ice if desired. Enjoy!

Yield:  makes 1 serving.

Cancer

Cancer

The word used to strike so much terror it was whispered in hushed tones as if the mere mention could cause the disease to strike. While the subject still isn’t pleasant, our knowledge and ability to treat some – if not most – cancers has improved markedly.  Some of the confusion arises over the name.  Cancer isn’t just one thing. Instead, it a disease of a process that allows cells to grow unregulated. Cancer can occur almost anywhere in the body, and cancer in some parts of the body are relatively easy to treat and have high survival rates, like testicular cancer, and other cancers can be extraordinarily difficult to diagnose and treat and are still most often deadly when discovered, like pancreatic cancer.

Treatments like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation have radically improved cancer survival rates, and many types of cancer are now considered a manageable disease – more akin to having a chronic condition rather than the sword of Damocles it once was.  Of course, if you have never been diagnosed with cancer you still probably don’t want to be, no matter how much modern medicine can help.  So the most practical thing all of us can do – regardless of current or future diagnosis – is to take care of ourselves.  Eat well.  If you smoke, stop.  Get enough rest.  Find time to exercise.  Learn to relax.  Avoid the things you know are bad for you. Enjoy the things you know are good for you.

While some cancer research focuses on the genetics of cancer, and other research on drugs, treatment and cures, for most of us who are not oncologists and medical researchers, health and lifestyle are the only weapons we have.  In fact, one study in the medical journal The Lancet, found that 35 percent of cancers have triggers that can be modified by lifestyle choices. You can read more here:  http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(05)67725-2/fulltext  <http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2805%2967725-2/fulltext&gt;

Fortunately, some lifestyle choices are sweet, like this amazing smoothie recipe, developed by a foodie going through chemotherapy.


berry almond smoothie

 Berry Almond Smoothie 

 

  • 12 ounces almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  •  1⁄2 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 3 tablespoons raw almond butter

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix at medium speed for about one minute or until mostly smooth. If a thinner smoothie is desired, add more water or almond milk and blend for a few more seconds.

Yield:  makes 24 ounces.

Neem

Neem

Neem is a tall, tropical evergreen tree found primarily in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Also known as Indian lilac, the neem tree has long been used as a medicinal remedy and new uses and qualities continue to be discovered.  “Neem leaves have been used traditionally as a blood cleanser due to their antiviral, antifungal, anti-parasitic, and antiseptic qualities,” writes Kulreet Chaudhary, MD, in the Dr. Oz Blog. “Neem leaves are also used to treat many eye disorders such as conjunctivitis, skin conditions such as acne and rosacea, stomach ulcers, poor appetite, diabetes, gum disease, fever, liver disorders, and arthritis. It is also great for the heart and used to prevent blood clots.”  You can read the full article here:  http://blog.doctoroz.com/oz-experts/herb-of-the-month-neem

In addition, neem is currently being researched in India for the treatment of cancer. According to one review, more than 140 compounds have been isolated from different parts of neem. That’s a whole lot of complicated compounds for one simple evergreen. You can read more in this review: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15777222

One particular area of interest with neem – and one that is likely to become more important in the coming years – is that neem has antibacterial qualities but doesn’t cause bacterial resistance over time. Given the soaring rates of hospital infections and the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria – sometimes called superbugs – scientific    interest in neem is rising.  However, it’s very important to remember that neem leaves also contain spermicidal compounds.

If you are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding, you should not consume products with neem because it may result in miscarriage and is dangerous for infants and very young children.  Despite precautions against taking it internally in those circumstances, neem can be an effective toothpaste ingredient, and is highly effective against many of the bacteria that cause periodontal disease (read more in my previous bog). It’s also a common ingredient in anti-acne products and intestinal parasite cures for the very same reason.

Hopefully all that talk of parasites hasn’t put you off your appetite.  In case it has, here’s a particularly pretty smoothie recipe to perk your digestive fire back up again, courtesy of the blog Girl Makes Food.

Healthy thin mint smoothie

Healthy Thin Mint Smoothie  

Serves: 2-4

Ingredients: 

  • ¾ cup plain, unsweetened Greek Yogurt (I used full fat)
  • ¼ cup Fresh Mint (tightly packed)
  • 1 cup Almond Milk
  • ¼ cup Chocolate Chips
  • 1 cup fresh Baby Spinach
  • Maple, to sweeten, to taste (I used 1 tablespoon)
  •  1-2 tablespoons Cocoa Powder (optional, it will bump up the chocolate flavor, but it will make the smoothie a muddier color)
  • 2 cups Ice

 

Instructions: Combine all but ice in the blender Blend until smooth Add the ice and blend Add more ice to thicken and/or chill as desired. Slurp time!!

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