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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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Gokshuradi Guggulu

Gokshuradi Guggulu 

According to Banyan Botanicals, “Gokshuradi Guggulu is a traditional Ayurvedic compound used to support the proper function of the genitourinary tract. It strengthens and tones the kidneys, bladder and urethra as well as the reproductive organs.”  They go on to say that:  The main ingredient, gokshura, is renowned for its rejuvenating action on the kidneys and prostate. Combined with guggulu, triphala and trikatu, it detoxifies the urinary system and supports healthy urinary composition. Balancing to all doshas, Gokshuradi Guggulu revitalizes the genitourinary system by calming vata, soothing pitta and eliminating excess kapha. *” You can read more about it here: http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/prodinfo.asp?number=7141

Guggul is made from the sap (gum resin) of the Commiphora mukul tree, which is native to India. This tree has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, and Ayurvedic texts dating back to 600 BC recommend it for treating atherosclerosis.  While it has a long history, it still has modern uses.  “Today guggul gum resin is used for arthritis, lowering high cholesterol, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), acne and other skin diseases, and weight loss,” according to the website WebMD.  Triphala is a three-herb mixture known for detoxification and one of the most commonly recommended Ayurvedic preparations for basic, internal health and cleansing. Trikatu is a digestive tonic and detoxifier.  Together this combination provides powerful support for vital systems.  Of course we all know one other thing that can help support all your vital systems – and that’s a delicious and nutritious smoothie.

perfect breakfast smoothie

The Perfect Breakfast Smoothie  

 

  • 3/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 – 1 banana [always depended on how many I had left]
  • 1/2 teaspoon agave or honey
  • 1 teaspoon matcha [for your caffeine-kick]
  • 1/2 scoop whey protein [if you have any]

Directions:  If you have whey and/or matcha, what you want to do first is pour in the almond milk and then add the whey and/or matcha and blend.  Not only does this make the smoothie deliciously frothy, but it also mixes up the powders so they aren’t gross, ruining your smoothie one clump at a time later.  Once blended add blueberries, banana, agave and yogurt. I like to keep the blueberries by the top so they don’t stunt the movement and yogurt closest to the blades to help with blending. I also like to hide the agave in between the fruit and yogurt so it doesn’t get stuck to the sides.  With the bullet I blend it for about 2 minutes, 3 tops and then that’s it. You are good to go! If it’s too thick, add extra almond milk until you have it to your liking. If you’re full time fancy, feel free to put it in a glass… but be warned, that will take longer and create extra dishes.

Turmeric

Turmeric

Turmeric, the spice that gives many curries a rich, golden color and a warm, satisfying flavor, is also an antioxidant powerhouse that has been used for thousands of years in both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.  Considered anti-inflammatory, turmeric is used to treat digestive and liver problems, skin diseases, and wounds.  Closely related to ginger, turmeric is an herbaceous herb native to the Indian subcontinent. The root can be used fresh, although it’s more commonly sold and used in powdered form, like we probably have on our spice shelf.

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, most of the current research on the uses of turmeric focuses on one chemical constituent, curcumin.  “Curcumin is also a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants scavenge molecules in the body known as free radicals, which damage cell membranes, tamper with DNA, and even cause cell death. Antioxidants can fight free radicals and may reduce or even help prevent some of the damage they cause.”  You can read more about this and other current research on turmeric here: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/turmeric#ixzz2iZQz2RqW

If you still feel like learning more, Dr. Andrew Weil wrote an excellent article on the benefits of turmeric for the Huffington Post. It’s a few years old but well worth the read: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-weil-md/turmeric-health-have-a-happy-new-year_b_798328.html In it, he highlights research studying the possibility of turmeric – or more specifically curcumin – shrinking melanomas, making cancer cells more vulnerable to chemotherapy and radiation and delaying the liver damage that leads to cirrhosis.    His conclusion?  “The bottom line that the therapeutic advantages of turmeric and curcumin are almost too numerous to list.

An overview published in Advanced Experimental Medical Biology in 2007 states that, “Curcumin has been shown to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activities and thus has a potential against various malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic illnesses.”  But if you want a more delicious way to work turmeric into your day, why don’t you try this week’s smoothie, from our friends over at Green Kitchen Stories.

Turmeric lassi

Immune-Boosting Turmeric Lassi 

 

Serves: 2 large or 4 small glasses

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups organic yogurt with active live culture
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tsp honey, preferably unpasteurized
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • 2 tsp rosehip powder (optional but delicious, and a good C-vitamin boost)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or ground vanilla
  • 3-4 tsp ground turmeric (or fresh turmeric root)
  • 4-5 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a blender and mix on high speed until smooth.  Add more yogurt if you prefer. Pour the lassi in two large glasses. For a more stunning presentation, dust 1 tsp ground turmeric on top before serving. Add a straw and serve.

Guggul

Guggul

Guggul, the sap of a tree native to India, has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for millennia – with texts going back to the year 600 B.C.  recommending it for treating hardening of the arteries.  Harvested by collecting the hardened sap that flows out of small cuts made in the tree’s papery bark, guggul is something of wonder drug from the ancient world. In Latin, Hebrew and ancient Greek it was known as bdellium.

Guggul is one of Ayurveda’s most powerful purifiers. The long list of conditions it has been used to treat includes:  Weight loss, arthritis, acne, atherosclerosis, gingivitis, high cholesterol, inflammation, and thyroid problems.

Guggul is sometimes recommended as a way to remove long-accumulated toxins naturally from the body. The Chopra Center recommends guggul for those who have spent a lot of time on antibiotics or for those quitting the use of drugs or alcohol.  You can read more about Ayurveda and guggul from the Chopra Center website here: http://www.chopra.com/community/online-library/ayurvedic-herbs-foods/guggulu

Be sure to consult with a health professional before taking guggul as it can have a number of interactions with medications.  If you want to know more about the pharmacological aspects of guggul – and don’t mind a bit of a technical read – check out this excellent page: http://www.toddcaldecott.com/index.php/herbs/learning-herbs/363-guggulu

With a fragrance similar to myrrh, guggul is also used for incense and perfume. Many people are worried about sustainable and ethical management of the Commiphora mukul tree. While the tree is native to India, it can be found growing in arid regions from northern Africa to central Asia.  Loss of habitat due to human encroachment and over harvesting has focused attention on the plight of this fragile gift of nature.

If you would like to read more about one herb company’s effort to rally around sustainable harvesting and protection of the plant’s habitat, you can read more at Pukka’s blog: http://www.pukkaherbs.com/blog/the-organic-guggul-cultivation-project/

soymilk carrot cake smoothieSoymilk Carrot Cake Smoothie

Makes four servings

Ingredients:

  • 20 to 30 ice cubes (depending on how thick you want your smoothie to be)
  • 2 cups plain, unsweetened soymilk
  • 1 cup carrot juice
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions:  Place the ice cubes in the blender first, then add the rest of the  ingredients.  Blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve.

http://www.lafujimama.com/2011/10/soymilk-carrot-cake-smoothies/

Thyme

Thyme 

Just in thyme for the beginning of the cold and flu season, nature’s herbal throat-soother may be growing in your garden.  This perennial herb has been used medicinally for thousands of years for everything from sore throats and laryngitis to skin disorders and intestinal parasites.

That’s quite a list for an herb as small, compact and hardy – not to mention as tasty – as thyme.  Best grown in sun and well-drained soil, thyme does well both in containers as well as in the ground, especially along paths as a sturdy, fragrant ground cover.

Low growing, with delicate leaves on woody stems, thyme comes in a nearly endless variety and range of colors including green, yellow and silver. Botanists recognize 300-400 species throughout the continents of Africa, Asia and Europe according to the website efloras.org  <http://efloras.org>.

Known for having both antibacterial and antifungal properties, oil of thyme is used to fight fungal nail infections naturally. Current research from Leeds Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom shows that thyme can even kill the bacteria that cause acne.

“If thyme tincture is proven to be as clinically effective as our findings suggest, it may be a natural alternative to current treatments,” researcher Margarita Gomez-Escalada, PhD, says in a news release.  Many current acne treatments contain benzoyl peroxide, a harsh chemical with frequent common side effects including skin irritation and burning sensations.

Thyme was used in ancient Egypt and Greece. It was the Romans who were credited with spreading thyme through Western Europe.  Thyme is a main ingredient in the French bouquet garni herb bundle and used to flavor so many mouth-watering Provençal dishes. In the Middle East it is a key component to the za’atar mixture of savory herbs and spices, and a fixture dish in many regions.

Try making a simple tea from fresh thyme leaves next time you have a sore throat.  Or better yet, try making a delicious and nutritious smoothie like this one:

throat taming smoothieThroat Taming Thyme Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup rice milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Directions:

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. For a thicker smoothie use only 1/2 cup of rice milk and 1.5 cups of  pineapple. The rice milk can be replaced by water. For a cold smoothie  use frozen pineapple.

http://veggiestylewithdaphne.com/2013/06/07/a-throat-taming-smoothie/?cb=09709207529667765

Chitrak

Chitrak

Chitrak is a pungent herb used in Ayurveda to improve digestion and circulation, and to detoxify the GI tract.

Described in Ayurvedic medicine as being heating and bitter or pungent, chitrak balances Kapha and Vata doshas but may aggravate Pitta. If you would like to read more about doshas and digestion check out the California College of Ayurveda’s page here: http://www.ayurvedacollege.com/articles/drhalpern/clinical/digestive

Often known as Ceylon leadwort and, tellingly, doctorbush, chitrak has been shown to fight H. pylori, the bacteria that most commonly causes stomach ulcers: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15708315

According to the Herbal Encyclopedia, Western research is once again playing catching up with “traditional” Chinese and Indian medicine where chitrak has been used for 2,500 years.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Human Oncology are studying the anti-cancer properties of this woody, herbaceous tropical plant. Plumbagin, a compound found in the root of this member of the plumbago species, has shown results against certain prostate and breast cancers in the lab, though much more research is needed.

The Herbal Encyclopedia has an amazing amount of information on Ayurvedic herbs and good articles on the uses and benefits of chitrak if you would like to read more: http://www.herbcyclopedia.com/index.php?option=com_zoo&task=tag&tag=GUJARATI:%20ચિત્રક%20CHITRAK&app_id=5&Itemid=193

Chitrak’s scientific name, Plumbago zeylanica, reflects how the plant’s pale flower resembles the color of lead. It is spread throughout tropical and subtropical regions of the world, notably India, Hawaii, Southeast Asia, the southeastern United States and Central America.

In English folk medicine, the root of a closely related plant, chitrak’s European cousin, was used to make a special brew to relieve toothaches and other swellings and touted for its natural antibiotic properties, according to the National Tropical Botanical Garden’s website: http://ntbg.org/plants/plant_details.php?plantid=11896

Because of this herb’s potency, pregnant women should avoid it, and everyone should check with their doctor for any potential medication interactions.

Touted by Ayurvedic medicine for increasing Agni, or digestive fire, and its effect on spreading up metabolism, it is commonly used for weight loss.

The Indian city website for Chandigarh, http://chandigarh.gov.in/green_herb_gudu.htm, recommends chitrak for fever, gout, anemia, jaundice/ hepatitis, diabetes, itching, dyslipidemia, obesity, piles and geriatric problems. The wording is a little off to American English readers, but the information is pretty interesting.

Containing even further information about for chitrak’s use as medicine for thousands of years, consult a health care practitioner in case you might be thinking chitrak might be the herb you need to light a little fire in your belly.

Of course, here’s something else that could light a little fire in your belly, a beautiful smoothie recipe from reciperunner.com.

Sunrise Smoothie

Sunrise  Smoothie

Serves 2

Ingredients:

Mango Pineapple Layer

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 t. honey

Strawberry Banana Layer

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 t. honey

Instructions:

Place all of the ingredients for the pineapple mango layer of the smoothie in the blender and blend until smooth.

Pour the pineapple mango layer into 2 glasses and place in the freezer.

Rinse out the blender and place all of the ingredients for the strawberry banana layer in it and blend until smooth.

Pour the strawberry banana mixture on top of the pineapple mango mixture.

Top with shredded coconut if desired.

Serve immediately.

http://reciperunner.com/sunrise-smoothie/

Cayenne

Cayenne

Some of us are already hooked on the pep from this pepper, but did you know that cayenne – the chili that gives zing so many of our favorite dishes – is also a potent natural medicine that’s been used for thousands of years?

The chemical that gives this pepper its bite – and its amazing healthy qualities – is called capsaicin.

A common ingredient in both natural preparations and drug-store variety creams, ointments and transdermal patches for muscle aches and pains, capsaicin is a natural analgesic. Its anti-inflammatory qualities make it good for relieving the itching redness of psoriasis.

Rich in vitamins A and C, cayenne has long been known as an internal disinfectant and detoxifier known for knocking out a range of ailments including symptoms associated with cold and flu and can be an excellent throat calmer when gargled.

Cayenne may also be your heart’s best friend. According to New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) website on medicinal plants of the south west United States, capsaicin can:

  • thin blood and reduce the risk of stroke
  • stop heart attacks
  • increase heart action without increasing blood pressure

Further, they say, diabetics can use it to lower blood sugar levels. If you’d like to read more about the cultivation, history and medical uses of cayenne, take a look at this link from NMSU: http://medplant.nmsu.edu/capsicum.shtm

According to physician and Ayurvedic doctor Deepak Chopra’s Chopra Center, cayenne helps balance Kapha doshas. “Use pungent spices like pepper, cayenne, mustard seed, and ginger freely in your diet,” they write on their page.

You can visit their page on tips for Kapha doshas if you’d like more information: http://www.chopra.com/community/online-library/tips/kapha-dosha

As if all that wasn’t already a lot for one’s plate, this webMD article looks at some of the latest research on cayenne and weight loss: http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20110427/cayenne-pepper-may-burn-calories-curb-appetite

To sum it up, it seems that research is showing cayenne pepper burns calories and curbs appetite.

So if you happen to be looking for a novel way to spice up your routine, try this great smoothie featuring – you guessed it – the peppery punch of cayenne.

cayenne smoothie

Strawberry Cayenne Breakfast Smoothie

Serves 1.

Gluten-free, dairy-free, healthy, and Paleo, even.

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup strawberries
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne powder
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp raw alfalfa grass powder (or green powder)
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 cups (or approx.) kale leaves
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • 1 tbsp bee pollen granules
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut water, almond milk, or water
  • Handful of ice

Directions:

Blend all ingredients in your blender. Taste and adjust honey, water, or cinnamon as needed.

http://www.whatrunslori.com/2011/12/strawberry-cayenne-breakfast-smoothie/

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