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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.

 

Sun Tai Chi

Sun Tai Chi

By now you have probably heard of tai chi.

If not, you have probably at least seen people in parks practicing coordinated, slow, smooth, whole-body movements and wondered what they were doing.

Characterized by slow, smooth, circular motions, tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that has been practiced for health reasons for hundreds of years.

Sun style tai chi, or just simply Sun tai chi, is a style of tai chi which emphasizes flow of motion and gentle movements while building strength and flexibility – an ‘all gain, no pain’ approach to exercise.

It was founded by Sun Lutang, son of a poor Chinese farmer who lived from 1861 – 1932 and dedicated himself to the study of martial arts and their use in health. This form of tai chi is the most modern.

You can read more about the history of Sun tai chi at www.suntaichi.com.

Sun tai chi is a mindfulness practice, with a strong mind-body link and pays special attention to breath. Some consider it meditation through motion.

One of the many great attributes of tai chi is that is can be adapted for most anyone, from the most fit to those confined to wheelchairs and people recovering from surgery, notes this excellent article in Harvard Women’s Health Watch:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Womens_Health_Watch/2009/May/The-health-benefits-of-tai-chi

It can be done indoors or out and requires no special equipment, just comfortable clothing that is easy to move in.

The Harvard article goes on to mention that tai chi has been linked to improvements in overall health in people with conditions including arthritis, heart disease, breast cancer, heart failure, osteoporosis, stroke, insomnia and Parkinson’s disease.

Even the world-renowned Mayo Clinic recommends tai chi: “When learned correctly and performed regularly, tai chi can be a positive part of an overall approach to improving your health. The benefits of tai chi include:

  • Decreased stress and anxiety
  • Increased aerobic capacity
  • Increased energy and stamina
  • Increased flexibility, balance and agility
  • Increased muscle strength and definition

Some evidence indicates that tai chi also may help:

  • Enhance quality of sleep
  • Enhance the immune system
  • Lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure
  • Improve joint pain
  • Improve symptoms of congestive heart failure
  • Improve overall well-being in older adults
  • Reduce risk of falls in older adults

You can read more here: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/tai-chi/SA00087

So if you are looking for something low-impact with a wide array of benefits, try searching the web for local Sun tai chi classes.

Apple and Beet Smoothie

Apple and Beet Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1 gala apple peeled and diced
  • ½ cup frozen mixed berries
  • ⅓ cup raw or roasted beets, diced
  • 1- inch piece ginger
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon agave
  • ¼ cup coconut milk or soymilk
  • 2-3 ice cubes

Instructions:

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

http://citronlimette.com/recipe_archive/drinks-and-smoothies/apple-and-beet-smoothie/

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adult Americans and most adults deal with it at one time or another, and increasingly as we age.  While it is largely preventable with regular dental visits and good oral hygiene, certain factors – like genetics and hormonal changes that accompany pregnancy – make some people more susceptible to periodontal disease than others.

In its earliest stages gum disease is called gingivitis, characterized by puffy, bleeding gums. In its most advanced stages it’s called periodontitis and is characterized by the breakdown of the bone and tissues that support teeth.

Basically, what we’ve probably all heard since childhood is true. The mouth is a pretty dirty place, host to many, many different kinds of bacteria. That bacteria mixes with left over bits of food, saliva and mucous to form a sticky substance called plaque. If the plaque stays on your teeth long enough it hardens into tartar.

Tartar gives bacteria a place to shelter and flourish, and left long enough teeth become loose and begin to shift and the body begins reabsorbing the alveolar bone that supports teeth, creating a perfect storm that ends up with dentures.

Be sure to check out the following links for more information on periodontal disease:

WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/gingivitis-periodontal-disease

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/OralHealth/Topics/GumDiseases/PeriodontalGumDisease.htm

While the airways are clogged with ads for dental products, most of us are left wondering if there are more natural solutions for periodontal disease than the alcohol and chemical-laden drug store pastes and rinses we see on TV. Fortunately, alternatives do exist. A solution of hydrogen peroxide and water can be a simple and economical rinse to use twice daily to reduce bacteria in the mouth.

Neem, a natural antibacterial from the tree of the same name, has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Before the invention of disposable plastic toothbrushes, people would chew the tiny branches of the neem tree to clean their teeth.

A fascinating study from India estimates that 80 percent of the nation’s rural poor still use neem sticks for oral care. Remarkably, the study concludes neem sticks to be just as effective as regular tooth brushing at reducing plaque and gum inflammation.

If you care to read the whole report, it can be found here: http://www.ispcd.org/~cmsdev/userfiles/rishabh/09%20ajay%20bhambal.pdf <http://www.ispcd.org/%7Ecmsdev/userfiles/rishabh/09%20ajay%20bhambal.pdf>

Neem sticks may be a little hard to find in the United States, but plenty of Ayurvedic toothpastes contain it. Try your local health food store.

Another common ingredient in natural dental pastes and rinses is extracts from Salvadora persica, or as it is commonly known, the toothbrush tree. Native to Africa, the World Health Organization recommends using branches of this tree for brushing as equal to or better than traditional Western methods. You can read more here: http://www.fao.org/docrep/x5327e/x5327e1j.htm

Of course, if you do end up having to get dental work done, it’s best to stock up on plenty of smoothie ideas and ingredients since most dentists recommend soft, nutritious foods during recovery.

So Healthy Smoothie

So-Healthy Smoothie

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 small banana, sliced and frozen
  • 2/3 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped peeled mango, frozen
  • 1-1/4 cups frozen unsweetened sliced peaches

Directions

In a blender, combine all ingredients; cover and process until smooth. Pour into chilled glasses; serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings.

http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/So-Healthy-Smoothies

Laya Yoga

Laya Yoga

Often called ‘the yoga of awareness,’ laya yoga is influenced by the yantra and shakta schools of Hinduism, using meditation with the goal to reach a higher state of consciousness.

An ancient tradition, laya yoga drew from hatha yoga mixed with Hindu traditions and schools of thought, and introduced as a distinct form of yoga in Nepal by legendary Sage Gorakshnath, in the 11th to 12th century.

This Hindu warrior-saint also gives his name to the famous Nepalese military men, the Gurkhas. For more on the history of laya yoga check out: http://www.medindia.net/yoga-lifestyle/Laya-Yoga.htm.

Often practiced as Kundalini yoga in the west, laya yoga focuses on breath control, sound and meditation through a number of complete actions. The flow is spiral, like the coiled snake of energy said to be in the base of the spine.

The ultimate goal of this type of yoga is to align energy, broaden awareness and prepare the body and soul for a higher state of consciousness, known as Turiya.

Here are some basic instructions for beginning laya yoga courtesy of onlymyhealth.com.

Instructions for Laya Yoga

Position yourself in Siddhasana mudra.

Shut eyelids and lean upwards with closed eyes.

Concentrate on the region between eyebrows.

Close the nose and left ear.

Listen to the external sounds through right ear. The sound will become prominent, clear and seem like pounding. Gradually, sound you are listening will become soft.

This increases concentration as mind continues to keep track sound without any distractions, which will deliver the calming effect.

Keep going on with the practice until your realize that body is at peace.

Make practice part of daily regimen for receiving all benefits.

You can read the rest of the article here: http://www.onlymyhealth.com/what-laya-yoga-1331010282.

Another great place to go for more information about this form of yoga is

http://www.3ho.org/kundalini-yoga/meditation/featured-meditations/kundalini-yoga-laya-yoga-kriya.

Created by the teacher credited with spreading this form of yoga to the United States, Yogi Bhajan, 3Ho.org has a wealth of information, instructions and links to groups, classes, and even this smoothie recipe touted as being “the perfect breakfast drink for women.”

Mz. Whiz Smoothie

Mz. Whiz Smoothie

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 8 ounces (250 ml) orange juice
  • 1 Tablespoon (20 ml) liquid chlorophyll
  • 2 Teaspoons Rice Bran Syrup
  • 2 Teaspoons cold-pressed almond or sesame oil

Directions: Blend well until frothy.

http://www.3ho.org/3ho-lifestyle/women/radiant-health-and-beauty/perfect-breakfast-drink-women-ms-whiz

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