So what’s a yogi to do? Plenty. While waking up with a sinus infection may make you groan and pull the covers over your head, on your yoga mat you’ll find relief and support for rocking the rest of your day.
If you have time for only one thing, do the right thing and put your legs up the wall. This pose, called Viparita Karani in Sanskrit, is supportive to the immune system and triggers the parasympathetic nervous system – the rest and relax response. While triggering the sympathetic nervous system has complex effects on inflammation and immunity – sometimes enhancing, sometimes suppressing – the parasympathetic nervous system is wholly supportive of effective immune function andreducing inflammation. Whether you use a bolster under your low back or snug your behind up to the wall and extend your legs, you’ll get all the benefits of inverting with hardly any effort and lots of relaxation.
More time? Start with some conscious breathing. Breathing is the problem, you say? Two simple yoga practices can help clear that up. First, nasal irrigation can mechanically clear some of the uglies out of your head. A neti pot with a mild salt solution is the easiest way to accomplish this, but I’ve used paper coffee cups in a pinch. Always use filtered or distilled water. Warm water, tested on the inside of your wrist is best.
Once you’ve rinsed some of the offending mucous free, alternate nostril breathing, or Nadi Shodhana, can help to equalize the pressure and maintain a clear head. Even three rounds of alternate nostril breathing can have noticeable effects on air flow and steadiness of mind.
Finally, don’t plan a super sweaty, bendy, challenging practice. A few simple twists, chest openers, shoulder openers will do wonders. For a simple and effective sequence, move with your breath between Cobra and Child’s Pose with your arms out, fluidly, up to 10 times. This sequence will pump your lymphatic system, open your breathing muscles and massage everything in between.
The next time you wake up with a head full of uglies and feeling like a Hanuman play-toy, you’ll have a few more and effective options than resorting to over-used antibiotics. Take your power over your health and well-being seriously and roll out your mat!
April 15, 2013 | 1 Comments
For the past 7 days I was on an ayurvedic cleanse in preparation for my Panchakarma treatment with Dr Lad at the Ayurvedic Institute in ABQ, NM. It is the beginning of my month-long detox journey that will come to an end on May 6th. This week all my detox food was made by the ayurvedic chef Divya at Bhagavat Life. My boyfriend and a few of my clients were doing the same cleanse for 5 days. After the 5 days were over, I cooked all the food myself.
The idea of an ayurvedic detox is to take the load of digestion by eating mostly soup based, easy to digest meals and veggies. No frozen, canned, old, or cold food. No dairy, wheat, bread, eggs, coffee, chocolate (anything with stimulants) meat, strong spices like chilly, onion, garlic, nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers), creamy or hard-to-digest food. Oh, and very little salt and oils! You can read more about cleanse-facilitating Ayurvedic diet here.
Beet and Lauki Squash soup, Kitchari with Cilantro, Greens – all from Bhagavat Life
Veggies, kitchari with kulthi beans, pureed veggie soups, soaked almonds, apricots, prunes, and figs, and steamed apples were the core of my diet this past week.
For the most part this transition was pretty easy for me because I like soups and love my veggies. Some things that I missed were macaroons from Lifethyme and raw acai pudding from Juice Press. Thankfully, the cravings went away within a few days and now they don’t even sound appetizing. Instead I m craving limes on everything, baked bitter melon, and Moringa soup. Sounds crazy but it’s true! Our cravings can shift quite when our body is cleaner and taste buds are more sensitive.
There have been quite a few realizations along the way that might be helpful to you if you are embarking on a cleanse or a detox program this Spring. Some of them I knew before and they just become more ingrained through a deeper personal experience and some were new.
10 Valuable Tips For Your Next Detox/Cleanse
- Get clear on the ‘why’ of you detox and remind yourself about it when you want to give up/cheat – my goal is to renew, to nourish my body and my digestive system. As long as I keep in mind that this month is all about nourishing my body and giving it what it needs vs using it solely to experience pleasure (as from eating sweets), it helps me to stay on track. We are in the utilizing mode our entire life, taking a few days to reverse the trend and do things for the body is a compassionate thing to do.
- Clear the house of temptation – The first few days are the most challenging because you are changing your diet and our body and mind try to resist change. If you have cookies, crackers, ice cream, or even pickles at home, you will be more likely to reach for them. Be kind to yourself and don’t rely on the willpower, just give whatever is not a part of your cleanse away.
- Adapt your movement/exercise routine but don’t stop it – Your energy levels might change depending on the cleanse that you are doing. If you don’t feel like doing your regular 40 min cardio or 60 min yoga routine, do less or choose a gentler way to move. I walked outside a lot, did yoga every day, and couldn’t get enough of my trampoline. Pushing your body to do heavy weight training or too many HIIT workouts will only deplete the body during the cleanse time.
- Do an oil massage at least every other day – Oil massage is great to optimize blood circulation, lymph drainage, and reduce any fatigue and soreness that might appear on day 3 or 4 of the cleanse. You can use sesame or almond oil. I used Lymphatic massage oil. I wrote about oil massage in more detail here.
- Take hot bath to feel less toxic – Try adding Epson salt, baking soda, and ginger powder. It helps to reduce all the detox side effects that can range from fatigue, soreness, crankiness, and feeling spacey. I usually take a bath after my 5-10min oil massage.
- Bitter MelonUse functional veggies to stimulate detox through liver and kidneys – asparagus, daikon, kulthi lentils, beets, taro root, bitter melon, dandelions, fresh sprouts all are wonderful detoxifiers. I had a rotation of each one of the above throughout the week. Bitter melon is one of my favorites! It has a bitter taste and helps to balance out insulin levels and prevents sugar cravings. It is great baked or sauteed with some lime sprinkled on it. You can find it at any Asian store.
- Have a tasty gentle laxative such as prunes and apricots (soaked over night and sweet water drained) or a lightly steamed apple with cloves – It helps to keep things moving out of your body and provides for a sweet taste that you might be missing.
- Use smart spices to improve digestion – fennel, coriander, cumin, ginger, turmeric. Try fennel, coriander, cumin tea in between meals. It is very soothing for a bloated or sensitive tummy. If you want a step by step guide on how to reduce bloating and gas with Ayurveda, you can download it here.
- Use increased sensitivity to notice trends – when your body is cleaner, you become more sensitive to the effects of food. This is a great time to create your mental map of the emotions that certain foods can create. I, for example, became highly aware of the grounding and calming nature of grains, the liveliness of a small quantity of sprouts but almost anxiety with too many, the heating effect of salt and a cooling effect of fennel seeds. So when I felt a bit unstable Monday morning after having a bit too many mung bean sprouts and baby kale for Sunday dinner, I used a thin oatmeal with zucchini and ghee to pacify my nervous system.
- Keep dinner your lightest meal with mostly veggies and/or a soup – this is one is one of the key elements of my daily life both on a detox and in regular life. I find that having a light dinner, helps me to wake up early and feel very energetic in the morning. It is a key to weightloss according to John Douillard. Cate Stillman of Yoga Healer is also a fan of a light dinner. If doing it every day is unrealistic, start with 3-4 days a week. Focus on eating a bigger and more filling lunch.
While walking around your city, you’ve probably seen a variety of yoga studios—everything ranging from Bikram to Anusara, Jivamukti, and Vinyasa yoga. Bikram is known for hot rooms and sweat-dripping bodies, while vinyasa is all about the flow of movements.
If your goal is to get lean and lose body fat, you might be wondering whether, or how, yoga fits into your program. There are a multitude of benefits to practicing yoga, but does yoga help with weight loss?
Yoga Only Burns 3-6 Calories Per Minute
In order to lose body fat, you have to create a deficit of calories. If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight, and one pound of fat is equivalent to about 3500 calories.
Yoga classes often endure for about 60-90 minutes. According to research done by the American Council on Exercise, the average individual burns about 3-6 calories per minute practicing yoga, which equates to a total of only 180-360 calories burned during that class.1 In contrast, a kettlebell workout burns about 13-17 calories per minute, which equals about 800+ calories burned in an hour.2 That’s a significant difference in calorie expenditure.
While it depends on the type and intensity of the class– certain styles of yoga are much more rigorous such as power yoga, hot yoga, and vinyasa, whereas yin yoga, restorative, and hatha yoga are more gentle and slower-paced. 3 Regardless of the intensity of the yoga class, circuit training is still superior in terms of overall metabolic boost and calorie burn.
But even with the calorie difference, yoga has other benefits that can help the weight-loss individual.4
…But Yoga Can Still Be Effective For Weight Loss. Here’s Why
From 2000-2002, medical researcher and yogi Alan Kristal, in association with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, conducted a study on the effects of yoga on weight-loss. The study surveyed 15,500 middle-aged men and women about their physical activity and weight over time, and controlled for factors such as diet, health, and other forms of exercise that could cause changes in weight. The study found that both over-weight and normal-weight adults who regularly practiced yoga for at least 4 years were less likely to gain weight than those who did not practice yoga. In fact, those who were overweight and practiced yoga actually lost an average of 5lbs during the four-year period, whereas the overweight non-practitioners gained about 14lbs.5
Alan Kristal and the other researchers noted: The weight loss had nothing to do with burning calories. Kristal pointed out that, from a scientific standpoint it was unclear why practicing yoga helped people keep the weight off: “Except for very strenuous yoga practices, you don’t really burn enough energy to make any difference in terms of weight.”
If calorie expenditure didn’t account for weight maintenance or loss, what did? The researchers found a strong association between a regular yoga practice and mindful eating, which they did not find in other activities such as walking or running.6
How Can Yoga Help You Lose Weight?
Reasons that yoga might help the weight loss process include:
- Effective stress management, reducing the likelihood of stress eating
- Increased body awareness, specifically relating to hunger and satiety
- Mindfulness and mindful eating
Although practicing yoga doesn’t burn the most calories, it might still have a place in your workout routine. An effective fat loss program that encourages maintenance of lean muscle and maximizes calorie burn should be founded on a combination of resistance training and cardiovascular activity. However, yoga could be used as active recovery and flexibility training between more intense workouts. The benefits of stress reduction and mindfulness associated with yoga could lead to improved sleep, better eating habits, and increased self-awareness, which could mean more weight loss and improved maintenance of weight loss results over time. Regardless of the exercise you’re doing, however, good nutrition is essential. If you’re not paying attention to your diet, you won’t see the results you want. Exercise right, eat clean, and you’ll be able to actualize your goals.
If you buy organic or cage-free eggs for a healthier, more ethically-produced product, take a second look at where your eggs are coming from. Ordinary US farm standards allow huge flocks of hens in impossibly small cages, while organic standards require uncaged hens fed an organic diet and given access to the outdoors. Unfortunately, many corporate-influenced large organic farms meet organic standards in a merely perfunctory way. 80% of US organic egg production is done in a manner that gives chickens little or no real access to the outdoors.
Should you care about this whether or not you have a deep concern for animal welfare? Yes. Chickens allowed to pursue their natural behaviors outdoors produce eggs that are much more nutritious in ways that ought to interest anyone trying to follow an anti-inflammatory diet.
While organic standards call for hens to have access to the outdoors, on large farms this is often done with tiny exits that discourage birds from going out and very small outdoor yards that serve only a tiny percentage of the birds. Check out Mother Earth News’ in-depth articles on egg production or this video from The Cornocupia Institute:
But what if the eggs are labeled free range? Most of the labels other than organic that you might find on eggs don’t have legal teeth behind them or don’t truly ensure humane farming. This article from the Humane Society gives details on each kind of labeling you might find.
A hen that forages outdoors for its natural diet of green plants, insects, worms, and seeds produces eggs that are visually different from eggs from warehoused hens and that test higher for many nutrients. The yolk is firmer, stands up better, and is a darker shade of yellow-orange. The important carotenoid nutrients found in eggs are yellow pigments, so the color is important.
According to this study funded by Mother Earth News and using independent laboratory testing, pastured eggs have 1/3 less cholesterol, 1/4 less saturated fat, 2/3 more Vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more Vitamin E, and 7 times more beta carotene than eggs from warehoused birds.
Along with the extra beta carotene in pastured eggs, there may also be increased quantities of other carotenoids beneficial for eye health. One study cited ‘ecological eggs’ as having more of these carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin) while another found increased carotenoids in organic eggs versus non-organic but not in ‘free range’ compared with non-free range (possibly the not-very-free-range quality of many free-range eggs may have confused things).
So where can you find these nutritious and more humane eggs? If you’re lucky, from your own backyard or a neighbor who has chickens. Failing that, your local food-coop or farmer’s market are good places to look. When buying eggs from the store, use the ratings on this scorecard from The Cornucupia Institute for organic producers.
Many brands of organic eggs, such as Trader Joe’s, Kirkland Signature, and Eggland’s Best, received the lowest possible one-egg rating on the Cornucupia Scorecard. Eggs from highly rated producers with better conditions may be a little more expensive. If the ‘one-egg rated’ organic eggs are the only ones that fit your budget for now, don’t give up. Organic standards, even when followed imperfectly, still give birds a better life with no cages and an organic diet without routine antibiotics or questionable additives.
Notes for those whose eyes have not yet glazed over: conventional egg farmers may add the carotenoids citranaxanthin or canthaxanthin to the diet of their indoor chickens to give the yolks of their eggs a yellow color. The latter chemical is also used on fish farms to make farmed salmon pink, and was used in tanning pills before adverse effects on the eyes were found (to be fair, to get the dose in a tanning pill you’d have to eat about 50 eggs).
Have you had pastured eggs from a local farmer? Can you see or taste the difference?