Starting a Meditation Practice

Starting a Meditation Practice

Check out my live videowith some tips to get your meditation practice started.

Starting a meditation practice can be daunting. We have these images in our mind that meditation is sitting quietly on a mountain top, in lotus legs, hands turned up on the knees, eyes closed in rapture, and exuding the bliss of enlightenment. Um, I don’t know about you, but that aint practical for me.

Before diving in, it is helpful to define what a meditation practice is and isn’t.

What meditation isn’t is making the thoughts in our head stop. We are human and we are living in the real world. Our thoughts will never cease. We need thoughts to get us through every day. To help us make sense of the world we are a part of.

What meditation is, is the process of seeing these thoughts as the thinking mind separate from how we actually are. We are not our thoughts. Who we truly are and our thinking mind are two separate parts inextricably connected.

A meditation practice can be what we imagine above, or it could be washing the dishes. The key is the way in which you do the practice, that you do it in earnest, you practice regularly, and do it with purpose.

Be Compassionate

You will have setbacks. There will be days when you come out more frustrated than you went in. You will have days where it is impossible to concentrate. Remember, that isn’t you, that is your thinking mind. Let it be upset you didn’t “succeed at meditation” and then look at that desire to succeed with discernment rather than judgement that you couldn’t do it.

There will also be days where you are completely tapped in. When you have a set back, remember these connected days. See if you can bring that  deep sense of connection and see if you are able to refocus your efforts.

Here are some tips I have for starting a meditation practice.

  • Find a spot where you will always meditate. Let it be a place that is free from interruption and distraction.
  • Pick a time, morning is ideal to help set our day up to be amazing. 
  • Choose the type of meditation you will do before you sit down to meditate and stick with it for at least 30 days before trying a new one.
  • Have a test amount of time. Can be as little as five minutes.

If you’d like more tips on meditation, my Movement and Meditation Series might be a good fit for you. Each class is 30 minutes and begins with a discussion of meditation followed by short movement and a meditation practice. Get more information, the videos and handouts at yogawithangelina.com/onlineseries.

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Add Spring to Your Step

Add Some Spring to Your Step

According to Ayurveda, spring is the Kapha season. Kapha is a blend of water and earth elements which give it qualities like heavy, dense, wet, cool, slimy, dark, smooth, liquid, stable. These are not to been seen as negative qualities, but qualities in of themselves. We need these qualities in our life to function. Without the heavy and dark qualities it would be difficult to sleep. Without stability, we would fall apart. Without liquid or slimy qualities, our joints would dry out.

Add Some Spring to Your Step Self Care Sunday April 2020

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In spring time these qualities are more abundant and directly affect us so it is important to take care to not let ourselves be overwhelmed by them. Like increases like and opposites balance is an adage closely followed in Ayurveda. By adding light, dry, warm qualities through lifestyle practices and diet choices it is possible to bring balance to the qualities of Kapha and prevent them from taking over and creating that sluggish, don’t want to get off the couch feeling and add spring to your step!

Think of the “spring cleaning” ritual many of us follow with our homes. It is the same thing with our body. We need to shake out the cobwebs we accumulate over winter to make space for the fun of summer and begin to feel light on or feet.

If we are wise, we begin to incorporate the practices just when the weather is starting to turn from winter to spring to reduce things like allergies and colds as much as possible. But it’s never too late!

Lifestyle

Start to move your body more! Exercise is critical to keeping the heavy and sluggish qualities at bay. Every day move your body for at least 30 minutes. This does not have to be high intensity or all in one take, simply walking, or dancing in your living room counts!

Kapalabhati Breathing is also a great way to bust up excess Kapha. Kapha tends to collect in the lungs and airway, which is why it is important to breathe deeply. To do this, sit tall, have a tissue on hand, forcefully heal air through your nose. Your inhale will happen on it’s own. If you feel light headed, take a break or stop. Always be safe and listen to your body.

Doing a saline rinse with a Neti Pot helps keep the cilia in the nostrils functioning at full capacity to help filter allergens, dust, and other pathogens keeping galleries and colds at bay.

Drink your beverages warm or room temperature (At least no ice!). Because Kapha has the cold quality already, we don’t want to aggravate it and further reduce our body’s ability to digest the food we eat.

Diet

Incorporate more foods with bitter, astringent and pungent tastes and try to reduce sweet, sour, and salty tastes. In Ayurveda, sweet is more than sugar and candy. Sweet is anything that has a sweet taste like dairy, heavy meats like red meat or pork, wheat, etc. Replace flour with amaranth, millet, oat, barley, or buckwheat.

Have your meals warm to make them easily digestible. During the spring, our digestion is not as strong, so eating fully cooked foods that are warm make it easier to digest to the food. Make dinner your lightest meal or if you’re digestion is particularly sluggish, you may consider skipping dinner all together for a short period of time.

Bitter:

  • Leafy Greens (like kale, collards, dandelion greens)
  • Cabbage Family (broccoli, cauliflower)
  • Cranberries
  • Artichoke
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Chard
  • Collards
  • Coffee
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Bitter melon
  • Burdock root
  • Eggplant

Astringent:

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Lemons
  • Pomegranates
  • Rye
  • Popcorn
  • Corn
  • Ricecakes
  • Legumes and Beans
  • Green Beans
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes (not sweet)

Pungent:

  • Black Pepper
  • Cayenne
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Chilies
  • Ginger

Begin to reduce oily, cold, dense, and sweet foods like fried foods, avocados (I know, it’s a bummer. Don’t have to give them up entirely, just reduce to like once per week and you can bring them back in full force over the summer!), soy, sweet potatoes, olive oil, cucumbers, bananas, oranges, dairy, etc.

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Tongue Scraping – A Simple Way to Stay Healthy

Tongue Scraping – A Simple Way to Stay Healthy

Do you ever spend time looking at your tongue? No?! Well, according to Ayurveda we can learn a lot about our health by reading the messages on our tongue. If you take time to examine your tongue, and learn how to read it, which is too much for this blog post :), you can learn things about organ function, quality of sleep, quality of digestion, or even spinal issues. One main thing to keep an eye out for is a coating on the tongue which can tell you many things.

In some Eastern medicines, including Ayurveda, the tongue is considered the “mirror for the body.”

Overnight our body detoxifies and has to put all the junk it cleans out somewhere to be excreted when we wake. Food we eat during the day is continuously broken down and filtered through various organs of the Gastrointestinal (GI) tract until it gets to the liver. Our liver is one of the main organs in the GI tract that kicks in high gear while we sleep. (More on this in a future blog on sleep.) Consider the liver the garbage truck of the body. The liver finishes separating the nutrients and waste from our food of the day, which is a critical function to remove toxins from the body. In addition to ending up as crusty eyes, urine, etc, waste comes out on our tongue! Who knew?

This waste shows up on our tongue as a white, yellow-ish, or brown-ish coating. If you stick your tongue out and can’t see your taste buds, or you see a thick coating on your tongue, this can be a sign of ama. Ama is specific to Ayurvevda as an indicator of imbalance in a person and shows up as toxins in the body that haven’t been fully digested and excreted.

This is where tongue scraping comes in. Tongue scraping first thing in the morning is beneficial to scrape off the toxins on your tongue rather than swallowing them back into our digestive system. Ew. Let me tell you, if you use it once, you will never not use it again. You can use it more than once per day, if you feel like it helps your mouth feel clean and fresh.

Now, you might ask, “What about brushing my tongue? Isn’t that the same?” No. When we brush our tongue we move those toxins around in our mouth instead of removing them. This makes it more likely to swallow the toxins back in to your system. I like to think of it as flossing for the tongue. You should still brush your tongue, though.

Benefits of Tongue Scraping

  • Helps eliminate bad breath and prevents cavities – Removes bacteria at back of tongue which causes plaque
  • Improves taste – Proper digestion begins in the mouth where saliva begins to break down carbohydrates
  • Reduces food cravings – Keeps the taste buds healthy and alert
  • Boosts immune system – Removes toxins, dead cells, food debris
  • Gently stimulates organs – This can also help with a bowel movement in the morning and stimulate appetite
  • Good to support proper oral hygiene promoting heart health
Tongue Scraping Video How To with Yoga With Angelina Fox

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What You Need
A Tongue Scraper – That’s It!

I recommend you get a stainless steel or copper tongue scraper. They are easiest to keep clean and more durable than a plastic one. You can find a tongue scraper online and sometimes in your local drug store, although they are often plastic. I have one from Banyan Botanicals, but you can get them online from places like Amazon. With its increasing popularity, it may also be possible to find one in your local drug store.

When to Use It

Use the tongue scraper on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. Using it a few hours after a meal or before bed may also help with oral hygiene, but once a day is usually enough.

Technique

  1. Stand over a sink.
  2. Hold the ends of tongue scraper with both hands.
  3. Stick out your tongue.
  4. LIGHTLY place the rounded, probably flat, part of the tongue scraper as far back on your tongue as comfortable. (Don’t gag yourself.)
  5. LIGHTLY pull the tongue scraper from the back of the tongue to the tip.
  6. Flick liquid into the sink.
  7. Rinse tongue scraper with warm water.
  8. Repeat 3 to 7 times or until no more coating is coming off.
  9. Wash your tongue scraper after use.

 

I recommend you get a stainless steel or copper tongue scraper. They are easiest to keep clean and more durable than a plastic one. You can find a tongue scraper online and sometimes in your local drug store, although they are often plastic. I have one from Banyan Botanicals, but you can get them online from places like Amazon. With its increasing popularity, it may also be possible to find one in your local drug store.

When to Use It

Use the tongue scraper on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. Using it a few hours after a meal or before bed may also help with oral hygiene, but once a day is usually enough.

Technique

  1. Stand over a sink.
  2. Hold the ends of tongue scraper with both hands.
  3. Stick out your tongue.
  4. LIGHTLY place the rounded, probably flat, part of the tongue scraper as far back on your tongue as comfortable. (Don’t gag yourself.)
  5. LIGHTLY pull the tongue scraper from the back of the tongue to the tip.
  6. Flick liquid into the sink.
  7. Rinse tongue scraper with warm water.
  8. Repeat 3 to 7 times or until no more coating is coming off.
  9. Wash your tongue scraper after use.

Precautions

Always use your tongue scraper on an empty stomach. Only place the tongue scraper as far back on the tongue as you are comfortable. DO NOT press the tongue scraper down on your tongue. Although it is called a scraper, don’t try to scrape off your taste buds. It should not hurt or damage the tongue in any way.

  1. You only need one thing – a tongue scraper!

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All Stuffed Up this Spring? Clear Up with Neti Pot

All Stuffed Up this Spring? Clear Up with Neti Pot

Spring is beginning bloom with blossoms beginning to open, leaves growing on trees, birds chirping, and with it, possibly allergies and congestion. If seasonal allergies are something that create discomfort and prevent you from stopping to smell the roses, the Neti pot (or nasal rinse) is here to help!

What Is It?

Neti Pot - Celine Nadeau flickrA Neti pot (pronounced naytee) is a small, usually, porcelain vessel resembling a small watering can. The pot is filled with a saline solution which is poured in one nostril and flows out the other using gravity. Rinsing the nasal passages has become a widely used practice and it is now possible to buy saline rinses at your local drug or grocery store if using a Neti pot is cumbersome.

What Does It Do?

A saline rinse for the nose helps clear mucous from the nasal passage and keeps the cilia (the little hairs in your nose) flexible to keep catching allergens and other irritants from entering the respiratory tract. When mucous builds up in the nose and nasal cavity, the cilia get bogged down and stuck to the skin in the nose preventing them from moving freely and collecting irritants. The Neti pot gives theses little hairs in the nose a bath so they stay flexible and free to catch all the pesky stuff floating around that create allergies, colds, and congestion.

Benefits

  • Helps clear congestion due to allergies and oncoming colds
  • Improves speed and coordination of the cilia
  • Thins mucous to flush nasal passage
  • Keeps the head clear, when we can breathe it allows for movement of energy
  • Balances nervous system
  • Supports upper respiratory health

When to Use It

  • Daily/weekly for prevention and maintenance
  • Seasonal shifts, especially winter to spring and summer to fall
  • When allergy or cold symptoms begin to present
  • Before and after traveling, during if you’re able to bring it with you

What You Need

  • Neti Pot
  • 1/4 tsp non-iodized salt (sea salt or prepared nasal rinse salt)
  • 1 cup water (distilled or boiled and cooled to room temperature
  • Tissues

Technique

  1. Dissolve the salt in the Neti pot. If using boiling water, make sure it has cooled to a comfortable temperature. Never use hot water.
  2. Place the opening of the Neti pot against one nostril to form a seal.
  3. Begin to breathe out of your mouth, do not breathe through your nose.
  4. Over a sink or water basin, tilt your head to the direction of the open nostril and slightly forward
  5. Water will begin to drain through the nasal passage and out of the open nostril. Do not tilt your head back to prevent the saline solution from draining down your throat.
  6. If the water gets stuck, you may need to adjust the tilt of the head slightly forward or more to the side to help the water flow more easily.
  7. Use half of the mixture on on side and repeat the process on the other side.
  8. When the Neti pot is empty, tilt your head forward over the sink or basin to let the remaining water drain from the nostrils. Do not blow your nose.
  9. Using a tissue, gently wipe your nose and exhale through the nostrils into the tissue. You may need to do this more than once. Do not blow your nose.
  10. Clean your Neti pot. Wash after each use with mild soap and dry well. It is is critical to keep your Neti pot clean and dry. If you have a plastic one, it may be dishwasher safe.

Check out my “how to” video on Facebookwww.facebook.com/YogaWithAngelina. Neti Pot How To Video on Facebook

How to Use It

Use the Neti pot 2 to 4 times each week for maintenance throughout the year. This is different for everyone and you may choose to use it every day or once a week. Ideally, use the Neti pot in the morning before you start your day. However, it can be done any time during the day on and empty stomach. When pollen or allergens are high, as when seasons change, it is a good practice to use the Neti pot once per day. If you feel allergies or a cold coming on, use the Neti pot once per day to help ease symptoms or possibly prevent a cold, and for at least two weeks after symptoms have subsided. Return to maintenance schedule once major triggers and symptoms have subsided. Do not use the Neti pot while you are experiencing a cold.

You may discover one side is more congested than the other, and this may also change day to day. Experiment with which nostril it is most beneficial for you to start with. You may find the water flows more freely if you start with the Neti pot on the nostril that is more open. If you are experiencing severe allergy symptoms, you may want to use a full Neti pot in each nostril.

There are lots of Neti pots out there. I recommend porcelein, especially if you plan to use boiled water. You can allow the water to cool in the Neti pot or in whatever you used to boil the water. I don’t recommend microwaving the water, or putting the water in a plastic Neti pot and then micrwaving. A tea kettle is a quick way to boil water. Always use clean water suitable for drinking.

It is also possible to buy salt specifically for nasal rinsing. These usually come with a measuring spoon. Generally, 1/4 tsp in 1 cup water is a good ratio. Experiment with the ratio that works best for you and your nose.

Precautions

Use the Neti pot on an empty stomach. We all know what it is like to drink salt water, so you don’t want food in your stomach if you accidentally get some saline down your throat and start to gag.

Always pay attention to the way practices effect your body. If you get nose bleeds regularly, don’t use the Neti pot every day and always be aware of the way it effects your nose. For some people it may help to use Nasya Oil for the nostrils after using the Neti pot to help with the dryness.

Use clean water suitable for drinking. The water must be boiled or distilled. Boiled water must be cooled before using. If you forget about the Neti pot and it sits for too long, make a new one. Distilled water should not be used for more than one day. Once a water bottle has been opened, use what you need for the Neti pot and drink the rest.

DO NOT use the Neti pot if you are already sick or have a cold. It may aid with mild congestion and allergies, but has potential to make colds worse.

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Oil Your Feet for Better Sleep

Oil Your Feet for Better Sleep

If sleep eludes you, you have trouble falling asleep, or you feel restless in bed, massaging your feet before shutting the lights may help you get better sleep.

In Ayurveda, Vāta is a dosha, or biological humor, made up of the two elements ether and air which make it mobile, cold, dry, rough, hard, light, clear, and subtle. You may notice some of these words describing your sleep pattern and/or your feet. By massaging the feet before bed, it is possible to mitigate or lesson these qualities to allow you to fall asleep sooner, stay asleep, get better quality sleep, and help your liver detoxify your body.

Padābhyanga

Reflexology Foot Chart 2006 @torbakhopper on Flickr.com CC BY-ND 2.0In Sanskrit, pada means “foot” and abhyanga means “massaging the limbs.” Abhyanga is made up of two words, abhi meaning “into, towards, to” and anga meaning “limb.” So, padābhyanga means massaging the foot. The Sanskrit word for oil is “sneha,” which is also the same word for love. It’s time to show your feet some love for all they allow you to do in life!

Oiling and massaging the feet each night before bed, can be a tremendous boon for better sleep and stress management. This doesn’t have to be a major operation and can take as little as 3-5 minutes. If you have the time, it’s good to give each foot a solid 10-20 minute massage each.

In addition to showing the feet some love, you will also be loving up on all your internal organs. Reflexology uses pressure points in the feet to stimulate certain parts of the body. When you give each foot a good massage, you’re also massaging the organ associated with the pressure points you apply pressure to.

Here’s your reflexology “light” lesson. You aren’t literally massaging your internal organs. The pressure points in your feet are energetically connected to your organs through energy channels in the body called nadis. When proper pressure is applied to a specific area of the foot, the energy travels up that channel to the correlating organ to help clear energy blocks. If this sounds awesome, read up on reflexology or get a treatment from your favorite spa.

Benefits:

Because we have these pressure points connected to our organs in our feet, massaging the feet has many benefits, including reducing the qualities of Vāta, which can be leading causes for trouble falling asleep, light sleep, anxiety, worry, and stress. The energy is brought from the head to feet giving the restless mind a break.

  • Reduces stress and anxiety
  • Better night sleep
  • Releases stress and tension
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Improves digestion
  • Softer Feet
  • Lessens foot pain

What You Need

  • Massage Oil
  • Socks you don’t mind getting oily
  • Oil warmer (optional)

What Oil to Use*

You don’t have to spend a ton of money of a fancy massage oil, although you can, if that’s your thing. There are many companies you can buy oils from, including your natural foods grocer. Your skin is your largest organ and anything you put on your skin is digested in to your blood stream, similar to food. You can obtain a simple oil like coconut, sesame, castor, ghee, or sunflower from your local grocery store. Organic is ideal, but get what you can.

If you tend to run hot at night (or in general), coconut is a good choice unless, you have an allergy or it irritates your skin. If you tend to have cold feet, sunflower or sesame are a good choice. If you’re not sure which oil to use, sesame or castor oil generally work for most people.* If you don’t love the smell, you can mix in a few drops of your favorite essential oil.

The Technique

If you’re using an oil warmer, add 1TBS of oil and let warm up for about 5-10 min. You can do this while doing your other bedtime rituals like brushing your teeth, flossing, etc. If you don’t have an oil warmer, you can put your bottle of oil in a bath of hot water to warm the oil. In either case, make sure the oil is a cool enough temperature to put on your skin comfortably. Use an amount of pressure that is comfortable for you in each area of the foot. Note: joints are massaged in a circular motion and long bones are massaged in a linear motion.

Option 1 – I have 3-15 minutes for this

  • Wash your feet with a washcloth or in the tub or shower.
  • Follow these steps with both feet simultaneously or one at a time. Rub a small amount of oil to coat both ankles and feet.
  • With a little more oil, begin to massage your ankles in circular motions all the way around each ankle.
  • Dip back in for more oil and begin to massage the top of the feet moving to and from the toes to the ankle.
  • Pinch and massage each toe.
  • Massage the sole of the foot and heel.
  • Interlace your fingers between the toes and role your feet around in the ankles both directions. It’s easiest to do opposite hand and foot.
  • Make sure to put on some socks before moving about so you don’t slip. (You can keep the socks on while sleeping or remove them once in bed.

Option 2 – I am making a relaxing evening out of this

  • Fill a small tub with warm water, 1/8 tsp crushed ginger and 1/4 tsp Epsom or sea salt. Stir until dissolved.
  • Soak your feet in the tub and relax.
  • After soaking your feet for about 20 to 30 minutes take them out and pat dry.
  • Follow the steps above massaging each foot individually.

*Educate yourself on what oils work for you and when. Not everyone can use the same oils. Don’t use an oil that irritates your skin or you are allergic to the source product of the oil.

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Fold From Your Hips, Not Your Waist

©2012 Yoga With Angelina – Angelina Fox, RYT

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Puff or Breathe Into Your Kidneys

 

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