Category Archives: Angelina’s Yoga Posts

Why Hips?

You know the place at the beginning of class when the teacher asks for any requests? I would say one of the most common, if not THE most common, request is “hips.” Now, I think this is generally meant to be a request to stretch out tight hips from standing or sitting all day while working. When we think of “hips” we tend to generalize it to one muscle. Our hips are each a joint made up of two bones coming together surrounded by at least 17 muscles and tendons, 5 ligaments, and a myriad of blood vessels and nerves, including the sciatic nerve,  in each hip. Eeghad! There is so much going on in one spot.

Most of the muscles that make up the hip joint connect the pelvis to the thigh bone (femur) in some way. So we can intuit hip also includes the upper leg. What, I think, many of us don’t intuit or forget is that some of the hip muscles also connect up into our spine. This is important to understand because tight or weak hip muscles can lead to back pain and tension as well as the knee. The 17 hip joint muscles are typically divided into four groups: gluteal, lateral rotator, adductor, and iliopsoas.

Tight Hips

Some may refer to themselves as having tight hips. This could be related to many things including shorter hip muscles, weakness in some key hip muscles, and even tightness in muscles not designated as part of the hip. What? That’s right. Because our hip is a joint at our pelvis, many hip movements are also regulated by the ability of the thigh muscles and the lower torso muscles including in the back. Because all parts of our body are interconnected, when one group of muscles is struggling, another group will either take over to compensate, or struggle in conjunction. Here’s one way to experiment with this idea.

Stand with your feet hip-width and your hands on your hips. Balance on one leg and bend the other knee to 90°, use a wall to help if desired. Bend your knee as much as you can to squeeze the foot toward the buttock and keep the thigh parallel to he floor. Make sure your hips are level with each other and squared forward, and your abdominal muscles are engaged with a neutral pelvis. Keep your foot squeezing toward you buttock and begin to lower your knee without rotating it in or out. As the knee gets closer to the ground, resist the urge to arch your lower back. Once the knee begins to move behind the torso, resist letting the foot stop squeezing in. Ok, you probably have a huge hamstring cramp after that, sorry. 🙂

Hopefully you can now see how the muscles and movement of the hip are also affected by the muscles of the rest of the leg and lower torso. Once the leg got closer to the floor, the lower back likely wanted to arch. Once the leg moved behind the body, the lower back kept wanting to arch and the knee wanted to straighten. This was a test of what are called the hip flexors and extenders, sheds light on where compensation for tight quadriceps and/or weak hamstrings occurs in the low back.

What Does Tight Hips Mean?

This depends on the person and their bone structure. Everyone has differently shaped thigh and pelvis bones and where and how the thigh bone articulates (connects) to the pelvis is also different. Some people have a shallow hip joint meaning the thigh bone is more toward the front (anterior) which may allow them easier access to forward folds and may cause things like hip dysplasia because the labrum (fibrocartilage keeping the thigh bone in place) can’t fully cover the top of the thigh bone (femoral head). Or someone may have a deep hip joint meaning the thigh bone is more toward the back (posterior) which may allow them to bring the leg further behind the body and can lead to hip impingement as the femoral neck bumps up against the pelvis when the hip is flexed. Then there are the middle of the hip people, who should be wary of overdoing any particular movements.

As you can see, where your thigh bone is in relation to your pelvis can also play a role in hip tightness. This is not something we can change, this is how we are born and best to know our own limits so we don’t hurt ourselves. We can also embrace our hip structure to allow us to be awesome at running, super strong in squats, or make beautiful backbends.

It’s not all about the bones, the muscles, tendons, and ligaments also play key roles in hip mobility. It is also possible some of the tendons or ligaments have been shorted, and/or the muscles may be shortened. If it is the ligaments, there’s not much we can do about that. If it is the muscles, stretching the muscles around the hip joint can help.

The most common tightness people feel is in the hip flexors in the front of the hip and in the deeper hip muscles under the gluteals, typically the piriformis. When the hip flexors get tight, they pull the pelvis forward making a deeper arch in the low back which may also cause tension in the low back. Generally a deep externally rotated hip stretch feels awesome for these muscles.

Hip Weakness

It is difficult to tell if “tight” hips are from weakness or from inflexibility. As I mentioned, the hip flexors are the most common place where people feel tight. This can also be due to weakness and they may not be strong enough to support your activities leading them to feel sore or tight. If you haven’t run before and you go for a 5 mile run, your hip flexors are going to give it to you after because they are not strong enough yet to meet the demands of running 5 miles. In this case, strength building is important.

Similarly the internal adductor muscles that squeeze the legs toward each other, the extensor muscles that move the leg behind the torso, and the gluteal muscles also tend to weaken from sitting. These muscles are key for most of our movement, especially for those who perform athletics like walking, running, swimming, etc.

Now What

If you’re the one who asks for hips a lot in a yoga class, consider if the muscles are in need of strength building to meet the demands of sitting and/or exercise, become more aware of your range of motion to familiarize yourself with your bone structure, and get those deep stretches in that make you melt just a little bit more.

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April 10, 2021 · 11:40 am

Help Reduce Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies

Spring is a time for rebirth, renewal, sunshine, dewdrops, and the promise of sunny days. It can also be a time of intense allergies, congestion, and sluggishness.

During winter we sleep more, eat heavier foods, and take time to snuggle in for some alone time. In the spring we want to begin to balance this out by eating lighter and drier foods, waking earlier as the sun rises earlier, and beginning to spread our social wings.

According to Ayurvedic principles, allergies stem from all the kapha we accumulate over the winter accumulating in our body. We need the kapha accumulation in the winter to keep us warm, hydrated, and nourished. In the spring, this accumulation can lead to colds, allergies, and a general feeling of sluggishness.

Three types of allergies can trigger these unpleasant reactions: food allergies, airborne allergies, and contact allergies. This means the body senses something foreign and sends cells to attack kicking the immune system into overdrive. According to Ayurveda, some primary causes of allergies are genetics; weak agni, or digestive fire; a person’s current state of wellness, or imbalance; and/or the presence of amaundigested or poorly digested food that turns toxic and interferes with processes in the body.

As we enter spring, this is the perfect time to begin cleansing all the heavy, dense, watery qualities we accumulated over winter from eating foods to keep us nourished and warm. If we don’t take care to balance out these qualities our spring will be blurry and full of sneezes instead of taking in the aroma of new life beginning to bloom.

Seasonal allergies effect many people every spring. If you are one of those people, Ayurveda can help! Here are a few simple things you can do to help prevent allergies from starting this spring.

  • Reduce or Eliminate Cold Foods and Drinks
    Cold foods and drinks aggravate kapha and can lead to more congestion and reduction in the body’s ability to fight allergens.
  • Eat Warm and Cooked Foods
    Our digestive capability in the spring is not very strong. Having warm and cooked foods help our digestion break down our foods better so we able to better assimilate nutrients from the foods we consume.
  • Drink Ginger Tea
    Drink ginger tea 30 minutes before a meal and/or throughout the day to bolster digestion.
  • Pranayama Practices
    Breathing techniques like ujjayi and kapalabhati are great for invigorating the body, stimulating the mind, and clearing the airways for easier breathing.
  • Exercise Daily
    Move your body for at least 20 minutes every day. This does not have to be vigorous movement such as a walk, living room dance party, charades, etc. Or, move your body vigorously for 30 minutes 3-4 times each week.
  • Neti Pot
    The neti pot (pronounced naytee) is a great tool to help clear congestion in the nasal sinuses. If done before seasonal allergies kick in, it will help the cilia of the nose be more prepared to defend against allergens. This is also a wonderful tool to reduce symptoms of a cold if used early enough, but don’t use it after you have a cold or the symptoms will worsen.
  • Dry Brushing
    Gently exfoliating the skin, dry brushing is a wonderful way to move the lymph which can help boost immunity to fight against seasonal allergies and colds.
  • Eat dry, bitter, astringent, and pungent foods
    Allergies stuff everything up with sticky, gooey stuff, so eating similarly like cheese, bananas, etc, will worsen the symptoms. Adding foods to your diet like dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, etc), dandelion greens, pomegranates, green beans, chickpeas, onions, ginger, garlic, chilies, and green tea will help dry out some of the mucous.
  • Seasonal Cleanse
    According to Ayurveda, one of the reasons allergies hit us is because our immune system doesn’t have the capacity fight off allergens. One cause of this is a weak digestive system so the body is having to put too many physiological resources into digesting food. Giving the digestive system a break by consuming an easy to digest meal for several days, called a mono diet, can help rekindle the digestive fire so the body can focus on more important things. (Join me for the annual cleanse March 15-19.)

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March 4, 2021 · 1:49 pm

New Year New You?

Do you set a new year’s resolution or intention each year? What is your success in following through with it? When you set this goal for yourself is it based on what you think you should be like? Is it based in how you think you can be better? Is the goal action oriented or broad? For myself, I used to set intentions to do things like get more exercise, or eat healthier, or whatever. They were always broad and not specific and always based in what I felt I should be doing. When I become more involved with yoga I started setting intentions like spend more quality time with my dog, or cook more meals at home. Again, they were always broad and things that I felt inadequate about myself.

What if this year there was new year’s resolution or intention?

I’ve moved  away from this practice a few years ago. I’ve started to work on this daily and begin to have my daily intention to keep me focused and on track. In Ayurveda everyone is different. We are all made up of different vibrations of energy, and as such need different things to feel successful in life, to feel loved and to share love,

How do we define what we need?

According to Ayurveda philosophy we are all made up of the five elements; ether (space), air, fire, water, earth. We all have a different amount of each element, so some of us are more grounded, some of us more creative, some more driven. This does not make one better or more desirable than the other, just different. We can begin to define what we need to feel whole when we begin to notice the things that throw us off balance, or disrupt our feeling of contentment and place in the world.

Sometimes is it is easier to notice when we don’t feel quite right than it is to notice when we feel exactly like ourselves. Ayurveda offers the adage opposites balance and like increases like. When we fell blah, or sluggish, or slow, it would do us well to add something uplifting, enlivening, or invigorating. Often our mind tricks us into thinking we need something similar like alcohol, or TV, or heavy snacks like potato chips. While those things are not inherently bad for us in of themselves, if we are already feeling blah, these things are likely to increases that feeling of blah. Perhaps a brisk walk, peppermint tea, a phone call to a loved one may actually lift us out of the funk more than the pull to add more funk.

This is the hard part. Choosing to do the thing that is going to support us most isn’t always the easy thing. This is where needing more than a new year’s resolution to create a life of joy and presence is important. It is a daily practice, and moment to moment practice to be the best possible version of ourselves. It takes practice and discipline to remember we are worth a damn and to make choices to support ourselves.

Prajnaparadha, mistake of the intellect, is often one of the biggest culprits for lack of follow through. We know intellectually something is good for us or not, yet we may choose to do it for any number of reasons like social pressure, unreasonable expectations for ourselves, or any multitude of stories we make up in our mind.

Be Compassionate

Ayurveda offers the 80/20 rule. If we are living life where 80% of the time we are making decisions that support us, and 20% of the time we decide we’re going to eat five sugar cookies, then we are doing pretty good. It is generally easier to offer compassion to others when they make mistakes or need a little help. If we make ourselves a priority, we can begin to offer that same compassion to ourselves as well.

It is also helpful to know that making ourselves a priority doesn’t mean we are not going to be there for others when they need us. We will also not make selfish decisions that create harm for others. It is possible to keep our personal best interest in the forefront while respecting others and their needs. This is not a selfish pursuit, it is the pursuit of creating more joy in our own life to flow into the lives of those we interact with.

Take it Day to Day

You are perfect as you are. If there is something that throws you off balance and makes you feel imperfect, is it worth keeping around?

For this year, I encourage you to set a daily intention or resolution that you are worth it, and you deserve to live a life of joy. When you wake up in the morning, decide what you need from the day. Do you need encouragement on a new project, time to rest, to get organized around the house, or to move your body? Keep it simple and specific; “I am feeling tired from not enough sleep, so I will make sure to go to bed an hour earlier tonight.” From there, see if you can make choices throughout the day to support what you need that day. Maybe a loved one wants to watch a movie, but it will go past the time you want to go to bed. Perhaps offer to watch a shorter film or TV show or reschedule for another day.

You are interesting, you are important, you are unique. Take some time to be curious about you and learn all you can to cultivate a life of joy and presence.

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What’s Your State of Mind?

What's your mindset? Is it possible to notice when things are out of balance and begin to bring tranquility to your mind?

What’s Your State of Mind?

Ayurveda and yoga follow Samkhya Philosophy which divides the world of existence into two polarities of being: Purusha and Prakriti. This article won’t go into Samkhya Philosophy, as that is a whole other ball of wax. But, it is helpful to know that both Ayurveda and yoga follow the basic philosophical structure.

Purusha is ultimate reality, all things that are unchanging in the world. What does that even mean? Doesn’t everything constantly change moment to moment? Well, again, that is an article for another time, but the basic idea is that the physical world we experience does in fact change moment to moment, but that which is beyond us, ultimate consciousness, God, soul, true Self, is constant and never changes. That is purusha.

Prakriti is the changing state, often referred to as the illusion of reality, or maya. Prakriti is the way we experience the world through our senses, perceptions, stories, experiences, and feelings. These are things that change and are effected by the colorings of our mind from life experience. Now, experience of life is not bad. That’s what we are meant to do here. It’s how we experience life and how our mind reacts, perceives, or feels about the experience.

Everything that exists within the tangible world we experience, prakriti, consists if the three maha gunas, or the great qualities; sattva (purity), rajas (activity), and tamas (inertia).

Three Maha Gunas (Great Qualities)

Sattva

Sattva is balance or harmony. It is neutral and moves with ease and calm. Sattva is a clear mind free of anger, fear, distressing thoughts, and full of love and compassion for all beings. This is quality of pure goodness, peace, forgiveness that allows us to deal effectively with the world. Physically is it clear skin, healthy weight, vibrant hair, clear eyes, etc. This isn’t to mean we should all look like super models, because let’s be real, that would be a huge imbalance in of itself for so many reason we aren’t going to go into here. What this means is we are our most healthy version of us with the genetic cards we were dealt. Sattvic foods are most vegetables, dates, almonds, legumes, but most of all what your body can easily digest.

Rajas

Rajas is pure energy, motion, and heat. It is the yang and masculine energy of the gunas. In balance, rajas is the zest for life, ability to set goals and work toward them, and a sharp, resolute mind. Out of balance, rajas appears as anger, hate, frustration, manipulation, rashes, heat flashes, moving excessively fast. Rajasic foods are heating and sharp like garlic, onions, chilies, cinnamon, alcohol, fermented foods and drinks, caffeine, and sour foods like citrus.

Tamas

Often viewed as ignorance, tamas is inertia, or stillness. It is the yin and feminine energy of the gunas. In balance, it is the ability to go with the flow, rest with ease, and be stable and dependable. Out of balance tamas appears as depression, sadness, a dull mind, lethargy, over eating, laziness, and lack of desire to be or do in the world. Tamasic foods are heavy and dull like leftovers, microwaved foods, fried foods, meat, cheese, milk, potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables.

Often, One Guna is Predominant

The states of sattva, rajas, and tamas are inter-related and cannot exist without each other. In the same sense, one is not better than the other and it’s important to remember we need a healthy balance of all three so we have passion for life (rajas), the ability to stop and smell the roses (tamas), and can love in the place of the Self or the soul of our being (sattva). Additionally, the gunas are not just confined to people, and exist in some way in everything we come into contact with. Think of yogurt. It is dense, cold, wet, heavy, slippery, slow. All qualities of tamas, so we could infer eating yogurt will increase tamas. What about watching Game of Thrones? Well, lots of gratuitous killing, dark imagery, anger, hatred, and competition at the expense of others. These are all qualities of rajas, so we could infer watching Game of Thrones will increase rajas. Qualities of listening to a babbling brook are peaceful, calm, beautiful, serene, and relaxing. These are all qualities of sattva, so we could infer listening to a babbling brook with increase sattva.

Some of this is open to interpretation based on personal experience, likes and dislikes. Because we are limited to experiencing the world through our senses, all things are colored in our mind based on individual experience, inference, and preference. We are living in the world of prakriti, illusion, so we appear separate from others.

This also doesn’t mean you can’t watch things like Game of Thrones or eat yogurt. What is important is to balance those out with sattva boosting activities or foods to return to a balanced state.

Finding Balance

It’s important to remember we need a healthy balance of all three gunas so we have passion for life (rajas), the ability to stop and smell the roses (tamas), and can love in the place of the Self or the soul of our being (sattva). Noticing when one of the three gunas is predominant or out of balance can help us make decisions to create better balance in our diet, mind, and overall way of being. Typically, rajas or tamas are the culprits of imbalance since sattva itself its a state of balance.

In Ayurveda, opposites balance and like increases like. If there is a predominance of rajas, we may see things like excessive activity, anger, heat,  mobility, energy, aggression, shame, physically or mentally moving too quickly. Imbalance can show up as digesting food to quickly which creates loose stools, indigestion, heart burn, sour burps, or perhaps as skin flushing, red eyes, getting hot when trying to sleep. Here are some things to consider to boost sattva and reduce rajas.

  • Incorporate slow, fluid movement or statice practices like restorative yoga or Thai Chi
  • Start a gratitude jar where you write thing you are grateful for and can read them in times of need
  • Focused meditation like yoga nidra or loving kindness
  • Take a cool bath or shower
  • Eat foods that are less heating and more grounding
  • Use cooling spices such as cilantro, mint, coriander

If there is a predominance of tamas; lethargy, slowness, heaviness, dullness, darkness, fear. Imbalance can show up as slow digestion with constipation or hard stools, depression, hoarding, couch potatoism (this is now a word), lack of desire to do day to day activities and things normally enjoyed. here are some things to consider to boost sattva and reduce tamas.

  • Incorporating movement such as vinyasa yoga, jogging, swimming
  • Meet a close friend of family member for coffee/tea or a peaceful walk
  • Consider you’re physical surroundings and use warmer colors for paint and clothing choices
  • Snuggle in your warmest blanket or sweater with a warm cup of chai
  • Eat foods that are less cooling and are lighter
  • Use warming spices such as cayenne, black pepper, cinnamon

Not Sure What’s Out of Balance?

If things aren’t quite right and you aren’t sure what’s up, the best thing is to boost sattva which is the qualities of purity, knowledge, hope, and harmony. This will ensure excess rajas or tamas won’t be increased and still work to bring harmony into life. Here are some simple ways to boost sattva.

  • Listen to a babbling brook 🙂
  • Take in a lovely sunrise or sunset
  • Read an inspiring book
  • Journal about goals, hopes, dreams
  • Hug someone you love
  • Eat sattvic foods like ghee, seasonal fruits and vegetables, broths
  • Eat something sweet and brings joy (Don’t eat an entire chocolate cake)
  • Walk barefoot in the grass
  • Use of essential oils or herbs that are pleasant and calming
  • You get the idea – all the warm and gushy stuff

When we can find balance of the maha gunas, we can begin to connect more deeply to the purusha, the soul and deep inner knowing of truth to live a life of joy.

Next Self Care Sunday is October 18, live on Facebook, and we’ll discuss the transition from summer to fall and ways to change routine to support better wellbeing. You can get even more information and sign up for my online classes, blog, or newsletter at www.yogawithangelina.com

You may also enjoy this video at www.facebook.com/SageAndFettle for a quick discussion on sattva, rajas, and tamas. Or follow Sage and Fettle Ayurveda on Facebook for monthly Self-Care Sunday events.

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Keep Cool This Summer

Keep Cool This SummerKeep Cool This Summer with Some Great Tips from Angelina Fox, ERYT500, YACEP, Ayurveda Health Counselor. Image of canoe.

In the hot months of summer our digestion begins to slow down as the body spends its energy keeping the body from over heating. This is important to remember as we move into the season of BBQs, frozen treats, and lots of time in the sun.

In the summer it is no surprise that we begin to crave things to keep us cool like iced drinks, frozen treats, and shade. This is a natural response from our body to help maintain homeostasis. Summer is the Pitta season, according to Ayurveda, and contains the qualities of fire and water like oily, pungent, hot, spreading, sharp, and light. Our physical form and mental state are affected by these qualities and take them on. This is why it is important to bring the opposite quantities to maintain balance.

Self Care Sunday June Edition - Keep Cool the Summer with Angelina Fox ERYT500, YACEP, Yoga Teacher and Ayurveda Health Counselor in Washington DC and Northern Virginia Areas

Check out my live videowith some tips to stay cool this summer.

One easy way to balance the heat is to incorporate bitter, astringent, and sweet flavors into the diet. Bitter tastes come from leafy greens, astringent from many fruits and spices, and sweet from the fruits of the season (sweet doesn’t mean sweets or chocolate, in this case.) These tastes offer a cooling sensation to the body and are easier to digest when our digestion is not its strongest. It is good to reduce the tastes of salty, pungent (spicy), and sour. Foods dominant in these tastes create more heat and are harder for us to digest in the heat of summer. If you can’t give up those spicy tacos, make sure to load them up with lots of cilantro and avocado to balance them out.

Food Lists

It is also important to make lunch your largest meal and to eat between 12 and 2 pm because this is when our digestion is the strongest. Below is a list of foods to incorporate into the diet over the summer. Some of these will have multiple tastes, but are listed in their dominant taste.

Bitter

  • Aloe vera
  • Amaranth
  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Barley
  • Bitter Melon and Gourd
  • Chicory
  • Citrus
  • Cocoa (at least 80% and 1 oz or less)
  • Cranberries
  • Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, arugula, cabbage, radishes
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • Jicama
  • Leafy greens
  • Lettuce
  • Nettle
  • Oat Bran
  • Oats (and astringent)
  • Tapioca

Astringent

  • Apple
  • Alfalfa Sprouts
  • Aloe Vera
  • Avocado
  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Chicken (white meat)
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Legumes
  • Lentils
  • Pear
  • Peas
  • Pomegranate (tastes sour on the tongue but is both astringent and bitter)
  • Popcorn
  • Potatoes
  • Quinoa
  • Seitan
  • Sprouts
  • Tofu

Sweet

  • All the Berries
  • Coconut Milk/Water
  • Couscous
  • Dairy (in small amounts)
  • Melons
  • Pancakes
  • Pasta
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Rice (basmati, white, wild)
  • Rice Cakes
  • Spelt
  • Sprouted Wheat Bread
  • Wheat
  • Wheat Bran

Spices

  • Basil (Bitter and Astringent)
  • Bay Leaf (Astringent)
  • Cardamom (Astringent)
  • Cilantro – Did you know coriander grows into cilantro?
  • Clove (Astringent)
  • Coconut Oil (Sweet and Astringent)
  • Coriander (Astringent)
  • Dill (Astringent)
  • Fennel (Astringent)
  • Fenugreek (Bitter)
  • Ginger (Bitter) – In moderation
  • Marjoram (Astringent)
  • Mint (Astringent)
  • Nutmeg (Astringent)
  • Oregano (Astringent)
  • Parsley (Astringent)
  • Rosemary (Astringent)
  • Saffron (Astringent)
  • Turmeric (Bitter)
  • Vanilla (Sweet and Astringent)

Iced Beverages

Enjoying a ice cold lemonade on a hot day sounds pretty refreshing. However, this can kill our digestive fire and cause gas, bloating, and discomfort if we consume iced beverages with our food. Enjoy your cold drinks throughout the day, but try to have room temperature drinks with and up to two hours after meals to help aid in digestion.

Take Time to Chill

Another great way to keep cool is through reducing very strenuous exercise and doing your hardest physical efforts early in the morning before it is too hot and when the body is the most stable. Consider changing out your hot yoga classes for a slow flow and keep your exercise non-competitive. Offer yourself lots of space to relax. Relax in a hammock with a good book. Sit in the shade with loved ones and spot cloud animals.

Always stay hydrated. Make sure to consume at least half your body weight in oz of water which will include liquid in your foods. Keep your skin protected with sunscreen and appropriate summer gear like a sun shirt or hat.

Want some helpful tips on cooking this summer?

Please join me on July 18 from 10am-12pm EST for Ayurveda Kitchen: Cooking Class for Summer where we will prepare two main dishes and a sweet treat. This will be live, so you will be able to ask questions and cook along with me! Once registered, I will send the recipes, grocery list, and if you register by July 9 you will also receive a spice pack and a special gift. Enroll now! yogawithangelina.com/online

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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

View my video with more information and follow me on Facebook for monthly Self-Care Sunday tips.

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

Visit www.facebook.com/YogaWithAngelina for a quick “how to.”

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, Vata 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.

Padabhyanga

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, padabhyanga 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 Vata, 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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