Difficulty meditating? Try with mala beads

Difficulty meditating? Try with mala beads

When I first started meditating, my mind was all over the place. And to be honest, it sometimes (uhm, most of the time) still is! One day during yoga teacher training we were introduced to mala meditation and it made such a difference. Now, whenever my crazy monkey mind keeps racing and ‘normal’ sitting meditation isn’t going to happen, I take a break and later on that day I try again with my mala and then usually it works.

Related: Sh*t you think about when you meditate

When you meditate with mala beads both your body and mind are kept ‘occupied’ so that you don’t get distracted so easily.

What is a mala?

A mala is a beaded necklace that can be used as a rosary in meditation. Mala beads can be worn anytime and by anyone. They are not connected to a specific religion although they are often used by Christians, Buddhists and Hindus to recite mantras or prayers.

When you wear them daily they will remind you to breathe and be present. You can wear them as a necklace close to your heart or wrapped around your wrist as a bracelet. Wear them by themselves or layered with other mala beads or other jewellery.

mala beads parts

 

Meaning of the gemstones

Malas are typically made with semi-precious gemstones, wooden beads, rudraksha beads or a combination of these.

All gemstones are said to have certain subtle properties. They work to enhance traits or feelings that already exist in you.
You will naturally be attracted to a certain colour and texture of stone, and when you read about its properties you can decide if it is indeed what you need.

Some malas are made with sandal wood beads, other wooden beads or rudraksha beads. Rudraksha (the brown beads shown in the picture above) is a seed traditionally used as prayer beads in India and Nepal; they are often worn for protection. Rudraksha is associated with Shiva, the Hindu deity of transformation. Rudraksha are valued similar to semi-precious stones. Depending on the number of mukhi (faces or segments), different meanings and values are attributed to the beads. Rare or unique beads are highly prized and valuable.

 

How to meditate with mala beads

Meditating with mala beads happens by repeating a mantra over and over. This is how you do it:

    • Choose a mantra that resonates with you
    • Sit with the mala beads in your right hand and move the beads one by one with your right thumb. One bead for each repetition of your mantra. It helps to keep count of the number of repetitions and keeps your mind from wandering during meditation.
    • When you reach the guru bead (usually a bigger stone just above the tassel) you have completed one round (108 repetitions). You can either stop here, thank yourself for practicing and sit for a little longer in silence. Or:
    • If you want to do another round, turn over your mala necklace so that the last bead becomes the first, and start moving the beads again so you are going back where you came from. Never cross the guru bead, always turn around when you have completed a round.
    • Complete as many rounds as you want. At the end sit in silence and let the meditation last a little longer.

 

 

Caring for your mala beads

So you chose your mala and have been wearing and using it regularly. How do you keep your mala beads looking good?

  • Remove your mala beads while showering, swimming and exercising.
  • Don’t expose your beads to chemicals such as sunscreen or perfume.
  • When not wearing them store them in a pouch or safe place so they don’t get scratched.
  • As it is a long necklace be careful not to get trapped with them as it might cause them to break.
  • When the tassel gets frazzled slightly wet it (don’t soak) and stroke until smooth again.

Shop your mala

There are plenty of places where you can buy mala beads. Choose a shop that you feel good with. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. After all, your mala beads will accompany you for a lifetime!

** If you want to buy mala beads to practice with or give them as a gift for someone, do check my brand new Etsy shop ForeverSundayMalas!

Just in time for Christmas shopping ;-)

Click here to see it and let me know what you think!

 

 

The latest yoga gadgets

latest yoga gadgets

One of my favourite guilty pleasures is browsing through Kickstarter. Ok I know, I’m weird. I just really love looking at what inventions and exciting projects people come up with… and often find inspiring start-ups and people on there.

For those who don’t know, Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform. It’s a new way of funding projects and start-ups. Literally anyone can co-finance a project for as little as a couple of euros up to thousands of euros. The reward as a backer is that you can get a prototype of a new product or the product at a much cheaper price than the market price later.

Up until now I funded one project: a new start-up that made yoga mats out of recycled wetsuits (and I really loooove those mats).

The Yoga Wheel by now is a very well known yoga tool (thanks, Instagram). Even though I don’t believe you need any gadgets to practice yoga, I was curious what other yoga gadgets would be underway… So read on and indulge… (and maybe even back a project that you like ;-)

(I am in no way affiliated with any of these companies or with Kickstarter).

Grippz accupressure yoga mat

A yoga mat that provides extra grip and that gives your hands and feet a reflexology treatment while you practice.

Grippz acupressure yoga mat

Yoga by numbers yogamat

Maybe as a child you did painting by numbers. Now you can do yoga.

Yoga by numbers

 

SuperGreen Hemp yoga mat

A non-slip natural fiber mat for those who don’t like the toxic BPA mats.

SuperGreen hemp yoga mat

MYB Yogaboard

Want the practice of SUP yoga but without the water? Here’s your yoga board.

MYB yoga board

YoYo self-rolling yoga mats

The self rolling yoga mat (because rolling a yoga mat after your practice is just too much).

YoYo self rolling yoga mat

Yoga Train sequencing cards

A card deck with 33 asanas colour coded by standing, seated and supine postures, backbends and hip openers for when you are stuck in a rut teaching or in your home practice.

Yoga train yoga sequencing cards

Infinity yoga mats

An 8 shape yoga mat (that basically looks like a giant panty liner) but I am sure the natural rubber bottom and anti slip top make it a dream to practice on.

Infinity 8 shape yoga mat

 

Mini MatSnaps

When normal clothes pegs won’t do to keep your yoga towel in place.

Mini MatSnaps yoga gadgets

Now wasn’t this fun? ;-)

What are your favourite yoga gadgets?

,

Everything you need to know about chin mudra

Everything you need to know about chin mudra

We all know chin mudra. When you think about yoga one of the first pictures that comes to mind (I hope it’s not scorpion) is a person sitting in a crosslegged position, hands resting on their knees, thumbs and index fingers together. The hand gesture with the thumb and index finger touching is called ‘chin mudra’, pronounced ‘shin moodra’.

What is a mudra?

Literally, mudra comes from Sanskrit and is translated as ‘seal’, or ‘lock’. Best known are the hand gestures, but there are also head mudras, full body mudras, and eye mudras. Mudras have been used in every era and every culture. Some gestures we all know: crossing the fingers for luck, holding our hands up with palms facing the other person: you mean no harm, or making fists when we are angry. A mudra isn’t a religious thing per se but it has a meaning and power so they have been adopted by many religions. Mudras are often used in meditation (you are sitting anyway, so you might as well ;-)

Related: What is meditation?

How does a mudra work?

On our hands and feet we can distinguish reflex zones. Each zone corresponds with a certain body part or organ. Pressing into a certain area of the hands or feet will activate or unblock the corresponding part of your body. If there is tension or a blockage in one body part you will feel it in the corresponding reflex zone on your hands or feet. You might feel is as soreness, light throbbing or puffiness. It is subtle and it takes some practice, but you can learn how to feel it.

The palms of our hands, tips of the fingers, soles of the feet and tips of the toes have a lot of nerve endings. The nerves transport electric signals through the body which can be broken down to energy or (ultimately) prana, the life force. This energy radiates out of the hands and feet and is partly dissipated into the air. When you touch the thumb and index finger together to make chin mudra you create a circuit and the energy flows back into the body.
A mudra ‘short-circuits’ the energy back into the body. Putting pressure or creating a circuit on a certain reflex zone will send a message back to the brain. Each mudra does this in a different way, with a different effect. If you switch on the bathroom light, nothing is going to happen with the light in the kitchen, right…?

Chin mudra explained

The thumb symbolises the supreme or divine consciousness (‘brahman’), and the index finger symbolises the human consciousness (‘atman’). Uniting the two (‘yug’ or ‘yoga’ means unite) is bringing together the individual, human consciousness with the divine consciousness which is the goal of meditation: the much coveted but very elusive enlightenment. :)

Another view is that the thumb symbolises intuition and the index finger symbolises inspiration. Intuition comes from inside us, that gut feeling that we know so well (and all too often ignore because we don’t know where it comes from). Inspiration comes from outside us, almost like information descending down on us or the lightbulb moment. Joining the two – inspiration and intuition – creates awareness of the self and everything around you.

How to practice chin mudra?

Posture

Traditionally you sit in a crosslegged position (easy pose), half lotus (ardha padmasana) or lotus pose (padmasana). You are sitting up straight with a long neck and spine, the chest nice and open and shoulders back. This posture is the best for energy to flow through the body.

chin mudra crosslegged

Hand position for chin mudra

Bring the hands to the knees, palms facing up. Bring the thumb and index finger together. The other three fingers are extended. The hands should be relaxed and the thumb and index finger lightly resting against each other. You can touch either the very tip of the the fingers or rest the tip of your index finger where your nail is just below the tip of the thumb, where it will be easier to hold.

You can close your eyes or keep them slightly open. Observe your breath and maintain awareness on your hands.

chin mudra up close

Hold

You can hold the mudra for a couple of minutes to an hour or however long your meditation is. The longer you hold it, the more the ‘current’ will continue flowing.

You can practice chin mudra anywhere, anytime, in any position. You can practice chin mudra as part of your meditation, just after getting up or before going to bed.
Sometimes I am waiting for the bus or trying to focus on something and I notice that I am holding chin mudra with one hand. The most important is to bring awareness (mindfulness) into what you are doing.

When will you feel the effect of a mudra?

Aha. It all depends. It is very subtle, even more subtle than asana and pranayama, and you might not feel it right away. The funny thing about practicing meditation or mudra is that often people expect that they can do it right away, or can’t do it at all.

There are so few things that we humans master with just one try! The path in the grass is not made by just walking through the grass once. When exactly the path is created is always unclear, but one day you look and it is there. :)

Related: Sh*t you think about when you meditate

We learn through trial and error and while learning, some days will be great; other days it’s like you’ve taken 3 steps back. It is the same with mudras. The more you practice the more you become aware of changes in your mood or body. A lot depends on the mood you are in when you start practicing and whether you can concentrate or not. If you can find that sweet spot between making an effort and being totally relaxed, that’s where the magic happens.

 

If you want to read more on different mudras, try this book that I have: ‘Mudras. Yoga in your hands’ by Gertrud Hirsch.
[this is an affiliate link].

 

,

Try these autumn Vata balancing foods now!

autumn vata balancing foods

Autumn. It’s here already! The days are getting shorter and it’s getting colder on this side of that big orb that we live on. In ayurveda autumn is Vata season. Vata is one of the three doshas – or constitutions – that describe the human body.

Related: What is ayurveda?

The Vata dosha is ruled by the space + air elements. Vata is mobility, wind, cold, lightness, irregularity, dryness, roughness. Think about the mistral wind in France. If you have ever experienced it (or anything like it) you will know what I mean.

Vata aggravation

Like increases like

In Ayurveda ‘like increases like’: each dosha is increased in its corresponding season. In autumn it is easy for Vata to get aggravated or out of control. This can lead to a rise in complaints like stiffness, respiratory problems, hoarseness, hypertension, anxiety, insomnia and digestive problems in the lower GI tract (colon, bladder). You might also start to feel more restless, insecure, indecisive, getting impatient and worrying,… The Vata mind is pretty frantic!

Eating seasonally

Through our food we can counter some of the excess Vata effects that we experience in autumn. Ayurveda makes a lot of sense, following the laws of nature. Every season gives us the food that we need! It is best to eat foods that are in season, grown locally and ripened naturally.

And that’s because eating seasonal food (drumroll):

  • is better for your health, providing all the nutrients that you need in the current season
  • is more sustainable
  • supports the local economy
  • is cheaper!

Nowadays everything is available everywhere, anytime, and we are forgetting the basic knowledge about our food. Take this new season as an opportunity for a fresh start!

So now that autumn is here, how can we balance Vata with food?

Autumn vata balancing foods

Vata aggravating foods

Vata foods are bitter, astringent and pungent. These are the kind of foods that we want to avoid in autumn. An excess of bitter, astringent and pungent foods will lead to an increase in Vata. Examples of high Vata foods are: leafy greens and lettuces, cabbage, nightshades, legumes. This is because many of these produce wind in the body, and Vata is wind (air element) so we want to avoid eating too much of those…

Vata foods are bitter, astringent and pungent

When I say ‘avoid’ these foods – there is no need to completely eradicate these foods from your diet in autumn! We still need a little bit of each of the 6 tastes with every meal. We just change the proportions of every taste with every season.

Autumn Vata balancing foods

The foods that balance Vata are:

  • sweet, salty and sour (the taste or rasa),
  • moist, heavy, smooth (guna)
  • hot (virya or energy of the food) in nature.

To balance our Vata dosha we need to decrease the foods that are Vata producing and increase the foods that are Kapha and Pitta producing.

Here is a complete list of autumn foods to balance Vata, foods that are ok to eat occasionally, and foods to avoid to keep Vata balanced in the autumn season. To get the printable worksheet, sign up for my list! :)


 

 

Veggies

artichokes, beets, carrots, leeks, onion, pumpkin and squashes, zucchini, sweet potatoes, olives, watercress

Fruits

apricots, avocado, bananas, berries, cherries, citrus fruits (lemons, limes, tangerines, oranges, grapefruits), fresh figs, fresh dates, grapes, papaya, mango, plums, peaches, pineapple, melons

Grains

whole grain rice, basmati rice, oats, wheat

Beans and legumes

mung dal, cooked tofu

Nuts

preferably lightly roasted (DIY!), nut milk, nut butters: almond,brazil, hazelnut, flax/linseed, macadamia, pecan, pine, pistachio, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts

Dairy (always fresh and organic!)

butter, buttermilk, cottage cheese, ghee, yoghurt, kefir, raw cow’s milk

Oils

canola oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil

Herbs + spices

Basil, coriander, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme, bay leaves

Spices like anise, cumin, caraway, cardamom, chili pepper, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, dill, fennel, nutmeg, mustard seeds, poppy seeds, paprika powder, safron, turmeric, black pepper, vanilla

rock salt, sea salt

Other

mustard (fresh, organic, not the supermarket kind), seaweed, carob, vinegar

Eat occasionally in autumn

These are foods that are coming in or going out of season, or vata aggravating foods when eaten in excess.

Veggies

broccoli, cucumber, kale, lettuce, parsnips, radishes, spinach, sprouts, parsnips

Fruits

apples (ok when cooked with cinnamon), pears (ok when cooked), cranberries, pomegranate, quince

Grains

quinoa, barley, amaranth, couscous

Beans and legumes

lentils, aduki beans

Dairy

cheeses, goat’s milk, sour cream

Oils

coconut, mustard, olive, safflower, walnut oil

Herbs + spices

cayenne pepper, cilantro, garlic, fenugreek, horseradish, parsley

coconut milk and grated coconut, cashews, pumpkin seeds

Other

Sweeteners like cane sugar, fruit sugars, honey (raw), jaggery, maple sugar, molasses

Avoid these foods in autumn

Avoid these foods because they are not in season, or they are aggravating vata.

Veggies

bell peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, sweet corn, nightshades (eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes,…), raw onion, raw garlic, mushrooms, okra, peas, turnips

Fruits

prune (dried plum), persimmon, watermelon (eat on its own). (Fruits are generally vata pacifying)

Grains

buckwheat, corn, millet, rye

Beans and legumes

black-eyed peas, black gram, chickpeas, fava/broad beans, flat beans, lentils, kidney/navy/pinto beans, split peas, soy beans, peanuts (they are wind producing, wind = Vata)

Dairy

all non- organic dairy products, ice cream

Oils

animal fats, corn oil, mixed vegetable oil

Other

white sugar, brown sugar, coffee, carbonated drinks, highly processed foods

 

Try it! What is your experience eating this way? :)

 

Read more:

Bad food combinations according to ayurveda

The ideal way to start your day: upgrade your morning routine the ayurvedic way

 

We all have a body type or body constitution, consisting of a dosha or combination of doshas. When the doshas are in balance, we are in optimal health. Our age, the time of the day, the seasons, our activities and what we eat all impact the balance of the doshas. To start learning more about the doshas, sign up for the email list and receive the dosha workbook fo’ free!

 

9 signs you need to do yoga TODAY!

9 signs you need to practice yoga today(1)

9 signs you need to do yoga TODAY! Are you trying to find an excuse not to practice yoga? Or never done yoga before and wondering if it’s for you? Check with yourself if you are showing any of these symptoms…

Related: How to really practice yoga

your breath is shallow

Is your breathing irregular? Are you often breathing through your mouth? Is your breathing superficial (only breathing into the upper part of your lungs)? These breathing patterns are a sign of stress. Release some of that stress and let your nervous system relax by doing some yoga asanas. And yoga helps with congestion too!

you have bad posture

How are you sitting right now? Reading this on your mobile, head and neck hunched forward? Or slouched in the sofa? Pay attention to your posture to avoid back and neck problems. In a yoga class you will learn about correct posture and alignment. Over time you might even gain a couple of centimeters in length!

you’re feeling restless

You are busy all day taking care of your work, house, relationships, life. And when you are finally sitting down, after one minute you jump up to start the next thing you absolutely have to do. No, my friend.
In one week time, will you remember what you did? Will it have any lasting impact? Then do yoga today! Even 10 minutes of yoga will make you more relaxed and bring clarity to your mind. And even better: more relaxation is better sleep too.

you’re easily distracted

Are you easily distracted? Can’t focus on one thing? – Hey, I saw you there just checking FB/whatsapp/instagram!! ;-) Trying to multitask reduces our productivity and creates chaos in our minds. Try to do a balancing pose while you think of your next dinner. Yep, you will fall out of it. Yoga helps with focus and concentration. During yoga, there is nothing else to think about than your practice.

muscle weakness

If you are not really the gym type but want to gain strength, yoga is for you, my friend. You work with your body weight, pushing up, balancing. Try a few sun salutations and tell me you don’t feel your arms + legs tomorrow. (and if you aren’t, you might not be doing it right). You might even lose a few kgs if you keep practicing yoga regularly!

your body feels stiff

As a teacher, I hear it often: “I’m not very good at yoga”, or: “I’m not very flexible, so I can’t do yoga”. It makes me a little sad. We don’t have to be perfect. Did you learn how to talk in just one day? We learn by doing, repeating, practicing. So whenever you do yoga, you will gain flexibility. Every day a little bit more. Maybe you can’t touch your toes now, but in 6 months you might. Your joints will benefit from the movement too, and you will increase your range of motion in your hips, neck, shoulders,…

body awareness

How does your body feel today? Is that better or worse than yesterday? What’s bothering you? Yoga teaches you to become aware of your body. To learn your limits, to practice safely. And to become more accepting of your body, too. No one is perfect. Some people can do the splits naturally, without even warming up (you know who you are), others have great balance or strength. That’s why comparing yourself with others is useless. There is no competition in yoga. It’s about you, your inner work, your practice, your energy.

you don’t feel like practicing yoga today

If you don’t feel like it, because you’re tired, sore, angry, emotional or any other reason you might come up with… you need to practice yoga today. You will feel so much better afterwards, both on physical and mental level. Yoga can be cathartic, releasing emotions that we’ve held hidden deep inside. So practice, and allow, even – especially – when you don’t feel like it today.

you need to meditate… but you can’t (yet).

Yoga teaches your body to meditate. The strength and flexibility you gain will help you stay in your meditation posture without too much discomfort. You can apply the concentration and focus you learn while holding a posture during your meditation practice, and in your daily life. Yoga is a meditation through movement, uniting the breath and the posture, until you reach a state of flow, of just being…

Are you ready to practice yoga? :-)

,

Bad food combinations: are you eating the wrong things together?

810x450 bad food combinations(1)

Have we been doing it wrong? Food should give us energy. That feeling we sometimes get after lunch, and we just want to take a nap? The heaviness in our stomach, or a bad aftertaste. Acid reflux. You might have been eating wrong food combinations… Are you guilty of eating these bad combos?

Bad food combinations affect your digestion and can cause indigestion, fermentation, gas and putrefaction. When our digestion is affected, the digestion will produce more toxins (ama) in your body. Over time, with prolonged exposure to improperly digested foods and ama, disease will start to take hold in your body.

With some of these food combinations it may make sense why they are bad, and you might even have some previous memorable experience with them… Others are so generally accepted and applied it is hard to believe that they are bad for us.

In this post we’re exploring the ayurvedic recommendations for food combinations, some things we all do wrong (those fond of their cheese toasties hold tight), and some solutions to common food combination mistakes.

Related: What is ayurveda?

Bad food combinations

Here we go. For good health and digestion, ayurveda recommends not to combine the following foods.

Dairy and animal foods (especially fish)

Fish and a butter or cream sauce is a big no-no. This would also mean a combination of eggs and milk, but also bolognese sauce with cheese, goat’s cheese and bacon salad,… I can hear you sigh, oh yes I can hear you. Next time you eat any of these, try and become really aware of the effects after you’ve eaten. Maybe next time choose one or the other.

Dairy and salt or salted foods

Cheese would be in this category… But surely it’s no surprise that cheese is bad. It’s so good! It appeals to us because of its high fat + salt content, but really, that’s all it is. Try to eat it on its own so it doesn’t interact badly with other foods. Btw, if rennet is used in the production of your cheese (I will let you google that), it is not vegetarian.

Dairy and fruits

Don’t worry, those fruit yoghurts from the supermarket don’t have any actual fruit in them (but avoid them anyway for being highly processed and unhealthy). Strawberries and cream? Nope. Milk or cream based fruit ice cream… (are you crying?)
Banana and milk is the worst combination, but you can use a plant based milk for your smoothie, especially if you are adding other fruits.

Fruits and any other foods

Fruit after a meal is not a good idea. It causes the other foods in your G-I tract to ferment (= gas producing). The worst combo, and many peoples’ favourite breakfast: cereal with fruit and yoghurt. Try to eat your fruits or juice first, and wait a while (at least 2 hours) before you eat your cereal. This way, you get to have 2 breakfasts. Awesome.

Hot and cold foods together

Mixing hot and cold foods, like a hot dish and then ice cream as dessert, or yoghurt and a cup of coffee for breakfast. Also do not drink ice cold water during your meal, as it will extinguish the digestive fire (agni). While the sensation of hot + cold in your mouth may be pleasant, your stomach will probably not agree. Are you imagining it sitting in your stomach?

Honey

And last, but not least, honey. Yes, I love you too but I wanted to talk about honey. Honey should not be heated. Never ever. So honey in tea = bad news. Something to do with the wax in the honey that melts and transforms into a toxin. We only need one teaspoon of sugar/honey a day anyway, so for sure you don’t need it in your tea.

Next I’ll explain why these foods are incompatible, and I’ll give you some examples.

 

 

But why?

In ayurveda, every food is classified according to its energies. These are the qualities to describe each food:

  • taste (rasa)
  • heating or cooling effect (virya)
  • effect after digestion (vipaka)
  • special properties (prabhava)

There are three stages in the digestion of food. The first is taste, or rasa. The second stage is virya, or the heating or cooling effect. The third stage is after digestion, or vipaka.

Taste (rasa)

We are very familiar with the taste, or rasa, of food. As we put food into our mouth, it mixes with saliva and we perceive its tastes on our tongue. Ayurveda recognises 6 tastes: sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent. Most foods have one dominant taste, although every food has a little bit of the 5 other tastes as well, in differing quantities. If something is said to be sweet, that doesn’t mean it can not also be bitter, but as a less strong taste. When we talk about rasa, we talk about the dominant taste of a food.

Heating or cooling effect (virya)

Each taste has an associated energy, and the effect of a food in the body can be cooling or heating. Pungent, sour and salty foods have a heating potency, and sweet, bitter and astringent foods have a cooling potency. This effect is not the difference between warm and cold food – some foods eaten cold or raw have heating properties. It is the response of the body upon ingestion of the food.

Some heating foods are: peppers, radish, onions, mushrooms, garlic, eggplant, watercress

Some cooling foods are: broccoli, cucumber, potatoes, spinach

(for an exhaustive list, consult an ayurvedic encyclopedia like this one that I have).

The effect after digestion (vipaka)

When a food goes through the G-I tract, it is subject to many processes. These metabolic processes may change the effect of the taste of a food; the aftertaste will be different. In the end, three tastes remain: sweet, pungent and sour.

Special properties (prabhava)

Some foods have an effect that is unexpected, that can’t be described according to its other properties. They are exceptions to the rule. For instance, a food or herb that is heating in nature, but when ingested lowers fever, is basil. Other foods classified as prabhava are: bananas, lemon, honey and onions. They all have special qualities.

When we look at foods in this way, we can start to understand why certain combinations are bad for us. Opposing qualities cause the digestive fire (agni) to distinguish. Foods are improperly digested, stay too long in the intestines and disturb the fragile balance.

Our bodies also become accustomed at repeated bad food combinations, so we might not sense discomfort anymore at eating a bad food combo, but a lot of waste and toxins are produced during the digestive process, and the effect will come over time (you know it will…).

 

Examples of bad food combinations

Let’s look at some examples.

Meat is heating (and essentially inflammatory) in nature, and dairy cooling. You would think that they balance each other, but they use different digestion processes, so they are not compatible. Meat especially causes putrefaction in your intestines (eat a few days vegetarian and smell the difference in the little room).

Salt is hot in nature, so mixed with dairy to make cheese combines two energies (virya) in one food. And then when you combine cheese with beans, or with pasta, you are just adding up more incompatible foods.

Bananas and milk. A dream food combo. Bananas and milk are both sweet in taste (rasa),  but there’s a problem in the energies (virya) and the aftertaste (vipaka). Milk is cooling, bananas are heating. Bananas and milk are both sweet in taste, but they have a different aftertaste: banana becomes sour while milk remains sweet.

Everybody is affected differently by bad food combos

Some people have strong digestion (agni) by nature, others don’t, so some combinations will not harm a person as much as the other. Not instantly, anyway. Even making one change at a time might make a big difference. By combining our food properly, we are helping our digestion, our body will be better nourished, and in the long term, we see the difference in our skin, our body and our mind.

What are the bad food combinations you want to try to give up? :)

 

How to really practice yoga

How to really practice yoga - 9 yoga tips for every yogi

Whether you are a seasoned yogi or just starting out, here are some yoga tips that may help you in your practice.

When you are just starting out with yoga, there is a lot to wrap your head around. It’s all happening at the same time! The poses, the vocabulary, the breath.

Read more about the yoga vocabulary.

And always when you think you have something figured out, a teacher tells you something different or to do something differently. Even now that I am a yoga teacher, I still feel there is so much to learn, and my own practice is changing every day. Here are some yoga tips from my own experience that I hope will be of benefit to your practice!

9 yoga tips to benefit your practice

 

Don’t be afraid to ask

If it’s one of your first classes, talk to the teacher before the class starts. He/she will give you some extra explanation about how a yoga class is typically structured, so you can feel comfortable and safe. If you have questions about poses during the class, notify the teacher. Others may be having the same question, so don’t be afraid to ask.

 

Beginners’ spot

If you are a beginner, find yourself a spot on the first row. I know it sounds freakin’ crazy to many of you, but think about it! Being in the front row allows you to watch the teacher closely, and to signal for help if you need it. And don’t worry, no one is watching you. Everyone is busy with their own practice.

What it looks like

Every posture is an expression of your body. You may have long legs, or a long torso, or both. You may be hypermobile, or have extremely tight hips from sitting all day. You may have cracking joints, a sore knee, or bad balance. Everybody – every body – is different. So your forward fold may look different than the teacher’s or your neighbour’s, but all that matters is that you feel something in your body when you practice. What it looks like – forget about it. Whether you can go further than somebody else or not – forget about it. There should be no competition in yoga. Not with others, not with yourself.

Every body is different. There should be no competition in yoga

Mix it up

Try different style classes. You may like one style now, but it’s good to mix things up. In a slow moving class you will probably learn more about alignment and meditation, while in a fast moving class like vinyasa or ashtanga you will learn to flow with the breath.

There was a student in my class the other day who only ever practiced ashtanga. I don’t teach ashtanga. There was a whole world of expectation there that I could not fulfill. Believe me, there is a lesson in everything. I have learned something from every yoga teacher I have ever had, even – especially – when I hated his/her class. And when I am being really honest, most of the times when I hated a class, it was because I wasn’t feeling great about myself and the confrontation was just too much. Talk about projecting. #selfinsight

 

Different times

Try and practice at different times of the day. Early morning is recommended, but if that doesn’t suit your schedule, try a class at lunchtime, or straight after work, or just before bed (skip the strenuous class late in the evening though or you won’t sleep). In the early morning we have less distractions, and are more able to focus on our body and mind (yes, I am half asleep at that time too, but it feels so damn good to start the day with yoga practice). Your morning body is different from your afternoon body. Practicing at different times of the day creates more awareness of how your body feels at those times. More awareness = safer practice.

 

Pain = no gain

I hurt myself so, so many times in my early practice, only because of my ego. Wanting to keep up with others, not wanting to admit defeat to myself. (I started out with ashtanga – but seriously, those first 10.000 down dogs HURT.)

It is never worth it. You may tear a muscle (I did) – and I even thought it was cool! (SO not yoga). You can even cause long term damage. If you continue to practice just to the point where you are slightly uncomfortable to maintain your pose, you will “get there” eventually.

‘Advanced’ yoga

Actually, about “getting there”… What does that mean? Yoga teaches your body to meditate. All the asanas are designed so over time your body becomes strong and flexible, so you can stay in a meditation pose more comfortably. In yoga you learn to focus, have patience, kindness. All these things support meditation.

Yoga teaches your body to meditate

Whether you can do a headstand or twist yourself in a pretzel: nobody cares… It doesn’t matter. If your mind and heart is not in your practice, you might as well go to a zumba class. Hey, nothing against zumba, I think zumba is a lot of fun! It’s just something totally different. It took me a while to realise this (and I heard it many many times before it stuck with me), but ego really has no place in yoga. Yes, you will get strong and flexible and able to stand on your head, but that should not be the goal of your practice.

 

Rest

Honour your body. If you are tired, don’t practice, or practice restorative yoga. Tiredness is your body’s way of saying that it needs rest. Get some more sleep. Skip that Netflix-athon that you were planning. It really is ok, and you will feel much stronger the next day.

 

Meditation

Not everyone is ready for meditation. 10 years ago I would have run screaming out of an hour long meditation class. Last year I completed a 10 day silent meditation retreat. That’s why yoga is called a practice, a process.

The next time you find yourself longer in down dog than you want, remind yourself to close your eyes, relax your face and breathe through it. Not because you want to show yourself that you can, but because you realise that the greatest suffering is in your mind. If you can do that, you are already a long way on the path of the true yogi.

 

,

These simple breathing exercises will help you relax

Simple breathing exercises to help you relax

When we are stressed, we forget how to breathe. Our breathing becomes irregular, shallow and fast. And while historically and naturally this kind of breathing has its function, too often we get stuck there. Our nervous system can’t relax and adrenaline levels remain high over a long period of time. Being constantly in a ‘fight or flight’ mode causes sleep problems and in the long term adrenal fatigue, which has been linked to chronic fatigue syndrome and an affected immune system.

Most of the time breathing is an unconscious process. We can forget how to breathe, but we wouldn’t forget to breathe! When we take control of the breath, we are linking the conscious with the unconscious, not only influencing our heart rates, blood pressure and hormone levels, but also our unconscious mind. A calm breath allows for our mind to get calm. A frazzled mind follows an irregular breath.

No matter how your day is going, you can always make 5 minutes time to breathe!
Here are a few simple breathing exercises to help you relax (and ultimately sleep better too).

1-1 and 1-2 breathing

Step 1:

Sit on a chair or on a pillow in cross-legged position. Keep your neck and spine long and straight. Your hands are resting on your knees. You can assume chin mudra if you want (thumb and index finger touching). Start with observing the breath as it is, allow the breath to flow freely. Your belly is relaxed.

Step 2:

After a while, take control of your breath. Inhale 5 counts and exhale 5 counts. If you are struggling, you can make the inhalation and exhalation shorter, as long as the inhale and exhale are the same length (3-3 or 4-4). If you are struggling, this will not be a relaxing exercise and you will not get the benefits that you should. So let go of any notions of performance, and focus on breathing comfortably.

Step 3:

When you are comfortable with 1-1 breath, you can start with extending the exhalation and practice 1-2 breath. Inhale for 5 counts and exhale for 10 counts. Again, if you have to push yourself, shorten the breaths (3-6 or 4-8) or return to 1-1 breathing.

Step 4:

After a few minutes, return to natural breathing. Become aware of the changes in your breathing and body. Finish the exercise.

Alternatives:

  • It is totally fine to do only step 1 for a few minutes. You will already feel the effects if you just start breathing consciously for a while.
  • You can also do step 1, then step 3 and 4.

1-4-2 breathing

Step 1:

Sit on a chair or on a pillow in cross-legged position. Keep your neck and spine long and straight. Start with observing the breath as it is, allow the breath to flow freely. Your belly is relaxed.

Step 2:

Inhale for 1 count. Hold your breath with your lungs full for 4 counts. Exhale slowly and gently for 2 counts. If you struggle, make the counts a little bit quicker but still as slow as you can without struggling, or practice 1-2 breath for now.

Step 3:

After a few minutes, return to natural breathing. Become aware of the changes in your breathing and body. Finish the exercise.

These types of breathing exercises are called ‘pranayama’ exercises. The exercises explained above are deeply relaxing. You can do them any time of the day, but they are especially beneficial in the morning just after waking up or just before bedtime.
If you also practice yoga or meditation, the order should be: 1) yoga 2) pranayama 3) meditation.

Related:

What is meditation and why is it good for you?

Sh*t you think about when you meditate