Natural Healing for Allergies

pexels-photo-207962.jpegAllergies in Austin, Texas are renowned.  No matter where you live, allergies can make you feel like your head is huge, your nose is concrete filled and the pressure is on. Here are a few natural survival tools I’ve used for myself that I’ve shared with my family and clients that help relieve my symptoms and get me back to a happy head:)

These are holistic tools that I use for myself and you should consult your doctor to clarify your individual parameters.

Natural Allergy Relief Chest Salve – 1/4 cup cocoanut oil, 1 TBLS local bees wax, 1/8 cup Shea butter, 4 TBLS Olive oil, 10 drops each Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Purify blend and Breathe blend essential oils.    Place 1/2 teaspoon of salve on your chest (think Healthy Vick’s) and cover with a towel-wrapped hot water bottle.  Do this once or twice a day for about 10 minutes and especially before bed. Optional Yoga to open the chest: Bend elbows and knees, with elbows pressing on the bed, squeeze shoulder blades slowly together and then release them. Repeat 5-10 times to “trick” your upper back muscles into relaxing.  It’s extra soothing to have someone rub salve on your upper back as well before you lie down – just make sure you lie on an old towel or T-shirt so the salve doesn’t make a mess.  This salve (and the Yoga “trick”) work great during colds and flu as well👍🏽

Reset the Core Belly Breaths – This can be done lying down (ideal) or sitting or standing.  Inhale deeply through your nose, lifting just the navel away from the spine (not lifting the shoulders up), then at the end of your inhale, sniff 3/4 times while lifting JUST the navel….. then exhale out of your mouth gently through rounded lips, and at the end of the exhale blow out 3/4 times using JUST the navel area (try to keep your back relaxed).  Do 5-10 rounds.  Try to isolate the breathing so that you involve only the area between your ribs and hips.  BE PATIENT AS THIS TAKES A FEW ROUNDS TO GET YOUR BELLY TO ISOLATE AND YOUR NECK AND BACK TO STOP “HELPING”.  This breathing exercise helps to reset a stuck diaphragm (your main breathing muscle), which is often tight and shut down due to stress, stuffy breathing and tight chest muscles.  Diaphragm Breathing cleanse the sinuses and tames chest stuffiness.  Note: the RESET THE CORE BELLY BREATH is awesome for reducing anxiety as well, and can be done discreetly anytime.

I take 1-2 Digestive Enzymes (fave brand = “Digest Gold”) during allergy spikes.  I use these in between meals to help eliminate undigested protein in the form of mucous (I know; YUCK!)  I like to wait 15 minutes after taking these and then do a Yoga pose called Apanasana: Lie on your back and gently pull the knees into your chest (on an exhale) and then rock them back out (on an inhale). Repeat 10 times.  This pose provides me great Allergy “gunk” relief and moves my belly along when it is sluggish.  If your head feels like it will explode if you try to lay down do this pose seated; one leg at a time.  

Acu Yoga for the Head and Heart – 1) Tap the center of your sternum with your pinkie finger side of your hand; thump the sternum gently while breathing slowly. 2) rub your fingers up and down on the very center of your breastbone.  This point (CV 17 – “Sea of Tranquility”) may be tender; so go easy.  Allow your neck, shoulders and face to relax.  3) Press the pointer fingers on either side of your nose as you lean your head gently into the pressure and breathe slowly in and out while rolling your neck and head very slowly up and down.    Those allergies can do a number on the upper body and cause a lot of tension so use this Acu Yoga to open your sinuses and relax your body.  Bonus when done in a hot steamy shower!!

Onion Syrup – Cut 1 Red onion into slices and soak in 3 TBLS Raw Local Honey overnight.  In the morning and before bed, mix 1 teaspoon of the “onion syrup” with 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and you’ll have a tasty alkalinizing allergy away drink. While you are drinking this “syrup” tense and relax your feet – especially your toes to stimulate the sinus reflexology points on your feet.  I try to do 10-20 tense and relax rounds – sometimes with my foot on a tennis or small ball.  Additional Acu Yoga for your feet: pick up one foot at a time (standing would look like a hands on Tree pose – if you’re seated cross your ankle over the opposite knee). Squeeze and massage each toe tip, then do the other foot.  This feels good all over, helps open the sinuses, and your head may feel a little less huge!

Hope these tools help you to be well and breathe deep.  We can only take care of ourselves as we try to make friends with all those wicked pollens and spores!pexels-photo-321576.jpeg

 

IMMUNE BROTH TIME!

It is that time!  Winter has set in, and it is a perfect time to be drinking broth and doing cozy yoga:)  Tonight in my Mindfulness Yoga class I will be teaching deep abdominal breathing and Restorative poses that bring circulation to the deep core.   Personally I benefit from this kind of practice (even when I’m not remodeling) as it slows my mind and keeps my nervous and immune systems in balance.

Here is my Immune Broth recipe that I’ve developed over time for myself, my family and friends and clients.  It works!  Enjoy the warmth:)

 

Rededicated and inspired to the core!

It seems to happen every year about this time.  Around our family’s biggest birthday month, the calendar fills to overflowing albeit all with good things.  The end of the school year is fast approaching and the season is changing from spring to summer.  That means three things: busy, change and heat.  Not an easy combination.maraba hoop

One of my clients has asked me to write about being a beginner in yoga (I’ll post more on that later) and this is one of the reasons I recommend yoga: it is a great tool to deal with life’s inevitable swings.  Yoga helps keep me grounded during wacky times and when practiced from a breath and core focus, leaves me feeling strong in my center and more empowered to take on challenges without taking on too much (super easy to do).  That doesn’t mean I don’t feel the stress or that I am “above it all” or that I’m cured.  It  just means that this self-care tool works for me if I practice regularly.

As the kids schedule starts to blow up, my private teaching practice (and my husband’s work) are filled and flowing, and I begin to have to really choose to recommit to my disciplines of self-care.  I’ve learned that I need to take time to pray, belly breathe, clean out, get more organized and stay flexible – especially about last minute teacher gift plans, summer camps….and belly breathe some more.  Getting ready for a big transition like having a child graduate, marking the loss of a loved one, or just preparing for summer’s juggling act is enough to make this yoga teacher need her own yoga big time!  No surprise that during this time of outward focus, I start to feel a bit uninspired when it comes to my own yoga practice and I begin to need a recharge.

Rededication to my own personal yoga came last night in the form of a friend’s awesome Hoop Dance Birthday party.  The class was fun and hilarious with lots of laughter yoga as we tried to lift ourselves onto hanging hoops, balance and do poses like “amazon”.  Most importantly, the Hoop movements woke up core muscles and deep belly breath; two of the aspects of my yoga practice that leave me feeling the most energized, inspired and rejuvenated (yay!).  I’m not sure if I’ll be hanging a hoop in my yoga therapy office right away but I definitely felt more motivated to roll out my mat this morning (bigger yahoo!).

One of my fave teachers, Sadie Nardini calls the deep breathing into the core “belly bonfire breath” as this type of breathing wakes up the deep core muscles and tones and reinvigorates the organs – good way to move out what we don’t need and reduce the baggage of stress.  Belly breathing warms you on the inside and keeps you feeling cooler in general.  A student of mine claims that her elimination has never been better.  That is healing transformation from the inside out!  Hanging off a dangling hoop, I couldn’t help but relax as I focused on form and breath and the smiles and giggles coming from me and all the gals beside me.

It was a strong combination of two of the strongest healers I know: community and yoga:)  I am so grateful and can’t wait to try it again.  Pics to come.  Hope this post inspires you to rededicate to your practice and your belly breathing!  Have fun today and find a way to recharge with your favorite tune-in tool!

These are the yogis in my neighborhood!

kids lyingKeeping it local and organic is what Austin is all about, right?  After much searching for a place to teach very close to home where my students and I could feel inspired and supported, I found a buddhist/yoga studio a few blocks away right here in our very own Zilker.  Yay!  One of my students/Zilker mom friends requested that “it HAS to be walking distance from the school, so I can drop my kid off and come take your class…or take your class and easily walk over to pick up.”  Because I have an on-going private practice as well, I needed to be available to my standing clients and avoid driving out of the area.   I’ve taught the first class of the 8 week series and loved seeing the Zilker parents from my neighborhood looking up at me during Apanasana (vital air pose).  That’s what we ALL need to do during this SOLA construction; Keep Breathing More Vital Air!  I’m so grateful for the support and encouragement of my neighbors, students, friends and family.  My goal is to stay out of my car and on the yoga mat, to share my gift of teaching and love with others, and to do it all right here in my neighborhood.   We can’t all work from home but what would it look like if we could develop South Lamar so that we stayed closer to home for many if not all of our life needs?  What more could we discover about our neighbors if we kept it all local?  Looking at the sweet faces in class on Tuesday, I thought, “These are the Yogis in my neighborhood!” (cue Mr. Rogers theme).  I think it’s a good place to start.

Flu Shots? Make Soup!!

Holistic health has been my interest, academic pursuit and lifestyle of choice since my first year of college.  After experiencing some tough life lessons (such as ‘no, kraft mac and cheese really isn’t the best food to eat on a daily basis’).   I went to California and became one of “those” Yoga studying, Deep Breathing, Juice drinking types.  Very fortunately, I was able to study with some fabulous wise and learned teachers in San Francisco; primarily Donna Farhi – my first Yoga teacher, whose exacting and dynamic style that emphasized the inner body and inner inquiry still informs my teaching and practice of asana and movement today.  I was also able to take incredible Holistic Health courses at SFSU in my undergrad, including Qi Gong, Meditation techniques, and Wellness in Aging from professors who were professionals in their fields and based their work on solid research and science.  These courses, along with the Physical Therapy coursework in my program, helped shape my approach to health and well-being as an integrative, body-based approach.  Body, Mind and Spirit being interconnected was a concept that made sense to me but I certainly had a mostly academic understanding of this idea. I practiced A LOT of yoga but didn’t have a very balanced diet or lifestyle.  I did learn the Pilates Method from the incredible Madeline Black, who emphasized that Joe Pilates developed his exercise regime to heal his lungs and improve his immune system.  My fascia and core were in great shape but my periods were a wreck!  Back then, I knew that belly breathing and core strength could keep me healthy and I knew that certain foods worked better than others for me but I was like a collector of information that needed “digesting”.  My life was forever changed when I experienced the cooking of Simran Kaur, a chef, meditator and one of the most amazing women I have ever met.  She was a foodie before foodies were cool.  She took Macrobiotics and made it fun – and easy!  Simran showed me how my emotions, hormonal and immune system (among many other benefits) could be strengthened by eating “con gusto”; with pleasure and enjoyment; with less rules, more savoring and definitely more joy.  It revolutionized my approach to eating for health. But…. I was still eating waaaaay too much fruit and raw salad and wondering why I was always cold and low energy when I met my husband who cooked for me on our second date.   The meal was so sumptuous and yet simple; steamed chicken and steamed vegetables.  I felt like Sheena after that meal – for many reasons:)  My training in Oriental Medicine only reinforced this idea that the warmer and happier you are on the inside, the stronger your defenses are on the outside.  One of the most amazing teachers I have ever had was my Eastern Nutritional Energetics teacher, Dr. Lisa Wilson, who managed to help us learn about how to implement an individualized Holistic diet for healing while keeping a sense of humor and unconditional acceptance towards ourselves and the patients with whom we work.  Eating fresh, in season, whole foods in accordance with your individual constitution is ONE key to wellness.  Being rigid is not.  When I first began to work on my relationship with food, I experienced how much my diet affected EVERYTHING.  It was easy to become very detail oriented (“crazy!”).  Eventually, life changes, choices, foods, and moods, together with the passing seasons, tidal daily energies, and the needs of  the young souls around me necessitated that I get back to basics, get organized and plan!   Although there is no “right” way to eat, having a meal plan and good recipe ideas that inspire and appeal to me and my family makes the cooking and eating process a whole lot easier.  Less scrambling and More Yoga!  I find great food blogs and books and share ideas with other like minded folks around me; which is part of what food is meant to do; bring folks together.  Being an “airy” sort of constitution, I do best with warm, protein rich meals.  Eating soups and stews seems to keep the bugs away, keeps me grounded, and is a great way to show those around me that I care.   I have had many soup mentors along the way.  I once learned how to make a wonderful Miso soup from my rocker girl roommate who cooked a giant batch whenever any of us got a cold.  Thank you, Leslie for the original probiotic soup!  My acupuncturist Lifang Liang, in San Francisco, always said; “cook soup now!… and you won’t need makeup” and after cooking enough soup, my whole hormonal system normalized; much better than blush and mascara, believe me.  Dr. Lisa showed me how to make bone broth to stave off flu and weakness and as a way to make other foods more nutrient rich and I share this technique with all my friends and clients.  So many people are asking, “Should I get a Flu shot?!”   That is individual choice, but either way, I say,  “Cook Soup Now!”.  And come to Yoga class!  I am offering some great new group classes in a wonderful Zilker Zen healing arts studio so please check my schedule out on the Classes page.  Stay well, and enjoy.

Intro to Yoga

If you are a seasoned Yogi, Down Dog is something you’ve done quite often.  If you are new to Yoga, or even if you’ve done a million Dog Poses, you might be asking, “What does a Downward Dog do anyway?”.  “What am I supposed to feel, and do to get it “right”?”.  Adho Mukha Svanasana, or Downward Facing Dog Pose is technically a forward bend (but a very active and slightly upside down one) and is meant to create head to tail lengthening (called “axial extension” in the anatomy world).  As my teacher put it, “the softer your joints, the lighter you’ll feel”, and in this pose it is especially true that slightly bending the knees and elbows can free you up to relax more into the pose.  This is a hard pose!  A great way to enter into this doggy experience is not on the mat but while you are in the kitchen (believe it or not).  Try reaching your arms out in front of you first and draw the arm bones into your shoulder sockets and feel the “armpit” muscles” engage.  Then place hands on the counter and lengthen back into a table top position with your spine; with feet under hips and soft knees; inner thighs toned up.  It is a challenge to let go of the shoulder muscles – even at the best of times.  Try releasing your neck and shoulders when all your weight is balanced between arms and hips.  When you do Down Dog on the mat, you bend over, place your hands and feet about 4 feet away from each other, and lift your hips up and back (as in “wag the tail”).  It feels really good to let the head snake out of the shoulders like a turtle out of it’s shell.  Your shoulder blades draw up onto your ribs when your engage your “serape” muscles; the muscles that wrap around you from your sides and “tie” into your belly.  Try keeping the elbows (and knees) soft, slightly bent as I mentioned; it makes it easier to play with the shoulder blades and get them to lift off the neck.  There’s a tendency in this pose to lock out and try too hard.  Put your effort into pressing the front arch of the hands and all 5 fingers firmly into the mat and deepen the breath into the ribs.  When you exhale, imagine a gurney around your center pulling you up and let your belly be the force that “suspends” your weight.  As you inhale, expand the ribs (and low belly) and open the waist.  Your exhale can “squeeze” the ribs and engage your core from all sides.  Yes, this will tone you up!  Yes, this pose stretches the hamstrings.  Yes, it is a good pose for energizing and waking up your energy.  It is also a great detox pose.  But use caution if you have any shoulder, wrist, neck, heart, eye, sinus or headache conditions as this is an inverted pose.  Check in with a trained teacher.  Check in with your inner teacher.  You have one!  Always keep checking in with your breath; is it getting too rapid or restrained?  Slow the breath down and exhale through your mouth to cool off and “chill out” a bit.  Feel free to to come down and rest with hips over heels and chest over thighs or on “all fours” as you need to re-group occasionally in this pose.  What if your “Dog” did yoga?  What Would Your Dog Do?  Doggies naturally shake!  Shake out tension and swivel side to side.  Keeping your Down Dog Pose fluid will not only release joint, muscle and nerve tension, it will also maximize detoxification, lymphatic return, fascial release, and enjoyment!  This will enable you to find that “happy place” in your pose.  The sweet spot in your Adho Mukha Svanasana is when you can take an easy breath (or a few) and lengthen from head to tail, even while you stay playful. How “should” you Do Yoga?  Sniff….Breathe…Streeeetch…..then Rest A LOT.

Yoga Soup in the Making

Tonight I’m making stock overnight so that in the morning I can cook up one of my favorite Yoga Soups in the crock pot while I go off to teach; Moroccan Lentil Stew.  Here’s what goes in: red lentils, red onion, sweet potato, lemon, cilantro, and digestive spices like garlic, ginger, coriander, cinnamon and clove. This Soup is so nurturing and soothing it should be called Restorative Yoga Soup!  I love soup because it loves me.  It is easy to digest, easy to cook, easy to individualize; add a garnish, serve only the broth, mix with a whole grain; the possibilities are endless, just like Yoga.  Perfect for this Fall season, and really easy to make.  My youngster loves to slurp this one!  I will attach a recipe very soon!  Now it’s off to bed for a nice reclined Goddess pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) to unwind this cooks legs.  While I put my dogs together, and let my knees gently open, the Yoga magic unfolds at the same time as the veggies in the stock cooking down in the kitchen release their delicious flavors.  Check back for more on Moroccan Red Lentil Yoga Soup and Evening Goddess Pose!