aryuveda, essential oils, transcendental meditation, Uncategorized, wellness

Re-Entry

Native plants

I wrote about my idyllic time at the Raj at the beginning of last month, for which I am extremely grateful. Now it is time for my blog to catch up to real life… I learned all of these great techniques and now I am trying to implement them in my own crazy, hectic life. No one is cooking for me, making my bed, massaging oils on me, checking on my meditations. (Well, Amy kindly calls to check on me, and it is great having my mom to check-in with regarding all of this too.) But you get my point–life post-Raj is much more scattered, frenzied, and un-Zen.

In the end, I decided I was trying to implement too many life-changes at once. Yes, ideally, I would be waking at 6am for tongue scraping, oil pulling, nasya, garshan, abhyanga, shower, sun salutations, pranayam, and meditation. All before I prepare and eat my barley flakes with fresh fruit and tea. But somehow, this was not happening… So I modified it to garshan/abhyanga/shower every other day with salutations… Which has somehow turned into hey-I-brushed-my-teeth and have-taken-a-shower-in-the-last-three-days I’m good to go!

I want to get back on track though. I need to get “back on track”. Each of the self-care steps I outlined (along with daily NingXia Red, essential oils, a second meditation, and clean eating) make me feel better. Who doesn’t want to feel better?! So the battle of the old, entrenched habits against the new, healthier habits wages on. Sugar & Screen Time are currently in the lead; but I have hope that Meditation, Aryuveda, & Essential Oils will still come out triumphant in the end.

 

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aryuveda, Uncategorized, wellness

My Stay at the Raj (Part 4): Food/Yoga/Lectures

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If you know me in the real world, you know I don’t enjoy cooking. That statement is actually an oversimplification. I do enjoy cooking, sometimes. I think part of the turn-off for me is that it needs to happen so frequently and consistently. I prefer my creative outlets to be more spontaneous-as-the-mood-hits-me, than this-is-required-for-your-and-your-family’s-survival. So another thing I was greatly looking forward to with this trip was not having to meal-plan, shop, prepare, or clean-up for five days!

The food at the Raj is amazing. It’s aryuvedic and vegetarian. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, as that is when your agni (digestive fire) is at it’s peak. Meals begin with a shot of ginger or fennel juice as dictated by your aryuvedic consultation. Followed by chutney–often a pairing of a cilantro and an apple–and tea, again according to your dosha. Next we are served a cup of dahl (soup) often prepared with mung beans or lentils, always yummy. The main dish varied, but included: dark green leafy vegetables, other types of vegetables, rice or quinoa, crepe or chapata all seasoned with Indian spices. For dessert there were puddings, crisps, and even pie–made with fruit and coconut sugar. At the end of the meal we were given lassi (a yogurt drink) to aid in digestion.

Lunch and dinner are served in a room with a long group table that all of the guests at the Raj are welcome at. There is also private seating around the perimeter, if you prefer to eat alone or in a smaller group. There were so many interesting, friendly guests we mostly chose to eat with the group. Breakfast was served in a different area, buffet style with hot drinks, hot cereal, and stewed fruit. We also were able to attend two cooking classes with the head chef. The first was a discussion format about the importance of food. The second was a demo of a chutney and a crepe. Both were extremely helpful in showing me some ways to implement aryuvedic cooking at home.

Yoga is offered twice a day, making it possible for us to find a class that was outside of our treatment and meditation times each day. The class was quite gentle as the instructor understood we were detoxing and didn’t want to tax our systems. It consisted of sun salutations, self-massage, and asanas. I enjoyed them very much.

In the evening different lecturers come in to talk about a variety of topics. Our first night the topic was “Panchakarma”. This is the name of the detox we were undergoing. (Well, my mom and I opted for the PK Lite, but very similar.) The second night the topic was “The Importance of Silence in Sports”, though we opted out. The third night the topic was “Your Physical and Emotional Heart”. A compelling lecture by Helen Toomey. And the fourth night the topic was “Vedic Architecture”. Like our bodies, Maharishi felt it was important for buildings to be designed in harmony with nature.

The flow of our days felt very balanced, and I greatly appreciated the attention to detail from the fresh flowers and Indian music radio station in our suite, to the opportunities for physical/mental and social/solitary outlets outside of treatment times. The Raj staff were warm and accommodating throughout our stay. It was the perfect setting to learn transcendental meditation and aryuvedic practices.

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aryuveda, essential oils, Uncategorized, wellness

My Stay at The Raj (Part 3): Aryuvedic Spa Treatments

Spring Break 2018Yes, I selected The Raj because I was excited to learn Transcendental Meditation. Let’s be honest though, once I saw the spa treatment list, this is what I was gleefully anticipating in the months between our reservation and our trip! At my pulse assessment it was determined I would benefit from: two Abhyangas, two Shirodharas, an Udvartana, and a Pizzichilli! Wait until you hear what these exotic-sounding treatments are…

Abhyanga is a soothing oil massage done by two technicians performing the same movements on both sides of your body simultaneously. It is detoxifying and relaxing.

During Shirodhara a continuous flow of oil is poured slowly across your forehead to settle and balance the nervous system. The effect was sublime.

Udvartana is an energizing herbal paste massage also performed by two technicians in unison. The benefits are revitalized skin and improved circulation. It was my first treatment; I found it messy and I felt a bit like a piece of meat being prepared for dinner!

In Pizzichilli two technicians pour a constant flow of warm herbal oil in tandem over your entire body. This was the ultimate experience of luxury and relaxation! I am told it is very detoxifying as well.

The men’s and women’s treatment wings were separated. Male clients have male technicians, and female clients have female technicians. This helped me with some of my self-consciousness about being undressed in front of strangers. Other than occasionally fretting about my body or how similar some aspects were to preparing food; for the majority of the time I was able to give myself over to the magical sensations.

I wish everyone could experience these at least once. We all have toxins and stress to shed and everyone benefits from pampering and nurturing. The staff at the Raj does an excellent job of making you feel comfortable, and the treatments themselves are unlike any I’ve had elsewhere.

Being the aromatic-loving lady I am, I opted for the Aromatherapy session as well. The consultant had a lovely collection of essential oils and I was able to smell scents I don’t own in my ever-growing collection. I’m afraid she was a bit alarmed at my over-zealous approach to huffing oils. However, she identified some essences that would be good to support my wellness after I returned home from the Raj.

Also, due to an unfortunate accident involving hot barley water, I got a painful burn during our stay. The Raj graciously provided me with 100x wash ghee, which helped tremendously. (Along with the lavender, frankincense, and tea tree Young Living oils I had just happened to bring with me!) I also received a Maharishi Light Therapy with Gems session. Thirteen specialized light beamers shine thru different precious gemstones to balance and nourish the physiology.

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transcendental meditation, Uncategorized, wellness

My Stay at the Raj (Part 2): Transcendental Meditation

lawrence_painting

Lawrence Sheaff painting at The Raj

The impetus for finding the Raj was a google search of “transcendental meditation retreats”. I have not meditated regularly in the past; however I have felt a strong pull towards it. Last spring I read The Self-Driven Child by William Stixrud and Ned Johnson. This was an excellent parenting book, and in it they talked about transcendental meditation (TM) and how beneficial and life changing it was for them. Google search (yep, I’m a google girl!) led to all kinds of amazing information about this well-researched form of meditation.

During our time at the Raj, my mom and I worked with dear TM instructor, Amy Ruff. She carefully selected our mantras, helped us learn to use them, explained the process the brain undergoes during TM, explained the role thoughts play in meditation, uplifted, encouraged, and laughed with us. My main goal in learning meditation was to relieve anxiety. My first day home, one daughter commented I looked thinner, the other said I had a much calmer energy. I replied “Thank you” to the first, and “Oh my gosh, really?!” to the second.

I am still at the very beginning of my journey, but I am anticipating my practice becoming richer and more positive as I proceed. I highly recommend TM for everyone! To find out more information and find a meditation center near you, go to: https://www.tm-women.org

 

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aryuveda, Uncategorized, wellness

My Stay at the Raj (Part 1): Aryuveda

The Raj

Download your own introduction to Ayurveda at: http://www.theraj.com/ayurveda/index.php

I am turning 50 next month. Wow, that feels really weird to type. However, it’s true. And as it seemed somewhat monumental, I uncharacteristically asked my beloved for a BIG present… a trip to The Raj. The Raj is an aryuvedic health spa in Fairfield, IA (of all the unlikely places). I went on this adventure with my dear maman, who has been wanting to go there for many a moon.

Ayurveda translates as “knowledge of life”.

On our first full-day we each met with aryuvedic health expert, Mark Toomey. The appointment begins with an aryuvedic pulse assessment. Aryuveda utilizes many pulses to determine an individual’s doshas (vata, pitta, kapha), sub-doshas, and to determine any imbalances.

The vata dosha governs bodily functions to do with movement. Pitta’s main activity is to control the chemical transformation processes. Kapha is mainly concerned with bodily structure. Once an aryuvedic health expert has done the pulse assessment, they are then able to make individualized dietary, lifestyle, and treatment recommendations for strengthening the body’s healing abilities and promote balance.

It didn’t take Mark long to ask me if I had kids–he said I had the pulse of a “harassed mum”. Um yes, and yes! My predominant dosha is kapha, with vata/pitta not far behind. My dosha imbalances are in vata & kapha. With this information Mark was able to create a personalized treatment plan for my stay (treatment details coming in part three of this series). To learn more about aryuveda and take a quiz to find your dosha(s), check out: http://www.mapi.com/

I mentioned The Raj is in Iowa. It is a lovely destination–a hidden gem nestled among the corn fields. Funny story: as we were driving there our GPS kept taking us on “Level B Roads”. Here are some pictures from the last harrowing leg of our journey, completed with our gas needle pointing at ‘E’ and lots of laughter!

Fair warning

Fair warning–should have heeded.

Not going well

Not the Mini Cooper’s usual terrain!

Abandon ship

When our car bumped into the “Bridge Closed” sign that had toppled over (you can see base lower center), we abandoned ship, reassessed, and turned around. 😉

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essential oils, Uncategorized, wellness

NingXia, Lavender, and Cypress Oh My!

June 2018 Essential Rewards Order

Two months ago I renewed my passion for essential oils. I love aromas. Herbaceous. Floral. Spicy. Citrus. I love them all. Give me essential oils and I’m like a kid in a candy shop–eyes wide, big smile!

Not only do they smell great, they have amazing therapeutic properties. I have so enjoyed learning more about what they can do. It’s empowering to be able to look up something I need support with and to find the oils that will help. Not only that, they’re so individualized, I can look up ways they can support my girls’ health, and even our dog, cat, and horse!

Pictured above is our June Young Living order. Most exciting is the NingXia Red. This stuff is amazing! As someone who used to hide the daily vitamins and supplements her well-meaning mom used to dole out. (Sorry, Mom!) It is amazing to find a supplement so rich in vitamins and minerals that tastes great.

You can see I purchased some bottle labels to help identify our growing oil collection. Veggie capsules are for taking oils internally. (See how grown up I am now?) The Carrotseed, Copaiba, Field, Fitness, and Jade Lemon on the left were my purchases. On the right the Citronella, Cypress, Lavender, Lemongrass, M-Grain, and Orange we received for FREE with our order!

I’m really trying to get more green at our house too. Recent changes: wool dryer balls (that I can put lovely smelling oils on!), stainless steel straws, and reusable sandwich bags. I am open to suggestion of other ways our family can be more earth-friendly. Please share your ideas in the comments!

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anxiety, depression, Uncategorized, wellness

Zero or Ten

20180525_184311My mental health has been (and still is!) an arduous process. Anxiety, depression, and addiction are deeply seeded in my family’s DNA. I know these disorders are prevalent in our society as a whole. I am using this entry as a means of making this issue clearer in my own mind. If feelings or problems are not your cup of tea, you may want to pass this one by. I will get back to posting about gardening and parenting soon.

Anxiety has been my primary disability for years. I operate at a heightened state of alert that does not allow me to inhale or exhale fully. A lot of my self-care continues to go into attempting to let go of this ever-present tension, and remembering to breathe to get oxygen to my brain. (I wish I was jesting.)

I tend to be less self-aware when depression is creeping back. For me, it often surfaces as trying not to feel. I will sleep a lot or numb-out on social media. I am an optimistic and busy person by nature, so anxiety is easier for me to accept than despondency.

Self-awareness of my addictive tendencies has allowed me to side-step the chemical dependency many grapple with. However, I am a compulsive person. As a compulsive eater, I have found sugar to be a very effective mode of numbing feelings. I made a vow to adopt a clean-eating life-style a couple months ago; so that is no longer an option when I am feeling the need for escape. My latest compulsions are essential oils and podcasts… not all compulsions are negative!

So I am coming full-circle back to self-care. It is interesting, self-care is easier for me when I am already feeling good. When I am most down, most in need, it is the most difficult for me to implement. Case in point, last night I was at the center our family frequents for therapy. My daughter had an appointment, and I was considering taking a bio mat session. My thinking went, “I don’t want to waste a bio mat session when I have such a severe headache.” My daughter pointed to the bio mat poster in the office that listed “alleviates headaches” as one of its uses. I had the session and felt better. My point being, it is so easy to snowball in the downward spiral. When I am low, I don’t want to do anything, however that is exactly the time I need to take steps to help myself.

I feel I vacillate between attempting CONTROL (anxiety) and attempting ESCAPE (depression). There is certainly much I have little control over and escaping feelings is a loosing battle. Yesterday the words that kept swirling in my head were surrender and release. I often joke that I am a zero or ten girl–all in or all out. It is very difficult for me to “just be”. My current goal for myself is to surrender. It is a work in process, but awareness is a good starting point.

 

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