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Golden Milk

When your joints are stiff and sore, it’s time to turn to turmeric, the Indian goddess of health and beauty, for some Ayurvedic support.

This golden yellow powder is widely used in Ayurveda and has many therapeutic properties, including aiding digestion, healing wounds and treating skin conditions, to mention just a few, and is also used as an anti inflammatory agent.

One way to regularly enjoy this lovely spice is to blend up a lovely warm cup of Golden Milk.

Recipe:

1/4 to 1/2 tsp turmeric paste (see below)
1 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
1 tsp almond oil

Bring milk and almond oil to just below boiling point, remove from heat and blend with turmeric paste and honey to taste. (whizzed in a blender will create a sensational foamy drink)
Serve with a little cinnamon sprinkled on top.

For creaky or stiff joints, take 1 cup every day for 40 days.

Turmeric Paste:

Take 1/4 cup of turmeric powder to 1/2 cup of water and boil in a saucepan until a thick paste is formed, or sizzle in a little ghee or olive oil for 20-30 seconds. This takes out the bitter taste and also releases the essences of the turmeric into the oil or water.

Store in the refrigerator in an air tight glass container (turmeric will stain plastic)

 

What's the Deal with the Funny Breathing??

A few weeks back I had a new student in my class who had some yoga experience, but hadn’t before practiced with our approach. At the end of class on asking if there were any questions he promptly asked ‘what is the reason for making the funny sound when we breathe?

He was talking about the Ujjayi breath, one of the fundamental principles that Sri T. Krishnamacharya promoted in asana (postures) practice, a principle that is quite commonly not observed in other approaches. It occurred to me, that a group class situation often doesn’t allow the space for full explanation of the different principles, so here is the first of more articles to come on why, in our approach, we promote certain practices.

The ‘sound’ is a natural effect of the process of ujjayi: whereby a constriction in the throat narrows the passageway thus creating a sound as the air flows through, similar to that heard when holding a conch shell to the ear and hearing the ocean. To fully answer my students question, the question ‘why practice Ujjayi breathing during asanas?’ should first be answered.

This constriction works in the same way as a valve, enabling us to regulate and therefore lengthen the breath, giving much greater control than simple nostril breathing. Long, deep breathing has a very relaxing and calming effect on mind and body, increases oxygenation, aids digestion and decreases fatigue – to name only some of the benefits.

Lengthening the breath during asana practice will ensure that we are left feeling calm, relaxed and revitalised at the end of our practice. While not true meditation, this does lend a meditative quality to the practice. When movements are synchronised with and supported by the breath, they too will become slower ensuring greater control, safety and self awareness.

Now back to the sound, which plays a vital role during asana practice; firstly, it gives us something to focus on therefore automatically linking body and mind. If we are watching and listening to our breath we can hardly be thinking about what to cook for dinner later - our attention is brought to the present.

The sound also indicates the presence or absence of steadiness and comfort (another hugely important principle in asana practice). If the breath remains long and deep with an even, smooth sound it’s a sign that we are working within our own range of ability at that particular moment. Whenever the breath becomes short, raspy, difficult to control we know that we need to modify what we are doing, i.e. we are practicing outside of our current limits and maybe it’s time to ease off a little, take a short break to restore the breath or perhaps, upon reflection, decide if the particular asana that interrupted the smooth flow of our breath requires more preparation with a simpler variation before attempting again.

I have been incorporating Ujjayi in my own asana practice for some years now and it has become a natural and integral part of my practice, so much so that I had difficulty recalling what it felt like not to practice in this manner. Before writing this article, I decided to attend a couple of classes where breath wasn’t so much of a focus. The first class, while definitely promoting long deep breathing, didn’t use ujjayi at all. I initially found it quite difficult to let go of my natural instinct to breathe with ujjayi but once I did the biggest thing I noted was that my breath, although still reasonably full, was not nearly as deep and didn’t promote the same mental focus as with ujjayi. I was also aware that my movements didn’t feel particularly supported by the breath which led me to be more concerned that I wouldn’t aggravate a lower back injury than simply being present with the practice.

The next class did use ujjayi however the focus on using this technique to slow the breath just wasn’t there. This class was physically active and moved at quite a fast pace which I must say was quite invigorating, however I found that there was no time to really experience each movement and posture, again concern re: the back issue became foremost in my mind.

I have to say at the end of both classes I felt pretty good, as in how you feel after having a workout but, and this for me defined the difference, I didn’t feel mentally relaxed and definitely not in a state where I felt ready to sit for pranayama and meditation – for me, the culmination of my practice.

I’ve always found that my understanding deepens when it becomes experiential rather than theoretical, so if you haven’t tried ujjayi in your asana practice before, next time you practice maybe you could try incorporating this understanding, step back, become the observer and see if you feel the difference. You just never know, you may discover a tool to help deepen your practice.

Barbara Coley

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Masala Chai

Masala Chai is a hot, sweet, spiced tea that is very common in India. Depending on the spices used it can be very warming and is wonderful to drink on cold, grey winter days.

After experimenting with various spice blends, this has become my favorite recipe.


masala chai2 cups water
1 inch slice of crushed fresh ginger 
I cinnamon quill
3 green cardamom pods
2-3 whole  black peppercorns
3 whole cloves (optional)
1 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp ajwain (optional) can be purchased at your local Indian food market
2 dessertspoons dark muscovado or organic raw sugar
1 cup full cream organic milk
3 tsp unperfumed black tea

Lightly crush cardamom pods, cinnamon quill and peppercorns in a mortar and add to water along with lightly crushed ginger, whole cloves, fennel seeds and ajwain.

Bring to boil and simmer for a few minutes

Remove from heat and let the spices infuse their flavour for about 5 minutes

Return to heat, add tea leaves and bring back to the boil and simmer for one minute (depending on how strong a tea flavour you prefer)

Add milk and sugar and bring to boil.

Remove from heat and chai is ready, strain in to a warmed teapot or directly in to cups.

Enjoy!

Chai recipes vary from person to person, so don't be afraid to experiment and find the blend that suits you.

 

What Yoga Offers

                                            by A.G. Mohan

AG Mohan PhotoYoga is a multifaceted science, rich in tools, universal in application, ancient in tradition and timeless in relevance. It has much to offer any individual at any stage in life. The core of yoga is the process of transforming the mind from a seeking and wandering one to a centered and tranquil one. In this process, we have to address the needs of the body, keep it healthy and heal the illnesses that ail it, for there is no greater barrier to mental tranquility than ill health. Further, it is not only our body that affects our mind; our lifestyles, actions and--very importantly--the food we eat all influence the mind as well.Thus, yoga has evolved into a comprehensive and systematic approach that addresses all these areas of our life and offers practical, non-dogmatic and effective tools to work towards greater tranquility in mind and wellness in body.

The most well known of the practices offered by yoga is that of asana body movement and position. This is the entry point for many practitioners into the path of yoga. Asanas should be practiced in a manner appropriately personalized for the individual, taking into account his or her age, health status and practical, realistic goals. Further, asanas should be combined with sound breathing. Done in this manner, they can bestow strength, flexibility and alignment of body structure and assist in restoring or enhancing the functioning of body systems.

From the practice of asanas follows the practice of pranayama (breathing techniques), where the flow of the breath is modified, with attention to controlling the mind. The practice of pranayama is an art as well as a science. The breath is an important link between the body and the mind, and hence pranayama is a powerful tool in therapeutic situations as well as in focusing the mind.

Apart from these specific practices involving the body and breathing are other equally important internal and external disciplines known as the yamas [things to abstain from: violence, falsehood, theft, lust and greed] and niyamas [things to observe: purity, contentment, disciplines, self-study and devotion to God]. These form the cornerstone of any practice that is directed towards controlling the mind. It is important to note that these disciplines, like adherence to non-violence and speaking the truth, suggested on the path of yoga are not merely moral or ethical principles. Rather, they are a critical part of the effort that one has to make in clearing a clouded mind and bringing undisturbed silence and powerful steadiness to it.

 Finally, with the practice of all the other tools of yoga being mastered, as appropriate, one is able to reach the pinnacle of the path—the state of progressively deeper contemplation, culminating in the state of mind known as samadhi. In this state, one's mind is capable of absolute concentration; even awareness of oneself is lost, and only awareness of the object being concentrated upon remains. When such mastery over the mind is attained, the individual will have found his ultimate goal in life--complete and permanent freedom from all unhappiness, unbounded fulfillment, and undisturbed tranquility.

Thus yoga is the psychological path to self-gain. It offers us the greatest of all prizes--to know ourselves in the deep stillness that lies beyond the clutter of our habitually clouded mind.

Published with the authors consent.