August 5, 2010

Taking the Plunge. Step into The Flow!

Posted in Nicole Becker Events, Uncategorized, Yoga at 8:44 am by moondeva

Several months ago when the idea of owning my own yoga studio looked like it would become reality, I had a dream. In the dream I was standing at the edge of a waterfall. The huge force of water was pushing against my legs and large logs carried by the water were rushing faster and faster toward me. It was clear I had to jump. I was scared, but I was compelled. There was no turning back! At that moment I jumped with both feet into the welcoming lake below.
 
As I take the plunge into studio ownership, I am full of so many emotions from excitement to fear. But underneath all that is a foundation of total committment and trust that this endeavor is the best use of my energy and practice. As I have researched, planned, meditated, and discussed my plans, the right people, opportunities,and support have come springing forth happily and easily. Amidst all the unknowns and risks is a peaceful point of letting go into The Flow.
 
I am reminded of German writer, Goethe’s quote about committment:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative & creation, there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas & splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
 
May your trip down this River of Life be joyous and compelling. May you be surrounded by unconditional support and love. May your Path benefit All Beings.
If any of you out there have owned a yoga studio or other business and have some insights, experiences, or advice to share, I am interested! Stay tuned to Ojas Yoga Center website for a video blog of the construction, and info about the grand opening.

May 2, 2010

Essential Oil Focus: Sweet Orange (Cintrus sinensis)

Posted in Ayurveda, Essential Oils tagged , , , , , , at 11:56 am by moondeva

Sweet Orange – Ease, Adaptability, Optimism*

Cold-pressed from the rind of the fruit Citrus sinensis, Sweet Orange essential oil has a warm, fresh, delicious aroma that, not surprisingly, smells just like ripe, sweet oranges! Yum.

Like other citruses, Sweet Orange is a circulatory and digestive stimulant, promoting the flow of lymph and bile. The essential oil can be used topically in massage (diluted 1:5 with a carrier oil) on swollen areas, or over the stomach for digestion. 

As a direct  inhalation, or diffused through  the room, Sweet Orange is relaxing and antidepressant. Energetically, Sweet Orange is useful for people who are “Type A”, overly committed, perfectionists, or who tend to take things too seriously. Sweet Orange encourages skillful adaptability and optimism.

The Chinese regard the Orange as a good luck symbol and often emply the bitter orange (Bergamot) as a digestive tonic and antispasmotic. The sweet orange is considered a Qi-tonic, removing blockages in the energy meridians. In Ayurveda, the sweet orange is also used to stimulate digestion, especially in for Vata and Kapha imbalances. Those with Pitta imbalances in need of digestive support are better served by Peppermint EO. 

Sweet orange is Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS), is generally non-irritating, and unlike other citrus eo’s, not photo-toxic. It can be used in diffusers, steam inhalation, massage, compress, bath, and skin care.

Combined with Lavender, it is a great relaxant before bed. Combined with Cardamom it is a perfect digestive for people with sluggish digestion or nausea after a heavy meal.

*From Gabriel Mojay’s Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit

Other reference: The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, by Salvatore Battaglia

April 29, 2010

Asana – Out of Body Experience?

Posted in Mindful Living, Yoga tagged , , , at 12:07 pm by moondeva

Is Yoga Asana supposed to take you out of your body and into the mind? Less body-obsessed and more mindful?

Reading Grounding Thru The Sit Bones the other day, Brenda posted an interesting discussion about the value (or not) of hybrid yoga.

…these should be activities that force you to leave the external world and enter an interior one. Asana should help you get out of your body…. It’s hard work to exercise the brain, but that is what doing yoga …is to me.

My first reaction to “asana should help you get out of your body”, was – Wait a minute, Asana is about being in my body more fully!  I’ve always felt that asana practice helps me make the journey from my brain to my heart. I don’t think I’ve ever described asana as a brain exercise.  But, the reason I love these discussions is that it makes me think through my beliefs. So here goes…

Does asana help people to be less body-focused? Does asana make people less body-obsessed?  The answer to every question in Yoga (and life) is “It Depends”. I could easily answer “Yes” to both these questions. But, it could also be that asana makes us more body-focused.

In our western approach to asana, and in the mass yoga culture images, we are forced to reckon with “perfect asana”, “perfect yoga bodies”, “perfect yoga clothes”, etc.  With the prevalence of mirrored classrooms and yoga magazines with a narrow range of body types reflected back to us, even those of us with the best of intentions to move inward, can get hung up on the external goals and benefits of  the practice. This is the negative aspect of “Body-focused”.

But, for me, asana helps me be more body-conscious in the positive sense. Conscious in my body. Moving consciousess through my body in new ways. Feeling my brain/mind/awareness extending through my whole body through the countless nerve pathways and energetic meridians.  I love to move through asanas  because, at some point when I am moving and one with my breath, I have let down the burden of my mind chatter and to-do list and even my personality; my role as mother or wife or teacher. It feels less like “brain” and more like “mind”. Present Mind. But not out of my body. Through it! 

Is Yoga “supposed” to get you out of your body? Well, classically defined, Yoga is Mediation, an absorptive process that slowly allows you to separate your identity from the purely physical (and mental) and unite with the Pure Conciousness which is formless. Many have, and do, undertake this journey with a disdain for the body – something that is a burden to be overcome. 

Yoga asana, as a prepration for meditation, can certainly make me feel more free of the burdens of the body so that I can experience a calmer mind. But,  since I tend to gravitate toward the Tantric traditions, my perspective is one of respect and delight for this body as a vehicle of consciousness. This body-mind is what gives me the ability to sit in meditation and find Union.  I do not eschew the body, and I strive not to cling to it either. I practice appreciating its usefullness, enjoying its pleasures, and pursuing freedom from attachment.

What is your experience? Do you practice asana to get into the body? out of the body? into the mind? out of the mind?

Are well all just out of our minds? Wait, don’t answer that.

March 13, 2010

Staying Healthy for Spring

Posted in Ayurveda, Colds & Flus, Essential Oils, humor, Nicole Becker Events, Respiratory Conditions, Yoga at 12:11 pm by moondeva

Seasonal transitions are a common time for health imbalances to arise. According to the holistic eastern medicine practices, now is the time to clear out the build-up of winter to make room for the upward rising energy that comes with springtime. If we don’t, we will commonly experience grogginess, headaches, digestive difficulties, increased susceptibility to colds, and the onset of seasonal allergies. Below are some suggestions how to go about this using diet, yoga, and essential oils to stay healthy with the season.

Diet – Lightening Up
In general late winter/early spring is a good time to abstain from the heavier foods and feasting of the winter season and favor lighter seasonal foods that are easy to digest and have plenty of fiber. It is an excellent time of year to undertake a mild nutritive cleanse  like having only vegetable soup and herbal teas for a couple of days. Limiting the intake of certain foods can help your digestive system rest, therefore boosting your natural immune defenses (did you know over 60% of your immune system is in your gut?!).

If you are especially prone to colds and allergies, limit or eliminate dairy, caffeine and alcohol for 2-6 weeks. If you have severe seasonal allergies elimination of these items is doubly important because in most individuals these substances increase the inflammatory response of the immune system. Allergy sufferers should also stay away from eating melons since they can initiate this histamine response. If you get allergies, you can benefit from starting to drink 1-3 cups of nettles tea daily with a small amount of raw local honey before the allergy season hits full force, and throughout allergy season.

Yoga – Cleansing
The ancient yogic practice of cleansing the sinuses with a neti pot can be indispensable for cold and allergy sufferers. It can be both a preventative and medicinal tool. Cleansing the sinuses calms inflammation of the nasal passages and kills bacteria and viruses that might be lingering.  After cleansing with the neti pot be sure to lubricate the inside of the nasal passages by gently applying a small amount of raw, organic olive or sesame oil to a cotton swab and moistening the inside of the nostrils. This will prevent irritation of the newly cleansed mucous membranes.

Yoga postures that focus on cleansing such as spinal twists and forward bends will help clear toxins and build-up from the organs and digestive system, and clear mental cloudiness. Adding more of these poses to your practice as well as breathing practices such as bhastrika (bellows) can boost the metabolism and the immune system.

Celebrate Spring in Good Company!
Come to my “Growth & Renewal” Mini-Retreat on Sunday, April 18th to experience the rejuvenation that comes from a complete yoga practice.

Essential Oils – Build Your Immunity
Essential oils have powerful antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. Using essential oils daily either by inhalation, or topically can keep you cold and allergy free. Lavender, Rosemary, Yarrow, Peppermint and Eucalyptus essential oils are all extremely useful for preventing and treating symptoms of colds and allergies. (Caution: individuals with epilepsy or asthma should avoid rosemary essential oil).  If you happen to already be experiencing a cold or allergies these same essential oils can boost your immune system, and clear congestion from the lungs and sinuses. For respiratory conditions, direct or diffuse inhalation is very effective. But, these oils can also be applied directly to the skin (always dilute peppermint with carrier oil), and/or used in the bath.

Of Course….
As always, the common sense practices of plenty of rest, exercise, sunshine, fresh food and water, and washing your hands will help keep your body at it’s peak of health and resistance to imbalances.

January 8, 2010

Neti Worth: Stock in the value of nasal irrigation is up

Posted in Ayurveda, Colds & Flus, Essential Oils, Respiratory Conditions, Uncategorized, Yoga tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:37 pm by moondeva

 Just found this great article at Well & Good  on using the Neti Pot. Neti Worth: Stock in the value of nasal irrigation is up «

If you’ve never tried, it really is a fantastic help for sinus-related problems, and for fending off colds. I’ve never managed to do it daily, which I’d like to work up to. But, I do use it when I have hay-fever, respiratory cold, or sinus infection to enormous benefit. If only I could convince my 9-year old to try!

I have a couple items to add to the conversation. Firstly, it is very beneficial to follow your neti by lubricating the nasal passages with Sesame Oil (raw, organic, cold-pressed). After completing the neti, apply a small amount of sesame oil with your finger or cotton swab inside the nostrils. This will help keep them lubricated and enhance their filtering power. Think of it like this: you always moisturize your face after washing, right? Same here.

The article mentions doing a steam with Eucalyptus which is also a great way to clear sinuses. If you do both neti and steam, do neti first.  Eucalyptus essential oil is extremely antibacterial and it’s pungent vapors are also anti-inflammatory so it will clear your sinuses and fight infection at the same time.

There are many varieties of Eucalyptus – Eucalyptus globulus is the most common, but the Eucalyptus Radiata is my favorite since it has a great lemony sweet aspect (not as harsh as globulus) and is very safe for children. I get mine through YoungLiving Essential Oils. Other excellent essential oils to combat sinus infections are Sweet Marjoram (Origanum marjorana), Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica), and Bay (Lauris nobilis). Inhale straight from the bottle, add them to your steam, add a couple drops to your diffuser, or add to massage oil and rub into feet, chest and throat.

Here’s to breathing free!

 (full disclosure: I am a distributor of YoungLiving Essential Oils and the link is to my affiliated site – they are the  only source I have found for that particular variety of Eucalyptus)

January 2, 2010

Essential Oil Teething Remedy

Posted in Children's Remedies, Essential Oils tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:33 pm by moondeva

OK mommies and daddies – a lot of you have teething babies at home. Here’s a remedy for you. Well, for your baby.

Clove Bud Essential Oil (Syzygium aromaticum) has anesthetic properties and is used by dentists to numb the gums before administering shots. It’s surprisingly numbing. Adults can try a drop on a finger or cotton swab directly on their own gums to feel the effect. For teething babies the essential oil needs to be diluted in a carrier oil. Pretty much any nice organic vegetable or nut oil will do (olive, almond, grapeseed, jojoba…). Read the bottom 0f the post for suggestions on where to get good, therapeutic-grade essential oils. 

In a nice clean (small) bottle or jar:

2 drops Clove Bud essential oil 
1 teaspoon carrier oil
(store in a cool place, not exposed to direct sunlight)

Test a bit on your own gums and tongue so you make sure it’s a delicate effect.  My baby absolutely loves this remedy and shows it by eagerly opening is mouth for my finger when he sees me getting the bottle. I just dip the tip of my finger in the bottle and rub the mixture all over his gums. You could also use a cotton swab instead of your finger. I don’t suggest adding the mixture to the surface of teething toys since it could easily make it’s way into baby’s eyes and be very irritating.

If for any reason your baby has a strong adverse reaction to this remedy, immediately apply some of your plain carrier oil to the gums. This will immediately dilute the blend and restore comfort. This goes for any essential oil that might accidently get into your eye – immediately wash area with plain carrier oil.

Sourcing therapeutic-grade essential oils:
If you are in the vicinity of a good health-food store, most will have a decent selection of medicinal quality essential oils. Good common brands are Aura Cacia, Floracopeia, and Wyndemere. If you would like to order through me online, you can visit my YoungLiving Essential Oils affiliated website http://www.youngliving.org/nicoleb

Stay tuned for how to use the rest fo that bottle of Clove Essential Oil after the teething days are gone. If you have any questions about this or other essential oil/aromatherapy needs, feel free to contact me by email or in comments. nicole “at” anamiyoga “dot” com

Resolutions: Don’t Give Up! Give In.

Posted in Mindful Living tagged , , , , , , , at 2:54 pm by moondeva

Welcome to 2010!
Although I’ve never been a big New Year’s resolution-maker (I set intentions throughout the year), a lot of people find the beginning of the calendar year a motivational time to reflect on their lives and what they do or do not want.
 
With any resolution, the most important thing that I’ve discovered is to frame the desired change in a positive way, and focus on the underlying need that you are trying to meet. Maybe you’re resolving to get more sleep. Great idea! There are many reasons why you might not be getting enough sleep, and many strategies to get more. Regardless of what your particulars are, in general you are motivated by an underlying need for _______(fill in the blank). Rest? Repair? Quiet? Slowing down? By naming your underlying need, the part of yourself that needs attention knows that you are listening, and that you want to attend to it. You know how good it feels when you’ve been searching for the right word, and then finally, you remember it? Same thing with naming your need. It’s a relief on so many levels.
 
Now, getting more sleep may mean that you are “giving up” something else, like your favorite late-night tv show or fitting in all the chores before you go to bed. Shift your focus to what you are “giving to” yourself and envision (often) how your life/mind/body will feel once you have given to yourself. You may miss the season finale and the dishes might be dirty when you wake up but, you will also be refreshed, rested, clear-minded, calm, and healthier. Hold these positive outcomes in your thoughts every time you find yourself struggling with your resolve. I like to think of this aspect of a resolution as “Giving In” – giving much-needed care and attention Inward by listening to your needs and responding to them by making healthy choices.
 
As you listen in, what are some needs that are wanting to be met? How will you meet those needs? What kind of care will you “Give In” ? I’m interested in your process, let me know!
 
Also, if you want to super-charge your intention setting, you’re invited to my upcoming Sound, Silence & Stillness Mini-retreat. 4 hours of nurturing that’s not to be missed!

“Sound, Silence and Stillness” Mini-retreat – Jan. 17th

Posted in Nicole Becker Events tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 2:45 pm by moondeva

Sound, Silence & Stillness

part of the 2009/10 Mini-retreat Series

In the Taoist tradition, the image of winter is one of a solitary journey to the top of a mountain to commune with one’s Source and reflect on one’s Highest Purpose.  Rather than struggling to keep resolutions, mid-winter is a time to contemplate what we wish to grow in the coming year. By meditating on our intentions now, come spring we will have the necessary energy and focus to put these intentions into action.

 This mini-retreat will create the space and sanctuary you need to connect with your Highest Purpose, and to envision your coming year. Through mantra, sound, yin yoga, breathing practices, and meditation, we will cultivate the stillness needed to be able to see our path clearly, and the equanimity needed to face any obstacles with grace and openness. 

 As a certified holistic Aromatherapist, I will introduce essential oils that clear help clear mental and emotional blockages, and increase intuitive awareness. A selection of my handmade essential oil remedies will also be available for purchase.

 This retreat is designed to be accessible to participants of any age, ability, or experience.

Location: Berkeley Yoga Center – 1250 Addison Street, Berkeley (Studio 209)
Pre-registration required:  $ 65 (cash, check or PayPal to Nicole Becker)
For registration inquiries email  nicole “at” anamiyoga “dot” com
All this info is also available on my website: www.anamiyoga.com

December 21, 2009

Making Peace with Winter

Posted in Mindful Living tagged , , , , , , , , at 7:00 am by moondeva

Today marks the first day of winter, the longest night of the year. All over the world people celebrate this change of seasons with fires, candles, and lights to welcome the return of the sunlight and the promise of new life that it brings. 

I am always surprised by how many people never notice the start of a new season. “Oh, today is the first day of winter?” There are others who are acutely aware of, and dread, the season either for its holidays stresses or lack of daylight and tendency toward depression. How do we acclimate to, and honor the change of seasons in our everyday actions?

While we hustle and bustle to create and enjoy holiday celebrations with friends and family it is important that we recognize what Nature (that also means you!)  is up to. Daylight is at a minimum, plants and animals are slowing, storing up, or stopping for winter,and the weather cools. Nature is conserving energy now in order to provide for new growth in spring.

If you notice you are getting a little more tired, hungry, even a little antisocial, take time to honor your body’s desire to attune with the natural cycles. Go to bed early if you are feeling tired, take some time to sit quietly with your favorite warm beverage and a book, or enjoy a long soak in the tub.

If you can, say no to holiday activities that do not truly nourish you, and if you say yes, make sure you have made peace with your choices so you are not at odds with your conscience. Like, if you have to go to Aunt Sally’s even though you have never gotten along with her, get clear on why you’re going. “Have to” usually means at some level you feel it’s important, otherwise you really wouldn’t go. Name why it’s important to you. Is it the idea of Family? Putting Aside Differences? Seeing other family members who will be there? Participating in traditions? …

To help your body stay in harmony with the shorter days and longer nights, try to get as much exposure to daylight as you can, and try this fun experiment:

When the daylight wanes, instead of turning on the electric lights, light candles around the house, keep the TV and computer off, and let yourself naturally wind down with the early arrival of evening. This is a wonderful time to make a fire in the fireplace if you have one, read or take a bath by candlelight, or just sit and talk with family and friends. You might be surprised that you feel ready for bed a lot earlier than usual – go with it! If you can’t make it from sundown to bedtime without electric lights, try 1 or 2 hours of candlelight before your usual bedtime.

A traditional meditation technique is to sit quietly and comfortably gazing at the flame of a candle. The image of the flame represents clarity, purification, and Truth. You might envision a similar flame residing in your Heart that keeps you connected to your inherent Wisdom, and True Nature which is free of obstacles and impurities.

Whatever tradition that you celebrate, may your season and new year be meaningful and abundant.

December 15, 2009

Good and Sticky: How to clean your yoga mat

Posted in Essential Oils, Yoga tagged , , , , , , , at 11:27 am by moondeva

It’s not often that Sticky means Clean. Except in the case of your yoga mat. Either you’ve been using it forever and it’s dirty and the stick is gone or, it’s brand new out of the package and slippery. Either way, the solution is to Wash It!

Either by hand in your bathtub, or on Delicate setting in the washing machine. ONLY A LITTLE SOAP. Hang dry. Putting it in the dryer will cause a strange burning plastic smell to permeate your entire house and you will end up with not just a sticky, but positively GOOEY mat (and dryer). Trust me, I learned the hard way. If you do put it in the dryer, use that AIR setting which is NO HEAT.

Voila!  Clean and Sticky Mat. The way it should be!

Depending on how often you use your mat, and how quickly it becomes dirty – like if you’re doing a lot of hot yoga, wash your mat once a month or every few months. In the mean time you can surface clean it with a little homemade spray. Put 10 drops each of lavender and tea tree essential oils in a spray bottle with water (and sometimes a tbs of vinegar too) and spritz on your mat, wipe dry. Lavender and tea tree both have  antibacterial and deodorizing properties and will leave your mat disinfected and smelling so fresh and so clean!

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