The Healing Art of Aurveda

A day filled with an abundance of sunshine and warmth, yesterday saw twenty of us gather for a retreat day deep in the Somerset countryside. By weaving together the ancient arts of Yoga (with Emma Gliddon of Do Yoga) and Sacred chant (my path), we co-created a beautiful healing space where these sister sciences cleared, balanced and strengthened us physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I prepared a “Kichari” for lunch and for many this was their first experience of eating Ayurvedically.

Yogi Amrit Desai, founder of the Kripalu Center in the United States describes Ayurveda thus:- “The science of Ayurveda, like the science of yoga, was inspired and developed by the great masters and seers of ancient India.  The origins of Ayurveda and yoga have common roots and play a complimentary role in spiritual evolution and the maintenance of physical well-being and vitality.  Ayurveda is said to be the oldest science of life, a system of diet, healing and health maintenance that is deeply spiritual in origin.  Ayurveda is not confined to the healing of disease in a superficial treatment of symptoms.  Instead it evaluates the complete body-mind of the individual.”

My interest in Ayurveda was sparked when I was living in the north west of America in Washington State; here they have the Bastyr University which has a comprehensive Naturopathic department which incorporates this ancient tradition.  Little did I know how much I was going to need it a few years down the line!  It made sense to me to use “food as your medicine”, and the description of the mind/body types (doshas) also rang true (I’ll post more about this in the coming weeks).

In 2007 I became very ill with ME/CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome), for a time bed bound, then severely restricted to the house with a walk of 15 minutes utterly exhausting me, I had a young son who ‘lost’ his mum to this little understood condition.  That is another story – but AYURVEDA and KICHARI – a traditional detox food, became my new lifestyle – and turned my health around.

The philosophy is simple.  The body detoxes when it is given the opportunity to do so.  Kichari is considered a complete food in Ayurveda and is at the core of nutritional healing.  You can eat it for a day (yes, breakfast, lunch and supper!) or even a week.  Light and easy to digest, the spices used all have cleansing/healing properties.  There are numerous variations which correlate either to the season (cooling or warming), or for targeting specific organs (spleen/pancreas, lungs, digestive, liver/gall bladder).  What a fantastic, easy to prepare, healing ‘stew’!

Perfect for any time of the year – but particularly when the seasons change, you are feeling low in energy, feel a cold coming on or need to give your digestion a rest.

 

Here’s the recipe I used (enough for 1 day):-

 

Kichari – Serves 3 (or a one day recipe)

1 cup split yellow mung beans

1 cup white basmati rice (easier to digest than brown rice when gently detoxing)

1 Tbspn grated ginger root

1 Tbspn ghee or coconut oil

1 tspn each of black mustard seeds, cumin, fennel and fenugreek seeds

1 tspn each of coriander powder and turmeric powder

1 pinch of Asafetida (hing) – now found in supermarkets – hooray!

3 bay leaves

6-8 cups of water

Rock salt or sea salt to taste

Optional Veggies: grated carrot, courgette/zucchini, sweet potato, celery

Lemon to squeeze on added zing once cooked

METHOD

Soak rice and beans overnight or for a few hours.  Wash and rinse until water runs clear.

Heat pot on a medium heat, melting chosen oil.

Add spices (except bay leaves) and roast for a few minutes – careful  not to burn.

Add rice and dhal, stir well, add bay leaves and water, bring to boil for 10 minutes.

Reduce heat and gently simmer, cover pot, and cook until all is soft (30 minutes ish).

Add your chosen vegetables if required (it’s fine to eat without veggies, but certainly adds to the variety when you do) cook for the last 15 minutes.

Stir in delicate greens just before serving –eg spinach, alfalfa sprouts

Add salt and black pepper to taste once cooked.

Garnish with lemon and fresh coriander.

The Sound of Grace women’s group.

retreat-day-sarena-arms-up

I was recently in the Totnes area (and a very happy hippy I was too!) and got chatting to some women in a cafe, swapping stories of our travels, our work styles and healing modalities and what led us to our individual paths.  It was a fascinating conversation and these ‘strangers’ quickly became new friends.

As I began to give an insight into my own (unusual) way of working, everyone stopped their eating and drinking, pausing as they tried to comprehend what is meant by ‘cross-cultural music therapy’.

“Cross-cultural WHAT?!” asked one perplexed woman.

The vast majority of us are aware that music, sound, chants, and mantras have been used for thousands of years for health, healing and spiritual connection.  Indigenous cultures have used songs for healing in many ways; there are songs and chants for specific ailments, for calling upon Spirits, gods and goddesses to intervene on behalf of the patient.  In the ancient shamanic traditions, healing postures enable you to explore the underworld, access inner divination, or empower you.  (See the work of Felicitas Goodman for more on this subject.)  A great deal of research continues into the varying uses in different cultures.

We all know that music has a powerful effect upon us; violins tug at the heart strings, drums reverberate in your body and even your very bones, slow, peaceful music naturally calms us down. My training (at The Open Ear Center, USA) enables me to offer carefully selected pieces of music that, when listened to consciously (rather than as background music), has the ability to go beyond our ‘stories’ or issues, (which are perpetuated in our thinking, ruminating and analysing) to our sub-conscious mind.  Here, we can find the root of the problem, find new perspectives and transform things on a vibrational level.

For at the heart of my work lies the truth that we are vibrational beings, and that everything is energy in its various forms.  By using music, sound, voice and chants we intercept the vibration of dis-ease and encourage a balanced and healthy vibration to come back into play.  Like a re-set button on the computer, we can clear energetic patterns that no longer serve us, and re-tune our system to a healthier rhythm that is our birth right.

The Sound of Grace women’s group will be drawing upon cross-cultural music, sound, chant/mantra, and healing postures to access our inner strengths, develop and express our authentic voice and speak our truth with confidence. Here’s a link to a full description of the fascinating healing modalities we will be using during our 7 month journey together.   Programme overview, modules etc  The photo for this blog is me demonstrating part of a practice called The Octave of Consciousness – where we chant the Indian scale (Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Da Ni Sa) with hand gestures (Mudras) – a simple, but powerful way to build your inner energy core…

Being part of a circle of exceptional women, where we co-create a safe and inspiring healing space is a gift not just for ourselves, but our families, friends and the wider community.   There are 2 places remaining if you’d like to join us?

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog – let me know your thoughts or questions!

The Sound of Grace – a transformational programme for women

This is an exciting time as I design and share this unique programme for women.  Starting in September, it is the culmination of both my personal and professional experience in the world of sacred sound, chant, mantra and more.

Back in 1999, when my son was just 2 years old, we lived in the north west of America near Seattle; the stunning Puget Sound was the backdrop to my immersion in the study and practice of cross-cultural music and sound.  On a monthly basis I would sit in a ferry line waiting to travel across from the small town of Edmunds to the Olympic Penninsula, and from there wind my way down through the mountains to cross a bridge onto Bainbridge island. Here I would study with my teacher Pat Moffitt-Cook of The Open Ear Center for nearly 3 years – and truly I came home to my soul self.  I continue to study with her today…

The power of music to heal is understood by us all, and yet when you choose a piece of music consciously, the effects can be profound.  But it was the chant and mantra that spoke to my heart and soul in a way that literally shook me!  Studying from the Vedic, Buddhist, Tibetan, Indonesian and Hindu traditions brought me a wealth of knowledge that I have drawn on personally and professionally ever since.

The Sound of Grace will be a powerful yet gentle process, supporting women to find and express their individuality in ways that will give them a resounding sense of “YES!”  Too often women struggle to speak up for themselves, and that is something I have struggled with in the past.  Now I speak my truth with clarity and confidence, humour!

Mantra has been used for thousands of years for health, healing and spiritual connection.  There are literally millions of us chanting daily around this globe – and believe me, it is a beautiful and powerful way to transform ourselves and our lives.

Silently, or out loud, chant “Om Shanti Shanti Shanti” – allow the peace inherent within that mantra to enter your heart and mind.  

My aim for this programme is to co-create with other women a safe, supportive and healing community in which they can grow and thrive!

 

Increase energy with good breathing

Both our Energy and Mood can be improved with good breathing practices.  Focusing on our breath, and ensuring we are breathing deeply, from the diaphragm not the upper chest, means we increase our oxygen levels.  This oxygen is absorbed by the red blood cells and transported around our body to all of our organs.  More oxygen means more energy.  Focusing, in a gentle way on our breath, also means we can stop the stressful thoughts that can race around in our minds. Yoga breathing (Pranayama) is particularly effecctive and easy to do – anytime, anywhere.

ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING

You use your thumb and ring finger of your right hand to block the nostrils

  1. Start by exhaling from both nostrils.
  2. Use your thumb of your right hand to block off your right nostril.
  3. Breath in through your left nostril to a slow count of 4.
  4. Close off your left nostril with your ring finger
  5. Release your thumb – Exhale through your right nostril to a slow count of 4
  6. Breath in through your right nostril to a slow count of 4
  7. Close off your right nostril with your thumb – and exhale through your left nostril again to a slow count of 4.  Return to No.2 to continue the practice.

This is one round.  Practice for five rounds to start with then increase to ten for a while and by five rounds at a time.  Close your eyes to increase concentration.  You can support your elbows with your left hand.

  1. Traditional Yoga Breathing.

Breathe in slowly for a count of four, then breathe out slowly for a count of six.  You can vary this rhythm to suit your natural breathing pattern.  You may like to breathe in for a count of six and out for a count of eight.  Extending the exhalation calms down the central nervous system and is very good to do if you feel stressed .

  1. Breath and Visualisation

The mind is very powerful and many chemicals within our body can be altered by both the breathing and visualisation. Much research has been done on this (Dr Bruce Lipton, Dr Candace Pert, and David Hamilton PhD,  to name just three  recent scientists who research this subject) You can combine the second breathing practice with visualising a healing energy or light moving from the top of your head down to your toes – or focusing on specific organs.  In the case of extreme stress, anxiety and overwhelm, the adrenals, hypothalamus and pituitary (the last two both in the brain) along with the heart are prime target areas.  This has been shown to alter serotonin within the brain (the feel good chemical) along with various neurotransmitters and it is suggested that it affects the cellular structures of these glands/organs too.