BY LINDA EGENES

Maharishi Ayurveda and Transcendental MeditationIf you’re interested in health, you may have heard of the traditional healthcare system called Ayurveda. And if you’re interested in wellness practices such as meditation, you may have heard about the technique of Transcendental Meditation.

Transcendental Meditation is considered to be a fundamental part of Maharishi Ayurveda. In fact, they both come from the body of knowledge known as the Veda, and both were re-elivened in modern times by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

To understand this connection, let’s start by defining Ayurveda.

A System to Rejuvenate Mind and Body
Ayurveda is formed from two Sanskrit words: Veda, meaning “knowledge,” and Ayuh, meaning both “life” and “lifespan.” Its goal is to develop perfect health and long life by enlivening the life force within, which is the source of healing and good health.

The human body, after all, is wondrously adaptable and complex, generating innumerable chemical reactions to heal itself and maintain a state of equilibrium. As just one example, your body makes 2.5 million red blood cells and 250,000 white blood cells every second. When you cut your finger, blood platelets form a healing scab and white blood cells digest the dead cells to create space for the formation of new cells, a process that begins immediately. And your body doesn’t need an injury to create new cells—it is in a constant state of renewal, replacing 98% of its old atoms every year.

Reading this, you might be wondering why you aren’t perfectly healthy and perpetually young. The trouble can arise due to environmental pollution, when we unduly stress our minds and bodies through the process of daily living, or when we choose unhealthy foods, make disruptive lifestyle choices, or experience emotional or physical trauma. Over time, if this stress continues, the mind-body system loses its natural connection to its own healing intelligence and imbalances take hold.

This is where the healing modalities of Ayurveda come in—they aim to awaken the inner intelligence of the body so it can bring itself back into balance. The science of Ayurveda includes not only herbs and herbal supplements, but also the knowledge of diet and nutrition, yoga postures, breathing exercises, techniques of purification to remove toxins from the body, the use of Vedic sounds and chanting, and the knowledge of daily and seasonal cycles and rhythms of nature. In addition, Ayurveda identifies individual mind-body types and tailors treatments to match the individual’s specific needs and natural tendencies rather than promoting a “one size suits all” treatment strategy.

All of these modalities have a profound, balancing effect on mind, body, and emotions to restore health and wholeness. Each one enlivens the inner intelligence of the body, which is the prime healer. Yet the most effective way to enliven inner intelligence, it turns out, is to transcend the senses altogether and connect your awareness directly with that life force, that healing intelligence inside you.

That’s where Transcendental Meditation comes in: it allows you to experience the silent part of the mind, where the pure intelligence of nature, also known as pure consciousness, is most lively and powerful. These may seem like abstract concepts, but a simple way to understand them is that when you experience this deep, profound silence found within, your awareness and senses simultaneously become more refined and sensitive, not only on an outward level, but also on an inward level, such that your body and mind start working naturally in a more coordinated manner.

Restoring Wholeness with Transcendental Meditation “Of all the approaches of Ayurveda, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi put the greatest emphasis on the approach of consciousness,” said researcher Tony Nader, M.D., Ph.D.

Consciousness is not a new concept—in fact the ancient Sanskrit word for health is swasthya, which means “established (sthya) in the Self (swa).” When Maharishi began teaching the Transcendental Meditation technique in the 1960s, he reestablished this profound, simple technique for going within and in an absolutely innocent manner, to experience this refined state. Later, in the 1980s, he re-enlivened the system of Ayurveda within the context of consciousness, explaining that Transcendental Meditation is a primary technique to enliven consciousness and promote health.

Why is consciousness so important to health? In the Vedic tradition, consciousness is considered to be the ultimate source of everything. Modern physicists have also located energy and force fields at the basis of life, leading to the understanding that all that we call matter—the body, the mind, the molecules that make up our universe—come from a single source, containing all the laws of nature. You can think of this source as natural law, or intelligence. The same intelligence that moves everything there is, moves us. In other words, it’s the same field of consciousness that governs our body and the world around us.

And this field of consciousness can be directly experienced. When you practice the Transcendental Meditation technique, your mind goes beyond the changing field of thought to experience a non-changing field of pure awareness. This is called “transcending” or “going beyond.” You experience your true Self, a field of deep, restful alertness, a state of infinite peace and silence, yet you remain fully awake inside.

“Pure consciousness is the same as the unified field of all the laws of nature, and therefore, pure consciousness is the true Self of everything and everyone,” said Dr. Nader. “This is how the wisdom of ‘Know Thyself’ takes its true importance.”

This state of restful alertness not only provides clarity of mind and calms emotional turbulence, but it also provides a deep state of rest to the body, allowing us to release the deep-rooted stress that is at the basis of most physical and mental imbalance. Which is why hundreds of scientific studies, conducted by top universities and scientific institutions worldwide and published in peer-reviewed journals, have shown that the regular practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique is associated with improved mental and physical health, as well as decreased stress and hospitalization rates.

“Ultimately, the development of consciousness is the most essential approach to ensure that all [Ayurvedic] methods of treatment become effective,” said Dr. Nader.

The goal of Ayurveda is to support a mind-body experience that is profoundly balanced, such that refined awareness is never lost. This is why the two, Ayurveda and Transcendental Meditation, are so powerful when utilized together. In today’s world we consider “good health” to be a state free of sickness or dis-ease. But from the Vedic perspective, “good health” is much more — a peak state of well-being for mind, body, and emotions as well as a harmonious relationship with society and the environment too. This is only possible if the body is truly healthy. Ayurveda provides this platform of good health, and Transcendental Meditation the vehicle to experience profound self awareness.

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], . Reprinted with permission.) 

BY LINDA EGENES

Advanced Ayurveda

Advanced Ayurveda: Listening to Your Body’s Signals

When it comes to health, we each have our own unique story to tell. My personal health journey started at a young age when my parents taught me to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and whole wheat bread, a truly revolutionary idea in the 1960s, when Wonder Bread was king. I was rarely sick and only remember going to a doctor twice—once for a bad bout of poison ivy and another time when I stepped on barbed wire and needed a tetanus shot.

So it was a big surprise that as I entered my mid-twenties, I no longer felt so healthy. I suffered from congestion and blocked sinuses every spring, sometimes with a productive cough that would keep me at home for an entire month. For the first time in my life, I took antibiotics, but eventually the antibiotics didn’t work. Something was clearly out of balance, and I didn’t have a clue how to feel better. And there’s nothing worse than feeling bad and not knowing what’s wrong.

Fortunately, I was soon introduced to the practical science of Maharishi Ayurveda. I learned that spring is the Kapha time of year, when the heavy, cold, sticky qualities of Kapha dosha predominate. I found that if I cut back on dairy foods—and especially ice cream—I could avoid the build-up of ama, the sticky byproduct of undigested food that is the cause of most imbalances. It was incredibly helpful to learn how to adjust my diet with the seasons, and I was amazed at how one simple change solved such a big problem in my life.

From there I learned about my body type and the specific foods I needed to stay healthy (as opposed to a one-healthy-diet fits-all approach from my childhood). But more importantly, I also learned to respond directly to my body and its needs. For instance, if I started to feel congestion coming on when traveling or during times of stress, I immediately reverted to a lighter diet of warm, well-cooked veggies, and pulses (from the legume family) to let my digestion recover. I learned how to choose foods that would keep my digestion in balance all through the year, so ama wouldn’t accumulate in my body. As I learned more about the seasonal changes that affect us and my innate mind-body tendencies, it was like receiving essential clues to solve my personal health puzzles.

In other words, by understanding the underlying principles of my own mind-body type and the way emotional, social, and seasonal factors affected me, it became a springboard for my intuition. I learned to listen to my mind and body in a new way.

You could call this a more advanced approach to Ayurveda. It’s all about developing your inner compass, listening to your body’s signals, and learning how to use food, herbal supplements, and lifestyle choices to restore balance. That may sound difficult to master, but everyone has this innate ability.

The first step to creating a sustained state of balance is to pay attention to how you feel. Do you feel better the next morning after eating a light dinner or when you eat a big meal before bed? Do you feel happier the next day when you stay up late or when you go to bed earlier? That’s what finding balance is about—becoming more aware if a certain food or lifestyle choice is nourishing for YOU. Sharpening this kind of self-guidance skill is a powerful companion to following outer rules.

  1. The Ayurvedic guidelines—the seasonal tips, the Vata, Pitta, and Kapha dietary and lifestyle guidelines—provide helpful hints and, as in my case, provide insight into health imbalances. Yet there may be times when the dietary guidelines for different doshas can be confusing. For instance, we are all a mixture of doshas, and if you’re a Kapha-Vata, the dietary guidelines for Kapha are exactly opposite to the guidelines for Vata. That can be confusing unless you employ your own self-feedback mechanisms.

Plus our needs change as we experience different seasonal and life cycles. For instance, in my case, I am a Vata-Pitta, but following the Kapha guidelines in spring was the thing that helped me strengthen my upper respiratory system.

New circumstances are always coming up in our lives that don’t fit the outer rules. So we need to use the Ayurvedic recommendations to understand what is right for our unique physiology, to decide intuitively what is right for us. Ultimately real understanding comes from the inside. That’s why we’re calling it “Advanced Ayurveda.” It’s not about going by the rules—it’s about applying the rules to your specific mind-body needs. While using the vast body of Ayurvedic knowledge, you’re also going by the inner ruler—your intuition, your own body speaking to you, how you are feeling—and finding solutions. It is a subtle yet effective strategy.

Okay, you may think. This sounds good. But how do you develop your self-referral skills, your inner compass, your intuition? Like a TV screen that is disconnected from power, it’s hard to pick up signals if you’re disconnected from your inner self, or if mind-body coordination is switched off. Here are four simple steps to reconnect with your inner compass, sharpen your Advanced Ayurveda skills, and restore balance.

1. Establish Healthy Daily Habits. Following simple health habits can bring your mind-body system into balance and help you align with your own nature. Good sleep, fresh food according to your body type and the seasons, daily exercise, and stress reduction are pillars of Ayurveda. So in this way, the Ayurvedic path to staying in balance is somewhat the same for every person.

Yet the specifics differ according to your mind-body type, the season and climate where you live, and other emotional, social, and environmental influences. Ayurveda recognizes these differences and offers specific guidelines for the three main dosha types. And that is a major tenet of Ayurveda: There are different remedies for different people. So the daily routine and lifestyle, the type of exercise, the foods you eat—all are slightly different according to your mind-body type. Check out the Vata, Pitta and Kapha recommendations for helpful insights and tips.

2.Purify toxins. Toxins in the body, whether from the environment or from digestive impurities (ama), can make you feel sluggish, clouding perceptions and dulling intuition. Simple Ayurvedic habits such as daily abhyanga, regular exercise (even walking), seasonal purification procedures, such as drinking Organic Digest & Detox Tea can help clear the mind and body and put you more in touch with your inner resources. Check out this step-by-step detox routine for cleansing your body of toxins.

3. Practice Self-pulse Diagnosis. The most powerful and insightful way to determine what you need is pulse diagnosis, called nadi vigyan in ancient Ayurvedic texts. It’s a powerful diagnostic tool to assess the condition of your mind and body and what it requires to achieve a state of balance. It’s also a therapeutic remedy in itself. By putting your attention on your pulse in a quiet way, it allows your entire mind-body system to settle down and rebalance itself. It’s been called a window into the heart.

If you are interested in learning how to take your own pulse, check out this online course at Maharishi International University. Or learn from this free 14-lesson series on pulse diagnosis and global group meditation by Tony Nader, M.D., Ph.D.

4. Meditate Daily. I have found that my daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique helps me release stress and become more self-referral, intuitive, and aware. It helps me stay in tune with my feelings and needs. Plus when I transcend the surface level of thought and experience deep inner bliss, I find myself feeling joy in everything that I do. I find myself spontaneously choosing the foods and behaviors that bring me more happiness.

Whatever your choice of meditation or method, it’s important to find a way to tap into your inner resources. Then by natural desire, by natural inclination, you’ll make choices more in line with your own nature. And over time, as you become more attuned to what a balanced mind and body feels like, it becomes easier and easier to make the right choices, to choose the healthier options to stay in balance. Thus the Ayurvedic guidelines become easier to follow as you become more attuned to your inner nature. They also help verify that you are going in the right direction.

One of my favorite sections of the Ayurvedic texts gives a sweeping vision of what it means to be in balance.

“For those whose doshas are in balance, whose appetite is good, whose body tissues (dhatus) are functioning normally, whose elimination and other waste removal systems (malas) are in balance and whose body, mind and senses remain full of bliss, they are called a healthy person.” —Sushruta Sutrasthana 15, 41

So let’s remember that the main goal of Ayurveda is to feel balanced, to feel joy. If your intention is to feel bliss, if your intention is to feel good, you will naturally seek out the food and lifestyle choices that make you feel healthy.

With very best wishes for your health and happiness.

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], May 22, 2020. Reprinted with permission.) 

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BY LINDA EGENES

Discover Your Relaxation Lifestyle

Discover Your Relaxation Lifestyle

There’s a new phrase floating around—doom-scrolling—and anyone with a smartphone can figure out what that means. Then there are the parents who are valiantly caring for kids while simultaneously conducting meetings and teaching classes via Zoom. Under more pressure are our nation’s valiant essential workers, who venture out every day to work in hospitals, keep our grocery stores stocked with food, or run our nation’s transport systems, to name a few of their heroic contributions. And finally there are the rest of us, trying to stay sane while social distancing, self-quarantining, and wearing masks—now recommended inside your own home if a family member is working outside.

With the pandemic showing no sign of stopping, most of us are in need of mental, physical, and emotional relaxation. But you can’t just tell yourself, “Relax, mate, it’s all going to be OK,” and expect your blood pressure to return to normal.

We all need a little help, and that’s why I highly recommend taking a do-it-yourself spa day to pamper yourself with massage, aroma therapy, and relaxing herbal teas—all happening inside your own home, since that’s where it’s at these days.

And once you get the hang of it, you can incorporate these easy tips into your daily routine wherever you go. Why not make relaxation a daily habit? With the challenges the entire world is facing today, relaxation is a tool we all can use to bring our minds and hearts closer to our normal, joyful selves.

Here are five simple ways to kick off your at-home spa day to help you discover your relaxation lifestyle.

1.    Morning Self-Massage. Craving a relaxing massage but can’t risk it during the pandemic? It’s time to give yourself an Ayurvedic self-massage. Called abhyanga, Ayurvedic self-massage involves rubbing warm, fragrant, herbal oils into your skin in a specific pattern—long strokes over the long bones and circular strokes over your joints, abdomen, and head. Start with your scalp and don’t forget your feet. See detailed instructions here. Designed to release toxins, calm your nerves, and tone your muscles, abhyanga is a surprisingly effective way to start your day. Not to mention how your skin will glow.

Not sure which massage oils are best for you? Use this guide:

Moisturizing Massage Oil calms mind and body with a blend of organic sesame oil, fragrant lemongrass, calming ashwagandha, and other stress-reducing herbal extracts.

Soothing Massage Oil cools the body and emotions with an herbal blend of organic sesame oil, heartwood oil, sandalwood, waterlily, and six other cooling and nourishing herbal extracts.

Stimulating Massage Oil invigorates mind and body with a stimulating blend of organic sesame oil, java citronella, jatamansi, and four other herbal extracts. Or give yourself a treat with Youthful Skin Massage Oil, a truly luxurious oil for deep relaxation and even deeper sleep. It combines jojoba and sesame oil with two different formulas of artisan-crafted herbs for men or women.

If you prefer to add your own essential oils for a custom massage experience, Organic Sesame Oil for Massage is a cold-pressed, chemical-free oil suitable for most skin types.

2.    Bathing and Nasya. After your massage, take a warm bath to allow the toxins to flow out of your tissues and into your eliminahttps://www.mapi.com/products/massage-oils/organic-sesame-massage-oil.htmltion system, where they can easily leave your body. While bathing is recommended, you can shower instead if time doesn’t allow. (Tip to avoid clogged drains: Allow the oil to soak into your skin at least ten minutes before bathing. You can also wipe off excess oil with an absorbent paper towel. Also, you don’t need excessive amounts of oil for an effective massage.)

After your bath, take a moment for nasya, a simple but powerful Ayurvedic technique that involves sniffing pure herbal oil to cleanse and protect your sinuses. Because the nasal passages provide a path to the brain, nasya helps calm the mind, too. Organic Clear & Soothe nasal spray makes it easy—you just squeeze the bottle and inhale. Its mild mixture of organic sesame oil and heart-leaf sida protects against allergens and balances Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

3.    Yoga and meditation. Now that you’re awake and squeaky clean, it’s the perfect time for your morning yoga and meditation. I personally have had amazing results with the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique, a simple, effortless way to set up your day with energy and clarity of thought. Because it’s so effective in releasing stress and creating profound balance in mind and body, TM is considered the foundation of Maharishi Ayurveda, and has been researched in studies sponsored by the NIH and published in peer-reviewed medical journals such as the AMA’s Hypertension.

Yoga asanas (postures) have also been found to create mind-balance and are the perfect way to relax your mind and body before you begin your meditation practice.

4.    Herbal Tea Ritual. Herbal teas, found in the ancient civilizations of China, Egypt, and India, have been cherished for their health benefits for thousands of years. The magical combination of herbs, warmth, and flavor soothes and relaxes. Of course, some people want their herbal tea to wake them up, while others want to calm down; so choose the tea to balance your particular needs for that time of day.

Morning: Raja’s Cup gives the satisfaction of a cup of coffee without the buzz. It’s actually a powerful antioxidant and a flavorful, gluten-free, herbal blend that balances all three doshas. Spicy and stimulating, Organic Stimulating Kapha Tea will chase away morning lethargy and is especially good during spring weather and for people with Kapha body types.

Afternoon: Organic Cooling Pitta Tea is perfect for summer afternoons, as it helps cool excess heat. It also helps with digestion. Afternoon is also a good time to slow down and destress with a cup of calming Worry Free Tea, which not only calms the mind but soothes frayed nerves and stabilizes your emotions—giving you that extra boost to finish your day’s tasks with ease.

Evening: A cup of calming Organic Calming Vata Tea early in the evening provides a great transition into your evening meditation session, helping to wash away the stress of work—and setting you up for a tranquil evening with your family or friends. And nothing beats Slumber Time Tea before bed for slowing down your mind and helping you enter a state of deep sleep with ease. Eat a light, nourishing evening meal, turn off your screens at 8:00 and listen to music, enjoy light conversation, or take an evening stroll instead. With all this relaxation going on, you’ll find yourself slipping into a deep night’s sleep before 10:00pm.

5.    Aroma Therapy for Balance Throughout the Day. Inhaling the fragrance of essential oils of flowers is an easy way to maintain balance all through the day. Experiment with Calming Vata aroma oil while you meditate, Cooling Pitta or Blissful Heart aroma oil if feeling frustrated or irritable, and Slumber Time to ease into a deep, restful sleep. Sniffle Free aroma oil helps clear the sinuses and enhance immunity, and Stimulating Kapha is great for getting your body moving on sleepy mornings.

For no-hassle aroma therapy, try this elegant bamboo diffuser. It’s not only a beautiful addition to the room, but it disperses the oils using a cool ultrasonic mist instead of heat, thus protecting the integrity of the delicate flower essences. This diffuser doubles as a humidifier, and shuts itself off when the water level goes low. Plus it’s quiet and doesn’t interfere with sleep, and contains an optional nightlight.

Pure sandalwood incense is another way to diffuse cooling sandalwood aroma into a room. It’s a traditional choice for creating a sacred space and refining the senses for meditation and yoga.

Experiment with your at-home spa day, and find out for yourself how great it feels. This is the first step to creating a lifestyle based on relaxation—and a great way to make the most of your expanded at-home time.

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], August 13, 2020. Reprinted with permission.) 

BY LINDA EGENES

Zoom Meetings- Are you Zoomed Out? How to Create Balance in the Age of ScreensI’m perfecting my yoga these days with a weekly class on Zoom. My professor husband spends hours teaching classes and attending department meetings in front of a screen. And for many people during the Covid-19 crisis, online video chatting has been a lifeline—a way to connect with family and friends.

If there’s one common denominator in the country right now, it’s our new dependence on screens. According to Clockwise, the creator of an online calendar assistant, employees are spending 29 percent more time in online group meetings and 24 percent more time in one-on-one meetings than before the lockdown. And whether you love it or hate it, it’s likely that this trend is not going to go away even after schools and gyms open up and we can travel to see family again.

I personally love it that my favorite yoga teacher now visits me in my living room, even if she’s only on the screen. One of my friends who attended her class reunion online thought it was the best one yet, since every person had a chance to share how they were doing. And one mom wrote that she was thrilled to meet her friends for a Zoom dinner party without having to dress up or hire a babysitter. These are new and creative uses of technology that have changed our lives for the better.

But for other people who spend all day in online meetings or virtual classrooms every day, there’s a curious new syndrome developing called Zoom Fatigue. It turns out that interacting with others on a screen for hours can wear you out.*

Scientists have identified a few reasons for Zoom Fatigue, such as the constant technology glitches. Freezing screens, that 1.2-second lag between people’s lips moving on the screen and hearing their voices, the fumbling with the mute button, the echoes and feedbacks, the unnatural pauses—each create anxiety that something is going wrong, and that tires out the mind and body.

It also requires more focus to conduct a video call, says Gianpiero Petriglieri, a researcher who explores sustainable learning in the workplace. Virtual conversations mimic real ones, but they’re not the same. When conversing with others on screens our minds have to work much harder to read facial cues, detect subtle changes in the tone and pitch of the voice, and observe body language (impossible to do when there’s only a talking head visible).

Then there’s the cognitive dissonance when we’re talking to a screen. “Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not,” explained Petriglieri in an interview with the BBC. “That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You can’t relax into the conversation naturally.”

Whether we love it or hate it, we need to find ways to stay fresh and alert while conducting our lives on screens. Here are five hacks to help you take advantage of the plus side of computer connectivity without the fatigue.

1. Turn off the self-view window so you’re not distracted by your own image throughout the call.

Get your lighting and look set before the meeting, take one last look in at your self-view window, then go to your settings and turn it off. Why? Most people can’t help but focus on their own image during a video call, and that is not only distracting but can be distressing when you’re hyper-critical about the way your mouth moves or your eyes shift. For me it’s similar to getting seated in a restaurant opposite a mirror—I can’t conduct a decent conversation when confronted with my own mirror image, so I always ask to be seated at a different chair. Bottom line: focusing on two frames at once divides your mind and attention, creating mental strain.

2. Take a virtual water-cooler break.

When you’re at the office, you naturally get up between meetings to get a drink of coffee or gather at the water cooler. You can achieve the same effect by scheduling a ten-minute break between calls or calling for a break half-way through a two-hour session. Take a quick walk around your home or apartment, get up for a drink of water, do a few stretches or salutes to the sun, or gaze out your window at the view to relax your eyes.

3. Make your Zoom spot comfortable and switch it up.

If you had to conduct back-to-back meetings in the same meeting room at your office, you’d soon ask for a change of scenery. You can achieve the same effect at home by switching to the couch for one meeting, sitting in your office chair at another. Make sure your background looks professional and uncluttered, and that you have a comfy chair that supports your back.

You can also switch to phone or audio to give yourself a break from staring at the screen. Not every call has to be a video call (after all, we used to conduct many one-on-one meetings on the phone). Giving your eyes a rest, and the choice to get out of the chair and stand up and stretch for a speaker-phone call can provide needed variety. Sitting all day can create a variety of health risks, so create ways to stand, stretch, and move about during the day to lower the risk of metabolic syndrome and pump oxygen to your brain.

4. Refresh your eyes.

Staring at the screen all day is hard on the eyes, which is why some people end up with bleary eyes and head pressure at the end of the day. If you’re stuck on a long call, take a mini-break by turning off your video and shifting your eyes to look through a window or anywhere away from the screen. Blink to replenish cleansing fluid to dry eyes. After the call, dampen a cotton ball with pure Organic Rose Water and place it over your closed eyes. Lean back and relax for ten minutes while the naturally cooling, calming essential rose water refreshes your tired eyes. End your mini-spa treatment with palming: place your palms lightly over your eyes and relax into the moment to soothe eye fatigue and release stress. Find instructions for palming and other eye exercises here.

5. Ease Performance Stress and Screen Strain.

Video calls can make you feel like you’re perpetually on, with all eyes on you even when you’re not the speaker. Take Worry Free to overcome anxious feelings, EMF exposure, or computer overstimulation. This remarkable herbal compound is my personal go-to for dissolving mental strain, as it not only calms my mind but emotions too—not to mention helping me sleep better. Powerful anti-stress herbs such as ashwagandha and jatamansi provide a natural solution to mental tension and worry—including the computer kind.

6. Give your brain a boost.

If you’re feeling the need to sharpen your memory to stay on top of the technology, Organic Brahmi (Bacopa) is a revered and ancient Ayurvedic brain tonic and neuro adaptogen. It boosts the brain and nervous system’s resistance to stress, supports the intellect, and rejuvenates memory function.

*The syndrome has been named after the popular video-conferencing software Zoom, but this discussion is about any video conferencing experience and is not meant to be an endorsement of any one program.

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], June 23, 2020. Reprinted with permission.) 

BY LINDA EGENES

Why You React to Stress the Way You DoWith 87 percent of America on lockdown, most of us are feeling stress. Parents work from makeshift home offices while homeschooling their kids and prepping meals. Others, less fortunate, have been furloughed or laid off and struggle to make ends meet. Stuck in the house, each member of the family is under stress, yet each handles it differently.

Consider this scenario, for instance. Katie, the mom, tries to keep a happy face, but instead of sleeping at night, grocery lists and visions of empty shelves whirl through her mind. Naturally thin and wiry, she can’t focus on her work deadlines and is so nervous about keeping her family safe that she finds it hard to eat properly and is losing weight. No matter how hard Katie tries to relax, she can’t stop the worry.

Let’s call the husband Charlie. A man of medium build and thinning blond hair, he’s a competitive sales person. He feels increasingly agitated when his company’s website crashes and the kids, with their impeccable timing, crowd into the closet that is now his home office. He blames his boss for not organizing online systems better before this crisis and finds his normal desire to help his co-workers and family fading as his patience runs thin and he falls behind.

Tanner, their easy-going 12-year-old son, plants himself on the couch with a plate of cookies after online schooling each day. With his last season of soccer on hold, he cheerfully resorts to playing video games and watching TV non-stop. After a week of too much eating, no interaction with his buddies, and too little exercise, though, he’s feeling sluggish and a little down.

If like Katie, Charlie, and Tanner we each react to stress in our own way, then it’s also true that we need different antidotes to stress. Maharishi Ayurveda recognizes the unique makeup of each individual and helps you identify your body type—and your stress reaction—and offers simple, natural ways to help you destress and restore balance.

Curious about your Ayurvedic Body Type? Take the Body-Type Quiz Here.

Worried Vata
Thin, active, creative people like Katie often have more of the fast-moving, dry, and light qualities of Vata dosha. When in balance, Vata types are energetic, creative, and stimulating to be around. The problem comes when Katie can’t turn off her overactive brain and can’t fall asleep at night. It becomes a vicious cycle, as the less she sleeps the more scattered her focus, the more she worries, and the more her sleep problems escalate. To keep stress levels in balance, people with Vata dosha need more calming foods, lifestyle, and herbals that bring balance to Vata dosha.

Stress Solutions for Vata

  • Favor warm, well-cooked, nourishing foods. Lay off the raw foods and cold salads, as they are hard to digest and increase Vata dosha. Check out the Dietary Guidelines for Vata. Use Organic Vata Churna to spice your food with calming spices and herbs.
  • Aim to turn off all screens by 8:00 p.m. at night. Listen to calming music or read a light-hearted book before bed. Those with dominant Vata dosha may love warmth. Try soaking in a warm bath with a cup of Epsom salts. Snuggle under a heavy blanket and consider wearing socks to bed to keep your toes warm. Turn off the lights early—by 9:30 p.m. If you fall asleep before 10 p.m., during the heavy, slow Kapha cycle of the evening, your sleep will effortlessly be deeper and more restful. If possible, it’s ideal to wake up at sunrise, while the Vata time of the morning is still lively.
  • Exercise. While exercise is healthy for all body types, it needs to be lighter and less intense to avoid aggravating Vata dosha. Daily walks for 30 minutes plus a light yoga practice are ideal.
  • Keep a regular routine to calm Vata dosha. Waking up at the same time, practicing meditation at the same time morning and evening, and exercising at a prescribed time each day helps provide the structure that Vata dosha needs to stay balanced. When you eat at the same time every day, your digestion revs up and becomes stronger, another plus for Vata digestion, which tends to be irregular.
  • Plan calming, enjoyable activities every day. Listen to music you love, watch movies you enjoy, or read books that are engaging. Try to limit the time you spend scanning news headlines and watch funny videos instead.
  • Drink soothing Organic Vata Tea to enhance digestion, support healthy elimination, and restore balance to Vata dosha. Or alternate with Worry Free Tea to calm the mind and soothe frayed nerves. If worries are keeping you awake at night, try Blissful Sleep, a natural sleep aid that supports falling asleep easily. It contains two Vata-balancing herbs: Indian valerian, which supports falling asleep easily, and ashwagandha, which boosts resistance to stress.
  • Try Worry Free to soothe anxious feelings or Stress Free Mind to keep calm under pressure while working from home. “When I take Stress Free Mind morning and evening, I have more peace and less stress,” says Susan, a customer. “Life is hard when you’re caring for loved ones, but this amazing product helps me navigate calmly through all those bumps in the road that we all face.”

Frustrated Pitta
People with Pitta dosha, like the husband in our scenario, may be naturally friendly and giving when in balance. They may also have a sharp intellect, which supports the ability to make clear decisions.. When out of balance, this person may feel intense emotions, such as anger, frustration, or exasperation. People like Charlie may wake up in the middle of the night and find it hard to fall back asleep. To keep stress levels in balance, people with Pitta dosha need more cooling foods, exercise, and herbals, and a lifestyle that takes the pressure off when away from the office.

Stress Solutions for Pitta

  • Select cooling foods, which go a long way toward balancing overheated Pitta dosha. Check out the Pitta balancing diet here. Enjoy some sweets, especially sweet fruits or dairy products. Season your food with cooling spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and coriander, and stay away from chilies. To make it easy to flavor your food with cooling herbs and spices, try Organic Pitta Churna, a cooling spice mixture.
  • Swimming is a great sport for balancing Pitta dosha, because it cools while giving exercise. Since most pools and rec centers are temporarily closed, try taking walks in the shade, near creeks or rivers, or in other cool areas. Pitta dosha is soothed by beauty, so try to get out in nature. Drive to a park and walk around, enjoying the cheerful sights and sounds of spring.
  • Organize your schedule so you’re not under the pressure of deadlines, as this just turns up the emotional heat. Plan for leisure time every day. Make a point of connecting with friends online or spend an evening with the family. Downtime cools overheated Pitta and opens up your generous and loving heart.
  • Sip Organic Pitta Tea throughout the day to help cool your mind and body with its fragrant rose petal mixture. Stress Free Emotions is a go-to formula for active Type A personalities and Pitta-driven people. It not only reduces anger and frustration, but soothes the emotional highs and lows through the day. Over time it can improve resistance to emotional stress and fatigue, helping to promote self-confidence and a more positive outlook. “Stress Free Emotions gives me great emotional stability which translates into patience with others and myself,” says Ivanka, a customer. “As a Pitta I really appreciate this transformation.”

Easy-going Kapha
People who are bigger physically, naturally social, and generally able to roll with the ups and downs of life have more of the heavy, slow-moving Kapha dosha. When a Kapha person like Tanner is stressed, he may internalize the stress and withdraw. The problem comes if he continues to sit on the couch eating sweets day after day, as this will only increase the heavy, slow qualities of Kapha dosha and can eventually lead to lethargy or feelings of sadness. To keep stress levels in balance, people with Kapha dosha need more stimulating foods, exercise, and herbals, and an active lifestyle.

Stress Solutions for Kapha:

  • Eat more warm, soupy, and light foods, as explained in the Kapha Balancing Diet. Favor bitter, astringent, and pungent (spicy) food and lay off desserts, especially the cold, heavy sweets like ice cream and cheesecake. Season your food with Organic Kapha Churna, a delicious Kapha-balancing spice mixture that works well with Indian cuisine.
  • Make your evening meal light, and try to finish it early, by 6:00 p.m., so your slower Kapha digestion can finish before sleep. While people with more Kapha sometimes need less sleep, the most important point of your routine is to wake up early, by sunrise. This will infuse more of the light, bright Vata quality into your day. Sleeping late into the Kapha time of the morning (i.e. after sunrise, from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.) can make you feel sleepy and dull and increase your tendency to gain weight.
  • With their steam engine physiology, Kaphas love sustained exercise. Schedule some type of cardio or strength-training exercise daily. The hard part for Mr. or Ms. Kapha is motivating yourself to be active, so try registering for an online fitness course or connecting with a buddy to exercise together on video. There are now many online apps with sophisticated routines and opportunities to work out with others in real time.
  • Keep your brain stimulated too. Take a free course online, like Yale’s popular course on happiness, first offered to help students overcome sadness and anxious feelings. Playing games with the family or getting an online bridge game going can keep you socially and mentally stimulated.
  • Whenever you feel sluggish or heavy, drink a steaming cup of Kapha Tea to up your energy levels. Or try Fatigue Free for a natural energy lift. It contains the energy tonic dashmula and heart-leaf sida to supply nutrients to your cells and enhance vitality.
    “I ordered Fatigue Free for my daughter and within days she had energy to workout after work, not feeling sluggish all day,” said Maria. “It made a huge difference in a very short time.”
  • To uplift feelings of sadness, stabilize emotional highs and lows, and help with energy, try Blissful Joy formula.

No matter what your body type, it’s important to remind yourself that things have a way of working out. The more you can focus on the upside, the better you can create something positive out of these extraordinary times. The founder of vpk by Maharishi Ayurveda was fond of saying, “What we put our attention on grows in our lives.” So treat yourself to some positive news every day, stay in touch with friends, and enjoy the undivided attention of your family. Wishing you good health and happiness.

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], April 18, 2020. Reprinted with permission.) 

BY LINDA EGENES

Key to ImmunityAs we face a global pandemic, immunity is on all of our minds. The most effective ways to increase the immune system may be deeper than you think.

According to the ancient science of Ayurveda, strong immunity is synonymous with strong digestion. In fact, the factors that determine a person’s bala, or immunity, are directly related to digestion.

Let’s break down the digestion-immunity connection in three stages.

Stage One: Is your digestion strong enough to digest your food properly?

Digestion is defined as a person’s capacity to break down food into substances that can be used by the body—and it’s the word “capacity” that contains the whole story.

If your capacity to break down food is impaired, undigested food or ama is created. Ama is the Ayurvedic term for the sticky, gooey mess that is left behind when digestion isn’t going right (you may know that feeling—heartburn, bloating, or your stomach in knots). Another sign of ama is a coated tongue.

When ama, the waste product of incomplete digestion, accumulates in the digestive tract, it overwhelms the digestive fire (called agni in Ayurveda), making your digestion even weaker. Eventually, if your digestion stays weak and continues to generate ama, it can travel to other parts of the body where it can accumulate and cause stiff joints, clogged arteries, brain fog, and a host of other imbalances.

You may have heard health practitioners describe “leaky gut syndrome,” an unhealthy inflammatory response caused when particles of undigested food, bacteria, or toxins cross the intestinal wall, enter the bloodstream, and spread to other parts of the body. This is another way of saying that when food is not digested properly, it can eventually cause imbalance and health problems throughout the body.

Stage Two: Is your gut environment so healthy that imbalances can’t take root?

When digestion is healthy, it not only burns away or digests ama, but also digests and eliminates toxins from the gut—including invasive microorganisms. A balanced metabolism creates an ama-free gut environment that is not welcoming to invaders.

In modern terminology, a balanced microbiome is an environment in which the good bacteria thrive and the bad bacteria recede. In Ayurveda, it’s said that imbalance can only grow in conditions where ama and imbalance already exist.

Stage Three: Is your digestion performing at its peak, supporting radiant skin, shining eyes, exuberant energy, and robust immunity?

This is the goal of Ayurveda—to create such healthy digestion that your skin is glowing, your eyes are bright, and you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically balanced. It’s a definition of health that goes way beyond not being sick—it’s a state of happiness and self-realization.

So how do we get there? That’s a big question, and actually the entire field of Ayurveda is aimed at improving digestion in order to create this balanced state of health and immunity.

Here’s an easy guide for getting started.

Ten Ayurvedic Ways to Boost Your Gut Health (and your immunity)

  1. Eat fresh, organic food according to your body type.
  2. Sit down when you eat, and choose a settled atmosphere—including congenial conversation with friends or family—to support digestion. In other words, eating standing up at a counter in O’Hare Airport could be hard on your digestion.
  3. Plan your main meal at noon, when digestive strength is strongest. Eat lighter at breakfast and dinner. Allow three hours to digest your evening meal before going to bed.
  4. Eat your meals at the same time every day. Avoid snacking between meals unless you’re hungry, as this disrupts digestion and can cause gas and bloating.
  5. Include plenty of roughage in your diet, including freshly cooked veggies, whole grains, and pulses (small beans such as split mung dahl). Roughage binds to toxins and carries them out of the body.
  6. Use spices and herbs to stimulate digestion such as cumin, coriander, fennel, oregano, basil, and rosemary, according to your body type.
  7. End your noon meal with lassi, a natural yogurt-based probiotic drink.
  8. Drink plenty of pure water throughout the day. Your digestive system needs water to work properly—dehydration is not only the main cause of sluggish bowel movements, but also contributes to low energy and mental fatigue. Sipping hot water throughout the day is a good way to dissolve ama. Ice-cold water and drinks, on the other hand, disrupt digestion and create ama.
  9. Exercise daily according to your body type, as movement boosts agni and helps burn away ama.
  10. Use herbal supplements for digestion management.
  • Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus) to support your digestive system and elimination.
    This go-to daily detox formula helps maintain regular elimination and the flushing of toxins from the body, purifies the liver, intestines and blood, assists the digestion and absorption of nutrients, tones the large intestine, and creates luster in the skin, a sign of healthy digestion. It contains a powerful combination of three legendary fruits—indian gooseberry, chebulic myrobalan, and belleric myrobalan—revered in the Ayurvedic tradition for their cleansing and nourishing benefits. Digest Tone is also a powerful antioxidant and balances all three doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha).
  • Herbal Cleanse to support elimination and intestinal cleansing.
    Herbal Cleanse absorbs toxins in the GI tract, promotes the growth of friendly colon bacteria, and protects the mucus membranes of the colon. Indian leaf senna, sweet fennel, indian jalap, and other herbs in this traditional formula support natural, healthy elimination. Chttps://www.mapi.com/products/herbal-supplements/detoxification/herbal-cleanse.htmlabbage rose cools the intestines, making it ideal for balancing Pitta dosha.
  • Aci-Balance to balance stomach acidity.
    This Pitta-pacifying formula soothes occasional acid indigestion and heartburn, helps maintain stomach acidity, and helps relieve occasional flatulence and sour belching. A rare form of white turpeth and the other synergistically blended herbs help rebalance and moderate the digestive fire for smooth comfort.
  • Herbal Di-Gest supports improved digestion and balanced appetite.
    By stimulating sluggish digestion, Herbal Di-Gest promotes absorption of nutrients, balances food cravings, and helps with gas, bloating, and discomfort. A blend of 12 Ayurvedic herbs and spices including pomegranate seeds, ginger, cumin seeds, and black pepper helps fine-tune your digestion to improve assimilation and elimination and helps you feel light and clear after meals. Effective in balancing Vata, Pitta, and Kapha doshas.
  • Liver Balance to balance, nurture, and support healthy liver function.
    As the filter between all the toxins and pollutants outside your body, your liver is essential to digestion and your health. This traditional Ayurvedic formula helps strengthen and cleanse the liver by supporting the elimination of impurities. This formula promotes good appetite and assimilation of nutrients, helps digestion and metabolism of fats, and supports healthy blood cells, bile, and nutritional fluids
  • Glucostat helps maintain healthy sugar metabolism.
    This potent herbal combination helps boost the body’s natural ability to digest and metabolize sugars, when combined with a healthy diet and exercise. Boerhavia, spreading hogweed, winter cherry, mineral pitch, neem, and arjuna myrobalans help to nourish both kidney cells and liver functions. This formula supports the healthy functioning of kidneys and liver, improves digestion, improves digestion and assimilation of carbohydrates, and cleanses and nourishes the pancreas.

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], August 20, 2020. Reprinted with permission.) 

BY LINDA EGENES

 

Megan FairchildBeing a professional ballerina can be hard on your health, mentally and physically.

For Megan Fairchild, age 30, a principal at the New York City Ballet who danced the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in PBS’ telecast of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, stress almost derailed her career. On the fast track since joining the corps de ballet at age eighteen, becoming a soloist at nineteen and a principal by age twenty, she was suffering from debilitating panic attacks that put her out of work for days at a time.

“Life would get stressful, and one little thing like going to get a shot at the doctor’s office would trigger my whole system to shut down,” she says. “I would have panic attacks where I would pass out and be rushed to the emergency room.”

Megan says the panic attacks started at age eighteen, but were manageable because they happened only once every two years.

Then it started happening more often, just six months apart. “I had to miss some performances,” she says. “So I thought, ‘OK, this isn’t cool. This is affecting my job. I need to figure out how to manage my life in a way that is going to be a little more relaxing.’”

Fortunately for Megan, one of her ballet masters at NYCB, who did the Transcendental Meditation technique, suggested that she try it.

“She was the consummate professional and always in the moment and ready to get her job done,” says Megan. “I felt like, well, if she does it, and she swears by it, then I’m going to try it.”

Since starting TM, Megan has not had a single panic attack. She says, “There have been moments that, in the past, would have caused me to get light-headed and possibly go into an episode, but now I watch the moment pass by without any big event.”

As Megan explains it, “My level of pushing my body was up so high that, basically, a fuse would blow. With TM I turn my stress dial back a little bit every day instead of letting it constantly turn up and build on itself.”

She also attributes meditation to giving her the courage to make a bold career move. Just five months after starting TM, Megan got a text from the casting director of the Broadway musical On the Town, wondering if she wanted to audition for a lead role.

“At first I was like, ‘I am not a Broadway performer. This is crazy,’” she says. “I laughed about it for a day, and then something happened. The next morning I woke up and I thought, ‘Why not?’ Looking back, I think it’s no coincidence that my little opportunity happened after I learned Transcendental Meditation.”

Says Megan, “That was a really important moment for me. Normally I would have been too shy, or would have thought no, that is not me and stayed in my little bubble. Instead, I was thinking that I am at a point in my career where I am ready to try new and different things, and this could be an exercise in jumping out of my comfort zone. I honestly believe that TM had something to do with that decision.”

She ended up taking a year’s leave from the New York City Ballet and received rave reviews from critics and fans alike for her starring role as “Miss Turnstiles” in the popular revival of On the Town.

Megan notices other benefits from TM. “I think TM helps you be a little more fearless. Before, I would hold on to trying to be really perfect and also was kind of obsessed with certain technical steps. Now, it’s more of a bigger picture. I am enjoying my own performance more and taking every step and every movement to its fullest.”

Linda Egenes writes about green and healthy living and is the author of six books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, March 26, 2015. Reprinted with permission.)

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BY LINDA EGENES

Flavia Finnegan and her FamilyWhen you meet someone as happy and radiant as Flavia Finnegan, wife, mother and career woman, it’s hard to imagine that she ever felt fear or trauma. Yet traumatic events can happen to anyone.

Flavia, now 40, grew up in Brazil and as part of her undergraduate work as an international business major, she spent a year studying in Stockholm. “I felt safe and protected there,” she says. “I loved learning in a completely new environment, experiencing different food and colors and weather. I felt blessed to have those experiences.”

Riding a wave of achievement and on a fast-paced career track, her next stop was an internship in the financial district of New York City. She arrived in 2000—just in time for the terrorist attacks of September 2001.

“I was living and working close to the World Trade Center and it was a very frightening experience. I saw people afraid to open their mailbox for fear of a bomb being inside. I went from living in a safe environment to that time in history. It was a big shock and in terms of interacting with others I became fragile, afraid of what could happen the next day. I felt so vulnerable.”

Two years later, she returned to Brazil. But even living in her home country didn’t make her feel safe. “I wasn’t the same me anymore,” Flavia says. “I had anxiety attacks and panic attacks. I started looking for a different type of lifestyle that would give me the inner strength and stability to deal with my fears of the outside environment.”

In her quest to change her life, Flavia began practicing yoga and eating healthy foods. She had heard about the Transcendental Meditation technique and knew that many prominent people practiced it, but, as she puts it, “the message had never reached my heart.” Then she heard a famous surfer from Brazil share how the practice of TM had made him feel more connected with his environment, with nature.

“It had a big impact on me,” she says. “I could see that he had to be deeply connected with his surroundings to swim into the middle of the sea, amidst sharks and other predators, and to survive five- or six-story-high waves. I could feel that he felt safe and secure inside, and his story touched me at a deep level.”

Flavia continues, “I realized immediately that this was what I was looking for: a different type of connection with my environment. I knew I had to get over my fear and anxiety of living in big cities, where you don’t know if the next person you meet is going to make your day shine or affect your life in a negative way.”

After getting in touch with the TM Center in Sao Paulo, Flavia learned to practice TM. “TM came to me as a gift,” she says. “Learning to meditate took me to another level. I’m very grateful. I started to experience an untroubled state of mind, an inner security and freedom from anxiety. I started to feel that whatever happened each day, the big and the small, I could be happy for being alive and experiencing the sun and wind and the people around me that contributed to that moment. TM gave me the inner calm to enjoy every moment.”

Flavia also credits TM with giving her the courage to become a mother. She says that before she started meditating, even though she was married to a wonderful man, she didn’t think she wanted to raise a child in this world.

She says, “Practicing TM gave me the confidence to see the future with more optimism. It helped me to center myself, to embrace myself and others with a full heart, with openness again. When you experience your divine source within you, you begin to see other human beings as you are—a body full of high energy with a perfect being inside. After all, we all have a body that can self-heal; we all have a mind that is infinitely creative. Once you have that awareness, you see a reflection of yourself in everyone. I walked many miles to cross that bridge to motherhood and TM helped me with that.”

Flavia practiced meditation regularly during her pregnancy, which she says helped her to enjoy the many changes taking place inside her. “When you’re pregnant for the first time, your mind and body go through a lot of change. Nature takes the time to prepare you. It’s a cosmic journey but with all the ups and downs in hormones and transformations, it can be challenging. TM had such a great impact on me—it helped me rest deeply and made me feel so tranquil.”

Flavia feels that practicing TM also had a calming effect on her daughter, now 18 months. “Every time I meditated when she was in the womb, I could feel her becoming very peaceful. Since birth she has been contented and likes to smile and loves music,” she says. “She’s a bubble of happiness.”

Today Flavia is enjoying her role as a mother, wife and career woman. After years of working as a financial manager for Citigroup in Miami, she now is studying part-time to be a CPA. Flavia no longer has a fear of her environment or the people around her. She notes that once she started practicing TM, she started attracting more positive people and experiences into her life.

“Once you experience inner peace in your life, you start to radiate joy and everyone wants to be closer to you,” she says. “You naturally attract more love into your life and your relationships become even more loving. Either you are helping someone or they are helping you. With meditation, somehow there is more joy inside you and more joy for everyone around you. This is true for professional connections, for better friendships, for better health, for better family life. It’s a beautiful path, to have TM enriching all the moments of my life.”

She also says she is no longer afraid of the challenges her child will face in the world, as she was before she started TM. Her fear of others has transformed into love.

“I went from being very insecure to being much stronger and more confident inside, and I started experiencing unconditional love toward everyone and everything, all creatures on earth,” she says. “It’s my perception more and more that we all come from the same divine source. Wishing love for my daughter and husband becomes unconditional love for all. It becomes so unbounded and extends to all the children I see on the street. And I want my daughter to experience the best of everything—to gain knowledge, to travel, to experience new people and to love those around her.”

Flavia says, “I hope my story will reach someone who is in pain or in fear for some reason. Once you start TM you can face the world with a much better attitude. TM gives you that time you need to recharge, open up your eyes and express your love again. If there is someone who has been stressed to such a level that she has lost her base, lost her hope—like me, she can strengthen her base. I hope my story touches someone who is looking for a way to reach that inner peace, that inner life.”

Linda Egenes writes about green and healthy living and is the author of six books, including The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmiki’s Ancient Epic—Complete and Comprehensive  (TarcherPerigee, a division of Penguin Random House), co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, April 23, 2015. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Sharon Isbin by J. Henry Fair

Sharon Isbin by J. Henry Fair

When you hear a musician play who stirs your soul and at the same time is so in command of her craft that she makes it look simple, you know you are in the presence of a true artist.

Sharon Isbin has made the intricate art of performing classical guitar look simple. Considered the leading classical guitarist of our time, she was named “Best Classical Guitarist” by Guitar Player magazine and is the first guitarist in over 43 years to receive two classical GRAMMY Awards (in 2001 and 2010). A former student of Andrès Segovia and a graduate of Yale University, she has played at the White House and Carnegie Hall. Her rise to stardom as a woman playing an instrument that is usually played by men was chronicled in Sharon Isbin: Troubador, a recent documentary on her creative performances and collaborations with artists in a variety of genres that was released last fall by American Public Television.

She has also expanded the repertoire of classical guitar, persuading leading composers such as John Corigliano to create classical guitar music for her to play with their orchestras. Called the “Monet of Classical Guitar,” she is known for her ability to express different colors or emotions through her music.

For Isbin, it’s all about expressing her feelings in her work. “I love to be expressive on the guitar with lyricism, dynamic contrasts, nuances, phrasing, articulation, and a panoply of colors and timbres,” she says. “I cultivate these techniques to serve the music and to communicate it with feeling and emotion. For example, I can make the guitar sound like a human voice by connecting notes of a melody with nuances of sound while shaping the contour of the line as a vocalist would do. This also creates a three-dimensional quality and depth.”

Isbin likens her creative process to being a director of a play. “I choose music that I love and which speaks to me, and that makes it easy to be expressive. The more I play a new work, the more I discover in it. My goal is to enter the mind of the composer, while feeling and expressing the emotion from within. In a way, I explore different characters of a piece much like actors do with a script. And when choosing dynamics and shadings to delineate the different layers and levels of voicing, architecture, and structure within a work, it’s much like a director staging and guiding actors in the foreground, middle, background, etc.”

As head of the guitar department at the Aspen Music Festival and The Juilliard School, Isbin has developed an original technique for teaching classical guitar. Yet she doesn’t limit herself to classical music—she has embraced a musical palette that ranges from bossa-nova to jazz to folk, collaborating with other guitarists and musicians in new ways.

“I explore a variety of genres, from my home base in classical, to unusual collaborations in jazz, bossa-nova, folk, country, rock, and even film music such as performing on Scorsese’s The Departed,” she says. “But most important to me and to listeners is the emotion, lyricism, sensuality and passion.”

For instance, her 2010 GRAMMY award-winning Journey to the New World is an exploration of folk music beginning in the 16th century British Isles, Ireland and Scotland, and crossing the ocean with the immigrants to the New World.

“Its centerpiece ‘Joan Baez Suite’ was written for me by John Duarte and inspired by music Baez made famous in the early part of her career. When Joan heard it, she offered to sing on the album, and performs beautiful renditions of “Wayfaring Stranger” and “Go ‘Way from my Window”. Virtuoso country fiddler Mark O’Connor concludes the journey joining me in the folk suite he wrote for us.” At 58, Isbin is not slowing down. How does she have the energy to continually expand her repertoire and explore new ground by collaborating with so many other top artists?

It turns out she has a secret.

“I have done Transcendental Meditation since I was 17 years old,” she said in a recent NY Times interview. “I do 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the afternoon. I really believe it has helped make me the person that I am. Because it is an extraordinary way to release stress and allow it to dissolve, so that you can focus on what you want to focus on, and have your energy towards very positive things.”

When she performs, Isbin says she enters a state similar to the “zone” that top athletes report. “It puts me in touch with my innermost creative core and enables its expression through music,” she says. “Most importantly, it facilitates instant access to a state of ‘cosmic’ immersion, of being in the flow or in ‘the zone’ when performing, a state of being very similar to one I enter daily when practicing TM. It’s a sense of communion with the energy of the universe, the audience, the composer and the music, without ego or interference. It’s a feeling of unity between the listeners and me, a sense of “oneness” in which we are all experiencing the beauty of the music together. That sensation is one of the reasons live performances can be so powerful—everyone is focused and transported, the experience is unique and in the moment, never to be replicated.”

For Isbin, TM helps with all of the creative aspects of her work. “Because TM is so effective at eliminating stress and distraction, it encourages laser sharp focus and concentration for any task,” she says. “Practicing TM has inspired heights of creativity for me on many levels: as a musician, arranger, educator, writer, and artistic director.”

See a trailer of Sharon Isbin: Troubadour

Linda Egenes writes about green and healthy living and is the author of six books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this post for Transcendental Meditation for Women Blog, February 19, 2015. Reprinted with permission.)

BY LINDA EGENES

Spring Allergies and Ayurveda

Spring flowers, ragweed, dust, mold or pet dander can cause your immune system to overreact to harmless natural substances.

Instead of reserving its immune response for viruses and bacteria, your body sounds a false alarm when exposed to a certain food, pet dander, pollen, or even a blade of grass — and tells the immune system to attack. Sneezing, nasal congestion and itchy, watery eyes; indigestion; swelling; or skin rashes — these are some of the all-too-familiar results.

According to Maharishi Ayurveda, accumulated toxins (ama) prevent your immune system from functioning normally and cause the overreaction. Ayurveda suggests a multi-faceted approach — adjustments in lifestyle and diet and specific ayurvedic herbal supplements.

Spring Allergies and Ayurveda – Herbs for Spring Immunity

Ayurveda has deep regard for the intelligence of the immune system, and offers a sophisticated in-depth body of botanical knowledge and lifestyle tips, centuries old, supporting it. For example, certain ayurvedic herbs will help support your body’s natural immunity to allergens by helping to eliminate existing toxins and, at the same time, promote a healthy response to harmless allergens. The herbs also work to support the healthy functioning of your liver. As your body’s natural filtration system, your liver filters toxins and chemicals from the food you eat and the water you drink.

In this way these herbs offer a natural, long-term approach to allergens. The product containing these herbs is called Aller-Defense.

Uphold Immune Strength

Supporting the body’s immune system to combat allergens is exactly what Maharishi Ayurveda suggests as the long-term, effective solution to a healthy response to allergens. Herbs can play a helping role in this.

In the spring, impurities (called ama) that have been stored in tissues of the body, including your largest organ, the skin, tend to dissolve due to the rising temperature in the environment. These toxins can build up in the microchannels of the body (the shrotas), blocking them. When the microchannels are blocked, nutrients are not delivered properly to the cells, and the body’s immune system becomes weakened. Then, in the spring, as plants bloom, they fill the air with pollen (allergens) at the very same time the body’s defenses are being challenged with a flood of melting ama. This is the reason that, according to the ayurvedic model of health, our reaction to allergens spikes in the spring.

The Spring Flood of Ama

Traditional ayurvedic experts view the body’s overreaction to respiratory allergens as a problem occurring in a particular sub-dosha of Kapha, called Shleshaka Kapha. This sub-dosha is responsible for maintaining moisture in the upper respiratory tract.

As the digestive impurities (ama) in the body start dissolving, they combine with Shleshaka Kapha to form a thick, sticky toxin called shleshma, which starts to fill the respiratory tract and sinus cavities. The entire respiratory system, as a result, becomes a fertile breeding ground for bacteria and health imbalances. This is the reason why allergen sensitivity can become a sinus or respiratory issue. This is also why a Kapha-reducing diet of lighter foods that are easier to digest is recommended. These kinds of foods are easier on the body and help flush ama out.

Strengthening the Body’s Defense Systems

If one has to choose one product to remove ama from the system and support digestion and elimination (the underlying basis for all health…digestion), one should take Organic Digest Tone. It is an everyday detox that tones the digestive tract and eliminates ama. It also allows the system to metabolize foods and other herbals more effectively. It is the supercharger for good digestion and assimilation. One can eat the best foods available and take the best herbs to be found, but without strong digestion, they are being wasted.

The long-term solution is to delve into the root cause of allergen sensitivity and support the body’s immune system. The Aller-Defense herbal formulation from Maharishi Ayurveda helps remove toxins from the body and strengthen immunity. Aller-Defense helps block toxic reactions by improving digestion, and reduces sensitivity to allergens by nourishing and purifying the liver. This herbal formulation enhances the body’s overall capability to fight allergens.

What about diet?

Researchers have found that a diet that includes regular intake of certain spices can reduce vulnerability to plant allergens. These spices contain natural chemicals that include flavonoids and phenols. For example, turmeric is rich in curcumin, a compound that is known to support a healthy inflammatory response. Turmeric can also help improve digestion and balance the flow of bile. Sage, red pepper, cumin and coriander are some other spices that are known to help with allergen resistance. Sautéing a combination of ground turmeric, cumin and coriander in ghee and using the mixture to season vegetables is a way of incorporating some of these ayurvedic herbs/spices into your diet.

From the ayurvedic perspective, it is important to follow a Kapha-Pitta pacifying diet if one is prone to an allergen response. When the body mistakenly attacks harmless allergens, the body’s immune system releases various chemicals. So it is considered essential to pacify Pitta, because Pitta regulates chemical functions in the body. Drinking Organic Pitta Tea or using the Organic Cooling Pitta Spice Mix (food seasoning) is a convenient way of doing this. It is also important to pacify Kapha to counteract sluggish digestion and congestion. This is especially true in the Kapha season (spring). One of the most effective ways to pacify Kapha is to take Organic Digest Tone. It is an everyday detox that tones the digestive tract and eliminates ama.

Taking products that relieve allergen symptoms provides only temporary relief and does not address the root cause of allergen response — the body overreacting and mistaking harmless natural substances as dangerous.

Herbal Help in Spring

Sniffle Free — Cold weather can compromise your body’s ability to handle cold temperatures that can put out your digestive fire and weaken the body. Sniffle Free supports natural digestive fire, which is often compromised by colder weather. This formula also aids your resistance to the cold, helps lubricate the lungs and helps restore your body’s balance of moisture and mucus.

Elim-Tox — helps cleanse toxins and purify the body. It feels good to clean house and get rid of old junk in your life. It feels even better to clear old impurities from your body. Elim-Tox helps purify toxins from your whole body — down to the cells. You’ll feel healthy, clear and light. And let’s face it. Modern life is full of toxic input. There are chemicals and preservatives in your food supply, toxins in the air and water, and digestive impurities that build up due to poor eating habits, not to mention the toxic build-up that results from mental, physical and emotional stress.

In Maharishi Ayurveda, these impurities are called ama. They disturb digestion, overall metabolism, liver functioning and the healthy breakdown of fats, leading to weight and cholesterol problems. They interrupt circulation, leading to poor nutritional input to the cells. They block elimination, causing digestive disturbances. They interrupt the immune system, leading to allergen resistance issues and health problems. Do you feel groggy after eating? Are your joints feeling stiff? These are signs of toxic build-up. Other signs include an unpleasant body odor, a heavy feeling in your body, or a coated tongue in the morning. Toxins mask the sophisticated intelligence of your body, creating health issues and discomfort instead of health. Yet toxic build-up is virtually unavoidable in today’s fast-paced world. Stressful jobs, environmental pollution and fast-food diets contribute to toxic waste in the body. And no matter how pure the food you eat, if your digestion is out of balance, your own body will create digestive toxins.

Elim-Tox-O is a gentle formula that helps cleanse your body’s natural purification systems without forcing, making it the recommended choice for people who have a tendency towards acne, occasional heartburn, and excess stomach acid or who have a lot of “fire” in their physiology.

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI],June 4,2014. Reprinted with permission.) 

 

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