Goin’ to the Country
July 9, 2010

Me celebrating the 4th with new friends Pakshi Raj and Vaj

Last weekend my husband and I were invited to a 4th of July celebration at the home of Claudia Petrick, my editor at the Iowa Source. Tom and I drove a mile or two north of Fairfield, turned onto a country road, and entered another world. Claudia lives on a five-acre spread with organic gardens, a pear and cherry orchard, and horses.

These guys are living in horse heaven

Soon after arriving, I follow my friend Cynthia Arenander to the cob house barn where her impressive dressage steed, Pakshi Raj, boards with Claudia’s handsome Arabian, Vajrashrava (“Vaj” for short, meaning “thunderbolt” in English and “diamond” in Sanskrit, a perfect name since he has a white diamond on his forehead). At first I’m intimidated by Pakshi Raj’s immense size and mythical horse energy, but when Cynthia places a flower on his head I can connect to his playful side. I feel even less intimidated when Cynthia tells me that her husband Alarik plans to film Pakshi in a Mr.-Ed type video for their line of organic anti-aging products.

Cynthia has a mythical force of her own–she was given this spectacular steed when a horse whisperer told its owner that he would prefer to live with Cynthia. “I’ve been around horses all my life,” she says as she slips on the horses’ bridles and leads them to the front yard where they graze in idyllic beauty next to Claudia’s lily and bee balm garden.

Cynthia, Claudia and I relax on Claudia's deck while the horses graze behind us

It’s soothing to spend an evening in the country, and my mind and body relax in a way they can’t even in the low-stress environment of our home on the Maharishi University of Management campus. I wonder again whether we shouldn’t move to the country, despite the fact that my husband doesn’t like to garden or mow or work in the yard. I grew up on a tall oak forest about 5 miles from Naperville, IL, and found solace in nature—but also some loneliness from living so far from friends. Not to mention the work that goes into keeping up a country home. I know my own limitations, and I’m completely in awe of what Claudia has created. The question on everyone’s lips all evening is “how does she do it?”

Back inside there’s a vegetarian feast for the eyes and palate waiting, mostly prepared by Claudia: wild rice salad, mung bean cakes with a tangy tahini-lime juice-tamari-turmeric sauce, a golden quinoa salad, steamed beets, tomatoes with pesto. For recipes, Claudia says, “The wild rice salad comes from Miriam Hospodar’s Heaven’s Banquet, slightly altered. The rest is sort of made up. For the sauce, I started with tahini, and then added the other ingredients and a little water ’till it tasted right.”

Others have contributed: Dolly Donhauser with a creamy potato salad from Martha Stewart, the Arenanders with a green salad from their garden, Maggie Squires with crispy sweet-and-salty middle eastern crackers.

Claudia brings in the boys

After the meal, which ends in a sumptuous homemade fruit shortcake, we trail outside to put the horses to bed. “We treat our horses better than we treat ourselves,” says Claudia with a laugh. They get vitamins, organic food, loving attention, regular brushings.

Shepley, Pakshi Raj, and Maggie make friends

Fireflies spark the sky as Claudia and Cynthia take turns showing their horses canter around them in a circle. When the horses leap we “oooo and ahhh” in unison as if the horses were fireworks.

In the deepening twighlight we stand at the end of Claudia’s driveway and gaze at the fireworks display over nearby Cypress Villages, an up-and-coming eco-development of Vedic architecture homes that are LEED-certified. Beside it the Jefferson County fairgrounds fireworks also light the sky—and soon we spot the golf course display south of town, and in the far distance Mt. Pleasant’s. What better way to celebrate the 4th—with light in all directions.


If you practice yoga, you’re working with the mind-body connection every day. You know first-hand how your yoga practice affects not only your energy levels, your strength and your flexibility—but your ability to focus and stay calm under pressure. In the same way that the mind and body are connected, yoga and Maharishi Ayurveda are connected.

Preventing Disease

Both yoga and ayurveda help prevent disease. Yoga does this by purifying and balancing the organs and systems in the body. In the same way, Maharishi Ayurveda brings balance through daily and seasonal routines and identifying food that is suitable for keeping the three mind-body principles, or doshas, in balance. Yoga and Ayurveda complement each other—eating pure foods can only increase your strength and flexibility, and in turn, yoga tones the digestion and purifies the organs.

Correcting Imbalances

Just as specific yoga postures are known to cure disease, ayurvedic therapies correct mental, physical and emotional imbalances. These natural therapies include internal cleansing and rejuvenation (panchakarma), holistic herbal compounds, and modalities that use the five senses, including sound therapy, light and gem therapy, massage, aroma therapy, and healing tastes. Like yoga, these ayurvedic therapies heal the whole mind and body in a way that does not cause harmful side effects.

A Common Tradition of Knowledge

Yoga is part of ayurveda, mentioned in the ayurvedic texts as the ideal ayurvedic exercise, because it rejuvenates the body, improves digestion, and removes stress.

Yoga balances all three doshas, and different poses have different effects. Forward bending postures cool the hot Pitta dosha. Twists are good for the slow-moving Kapha dosha because they stimulate digestion. Backward bends are heating, and thus balancing to the cool and delicate Vata dosha, as long as the person has the strength to do them. Yoga postures tone every area of the body and cleanse the internal organs of toxins, which is one of the goals of ayurveda.

At the same time, yoga practitioners have traditionally benefited from the ayurvedic daily routine as part of their yoga practice. For instance, ayurvedic daily massage helps remove toxins from the body and relaxes the muscles for yoga practice. Traditional yoga schools have always taught ayurvedic principles as well as yoga asanas, because the two are so interdependent. The yoga practitioner can benefit from detoxifying the body through the dietary, lifestyle, and purification practices of Maharishi Ayurveda.


Both yoga and Maharishi Ayurveda are based in the wisdom of the Vedic tradition of ancient India. They both aim to develop higher states of consciousness. Yoga literally means “union,” and in its highest sense means to join the mind with the transcendental self in meditation. The ayurvedic texts of Charaka speak of this same integration of mind, body and consciousness—and development of consciousness is the goal.

Linda Egenes is the co-author of three books on ayurvedic health care, including Super Healthy Kids: Happy and Healthy Children with Maharishi Ayurveda, due out in spring 2010. 

Stay Well this Flu Season
November 3, 2009

A friend of mine has been down with the swine flu for eight days. This is a person who never gets sick, and it’s hard to see her suffer. I have two elderly parents that I am caretaking, so I didn’t go over to visit her when she was sick. Even though I feel pretty strong right now, I don’t want to tempt fate.

One good thing about writing in the health field as that you tend to find yourself doing the healthy things you write about. In ayurvedic medicine, the traditional health care system of India, which I write about a lot, good digestion is considered the foundation for strong immunity. And immunity is considered to be the weakest in the fall, when the sun’s strength is waning. So I’ve been eating light, easy-to-digest foods this autumn, to keep my digestion and immunity strong.

Here are a few ayurvedic tips for preventing colds and flu, excerpted from some articles I wrote for the Iowa Source and other publications.

1.Eat smaller quantities of food. By eating less, the digestive fire becomes stronger. This helps digest impurities and strengthen immunity. Even doing this for a few days in fall can help give your digestion a rest and increase its strength.

2. Eat lighter food. This means less cold or heavy food. During autumn the digestion is weaker, so eat less meat and cheese. Avoid leftovers and processed food. Eat fresh, organic vegetables and grains that are freshly cooked and served warm.

3. Get extra rest. As the days grow shorter and darkness falls sooner, it’s important to be attuned to nature and go to bed earlier during fall. For best quality sleep, it’s ideal to go to be in bed before 10 p.m. and rise early.

4. Exercise every day. Exercise keeps your digestion and elimination running smoothly, and helps purify toxins and create overall well-being.

5. Eat your meals at the same time every day. Plan to eat your meals at the same time every day. When your meals are on a regular schedule, your digestion runs more smoothly and efficiently, creating less undigested food and toxins.

6. Eat your main meal at noon. This is when the digestive fire is at its peak and can handle larger quantities of food. Make breakfast and supper lighter meals.

Stories Behind the News
November 1, 2009

I once visited the farm and mail-order bookstore of an Amish author named David Wagler. An intelligent man with traditional white beard and a habit of challenging whatever you said, he wrote and self-published his own books.

Amish - Stories Behind the NewsDavid also was a contributor to the weekly Amish newspaper called The Budget, a collection of newsy letters written by a designated reporter from each Amish community across North America (and one or two in South America as well). The weekly letters, which usually start out with the weather, keep far-flung relatives and friends abreast of each Amish community’s births, deaths, visits, travels and other important events. Some people call The Budget the “Amish Internet,” and a recent NY Times article likened it to blogging and Twitter.

An excerpt from The Budget, from my book Visits with the Amish:
Nov. 25—27º this morning with a light blanket of snow on the ground again, and sunshine. Received the snow yesterday.

The non-Amish neighbor bought a heifer recently at a sale, which seemed to have been someone’s pet. But it did not want to yield to authority and butted him down, in over the electric fence. Thankfully he wasn’t seriously hurt.

AmishUsually the letters follow a regular formula, but David Wagler liked to pepper his with long discourses on the moral dilemmas Amishmen face as they walk a fine line between the “English” and Amish worlds. Much to his dismay, the editor of The Budget usually cut these discourses out. But David had the last word—he gathered them into a thick book, Stories Behind the News, which every Amish person I ever met seemed to be reading.

I think of this blog a little like that. In my books and magazine articles I write about green and healthy topics, but there’s always so much more that I want to say. This blog serves as an outlet for my compulsive need to interview cool people wherever I go. In the past—true confessions here—I’ve been in Italy or California or anywhere, Iowa, and found myself gripped by the thought, “I’ve got  to write about this!”

Sadly, once I get home I don’t always have the time to query a magazine, or worse, the magazine I’m thinking of rejects my idea. So there I am with photos and recorded interviews and notebooks stuffed with observations and ideas—and nowhere to put it (not to mention that I’ve wasted the other person’s valuable time). So now I can ask them if they want to appear in my blog—and from there I can always take it to the level of an article or book.

One thing I want to be clear about—I’m not setting myself up as a person who is perfectly healthy or already living a completely green and sustainable lifestyle (just one look at my raggedy garden will tell you that I have a long ways to go in the green department!). Like many of you, I’m on a very personal journey to make my life more healthy inside and out. And I’m hoping that by connecting with you, we can help each other live a more sustainable life.

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