HEALTH & WELLNESS
Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit.
When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open. ~ B.K.S. Iyengar
About Health & Wellness
I believe that we each desire a life that we define as "Heaven on Earth" and while each of us has our unique view of what that looks and feels like, there are many teachings - ancient and modern - that provide universal guidelines and tools to live a healthy, happy, blissful life in harmony with Mother Earth, and with our soul's fulfillment."- Karen Heaven Claffey
Karen's list of essential-viewing-life-changing videos.
YOGA THERAPY PAPERS & ARTICLES
Informative research papers and articles on health and yoga therapy.
What does a healthy lifestyle Include?
Eating in harmony with our environment
Breathing and moving in alignment with Grace - Mother nature and Divine Universal Consciousness
Balancing work, play and rest
Following your heart
What is Macrobiotics?
If you have never heard of macrobiotics you are not alone. The reaction from most people is either: a) unknown, or b) for those who have heard of it, the word is often synonymous with a diet of brown rice and miso soup, or c) confused with microbiotics - the study of microbiology; looking under a microscope to see the smallest components that make up matter, which is the opposite of macrobiotics.
The word Macro-biotic breaks down into two root words:
•Macro - 1 long. 2 large; large-scale.
•Biotic - 1 relating to life or to living things. 2 of biological origin.
Oxford Dictionary: Macrobiotic - adj. relating to or following a diet intended to prolong life, comprising of pure vegetable foods, brown rice, etc, n. the use or theory of such a dietary system.
While a macrobiotic diet may include brown rice and miso soup, it is much more than that. It is an understanding of the broader (macro/large) view of life (biotic). It comprises a conscientious awareness of how:
1. The seasons, our climate and environment play an important part in our food choices. For example, an Eskimo living in the arctic requires a different diet than a someone living in the tropics.
2. Our individual lifestyles have unique needs in determining our food choices. For example, an athlete who burns hundreds of calories a day requires a different diet than someone who is sedentary.
3. Our food choices directly affect our support and sustenance of mother nature, or harming of same. For example, a diet based on plants foods uses much less of the Earth's resources than a diet based on meat/animal husbandry.
4. An optimally healthy diet is the greatest and most effective means to the prevention and cure of sickness. For example, many natural foods of vegetable origin have been scientifically proven to reduce tumours and heal illnesses.
5. A balanced diet (and moderate regular healthy exercise) is best method to achieve ideal weight; and is proven to be the sole guarantee of long term weight management. For example, when we try to lose weight fast on a diet that is unbalanced, we may succeed temporarily, but the body swings the pendulum back in the other direction to make up for the lack....this creates a yoyo effect. The pendulum/yoyo will continue to fluctuate until we feed our bodies and minds balanced foods and positive thoughts that truly nourish and satisfy our hearts and souls. Adopting a life-long healthy diet and lifestyle is now known by medical and scientific professionals to be the only way to maintain ideal weight.
Therefore, we each need to determine and design an ideal diet for each of our unique needs depending on our constitution, condition, lifestyle and environment.
The following article is from the Kushi Institute web site (with permission from Edward Esko) Source: Basics and Benefits of Macrobiotics, Copyright 1995 by Edward Esko, all rights reserved. Benefits of Macrobiotics (Article: by Edward Esko.)
Now, what are the benefits of macrobiotic living? Eating this way can help us maintain optimal health and achieve longevity. People such as the Hunza in Kashmir, known for their good health and longevity, eat grains and vegetables as their main food. They were eating more or less a macrobiotic diet adapted to their mountainous terrain and climate. The first benefit of macrobiotic eating is physical health and longevity.
A second benefit is peace of mind. That peace of mind comes from the awareness that we are living and eating in harmony with the universe. We are living in harmony with the movement of energy. That is the source of inner peace. Our mind and emotions are very much conditioned by what we eat. If you feed your child plenty of sugar, what kind of mind or emotions result? Children become hyperactive or cry a lot, and become overly emotional. If we eat plenty of meat, what kind of mind and emotions are produced? We become aggressive or in the extreme, even violent. What happens when we eat plenty of nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes or potatoes? We become depressed. Incidentally, these vegetables have recently been found to contain nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive substance, and that may explain why many people find it difficult to stop eating these vegetables.
As your mind and emotions become more stable and peaceful, you naturally develop a sense of family and community. Modern values--such as competition, dog eat dog, survival of the fittest, etc.--have all arisen from a carnivorous diet. Grain-eating people develop a completely opposite view. Instead of seeing scarcity on the earth, we realize that we live in a universe of abundance. Rather than fighting over resources, the issue becomes how to share the tremendous natural wealth on our planet. Meat-eating tends to produce isolation, something like the lone hunter or lone wolf, rather than a sense of community. Hunters such as lions and hyenas are constantly fighting with each other. Grain-eaters develop a completely opposite way of thinking based on cooperation.
Meat-eating also leads to a more nomadic lifestyle, following the herd, and we tend to become unsettled, rather than stable or settled down. Grain-eating agricultural life is more stable, more settled. Which way of life encourages more stable family life? When the men are off hunting all season, or if the entire village has to constantly be on the move, it is difficult to maintain stability. Macrobiotic living strengthens our community and family life. People naturally desire to help and support each other. Through macrobiotics, you become friends with everyone. As we continue to eat this way, our concept of family expands to include all of humanity. We reconnect with our human family on planet earth.
Macrobiotic living can also help us gain spiritual understanding. Do you think it is easy to meditate if we eat hamburgers, or if our mind is very angry or upset, or if we are always stressed out? Or if we are eating sugar or drinking Coke all the time, so that our mind is often hyperactive and scattered, can we really stabilize and center our energy? These conditions make if very difficult to enter into deep, tranquil, and peaceful meditation. In order to allow spiritual energy to smoothly channel through us, and to use that energy, macrobiotic eating --grains and vegetables-- is ideal.
We should not forget that all great spiritual traditions included some form of dietary discipline. In the Orient, the cooking in Buddhist and Taoist monasteries was called shojin ryiori, or "cooking for spiritual development." These traditions were based on the understanding that food accelerates our spiritual consciousness. By selecting the proper food, we develop our spiritual quality. In these traditions, do you think animal food was a part of their diets? No. They were completely vegetarian. However, in traditional times, vegetarian eating, especially in cooler climates, meant eating cooked brown rice, daikon and other vegetables, tofu and bean products, etc., rather than a lot of raw fruit or salad.
Finally, as we achieve good health, peace of mind, a sense of family and community, and spiritual understanding, we gain the ability to play and have a big dream or adventure in this life. Macrobiotics is based on change or transmutation. In other words, we try to gain the ability to change things into their opposite according to our free will. So if we are experiencing difficulty, using macrobiotic understanding, we try to change that into pleasure or enjoyment. Or if we are experiencing sickness, we self-transform that into health. Or if the world is in danger of war, as our adventure, as our play, as our challenge, we transform that into peace. You can even gain the ability to transmute or transform any type of food into your health and vitality. In other words, you embrace your antagonist and turn it into your friend. As George Ohsawa said, ultimately there are no restrictions. The realization of total freedom, or the freedom to play endlessly in this infinite universe, is the ultimate benefit of macrobiotic living.
What is Ayurveda?
Ayus means life or life span; Veda means knowledge or science: Ayurveda is the “Science of Life” and the ‘wisdom of life’ and can also be called ‘yogic medicine.’ Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences that grew from the same root in ancient India. They both reflect an approach to life that seeks to keep all beings in harmony with the laws of nature and the universe. In Yoga, the nature of each individual student is of prime importance, and whether for healing or daily lifestyle, the yoga practice, diet, style of Pranayama and meditation, etc. is designed to balance each individual according to their constitution and condition.
The Ayurvedic View
The body is the foundation of all that we do. Ideally, it should be strong, supple, healthy and pure, free of toxins, with an efficient immune system, and a healthy appetite for exercise, food and life. Our senses should be clear and sensitive, without unnatural urges and addictions. The mind should be calm, peaceful and open to inspiration and divine guidance, and free from emotional turbulence and harmful opinions. Our soul consciousness should maintain a feeling of unity that connects us with the universe, beyond time and space. In order for our actions to have lasting meaning, this timeless quality of unconditional love and unity should be the motivation behind all that we do.
The food we eat creates much more than the quality of our physical cells; it completely governs the way our mind works – thoughts, desires, attractions, and preferences. Furthermore, the thoughts we have while we eat, charges our food and in turn our body-mind system with vibrations and qualities. So on a daily basis, we are creating and recreating ourselves. Food is not limited to what we put in our mouth. Our immediate surroundings, how we spend our time, the people we live with, friends and colleagues, and the myriad vibrations, thoughts, intentions and emotions that these activities and spirits resonate with, all have a direct affect on our development and life direction.
The 3 Doshas
The three doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha describe the body-types – according to the energies and elements predominant within us - that relate to human attributes on all levels: our physical appearance and characteristics, digestion and metabolism, behavior and personality, desires and preferences, energy and sleeping patterns, etc. We have a constitutional dosha that doesn’t change over our lifetime. It is inherited from our parents, and determined by both their constitutional doshas, and their conditional dosha, at the time of conception. The proportions and size of our skeletal structure, our constitutionally stronger and weaker organs and systems, etc, determine our constitution.
We all possess the three doshas, yet we each have a unique proportion of the tridoshas; we are usually stronger in one of the three, or two of the three.
Vata – Air & Space
The main function of Vata is the carrier of energy. Vata moves forward in a propulsive motion, making us active and on the go (horizontal direction). We must deal with Vata first to make sure our lives are going in the right direction. It relates to Prana or the life-energy as a whole, and is the moving force within the body, for the circulation, discharge and elimination.
Vata governs movement, communication, and creativity and provides us with high energy and activity. Like a butterfly, as it lightly flutters across a field with bright enthusiasm, eventually it needs to land on a flower and rest. Its energy comes in bursts, and has a scattered quality.
The Vata metabolism is fast, and they have trouble gaining weight. Their inability to gain weight is also due to the fact that they have weak digestive systems and tend to eat small amounts, and irregularly. Their eyes are bigger than their stomachs, and so often they begin with a full plate, and end up picking and nibbling and then leave the rest.
Vata Qualities: dry, light body weight, small bones, quick, enthusiastic, forgetful, scattered.
Balancing Vata: Vata needs grounding and calming activities - key is establishing routine and steadiness.
Pitta – Fire or Fire & Water
The main function of Pitta is to push or provoke causing things to change from one condition to another. It is the energy that brings about transformation or manifestation, dealing with digesting food, life, etc.
Pitta governs drive, perfectionism, and leadership and provides us with a competitive spirit and a yearning to excel and learn (vertical direction). Like a fire, as it burns brightly and clears a path as it consumes energy to maintain its brilliance, eventually it needs to recharge and refuel.
The Pita metabolism is efficient, and they have strong digestive fire. The can gain weight and lose weight with equal ease. They gain weight, as their appetite is voracious and can eat endlessly, and cannot skip a meal, or they feel very uncomfortable. They lose weight easily because their passionate drive to be physically active allows them to burn more calories than they have time to take in.
Pitta Qualities: heat, medium weight/bones, forceful, passionate, intelligent, and authoritative.
Balancing Pitta: Pita needs to take time from the “A” type schedule, and turn inward, finding balance through quiet spiritual and mental pursuits. Key word is moderation.
Kapha – Earth & Water
The main function of Kapha is strength or resistance. It upholds and sustains previous conditions that have been set in motion; and holds back and preserves – inhibiting both the horizontal movement of Vata and the vertical movement of Pitta. It provides the stability and fuel that the other two doshas rely on.
Kapha governs calmness, sensuality, and lethargy and provides us with a sweet, nurturing spirit and a yearning to create hearth and home. With a slow, steady nature, they keep projects running smoothly from behind the scenes and provide structure and strength.
The Kapha metabolism is slow, and they have trouble losing weight. Their inability to lose weight is often a combination of the fact that they take in more calories than they burn, as they tend to be lazy, and they tend to have sluggish digestive systems. They can go longer periods without eating, as they often feel full and bloated.
Kapha Qualities: moist, heavy, slow, caregiver, long memory, calm and steady.
Balancing Kapha: Kapha needs motivation in order to exercise the body vigorously; and stimulation for the mind. Key is variety and “adding spice to life.”
Balancing Your Doshas
While our constitution is inherited, our condition changes according to our daily activities and lifestyle, and can be adjusted within a few days, weeks or months, depending on how long the imbalance has been in effect.
For example: A person who is mainly Pita in constitution, may have a Vata imbalance, due to a lifestyle or career that either requires they be, or forces them to become Vata-like. In this case the Pita person may appear to be Vata, or their temporary condition has become more Vata-like.
In general, Vata is usually the first dosha to come out of balance. The first step is always to address the imbalance. By bringing the dosha, or doshas that are over or under active back to balance, the whole system will automatically come back into balance.
To learn more about how to macrobiotics in your life and balancing your doshas book a Holistic Health Consultation with Karen.