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Archive for December, 2013

soham

Ajapa meditation is the practice of reciting a mantra internally, as a mental repetition. One of the most well known mantras used for practicing Ajapa is the  So Hum mantra. This mantra is as ancient as the breath itself, since it is the sound that the breath makes as it moves in and out of the body. It is the first and most constant expression of the Self within. A new born baby chants this mantra as it takes its first breath. The seed syllable “So” represents the pure I-sense, that Self, God or pure consciousness, and “Hum” represents am-ness, or the sense of being. “So Hum” is often translated as I Am He, but I prefer I Am That, or That I am. It can also be recited as Hum Sah, and when put together as one mantra it is So Hum-Hum Sah, which is similar in meaning as I Am That I Am. So Ham Hum Sah is a good mantra to say internally or externally for protection and releasing fear or trauma.

Traditionally, there are many methods for chanting So Hum. A good practice to start with is to simply recite the mantra internally as you breathe deeply and slowly. When you inhale, slowly and mentally chant the sound “So” and visualize the breath coming in through the nostrils and moving down through the chest and coming to rest just behind the navel. After a brief pause, slowly exhale and mentally say “Hum” as the breath comes back up through the body and out just past the tip of the nostrils, again pause briefly. As your mind becomes concentrated, your breath will  slow down and become more shallow. Keep repeating the mantra in this way, as if the breath itself is making the sound of the mantra. When your practice deepens, the visualization of the breath may fall away and just the sound of the mantra will remain. Throughout this practice, it is helpful to reflect, from time to time, on the meaning and vibration of the mantra. Ultimately, the mind will come to reside in the meaning “I Am That,” That pure, infinite, consciousness. The practice of Ajapa eventually leads the aspirant to heart of the mantra and Self realization.

If visualization doesn’t feel comfortable or natural, then simply breathe in and out while repeating the mantra, reflecting on the meaning and feeling the power and vibration of the mantra. If the mind stops the chanting, enters stillness, then just abide in that. If you notice that the mind is starts following thoughts, and creating stories, gently redirect the mind back to the practice.

It is helpful to keep the body relaxed and as still and comfortable as possible while doing Ajapa meditation. Lastly, my guru Baba Hari Dass has expressed that chanting So Ham helps to purity the subtle body, while Hum Sah is more purifying to the physical body. The practice I have shared here can be done either way. The key is to practice it regularly.

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Benefits of Healthy Fats in the Diet

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Ayurveda has long proclaimed the benefits of adding healthy fats into the daily diet. Fats are associated with kapha dosha; the bodily humor comprised of the earth and water element and governs the structural and lubricating energy of the body. Healthy fats are deeply nourishing to the bodily tissues and help to loosen metabolic waste products from the deep tissues, organs and channels, thus aiding in their elimination.

Cell membranes are comprised mainly of fatty acids, and their integrity is crucial for the free flow of nutrition and removal of waste products. A healthy cell structure enables clear cell-to-cell communication, which is essential for maintaining health and the prevention of diseases such as cancer and autoimmune diseases, where this communication is greatly broken down. So in this way, the right amount of healthy fats can help to keep the lines of cellular communication open and flowing freely.

In Ayurveda, this cellular communication is associated with prana, the vital life force energy.  The spark of intelligence that guides prana is associated with tejas, the subtle essence of pitta dosha, and the pathways in which this communication takes place in the field of kapha. To go deeper here, the myelin sheath, the insulating layer that forms around the nerves, is made up of kapha, in the form of fats and proteins. The myelin insulates the nerves and allows the impulses to move quickly and efficiently. If the myelin becomes damaged due to excess movement of vata, or deranged pitta, it can lead to demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Here, healthy fats can help to calm vata, pacify pitta and nourish and protect kapha dosha.

Adding the right amount of healthy fats into our diet has both cleansing and rejuvenating effects. For thousands of years Ayurveda has known about this and has encouraged eating healthy fats, such as ghee, for nourishment and prior to Panchakarma, cleansing and rejuvenation therapy to lubricate the bodily tissues, thus loosen toxins to be expelled from the system.  In deficient conditions bone marrow broths are also used to build the strength back up and to protect and nourish the nervous system. Conversely, if our diet contains trans fats, rancid and over cooked oils, or conventionally raised and grain feed animals, it contributes to the degradation of the fluidity and permeability of the cell membrane.

 Omega 3 Fatty Acid

In recent years, the awareness of the benefits of healthy fats in the daily diet has increased. The most notable are essential fatty acids, or EFAs especially from Omega-3. Aspects of these oils are not produced by the body, and must be obtained from the food we eat.  We already tend to get enough of Omega 6 & 9 already, so it is important to that we get more Omega-3 from sources including high quality fish oil, walnuts, flax seeds, soy beans, pumpkin seeds, and dark leafy greens and so on.  There are also some very good Omega 3 oil supplements in both fish and vegetarian form. Omega-3 has shown to support the immune system and metabolism, regulate cholesterol, and enhance the joints, eyes, bones and nerve tissue. Along with a holistic approach it may also aid in the treatment of mental and emotional conditions such as mood swings, depression, ADHA, and bipolar disorder. Omega 3’s anti-inflammatory and immune supportive properties make is a useful addition in the treatment of asthma, arthritis and degenerative and autoimmune diseases.

Fat Got a Bad Rape

Unfortunately, fat got a bad reputation in the 80 and 90’s and people where encouraged to eat low fat diets, but unhealthy fats still made their way into the daily diet in the form of trans fat and partially hydrogenated oils. In fact, he standard American diet is still loaded with trans fat and poor quality saturated fats. It is important to note that not all fat is bad for the body. In fact, saturated fat from coconut, avocado, nuts and ghee (clarified butter) is quite nourishing for the body.

Ghee ~ The Nectar of the Gods

Ghee (clarified butter) has a full spectrum of short, medium and long chain fatty acids, both unsaturated and saturated. Ghee made from the butter of healthy, organic, grass fed cows is naturally lactose free and a rich source of Omega 3 & 9 essential fatty acids, anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins such as E, A D, and K.

Ayurveda often uses ghee as an anupana, a substance that is taken along with other herbs to enhance their absorption and direction into the body. When we cook food in ghee, it enhances the flavor, improves agni (digestive fire), and increases the absorption of nutrients. Lightly sautéing culinary spices in ghee is a good way to improve digestion and nourish the system, especially in the fall and winter months, when the body experiences more dryness as a result of increased vata dosha. Ghee is also considered sattwic, or pure, and can be added to meat soups to help balance meats tamasic, or inert qualities.

 

Health benefits of ghee:

Improves digestion and absorption

Nourishes the bodily tissues, especially the nerves

Lubricates, cleanses and protects the channels

Improves complexion

Increases immunity

Reduces inflammation

Improves mental function

Improves the eyesight

And much, much more

Fat Sources to Avoid:

Grain fed beef

Meat from non-organic and conventionally raised sources

Non-organic, non-free range eggs

Homogenized  dairy products

Deep fried foods

Refined cooing oils

Rancid nuts and seeds (taste them first)

Lard

Farmed fish

Donuts

Conventional brand cookies, crackers and breads (many contain partially hydrogenated oil)

Ice cream (unless its your birthday J)

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