Monday, May 31, 2010

For Those Who Hate to Meditate

Just finished a video (7 min) on two meditation options for those who hate to meditate: shell fava beans or nadi shodhana. The sounds is not great on this video - not sure why.

In the video, I mention 4 proven outcomes of the practice nadhi shodhana:
  1. Lowers your pulse
  2. Lowers your blood pressure
  3. Increases deep breathing (peak expiratory flow)
  4. Improves problem solving
These were proven in a randomized, controlled trial - the gold standard of highest quality evidence.

Also thought I'd post the protocol used in the 2005 study I cited to teach nadi shodhana. Here it is:
  1. Open the right hand and bend index and middle fingers against the palm. The thumb was used for closing the right nostril while the fourth and fifth fingers were used for the left nostril.
  2. Place the right thumb against the ala at the end of the nostril to close it and similarly press the fourth and fifth fingertips against the left nostril.
  3. Start the exercise in the ‘Sukhasana posture’ (SG note: simple seated pose, such as cross-legged or half-lotus), with relaxed attitude and concentration as below.
  • Exhale slowly and deeply without closing the nostrils but being ready to do so.
  • Inhale slowly and quietly through the left nostril while closing the right.
  • At the end of the inhalation, close both nostrils and hold the breath for a while (not more than 1-2 seconds).
  • Keep the left nostril closed and exhale through the right as quietly as possible.
  • After exhaling completely, inhale slowly and quietly through the right nostril.
  • Close both nostril and wait for a while, then open the left nostril and exhale slowly and silently.
  • Inhale through the same nostril and continue.
  • Perform for 20 minutes.

Goddess Mondays

Decided to turn around the gloom of Mondays by declaring “Goddess Monday!” for the next 3 months. Mondays are a bitch for me. The weight of the week – the unpreparedness for the school lunches, the grocery list, the evening school events (oops! forgot to schedule a babysitter), the stressful work meetings, the demanding patients, the class projects that aren’t ready, the weeds in the garden – all conspire to weigh me down starting sometime late on Sunday.
I want Mondays to shimmer with excitement and anticipation. I want to look forward to them the way I look forward to Fridays, the start of Shabbat, the day I unplug and connect with family and friends. Sing songs with my kids, plan scrumptious meals.
I also want to step into my Goddessness and I have no idea what this actually means or how to do it.
Let’s dedicate some time to turning this ship around.
Starting on Mondays, I will try these things out. Add to the list and join me on this voyage to goddess-hood!
  • wake up, say "thank you" for the blessings in my life, and meditate for 20 min. broad definition of meditation here: yin yoga, sitting quietly, chant a goddess mantra (wo-mantra)
  • attune to hormone balance - when we're in balance, we're so goddess. test yourself right here
  • take my vitamins and supplements
  • eat breakfast when I'm hungry instead of when it's convenient
  • write about Sacred Feminine and what it means for lunatic mom living in Rockridge in 2010
  • light a candle and invite the goddess to join me for the day, guide my thoughts and actions
  • pack crazy lunches for my kids. let go a little of my obsessiveness about their nutritional balance. have a little fun
  • dance like a Temple Hindu High Priestess
  • lie in bed with my kids as they're waking, tuning into the happy channel instead of: "Get out of bed now! And no breakfast until your school clothes are on! Did you hear me? Did you hear the last 5 times I've told you to GET READY?
  • check my intuition rather than my email
  • ask while eating, "Do I like this food?"
  • Move my body, from a place of pleasure rather than dutiful caloric balance
Please add to the list! Let's make Mondays shimmer with goddessness!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Raw Oatmeal!

Got this idea, again, from Any Phyo. Super fast and easy to make. Breakfast of championistas. Unbelievably good, so good that I now crave it more than my beloved quinoa flakes! Check it out. Serves 1 (can't get anyone in my house to try it!).

1/2 cup oat groats, soaked overnight and rinsed thoroughly
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 T filtered water
3T flax seeds 
1oz nuts (almonds, walnuts, or my fave - macadamia!)
6oz berries, bananas or other fruit

Puree soaked oat grouts with cinnamon and water in the cuis. Process until smooth and creamy - you choose the consistency. Add nuts and flax seeds, puree again. Put in a bowl, and mix in fruit. Can keep for 2 days in the fridge. Yum!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Meditation Challenge: Take it!

My mission: push yoga and meditation into the mainstream, and get you to crave your daily cup of meditation more than a latte. Help me promote the idea that meditation is for everyone and can be incorporated into your daily routine no matter how densely packed your schedule is -- by sharing this blog post with your posse.

Transformation starts with a simple commitment of 5 minutes a day.

I made a quick, unedited, informal video of my fave meditation, the "soft belly." Check it out right here.

Meditation has been shown to improve the EEG of your brain. In 2006, Harvard researchers showed that long-term meditators have bigger brains. Check out the work by Sara Lazar for more info. She looked at 20 meditators who had been meditating regularly for an average 9 years, at least 6 times per week.

If you want another method of meditation that tracks the breath count, click here. In this video, I review some new data on how meditation improves your genes and slows down biological aging. No pharmaceutical has yet to be proven to improve your genes!

I have a very inclusive view of what constitutes meditation. For some, it's a prayer. For others, it's yin yoga (I do this most mornings). Still others enter a meditative state by looking at a beautiful painting or visual image that speaks to them. Broad strokes, folks. The goal is spiritual nourishment, soul food. Calm the crazy, archaic system we call the sympathetic nervous system. Ease out of fight-flight-collapse and into rest-and-digest mode.

I challenge you to commit to 6 meditation sessions over the next week. If you do it, email us here at the Gottfried Center (office at gottfried center dot com) for a special prize.

How's That Thyroid?

I'm re-posting this great thyroid questionnaire, modified from the Hotze Health and Wellness Center. If the question addresses a concern that applies to you, record the number. When done, total the numbers.

1. Do you experience fatigue (4)?
2. Is your cholesterol elevated (4)?
3. Do you have difficulty losing weight (2)?
4. Do you have cold hands and feet (2)?
5. Are you sensitive to cold (2)?
6. Do you have difficulty thinking (2)?
7. Do you find it hard to concentrate (2)?
8. Do you have poor short-term memory (2)?
9. Are your moods depressed (2)?
10. Are you experiencing hair loss (2)?
11. Do you have fewer that one BM per day (2)?
12. Do you have dry skin (2)?
13. Do you have itchy skin in winter (1)?
14. Do you have fluid retention (2)?
15. Do you have recurrent headaches (1)?
16. Do you sleep restlessly (1)?
17. Do you experience afternoon fatigue (2)?
18. Are you tired when you awaken (2)?
19. Do you experience tingling in hands or feet (2)?
20. Have you had infertility or miscarriages (2)?
21. Do you have decreased sweating (2)?
22. Do you have muscle aches (2)?
23. Have you had recurrent infections (2)?
24. Do you have joint pain (2)?
25. Do you have thinning of your eyebrows or eyelashes (2)?

Score < 11? You are unlikely to have a thyroid problem.
Score 11-30? Low thyroid function is a possibility.
Score >30? Low thyroid function is probable.
Get tested if your score is > 11, including a free T3 and TSH.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dr. Amen's Boost Brain, Get the Bod You Want

Heard of Dr. Amen? His main premise is this: your brain is your integration station -- boost your brain function and your body will look better too. His latest book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Body, was just published. Just took his test to assess my brain. His counsel: eat the foods and take the supplements that we're taking in the Gottfried Cleanse (from N-acetyl-cysteine to amino acids plus fish oil and SAM-e).

Dr. Daniel Amen MD is a psychiatrist and has published 24 books, so chances are you have heard of him. Here's an excerpt:

Most people throughout the world... care more about their faces, their boobs, their bellies, their butts, and their abs than they do their brains. But it is your brain that is the key to having the face, the breasts, the belly, the butt, the abs, and the overall health you have always wanted; and it is brain dysfunction, in large part, that ruins our bodies and causes premature aging.
It is your brain that decides to get you out of bed in the morning to exercise, to give you a stronger, leaner body, or to cause you to hit the snooze button and procrastinate your workout. It is your brain that pushes you away from the table telling you that you have had enough, and that gives you permission to have the second bowl of Rocky Road ice cream, making you look and feel like a blob. It is your brain  that manages the stress in your life and relaxes you so that you look vibrant, or, when left unchecked, sends stress signals to the rest of your body and wrinkles your skin. And it is your brain that turns away cigarettes, caffeine, and alcohol, helping you look and feel healthy, or that gives you permission to smoke, have that third cup of coffee, or to drink that third glass of wine, thus making every system in your body look and feel older.
Your brain is the command and control center of your body. If you want a better body, the first place to always start is by having a better brain.

While he's a bit bombastic, I like it so far. Check your brain health with his questionnaire right here.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Cleansing Our Footprint

Can't really say it any better than my green rock-star husband, David Gottfried.  As we near the final 5 days of our cleanse, I'm thinking about how food choices can lessen my ecological footprint.

Water Footprint

Water is such a crucial metric to consider: it takes 2400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat vs. 40 gallons to produce one pound of vegetables. For more info, check out the movie Flow, a great documentary on the global water crisis.

If you come to our deep green 1915 Craftsman in Rockridge, you'll notice that we care a lot about saving water. My husband wrote the initial white paper on the LEED rating system to score a building's green-ness, and we were delighted to score higher than any other remodelled residence when we received LEED-Platinum in 2008. Rainwater fills our Caroma toilets (you'll notice it's a little yellow from the leaves that mix with the rainwater), and our tubs and sinks get re-used as greywater to water our landscaping. All of our appliances are Energy-Star, and we are always saving our pennies for more rainwater capture bins.

Choosing more veggies, and reducing meat significantly lowers your water footprint. From my review of the literature, I'm increasingly convinced by the health benefits of eating vegan. While you may respond, "Dr. Sara, puh-lease, I'm restricted so much - now you're going to take away meat?" -- my response is that you should not take it from me. Start with vegan Mondays, or go vegan for 90 days, and see what happens to your chronic joint achiness, your mild constipation, your frequent viral infections. Let the deep knowing from your own body inform your decisions.

Carbon footprint, well, you know eating local saves carbon. More on that another time.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Dr. Sara Gottfried MD on Women & Depression

Brief, 2-minute clip of my thoughts on how conventional medicine has failed moody and depressed women. Let's turn our attention to root cause analysis and how best to approach depression naturally, with inquiry and effective but integrative treatments.

This is an interview from an upcoming film by Second Nature Films on Women & Yoga.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Out with the Old, In with the New

We are still cleansing here at the Gottfried Center. One helpful strategy as we near the final 5 days of the cleanse is what we need to release, what is no longer serving us. And what may replace it? What new habit, belief, system would better serve you in its place?

For me, I am releasing my inner critic, the radio station KFKD as described by Annie Lamott, The Voice as described by Geneen Roth. Just wrote about this a few days ago if you are trying to figure out WTF I'm talking about. Every day I'm writing down what my inner critic, whom I call my "Inner Authoritarian," as a way of recognizing and disengaging from this voice.

I am replacing it with regular, quiet time every morning. Or when I can catch it with two kids and a busy husband. Regular meditation. Not sitting completely still, as that does not work so well for me, but the form of meditation that most speaks to me in the moment. Usually sitting for 5-10 min with a focus on my breath, followed by 15 min of yin yoga poses (my fave is Supta Virasana), and ending in the most delicious and integrating sivasana.

You know quiet time is good for you. Recently it's been shown to improve the expression of over 500 genes, to make your brain bigger, and to increase telomere length (a major marker of accelerated aging).

What do you need to give up that no longer serves? What will you replace it with?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Caffeine Makes Perimenopause & Menopause Worse

Many of you know how much I love Cynthia Gorney's latest synthesis (from the New York Times Magazine last month) of where we are as we face perimenopausal chaos and need to decide whether to take estrogen.

She describes the predictable ebb and flow of estradiol, the main estrogen we make from our teens through mid-40s, and how that predictability comes crashing down into wild, jagged fluctuations in perimenopause. Estradiol has over 400 jobs in your body, so there's a good chance you'll notice by way of increased moodiness, hot flashes, disrupted sleep, low libido, fatigue, achey joints and the like.

Meanwhile, we're cleansing here at the Gottfried Center. We're off caffeine, sugar, alcohol, gluten and dairy. Just wanted to catch you up on some of that bad things that caffeine does to our perimenopausal bods: it lowers estradiol and testosterone. Testosterone is the main hormonal driver of libido and vitality. Caffeine also causes hot flashes and night sweats. Further, in perimenopause, caffeine dramatically increases cardiac reactivity -- meaning your pulse rises, your blood pressure jumps up, and your more jittery than before perimenopause.

Stay off the stuff!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Disengage from Inner Critic (Radio Station KFKD)

Geneen Roth features this key step as pivotal in healing your relationship to food. Her text from Chapter 10 of her new book, which I've briefly excerpted below, is brilliant. Does any of this sound familiar?

The biggest obstacle to any kind of transformation is the voice that tells you it's impossible. It says: 

You've always been like this, you'll always be like this, what's the point. No one ever really changes. Might as well eat. By the way, have you taken a look at your arms recently? And what were you thinking when you wore those pants today? Have you noticed the rolls cascading over your pants? And excuse me, did you forget to put on makeup today or is that what you look like when it's already on? That hair. Those thighs. Why do you even bother? Did you just say what I think you said to your boss? Who are you, Queen of the Universe? How many times do you have to fall flat on your face before you learn to keep your mouth shut?

Anne Lamott calls it Radio Station KFKD. Less lyrical people (like Sigmond Freud) call it the superego, the internalized parent, the inner critic. I call it The Voice. 

You talk to yourself like that from the time you awaken until you close your eyes at night without one teeny thought about the cruelty factor; you've become inured to the insults. And therein lies the pickle: The Voice feels and sounds so much like you that you believe it is you. 

The Voice usurps your strength, passion and energy -- and turns them against you. Its unique way of blending objective truth - that you've gained weight - with moral judgment - that therefore you are a complete loser - leaves you feeling defeated and weak, which then leaves you susceptible to latching on to the next quick fix or miracle cure. Anything to stop feeling so desperate.

When you disengage from The Voice, you have access to yourself and everything The Voice supposedly offers: clarity and intelligence and true discernment.

-- Geneen Roth

As I said, brilliant. An exercise Geneen suggests is to start naming The Voice when you hear it in your head, and to write down the exact statements your Voice makes. This is a very effective means of starting your disengagement. Read her book for more juice and guidance.

The Eating Guidelines by Geneen Roth

These guidelines are not so different from the wisdom you know already to be true. Also not so different from the Beck program, using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques to alter your relationship to food. But Geneen's book is simply thrilling. Check it out.

  1. Eat when you are hungry.
  2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.
  3. Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.
  4. Eat what your body wants.
  5. Eat until you are satisfied.
  6. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
  7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.
Geneen suggests we do the following as a path out of the suffering around food:
  • Remember the food guidelines as you eat
  • Sense your body - your hunger, your fullness, your sensations of pain, need, wants
  • Quiet time each morning for 30 minutes
  • Disengage from The Voice - the harsh inner critic that we all listen to all day long
  • Learn/Practice Inquiry (as taught by Geneen and derived from the Diamond Approach)
I'm working right now with "Disengagement from The Voice" - click here for more thoughts on this topic, both Geneen's and mine.

Another favorite suggestion from Geneen: ask yourself, 20 minutes after a meal, whether you feel good, and if you want to feel this way again. Hugely helps with discernment, right?

Cleanse Success Story

Just a quick note to tell you how much I appreciate your offering of the cleanse. I’m getting so much out of it, physically, emotionally and educationally. I feel like the timing of doing this fits so well for me after a year of being your patient and getting my PMS under control. I never thought I could give up all of the foods/toxins that were such a regular part of my diet, but through the support of the cleanse I’ve found it to be almost easy!  The discussions and information that you and Beth provide are so crucial in helping us to understand the details of why we are doing this, and the benefits.

    Your unique approach to your patients’ health is such a gift. Please know that I feel so much gratitude toward you for seeing beyond tests and medications, encouraging diet change and lifestyle change, and then actually providing a way for us to make those changes in a supportive environment. And somehow you do it all with compassion, wisdom, humility, and humor!

Thank you -
Debra of Oakland

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fantastic Alkalinizing Broth Recipe

modified from Alicia Silverstone's new best seller, The Kind Diet

2C grated daikon
2C grated carrot
1 umeboshi plum (I found these easily at Whole Foods Oakland in the Asian section)
a few drops of shoyu
optional: a sheet of nori, ripped into pieces

Add daikon, carrots and plum to a pot, and cover with filtered water (about 4-6 cups). Bring to a boil and simmer 5 min. Add shoyu and simmer another 5min. Add the nori. Drink hot, like tea.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Insomnia in Perimenopause

There are very few things more important than sleep. You know that, especially if you're not getting enough.

Unfortunately, many of my fellow perimenopausal travelers in their 40s and 50s are not getting enough. Suddenly you're 44 and your sleep is disrupted by awakenings at 2am, 3am, 4am. The most common patterns fall into one of two categories of altered sleep architecture: poor sleep maintenance (the afore-mentioned awakenings, often with the mind racing and the editor telling you all the ways in which you fall short of expectations) or poor sleep latency (e.g., they have adrenal dysregulation and get a second wind at night, which keeps them up late and unable to fall asleep).

The short version for perimenopausal seekers of a good night's sleep is the following.
1. Stop all caffeine
2. Get regular cardiovascular exercise, preferably 5-6 days per week for 45 min at moderate to high effort
3. Stop all wine
4. Sleep in a room at 64 degrees F or cooler
5. Consider daily estrogen and progesterone. Micronized progesterone has been shown to be the most effective.

These simple 5 steps are non negotiables if sleep is elusive. I've had many patients retort that they just have one cup of black or green tea in the morning, or just one glass of wine at dinner. Yes, even one serving makes a difference.

Artificial lights put us out of sync with nature. Limit your exposure at night. Get all LEDs out of the bedroom. Sleep in a very, very dark room at 64 degrees. For more data on how to eat, the effect of carbs, and best ways to game sleep, consider reading TS Wiley's Lights Out. Or join our next Gottfried Center Cleanse -- it's amazing how the group structure assists us with getting off of toxins such as caffeine, sugar and alcohol, and deeply benefits your sleep.

And if you're part of our current Cleanse-in-Progress, let us know how you're sleeping!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Massaged Greens

Modified from Renee Loux

I love a good rubbing with oil. So do leafy greens with a pinch of salt and seasoning, as an opportune technique to serve these fortified veggies in their raw nature, made tender and tasty with a little time and a lot of love. Adjust the seasonings to taste, depending on the green of choice and desired flavor. Fresh herbs are always fabulous. Keep it simple, or add grren onion, garlic and ginger for a tasty variation. 

6 cups chopped greens, any type of kale, spinach, chard or mixture 
(SG loves fava leaves!)
2 tablespoons olive oil, or more
1 tablespoon flax oil (or additional olive oil)
1 tablespoon umeboshi plum vinegar and/or lemon juice
2 teaspoons shoyu
2-3 green onions, chopped (optional)
1-2 cloves garlic, pressed (optional)
2-3 teaspoons finely grated ginger (optional)
sea salt
1-1/2 cups or more of chopped herbs, such as basil, parsley
a few pinches of fresh oregano, thyme or marjoram (optional)

Wash the green and remove any tough stems.
Chop finely and toss with olive oil, flax oil, umeboshi plum vinegar and/or lemon, shoyu, green onion, garlic and ginger as desired. Use freshly cleaned paws to massage with love. Pay attention to tougher parts. 
Allow to stand and marinate, rubbing now and again for an hour or two. Toss in herbs and allow to stand 10 minutes to absorb flavor. Stores well for a day or two.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Women & Food: Anorexia of the Soul

I'm reading Geneen Roth's new book, and it's rather riveting. I've never been a fan to date, but this new book is more compelling for some reason. Perhaps I'm more open and curious? I define compulsive eating broadly, broad enough to include restriction, obsessive dieting, obsessive weighing and thinking about weight, exercise bulimia, vomiting, bingeing and just plain ol' overeating.

What's been proven to help: a food plan, written in advance (ideally the night or day before), sticking to the food plan, and writing down everything you eat; eating a big breakfast; getting sufficient balance of good fats, 5-7 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables (blah blah blah) plus protein at every meal; understanding the root cause of why you overeat and if you cannot, get help, e.g. join a 12-step program such as OA or FA.

I'll share a gem, and then I really need to unplug and go to bed....

Compulsive eating is basically a refusal to be fully alive. No matter what we weigh, those of us who are compulsive eaters have anorexia of the soul. We refuse to take in what sustains us. We live lives of deprivation. And when we can't stand it any longer, we binge. The way we are able to accomplist all of this is by the simple act of bolting - of leaving ourselves - hundreds of time a day. -- Geneen Roth, Women Food and God

Never underestimate the inclination to bolt -- Pema Chodron

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Alchemy of Eating

Today, I'm a little wistful about missing dairy. What helped was to re-read some great text from Gurumayi and I'm good now.  I'm sated. It's amazing to me how reconnection to the deeper purpose of food helps me feel full, satisfied, contented. There's a woman in a 12-step food program who once stated that her food addiction and insatiable foodie appetite was really a God-shaped hole, however you conceive God or Higher Power or Higher Self to be. Geneen Roth just published the same concept in her new book, Women Food and God. Before you wig out that I'm getting all God-squad on you, please know that I've wrestled for 43 years over my concept of Higher Power, and what resonates for me is the idea of inner divinity, a sense of the Higher Self whose voice when we can hear when we open to it and deeply listen.

In any case, Gurumayi helps me fill my hole. Below is excerpted from her book Yoga of Discipline.

Partaking of food should become worship. When food is eaten as a sacred ritual, the effect it has on you is quite extraordinary. When you eat, it should become a puja, worship.

When you sit before your food, offer a prayer. Offer your gratitude to the earth that has produced this food. Offer your gratitude to al the people who have made it possible for you to have this food today. 

Look at your food... See it as filled with prana, the life-force.

Reflect on the value of food, and why you want to eat it -- to sustain your body so that you can pursue your sadhana with vigor, so you can offer your service to God, to humanity.

Familiarize yourself with your stomach, and offer your homage to the divine inner fire will digest your food. Put your mind and your heart in a very happy state, a blissful state, by remembering good things in your life, by remembering happy stories. Let there be laughter.

Then begin to eat the food as if it were nectar.

Every morsel of food that you put in your mouth should be chewed and chewed until it becomes paste-like; then you swallow it. As you chew, let the fire of love, devoption, and faith in God be mixed with each mouthful. In this way, partaking of food becomes worship.

There are some other guidelines that are worth following with great care. The food you eat must be light enough to digest easily, beautiful to look at, and nourishing in its effect. 

Seekers who sincerely practice this discipline in eating sometimes ask what to do when they feel hungry between meals. Just as it is important to understand food as God, in the same way, it is crucial to develop a new awareness about hunger. A healthy amount of hunger is very good. You should learn to recognize that it is actually hunger for God. This is why the Sufis say, "Place hunger in the soul; do not regard it with contempt." If you dampen your hunger by eating every time you feel it, you will kill your hunger for God. You don't want to extinguish the fire of hunger for God. That is priceless. If you are hungry for God, cherish that. You are very fortunate. If you let it blaze, it will become hunger for Truth. This is what the Sufis call "the alchemy of hunger." This hunger is very fulfilling' this hunger is what keeps your heart in God's heart. It is this hunger for God that actually sustains you even more than food.

And then in a later essay, Gurumayi discusses the need for reverence and restraint in eating.

Discipline must become the foundation of one's life. When it comes to the experience of the highest Truth, serenity of mind is essential. And that serenity is the fruit of consistent discipline. 

When the senses are turned outward and allowed to go anywhere they want, they take a person reeling into an abyss of exhaustion and despair. Therefore, it is essential to bring them into the safe harbor of discipline.

Depending on what food you eat, you will have a mind filled with agitation or with tranquility. Depending on what food you eat, you will have good relationships with people or terrible relationships. The food you eat determines what you feel, what you think and what you do. 
When restraint and reverence become part of your daily eating, then your life is filled with happiness and worship. 

The point of discipline in eating is to increase your awareness of food, of your eating habits, and of the greatness of living. You have to eat because you are alive. You are alive to achieve a higher aim, to bring you to your true destination -- and that is to know God, to love God, to be aware of the divine presence, to experience the Shakti in your own body, to live in the Truth. You are alive to activate the cells in the brain, to activate the consciousness in the mind, to activate the purity of the heart so that you can listen to other people, so that you can be with others without feeling burdened by their presence, so you can experience ecstasy flowing through your veins.

-- Gurumayi in The Yoga of Discipline

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

President's Cancer Panel Boldly Links Environmental Toxins & Cancer

I'm thrilled to see a government-sponsored panel, the President's Cancer Panel, speak the truth to power, apparently with very little commercial bias, about the 80,000 unregulated chemicals in our environment and cancer. I'm especially thrilled to see the Panel state so plainly the concerns about Bis-Phenol A (BPA). Download the report right here. Skip ahead to page 111 for their recommendations. Start taking off your shoes before entering your home to reduce chemicals in your sanctuary. Read the New York Times Op-Ed about it right here.

BPA is a nasty chemical that is used in baby bottles, infant formula packaging, canned fruits and vegetables, office water coolers, and soda/water bottles.

I agree with Dianne Feinstein that we should ban BPA. Read more about her legislation to get it done in the Senate right here. Europe banned it already - but here in the US we have big money fighting to keep the toxins in our grocery aisles. In the meantime, avoid canned fruits and vegetables, tell your friends to use BPA-free baby bottles and drink water from a filter using a stainless steel, glass or ceramic container. Also - recall that probiotics reduce absorption of BPA.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Does Wine Make You Whiney?

Love these insights from Gretchen Rubin in The Happiness Project. Take our challenge to get off alcohol for the next 15 days and see how it feels to clean your body. Your liver will thank you. - SG

In daily life, my argumentativeness wasn't much of a problem, but I'd notice that drinking alcohol made me far more combative than I usually was, plus it weakened my (not very strong) instinct for good manners. Because I never did drink much and had given up drinking twice while pregnant, and because of my metabolism, I'd developed a very low tolerance for alcohol. Again and again, I lay in my bed after some social event, thinking "Was I as obnoxious as I think?" "Why did I make my point in such a negative way?" And Jamie usually wasn't very reassuring about how I behaved.
-- Gretchen Rubin

Gottfried Urban Organic Garden

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Saturday, May 8, 2010

D4 Group Cleanse: Love Your Liver

We are thrilled to welcome 12 friends to our office last Wednesday for the start of our 21-day Cleanse. We got tasked with clearing out gluten, dairy, caffeine, sugar and alcohol over the next seven days as part of the "Pre-Cleanse" as well as starting the Detox supplements to prepare our liver and gut for the job ahead. Did you start your morning today with a cup of warm, filtered water with a quarter of yummy Meyer lemon? That is your job for the next 21 days.

We start in earnest with our full Cleanse next week, on May 12, and the next seven days allow us to transition off of the toxins we've been using somewhat gradually. While this blog post is primarily aimed at those who have joined our Group Cleanse, you can also join us virtually both on the blog, or on Facebook, and take the supportive supplements (ordering information is below).

Yesterday there was a great question on Detoxification: why bother with detox supplements to support the Cleanse? I thought I'd spend a moment giving the liver's job description and listing the functions of the supplements that support the job. I really believe that you understand the biochemical underpinnings, even in broad strokes, you'll be more motivated and derive a better outcome. First we'll talk about the liver and then I'll fill in the gaps on how the detox supplements help you.

Job: The liver takes harmful (such as alcohol) and more benign substances (such as estradiol, the most common estrogen until about age 50), and converts these substances typically from fat-soluble to water-soluble so that you can remove them in your urine, stool or bile. You have a bazillion enzymes in the liver that act on these substances.

Break it down for me, please. There are two steps to the liver's daily task - Phase 1 and Phase 2. A toxin enters Phase 1 in the liver (the P-450 cytochrome system) and is reduced to smaller metabolites, which then move onto Phase 2, where the are bound to glutathione, glycine and sulfate. This new now non-toxic metabolite can be excreted in the bile, urine or stool.

Phase 1, in other words, either neutralizes a toxin or metabolizes a toxin to an intermediate form that is then neutralized in Phase 2. The mechanism used in Phase 1 include the chemical reactions of oxidation, reduction and hydrolysis, and these processes produce free radicals which may damage liver cells. Antitioxidants (Vitamin D, resveratrol, etc) reduce the damage. If there are lots of toxins and not enough antioxidants, the risk is much higher, and sometimes potentially carcinogenic substances may be made.

Phase 1 and/or Phase 2 detox pathways may be overloaded or otherwise not working well. Particularly bad (aka, perfect storm conditions) exist when an ill person has an overload of toxins coming into Phase 1, and then Phase 2 is inefficient. This can lead to chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, drug intolerance, and chemical/environmental sensitivities, as well as other not-fun conditions.

A little more info on Phase 1: when it's inefficient or overloaded, you may experience intolerance to caffeine as well as scented products.  Overactive Phase 1 folks will be unaffected by caffeine. Here are things that activate Phase 1 detox:
  • food: brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage; high-protein diet, oranges/tangerines, charcoal-broiled meats
  • alcohol, sulfa drugs, nicotine in cigarette smoke, steroids (including estrogen)
  • environmental: paint fumes, carbon tetrachloride, exhaust, dioxin, pesticides
  • supplements: vitamin C, niacin (B3) 

Phase 2 is also known as the conjugation pathway -- this means that liver cells add a little something (cysteine, glycine, sulfur) to the substance that is coming in. This makes the substance dissolve in water, and then you can get rid of it in urine, bile or stool. For things to work optimally here in Phase 2, you need the amino acids taurine and cysteine as well as additional nutrients (glycine, choline, inositol). This is where the detox supplements come in!

A side note about bile: you make it in phase 2, and normal folks make a quart per day! Bile is the truck that drives the toxins out of your system into the intestines. What's important here is that the bile gets absorbed by fiber and excreted. Low fiber-diets lead to poor binding of the toxins, and the toxins get re-absorbed.  This now helps you understand why we are adding more fiber both with whole foods and a fiber supplement starting on day 8 of our Cleanse.

Take a wild guess at what's in the Detox support packets: potent doses of taurine, cysteine, glycine, inositol, taurine, MSM, Vitamin B6 & 12, Vitamin C, antioxidants, and several other co-factors that help the liver such as biotin, selenium, zinc. These make Phase 1 and Phase 2 Detox pathways operate more efficiently and clear out lingering toxins. We haven't yet talked about the gallbladder, but several additional botanicals such as dandelion root, artichoke and beet extract help both the gallbladder and the liver with detoxification. The twice/daily Detox support packets prepare the liver and gut for the full Cleanse. The supplement helps to minimize damage from free radicals while revving up (or upregulating) the Phase 1 and Phase 2 liver detoxification pathways. You'll also get from the supplements improved digestion of fats and fat-soluble substances. You'll take the Detox supplements for one month. 

If you are interested in joining our Cleanse virtually, call or email our office and order the Detoxification Support Packets ($90 for a 30 day supply). Click here to order online or to visit our website (email us if you need help). Our next Group Cleanse will begin October, 2010.

Detoxification is a very complex biochemical system, and I've oversimplified much of it in the service of making it more accessible. If you have questions, please post them in the comment section.

Friday, May 7, 2010

D3 Group Cleanse: What to Eat?

Thought I'd share my menu with you all. Hope it helps and please share in the comments section any great menu ideas!

BTW, day 3 of cleansing and I'm more than a little irritable. You? Irritable but cleaning up my body!

1.5 oz quinoa flakes mixed with boiling water
6oz blueberries
3T flax seeds
10 almonds
1 poached egg

1 apple
6oz chopped, roasted carrots + 1T extra-virgin olive oil
4oz wild Alaskan salmon, roasted
2 oz quinoa

6oz roasted acorn squash
6oz black beans
8 oz mixed salad + 2T dressing (Ani's marinade from 2 days ago!)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

D2 Cleanse: Mango Breakfast Cobbler

Mango Breakfast Cobbler
adapted from p 215 of Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen
(serves 4)


1 1/4 cup almonds
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1  cup pitted and packed medjool dates
2 Tablespoons coconut oil or butter

4 cups Mango, pitted and diced
1/4 cup agave syrup

To make crust, place almonds, vanilla, and salt into food processor. Lightly process into small pieces. Add dates and coconut butter, process to mix well.

Sprinkle half of the crust onto bottom of a loaf pan.

To make filling, toss together all ingredients. Scoop onto crust. Top with remaining crust.

D2 Cleanse: Inspiration from Ana Forrest & Yoga

I'm listing below an interview with Ana Forrest that I find inspiring. I'm working with the idea of tracking transformation, down to the minute details of the current cleanse we're in together for the next 21 days. Here's the interview, conducted by Vivienne Tang. -- SG

Ana Forrest is a pioneer in yoga and the emotional healing that can come from it. She has become a household name across the globe, famous for her own life traumas of abuse, drug addiction and bulimia, which she has overcome through Forrest Yoga, a style she developed in her quest for truth and wholeness. She openly shares her wisdom with Vivienne Tang, as she speaks about how her yoga journey has transformed and healed her spirit.

I became a certified teacher when I was 18. Yoga was the first tool I used to make a difference in myself. I came to yoga with a tremendous amount of pain. At this young age, I was a horse trainer and had been stomped and rolled on. I had been abused both emotionally and physically. I would take a yoga class, and it would handle a good bit of the physical pain. However, sometimes it wouldn't. At a certain point I had to go off on my own, into the unknown to find out what to do with my own pain. I explored and worked with poses to find out what worked for me. And I did the same thing with my students.

Also the classes did not touch the anguish I was feeling. I felt that something was alluding me. I began tracking and stalking this allusive bit. I studied various yoga systems, but the answers weren't there for me. It took 17 years for me to recognize I was hunting for my spirit. I learned to connect to my spirit through Native American ceremony. I now weave these teachings into my yoga ceremony workshops. I teach people how to connect with their spirit.

How does your background of addiction and abuse influence the healing aspect of Forrest Yoga?

I teach very clear and specific tools for healing, all of which are inherent in getting rid of addictions. Forrest Yoga is about developing strength - physical, spiritual and emotional. My desire for freedom from the entrapment of addiction influenced my teachings. I encourage my students to explore freedom in all areas of their life, spiritually, physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Many addictions are considered unspeakable. I speak freely about my recovery and to people seeking recovery. Part of the healing process is to speak the unspeakable, then it can be challenged. Each of these challenges, including addiction, abuse, eating disorders, have a heavy physical injury component. Another healing aspect of Forrest Yoga is working through these physical issues.

Another thing I learned from the healing process of my drug addiction was how important it is for me to have a purpose in life. My life is going about that purpose. It gave me a reason to live in my deepest darkest despair. I work with people to develop their self-worth and self-respect. We work to become a person who walks the earth with honour and integrity. This can be based on the truth of our daily actions. You need strength, courage, wisdom, and an active connection with spirit to overcome addiction. Connecting to spirit takes ongoing mindfulness, everyday.

I teach my students how you can turn any experience around and see the treasure within. For example, my own abuse, I now help other people to free themselves from their own entrapments of abuse or addiction. I changed my karma into my dharma.

Do you have a motto? What is your philosophy in yoga and in life?

Evolve or die.
Never waste a good trigger.
No matter what happens there is healing for you if you are willing to do the work.
Bottom line question - does this brighten or dim my spirit?
Have the courage to walk the warrior's path.

Forrest Yoga is designed as a healing tool but also helps you answer questions about your life purpose. It is a practice where you can work out aggression, frustration, and, what I call "emotional puss pockets". Emotional puss pockets are those painful and stuck places in your body and cell tissue where residue from your life experiences or trauma are stored.

Keen intelligence in your practice builds internal intelligence. Cultivate the inner attention and listening ability to know what your spirit needs. Then you can connect to your spirit. Next, you develop the courage to live as your spirit dictates. If people walk as their spirit dictates it will radically change the alchemy of the human race. We will cleanse some of the karma of humanity. Each person working on this brings changes for all of us. When we live, connecting or attempting to connect to our spirit in integrity, choosing a path of evolvement and living a life of honour, we create an alchemic field that affects everything and everyone who walks through it.

I teach specific workshops where the intent is "Embodying Spirit". Many people do connect to their spirit within the first workshop series. For those who have had their spirit shocked out of their body by life and death experience (for example, sexual abuse), they first learn to connect to their heart. They put out a heartfelt call to bring their spirit home. In the process they learn what they need to do to make their home, i.e. their body, ready for their spirit to live in their body. There is a lot of clean up necessary. But it is an incredible journey and well worth the work. Then the challenge is to live each day embodying spirit, not just on the mat. Become aware of what disconnects them from spirit. What dims or brightens it. I teach how to make a warrior's choice, to choose actions, over and over again.

What is your mission behind Forrest Yoga?

The Mission is to give people the tools to heal themselves, become empowered and build strength and flexibility at any age. It is an intelligent healing system that is self-empowering and way fun. Through Forrest Yoga people can find the unique gifts they have to offer in this world. In our teaching we build integrity and live the truth of honouring our own sacredness.

How would you describe the Forrest Yoga style?

I created Forrest Yoga to address the needs of our people in this century, the needs of today's society and the ailments that our bodies are manifesting due to our lifestyle; lower and upper back pain, neck and shoulder issues, carpal tunnel, intestinal sickness and disease, etc. I created poses to address these issues. They then evolved into Forrest Yoga. Many of my students have particular health issues that are not addressed by traditional yoga. I create poses for them and work with them in a way that is healing for them.

Our life experiences affect our bodies. Forrest Yoga gets deep into those places and cleanses them. When you clear these areas there is room within your body for you to live. Your body is no longer a storage unit for old pain and unresolved life experiences. Many of us feel a yearning for something more. I perceive this as a lack of spirituality. Forrest Yoga helps people reconnect, or connect for the first time, to their spirit. It honours and celebrates the beauty of life.

It helps you connect to your core, getting strong and centred. It uses heat, deep breathing and vigorous sequences to sweat out toxins. The long holds in the pose progressions help you flush, oxygenate and rejuvenate every cell. It is an inspiring yoga practice that deepens the relationship with your authentic self.

Forrest Yoga takes you to your edges, and when working at your edges (and beyond) you experience joy, insight, confidence, success, strength, and passion. Skillfully focusing your intent on breath brings incredible freedom. I teach students to breath in a very profound way. If they know how to direct their breath, they can direct their life force where it is needed. If they are shut down, or have pain in a particular area, but can direct their life force to that area, they free it up. In freeing up the area, they are healed. You feel fitter, stronger, steadier, and brighter. Forrest Yoga gives you balance and focus, so you can live a life that you are proud of. If you want to be a better parent, better executive, or whatever matters to you, develop the tools to do it in Forrest Yoga.

It will teach you to go deeper, find your truth and encourage you to take these gifts you have earned beyond the mat into the rest of your life. Students come to a class for a variety of reasons: to heal their injured shoulder, improve their stamina, lose weight, overcome addictions, find a place to be calm, get stronger... What they get, however, is so much more than they thought possible.

How do you combine shamanism with yoga?

I first learned how to connect to my spirit in Native American medicine ceremony, not on the yoga mat. In the Native American tradition there are ceremonies for healing, for vision questing, for finding our next step in life, for determining what is holding us back. There is a ceremony for every human issue. Ceremony requires and therefore develops the highest quality of attention possible. We learn to deal with our challenges and issues in a respectful and sacred way. It is very applicable for issues that bring shame and low self-respect, like anorexia. I did many ceremonies and derived tremendous insight and transformation from them.

At first, in an attempt to share this precious and wonderful discovery, I set up sweat lodge and ceremony at some neighbouring mountain top. It took me a while to distill the internal ceremonial process that could be used in the yoga studio. In my Forrest Yoga teacher trainings, I bring in elements of ceremony. I keep my students on track with their most deepest heartfelt yearnings and desires. "Setting the intent" is a crucial element of ceremony that I use in the yoga room. At the beginning of my yoga class, I guide the students into setting their intent on a topic or issue that is most important for them to deal with that day. The students use the pose to serve that intent. By keeping mindful of intent through the action of the poses makes the experience 1000 times more powerful.

So how did you turn grief, pain, anger and fear into compassion and love?

Working through my healing process gave me compassion and patience with my students. Only later was I able to give to myself, but I learned it from my students first. Love is a learning process and being in a relationship is a great place to practice love. I teach people to practice conditional love. So many people talk about unconditional love. What is that? When I started to teach, I learned to love my students and it was very conditional. You had to be in the yoga room doing the class. I didn't have time for them outside of the class. At that time, loving them for one and a half hours was all I could do. That was all I could manage. So how I learned to love was by taking action. I asked the question, "What is the most loving action I can take right now, that will serve us to move out of the difficult place to healing?"

This included learning how to be a truth speaker. Being dishonest about your feelings, such as anger, pain and hurt, is damaging to you and everyone you are in relationship with. You lose your self-respect. I do not consider it compassionate to allow people to wallow in their issues. The most compassionate action I can take for another person, like my students, is to not be swayed by their emotional reactiveness or their internal destructive programs or conditioning. I ask them to feel the sadness and cry, instead of trying to comfort them into not feeling it. Love and compassion are not like a jacket you can just put on. They are something you grow and tend to and redefine on a regular basis. Our wisdom and capacity to love grow as we grow.

Do you include meditations in your yoga teachings?

In the Forrest Yoga Teacher Training, I start the morning with Native American ceremony of calling in the power of the directions and setting the intent of the day. Then we chant Native American chants and sit. While we sit we are focusing our intent and bringing it out of thinking and into our visceral experience. This is done first thing in the morning of all 22 days of the training. It is a powerful meditation.

What is the most interesting yoga experience you've ever had?

Quite a while ago during my practice, I really wanted to get what was inside of me. I actually starting bracing myself for a big war against all the stuff inside of me, because I just thought it was going to be terrible. I rode my breath, my wind force, deep inside my cell tissue. I was quite amazed when I found myself there. So I went down deeper to an atomic level. There I found I was comprised of a bunch of sparkling bits dancing around in a choreographed space and the space was vast. I saw these little sparkling bits dancing around, and I realized I was looking at energy matter.

My view of myself changed forever. My conception of what is solid and stuck in this world no longer had a foundation in truth. I had a new truth. And I realized that all my "stuff", my crippleness and my addictions are not real.

I saw I had this exquisite space inside of me that is as vast as the cosmos. I was awestruck by the beauty of my own particle dance. My belief in my lack of worthiness, of what I could or could not do, all collapsed. The realm of possibilities opened up like a hidden world. Even now when I remember the truth of my own cellular dance, it changes the way I see my perceived limitation. The experience helps me stay connected. The exciting, and yet scary truth is I don't know what I'm capable of. But instead of staying entrapped and miserable, it gives me the strength to go and explore my capabilities.

What are you currently working on?

A book. It is a combination of my memoirs and teaching tools.

What are your plans for the future?

Forrest Yoga is my life's purpose. I truly believe we all can do something to help our people. I am developing Forrest Yoga teachers. I want them to be great and they want to be great. We created a Mentorship program in which each Forrest Yoga teacher is mentored by another more senior teacher. This provides great opportunities of growth for both the mentor and the mentee.

These mentors are a group of Forrest Yoga teachers that have pledge to be the guardians and carriers of the legacy of Forrest Yoga. So Forrest Yoga can live far beyond my life span and continue to transform and excite people for at least seven generations to come. I have started and will continue to build the Forrest Yoga Educational Library. This consists of DVDs, CDs and writings about my teachings. This library will be the resource of my Forrest Yoga teachings.

I'll continue to teach across the US and internationally, something I love best, working directly with people and providing them with the tools for healing and living a full and fascinating life. I love helping people find what they are passionate about, helping them focus on what matters to them and not waste their life force on inconsequential things of their life. Forrest Yoga helps people walk on this planet in a healing way, and in power.

As a culture, we are immature. We pollute our own water, land, and air. Forrest Yoga helps people evolve into their maturity, to learn how to be responsible, knowing how to respond appropriately to each life situation, which includes the way we interact with ourselves and each other. And it determines whether we continue to destroy our water, air and land, or decide to heal our relationship with the planet that supports us.

If we childishly destroy this planet, then we will never evolve into the magnificence that we are capable of. I'm working with our people to reach that magnificence. I'm very hopeful that we can do this. I can see this happening. It may not happen soon or at all, but it could. I see Forrest Yoga as part of this. We can do this alchemical change. It is important that each one of us can recognize that we can make a difference. We need to find out what we are capable of doing.

I have a story. I had a student in Los Angeles that spent five or six years fighting against a Nuclear waste dump that was going to poison the Colorado river and basically the water source for most of California. She worked tirelessly protesting, going to meetings, going to Washington DC. Protesting and going to Washington DC is not what I do, that's what she does. But what my contribution to this movement was to teach her yoga. I taught her tools to hold her centre during all those years she was in battle. That was my contribution in this instance. I think it is important that each of us do something that we can be proud of, and it creates a chain reaction of caring. Each of us can make a difference. We are not helpless or powerless. We are needing to learn how to bring ourselves to live in a way that doesn't destroy but that is in balance. That is part of our maturation process. That is most inspiring to me.

What are your 5 key contributions to make the world a better place?

I've created a yoga system that helps anyone create a life of healing and purpose.
I've created a teaching course that trains Forrest Yoga teachers to be excellent teachers and healers, who can continue the healing work and help humans evolve
I've developed skills and tools for people to help and heal themselves in an honorable way, which also connects them to their unique gifts and passion, which they can take out and help heal the world.
I insist on living in integrity and honesty.
I teach others to do the same. When people chose integrity in their actions, that choice has a very profound effect in the world.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

D1 of Group Cleanse: Lessons from Raw Masta

We are thrilled to embark on another Gottfried Cleanse starting today. Join us: take the next 7 days to remove gradually gluten, caffeine, sugar, alcohol and dairy.

What makes it easier is delicious, such as this amazing marinade over raw kale. Ani's marinade softens the kale and is so flavorful, you'll forget how good it is for you. Thank you to my dear friend from high school who made this for me on Monday night!

Here's Ani Phyo's Sunflower Thyme Marinade
    2 T thyme
    1 clove garlic
    1 cup extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 cup sunflower seeds soaked an hour or more and then drained
    1 T apple cider vinegar
    1 t sea salt
    (2 T lemon juice--my friend's addition)

    Blend all ingredients until smooth. Marinade will keep for three to four days and makes enough for a few salads.

From her book, "Ani's Raw Food Kitchen".

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I'm an organic gynecologist, yoga teacher + writer. I earn a living partnering with women to get them vital and self-realized again. We're born that way, but often fall off the path. Let's take your lousy mood and fatigue, and transform it into something sacred and useful.