The Egg and The Orange or The Natural Wisdom of the Body

The egg and the orange - square copy

I can pinpoint the exact moment when the seed of my interest in nutrition was planted.

When I was in my early teens I noticed that when I ate a boiled egg, I always felt like eating an orange afterwards. Other than noting this, I didn’t think too much of it until years later when I discovered that when we eat iron rich foods such as legumes, nuts, seeds, dark green vegetables, dried fruits and eggs in the same meal as vitamin C rich foods such as kale, kiwi fruits and red peppers, a wonderfully clever biochemical action occurs – the amount of iron that we can absorb in the gut actually goes up. Iron and vitamin C make a prefect partnership…..and my body actually already knew this without me having to rationalise it!

My second eureka moment came a few years ago when I gave up working in the way that I had been for many years and took some time out. Without the imposition of the socially structured norm of breakfast, lunch and dinner slotted around the working day, my true hunger patterns began to emerge. I discovered that actually, I wasn’t really hungry until around 11am and that often I only needed two meals a day rather than three, I found that my digestion was happier when I ate less grain based carbohydrates and swapped cow’s cheese for goat’s or sheep’s. It was as if a light had been turned on and so I began to listen to other clues that my body was giving me. Soon I began to feel in tune with my body in a new way – as if we were talking at last, and that in turn brought me a new sense of wellbeing. Yogi Bhajan observed:

When you do not consciously relate to your body, your mind does not relate con­sciously to you.”

Somewhere along the line our relationship with our bodies has become fractured, we have become strangers to ourselves. We no longer hear the messages that our bodies are sending us or we choose to over-ride them.

So we are back to the whole idea of conscious eating. In a lecture in 1992, Yogi Bhajan taught a special kriya called Bhoj Kriya, which he prescribed to bring greater awareness to the experience of eating and our relationship to food.

https://www.3ho.org/articles/bhoj-kriya-how-eat-consciously-good-health

In his thought provoking book ‘The Yoga of Eating: Transcending Diets & Dogma to Nourish the Natural Self’, Charles Eisenstein talks about shifting trust away from an outside authority and introducing oneself to a higher authority aka: your own body. It’s not always easy when we are busy and rushing around to keep that connection intact, but if we can just keep our ears open a little way we may hear the body’s call to balance and harmony.

When we begin to explore the relationship between our whole health and what we eat and the manner in which we eat it, we may discover a new response to our needs around food that is more intuitive and individualised and therefore more nutritious and nourishing on all levels.

It’s a journey well worth embarking on.

 

 

We Are What We Eat – Right?

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Well actually maybe that’s not quite right. It might be more accurate to say, ‘We are what we digest and absorb’.

The quality of the food we put into our bodies is extremely important, but let’s not under estimate the other factors that contribute to good digestion. We want to maximise the nutrients and energy we get from food whilst putting the least stress on our bodies and keeps us feeling well and comfortable.

Our digestive system is really just one long tube from mouth to anus with different actions occurring at different locations along the way. If any of these locations are blocked or failing to function optimally, then the associated task is hindered and reduced in its efficacy.

Yogi Bhajan had lots to say about diet and yogic eating. Let’s take a look at the science behind some of his wise words:

“Eat only in a pleasant, relaxing environment.”

We don’t always find ourselves in the ideal environment, but taking small steps to create a little peace and relaxation around meal times can go a long way towards ensuring good digestion can take place.

So why is this so important? Bodily functions are controlled by either the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) or the parasympathetic nervous system (rest & digest). Psychological stress due to busy lives and long to-do lists puts us frequently into ‘flight or flight’ mode causing our digestive systems to suffer. Because we are effectively in survival mode, our gut motility (the propulsion of food through the digestive system) and our gastric secretions are reduced. Conversely, when our parasympathetic nervous system is triggered and we are in ‘rest & digest’ mode, gut motility and secretions are high.

One way of switching us into our ‘rest & digest’ mode is to breath deeply a few times before a meal. Aha! The wisdom of chanting Sat Nam 3 times before a meal – a pause, a moment of gratitude for the gift of food and then three deep inhalations acting as a trigger. Now we are ready to receive, digest and absorb.

 “Prepare your food with love and care.”

The process of digestion begins with our eyes, nose and brain even before we have put food into our mouths.

The sight, smell and anticipation of food triggers salivation and gastric juice secretion produced in readiness for breaking down food and absorbing nutrients. A hurried sandwich wrapped in plastic and eaten on the hoof denies us the vital initial cues for the digestive process to begin.

When we give our attention to the food that we are preparing or receiving, we are laying the foundations for optimal gastrointestinal function.

“Chew well, the stomach has no teeth.”

Digestion begins in the mouth. When we chew (a minimum of 6–10 times) we are breaking down food to reduce the burden on stomach digestion.

“If you do not mix saliva in every morsel of your food, you are eating poison.”

Salivary glands produce digestive enzymes that begin the process of breaking down fats and the starch in carbohydrates.

“Eat less and meditate more.”

Eating slowly naturally leads to eating less as it takes around 20 minutes for your brain to signal to your stomach that you are full.

The action of eating itself can become a meditation if we eat with awareness. When we savour and appreciate the food that we eat, we not only increase its nutritional benefit but also our overall sense of wellbeing.

“Develop a habit to nap after meals.”

Lying down after eating can improve digestion but if this is not possible then at least staying calm and relaxed after eating will go a long way to supporting good digestion.

And don’t forget sufi grind, rock pose, baby pose and knees to chest – all excellent asanas for aiding digestion.

Developing conscious eating habits can go a long way towards reducing the likelihood of common problems such as bloating, diarrhoea, cramping and constipation.

A happy digestive system is the foundation for all round good health.

 

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Calling All Women – Weekend Summer Retreat

I wanted to let you know about a weekend retreat that I thoroughly recommend especially for us gorgeous womenfolk!

 It is being hosted by 3 teachers from i-Sky teacher training  – all of whom I know to be particularly fine teachers. It takes place at Ufton Court in Reading from 6pm on Friday evening 16th August until 4pm Sunday 18th August. Cost is £165. Ufton court is a slightly faded glory, but nevertheless charming tudor manor house near reading Berkshire. Everyone either stays in dorm style accommodation sharing rooms from between 3-8 people approx or camping in the lovely grounds. There is a certain amount of Seva (selfless service) to ensure the smooth running of the weekend – in other words everyone mucks in a bit, however 2 lovely men have offered to cook for us all weekend – lovely veggie food.
There will be Kundalini yoga, Shakti dance ( the dance of Kundalini yoga), martial arts, sharing, laughing and generally doing what we women  do so well….. which is hanging out together celebrating our feminine energy. It is a very relaxed, supportive atmosphere with all ages and levels of experience.
So if this sounds like something that you might be interested in ,then visit http://www.i-sky.net/ for more info or phone Sharon on 01635 523900.

Fancy getting way from it all?

If you feel the need to get away for a while and are looking for somewhere that is peaceful, beautiful, friendly and affordable, then I recommend the retreat that I will be teaching on this May in the beautiful Apennine Mountains just near Bologna in Italy.

I taught on this retreat for the first time last year and am delighted to be returning. Ali and Mike are wonderful hosts and the relaxed informal nature of the place allows you to gently unwind. There is Kundalini yoga on offer twice a day lead by Malcolm or myself, along with gong bath relaxations, singing and dancing.

The scenery is stunning so whether you want to lie in the hammock and appreciate the stillness or take a leisurely stroll around the open land, you really feel the benefit of space and nature. You can stay in the charming rustic house or camp in tents supplied in the lovely field nearby.

It’s a short flight from Stanstead or Gatwick  to Bologna from where you catch a bus to Vignola to be met by Ali or Mike who will drive you to Casa Taddeo in the village of Castellaro di Sestola. The whole retreat runs from Tuesday 14th – Sunday 19th May so ideally you would fly Monday-Monday to get the full benefit of the retreat but if you can only get away for a shorter time then it’s quite possible to make it a long week-end. Delicious vegetarian food, Kundalini yoga, music and nature – what more could anyone want?!

For more details click on the flyer and email me with any queries. Visit the website http://www.apennine-retreat.com

Yoga in a Yurt, Anna Ranprem, Anna Browne Malcolm Medley, Mahan Deva, May 2013, Italy

My first White Tantra experience

I had heard about White Tantra several years before I actually went along to it. I had always been intrigued but also terrified at the thought of it.  My mind kept presenting me with obstacles and questions – Who would be the there? Would everybody else have done it before and know what to do? Who might my partner be? What would happen if I couldn’t do a particular meditation?

When I did finally pluck up the courage to go, I had the most extraordinary day. I knew there would be other people there that I knew but I didn’t go with a partner. When I arrived, I was met with a sea of smiling faces all dressed in white and helping each other with tying head coverings or finding partners. There was a tremendous sense of excitement, anticipation and above all a powerful sense of community.

During the day of Kundalini meditations you sit opposite a partner and follow instructions given by Yogi Bhajan via video screen. A facilitator clarifies the meditations. Ideally, you would have a partner of the opposite sex but the important thing is that the rows are male and female so if you end up with a female partner as I did the first time then one of you just represents the male. My partner for the day was chosen for me by one of the monitors and as we introduced ourselves, I felt myself relaxing into the experience. There is no doubt that I was challenged greatly by some of the meditations but with the support of my White Tantra partner and the incredible energy of the group I managed to sustain meditations that I would not of imagined that I could. I emerged from my experience feeling powerful, cleansed and euphoric. If you are at all interested in doing White Tantra I would highly recommend that you set your fears aside and dive into the experience.

 White Tantra takes place on Saturday 19th January in Kensington Town Hall. For more information and booking go to http://www.kundaliniyoga.org.uk and click on White Tantra. You can also download an information leaflet that explains how White Tantra works and more about what to expect on the day.

 

Have you decided how you will be spending this New Year’s Eve?

Another way to celebrate… 

The Christmas period can be a wonderful time of year but sometimes we can end up feeling exhausted and over stimulated.  Christmas runs into New Year and before we know it we are hurled back into our busy and sometimes stressful lives without having a moment to pause.The arrival of a New Year can be a great time to do just that – pause and take stock, to reflect on the year gone by and to give some thought to what we would like to attract towards us in the upcoming year.  There are many ways that we can do this but here are a couple of options that offer an alternative way to say goodbye to the old and welcome in the new. They also have the benefit of allowing you to wake up on New Year’s Day feeling refreshed and with a clear head!

The first is on New Year’s Eve itself and takes place at The Nave N1 2QH. It is billed as a New Year’s Eve Celebration – Conscious Transition into 2013.

There will be Kundalini Yoga, Keertan, Nia Dance, Gong, delicious vegetarian food and a children’s programme.

For more info contact Siri Sadhana on 07508 339732 or book online tickets@kundaliniyogafestival.org.uk. All details can be found on http://www.kundaliniyogafestival.org.uk under events.

The second is a New Year Retreat at Ufton Court in Reading  – Awakening to a New You. This is a retreat organised by graduating students of i-Sky Kundalini Yoga Instructors Level 1 and will be lead by them under the supervision of their tutors. Dates are the Sunday 30th through to Tuesday 1st but you can go just for part of the retreat. It will be a great opportunity to see in the New Year in good company in an Elizabethan Manor house with picturesque and secluded grounds. Email me for more information.

Whichever way you decide to celebrate the arrival of the New Year I wish you Love, Light and Peace.

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    Yogi Bhajan, Kundalini Yoga London
    "Kundalini Yoga is the supreme technology to awaken your awareness and take you into your original Self. It is a natural unfolding of your own nature" Yogi Bhajan
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    "I had never really 'got' yoga until I happened upon Anna's Kundalini classes and now I can't imagine life without it.  I look forward to each class and invariably come out buzzing and simultaneously energised and relaxed.  At a practical level, I feel more strong and toned and supple and it helps keep my RSI and shoulder problems in check.  But over time, I have felt it touch me more deeply and permeate my life in unexpected ways.  I feel more bold and adventurous, more calm and more cheerful.  Anna teaches with seriousness and care but also with a lightness, grace and humour that create a wonderful environment in which to learn." Sarah