I Feel the Earth Move....


Here's my lovely hunk-a-hunk-a-horse! WHO is your mirror? Or maybe more accurately, who isn't?

So, this morning I had the lyrics "I feel the earth move under my feet... I feel the sky tumblin' down... a tumblin' down" running through my head. Makes sense--considering it is officially springtime. Officially. Not literally, however. But, cellularly? It's true.

My practice this morning undeniably brought with it the "vata" of the season... dry, windy joints. Stiffness and a sense impending change. I love the spring. I love the seasons, actually. They remind me of who I am... part and parcel of nature. Connected to the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space... and the ways in which these elements manifest in my body, and in my life.

Example:
Like most days, I went to the barn yesterday, to clean stalls and groom my most handsome, and only, horse, Indio. He is one hot hunk, that horse. And he feels me... and I love that.

He feels you?

Yep. He feels me.

When I am in a hurry... rushing to get in and get out, take him for a spin, and then launch him back out in to the pasture with the other horses, HIS breath shortens. HE appears agitated. HE even worries more (albeit about whether or not he's on the menu).

So, what does that have to do with the tattvas? The elements of nature?

Well, it's like this: my "wind"... throws him off course. My "air" leads him to feel unsafe, ungrounded, and nervous. My "fire", if I get impatient, awakens his rigidity, and his feet are rigid as if cemented to the ground beneath.

BUT if I am relaxed, breathing deeply and taking grounded, "earthy" steps, he does the same. If I am walking slowly--giving him "space" to breath... Loving on him and just being present, he breathes long and deep and his big, brown eyes open and close soooo sllllowwwwly. He relaxes, softens, and loves me back. Just like that.

I LOVE this! He literally is a mirror. All animals are. In fact, all BEINGS are... reflecting... shining back at us, what we are illuminating, and radiating forth, and whatever we are gripping and holding, we see in those closest to us. Truth is, it is never about them.

So, I like what I learn when he is not relaxed, bent out of shape, and all stiff-throated. I like that he is telling me that I need to relax each time I think he needs to relax.

And the best part of all?

I find myself take pause. And I realize that it isn't an isolated phenomena I experience with my horse. I also experience it with my loved ones. ALL of them.

Example:
When I am with my husband, I'll be darned if the same thing doesn't happens... If he is "stuck", tense, agitated, and stiff? I just better look to myself. Maybe he needs more space and room to breathe... If he is uncertain or weary, I just better look to myself. Maybe he needs to feel my solidity, my "earthiness".

Ahhh, but if he is relaxed, and present, and his big brown eyes open and close slowly... I, too, can look to myself. And HERE is where we become ONE... All of us. Where we connect... breathe... soften... and feel the balance of earth, water, fire, air and space. It is just that simple.

So try this...
Inhale: I am the world.
Exhale: And the world is me.
Inhale: I am the world.
Exhale: And the world is me.

Who's your mirror, Baby? Or more accurately, who isn't?

Happy Springtime!

Namaste,
Britt

Doin' What Comes Naturally: February 19: 1-4 PM


Join me for a small group workshop this Saturday at ClubSport Oregon.

It will include:
* Nutrition from a yogic / "eating with the seasons" perspective
* Focus on use of herbs (that you can buy at the market) for winter challenges such as achey bones, dry skin/hair, digestive challenges, lethargy, winter flu & cold
* The top 12 yoga postures for health/healing
* Breathing practices for insomnia, digestive health
* I will also be doing tongue and pulse evaluation on all students who are present... generally this occurs when I do 1:1 sessions and included as a fundamental component of a $200 package
* There will also be a variety of "show & tell" related products for living a more balanced life, in alignment with nature and the seasons

Hope to see you there!

Namaste,
Britt

Winter 2011


Find this card and more at curlygirldesign.com

Join me Off the Mat as we explore together Ayurveda and its natural healing wisdom. If you have already attended What's Yer Dosha, content is "ancient and improved", having spent 8 weeks with Dr. Lad in India, immersed in Ayurveda. If you are looking to enhance your digestion, your skin health, your mood, or your practice on the mat... join me for a workshop this Winter / Spring.

Trust me when I say that my yoga practice will never be the same having steeped myself in this ancient, magnificent healing modality. If you practice yoga, are interested in self-healing, food as medicine, or natural healthcare, Ayurveda is worth your time and is waiting to bless you profoundly!

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Sunday, January 16th

What's Yer Dosha?
An Introduction to Ayurveda

We all know there is more to yoga and that how we live our lives, manage our stress, and what we put into our bodies shows up in our attitude and performance, both on and off the mat. Ayurveda, the sister medicine to Yoga, literally means “the science of life”, and teaches us how we can understand our unique differences as they apply to our yoga practice, our lifestyle and our nutritional practices.
http://yogapearl.com/a-workshops/011-britt-dosha.pdf

1:30 PM - 3:30 PM
Yoga Pearl, NW Portland
$30

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Saturday, February 19

Doing What Comes Naturally: An ancient perspective on living in balance
When we align with the rhythms of nature, the need for discipline and effort fall away, leaving us with a sense of vitality, invigoration and light. In this workshop, take a deeper look within at what brings your life into optimal health and balance. Join Britt Bensen Steele, MPH, celebrated Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counselor and Yoga Instructor, in this practical and personal journey into what it takes to live an extraordinarily harmonious life by looking to Ayurveda, Yoga, and the wisdom of nature as your guides.

1:00 - 4:00pm
ClubSport Oregon, Studio 2
$30 Member of ClubSport / $35 Non-Member of ClubSport

Namaste,
Britt

Ayurveda Workshop.... Come One, Come All..


Fresh off the turnip truck from India.... join Britt as she shares her experience of spending 2 months with Dr. Vasant Lad, international leader in Ayurvedic Medicine. Deepen your understanding of Ayurveda or introduce yourself to this worldly healing modality. Ayurveda can balance your life, cleanse your heart and open your life up to possibilities beyond your current reality.

This is a great "primer" for upcoming workshops and classes, and an introduction to what your tongue and pulse can tell you about your health.

Explore this ancient wisdom and the multitude of ways Ayurveda can re-awaken the self-healer living in each of us...

Hope to see you there! (Even if you've been before, you won't be disappointed!)... Limited space available.

Register at www.yogapearl.com

Namaste,
Britt

A Clinic Like No Other


The "waiting room" outside of the screen door leading into the clinic. Most of these patients are farm workers.

We have completed two weeks of clinical training and suffice it to say it has been overwhelmingly satiating. We spend 10-14 hours per day split between classroom studies, clinical observations, and assisting the physician. We navigate this ancient land, in search of food that we can stomach, admiring the people, keeping our sunglasses on our bright western faces, with ankles and arms covered. There are 8 students, 1 administrator, and 1 physician.

Clinic is the most graceful of the experiences. As we sit and observe vast socio-economic strata coming and going, their purpose for visiting Dr. Vasant Lad, reminds me of our sameness. There are physicians from across the globe accompanying their patients with perplexing symptoms to the most impoverished farm workers exhibiting signs of malnutrition. We have seen typhoid fever, scorosis of the liver, kidney failure, cancer, schizophrenia, depression, servere anorexia (not the psychological type, but cause by internal mal-absorption), and the rarest of skin conditions.

We sit, in a small clinic, around physician and patient, as they speak any variety of Indian dialect and then, as if narrating, the Vaidya (ayurvedic physician), translates the health concerns of patient to us, without affect, and then proceeds to share his findings. We are taking pulse (the seven layers... not just the lub dub), assessing organ strength, dosha, and relationship between what is happening in one's psychology and one's physiology. We assist with basic treatments, including nasya (nasal oil treatments), netri-bindu (stinging, clearing eye drops), and marma therapy (like acupressure). Already, in these two weeks, I have witnessed the nonsensical. He integrates allopathy and ayurveda with clinical finesse. We observe the uncanny, yet unfaltering correlation between physical trait and disease. We witness how eye characteristics, nail shape, tongue color & landscape, skin tags, and pulse presentation clearly express the honest and innocent truth of what is happening within one's body and mind. These diagnostic processes, although dissimilar in many ways to our western medical approach reveal a direct correlation to mineral deficiency, presence of intestinal parasite, blood lipid profiling, history of thumb sucking and its impact on physiology, and so much more.

Probably the most profound, we are realizing how our mind is a valuable tool, especially when partnered with the intuition. There is a sensory skill that is developed through the practice of ayurveda. A way that we exhale, let go of what we think we know, and allow that which is true, in this moment, to reveal itself through pulse, intellect, tongue, and manifestation within body, mind, heart, and soul.

Until next time...

Namste,
Britt

Turn Off Your Mind

Om. I write this message from a crowded internet cafe in Pune, India. I have completed the first of six weeks of rigorous study with Vaidya, Dr. Vasant Lad, in a
guru kula--a small study program of eight students and two teachers. Each day we learn, first hand, the blessings of Ayurvedic Medicine, and how wise the body is... how the patient is the greatest teacher.... and how the body never lies.

Ayurveda offers herbs, marma therapy (like accupressure), jyotish, compassion, and the most comprehensive methodology in symptom diagnosis, patient understanding and treatment. This work never ceases to amaze me, and I feel so deeply blessed to be here with one of the leading ayurvedic physicians on the planet.

I will share with you more details soon. As for now, all I can say is that I am so grateful to be here, and to study in this manner. Of our eight students, we have two physicians, and their commentary only reinforces that this medicine is not only western medicine, but it is holy medicine... honoring the patient deeply, and focusing on what we don't know, instead of only on what we do know.

I am touched deeply each time Dr. Lad tells us, "The mind can get in the way of your understanding... quiet your mind, open your mind.... turn off your mind... When your mind is off, you are quiet. When you are quiet, you are open. When you are open, there is space, and where there is space, there is love. And where there is love, there is healing."

More to come soon.

Namaste,
Britt

Living JUICY! How COOL!

I find that there isn't a better way for me to live my yoga than by choosing to consciously live in integrity. I can feel it when my life begins to become a little "divided". I find myself engaging in projects that I don't fully support. I say things that I sort of mean, versus taking the time to say what I really want to say. I eat foods that are not in my body's best interest. The list could go on. But you get the picture.

Last week, my husband had a very busy week at our retreat center. As we were getting ready to go to work for the week, I found myself feeling a pull to stay behind. I felt torn: I wanted to support him, to go with him and stand beside him... and I also felt this small voice that never roars, but whispers quietly and regularly.

That voice said, "just stay. Be still. Listen." After a few internal gymnastic routines, I decided to stay home... for. the. whole. week. This is the longest I have been apart from my husband, and I also had to make peace with the fact that he would be working a lot and I would be, um. listening. But it was needed... and I realized it even moreso as the days went on.

Once I settled into my aloneness, I did some things I don't usually do. For example, one night my friend, Leela, came over and slumber-partied. At first it was hard to just "be". I felt a need to answer my phone and "do stuff", but then I settled down, and we juiced, made great food together, laughed until it hurt, shared openly about our hearts' calling and our hearts' struggles, and sat on the deck watching the birds and the boats go by... And then, just like that, it was time for her to return to her life.

Another night, I sat with the full moon. Just sat.

One morning, I awakened with the two bald eagles living outside my kitchen window and did yoga on my rooftop with them soaring above me. Another morning, I consciously watched the sunrise... not meditated, but just watched and felt the sun rise over the mountain. I filled my days with mindmapping, journaling, drawing with my crayola markers, practicing yoga, listening to music, and exploring every possible way that I could get closer to that quiet voice that said, "just stay. Be still. Listen."

It is an important part of the practice. The being still part.

Taking care of ourselves will not alway result in a standing ovation or a level of understanding that would make it easy to do, especially if you are used to responding to every call. But taking care of ourselves is necessary in order for each of us to be clear about what our heart longs to express. So we are able to go where we are inspired to go... when we do this, we don't have to push ourselves, prod ourselves, or convince ourselves of the merit of anything. Instead, we wake up in the morning and say, "WOW! I get to [fill in the blank] today! That is soooo cool!"

So, if you've got a juicer, or a blender, or a Vitamix.... crack that baby out. And whip up some "listening tonic". It's simple: A little veggie--like romaine, chard, cucumber, tomato, lotsa carrots, and then I like a couple apples, and a chunk of ginger, and some fennel seed... if you are blending, or vitamixing, you can also add avocado and flax meal. Super omega-goodness....

And while you're at it... sprout some mung beans, or sunflower seeds... or almonds.... for your salad.

I don't suggest this because it is "good for you". I suggest it because it is the only way you can SEE YOU. It's pretty easy to numb out these days. And if we live numb, life slips by and we starve to death for lack of meaning. When you take time to clean out in this way, your life calling will rise to the surface and you won't be able to stuff what you came here to do... you'll just have to hurry up and go to bed so you can wake up tomorrow and say, "WOW! I get to [fill in the blank] today!" That is sooo cool"

Enjoy the juice... and you will clearly be able to hear the juicy things you've been trying to say to yourself... now that you've stopped to listen...

Namaste,
Britt

Don't Stop the Urge!

In our many discussions over the course of a lovely retreat weekend together, one topic that impressed many was that there were actually 13 urges that are encouraged to be released.... Here is an exerpt from Dr. Vikram Chauhan, a traditional ayurvedic physician and his comments.

These 13 natural non-suppressible urges are described by Charaka, an authority on Ayurveda in his book, Charaka Samhita, Strasthana.

“That the wise should not suppress the impending urges of urine, feces, semen, flatulation, vomiting, sneezing, eructation (belching), yawning, hunger, thirst, crying, sleeping and breathing after exertion.”

Suppression of urge to defecate can cause colic pain, headache, retention of flatus and feces, cramps in calf muscles and flatulence. Irregular and undisciplined lifestyle and diet have the danger of making this a habit which in turn can lead to constipation which is the root cause of all diseases according to Ayurveda. Passing the stool is the most important of all natural urges. Faeces are full of toxins and if it stays in body for long, the fermentation process starts leading to many more problems.

People often ignore or suppress this important part of their routine citing lack of time, not realizing how it will affect their overall health. Defecating regularly also helps to keep the weight also under control.

Ignoring it leads to constipation. Large intestine is the place of 'vata' or air element as per Ayurveda. Imbalance of vata in body is the cause behind 80 % of all diseases. Major diseases like blood pressure, diabetes, low eye sight among children, skin problems, piles, acid reflux, migraine, headache, back pain, fatigue and restlessness, indigestion are all caused due to imbalance of air element in the body i.e. Vata vitiation. Constant suppression can also cause one to age faster due to the destruction caused by imbalanced Vata.

The bottom line is if the natural urge is felt by the body, it is energy that needs to be moved, released, and set free... and this is an important part of remaining an open channel. All part of your daily practice, or dinacharya.

Namaste,
Britt

Kitchari-Hit the "Body Reset Button" with this Simple Ayurvedic Dish

BanyanBotanicals.com website, is my favorite, and one of the best sources for ayurvedic supplements available in the United States. It is a great source for supplements, information, and deepening your understanding of Ayurveda. The following information is from their site. Enjoy!

In Ayurveda, things that we ingest are divided into three categories:

1. Poison
2. Medicine
3. Neutral

Poison is defined as anything that hinders digestion. Medicine is considered to be anything that we ingest that aids the digestive process. Neutral is anything we ingest that gives support and nourishment without either aiding or hindering the digestive process.

Kitchari is a unique because it falls under both the neutral and medicinal categories. It not only provides nourishment for the body, but, due to its spice combination, also benefits digestion. This makes kitchari an ideal food of choice during times of stress on the body, such as during an illness, periods of overwork or change of seasons. It is also an especially good food to use while on a mono-diet as part of an internal cleansing regime.

There are several variations to a basic kitchari recipe and the one below is basic, easy to start with, and balancing to all three doshas (vata, pitta and kapha). You will find that the ingredients are readily available at most health food stores, including New Seasons, my favorite locally owned and operated whole foods market.

Ingredients:
2-3 TBS ghee (clarified butter)
½ tsp black mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 small pinch of asafoetida ("hing") powder (you can leave this out, if you can't find it)
½ cup split yellow mung dal, rinsed well, soaked overnight and drained. (It is best to use mung dal with the hulls still on if you tend toward constipation)---you can also use green mung beans, whole or split.
1 tsp rock salt (Himalyan is best.. it is the pink salt)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 cup white basmati rice, rinsed well and drained.
6 cups warm water
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
4-5 thin slices of fresh ginger root

In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat the ghee on medium heat. Ghee burns easily, so be careful. Sauté the mustard seeds and cumin seeds in the ghee until the seeds pop. Then add the drained mung dal, asafoetida powder, turmeric and salt. Stir until the mix almost starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. Then add the rice, water, cumin powder, coriander powder and ginger. Stir well, making sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pressure cooker or pot.

Cover and bring it to a boil on high heat. Then turn the heat down and let it simmer until both the rice and dahl are mushy.

You may have to experiment with how much water you use to find a consistency that you like. (The more water, the thinner the consistency). A thinner consistency is preferable if your digestion is weak. You will notice that kitcheri will thicken when it cools and you may need more water than you originally thought.

In order to provide the best quality of energy to your body, Kitcheri should be made the day that you wish to eat it and served hot.

Garnish:
Fresh cilantro (great for pitta - ok for vata and kapha)
Coconut (great for pitta, good for vata, but not so good for kapha)
Lime (ok for everybody; unless pitta is very out of balance)

Enjoy the benefits of hitting your "Body Reset Button" with kitchari.

Namaste,
Britt

Biker Boots & Brown Rice: It's FAST Times!


Nothing like a little Yoga in my ski jacket and biker boots. But look at all of the greenery? It's poison is my pleasure.... pure, rich, oxygen. Embrace the cool, wetness of this spring.

Ahhhhhh..... I sit this afternoon, halfway between inspired and amazed by the massive amount of rain that is pouring from the sky... sideways! Realizing that it is "spring" in terms of what the calendar is telling me, but that my body feels called to put on a turtleneck sweater and fleece socks.

It's times like these that I really feel the call to align myself with nature. Her natural majesty.... the mother of all mothers... Mama Earth. So, what do we DO in weather like this? Here are a few seasonal ideas to support you in springing forth into your best life....

1. Get up with the sun: Even though it may still feel a little blustery out there, getting up with the sun helps us to align with the natural rhythms of the season.
2. Get outside: Take a brisk walk, jog, or hike. Get outside before 9 am, and spend at least 30 minutes interacting with cool, natural air. This wet springy air helps to purify our lungs, but specifically if we are breathing vigorously, otherwise wet air can make us feel heavy and decrease our energy. To take advantage, get the heart rate up, get into the trees and as they wake up after sleeping through the winter, they will wake you up too.
3. Purify your diet: This time of year is the perfect time to cleanse your body, as well as spring clean your house. Consider a 3 day fast.

GENERAL TIPS: The day before beginning your fast, eat a healthy and light dinner. Drink ample amount of room temperature water. During your 3 day fast, drink herbal teas; particularly ginger and peppermint during the mornings and mid-day, and chamomile, rosehip, or lavender tea during the evenings. Drink moderate amount of liquids during your fast. Rest as much as you are able, and fast also from strong emotions, television, news media, and other cultural stimuli. Journal, listen to nourishing music, and enjoy observing or being in nature.

DAY 1:
* Breakfast: Oatmeal, brown rice, or quinoa for breakfast. Top with cinnamon and unsweetened rice milk
* Lunch: Salad loaded with vegetables of your choice(no potatoes), with olive oil and fresh-squeezed lemon for lunch
* Dinner: Steamed vegetables of your choice (no potatoes), with olive oil, fresh-squeezed lemon, and brown rice

DAY 2 Breakfast through Day 3 Lunch:
Fast with hot water--steeped with fresh herbs, herbal teas, (and brown rice, only as needed. If you do add brown rice, supplement only when you are feeling quite hungry, and chew each bite 20-30 times, until the rice is liquid in your mouth. Take your time and savor each bite.)

DAY 3 Dinner:
How successfully we fast has a great deal to do with how we break the fast. The best way to break a fast, is to do so gently, and by consuming small portions.

The best way to break a fast is by consuming 1-1&1/2 cup Kitchari: Dinner on Day 3, around 6 pm is ideal:

This is one of the most nutritious and easiest foods to digest, perfect for a detox.

Yields 4 servings

KITCHARI

1 cup white basmati rice

1 cup split mung beans

1 tablespoon ghee 

1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds 

1/4 teaspoon brown mustard seeds 

1/4 teaspoon turmeric 

1/4 teaspoon rock salt or sea salt 

4 cups purified water

1. Rinse the rice and mung beans until the water is clear.
2. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat the ghee and add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Stir a moment until the seeds pop.

3. Add the rice, mung beans, turmeric, and salt, and stir until well blended with the spices.
4. Add the water and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
5. Turn down the heat to low and cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar. Cook until tender, about 20-25 minutes.

DAY 4 Breakfast: Light breakfast, following a walk, hike, or jog in nature.

The biggest challenge is to continue to avoid white sugar, processed foods, and snacks. Do your best to keep your diet primarily loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables. As Michael Pollen says it best, "Eat FOOD, mostly plants. Not too much."

You are welcome to continue the fast for additional days, and you will know when it is time to break it by the way you feel: You will feel clear, relaxed, energized, rested upon waking, emotionally balanced, and peaceful. That's your natural YOU!

Note: If you are joining us for the spring retreat in two weeks, I recommend you consider a 3 day fast before arriving to Cedar Ridge. Your yoga experience will be that much more impactful and healing for you... If you are not joining us, taking time for a personal retreat can be equally as healing... Enjoy and watch how you BLOSSOM!

Namaste,
Britt