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The Ultimate Guide to Energy Healing

Take a closer look at seven subtle-body healing modalities, and how to find one that will help you boost the benefits of your yoga practice.

I had my first yoga-made-me-cry experience in a jam-packed New York City studio. At the time, I was new to the practice, showing up for twice-weekly classes because I thought the stretching would complement my triathlon training. Yet when I found myself holding Sleeping Pigeon Pose for what seemed like an eternity, the warm, salty tears that flowed down my cheeks were a sign that yoga was going to stretch me in ways I didn’t expect.

Those tears—and whatever was behind them—opened my mind to the possibility that there was a whole world within me I had yet to discover. Most yogis have similar stories of emotional outpouring on their mats, and for many, it’s a realization that the physical practice of yoga asana has a deeper, subtler layer and that tapping the energy stored there may be the key to real healing.

That’s where subtle-energy therapies come into play. “Just as yoga works on a structural, energetic, and emotional level to help us connect to the source—whether you call it god, spirit, or kundalini—energy-healing modalities aim to guide people back to a sense of belonging with that source,” says Susan Manchester, an intuitive healer in Boulder, Colorado, who practices biodynamic craniosacral therapy and the Rolf Method of Structural Integration. “Ideally, energy healing helps you come home to your body and connects you in a more profound way with your true Self.” Maria Villella, an acupuncturist and yoga teacher in Los Angeles, adds that yogis often have a head start when it comes to experiencing the benefits of these therapies. “With any healing modality, the more you’re able to put yourself in a deeply relaxed state, the more benefits you’ll receive,” she says.

From acupuncture and Reiki to intuitive counseling and craniosacral therapy, modalities once viewed as “alternative” are becoming increasingly mainstream. Yet choosing one that will work best for you can be daunting. Here’s a guide to help you home in on those that will enable you to explore the deeper layers within you, and as Manchester puts it, ultimately come home to your Self.

See also Alternative Medicine Guide: Find the Right Treatment for You

How to Get the Most From Your Treatment

No matter what energy-healing modality you choose, there are a few tips to keep in mind in order to make the most of your treatment and experience the best results.

Avoid doing too many therapies at once. 

If you’re getting four or five treatments every week, how can you tell what’s helping? You probably can’t. “When patients do this, I also worry that they’re not giving their bodies enough time to really absorb what’s going on,” says Gail Dubinsky, MD, a physician and yoga teacher in California.

Support your treatment with lifestyle changes. 

Even if you feel you’ve landed on the best-matched therapy for you, supplementing your treatment by looking at your diet, exercise routine, and how you handle stress is crucial, says Dubinsky. “That’s how you’ll see lasting benefits.”

Boost the benefits of these therapies with your yoga practice.

Not only can your time on the mat and meditation cushion help you clue in to how well these modalities are working for you, but your practice can also help you drop in more fully and deeply when you’re experiencing them, says acupuncturist Villella. “I have noticed in my clinical practice that serious yoga practitioners tend to get really quick results,” she says. “Yoga helps quiet the mind. When that mental calm happens during an energy-healing therapy, it can be optimally effective.” 

See also Yoga Therapy

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Rock Yourself to Sleep—to Start Rocking Your Life

Already tried every insomnia trick under the moon? YJ Influencer Hemalayaa swears the simple act of rocking is the only one you need.

Women on the rise to leadership roles and their own personal empowerment need rest and rejuvenation now more than ever. I am surrounded by incredibly powerful sisters who are rocking their lives and contributing massive positive change in the world. But most of them, including myself, are depleted of our energy a lot of the time.

Women, You Need More Sleep

Ladies, it’s true, you need your beauty sleep; it serves the important function of allowing your body to mend itself for the next day. That temple you live in—your body—is a machine that requires shutting down for the night.

Getting a good night’s sleep became a challenge for me personally several years ago. Stress and hormonal changes woke me up every night, leaving me with only a few hours of good quality sleep. The less sleep I got, the grumpier I got.

When you don’t get enough sleep, your resources deplete more quickly. In fact, studies have shown a significant relationship between women and their need for sleep. Women tend to multitask and use a larger portion of their brain than men do, and thus the need more sleep. It makes sense: the more one uses their brain during the day, the more it needs to rest. Unfortunately, even the most powerful women tend to lose sleep because they’re worrying (I’m a master at that one); dealing with hormonal changes or imbalances (yup, got those too); or are light sleepers and sense disturbances in the immediate environment (this one is the worst!).

See also 9 Keys to Getting the Sleep You Need

The Trick to Falling Asleep You Probably Haven’t Tried Yet

If you’ve experienced sleep deprivation and think you’ve tried everything from yoga postures to massaging pressure points in your feet to support your system and bring relaxation, I bet you haven’t tried my method. Rocking myself to sleep is the only thing that truly helps me relax and ultimately fall asleep.

When I was a little girl, I used to rock my legs when I was falling asleep. Eventually, I stopped because my mom told me it was bad luck. She thought it was nervousness or anxiety, but it was the opposite—it was so soothing. About 5 years ago, when my sleep issues started, my body naturally wanted to move. When I allowed it, it brought deep sleep.

It makes sense. The rocking motion puts babies to sleep and helps adults drift off in a hammock. According to a 2011 study published in the journal Current Biology, the swinging motion initiates a sensory stimulation that supplements sleep rhythms. In the study, half of the subjects were asked to nap on a rocking bed while the others napped on a still bed. The results showed the rocking motion assisted with the transition from an alert to a relaxed state and accelerated the transition to sleep. Ready to try it? Don’t keep losing sleep, rock yourself and your life, ladies!

How to Rock Yourself to Sleep

  1. Lie on your back. Extend your legs out straight.
  2. Sway your foot side to side like a windshield wiper. This will in turn rock your whole body into a soothing state taking you into slumber.
  3. Move your hips side to side. It should be effortless.
  4. Do it for about 30 sec and let it go. 

See also An Evening Ritual for Better Sleep with Jacqueline Smyth & Lauren Eckstrom

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Quiz: What’s Your Agni Type?

You already know your mind-body type (dosha), but what about your digestive fire type ? Turns out, the way Ayurveda characterizes agni can inform what and how you eat for better balance.

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9 Keys to Getting the Sleep You Need

YJ Influencer Laura Burkhart shares the surefire strategies she’s used to end her decade-long battle with insomnia.

For over a decade sleep was a major challenge for me. I had a lot of difficulty falling asleep. Sometimes I would lie in bed for an hour of two before finally drifting off! And most of the time I would wake after a few hours and not be able to get back to sleep. 

Research has proven that the right amount of sleep leads to better health, mood, memory, and attention. It also helps us manage stress and alleviates inflammation and depression. So it’s not surprising my lack of sleep began affecting my work, health, relationships, and how I showed up in the world. I would be so exhausted that it was difficult to focus at work, my patience with friends and family was low. And many times I would find myself upset or angry merely because I was so tired. It also affected my digestion and made me more susceptible to getting sick.

I eventually saw a sleep doctor who prescribed a number of medications that were way too strong for my body, leaving me groggy and messing with my memory throughout the day. Over time, I experimented with my lifestyle and sleep environment and eventually found my own recipe for better sleep. I rarely have trouble with sleep these days, but that is because I take all of the following steps very seriously! If you have difficulty with sleep, I challenge you to experiment with the following tips and find the combination that will help you get a good night’s sleep more often than not.

I’m definitely a light sleeper. The slightest sound wakes me. Many years ago, while living in a busy neighborhood in New York City, I discovered the beauty of white noise. In those days I had a large fan in my window to filter out the sounds coming from the street. Today, I use a white noise app or sound machine. I also find that white noise filters out the noise in my mind. I start to focus on the tranquil sound and everything in my head starts to settle down. I am also a huge fan of earplugs. I wear them every night and take them with me when I travel. They are a quick, easy, portable way to reduce sound.

See also 15 Poses to Help You Sleep Better

View the 9 images of this gallery on the original article

See also An Evening Ritual for Better Sleep with Jacqueline Smyth & Lauren Eckstrom

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12 Yoga Poses to Boost Breast Health

Breasts are intimately connected to a woman’s overall well-being and heart, yet proactive tips for keeping breast tissue healthy are scarce. Fortunately, your yoga practice can help.

Menses, pregnancy, breastfeeding, perimenopause, and menopause are some of the shape shifts women face in a single lifetime. And the breasts, intimately connected to a woman’s health, relate to these physical passages in profound ways. One in eight American women will receive a Breast Cancer diagnosis in her lifetime. Cysts, myofascial issues, heart disease, and hypertension, which can result in cardiac arrest and open-heart surgery, are also common. Yet, aside the recommendation of a monthly self-exam American women, don’t get much in the way of tips for maintaining breast health. The good news is yoga practice can be a powerful tool for healthier breasts.

What Yoga Can Teach American Women About Their Breasts

American cultural attitudes about breasts careen wildly from festishization to repression: while we are accustomed to seeing women’s breasts objectified on the covers of magazines and advertising, breastfeeding women often need a place to retreat and hide just to nourish their babies. But around the world, Goddess images attest to a more reverent and profound connection to this important area of the body. In Tantric art and Hindu iconography, bare-breasted goddesses such as compassionate Tara and Ferocious Protector Kali embody a more sacred view of the breasts. These deities are open-hearted, brave, and courageous, as their physical language shows in paintings, sculptures, and modern-day posters and advertisements. The chest has long been associated with love, courage, and confidence in many cultures. In Ayurvedic medicine, the 5,000-year-old wisdom and healing tradition of India, the heart and chest are viewed as intelligence centers, “The heart is the seat or root of the brain,” as Dr. Sheila Patel, medical director of the Chopra Institute explains. So how can you better nurture these important parts of the body?

How Yoga Practice Can Boost Breast Health

“A well-rounded yoga practice will benefit the breasts,” notes Bobby Clennell, Iyengar Yoga teacher and author of Yoga For Breast Care: What Every Woman Needs to Know. Expanding the heart center in backbends and twists suffuses the chest and lymphatic system with circulation, facilitating optimal immune function. Although inconclusive, research from several studies suggests that tight or ill-fitting bras may contribute to breast cancer risk by limiting circulation and blocking the flow of lymph. Asana can also counter the postural issues—hunching, tightening and closing off of the chest—modern devices pose. The deep breathing (like Sama Vritti and Kapalabhati) and retention (Kumbhaka) yogis practice in pranayama enable oxygen to reach the upper lobes of the lungs, facilitating the release of more oxygen to the upper chest and lymphatic areas, boosting immune function.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Yoga, yoga poses and practices reduce stress and boost immunity. Some research studies show a positive correlation between the stress response and breast cancer, particularly in resurgence or relapse and the relaxation response and survival ratesForward folds and resting poses, especially, soothe the sympathetic nervous system, which regulates the fight-or-flight stress response, and switch on the the parasympathetic system, which enables optimal immune function. 

Additionally, Yoga Journal’s 2016 Yoga in America study found people who practice yoga are more inclined to engage in cardiovascular exercise, which is known to reduce heart disease and cancer risk. Yoga’s mindfulness component also fosters an intimate connection with the body, which can heighten one’s awareness of changes and aid in early detection of disease. 

See also How to Use the Body Affect the Mind

The Anatomy of the Breasts

To understand how yoga practice can impact this important area of the body better, let’s briefly look at its anatomy. Mammary glands, or breasts, are made up of lobules, glandular structures that produce milk in women. The lobules drain into ducts, connecting to channels that transport milk to the nipple. Between glandular tissue and ducts lie fat cells and tissue. (Male breast anatomy is nearly identical to females’, except for the milk lobules.) Breasts do not contain muscle, but are adjacent to the pectoralis muscles of the upper chest. Blood vessels and lymph gland and lymph node networks for draining and detoxifying impurities run through the breasts, the surrounding armpit, upper chest, and groin areas.

The Energy of the Heart Center

Energetically, the Anahata Chakra, or heart center, the seat of wisdom in Ayurvedic medicine, lies at the sternum, between the breasts. Opening this energetic and physical area results in feelings of expansion, vulnerability, joy, and sometimes pain, as grief resides here, too. It seems appropriate then that the breasts and heart are so intimately connected. The classic bare-breasted icon of Green Tara, goddess of Compassion, typifies this view of sacred feminine power. And open-hearted, bare-breasted Kali, the ferocious but compassionate manifestation of the feminine divine, reminds us it takes courage to live from the center of one’s heart.

Use the following practice to boost circulation, lymph flow, and energy through your heart and chest for healthier breasts.

See also 23 Jams to Ignite Your Inner Warrior for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

A Yoga Sequence for Chest & Breast Health

See also Massage for Healthy Breasts

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What a Traditional 21-Day Ayurvedic Detox Looks Like

One yogi takes us along on her transformative journey through the ultimate 21-day Ayurvedic cleanse, panchakarma.

Kitchari—basmati rice and mung dal cooked with spices and ghee—is a panchakarma staple.

I’m perched on a toilet, holding my right ear with my right hand and moving my upper body in circles. I’m at the Shankara Ayurveda Spa at the Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, North Carolina, and instead of relaxing in the sauna, I’m praying for poop. It’s day six of my eight-day stay at the Center, where I’m doing a traditional panchakarma cleanse. Today is all about virechana—a.k.a. extreme bowel evacuation.

Sure, panchakarma involves many lush body treatments, and I’ve had my fair share over the past week―with practitioners massaging me with warm oil, pounding every ounce of tension out of my muscles with sachets of healing herbs, and dripping warm oil onto my third eye―all to reset my nervous system and rid my body of what it doesn’t need. Yet this intense cleanse also involves eating a Spartan diet and devoting an entire day to trying to, well, eliminate. “Virechana isn’t just about cleansing the body, it’s also about cleansing the mental and emotional self,” says Medha Garud, director of Ayurveda programs. “The process helps you release many of the impressions and habits, called samskaras, that you are carrying in your system.”

Easier said than done, I think to myself as my insides churn. It’s humbling to realize that I may be one of those people who yoga teacher and Ayurvedic health consultant Kimberly Rossi, director of spa and business development, says “really wants to hold onto their crap.” Eventually, I plead with Vaidya Lokesh, the Center’s Ayurvedic doctor, for some relief, which is how I found myself doing these strange ablutions in the bathroom.

In that moment, I was in the toughest stretch of the panchakarma, a cleanse that called into question every aspect of my lifestyle and boiled it down to one central question: How do my choices augment or interfere with my well-being? While the answer was still unclear, one thing was certain: I was on a 21-day mission to find out. 

See also Rejuvenate with a 4-Day Ayurvedic Fall Cleanse

Prepping for the big release

My recalcitrant bowels may be proof of my habit of resistance, but when the opportunity to travel to the Art of Living Retreat Center for this intense detox first presented itself, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. I knew panchakarma wouldn’t be easy—I lived in India for most of my 20s and had seen many people go through it—yet I was aware of the physical and mental benefits most people experience after completing it. The promise of the upsides outweighed the possible downsides. As it turns out, it was a good thing I started panchakarma with such an eager attitude.

“Panchakarma is not for the faint,” says Eric Grasser, MD, an integrative doctor in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who combines functional medicine with Ayurveda. Even the ancient texts caution that panchakarma needs to be undertaken by those in fairly good health. “For the very frail or debilitated, panchakarma is simply too intense,” says Garud.

Part of panchakarma’s intensity can be attributed to the cumulative design: It’s a three-stage detoxification process that traditionally lasts for three weeks. The first stage involves diet and lifestyle changes that prep you for the second, most intense stage of the cleanse; the third stage is all about transitioning out of that second stage and into a lifestyle that’s sustainable for the long haul. And every Ayurvedic doctor I spoke with says each stage is crucial, helping to maximize panchakarma’s effectiveness, minimize potential complications, and provide a protective container for the profound inner release the cleanse is intended to bring. Fortunately, I’m healthy and was confident I could physically withstand the extreme overhaul.

Exactly one week before my stay at the Art of Living Retreat Center, I was told to eliminate dairy, meat, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods from my diet—all considered a burden for digestion. Even vegetables are a no-no, because their fiber unduly taxes detoxification, says Garud. I was also instructed to drink only hot water between meals in order to strengthen my digestive power and flush out toxins.

Kitchari, a lightly spiced, one-pot meal of basmati rice and mung dal, cooked with heaps of ghee, became my new culinary best friend; I consumed it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Why so much ghee? It loosens the body’s impurities—a process called oleation, says Grasser. “Most toxins are fat soluble, and the liver makes them water soluble so they can be eliminated,” he says. “Oleation works like a detergent, binding to the toxins and coaxing them out of the body.”

Within a week of taking the sugar and caffeine out of my diet and eating bowl after bowl of gruel, I felt my irritation levels flatlining. As a 45-year-old mother of two, my current phase of life can be distinguished by a line from a movie based on Nikos Kazantzakis’s novel Zorba the Greek, in which marriage, house, and kids are referred to as “the full catastrophe.” By catastrophe, I don’t mean disaster—rather the poignant enormity of one’s life experience. 

In my case, the exalted spiritual quest of my 20s in India had given way to a more advanced testing ground: domestic life. I’d forgotten how to be in right relationship with my body, never mind everything else. I’d spent so much of my time gauging whether my life measured up to some external ideal of success—with my career, family, and most of all myself—I didn’t know what a headspace unobstructed by negativity felt like. I sweated the small stuff (household division of labor, pet peeves too numerous to count) and squandered the big stuff (the fact that I was healthy and blessed with a family). The sweet relief of knowing I had enough eluded me. I never stopped comparing, and I always came up short. But after a week of mindful eating and self-inquiry, I was starting to sense that panchakarma could give me the clarity I craved. I wanted to know what my part was in my own stuckness, and how to cop to it. 

I’m no stranger to putting myself in the hot seat; self-inquiry had practically been my day job during my eight-year stint in India, studying with a teacher whose central question was, Who am I? But such provocative inquiry had been put on the back burner, despite a three-decade-long yoga practice. At the beginning of the cleanse I didn’t grasp the drastic measures necessary to get me back on track, but I felt like I was off to a promising start.

See also “I Followed an Ayurvedic Lifestyle for a Month—and Here’s What Happened”

Showing Up for the Experience

When I arrived at the Art of Living for the more intense, second phase of panchakarma, I was introduced to Lokesh, the Ayurvedic doctor, who took my pulse and determined my main dosha (pitta) and the one that’s most out of whack (vata), or “deranged” as Ayurvedic practitioners say. (For more information on the three doshas and how they affect health, see “Understanding the Doshas” on page 34.) Based on his assessment, Lokesh assigned me a roster of specific oil-based treatments, such as abhyanga (oil massage), shirodhara (liquid forehead treatment), and marma (Ayurvedic acupressure), all designed to help lubricate me from the outside in. The pampering is functional, yet undeniably luxurious. Dosha-specific oils prepared with herbs saturated my skin and hair. The firm, vigorous strokes of abhyanga tenderized my skin and soothed sore muscles. During shirodhara, a copper vessel, oscillating back and forth like an ancient pendulum, drizzled a steady stream of warm oil onto my forehead. And after each oil treatment, I was ushered to the steam room to further open the srotas (channels of circulation). Oleation, both internal and external, functioned as the antidote to my vata gone rogue.
Throughout my stay, my diet looked exactly as it had during my prep phase, with kitchari served up three times a day. However, the amount of ghee I was prescribed increased each day by one or two tablespoons per meal. I downed more ghee than I imagined was humanly possible. I watched as the moat of ghee around my mound of kitchari widened to an alarming degree, yet I quickly learned to love its over-the-top richness. My body took to it—never has my digestion been so seamless—and all of the other 10 panchakarma participants who traveled to the Art of Living for this detox said the same.

Between the yummy kitchari, the hours spent unspooling on the treatment table, the daily yoga and meditation, and a welcome break from technology (I was urged to put away my cell phone and laptop the moment I checked in), I felt a sense of sattva (purity) as a lived experience: my thoughts breached out from, and returned to, an unperturbable silence; the anointed contours of my body were made sacred; my breath assumed generous volume; my heart spread wide within me. Everything felt softer. The brittle shell of my coffee-slugging, hard-charging, strung-out self felt like it had been cracked in ways I hoped would never be put together again.

I appreciate how panchakarma functions as a highly choreographed intervention, albeit an ancient one. The kind that tapers gently but has a ruthless persistence. The rules made sense, yet could chafe all the same. In my group, many had good days that alternated with a healing crisis of some sort or another: diarrhea, headaches, sore throats, tiredness, spontaneous grief. Again, experts say this is to be expected: “Anytime you move something that may be stuck, it’s a flush. You’re bringing the doshas out from deeper tissues and you’re bringing emotions out from deeper places where they’re not flowing. Then all of a sudden everything starts to flow,” says Grasser. Whatever we had on lockdown was coming up for air—and there was no safer place for it to happen. 

See also Quiz: Discover Your Dosha

Two weeks of kitchari, several pints of ghee, five marmas, four abyhangas, two shirodharas, and a handful of other soothing treatments later, virechana day dawned. Virechana is the crux of the panchakarma, which entails five gnarly sounding procedures typically listed in a top-down order: nasya (medicated oils applied through the nose), vamana (controlled vomiting), virechana (therapeutic purgation), basti (enema), and rakta mokshana (bloodletting). Because of liability concerns and cultural mores, induced vomiting and bloodletting are rarely practiced in this country. At the Art of Living, virechana was the preferred method of elimination. Basti was assigned as homework for the week following my return home. 

“Virechana is important because over the past two weeks, the internal ghee and external oil have moved all the toxins out from your intestinal wall into your gut and deep into your lymphatic system, but they still need to be flushed out through the bowels,” says Garud. “The Ayurvedic texts say after virechana, the absorption capability of the stomach and intestinal wall is increased by 90 percent.” 

Let me tell you firsthand: If panchakarma were a narrative, virechana would function as the big reveal. Although actual results were private, of course, bowel-movement talk in the lounge was an open discussion. I tracked my compadres’ frequent excursions to the bathroom, wondering when my turn would come. How could I soften into the unexpected difficulty of this moment, instead of trying to resist it? If I was due for another bout of intense self-inquiry, here it was. Astride the toilet with nothing to show for it, I was having an epiphany on why the struggle felt not only so real, but so relentless. 

Earlier that day, after a lunch of thin rice porridge, I laid down in my room and an unexplainable sadness pressed down on me as my stomach churned. It was familiar: my biggest samskara is a tendency to hold on—to resentments, to being right, to being the victim—when letting go would better serve me. Still, to realize how this unyielding quality in myself could physically affect me was a true humble-warrior moment. It was the uncomfortable piece of truth I needed in order to see my life more clearly.

See also How To: Ayurvedic Warm-Oil Massage

As afternoon turned into evening, Lokesh and Garud consulted about my predicament. They sent Mary Walker, a member of the retreat staff, up to my room to give me a marma treatment, which involved very light touching of subtle energy points. They hoped this would stimulate some kind of movement. Mary placed her hands over my heart, and within seconds I felt a wave-like contraction push upward. I ran to the toilet just in time to vomit. At last, I felt a release, followed by a euphoric lightness. Mary tracked it all without flinching. Her neutrality may have saved me: She neither praised nor shamed. In that moment, I realized I needed to learn how to pay that type of kindness forward—to others, but most of all to myself. It reminded me of something I had heard often during my days in India: Another word for peace is allow.

Marglin practices a variation of Bharadvajasana II (Bharadvaja’s Twist II).

Maintaining the Afterglow

If panchakarma is about breaking down toxins, the week after the cleanse is about building up everything from your digestive powers to your new relationship with yourself, says Garud, adding that this is why it’s crucial to reintegrate slowly. She told us to keep eating kitchari for a few days, and she suggested reintroducing new foods gradually rather than all at once. The worst thing I could have done, I learned, would have been to eat a hamburger and fries after I left the retreat.

Following the cleanse, I compared notes with one of my panchakarma friends, yoga teacher and Ayurvedic lifestyle consultant Beth Sanchez, who has done more than 15 panchakarma cleanses in her lifetime. “What always wows me post-panchakarma is how it empowers me to really choose, rather than be pushed around by habit, craving, addiction, or convenience,” she told me. “You feel supported. You actually crave things that are good for you. This is what we call prajna. In yoga it’s translated as ‘wisdom,’ but in Ayurveda it means ‘cellular intelligence.’”

At home, this almost feral intelligence lingered for me, despite launching back into the whirligig of kid meltdowns, work deadlines, and ad-hoc meals. Now, almost two months post-cleanse, I can see where my prajna had been kinked. The comparisons, the holding on for the wrong reasons, the way my sense of OKness was wrapped up in other people, had all cut me off from my inner task: the care and feeding of my own soul. I had lost sight of what was genuine in me. The full catastrophe is what I’m facing, but how can I allow for it—bless it, even—instead of resist?

Panchakarma helped me see that the generous perspective I yearned for could only come from wholeness, from a body that’s fluid and balanced and a mind that sees the world through the lens of enoughness rather than deficiency. It also taught me that for cleansing to go deep, it has to be done with benevolence, not self-denial. That was the source of what Sanchez had referred to as “support.” 

“I always thought it was interesting that the word sneha in Sanskrit can mean ‘oil,’ but it can also mean ‘love,’” Grasser told me. “There’s something extremely nourishing and loving about oil.” For me, over the course of my panchakarma and beyond, oil has come to represent all the ways I want to absorb and be absorbed into something vast and forgiving. 

These days, I’m less concerned with how I rank in the invisible hierarchical system that lives in my head. I’m not in it to win it, but I am all in—in my attention to the right things: how it feels to exhale without restrictions, how extending my rib cage up and over as I fold forward during my Sun Salutations can ripple through me like a prayer. It’s softening I’m after. All I need to do is start with what’s real: a warm meal made with love, the hard battles that are worth the fight, and the domed spaciousness that wants to occupy my body, if I let it.

See also 4-Day Fat-Burning Detox for Emotional & Environmental Toxins

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3 Ayurvedic Tips to Boost Immunity and Stay Healthy All Winter Long

These Ayurvedic tricks can help you support your immune system and avoid nasty bugs throughout the colder months.

Fall is here, which means cold and flu season is also on its way. But no, you don’t necessarily have to take your sick days this winter. These Ayurvedic tips and techniques can help you support your immune system and avoid nasty bugs throughout the colder months.

1. Eat well, be well.

John Douillard, co-leader of Yoga Journal’s Ayurveda 101 course and founder of, says fermented foods like cheese, yogurt, and sauerkraut support gut microbial immunity during the winter months. Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner Talya Lutzker also suggests consuming superfoods like black pepper, coriander seed, garlic, ginger, and plenty of Vitamin C (think oranges, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lemons, and strawberries).

Got a cold? Quantum Health’s Organic Bagged Cough Relief Lozenges are made to naturally soothe an irritating cough or sore throat. Available in 2 premium flavors: Meyer Lemon with Honey and Bing Cherry.

2. Give yourself an Ayurvedic self-massage every day.

Self-massage (abhyanga) with immunity-boosting oils like sesame oil calms the nervous system and reduces stress, which can help support your immunity, Douillard says. Learn how to do abhyanga. Douillard also recommends immunity-boosting Ayurvedic practices like nasya and oil pulling

3. Get on your mat (and do some inversions).

Tias Little, director of Prajna Yoga, believes supported and inverted yoga poses increase the circulation of lymph and drain germs from your body, Elizabeth Winter reports in this Yoga Journal article. Whenever your head is below your heart—such as in Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) or Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand)—lymph moves into the respiratory organs, where germs often enter the body, Little says. When you come back to an upright position, gravity drains the lymph and sends it through your lymph nodes for cleansing, he explains.

Bonus: Zinc Gluconate May Prevent Colds Altogether!

Research shows that zinc gluconate or zinc acetate lozenges can cut the duration of cold symptoms in half, if administered within the first 24 hours of cold symptoms. “Administration of zinc lozenges was associated with reduced duration and severity of cold symptoms, especially coughs,” state the authors of the study, headed by A.S. Prasad of Wayne State University. Another study found that taking zinc lozenges on a daily basis may even prevent you from getting a cold to begin with. 

Take Quantum Health’s Organic TheraZinc bagged lozenges as soon as you feel a tickle or sniffle (or if you feel like everyone around you is getting sick!). Made from the highest quality ingredients, they are available in 2 unique formulas: Elderberry Raspberry and Blood Orange.

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