Self Care Tips You Can Take Home Today
Using a Neti Pot
Tap Tap Tapping for Colon Health
Making Nettles Tea
Full Breath Exercises / 360* Breathing
How to make Herbal Tinctures
The Power of Greens
For anyone with allergies, or seasonal dry sinuses, a neti pot is a lifesaver! When the mucous membranes dry out, they become more susceptible to germs and viruses. A neti pot flushes the nasal passages with warm salt water and is an invaluable tool for sinus health. Neti pots have been around for centuries and originally come from the Ayurvedic/yoga medical tradition. Sold at most health food stores, a neti pot looks like an Aladdin’s lamp, or a gravy boat. They are made of ceramic or plastic – I much prefer the ceramic, but if you travel and want to take a neti pot with you, the plastic one is good in that case.
If you’re feeling congested of if you tend to have sinus, nasal or upper respiratory infections, use a neti pot daily – or weekly as a preventive measure.
How to use a Neti Pot
1. The best way to start using a neti pot is over your bathroom sink, before a mirror. That way you can see when the water is flowing out your nostrils, and guide it better.
2. Fill the pot with warm water and add a quarter-teaspoon of finely ground sea salt (not iodized). Add a pinch of baking soda to this if you like, as it alkalizes the water and makes it a little gentler on the sinuses.
3. Turn your head to one side over the sink, keeping the forehead at the same height as the chin, or slightly higher.
4. Gently insert the spout in the upper nostril so it forms a seal. Raise the neti pot so the saline solution flows out the lower nostril. If it drains out of your mouth, lower your forehead in relation to your chin. Some solution may travel to the back of your throat. Try not to swallow it – spit it out.
5. When the neti pot is empty, gently blow your nose.
6. Refill the neti pot and repeat on the other side.
If you have chlorinated water, consider using distilled water to remove the possibility of damage through chlorination. A gallon will last a long time. You will have to heat it up to a warm temperature, but it worth the effort. I have well water in my home but recently when out of town, I used chlorinated water in my neti pot and it burned.
There is a tincture I occasionally use if I feel added immune support is needed. It’s called Neti-Wash, by the Himalayan Institute. Made with zinc and herbs, you add it to the neti pot water. This is not an official endorsement, if someone else has another product they like, let me know!
Here’s a helpful video of using a neti pot.
It’s really easy – my 11 year old does it as she hates being congested. You might feel a slight twinge of discomfort in your sinuses if they’re really blocked, but it will feel so much better when you can breathe clearly after using the neti pot.
Here is a simple exercise you can do on your self, your children, and your patients to inspire the Large Intestine to keep moving. It is best used with a Manaka wooden hammer (photo above), but you can also use your hands to tap instead.
This exercise can be done sitting down or lying down.
First listen to your pulse to pick up its rhythm. Then, using the pulse as a metronome beat, tap clockwise around the umbilicus. This follows the natural movement and rhythm of the colon. You can use your first two fingers as a tapping agent; if you use the Manaka hammer, you place the “needle” (the long stem part) on the body and gently hammer it on top, to the beat of your pulse.
See diagram below, in which the large dot represents the umbilicus. Starting at the dot just above the belly button (approximately two of your thumb widths above), move clockwise around the umbilicus. Do this three times at least. The movement mimics the movement of the colon, and the pulse beat helps it start the elimination process. It can be extremely effective.
I have had great luck using this technique with patients with chronic constipation, with children and myself as well.
Nettles … aaahhh nettles … the most amazing herb out there! It’s a blood builder, a blood cleanser, a galactagogue (milk producing herb), a yin strengthener, an energy-enhancer, immune-builder and it addresses the health of so many organ systems!
When I drink nettles, I experience an outpouring of consistent, underlying energy that supports me throughout the day. This is particularly noticeable when I start drinking this beautiful herb after a period of not drinking it. Then I ask myself, “Why, self, didn’t you drink this all the time?!”
Drink an infusion of nettles (tea brewed for several hours) to maintain a healthy immune system and good energy. Stinging nettles — considered a pesky garden weed — is a great all-year tonic and easily prepared using the dried plant. You can drink it every day, as much as you like.
To make an infusion, you will need:
— Nettles in bulk – dried, cut, sifted (not the tea bags).
— A large glass jar with a tight lid. Ball jars are best; the half-gallon size, gallon-sized iced tea jars work well, too.
1. Fill the jar with a few inches of nettles and fill to the brim with boiling water. (See precautions below.) Let sit a minute or so, stir and then add more boiling water to refill it, as the herb will soak up the water. Cover and let steep 4-8 hours.
2. Strain and drink. Refrigerate what’s not used. May be reheated gently. Add honey or sweetener if desired.
Precautions for when filling jar with boiling water:
> Make sure the glass jar is at room temperature
> Don’t have the jar sit on cold stone or metal, as the difference in temperature could cause it to crack
> Don’t let the kettle touch the edge of the glass.
You can do this type of breathing anywhere – sitting down, reclining, in a car, standing on line, walking about. However, if you are new to this breathing, it’s best that you consciously pay attention to the steps until they become second nature. You may find eventually that in a stressful situation, you will go to this full breath to relax. But at first, it’s best to stop other activities to take this breath break.
Position your body
Sit in a chair, cross-legged on a cushion, or (best for this beginning practice), lying down, arms at the side, palms facing up feet uncrossed. This is called the Corpse or Shavasana pose (shavas meaning corpse in sanskrit).
If this is new to you, you may want to start the breath with your eyes closed, in order to shut out visual distractions and focus just on the movement of air in your body. Eventually you will want to open your eyes, aware of your environment to allow this type of breath to integrate into your waking, walking, working life. Integration accentuates the yogic background of this breath, as yoga means “union” and the ability to be in union with oneself, the Divine (however you term that), and the external world.
Three parts of the full yogic breath:
1) Abdominal breathing
Observe your natural breath. You will notice that as you inhale the abdomen rises and then falls with exhalation. Watch this for a few moments to check this flow, then deepen, lengthen and extend these movements.
- place one hand on abdomen below the navel
- start with the exhale and completely void all air from your lungs, exhaling through the mouth. Using your hand, gently push the last bit of air out of your lungs and body.
- Inhale through the nose, lifting your abdomen (which will lift your hand) to its utmost position. Only breathe into the abdomen, the chest is not involved yet.
- Continue with this for a few breath cycles or so and then stop.
2) Middle Chest breathing
Again observe your normal breath, this time focusing your attention on the middle chest, the ribcage area. You will notice this part of the chest moving slightly up at inhalation and down with exhalation. Again observe this pattern for a few moments. Now again, begin to deepen, lengthen and extend your breath.
- cross your arms over your chest and place hands around ribcage
- again, starting with the extended exhale, relax and contract the ribcage, emptying out the chest and lungs completely. Use your hands gently to release extra air.
inhale, expanding the ribcage to its limit
In this step, keep the abdomen still, moving only the middle chest. Do this for a few breath cycles and then stop
3) Upper Chest breathing
- place one hand on upper chest
- again, starting with the extended exhale, relax and contract the upper chest, emptying out the lungs completely.
- inhale, expanding the upper chest to its limitIn this step, keep the abdomen and the ribcage still, moving only the upper chest. This is a shallow breath, but the purpose of it is to familiarize yourself with the various degrees of breathing. Don’t worry about “getting it right”, just focus on the intention of breathing into the upper chest only. Do this for a few breath cycles and then stop.
IMPORTANT NOTE: All of the above steps should be done in a relaxed,with no straining. This is free-flowing, effortless, wu wei (action through inaction) method of breathing. At first this breath may be mechanical, filled with bumps, pauses and uneven movement. Stay with it, as you visualize a wave like pattern expanding and contracting. You are aspiring to minimum effort with maximum rewards.
FULL YOGIC BREATH
This is a continued movement of the three parts above:
- Slowly exhaling, relax and contract abdomen, then ribcage, then raise upper chest.
- Slowly inhaling, expand abdomen, then ribcage, then raise upper chest
- The full breath is one continuous flow of air, qi, oxygen and movement. Repeat slowly, steadily, consciously.
360 DEGREE BREATHING
This is a simple, but powerful, extension of the Full Yogic Breaths, above.
- As all three areas are expanding (Abdomen, Middle Chest, Upper Chest), pay attention to the pleura of the lung which continue down the back of the spine to our low back. Feel them inflate with air, like balloons expanding.
- Imagine every part of your body expanding as well: the head, neck and shoulders, arms and hands, chest, pelvis, legs and feet.
- On a cellular level, imagine every cell expanding as well, filling with oxygen.
In Chinese medicine, our first breath connects us to Heavenly Qi Energy and continues until we take our last breath. Qi flows through our body in inner pathways called meridians. By controlling our breath and ensuring that every part of our body expands, oxygen, qi and blood move effortlessly and continuously. Blockages which result in pain – on a body, mind and spirit level – can be moved by this free flow.
Spring is a perfect time to cleanse the body! This cleanse routine is something easily added to your regimen – try it for a week or preferably two weeks. This is not a fast – but do cut back on sugar, salts, caffeine, alcohol. And eat lots of healthy foods! What you’re going to do is ADD in the following:
> Oils – plenty of flax seed oil (at least 2 tbsp. daily) or fish oils. As the liver cleanses and toxins move out, the oils attract those toxins and usher them out, as well as serve to balance hormone and sugar levels.
> Lemons – upon awakening, drink some water with lemon juice. Drink a lot all day – squeeze lemon on all the foods you can – veggies, salad dressings, fish, pastas.
> Cilantro – eat at least ¼ to 1/3 of a bunch of cilantro a day. Cilantro is particularly good for clearing out heavy metals in the body. Try it in salsa, pasta or rice dishes, plain in salads – or just munch it alone (like a good little bunny rabbit).
> Green, green green – eat chlorophyll rich foods, take chlorophyll, or any of the BioGreens products in your health food store. Eat lots of spring herbs – mint, parsley, dill. Kale, collards, broccoli rabe, swiss chard – eat the greens! You want to eat A LOT of these – not to gross you out, but you want to poop green.
> Move it on out – since you’re going to drawing out toxins, it is good to add in psyllium husks (follow the directions on the package) and bentonite or montmorillonite clay (1 tsp) or liquid clay in solution (follow bottle directions). The psyllium will to move things out gently, the clay absorbs toxins and moves them out. These products can be found at your health food store.
You could make a drink with juice, add in the clay, pysllium, Biogreens or chlorophyll, maybe even add ground flaxseed – or a smoothie with yoghurt and banana. It really doesn’t taste bad (though I know it doesn’t sound great!). Look at The Power of Greens smoothie recipes in this Self Care Section, and make that part of your regimen.
Drink dandelion root tea or Detox tea (Yogi brand is great). Milk thistle tea is also good, particularly for detoxing from paint fumes and chemicals. Nettles tea is excellent, especially for blood deficiency or nursing moms. You can make a simple tea, or better yet, infusions of the herb.
All of this will increase the Liver and Gallbladder activity, from a physical to a mental to a spiritual aspect. Open your eyes to dreaming – the spirit of the Liver is the visionary, the one who clearly sees the bigger picture.
Herbal tinctures are made using fresh or dried plant material and a liquid base (called the menstruum), such as grain alcohol, vodka, brandy, apple cider vinegar or vegetable glycerin. Tinctures remain potent for many years. The small dropper bottles are convenient to carry. While teas and infusions can be a very effective way of taking herbs, there are some herbal compounds that can only be extracted with alcohol.
Choosing the solvent for tinctures
A simple and effective choice for homemade remedies is 100 proof vodka or pure grain alcohol if you can find it. (AKA everclear, or neutral grain spirit). You can substitute apple cider vinegar or vegetable glycerin, if you want to avoid alcohol altogether, but alcohol is a more effective solvent and has a longer shelf life: six months for the vinegar, several years for alcohol. *Never use rubbing, isopropyl or wood alcohol.
How to make herbal tinctures
Fresh: 1 part herb to 2 parts solvent
Dried: 1 part dried herb to 5 parts solvent (NOT powdered herb).
— If using fresh roots, pick through them, cut out any damaged parts, brush off well and gently wash the roots (don’t soak). If they’re particularly dirt-filled, you might want to let them dry overnight after the rinse.
— Coarsely chop the roots. If using a plant — then coarsely chop the stems and leaves as well. You can leave the flowers whole.
— Put your herbs (dried or fresh) in a clean, dry glass jar, with a tight-fitting lid and fill with the liquid of your choice: either vodka, organic apple cider vinegar or vegetable glycerin mix (mix 50 percent glycerin with 50 percent distilled water). *If using vinegar, heat it slightly before pouring. It should be warm, not hot.
— The herbs need to be completely immersed in liquid. Cap the jar tightly.
— You may need to add more vodka or vinegar over the next day or two as the herbs absorb and expand.
— Label your creation with the ingredients and date and store in a dark place for 2-8 weeks, shaking occasionally. Six weeks is optimal, but if you need to use some of the tincture before that time passes, do so after a minimum of two weeks. Cap and let sit the remaining time.
— Strain out the herbs, squeezing the saturated herbs dry and pour tincture into clean, dry bottles. Label with the date and ingredients used.
— Vinegar tinctures should be refrigerated after straining.
This varies from person to person. For an adult, two droppers of each herb, two to four times a day. (1 dropper = 20 drops, approximately.) A child would take half that amount two to four times a day. The tincture can be diluted in tea, juice or water.
You can take these herbs when you feel your immune system is vulnerable or when you start to get sick. Take the herbs for a regular course a week to 10 days at least. Lessen the number of times per day as you near the end of the course.
1 – 2 cups of greens (start out with one cup and work your way up)
2 – 3 fruits (could be frozen)
2 cups of fluid: water, coconut water or water with a little fruit juice, (e.g. pomegranate juice)
Blend well in the blender – you might want to chop the greens and fruits if your blender is not high-powered.
I like to use water with pomegranate juice, as it’s high in anti-oxidants. Or coconut water for electrolytes. Or just plain water. Frozen blueberries with an avocado or banana (the last two smooth out the texture) tends to be my personal fave, but use what you like / what you have on hand. You could also make a SAVORY GREEN SMOOTHIE, with no fruits – adding tomatoes, avocados (which technically are fruits, but are more savory), garlic, onions, scallions. The juice of a lime, or a lemon adds a nice touch.
Flax seed oil is great to add or ground flax seed, but be careful about using the flax meal itself. It must be ground fresh, and then stored in the fridge or freezer (as you would the flax seed oil). Flax seed has a high degree of rancidity.
Nuts can be added – walnuts, cashews, almonds, brazil nuts (perhaps chop them a bit at first, to help your blender).
It’s really important to vary the fruits/ vegetables you use – for one, you won’t get bored with the drink, for another you’ll get a more diverse sampling of nutrients.
GREENS: Kale, beet greens, swiss chard, collards, romaine lettuce (any lettuce but not iceberg), spinach, mizuma, arugula, celery, edible flowers, endive, escarole, mustard greens, radicchio, radish tops
WEEDS: chickweed, clover (greens and flowers), dandelion (greens and flowers), lambsquarters, plantain, purslane, stinging nettles, lemon, sorrel, garlic mustard, wild chives (aka onion grass)
HERBS: aloe vera, dill, basil, cilantro, mint, parsley
SPROUTS: alfalfa, broccoli, clover, fenugreek, radish, sunflower
This is a high protein drink, without using protein powders, many of which have heavy metals in them. Most Americans either consume too much protein, or the quality of the protein is not digestible. With the greens, the chain of amino acids is more easily assimilated, as opposed to meats and dairy whose complex chains are harder to digest. When the body has too much protein, and cannot digest it, this taxes the kidneys – one side effect is that the perspiration can smell like ammonia, which means your sweat smells like urine. This is not uncommon, and if the person goes off the protein powders and drinks these type of smoothies, this will correct itself.
For some people, taking in raw fruits and vegetables may be problematic at first. If you notice this, start slowly. Signs of this could be: bloating, gas, loose bowels. What would be good to add is ginger – a warming essence – to your diet. Ginger tea is one way – fresh is best, but a good bag tea would suffice.