Henna Tattoo

Actually, henna tattoos have their roots in ancient India, the Middle East, and Africa, where Egyptian emperors went to their royal graves with henna-adorned nails. Today, Indian women continue the tradition of mehendi, or henna design, decorating their hands and feet before weddings and other special occasions. In Niger, as in other African countries, henna artists (called tchinaden) use the paste to ward off evil spirits.

While it is a practiced art form, creating your own henna body designs is not as hard as you might think. Henna paste comes from dried leaves of a hedgelike tree, cultivated for centuries for its ability to produce a natural brown-red color or stain. You may purchase a kit such as 'The Art of Henna' (Healthy Planet Products) or create your own paste by buying fine-quality green henna powder at a natural foods store and mixing it with an equal part black tea or coffee. Let the mixture sit for several hours or even overnight to achieve a consistency similar to toothpaste—smooth and lump-free. If too thick, add more liquid. If too thin, add more henna powder.

Henna works best on clean, smooth skin, so first wash the area with soap and water and pat dry. Some artists like to apply a small amount of eucalyptus oil to open skin pores, allowing for darker designs. Draw out your design on paper and practice applying the henna paste. Different cultures and artists have their own application techniques. The two most common tools are flat toothpicks and small, plastic bags with a hole cut into one corner (like a pastry bag). Apply your henna paste wherever you wish the design to appear. It will stain, so be careful. Let the henna paste dry on your skin, wetting it occasionally with a slice of lemon.

The longer it sits on your skin, the darker the design will be (30 min - 3 hours). When you are ready to remove the paste, apply light oil over the design and gently remove the hardened mixture. Avoid washing the design for several hours, as it will continue to darken a bit more as it dries. Your artwork should last for several weeks, depending upon where it is on your body and how often the area is washed.

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N, O - Terms

Nada: Inner sounds that may be heard during advanced stages of meditation; nada may take the form of sounds such as bells, the blowing of a conch, and thunder.

A channel in the subtle body through which prana and kundalini flow. The channels loosely correspond to the central, sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Nadi also refers to the normal veins and arteries of the physical body.

Namaste: A tradtional Indian greeting. Two hands pressed together and held near the heart with the head gently bowed. Namaste means - 'I bow and honor the divine presence in you'. Namaskar is another variation of Namaste.

Nirvana: Characterized by bliss and freedom. Letting go of ego, passion and desire. Liberation.

Niyama: The second step in Raja Yoga, observance, purity and contentment.

The subtle, health-promoting substance through which consciousness and Nature's intelligence are connected the body.

Om: also written as 'Aum' according the Yogi's and Rishi's OM is considered to be the sound that represents the Ultimate Reality, the primordial vibration, which is prefixed to many mantras. Om shares many of the same meanings with its Semitic counterparts: the Hebrew "Amen" and the Arabic "Amin." All three are used to open or close prayers.

Om Yoga:
A practice that combines Buddhist meditation with an emphasis on alignment and fluidity.

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Styles of Hatha

At the beginning of the 20th century, a number of inspired and influential teachers of Hatha Yoga emerged in India. They adapted the ancient asanas to the West using different combinations of poses and breathing techniques and emphasizing different aspects of the tradition. In the process, they transformed yoga from the domain of an elite few, to a practical regimen used by millions all over the world. The process continues today as teachers and disciples of teachers develop new combinations of the classic elements of yoga. The diversity of modern styles is given here:

Ananda yoga: focuses on gentle postures designed to move the body's energy to different organs and muscles, and in particular to the brain as a preparation for meditation. Based on the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, one of its distinguishing features is the affirmations associated with postures. The headquarter of Ananda are at the Ananda World Brotherhood Village situated in Nevada City, California.

Ashtanga yoga: was originated in the 1940's by by K. Pattabhi Jois at his school in Mysore India. Refer to as 'power yoga', ashtanga is a flowing practice that utilizes challenging postures synchronized with breathing techniques. The poses are linked together and taught in set sequences. Each series of poses must be mastered before the student embarks on the next. Ashtanga is a strength-oriented practice, with intense stretching in most of the poses. It produces internal heat and external sweating that detoxifies the body, improves circulation, flexibility and stamina.

Bikram yoga: Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram yoga, worked for five years with Western doctors to develop his own system of 26 classic postures. They are practiced in the exact same order in a room heated to 95-105 degrees. The heat promotes more flexibility, detoxification and realignment of the body. Bikram yoga is rigorous, but each posture in the sequence, is designed to safely stretch and open the body in preparation for the next posture. When he came here in 1972, at the invitation of the Diabetes Association, the common belief was that Western society wouldn't and couldn't do yoga. However, Bikram believed that the US, laden with chronic disease and stress, was the perfect place for yoga. His vision has proved correct and there are now over 500 affiliated Bikram yoga schools.

Integral yoga: brought to the USA in 1969 by Swami Satchidananda, Integral yoga, as the name suggests, aims to integrate the various aspects of the body-mind through a combination of postures, breathing techniques, deep relaxation, and meditation. Function is given preeminence over form. Integral Yoga is taught at Integral Yoga International, headquartered in Buckingham, Virginia, and over forty branches worldwide.

Ishta yoga: integrated Science of Hatha Tantra and Ayurveda, which is a physical and spiritual form of yoga that addresses the individual needs of each student who practices it. Developed by Alan Finger Ishta is a modern distillation of 15 different forms of yoga blended into a versatile mix of postures, meditation, teachings and chanting that can be adapted to the skills and abilities of each student.

Jivamukti yoga: is one of nine internationally recognized styles of Hatha . Developed in 1986 by Sharon Gannon and David Life, its distinct style integrates chanting, asanas, music, meditation and practices of devotion into a vigorous physical practice with a foundation in the ancient mystic philosophies of the East. Jivamukti incorporates these yoga practices into the modern lifestyle, without losing sight of the universal goal of the practices - liberation. It is a blueprint for incorporating the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga into our modern lives and awakens in the practitioner a need to protect the earth, the environment and all the animals and plants that share the planet with us.
Jivamukti features five tenets, which are incorporated into every class:
Scripture - study of the ancient yogic teachings, including Sanskrit chanting.
Bhakti - acknowledgment that God realization is the goal of all yoga practices.
Ahimsa - a non-violent, compassionate lifestyle which emphasizes ethical vegetarianism and animal rights.
Nada Yoga - the development of a sound body and mind through deep listening.
Meditation - connecting to that eternal unchanging reality within.

Iyengar yoga: Founded by B.K.S. Iyengar of Pune, India, this is probably the best known and widely practiced system of hatha yoga today. Iyengar created his own method of yoga grounded in precision of body alignment and coordinated breathing. The postures are moved into slowly and held longer than in most other styles of yoga. Iyengar is also unique for its use of cushions, straps, blankets and blocks to assist in doing the postures, enabling the less flexible, elderly and disabled to participate. Because of its slow pace, attention to detail and use of props, Iyengar yoga is especially appropriate for those recovering from injuries.

Kripalu yoga: Developed by Kripalvananda and his disciple Yogi Amrit Desai, Kripalu is a gentle, introspective practice that urges practitioners to hold poses in order to explore and release emotional and spiritiual conflicts. Kripalu yoga has three stages. In the first stage, postural alignment and coordination of breath and movement are emphasized, and the postures are held for a short duration only. In the second stage, meditation is included into the practice and postures are held for prolonged periods. In the final stage, the practice of postures becomes a spontaneous 'meditation in motion'. The Kripalu Center in Lenox, Massachusetts, hosts almost 12,000 students and attendees each year.

Kungalini yoga:Was brought to the US by a Sikh master, Yoga Bhajan in 1969. Before that, it was a secret, sacred teaching which was passed down only to certain chosen people in India The word 'kundalini' means awareness and its purpose is to awaken the life force which resides at the base of the spine and allow the energy to flow through the body. Kundalini Yoga combines classic postures with breathing, chanting and meditation. Kundalini postures are characterized by movement instead of poses and it is known for its frequent use of Breath of Fire, a breathing exercise where you inhale and exhale rapidly through the nose without pausing, while using the abdomen as a bellows. Bhajan believes that the body has a natural euphoric state that can be reached without the use of any drugs.

Power yoga: essentially is an American version of Ashtanga, which combines stretching, strength training and meditative breathing. The american version introduces two important changes: it has a number of postures that closely resemble calisthenics such as pushups and handstands and it does away with the pauses found in traditional yoga, which combine to make it an intense aerobic workout.

Sivananda yoga: is the creation of the late Swami Vishnudevananda, who established his First Western center in Montreal, in 1959. In the Sivananda centers, Hatha Yoga is taught in its pure traditional form as it has been done for centuries in the Himalayas. This includes a series of 12 postures, breathing, diet, chanting, scriptural study and meditation. Sivananda has trained over 6,000 teachers, and there are numerous Sivananda centers around the world.

Viniyoga: created by T. Krishnamacharya and his son T.K.V. Desikachar, it adapts yoga practices to individual characteristics and needs. As the teacher of well-known Yoga masters B.K.S. Iyengar, K. Pattabhi Jois, and Indra Devi, Krishnamacharya can be viewed as the father of the Hatha Yoga renaissance in modern times. Viniyoga works with what is called "sequential process," or vinyasa-krama. The emphasis is not on achieving an external ideal form, but on practicing a posture according to one's individual needs and capacity. The emphasis on precise breathing and the introduction of sound into asana practice are also unique features of viniyoga. Krishnamacharya's development of yoga therapy, a major component of viniyoga, came from his knowledge of India's ancient school of medicine, Ayurveda, which he integrated with yoga practice.

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Approaching Mastery

Learning simple asanas is easy enough, when you look at your yoga teacher and follow along. When you're ready for more complex postures, however, this Simon Says strategy may need to give way to a more methodical approach. So just how do you master a new pose? While every practitioner develops his own secrets of success, these tried-and-true principles can get you started. Break the pose into smaller bites instead of attempting to swallow it whole. Just as a pianist might practice the fingering of each hand alone before performing an entire piece of music, you can divide any pose into discrete movements and practice them one at a time.

For instance, divide a standing pose in half. First, focus on the proper action of the legs and feet while keeping your spine in neutral and your hands on your hips. Then explore just the top half. Once you feel comfortable with each half, combine them to practice the whole masterpiece. Warm up with some simpler actions first. A handful of fundamental movement principles crop up again and again in both elementary and advanced poses. Exploring them first in a familiar posture can help you move toward a more complicated pose with both integrity and clarity. The principles of forward bending that you learn in a basic pose like Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), for example, carry over to the more complex Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide-Angle Standing Forward Bend). Practice Uttanasana first, keeping the hips even and the spine long, folding at the tops of the thighs rather than from the waist. Then integrate these concepts into the more advanced pose.

Use props creatively. Props can help less-expert practitioners move toward challenging postures without compromising integrity and alignment. With a little creativity, you can discover innovative ways of using them to help you experience the essence of a pose without risking injury. If your fingers don't reach the floor in a standing pose, place a block between your hand and the floor. If you can't reach your big toe in Supta Padangusthasana (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose), use a strap. If you have difficulty sitting with a long and neutral spine, support your pelvis on a blanket. Props are like training wheels--they can help you find your way in the beginning, even if you eventually want to wean yourself from them.

Practice, practice. With perseverance, postures that once seemed impossible will be within your grasp. Pulling off a new pose can be both gratifying and exhilarating, but remember that your spiritual evolution doesn't depend on your ability to stand on your hands or wrap your foot behind your head. In yoga, the journey never ends. When you master a new pose, an even more challenging one always awaits.

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Ayurveda: Nourishing your Hair

Best known as the classic text for yogis, the Bhagavad Gita also dispensed a bit of ancient hair-care wisdom: you should know that long, luxuriant hair reflected a control of the senses. Today, this traditional association between healthy tresses and overall well-being is still the basis for Ayurvedic hair and scalp treatments. Experts in this ancient health science advise that in nurturing the hair, we can also improve the nerves, brain functioning, and even our meditation practice. For instance, Rama Kant Mishra, an Ayurvedic expert who specializes in dermatology, recommends nourishing your locks from the inside out with herbs and foods rich in hair-strengthening nutrients.

The Ayurvedic herb bhringaraj (Eclipta alba), known as the "king of hair," promotes hair growth and helps relieve stress. Bhringaraj also calms down pitta dosha, the fiery element that can cause premature graying and hair loss. As well as Brahmi, or gotu kola - another powerful rejuvenating herb that calms the mind and nourishes the hair. You can take bhringaraj (250mg - 1g) and brahmi (250 - 500mg) in the form of daily capsules, or brew the dried plant into an herbal tea. Applied topically, hair oils infused with these two botanicals feed the scalp, and when used before bedtime, help calm your mind to promote sound sleep. Also be sure to eat plenty of foods high in calcium and iron, such as leafy greens, carrots, beets, tahini, soy, yogurt, milk, and fresh, homemade cheese. Fresh coconut and sweet seasonal fruits will also help your hair thrive, as will black pepper, turmeric, cumin, and fenugreek.

Shampoos containing harsh chemicals can strip your hair of its protective oils and cause an imbalance of the dry, airy vata dosha. You can avoid this using a milder cleanser, coupled with a daily to weekly Ayurvedic oil massage. Mishra recommends almond oil if you have thin, dry, easily split vata hair, coconut oil for quick-to-gray pitta hair, and olive oil if your hair is of the kapha type: dark, thick, shiny, and prone to oiliness. Apply oil to your hair and gently massage into your scalp. Allow it to penetrate for at least one hour, or leave on overnight. Then wash it out...

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Savor Restorative Asanas

Let's face it: some yoga asanas taste a little bit sweeter than others. And if yoga were a smorgasbord, restorative poses would most definitely be at the dessert table. These soothing and well-supported poses offer us the opportunity to linger quietly for a few moments and savor the simple sweetness of life.

In an ideal world every asana would feel restorative. But those that fall into the special category of restorative poses have a particular ability to leave us nourished and well rested. These postures are usually deeply supported by blankets, blocks, or other props and are held for several minutes at a time. Restorative practice can be intimidating to beginners--all those props! But just a few guiding tips will help you start a regular restorative practice of your own.

Start out with a few minutes of gentle movement before settling into a restorative pose or practice. A little stretching will warm the muscles and create space in the body to prepare it for relaxation. Movement will also give your body a chance to shed its restlessness and busy-ness before settling into a place of stillness. Don't skimp on the props. Blocks, straps, blankets, balls, towels, chairs, walls, sandbags, eye bags, and pillows are all considered fair game when supporting yourself in these poses. The more fully your body is supported, the deeper your sense of relaxation and surrender will be. So go ahead: Raid the linen closet--your body will thank you with profound sighs of relief.

Take the time to get comfortable on your props and make any necessary adjustments before you settle in. In restoratives the distance between heaven and hell can be as little as half an inch. A small adjustment to a blanket or a minor shift in the body's position can transform a moment of exasperated agony into pure rapture. Be creative and use your inner wisdom to guide you toward greater comfort, making any modifications you need. Incorporate restoratives into your yoga practice in a balanced way. Peruse several yoga books. You might be inspired to include just one or two restorative postures in your daily practice. Or you may choose to devote one entire practice each week to restoratives. Although they look peaceful, restoratives can be challenging for beginners. Just because the body rests quietly doesn't mean the mind will settle into stillness too. Be patient, and be prepared for days when every inch of you rebels.

In time and with practice, you will be rewarded with the ability to drop with ease into a place of deep contentment. This is what yoga is all about, after all: stilling our fidgety bodies and calming our rambling minds so that we may rest quietly in the present moment and see clearly the peace that resides within.

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Weight Loss

Some of us want to know if yoga is something that can help with weight loss, and it's an essential question nowadays... Although, the field of weight loss is so complex, hatha yoga has the potential to be very transformative on many levels for you, with the physical body being a doorway to the more profound gifts of the practice.

The most obvious physical benefits of yoga practice include loosening of muscles that have been tightened by inactivity, tension, and stress. Asana practice also increases the range of motion of joints, enhances flexibility, and can help correct postural problems that may have resulted from weight gain. Any style of yoga helps tone, lengthen, and strengthen the muscles, which can contribute to the sculpting of the body, but not necessarily to weight loss. Remember that muscle is, after all, denser and therefore heavier than an equivalent volume of fat tissue. According to yogic tradition, asana practice also gets the prana of the body moving, which can be helpful for you if weight gain, decreased energy, and sluggishness have appeared together.

Yoga also offers psychological benefits. Weight gain often brings with it a great deal of harsh self-judgment. Through yoga, we can counteract this by creating a safe, positive environment to reconnect with our bodies and quiet the counterproductive messages that often arise in our minds. Reengaging in physical activity through asana practice can also foster a renewed sense of control over our lives, a quality that sometimes diminishes as one's weight refuses to budge!
On a physiological level, certain styles of yoga could be more appropriate for students who have weight loss as a primary intention. Vinyasa-style class, where movement and breath link poses together, can build heat and potentially result in greater calorie burn. This style of practice could supplement other aerobic exercise that you're involved in, such as walking, running, biking, or swimming. Take it slowly, though. Something as intense as the Primary Ashtanga series may not be the place to start if you haven't been physically active for a while. Begin with a good introductory vinyasa class.

Moreover, there are more and more yoga resources promoting the practice for weight loss. In the September/December 2002 'Yoga Research and Educational Centernewsletter', editor and yoga instructor Richard Rosen reviews a recent book, Yoga Burns Fat, by Jan Maddern. He states, "The premise of the present book is that yoga practice has two prime benefits for people wanting to lose weight: one, it improves digestion and so eliminates constipation, water retention, and bloating; and two, it improves blood circulation to major endocrine glands (such as the thyroid and pancreas) that 'control your appetite, moods and sleep patterns'... as well as improved self-image." Rosen warns that, as is often the case, these premises are not supported by any scientific research, and he notes that the photos in the book, in his opinion, could be better. So, will hatha yoga practice help you lose weight? Maybe. Will it change your relationship with your body? Most likely, and probably for the better.

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Nut Facts

In ancient Rome, walnuts were thought to cure headaches because of their resemblance to the brain. There's no evidence for that, but walnuts are a good source of vitamins B6 and folate, and they're rich in omega-3 oils, the same heart-healthy fats found in fish oil.

New studies show that adding about an ounce of walnuts to your diet each day can reduce your LDL cholesterol (that's the bad kind) by as much as 10 percent. Maybe the Romans were on to something after all: Omega-3 oils are crucial for healthy brain functioning.
Fresh walnuts usually hit the market in early fall, but dried ones are available year-round. To restore their fresh flavor, soak them in milk.

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Organic Lifestyle & Beauty

Once you walk down the organic road, it's hard to stop. And why should you? If you eat organic food, wear organic clothes, and sleep on organic sheets, you're probably ready to use organic health and beauty products. Unfortunately, finding lotions and shampoos that are truly organic—and not just labeled organic—isn't so simple.

Unlike the world of organic foods, the body care industry isn't regulated by a set of federal standards under which products are certified. That means synthetic preservatives and other agents can make their way into products labeled organic. So, what's an organic-lover to do? Read the labels, says Kathryn DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association (OTA). “If the label on the back lists ingredients you don't recognize, that's a clue that it contains something not found in nature," she says. Whether you recognize them or not, ingredients to avoid, according to Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association, include synthetic colors or fragrances, petroleum derivatives, paraben derivatives, or “anything that ends in '-eth' " such as sodium laureth sulfate.
Here are some organic brands - Pangea Organics, Aubrey Organics, and Terressentials.

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Yoga Classes - Dos and Don'ts

DO arrive early. Getting to class about 10 minutes early can help you settle in and align your attitude with the purpose of the class. While you're waiting you can practice a pose, do a few stretches, or just sit or lie quietly, breathe, and get centered.

DON'T eat for two or three hours before class. If you practice yoga on a full stomach, you might experience cramps, nausea, or vomiting, especially in twists, deep forward bends, and inversions. Digesting food also takes energy that can make you lethargic.

DO let your teacher know about injuries or conditions that might affect your practice. If you are injured or tired, skip poses you can't or shouldn't do, or try a modified version.

DO create an intention. To help you focus, you might find it helpful to dedicate your practice to a certain intention. This might be to become more aware and understanding, more loving and compassionate, or healthier, stronger, and more skillful. Or it might be for the benefit of a friend, a cause—or even yourself.

DON'T bring pagers or cell phones to class. Leave socializing and business outside the studio, so the peace of the practice is not disturbed.

DO be quiet. It's great to share a class with people you know, but it can be distracting to yourself and others to have an extended or loud conversation.

DO bring a towel or your own mat if you sweat a lot, and arrive clean and free of scents that might distract or offend others.

DON'T push it. Instead of trying to go as deeply or completely into a pose as others might be able to do, do what you can without straining or injuring yourself. You'll go farther faster if you take a loving attitude toward yourself and work from where you are, not from where you think you should be.

DO pick up and neatly put away any props you use.

DON'T enter class late or leave early; it's disruptive to others.

DO take time afterwards to think about what you did in class, so you can retain what you learned. Review the poses you practiced, and note any instructions that particularly made sense. Even if you remember just one thing from each class, you'll soon have a lot of information that can deepen your own personal practice.

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Sticky Deals or the Mat of my Dream

Maybe you don't even think about it, but before the invention of the sticky mat, doing yoga was a slippery proposition =) Those of you who can remember the days before color television will also remember what it was like to do yoga without a sticky mat... slippery. "My feet would slide apart and I had to tense my legs to keep from falling," yoga teacher Angela Farmer says. "I was desperate to find something that would give me traction." So Farmer tried doing yoga on blankets, bulky foam mattresses, and even spat on her dry footsoles to keep from slipping, but nothing really worked.

One day while traveling in Germany, Farmer spotted a roll of matting at a local market. She squeezed the material between her fingers. It was thin, dense, and sticky. It was carpet padding. She bought a length of it and took it to yoga class. "It was heaven," Farmer recalls. She was able to grip the floor without straining. Farmer took this miraculous mat home to London, where other yogis took interest. Soon Farmer began toting rolls of carpet padding home every time she traveled to Germany. Richard Farmer, Angela's father, saw an opportunity. He contacted the padding manufacturer and soon became the first retailer of "sticky" mats, calling his new product "The Original Molivos Mat" in honor of his daughter, who led yoga workshops in Molivos, Greece. Export duties and international shipping costs made these European mats expensive in North America. Enter Sara Chambers, of Hugger Mugger, who decided to manufacture her own. With a chemist's help, she designed the first sticky mat specifically for yoga. Her "Tapas Mat" was more durable, less expensive, and available in colors.

But the German manufacturers wouldn't give up. They developed a new line of high-quality mats in three different colors and varied levels of thickness. Their latest import is a thick rubber mat called "The Black Mat," favored by flow-style yogis for its length, durability, and crumple resistance.

When you thumb through a yoga catalog, you might be surprised or confused by the array of available mats. Ruth Steiger, of Yoga Props, fields mat questions daily. "The first thing I ask people is what style of yoga they do. If they say Ashtanga, I recommend a 4-millimeter mat. If not, I ask what kind of surface they work on," Steiger says. For those who practice on carpet she recommends a dense mat of medium thickness. This mat also works well on wood floors, giving a solid, grounded feel. "But some people need extra cushioning," Steiger observes. For them, she recommends the same mat she suggests for Ashtangis because it "pads and cradles the bony places." But when traveling, an ultra-thin mat might be your best companion. "It folds into the space of a pair of socks," Steiger explains.

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