Friday, April 27, 2018

Eye Opening Interview On The Microbiome And Our Health

We're hearing more and more about the link between gut health and our overall health (mental and physical). The health of our microbiome is vital to holistic health. 
Science has been diving deeper into understanding this reality and thanks to researchers like Robert Keith Wallace, now we can begin to understand this powerful and undeniable truth.

Check out this eye opening interview below with Gut Crisis co-author Robert Keith Wallace, Ph.D. by  on 

Stress and Immunity: The Microbiome Connection

Life has its ups and downs, and stress is a natural part of human existence. These days, though, American stress levels are at a record high, according to the American Psychological Association. We discussed the stress-microbiome connection with Robert Keith Wallace, Ph.D., who—along with his wife and co-author Samantha Wallace—wrote Gut Crisis: How Diet, Probiotics, and Friendly Bacteria Help You Lose Weight and Heal Your Body and Mind.
Dr. Wallace is a pioneering researcher on the physiology of consciousness and the mind/body connection as applied to behavioral medicine. His seminal research on higher states of consciousness has been published in Science, The American Journal of Physiology, and Scientific American. He’s currently Chair of the Department of Physiology and Health at Maharishi University of Management, of which he was a founding President.

Gut Feelings: Stress, the Gut & Immunity

vpk by Maharishi Ayurveda: You’ve made a lifelong pursuit of researching the mind/body connection. Can you tell us a bit about how mental and emotional stress can affect immunity?
KW: When I was starting off back in the ’70s, nobody really understood this connection. When you mentioned the word “stress,” people thought it was a good thing, not a bad thing. Now, we know that the mind works through the body like it’s walking into a pharmacy—if the mind doesn’t want to feel pain, it can produce endorphins and enkephalins, which essentially block pain. If you feel anxious, the mind sends a signal to one area of the brain, which produces a chemical to stimulate that part of the brain, and so on. So we know that the mind and body are incredibly closely connected, and they’re also connected to our immune system; when you experience stress, this can reduce the effectiveness of the immune system.
What’s new is the gut connection. Whoever thought the gut had anything to do with anything? Well, every ancient medicine did: Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, even Hippocrates, who said, “All disease begins in the gut.” It was about 10 years ago that modern researchers first started looking at the bacteria in the gut.
New technology with DNA and gene sequencing has really opened the whole arena for understanding gut bacteria and the microbiome. The microbiome is all the organisms that live on every part of us, in and around us and on us; the largest percentage of that is bacteria in the gut.

The Leaky Gut Epidemic

vpk by Maharishi Ayurveda: What is a leaky gut and how does it affect a person’s health, emotions, and immune system?
KW: Researchers used to call this “increased intestinal permeability”—when things go from inside the gut out into the bloodstream without passing through the normal channels. A physician researcher named Alessio Fasano found that celiac patients have this problem where the barrier between the inside of the gut and the bloodstream is exposed; it’s a disaster because they get undigested food bacteria particles and all kinds of things going freely into their bodies. The gut lining is a 30-foot barrier, and nothing’s supposed to get in. When there’s a crack and things start to get through, the immune system doesn’t like it. The immune system is there to defend.
But it’s not just celiacs who can suffer from a leaky gut. There’s non-celiac gluten sensitivity and there’s even non-celiac, non-gluten sensitivity. Eighty percent of the immune system is in the gut lining—that’s 80 percent of your body’s defense system. That’s a huge number of cells, and they are ready to attack anything that gets in; with a leaky gut, the immune system gets over-activated and starts attacking the body and causing autoimmune diseases, though nobody understands why. In a sense, it’s a huge validation of Ayurveda and the ancient knowledge that the gut is really important.

The Gut-Brain Axis & Stress

vpk by Maharishi Ayurveda: In Gut Crisis, you talk about the “gut-brain axis.” What is that, and how does it relate to stress?
KW: Researchers have known that the nervous system, the endocrine system, and the immune system are connected, and new studies are now bringing in the gut and, particularly, the gut bacteria. So now we have something called “the gut-brain axis”—a bigger system that includes those three systems along with gut bacteria. It turns out that there’s a highway that goes between the gut and the brain, and it allows information to go back and forth. When we get stressed, we shut down our digestive systems, and if our digestive system gets upset it can send messengers to the brain.
Gut bacteria can communicate through nerves, they can communicate through chemical messengers, and they can change gene expression in the body. They produce all kinds of substances that get into the bloodstream and have a huge effect; they produce hormones, like ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and leptin (the satiety hormone); they also produce neurotransmitters.
The gut has a major impact on the brain. From Ayurveda we know that the seat of Vata is in the colon, the seat of Kapha is in the chest, and Pitta is in the stomach. Vata controls all transportation in the body and the nervous system, and once you understand the gut-brain axis and the microbiome, it all makes perfect sense. That’s one of the great things that’s happening right now in the world of research: ancient and modern medicine are meeting in the gut.

The Rest & Repair Diet

vpk by Maharishi Ayurveda: In your book you recommend a Rest and Repair Diet to help repair leaky gut syndrome and reset the microbiome for better mind-body health. Can you tell us about that?
KW: The concept is: let your agni, or digestive fire, settle down and give your gut a period of rest so it can repair itself. When we get a flu, we go to bed. The body is very intelligent; it knows how to repair itself.
Try a Rest and Repair diet for two or three weeks. Eliminate gluten, because gluten is harder to digest. Eliminate sugar as best you can—so that’s soda pop, high fructose corn syrup, and so on. Try to eliminate dairy. You can have as many vegetables as you want. Essentially, it’s a very basic vegetarian diet with stewed fruit in the morning and kitchari and cooked vegetables for lunch and dinner. Maybe a protein shake. Follow the general Ayurvedic principles, like eating your main meal at lunch.
After being on this elimination diet for two to three weeks, then gradually begin to reintroduce heavier foods. Have a donut, have some pancakes, and see how it affects you. Write it down in a food journal, check it out. It’s a process of self-discovery that teaches you how your food choices affect your mind and body.

The Power of Probiotics

vpk by Maharishi Ayurveda: You’ve written that probiotics are helpful not only for a person’s intestinal health, but also for their mental state. Which ones should people take?
KW: Probiotics are a miracle unto themselves. Both human and animal studies have shown that certain probiotics can change how our brain centers are activated under stress.
As for which ones to take, nobody has it down to an exact science yet. There’s no probiotic out right now that anyone can stand behind and say, “If you take this, you won’t feel stress.” But it will get to that someday.
The problem is it’s a very complex ecology. There are a thousand different types of bacteria. And when you take a probiotic you’re taking ten, twenty, or less sometimes. Probiotics are like gang workers. You already have a bunch of gangs down there in your gut, and they all have territory; if you’re introducing 5 billion probiotics, it’s nothing to the 30 trillion down there. You’re just introducing a small number of friendly bacteria who aren’t even the majority stakeholders. Lactobacillus acidophilus is just a minor character there, and bifidobacterium is just a small stakeholder.
There are some clear studies which show certain bacteria—the most common ones—do have really good results for things like Irritable Bowel Syndrome. But there aren’t any good studies indicating that refrigerated probiotics are any better than non-refrigerated, or that putting a coating on them will get them through the stomach acid or not. It’s a lot of good advertising, though the logic there is reasonable.
On my website at, I’ve gone through and rated 30-40 probiotics. I take into consideration five to six different factors and combine them for a rating of one to five stars. I rate probiotics on the simplest things—the larger the quantity of types and bacteria-count, the better, research shows.
vpk by Maharishi Ayurveda: In Ayurveda, lassi yogurt drinks are often recommended as a source of probiotics. How does lassi stack up against conventional probiotics?
KW: I think lassi’s great and ultimately you have to explore and see what works for you. Does kefir work better for you? Ayurveda’s not big on fermented foods, but some cultures like Japan and Germany love their prebiotic fermented products. You have to be open to trying different things.
Ayurveda is an ancient tradition, but there weren’t antibiotics back then, so all the microbiome damage wasn’t being done. We have so many new toxins in the world now that weren’t there before. There are new considerations, so you have to combine Ayurveda with Integrative Medicine a little bit to get up to date. You may be able to get by with just having lassi every day, and that’s what Ayurveda would recommend, but someone else might need something a little stronger.
These days, there are many things that could upset your gut bacteria. It’s a brave new world out there and you have to take control and be your own guide with probiotics, unless you can find a good doctor who will lead you through the process. Otherwise, you just have to take charge yourself and go through your options systematically to find out what helps and what doesn’t. A lot of it is trial and error, but again, it’s a wonderful self-discovery process.
Dr. Wallace also recommends the following gut-smart Ayurvedic formulas: Digest & Detox TeaDigest Tone (Triphala Plus)AshwagandhaBrahmi.

The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.

Monday, April 9, 2018

How To Find Your Joy

What is joy? What does it mean when people say "find your joy" or '"I feel joyful"? Deepak Chopra, MD, recently wrote an insightful and powerful article on this topic. I walked away from this read feeling inspired and grateful! How will you feel? Read his article below, then let us know what you think in the comments below.

Check out the article (originally published on

8 Secrets to Free Your Spirit and Find Joy

Joy is a divine quality of our true self, which is inherently lighthearted, playful, and free.  You can see the full expression of this joy in young children who haven’t learned to worry or take themselves too seriously. They play and laugh freely, finding wonder in the smallest things. They are infinitely creative because they haven’t yet built up the layers of conditioning that create limitations and restrictions. They are in touch with their intuition, which is a form of intelligence that goes beyond the rational mind. Far from being superficial or trivial, joy is an experience of our deepest spiritual nature.
The path to joy is a return to wholeness. It is about shifting our perspective from ego to spirit. Our ego’s fear and insecurity cause it to puff up with self-importance and attempt to control the uncontrollable, while our spirit, knowing it is eternal and infinite, simply allows life to unfold. This creates a natural state of ease, which predisposes you to lightheartedness, joy, and laughter.
If you want to cultivate more joy, creativity, and love in your life, the principles that follow will help you shift your internal reference point from the limitations of the ego-mind to the freedom of spirit.

Laughter Is the Healthiest Response to Life

While we all experience loss and sorrow, in the end, joy and laughter dispel suffering like so much smoke and dust. When you feel momentary happiness, or you want to burst out laughing, or you smile for no apparent reason, you are glimpsing eternal reality. For a fleeting moment, the curtain parts and you experience something beyond the illusion. In time, these moments of joy will begin to knit together. Instead of being the exception, the primordial state of joy will become the norm.

There Is Always a Reason to Be Grateful

The purpose of gratitude is to connect yourself to a higher vision of life. You have the power to choose where you focus your attention, and whatever you focus on will grow in your experience. If you pay attention to those aspects of spirit that demonstrate love, truth, beauty, intelligence, and harmony, those aspects will expand in your life. Bit by bit, like a mosaic, disparate fragments of grace will merge to form a complete picture. Eventually this picture will replace the fearful or limited images created by your ego.

Your Soul Cherishes Every Aspect of Your Life

Your worth is absolute, and everything that happens to you—whether it feels good at the time or not—is part of a divine plan unfolding from the level of the soul. In the conventional view, self-worth comes down to having a strong ego. People who possess strong egos feel self-confident and enjoy asserting themselves against obstacles. They meet challenges and in return life gives them money, status, and possessions—external rewards for external accomplishments. Yet in reality, your worth is the value of a soul, which is infinite and never varies. Since every event in your life isn't happening just to a person but to a soul, everything in life should be cherished.

Your Life Has a Purpose

Even when you feel lost or confused, your life has a purpose. You determine that purpose at the soul level, and then that purpose unfolds in daily life as part of the divine plan. The more deeply you are connected to the plan, the more powerful it becomes in your life. Ultimately, nothing can stop it. As you spend time meditating and engaging in other practices that expand your awareness, you will become more and more certain of your true purpose.

You Are Safe

Many people live in a state of chronic anxiety, feeling isolated and threatened by all the potential threats of modern life. While fear feels very real, our true self can never be hurt or threatened. That’s why the ancient sages said that all fear is born of duality. When we know ourselves to be one with the ground of all existence, then nothing is separate or foreign to our nature and therefore nothing can truly threaten us.
You can gradually begin to let go of unhealthy fear by questioning your thoughts and opening your awareness. When fear arises, just observe yourself. See yourself, notice what your body and breath are doing, watch your behavior, your tone of voice—all of it. Then ask yourself, “Who is it that is observing all this?” The observer is your core self, your quiet center that exists outside of and independent of your fear. Shift your center of identity to that authentic self, and from that place you can be with fear without being in its grip. The fear is then only a disturbance within your larger field. This settled presence of your awareness will allow your fear to dissipate as you experience the joy and peace within.

Obstacles Are Opportunities in Disguise

Obstacles are signals our true self sends us to let us know that we need to change directions or take a new tack. If your mind is open, it will perceive the next opportunity to do so. The secret is to abandon rigidity and trust in spontaneity. You can’t plan in advance how to meet the next challenge, yet most people try to do just that. They cling to a small repertoire of habits and reactions and they narrow their lives.
Sticking to the familiar may feel comforting but it will completely shut out the unknown, which is the same as hiding your potential from yourself. How will you know what you are capable of if you don’t open yourself to life’s mysteries or usher in the new? Whenever you catch yourself reacting in an old, familiar way, simply stop. Don't invent a new reaction; don't fall back on the opposite of what you usually do. Instead, ask for openness. Go inside, be with yourself, and allow your next response to come of its own accord.

There Is a Creative Solution to Every Problem

Every question includes its own answer. The only reason a problem arises before its solution is that our minds are limited—we think in terms of sequences, of before and after. Outside the narrow boundaries of time, problems and solutions arise at the same instant. While you might think that heroic efforts are required to face the problems that face us and the world, in fact the reverse is true. When you’re living in a state of expanded awareness, you act without effort, you feel joy in what you do, and your actions bring results.

You Are a Co-Creator with the Universe

You are a co-creator with the universe and infinite energy is available to you. To claim your creative power, you need only connect with the primal energies that play within you. The kind of energy you can call upon at any given moment depends on your level of consciousness. Most people rely on the superficial energies generated by the ego: anger, fear, competitive drive, the desire to achieve, and the yearning for approval.  There is no right or wrong in the domain of energy, but the ego falls prey to the illusion that only anger fear, the drive to achieve, and so on are real.  It ignores the higher energies of love, compassion, truth.
On the path to joy, we proceed to subtler and subtler realms of the mind, and with each step, new levels of energy become available. At the highest levels of consciousness, all energy becomes available. At that point, all of your wishes and desires are in alignment with the universe, God, or spirit. You are able to create with effortless ease and you experience the spontaneous fulfillment of your desires.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Balance Kapha With Yoga Asana

According to the ancient system of ayurveda, every season has a dosha, or set of qualities, associated with it. When the sun lingers longer and the earth thaws and begins its renewal, the season of Kapha has arrived — March - June. In early Kapha season, the world is slowly coming out of hibernation. The first spring flowers begin to bloom and release pollen, and the birds sing signals that mating season is beginning. As we move deeper into the season, wet and cold turns to wet and warm, closer to May and into June.
The influences of the season may be felt most by those with primarily Kapha dosha. Comprised of the elements earth and water, we can often feel stuck or heavy during Kapha season. Think earth + water… mud! Our digestion may become sluggish or we may just feel sluggish, lethargic or sad, and have trouble sleeping or waking up. The English word "cough" comes from the Sanskrit word Kapha. The seat of Kapha in the body is in the chest. So as nature begins to awaken and bloom, the Kapha dosha may be aggravated, and the effects are felt in the respiratory system: mucus increases, leading to colds and problems with sinus congestion, allergies and even asthma.
However, the weightiness of Kapha isn’t all bad! It is also responsible for our sweet, stable temperament, long-term memory, strength, stamina, energy and sound sleep.
If you are feeling the heaviness of the season, the best way to shake things up is with a little vigorous exercise each day. Spring is the season to invigorate Kapha, which will bring great strength, endurance, and energy to enjoy this season of renewal!

Kapha-Balancing Asanas

Yoga asanas are the ideal non-strenuous ayurvedic exercise. We can stay balanced during Kapha season by incorporating asanas that fire us up and make us move. Uplifting, heart-opening backbends will open up the chest and lungs, helping with congestion and upper-respiratory heaviness. Invigorating inversions, when our heart is above the head, will get things moving both physically and energetically. And digestion-stimulating poses will do just that — get the digestion moving if it has become a bit sluggish.
Be adventurous, try something new, and be your highest and best teacher as you listen to your body and practice or modify these yoga asanas!

Uplifting, heart-opening backbends:

  1. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
  2. Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
  3. Ustrasana (Camel Pose)

Invigorating inversions:

  1. Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand)
  2. Sirsasana (Headstand)

Digestion-stimulating poses:
  1. Navasana (Boat Pose)
  2. Apanasana (Knees-to-Chest Pose)
  3. Reclining Twist

The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

What Is Dry-Brushing?

Ever wonder exactly what "dry-brushing" is? How it works? Why you should be doing it? In Ayurveda, Garshana, is an ancient practice that is vital for helping rid the body of toxins by stimulating the lymphatic system. In the article below originally posted on, Manas Kshirsagar breaks down this ancient practice and why you should be doing it.

Lymphatic System

Reduce Ama with Garshana Lymphatic Massage

Garshana (pronounced gar-shan), often called “dry-brushing,” is ayurvedic lymphatic massage that helps remove ama (digestive toxins). In Sanskrit, garshana means "friction by rubbing."
Garshana massage is usually recommended for people with a Kapha imbalance or predominance — that is, slower metabolism — or with symptoms of ama. (Wondering if you have ama? Take the Ama Questionnaire.) The symptoms of Kapha imbalance may include being overweight, water retention, lymphatic slowness, dullness physically or mentally, slow circulation or blockages in circulation. Lymphatic massage can be a wonderful addition to the morning routine to kick-start your day, for anyone.
In Dr. Kulreet Chaudhary’s book, The Prime, she writes “Dry-brushing is incredibly important for the lymphatic system. Lymphatics don’t have a pump. When you move them, they move. Without movement, they have no momentum. Manually massaging the skin toward the heart and in the direction of the lymph nodes gets the lymph moving more vigorously, which increases the body’s detoxification rate. Essentially, you are helping to direct the biochemical sewage through the channels and into the lymph nodes, where it can be eliminated.”
Need more reasons to practice daily garshana?

The Benefits

  • removes ama and helps enliven alertness
  • stimulates blood flow to deeper tissue cells by increasing the circulation
  • promotes healthy lymphatic circulation
  • removes blockages in the physiology
  • nourishes the mind and nervous system
  • exfoliates the skin
  • alkalizes the blood, helping to eliminate stagnant impurities
  • detoxes the liver (massage releases impurities in the skin and blood vessels)
  • gently dissolves cellulite over time by breaking down impurity deposits in the fat tissue
  • boosts skin glow

How to do Garshana Massage

Dry-brushing should be done vigorously, to stimulate the skin. It includes two types of movements:
  • circular movements over the joint areas
  • long strokes over the long bones
  1. Start before your morning shower with dry skin, free from lotion or oil.
  2. Using Silk Garshana (Lymphatic) Massage Gloves, vigorously massage your wrists and the tips of your elbows in a circular motion. Then massage from your fingers to the top of your upper arms with long strokes, directing the lymph to the lymph nodes under the arms.
  3. Massage your stomach and buttocks in circular motions.
  4. Massage your knees in a circular motion, then your thighs in long strokes up the legs, directing lymph toward the lymph nodes in the groin area.
  5. Massage the ankles and feet in a circular motion. Then go up the calves in long strokes using medium-to-firm pressure.
  6. Take your morning shower!
Please note: Garshana should not be done over the heart or on the breasts.

Different than Abhyanga

Garshana massage has a different effect than abhyanga, the traditional ayurvedic massage done with Sesame Oil. While abhyanga also helps reduce ama, it is calming, while garshana is stimulating (great for Kapha!). Abhyanga and garshana complement each other well, as garshana opens the skin pores so abhyanga oil can penetrate, soothe and deeply nourish the skin. If you wish to practice both, start with garshana and finish with abhyanga.

The Result

The result of garshana massage is that one should feel lighter, with more energy and vitality, better digestion, and enlivened metabolism. There is lightness in the body, clarity of mind, and more happiness and satisfaction in life. This is due to the removal of ama. In Maharishi Ayurveda, we hold that the perfect treatment doesn't balance one part of the body at the risk of unbalancing another part. This is the strength of the ayurvedic system. In following this principle, these detoxification methods flush out the toxins gently without disturbing the body's own natural functioning.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Power Of Sandalwood

Harvested from the Santalum tree, sandalwood originates from India and Australia. With its vibrant, fresh, and woody aroma, sandalwood has been revered and used in ceremony for thousands of years. In fact, it's one of the most popular used scents in China, India, and Japan. Sandalwood is a wonderful base note in any blend and its scent lasts much longer than most others single notes.

Here at Serenity Spa | Soul Yoga we are known for the intoxicating vanilla sandalwood scent that draws you into our temple. This scent that draws souls who are simply walking by our doors into our temple is the Chopra Centers Satwa.
This scent is heavenly, burns clean, and lingers for hours after burning. We literally cannot keep this incense on our shelves. Still not sure? Stop by and buy a box! I promise you will become a believer and consumer of this sacred scent.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Manas Kshirsagar In The Building!

Friday March 16th-Sunday March 18th Ayurvedic Practitioner, Manas Kshirsagar, will be at Serenity Spa | Soul Yoga! His knowledge and experience is vast while his gentle spirit creates a safe space that cultivates a feeling of calm during your session. He books up quickly, so call one of our Guest Coordinators to schedule your appointment now!

He is also giving a complimentary lecture, Friday March 16th, on Spring Cleaning For Well-Being. Space is limited so call to get your seat for this empowering lecture!

What The Sage?!

As we move throughout our day, we absorb energy from those around us. We may not notice or realize this but it happens. As our mood fluctuates during the day, those energy signatures can stay with us if we don't set the intention to clear ourselves. Clearing our body, mind, and energy field of stagnant energy is vital. There are many ways to do this and some may resonate with you more than others.  Although there are many herbs and incense to use in smudging, we'll begin by taking a look at the most popular-sage. The sacred ritual of Smudging or Saging dates back thousands of years. There are several varieties of sage each with it's unique divine scent. Let's take a look at the benefits (both physical and energetic) of sage!

SAGE (member of the mint family)

  • Helps reduces digestive symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea, stomach pain, and heartburn
  • Is also used for depression
  • Used for menstrual periods and symptoms of menopause including hot flashes
  • Can be applied topically to treat conditions like cold sore, sore mouth, or even gum disease
Physical Uses:
  • Sage can be made into a paste or lotion and used topically, can be used in cooking, as an essential oil, or in tea form.
Energetic/Spiritual Uses:
  • Sage is most notably known as a cleansing tool. Native American Tribes and Shamans have been using sage for thousands of years as a way to cleanse a space, a person, or even an object as well as used during ceremonies. I find it magical and notice its effects almost immediately.
  • Smudging also helps to balance our bodies energetic field, increasing our frequency and vibration. I smudge weekly and more if needed. Anytime I’m in a funk or negative mood, I smudge/sage myself and I feel the power of this herb.  You truly feel lighter!
Do you have an experience or favorite smudging technique? Share it with us in the comments below!

In Love & Gratitude,
Joy Arnold