Tantra Yoga

Tantra Yoga


 

In October I decided to start doing yoga. My friend Delite recommended me this place called Ananda Marga Yoga & Meditation Malta. He said that the teacher was very nice and that the classes were not ‘gym yoga’ style, they were more spiritual and mixed with meditation, which is what I was looking for.

Ananda Marga Yoga Center is located in Gzira. The classes take place in a house with a super cozy room. It makes us feel at home right away. The energy in this place is magical and you always leave yoga a big smile on your face.

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I like the fact that the schedule is super flexible and we can just stop by whenever we want – Dada, the teacher, is always there. Sometimes I go at 5.30pm after work, other times I go later. The classes usually last about 1h, but if you get there in the middle, Dada always lets you in anyway.

Dada Shubhacetanananda, our teacher, is truly an amazing human being. Learning meditation and yoga from someone who truly believes and lives by what he says was truly the best experience. Dada not only teaches yoga… he takes care of people and gives a lot of teachings, advice, and suggestions about life and helps us to have a good lifestyle.

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Dada comes from India. He has a calm and good-tempered personality and through his yoga and meditation makes you see life in a really different and positive way. He cares about each person individually and shares experiences and guides you in a healthier way of living. Sometimes I go to his classes and he gives me vegetables for free, to make sure I’m eating healthy, and he always asks about how I feel and offers me water to make sure I keep hydrated. He is a very kind human being.

Tantra Yoga

Tantra Yoga, as interpreted by Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, is the practical philosophy that serves as the foundation of Ananda Marga. Tantra controls the mind through mental exercises (meditation) with the help of the body (postures and massage). This type of yoga is focused on stress relief and health (physical and mental) with relaxation sessions, guided visualization (short meditation) and good advice for your health mostly based on naturopathy.

Tantra Yoga is less physical than Hatha yoga. It is very suitable for aged persons. It is good to learn how to control our emotions and rediscover oneself. However, this type of yoga is not different from Astaunga yoga. We technically practice Astaunga yoga, but only a part of it is presented in these classes.

Yoga Asanas

In the West, we have come to equate the term “yoga” with yoga postures, but in fact, they form only a small part of the whole system. The term “yoga” in fact implies a whole way of life which includes yoga postures as one of its many facets.

In Sanskrit, yoga postures are called ‘asanas’. Asana means ‘a posture giving physical comfort and mental composure’. Asanas affect the glands, nerves, muscles and all the organs of the body. Yoga asanas were developed over a period of thousands of years. At first, yogis watched the postures of different animals and then imitated them – hence the existence of several asanas with animal names.

Doing asanas brings many physical benefits, but the most important effect is on the mind. The practice of asanas places pressure on the endocrine glands, and this results in the regulation of hormones secreted from those glands. The hormones affect the emotions, and the resultant emotional balance facilitates concentration and meditation. So asanas help prepare the mind for meditation.

Benefits of Asanas

  • Balance the hormone secretions from the glands;
  • Give flexibility to the body;
  • Improve respiration, as well as blood and lymph circulation;
  • Massage the internal organs;
  • Detoxify the joints;
  • Relax the nerves and muscles;
  • Cure diseases.

While practicing asanas the body should be cool and calm. The stomach should not be full. The room should be clean and warm, and there should be no smoke in the air. Except for the meditation postures, asanas should not be practiced during menstruation or pregnancy.

Different Asanas & Benefits

Shoulder stand: regulates the thyroid gland, as it puts pressure on it. When the posture is released, the flow of blood rushing into the throat ‘massages’ the gland and helps it to achieve the right amount of secretion.

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Yogamudra: Sit cross-legged. Hold your left wrist with your right hand behind your back. Slowly lower your chin, then your neck, bend down as far as you can go, breathing out as you go down. Stay there for 8 seconds with your breath held out, then rise up breathing in. Practice eight times.

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Cobra: Lie on your stomach. Place your hands facing down on the floor beside your ears. Supporting your weight on your palms, push up and raise the chest, looking up towards the ceiling. Breathe in while rising, and hold your breath in that position for 8 seconds. Come down to the original position while breathing out. Practice eight times.

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Long Salutation: Kneel down with your buttocks resting on your heels and your toes pointing forward. With your palms together, extend your arms up vertically next to your ears. Slowly bring your arms and head down as one, first bending your neck, then the whole upper body, until your fingers hit the floor, keeping your buttocks as close to your heels as possible. Now stretch out with your forehead and nose resting on the floor. Breathe out as you go down, and stay there with your breath held out for 8 seconds. Then rise up breathing in. Practice eight times.

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Other asanas include:

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Kaoshikii Dance: at the end of our asana routine, we do this dance while we sing ‘Babanam Kevalam’, which means ‘I am surrounded by the infinite consciousness and I merge into it thus experiencing infinite bliss and happiness’. The kaos’ikii dance is a psycho-physical exercise that benefits the mind by developing mental stamina and strength. The name Kaoshikii comes from the Sanskrit word kosha, meaning “layer of mind”. Kaoshikii develops the subtler layers of mind, cultivating the feeling of mysticism – the endeavor to establish a link between the finite and the infinite – in one’s consciousness.

Skin Massage

After the asanas, we always do a skin massage and then lie down in deep relaxation for at least two minutes. The skin massage helps in the absorption of sebaceous oils which are naturally secreted onto the skin surface. Deep relaxation gives the body a chance to assimilate the positive energy gained from the asanas.

Benefits of the Skin Massage

  • Increases the luster and suppleness of the skin;
  • Relaxes and revitalizes the nerves;
  • Increases the blood and lymph circulation;
  • Harmonizes the vital energy (prana) of the body.

First, rub your palms together a few times to warm them up. Start at the head and face and work down, rubbing the entire surface area of the skin. Pay particular attention to the throat, under the chin, the armpits, groin, and behind the knees. In these regions, there are collections of lymph glands that also benefit from the massage.

Deep Relaxation

After the skin massage, we lie on our back with the arms by your side, making sure that your breathing is calm and relaxed. Now go through your whole body, starting at your feet, consciously making sure that each part is completely relaxed – with no muscular tension at all.

Go from the feet up the legs, consciously checking each part, into the groin area, into the abdomen (also feeling that your internal organs are relaxed), into the chest and shoulders, from the fingers and hands up the arms, then into the neck and up into the face, relaxing the facial muscles, including the eyes, and finally to the top of the head, feeling that your brain is also relaxed. Check once more that you are breathing calmly, and stay like that – fully relaxed – for a few more minutes.

Benefits of Deep Relaxation

  • Induces the “relaxation response,” similar to hibernation;
  • Relieves stress;
  • It lowers the blood pressure;
  • Strengthens the heart;
  • Relaxes the nerves and muscles;
  • It decreases the need for sleep.

Meditation

After the self-massage, we do some more meditation, where we connect with ‘supreme consciousness’. At the end Dada always repeats ‘you are happy, you are peaceful…bring your mind back… open your eyes… Namaskar!’.

Namaskar’ is a traditional Indian greeting or gesture of respect, made by bringing the palms together before the face or chest and bowing. The difference between ‘Namaste’ and ‘Namaskar’ is that the first one means ‘I bow to you’ while ‘Namaskar means ‘I bow towards your existence’. The word ‘Namaskar’ is used to show more love and respect towards a person.

My Experience with Tantra Yoga

Tantra Yoga and meditation have been helping me a lot lately to calm down my busy mind and to appreciate life the way it is. Doing it correctly is very important, that’s why I definitely recommend this place. Dada through meditation and yoga helped me to understand what is important in my life. Thank you!

 

Breathing Exercises

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When we are born, our life starts with a breath, and when we die, our life ends with it – prana (our life force energy). Our breath influences mental faculties and physiological health. If our breath is able to sustain our very existence, why would we choose not to nurture it? Learn some breathing exercises techniques also known as pranayama here.

What is Pranayama

In today’s sedentary and stressful lifestyle, most of us live on a shallow and quick breath, using only a fraction of our total lung capacity and living on just enough energy supply for the body to function. This way of breathing limits our vitality and our resistance to diseases, and potentially starves our brain of essential oxygen, creating tiredness, irritability, and disturbed sleep.

Pranayama is not only a deep set of breathing exercises but one of the 8 branches of yoga:

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Prana is the subtle energy form that governs all functions of your body and mind, taking responsibility for the coordination of breathing, the senses, and the mind.  This profound knowledge of careful direction and circulation of prana through pranayama exercises aims to manipulate the respiration rate, deepen and elongate the breath, and therefore sustain life. Try it for yourself – you’ll see that you will feel the calm, peace and physical benefits, even after just a few minutes!

Deep inhalation and exhalation of breath increases the level of oxygen being supplied to the blood and as a result, it improves the quality of your bodily tissues. Many studies highlight the positive effects of breathwork on medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, migraines, obesity, asthma, and high blood pressure, as well as many stress-related conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

Preparation for Pranayama

Setting up the right environment will enhance the clarity and focus of your mind during the practice of pranayama and meditation. Set up your space so that it is clean, clutter-free, noise-free, with plenty of ventilation so that fresh air is able to enter the room. Keep some comfort provisions, such as cushions and blankets, nearby in case you need extra support, padding, and warmth.

When you practice pranayama, you should sit in a comfortable position, ideally seated on the floor or on a chair, with the spine erect, chest open and the focus on your breath.

For all breathing exercises listed here, start by sitting comfortably on the floor with legs crossed (siddhasana / padmasana) or sitting on your knees (vajrasana), or on a chair with your back straight and feet firmly flat on the floor. 5-6 minutes each morning is sufficient as a starting point. Ideally breathing exercises should be done on an empty stomach.


Pranayama Breathing Exercises

Bhramari Pranayama (Bumblebee Breath)

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Benefits

A technique that helps promote restful sleep and helps overcome insomnia. It is great at silencing the mind. The vibration of this breath does not allow any thoughts to enter your mind.

Technique

Take a normal breath in, then let go and relax. Then cover your ears with your thumbs and your eyes with your fingers to block out external disturbances and enable you to go inward. Take a deep inhalation to your natural full lung capacity, then, as you slowly exhale, make a low humming sound in your throat until your breath is complete. Repeat at your own pace for 2-3 minutes. This is a great exercise pre-bedtime.

Nadi Shodhana Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breath)

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Benefits

This breath is designed to cleanse the channels of the physical and subtle body. Alternate nostril breathing will help you to balance the left and right side of the brain, the sympathetic and parasympathetic activity, helping you to bring your awareness to the breath and stimulating a grounding sensation.

Technique

Using your right hand (reverse, if you prefer left), place your right thumb beside your right nostril and your ring and little finger beside the left nostril. Gently close the right nostril with your thumb and exhale out of your left nostril. Inhale with the left nostril while you count to four. Then close the left nostril and breathe out through the right. Inhale with the right nostril, close the right nostril and exhale from the left. This completes one full circle, but you can continue for 4-5 minutes. Ensure that you take a moment to pause between each inhalation and exhalation – this will help you to keep your breath slow, steady and just slightly deeper than normal.

Ujjaya Pranayama (Victorious Breath)

Benefits

This breath helps remove the heat from the head, as it cools the back of the throat. It is a great way to draw oxygen into the lungs, helping you to expand, deepen and lengthen your breath. It helps remove phlegm in the throat and relieves the symptoms of asthma and other pulmonary diseases. Ujjaya increases resistance to diseases of nerves, dysentery, dyspepsia, enlarged spleen, coughs and fever.

Technique

Sitting comfortably, inhale a slow breath through the nose that travels down the back of the throat and into the lungs, to a full but comfortable lung capacity (sounds like a Darth Vader-like breathing noise), then slowly release it in the same manner as inhalation.

 

Shitali Pranayama (Cooling Breath)

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Benefits

This breath is a cooling breath, so if you are feeling agitated, angry and overheated, this one is for you. It helps quench thirst and appeases hunger. Shitali pranayama cools the physical body, especially the back of the mouth and throat. It reduces the inflammation of chronic diseases, fever, and indigestion.

Technique

Protrude your tongue and make it like a tube/ straw. Draw air in through your tongue to your natural lung capacity with a hissing sound, and exhale slowly through both nostrils – 2-3 minutes is sufficient for this exercise.

Sheetkari Pranayama (Hissing Breath)

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Benefits

Sheetkari pranayama has similar benefits to shitali pranayama. It is known as the hissing breath.

Technique

Touch the tongue to the roof of the palate and gently clench your teeth. Open your lips widely so the teeth are exposed and breathe in through the mouth to your natural full lung capacity from the abdomen through to the chest, and then slowly release through the nose. Repeat for 2-3 minutes.

Kapala Bhati Pranayama (Skull Shining Breath)

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Benefits

This vigorous, energizing breath helps to stimulate and strengthen your abdominal muscles and diaphragm. It also massages and improves the function of your digestive organs, purifies the channels of the body and clears the lungs, bringing clarity to the mind and warmth to the body.

Technique

Since this is an energizing breath, it is best to do this in the morning only. You can do this when you are cold or when you are feeling sluggish. Start by exhaling your breath and then, in quick motions, take a passive breath in through the lower abdomen, then forcefully exhale the breath while pulling the navel towards the spine. The emphasis is on the exhalation while you contract your abdomen. Take a cycle of 15 breaths and repeat 3-4 times, with a short gap to rest between each cycle.

Bhastrika Pranayama (Bellow Breath)

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Benefits

Another energizing breath that will increase your prana and purify the subtle channels. This exercise will help stimulate your digestive power, giving you improved appetite and metabolism. The below breath brings clarity to the mind and warmth to the body. The stimulating nature of this breath helps to combat phlegm and reduce diseases of the nose and chest, including asthma.

Technique

Sitting comfortably with your eyes closed and body relaxed, inhale deeply and exhale deeply using the belly. This is similar to kapala bhati, but with an emphasis on both inhalation and exhalation from the abdomen. Go to a steady pace. You can do 3 rounds of 20 breaths, with a short break in between.


 

After your Practice

Take some time to rest after each breathing exercise to observe the sensations that you are feeling in your mind and body. You are not trying to orchestrate any experience, you are simply allowing the body to be free in the moment. Use this time to let go of your awareness and be present in the body. You might like to direct your attention to different parts of the body. Just observe what you are experiencing in that part of the body for a while. You’ll see your awareness expanding. This is a perfect opportunity to lead into your meditation practice.

 

Benefits of Pranayama

  • It increases the lungs capacity to energize the body with a fresh supply of oxygen
  • It reduces your breathing rate, which can reduce hypertension
  • It expels toxic waste from the respiratory system
  • It improves the health of your heart
  • It strengthens the respiratory and nervous systems
  • It helps increase metabolic activity and digestion
  • It reduces stress, and calms the mind and nervous activity
  • It increases awareness and concentration
  • It increases energy and vitality by providing stimulation for the internal organs
  • It reduces negative emotions, such as anger, irritability, depression, greed, arrogance, and jealousy

 

Superfoods

Superfoods

Discover the famous superfoods, that are assumed to confer health benefits resulting from their exceptional nutrient density.

 

So-called superfoods are foods that are rich in nutrients. Superfoods are foods — mostly plant-based but also some fish and dairy — that are thought to be nutritionally dense and thus good for one’s health.

If you don’t know how to incorporate these powders in your diet, here are some ideas:

  • Add it to smoothies, which gives the drink a green color;
  • Sprinkle spirulina powder on salads or in soups;
  • Mix it into energy balls, along with other healthful ingredients;
  • Stir a tablespoon into fruit or vegetable juices.

 


Spirulina

Spirulina is a simple, one-celled, spiral-shaped microalgae that grow naturally in warm, freshwater lakes, natural springs, and saltwater. Spirulina isn’t just one of the world’s healthiest foods – it’s also one of the oldest. In fact, the Aztecs reportedly used it as a food source in the 16th century. With its abundance of vitamins, minerals, and protein, it’s easy to understand why.

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Spirulina became popular again recently when NASA proposed that it could be grown in space for use by astronauts. A standard daily dose of spirulina is 1–3 grams, but doses of up to 10 grams per day have been used effectively.

This tiny alga is packed with nutrients. A single tablespoon (7 grams) of dried spirulina powder contains:

  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 11% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 15% of the RDA
  • Vitamin B3 (niacin): 4% of the RDA
  • Copper: 21% of the RDA
  • Iron: 11% of the RDA
  • It also contains decent amounts of magnesium, potassium, and manganese and small amounts of almost every other nutrient that you need.

Thanks to these nutrients, Spirulina has been shown to help your body fight infection and allergic reactions like rhinitis, reducing various symptoms. Phycocyanin, which is the main active compound in spirulina, has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Spirulina may provide multiple exercise benefits, including enhanced endurance and increased muscle strength. Some evidence suggests that spirulina may benefit people with type 2 diabetes, significantly reducing fasting blood sugar levels.

It may also help protect against cancer and lower bad cholesterol, all while raising good cholesterol and possibly aiding in weight loss.

In addition, the same amount holds only 20 calories and 1.7 grams of digestible carbs. Gram for gram, spirulina may be the single most nutritious food on the planet.

The quality of the protein in spirulina is considered excellent — comparable to eggs. It gives all the essential amino acids that you need.


 

Chlorella

Chlorella emerged over 2 billion years ago and was the first form of a plant with a well-defined nucleus. Unlike Spirulina, Chlorella is a spherical shaped, single-celled microorganism. Chlorella grows in freshwater and is extremely small, with each chlorella cell being a mere two to eight microns wide. But, much like Spirulina, this tiny superfood packs a nutritional punch.

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Chlorella may not be as ancient as spirulina, but it boasts just as many nutritional accolades. In fact, this green algae contains the highest amount of chlorophyll of any known plant. Chlorella is rich in the carotenoids beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and lutein. It’s also an abundant source of vitamins (B, C, D, E, and K), and minerals (phosphorous, calcium, zinc, magnesium and iron).

Like spirulina, chlorella is rich in protein and contains more protein per ounce than a serving of steak (chlorella is 50-60% of protein). This superfood is also a rich source of healthy fats, including oleic acid.

Chlorella has gotten some buzz for its ability to help the body “detox”. In fact, animal studies indicate that it’s effective at helping remove heavy metals and other harmful compounds from the body.

Chlorella has been shown to help support healthy hormonal function and good cardiovascular health, fight against the effects of chemotherapy and radiation, help lower blood pressure and bad cholesterol.

The antioxidants in chlorella may have anti-inflammatory effects, which can possibly improve asthma and other respiratory diseases. One more claim associated with Chlorella is that it promotes eye health, as it contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that protect the eye and lower the risk of macular degeneration.

Differences between Spirulina and Chlorella

Clearly, these superfoods are similar, but they do have marked differences, starting with their looks. Chlorella is a green algae, whereas spirulina is blue-green in color. Chlorella’s green hue demonstrates that it’s richer in chlorophyll than spirulina.

Chlorella also contains a unique complex called chlorella growth factor. This growth factor is caused by its rapid reproduction rate. With the ability to quadruple in numbers every 20-24 hours, chlorella has been shown to possibly repair damage to nerve tissues and aid in cell production.

Spirulina is thousands of years older than chlorella and can be up to 100 times larger. Spirulina is also richer in protein and healthy fats, including gamma-linoleic acid, which is essential for maintaining a sharp mind and a healthy heart. Spirulina also offers higher concentrations of phytochemicals that help prevent cancer. Just as chlorella is known for detoxifying, spirulina is especially effective at fighting symptoms of allergies and boosting the immune system.


 

Black Maca

Black Maca eliminates the effects of aging such as memory loss, brain fog, arthritis, chronic fatigue, menopause, decreases in testosterone, immune system function, muscle and joint pain, sagging skin, decreased libido, and more.

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It’s actually a plant native to Peru and it has traditionally been used to enhance fertility and sex drive. It’s also claimed to improve energy and stamina.

Maca root powder is very nutritious and is a great source of several important vitamins and minerals. 28 grams of maca root powder contains:

  • Calories: 91
  • Carbs: 20 grams
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Vitamin C: 133% of the RDI
  • Copper: 85% of the RDI
  • Iron: 23% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 16% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B6: 15% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 10% of the RDI

Maca root is a good source of carbs, is low in fat and contains a fair amount of fiber. It’s also high in some essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, copper, and iron.

Maca has been heavily marketed as being effective at improving sexual desire, and this claim is backed by research. There is some evidence that maca root increases men’s fertility as well, by improving sperm production and quality.

One review of four studies in menopausal women found that maca helped alleviate menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and interrupted sleep. Several studies have shown that maca can enhance your mood. It’s been associated with reduced anxiety and symptoms of depression, particularly in menopausal women.

Supplementing with maca may improve exercise performance, particularly during endurance events. However, its effects on muscle mass and strength have yet to be studied.

Some evidence indicates that maca, in particular the black variety, can improve learning and memory.

A large prostate is common among older men and can cause issues with urination. Animal studies suggest that red maca can reduce prostate size. Maca is considered safe for most people, although those with thyroid issues need to be careful.

 


 

Camu-Camu

Camu-camu is a sour berry, similar to cherry in color. It’s native to the Amazon rainforest but has gained popularity worldwide due to its many purported health benefits — mainly due to a high content of certain nutrients and powerful plant compounds, including vitamin C.

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Camu-camu is rich in vitamin C, which helps strengthen your immune system and is needed for the formation of collagen, a protein that supports your skin, bones, and muscles.

Camu-camu contains a combination of antioxidants that combat free radicals, which may particularly benefit the health of those who smoke. Excess free radicals in your body can lead to chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer over time.

Camu-camu has been shown to reduce inflammation, but further research is needed to clarify these findings. Camu-camu may have antibacterial properties and help reduce blood pressure, weight, and blood sugar levels. However, more research is needed as well to support these findings.


 

Lucuma

Nicknamed the “gold of the Incas,” lucuma has been used as a traditional remedy in South America for centuries. Due to its sweet taste, it’s used as a healthier alternative to table sugar and other popular sweeteners.

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Lucuma is often used as a natural sweetener because it contains less sugar but more nutrients than table sugar. More specifically, it has about half the carbs and 75% less sugar than the same amount of table sugar. 7.5 grams of lucuma powder provides:

  • Calories: 30
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbs: 6 grams
  • Sugars: 1.5 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams

Lucuma powder also offers a relatively rich in fiber, which adds bulk to your stool and prevents constipation by helping food move smoothly through your gut. It also contains smaller amounts of other nutrients, including calcium and iron.

Research shows that lucuma is particularly rich in polyphenols and carotenoids, two groups of antioxidants known for their anti-inflammatory, cancer-fighting, and heart-health-promoting properties.

Lucuma is especially high in xanthophylls, a group of carotenoids responsible for lucuma’s yellow color that’s thought to promote eye health and good vision. It is also packed with vitamin C, a nutrient with antioxidant properties that play many important roles in your body.

Lucuma is rich in complex carbs and fiber and may reduce your body’s ability to absorb simple sugars. This may help prevent blood sugar spikes and regulate blood sugar levels, though research in this area is limited.

Lucuma contains heart-healthy polyphenols. Its ability to act as an ACE-inhibitor may further promote heart health by lowering your blood pressure. Still, more research is needed.

Lucuma powder can be used as an alternative to brown sugar to prepare pies, cakes, and other baked goods. It can also add flavor to other foods, such as ice cream, oatmeal, and yogurt. You can use a 1:2 ratio by volume to substitute brown sugar for lucuma. For instance, use 1 cup (120 grams) of lucuma for each 1/2 cup (200 grams) of brown sugar.


 

Raw cocoa

Cocoa is thought to have first been used by the Maya civilization of Central America. It was introduced to Europe by Spanish conquerors in the 16th century and quickly became popular as a health-promoting medicine. Cocoa powder is made by crushing cocoa beans and removing the fat or cocoa butter.

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Cocoa is rich in polyphenols, which have significant health benefits, including reduced inflammation and improved cholesterol levels. However, processing cocoa into chocolate or other products can substantially decrease the polyphenol content (by 60%).

Studies reveal that cocoa (both in its powdered form and in the form of dark chocolate) is rich in flavanols, which lower blood pressure by improving nitric oxide levels and blood vessel function. Cocoa containing between 30–1,218 mg of flavanols can reduce blood pressure by an average of 2 mmHg.

In addition to lowering blood pressure, it appears that cocoa has other properties that may reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke. Flavanol-rich cocoa improves the level of nitric oxide in your blood, which relaxes and dilates your arteries and blood vessels and improves blood flow. Eating up to one serving of chocolate per day may reduce your risk of heart attack, heart failure, and stroke.

Flavanols in cocoa can support neuron production, brain function and improve blood flow and supply to brain tissue. They may have a role in preventing age-related brain degeneration, such as in Alzheimer’s disease, but more research is needed.

Cocoa may improve your mood and symptoms of depression by reducing stress levels and improving calmness, contentment, and overall psychological well-being. The positive effects on mood may be due to cocoa’s flavanols, the conversion of tryptophan to the natural mood stabilizer serotonin, its caffeine content or simply the sensory pleasure of eating chocolate. However, more research is needed.


 

Wheatgrass

Popping up everywhere from juice bars to health food stores, wheatgrass is the latest ingredient to enter the limelight in the world of natural health. Some claim it can do everything from detoxifying the liver to improving immune function. However, many of its purported benefits have not yet been proven or studied.

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Wheatgrass is high in chlorophyll and many vitamins (A, C and E), minerals (iron, magnesium, and calcium) and amino acids. Of its 17 amino acids, eight are considered essential, meaning your body cannot produce them and you must obtain them from food sources. Test-tube and animal studies have found that its antioxidant content may prevent oxidative stress and cell damage.

Some animal studies have found that wheatgrass may help lower blood cholesterol levels, but human studies are needed. Test-tube studies show that wheatgrass may help kill cancer cells and reduce cancer development. Also, one human study found that it may reduce complications of chemotherapy.

Some animal studies have found that wheatgrass may help decrease blood sugar levels, though more human studies are needed. One study found that wheatgrass may help treat ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease. Additionally, test-tube studies have found that chlorophyll, a compound found in wheatgrass, may also decrease inflammation.

Human and animal studies have found that the thylakoids in wheatgrass and other green vegetables may increase satiety and help with weight loss. Wheatgrass is considered gluten-free, but special precautions should be taken if you have a gluten sensitivity. It’s also susceptible to mold growth and may cause negative symptoms in some people.


 

Baobab

Baobab is a tree native to certain regions of Africa, Arabia, Australia, and Madagascar. Baobab trees can grow up to 30 meters tall and produce a large fruit that is commonly consumed and appreciated for its delicious citrus-like flavor. The pulp, leaves, and seeds of the baobab fruit have been associated with many health benefits and are a staple in various recipes and cuisines.

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Powdered baobab contains many important nutrients but is especially high in vitamin C, vitamin B6, niacin, iron, and potassium. Two tablespoons (20 grams) of powdered baobab provides approximately:

  • Calories: 50
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Carbs: 16 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 9 grams
  • Vitamin C: 58% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Vitamin B6: 24% of the RDI
  • Niacin: 20% of the RDI
  • Iron: 9% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 9% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 8% of the RDI
  • Calcium: 7% of the RDI

Baobab is high in fiber and has been shown to reduce feelings of hunger which could promote weight loss. Baobab may also help slow the increase of blood sugar levels and decrease the amount of insulin needed to keep your blood sugar under control.

Animal studies show that baobab may help reduce inflammation and prevent oxidative damage to cells, but more research in humans is needed. Baobab is high in fiber, which may improve digestive health and prevent conditions like constipation, intestinal ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, and hemorrhoids.


 

Acai

Acai berries are a Brazilian “superfruit.” They’re native to the Amazon region where they’re a staple food. However, they’ve recently gained popularity globally and are praised for being particularly beneficial to health and well-being.

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Acai berries are round fruits that grow on acai palm trees in the rainforests of Central and South America. They have a dark purple skin and yellow flesh surrounding a large seed. To make them edible, they are soaked to soften the tough outer skin and then mashed to form a dark purple paste.

They have an earthy taste that’s often described as a cross between blackberries and unsweetened chocolate. Fresh acai berries have a short shelf life and aren’t available outside of where they are grown. As an export, they are sold as a frozen fruit purée, dried powder or pressed juice.

Acai berries have a unique nutritional profile for a fruit, as they’re somewhat high in fat and low in sugar. 100g of frozen fruit pulp has the following nutritional breakdown:

  • Calories: 70
  • Fat: 5 grams
  • Saturated fat: 1.5 grams
  • Carbs: 4 grams
  • Sugar: 2 grams
  • Fiber 2 grams
  • Vitamin A: 15% of the RDI
  • Calcium: 2% of the RDI

But some of the acai’s most powerful health benefits come from plant compounds. The most notable one among these is anthocyanins, which give acai berries their deep purple color and act as antioxidants in the body. You can also find anthocyanins in other blue, black and purple foods, such as black beans and blueberries.

Acai is incredibly rich in antioxidants, boasting three times the amount found in blueberries. Antioxidants are important because they neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals throughout the body. If free radicals are not neutralized by antioxidants, they can damage cells and lead to a number of diseases, including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Many animal studies and at least one human study have suggested that acai may help lower blood cholesterol levels. In animal and test-tube studies, acai has also shown potential as an anti-cancer agent. More studies are needed to determine its effect on humans.

Lastly, the many plant compounds in acai could also protect your brain from damage as you age and counteract the damaging effects of inflammation and oxidation in the brain,  stimulating its “housekeeping” response.


 

Moringa

Moringa oleifera is a plant that has been praised for its health benefits for thousands of years. Moringa is a fairly large tree native to North India. Almost all parts of the tree are eaten or used as ingredients in traditional herbal medicines. It is very rich in healthy antioxidants and bioactive plant compounds.

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Moringa leaves are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, including protein, vitamin B6, vitamin C, riboflavin and iron. One cup of fresh, chopped leaves (21 grams) contains:

  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Vitamin B6: 19% of the RDA
  • Vitamin C: 12% of the RDA
  • Iron: 11% of the RDA
  • Riboflavin (B2): 11% of the RDA
  • Vitamin A (from beta-carotene): 9% of the RDA
  • Magnesium: 8% of the RDA

In Western countries, the dried leaves are sold as dietary supplements, either in powder or capsule form. Compared to the leaves, the pods are generally lower in vitamins and minerals. However, they are exceptionally rich in vitamin C. One cup of fresh, sliced pods (100 grams) contains 157% of your daily requirement.

However, there is one downside: Moringa leaves may also contain high levels of antinutrients, which can reduce the absorption of minerals and protein. Another thing to keep in mind is that taking Moringa supplements in capsules won’t supply a large number of nutrients.

Moringa is rich in various antioxidants, including quercetin and chlorogenic acid. Its leaf powder can increase blood antioxidant levels. Moringa leaves may also lead to reduced blood sugar levels, but more research is needed before any solid recommendations can be made.

In animal and test-tube studies, Moringa has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. This effect has not been studied in humans. Moringa can also lower your cholesterol levels, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease.

Animal studies suggest that Moringa may also protect against arsenic toxicity. However, this has not yet been studied in humans. Long-term exposure to high levels of arsenic may lead to health problems over time. For instance, studies have linked long-term exposure to an increased risk of cancer and heart disease.


 

Matcha

Matcha has skyrocketed in popularity lately, with matcha shots, lattes, teas, and even desserts appearing everywhere from health stores to coffee shops. Like green tea, matcha comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. However, it’s grown differently and has a unique nutrient profile.

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Farmers grow matcha by covering their tea plants 20–30 days before harvest to avoid direct sunlight. This increases chlorophyll production, boosts the amino acid content, and gives the plant a darker green hue. Once the tea leaves are harvested, the stems and veins are removed and the leaves are ground up into a fine powder known as matcha. Matcha contains the nutrients from the entire tea leaf, which results in a greater amount of caffeine and antioxidants than typically found in green tea.

Matcha contains a concentrated amount of antioxidants, which may reduce cell damage and prevent chronic disease.

The liver is vital to health and plays a central role in flushing out toxins, metabolizing drugs, and processing nutrients. Some studies have shown that matcha could prevent liver damage and decrease the risk of liver disease. However, additional studies are needed to look at the effects on humans in the general population.

Some research shows that several of the components in matcha could help enhance brain function. The researchers found that matcha caused improvements in attention, reaction time, and memory, compared to the placebo. It also contains caffeine and L-theanine, which can improve several aspects of brain function.

Test tube and animal studies have found that the compounds in matcha may inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Studies show that green tea and matcha can also decrease several heart disease risk factors.

Some studies show that green tea extract helps increase metabolism and fat burning, both of which may aid weight loss.


 

Dried Seaweed (Wakame)

Wakame is a type of edible seaweed that has been cultivated in Japan and Korea for centuries. In addition to bringing a unique taste and texture to soups and salads, wakame is low in calories but high in several nutrients that are essential to health.

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Wakame is very low in calories but contains a good amount of iodine, manganese, folate, magnesium, and calcium.

Wakame is a good source of iodine, which is essential to thyroid function and the production of thyroid hormones.

Animal and human studies show that wakame may help reduce blood pressure levels, but more research is needed to better understand cause and effect.

Animal studies have found that wakame may lower cholesterol levels to help promote heart health. However, human research is lacking.

Test-tube and animal studies show that wakame may help block the growth and spread of cancer cells, but the research remains inconclusive.

Animal studies show that wakame can reduce glucose production in the body and prevent insulin resistance to keep blood sugar under control. Yet, human research is lacking.

Several animal studies have found that wakame can prevent weight gain and reduce the amount of fat tissue in the body.


Vegetable protein

Avoiding animal products doesn’t have to mean missing out on protein. Whether you’re on the go or trying to refuel quickly after a workout, you can choose from a variety of plant-based protein powders — plain or flavored — to mix with water, non-dairy milk, smoothies, oatmeal or other foods. Plant foods like rice, peas and sunflower seeds aren’t protein-packed the way meat and fish are, but food processors can remove most of the fat and carbs and isolate the protein found in these foods to make protein-rich powders.

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Pea Protein

Pea protein powder is rich in BCAAs to support muscle building. Preliminary research suggests that it’s as effective as whey protein in supporting muscle gain. It may also help you feel full and lower your blood pressure.

Hemp Protein

Though hemp protein powder has more moderate levels of protein and is low in the amino acid lysine, it packs a lot of fiber, iron, zinc, magnesium and ALA omega-3 fat.

Pumpkin Seed Protein

Though low in the essential amino acids threonine and lysine, pumpkin seed protein powder is very nutritious, supplying high amounts of several minerals. Its beneficial plant compounds may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.

Brown Rice Protein

Though not a complete protein, brown rice protein powder is rich in BCAAs and may be as effective as whey protein in supporting muscle growth as part of a weight training regimen. Choose a brand that tests for arsenic contamination.

Soy Protein

Soy protein powder is a complete protein source rich in BCAAs to support muscle building. It may also help lower cholesterol levels. Due to potential safety concerns, you can buy non-genetically modified soy protein and avoid using it every day.


 

Healthy Food

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Do you want to start eating healthier but you don’t know where to start or what to buy? Here’s a full list of ingredients you should always have at home!

 

Tips to Start Eating Healthier

 

Go for natural ingredients

Try to buy good ingredients, preferably biological and without GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms).

In its right time

Buy seasonal fruits and vegetables. In this way, you can enjoy the full flavor of the food and are able to take better advantage of the quality/price ratio.

Too much isn’t always good

When you buy food, try to buy some things in bulk. In addition to being more economical and helping the environment by avoiding the packaging in plastic, you do not run the risk of buying food that can go bad.

What is local is good

Choose local markets instead of the big chains that only import food from abroad.

Good storing is essential

Keep some ingredients in glass jars (at home we recycle bottles of other products). It helps a lot in preserving, for example, dried fruits, oilseeds, leguminous plants, and even grains.


 

First Steps to Become Healthier

  1. Start by trying to replace, at least once a week, the main dish for lunch with a dish of grilled, sauteed or gratin vegetables. Gradually, increase the number of times;

  2. Try to include different fruits, vegetables and grains in your diet and slowly reduce the consumption of meat, eggs, milk and dairy products;
  3. Start consuming meat only every other day;
  4. Discover new ways to prepare different dishes and products. For example, vegan hamburgers, vegetable milks, protein pastes made from legumes, vegetable sauces for pasta. This prevents your food from being monotonous, tiring and colorless!


Things you Should Buy to Start Eating Healthier

 

Grains and Cereals

 

Brown, black and basmati rice

1

Millet

2

Quinoa

3

Buckwheat

4

Amaranth

5

Oat flakes

6

Corn for popcorn

7

 

Legumes (dried)

 

Azuki, white and black beans

1

Lentils

2

Chickpeas

3

Peas

4

Lupin beans

5

Green and Black Olives (with water, garlic, aromatic herbs and unsalted)

6

 

For Sweets

 

Date jelly

1

Coconut jelly

2

Chocolate (min. 75%)

3

Cocoa powder (light)

4

Agar-agar powder

5

Sodium bicarbonate

6

Baking powder

7

Vanilla (pod and powder)

8

Flours

 

Whole Wheat Flour

1

Rice Flour

2

Corn Flour

3

Coconut Flour

4

Teff Flour

5

Cassava Flour

6

Chickpeas Flour

7

 

Seeds

 

Sunflower

1

Linseed/ Flaxseed

2

Pumpkin

3

Chia

4

Sesame

5

Poppy

6

Hemp

7

Dry Fruits

 

Dates

1

Sultanas

2

Blueberries

3

Cranberries

4

Apricots

5

Figs

6

Goji

7

Coconut Shavings

8

Oilseeds

Almonds

1

Hazelnuts

2

Macadamia

3

Walnuts

4

Pecan

5

Brazil nut

6

Sources of Fat, Oils, and Vinegars

 

Extra virgin olive oil

1

Coconut oil

2

Sesame oil

3

Chia oil

4

Linseed oil

5

Various oil pastes (peanut butter, almond butter, sesame butter, hazelnut butter, walnut butter, and cashew butter)

6

Cider vinegar

7

Balsamic vinegar

8

Seasonings

 

Coconut aminos (vegetable sauce rich in amino acids, vitamins, and minerals, soy sauce style, gluten-free, lactose-free and sodium-free)

1

Tamari sauce (soy sauce, without wheat)

2

Tomato Sauce

3

Himalayan pink salt

4

Nutritional yeast

5

 

Spices

 

Black pepper (grains)

1

Pink pepper (grains)

2

Paprika

3

Cayenne pepper

4

Curry

5

Garlic powder

6

Cumin

7

Nutmeg

8

Turmeric (root)

9

Ginger (root and powder)

10

Cinnamon (stick and powder)

11

Massala

12

Superfoods

I dedicated an entirely separate post about superfoods. You can read more about Spirulina, Chlorella, Black Maca, Camu-Camu, Lucuma, Raw cocoa, Wheatgrass, Baobab, Acai, Moringa, Matcha, Dried seaweed (wakame) and Vegetable protein (rice, hemp, and peas) here.

Aromatic Herbs

Oregano

1

Chives

2

Parsley

3

Thyme

4

Rosemary

5

Marjoram

6

Basil

7

Mint

8

In the Fridge

 

Plant milks (almond, oat, coconut, rice, hazelnut)

1

Coconut and rice cream

2

Tofu of all kinds (smoked, with seaweed, creamy, and simple)

3

Fresh mushrooms

4

Vegan cheeses

5

Coconut yogurts

6

Jams

7

Spices like dijon mustard and cashew mayonnaise

8

Seasonal vegetables and vegetables of all colors (only those that need refrigeration or that are cut in portions)

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Outside the Fridge

 

Onions

1

Shallots

2

Garlic

3

Leeks

4

Roots (ginger, turmeric, beet, sweet potato, turnip, carrots, and cassava)

6

Seasonal fruits (bananas, apples, citrus fruits, etc.)

9

Seasonal vegetables and vegetables of all colors (fresh herbs, zucchini, pumpkin, peppers, etc.)

10

In the Freezer

Pre-cooked legumes
Fruits
Vegan hamburgers and croquettes

Teas

Of all kinds, in dried herbs or ecological sachets

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Meditation

Meditation

Meditation can feel unfamiliar, not to mention mystical, too New Age and overly complicated. It did for me too, until it became a part of my self-development and spiritual growth! Learn what meditation is, how to meditate, the benefits of meditation and understand other tools that you can use to complement your practice, such as mantras, mudras, music or visualizations.

 

Meditation, the medicine of the mind

When it comes to meditation, a lot of people think ‘I don’t have time’, ‘I don’t know how’, ‘It’s not for me’, ‘I can’t clear my head’, ‘I am already too busy’, ‘I am not sure I’m doing it right’. It’s true, we live in a busy world that continues to get more frantic, more technology-focused and more distant from our true human nature. We are no longer able to understand what it means to be present in the moment. And for this reason alone, I believe meditation is more important than ever before!

What is meditation?

Let’s demystify this a little. In meditation, we are actually not trying to achieve or ‘do’ anything. Meditation is simply a state of ‘restful alertness’. Yes, there are many forms of meditation, but don’t be overwhelmed. You can start with simple techniques and, as you become accustomed to a regular practice, you can then expand with techniques of meditation that resonate with you. There is no right or wrong. This is about self-awareness and connectivity to your deeper consciousness. You can use meditation to bring yourself into a state of deep physical relaxation and inner awareness.

Meditation has become increasingly popular and even trendy in recent years, with more and more people turning to meditation for peace of mind. Ironically, technology has made meditation much more accessible can serve as a fantastic introduction to and way of experiencing some of the numerous benefits with Spotify meditation playlists or apps for guided meditation.

Meditation comes in all different shapes and sizes. There are hundreds of different types of meditation, including the below, so for sure there is a practice that will work for you:

  • Mantra-based meditation
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Guided meditation
  • Sound meditation
  • Kundalini meditation
  • Zen meditation
  • Transcendental meditation (which became popular with The Beatles)
  • Vipassana meditation
  • Loving-kindness meditation
  • Yoga meditation
  • And so on!

We have on average 60,000-80,000 thoughts per day. If you go on the premise that through meditation you will be able to stop all thoughts altogether, you are headed to an impossible task! So much of the noise in our minds is generated by our own internal dialogue, impressions of past memories and anxieties about the future. The aim is not to force the mind to be quiet but to connect to the stillness that already resides within. This is our happy place, the place of higher awareness. The home of love, compassion, empathy and joy.

Why should you meditate?

The more you believe that your mind cannot be calm and that meditation is a waste of time, the more I say you probably need it. People have been meditating for thousands of years to expand awareness and stay in the present moment. One thing is for sure: our minds have become more frenzied than ever before, and we can sometimes lose control of our emotions.

Meditation helps us to regain control over our emotions and nerves by quieting the mind. Through meditation, you can start to reduce the number of thoughts that take over your day. Over time, you will be able to reduce negative emotions such as fear, grief, anger, greed and jealousy, which trigger the release of stress hormones that can affect your physical health as well. Connecting to your consciousness and deepening your intuition helps when you are trying to make healthy dietary and lifestyle choices.

How to meditate

Setting up the right environment will enhance the clarity and focus of your mind during the practice of meditation. Set up your space so that it is clean, clutter-free, noise-free, with plenty of ventilation so that fresh air is able to enter the room. Keep some comfort provisions, such as cushions and blankets, nearby in case you need extra support, padding, and warmth.

When you practice meditation, you should sit in a comfortable position, ideally seated on the floor or on a chair, with the spine erect, chest open and the focus on your breath. If you want, start by doing some breathing exercises (pranayama) to put you in the zone for meditation.

meditation-stilinger

Place your hands on your legs or knees, palms facing up. Close your eyes and start to deepen your breath. Bring your awareness to your breath and keep your focus on the rise and fall of your chest area as you gently breathe in and out. Start by counting to 4 while you are breathing in and again counting to 4 while you are breathing out. When you feel relaxed, just be gentle and start to breathe normally again. Continue for as long as you can – up to 20 minutes ideally. If you want, you can use other tools to complement your practice, such as music, mantras, mudras or visualizations as focal points. Thoughts will come in. As soon as you witness them, release them and try to focus again on your breath, music, mantra, mudra or visualization.


What are mudras

The hand postures are known as mudras. These can influence your mind, body and mood. They are used particularly in worship and rituals in the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and other faiths and are also used in many cultures to greet people.

In the UK, for example, people greet each other by shaking hands, in Europe you kiss each other’s cheeks and in India you place both hands together in prayer (anjali mudra), bow the head and say ‘Namaste’. This mudra with the word ‘Namaste’ translates as ‘The divinity in me bows to the divinity in you’, as a way of being welcoming and respectful to all. While preserving your personal energy, prayer hands help you to connect both the right and left side of the brain at the same time, representing unification. In Yoga, this gesture serves as an ‘offering’ of yourself as you commit to your practice.  Prayer hands focus your awareness on the spiritual heart center in your chest.

Mudras can be used as a focal point in meditation. These hand gestures have been used in the East for thousands of years, not only as a way of connecting to your higher self and channeling energy in meditation, but also as a way to heal physical ailments, improve clarity and concentration, and encourage love and compassion.

finger elements

We are composed of 5 elements and each finger represents one of those elements. The thumb represents fire (agni), the index finger represents air (vayu), the middle finger represents ether (akash), the ring finger represents earth (prithvi) and the little finger represents water (jala). Since all problems and diseases are caused by an imbalance in one (or several) element(s), you can use mudras to channel the flow of prana through your fingers and balance those elements.

Types of Mudras

Gyan Mudra

gyan mudra

This mudra stimulates the root chakra and is grounding. Calms and improves concentration.

Vayu Mudra

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This mudra helps prevent problems such as gas, sciatica, gout and rheumatism.

Akash Mudra

akash Mudra

This mudra increases the space within body and mind. Increases intuitive power and alertness. It is beneficial for bone diseases, ear pain and toothache.

Prana Mudra

prana mudra

This mudra gives energy, reduces fatigue and nervousness. It calms you, brings inner stability and improves vision.

Prithvi Mudra

prithvi mudra

This mudra increases heat, energy and strength in the body.

Jala Mudra

jala mudra

This mudra increases and restores water balance in the body. It helps reduce dryness in the skin and congestion in the lungs.


What are mantras

Faith-based healing is real and there are cases all over the world. In our hour of need, when all else fails, many of us turn to prayer as a request for help and assistance from a higher source. Prayer helps to restore a sense of hope and comfort and helps us ‘feel’ better.

It doesn’t matter your faith, religion or belief structure. What is important is that you understand that words carry power, both internally and externally, and what we believe becomes our reality. It is the placebo effect. Praying or saying mantras is a way to communicate with your consciousness.

Mantras are energetic sound vibrations, and they can enhance the benefits of meditation. Man is the root of manas, meaning ‘the mind’ or ‘to think’, and tra is a suffix that means ‘tool’ or instrument, so mantra literally means the tool for the mind.

Mantras are sounds that produce vibrations within your body as you chant. This chanting connects you to your ‘higher self’ and to the universe. Mantras are a great tool to calm the mind in meditation. This powerful technique of sound channeling can also influence deep-seated emotional patterns, exercise, increase the strength of the mental faculties, open your intuition and increase your awareness.

Types of Mantras

Lam

Related to the earth, root chakra and adrenals. It brings groundedness, contentment, and stability.

Vam

Related to water, sacral chakra and reproductive glands. It encourages willpower.

Ram

Related to fire, the solar plexus and the pancreas. It gives power of movement and direction.

Yam

Related to air, the heart center and thymus. It gives space and force.

Ham

Related to ether, the throat chakra, and the thyroid.

Ksham

Related to the third eye chakra, and the pituitary gland.

Om

Related to the crown chakra, the center of consciousness and pineal gland.

Mantras

Mantras are a great technique to incorporate with the practice of meditation, as the vibration generated can help balance the seven chakras and the five elements. These mantras stimulate positive energy and healing for their associated organs, chakras and elements.

Gym Exercises

Gym Exercises

I used to be very sedentary. I pretty much always had a car during my adult years and started being really lazy because of it. However, since I started dating Alejandro a couple of years ago, he made me change.

He is super fit and into exercising and eating healthy. He goes to the gym like 4-5 times/ week and he plays football as well. I remember that he pushed me into signing up to the gym back in Jan 2018. I’ve been going non-stop ever since. Some weeks more, some weeks less, but I learned to integrate that into my weekly routine and I feel much better now.

In the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing, but Alejandro helped me and taught me to do things right and improve my posture. Pinterest was also one of my great allies. If you just joined a gym and you feel lost surrounded by fit people who seem to know exactly what they are doing, don’t worry! Soon you can be one of those people as well.

Below are lists of simple exercises you can do if you’re just starting out.

Stretching Exercises

It is very important that you always start by doing some stretching exercises. These exercises reduce muscle tension and increase your range of motion. Stretching is very important to avoid pain and muscle strains, as you prepare your body for the exercises that come next.

Legs & Butt Exercises

These are the exercises I do more often. If you’re a girl, it is normal that you focus your attention on your lower body: legs and butt.

Upper Body Exercises

Even though I do leg exercises most of the time, sometimes I need to change it up a bit and I work on my upper body: arms, chest, back. Since I don’t do it often, I don’t have a lot of strength in my arms, so I use light weights: 3-4 kgs usually.

Abs Exercises

Usually, I finish up my exercise routine with 7-10 min of cardio (treadmill, bike or step). However, at least once a week I try to finish my exercise with some abs instead of cardio.

I used to hate doing abs because your tummy will hurt for a couple of days if you don’t do it often. But with time I saw the importance of doing it, as I was usually doing just leg exercises and felt that even though my legs were getting toned, my belly was still flaccid. My goal is for every area to be balanced.

So these are the exercises I do when I go to the gym. If you don’t do any type of exercise, remember: exercising makes you happier, relaxes you, gets you in shape and gives you more energy! Do something today 🙂

 

Yoga

Yoga


Posts related to Yoga:

 

Tantra Yoga
Tantra Yoga is a transformational tool to provide deep happiness, a universal perspective on life, and spiritual awakening. Read about my experience with Ananda Marga here!
Sun Salutation
Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salutation, is a very well known series of postures that warms, strengthens, and aligns the entire body. Check out the flow here!

 

Essential Oils

Essential Oils

If there’s a “cool kid” in the social-media wellness world, it’s essential oils. In recent years, these plant-derived extracts have been celebrated on Pinterest boards and Instagram feeds for their ability to do just about everything, be it elevating mood, lowering anxiety, easing heartburn, or cleaning grimy floors.

Indeed, essential oils can play a powerful role in promoting wellness. And research suggests that they have some hard-hitting pharmacological functions.

Using oils safely and effectively requires basic knowledge about what they are, how they work, and how they can be safely incorporated into daily life. That’s because essential oils can be powerful medicine — and irresponsible use means risking overexposure, toxicity, and allergic reactions. Here’s what you need to know to enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy while sidestepping potential dangers.


How to Use Essential Oils

To safely incorporate essential oils into your daily life, consider these tips:

  1. Dilute the oils. Never put undiluted essential oils on your skin. This can set you up for sensitization and allergic reactions. Essential oils should always be diluted with a carrier oil — not with water or a different non-oil-based liquid, because the two won’t mix. I use coconut oil for example;
  2. Don’t confuse “more” with “better.” The fact that essential oils come from nature doesn’t mean that they are safe. These compounds are highly concentrated extracts that are far more active (and potentially dangerous) than in their as-it-exists-in-nature counterparts. When using essential oils, dosage is critical. Don’t use too much, thinking it’s better;
  3. It pays to investQuality matters, and in the case of essential oils, price almost always reflects quality. Buy the 100% real essencial oils, not the fake ones;
  4. Test your oil’s purity. Paying more helps safeguard against purchasing an oil that’s been cut with cheaper ingredients, but you can also test the quality of an essential oil by placing a drop on a piece of white computer paper. If there is a grease stain on the paper after 24 hours, the oil has been cut with a carrier oil. If it is pure, it will evaporate. You might see the faintest ring, but nothing more;
  5. Choose organic — and look for third-party certification. Organic oils won’t expose you to the pesticides and herbicides used in the conventional growing process. If you still have concerns about the quality of an oil, look for independent lab assessments of the oils as noted on the label. Third parties certify that a specific oil contains the chemical constituents it says it does;
  6. Pick the right tools. Look for diffusers that are made specifically for essential oils. They are designed to break up the particles in a way that makes the vaporized oils easier for the body to process;
  7. Rotate your oils. Give your body a break from specific scents or blends by rotating the oils you use every two to four weeks. This helps prevent overexposure and sensitization;
  8. Don’t use essential oils for everything. When another intervention is appropriate, try that first. If you have a dehydration headache, no essential oils will help you – you need to drink some water;
  9. Remember that responses are different for different people. A scent that relaxes you and puts you straight to sleep might make another person agitated or restless. This is another reason to treat recipes you find online with caution, and to think small when using essential oils.

Uses and Benefits of Essential Oils

Lavender

Image result for lavender essential oil

This is a must-have essential oil. The floral scent makes it one of the best smelling essential oils that is beloved by many. Although this oil is known for being mild and calming, a few people are allergic so it’s important to take care.

  • Calming and relaxing
  • Improves mood
  • Aliviates anxiety and depression
  • Helps improving your sleep
  • Relieves headaches
  • Anti-bacterial and fungal
  • Anti-septic for Skin care
  • Speeds healing
  • Reduces inflammation

While most essential oils need to be diluted with a carrier oil, Lavender is safe to apply directly to the skin. For promoting healthy sleep, add a few drops to a diffuser and place in the bedroom before sleep. You can also diffuse it into a room for a calming scent that reaches the whole family.


Peppermint

Image result for peppermint essential oil

One of the best smelling essential oils that almost everyone loves, Peppermint offers a myriad of health benefits as well as a boost of energy. Its minty scent is reminiscent of candy canes and fresh summer days.

  • Uplifting and invigorating
  • Alleviates headaches
  • Relieving digestive issues
  • Reduces feelings of stress and anxiety
  • Kills germs (particularly in the mouth)
  • Freshens air
  • Cooling and refreshing
  • Removes redness and irritating skin issues
  • Helps with congestion
  • Good as a muscle rub for back pain

Use in a cool mist humidifier during winter months for fighting colds and cleaning the air. Add a drop to a glass of water and use as a mouthwash. Place a few drops with a carrier oil and massage into sore or tired muscles.


Lemon

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Who doesn’t associate the smell of lemons with something fresh and clean?! It takes about 50 lemons to make a small 15ml bottle of essential oil.

  • Theet whineting
  • Improve skin
  • Freshening air
  • Killing germs in kitchens and bathrooms
  • Aiding with digestion
  • Reducing pain (arthritis, gout)
  • Promoting immune system
  • Increasing energy and uplifting the mood
  • Promoting healthy circulation

Add a few drops of Lemon to water and white vinegar in a glass bottle to use as a disinfecting cleaning spray for kitchen counters and bathroom sinks. Apply directly to the skin for healing purposes (avoid exposure to the sun after use). Add a drop to a glass of water and drink it to give a boost to the immune system (of course you should only ingest oils that you know are 100% pure).


Eucalyptus

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The bright and somewhat medicinal scent of eucalyptus is minty with a hint of pine and sweetness. Some people describe the scent as sharp and clean, with a hint of camphor.

  • Natural insect repellent
  • Decongestant
  • Relieves muscular pain
  • Purifies the air
  • Improves concentration
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Reducing congestion and stuffy noses
  • Stimulating the mind and body
  • Reducing fever
  • Eliminating headaches
  • Cooling
  • Boost immune system

At the first sign of a cold or flu, place a few drops of Eucalyptus essential oil in a diffuser and breathe it in to ward off winter infections and fight sinus congestion. Or add to a pot of hot water, place a towel over your head and inhale the steam. Add a few drops to a carrier oil and massage into tired and sore muscles.


Frankinsense

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Known from ancient times as a precious commodity, Frankincense essential oil is extracted from the resin of a hardy tree. This oil is more expensive than many, and works well when blended with other oils to make it effective for a variety of reasons. The scent is woody and clean with a warm and spicy tone.

  • Meditative and relaxing
  • Calms anxiety & reduces stress
  • Helps with asthma
  • Aids with digestive disorders
  • Relieves chronic stress
  • Reduces pain and inflamation
  • Boosts immune system
  • Killing germs and bacteria
  • Healing skin and preventing signs of aging
  • Improving mental clarity and memory
  • Balancing hormones
  • Promoting healthy sleep patterns
  • Reducing swelling, inflammation, and pain

Diffuse into the air in winter months to kill germs and boost your immune system. Apply directly to the skin on the face before going to bed to keep the skin healthy, prevent wrinkles and fade dark spots. Or apply to warts, moles, and other skin problems. Take a deep sniff of this oil after eating a heavy meal to aid with digestion, or prior to going to sleep to help calm and relax.


Tea Tree

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Another essential oil with a strong odor, tea tree oil is also commonly called ‘Melaleuca’. This scent is very medicinal and acrid with a camphorous odor.

  • Acne and scars improvement
  • Treating athlete’s foot and other fungal infections
  • Reducing dandruff
  • Treating bad breath and killing mouth germs
  • Antiseptic and desinfectant
  • Insect repellent
  • Congestion and cough due to cold

Apply directly to cuts, scrapes, and acne in order to kill germs and promote healthy healing. Add a drop to a glass of water and gargle to kill germs in the mouth. Dilute with a carrier oil and apply topically to skin affected by athlete’s foot, nail fungus, or other infections.


Chamomile

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This oil has a sweet, flowery scent that some people compare to apple blossoms. It’s an earthy, straw-like smell that many people find to be mild and enjoyable.

  • Soothing and calming
  • Reduces stress and anxiety and promotes relaxation
  • Good for headaches
  • Reduces insomnia
  • Anti-inflamatory
  • Lifting mood and relieving depression
  • Fights bacteria (sores, acne, mouth)
  • Soothes digestive problems
  • Promote youthful looking skin and hair

Add a few drops to a cool mist humidifier and place in the bedroom to help calm and relax. Or add a few drops to a water bottle to create a pillow spray or room spray. Add a drop to your favorite herbal tea or apply directly to the abdomen to soothe digestive problems. Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding.


Rosemary

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This essential oil has a strongly herbal scent that has a mellow undertone reminiscent of camphor. If you don’t like the scent, blend it with Peppermint or a citrus oil to cut the smell.

  • Indigestion and digestive complaints
  • Detoxification
  • Revilatize thoughts and boost memory
  • Increase focus and mental clarity
  • Promote relax, calm breathing
  • Reducing congestion and sinus problems
  • Soothing headaches
  • Alleviating muscle pain and cramps
  • Healing skin problems

Add a few drops to a carrier oil and apply to the bottoms of the feet or abdomen to aid with digestion. Or apply to sore, achy muscles to help with pain. Place in a diffuser to bring a sense of peace and clarity to the room, reducing tension and fatigue. Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding.


Patchouli

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This is one of those scents that many people have to get used to as it is very earthy and pungent.  Notorious for being used by hippies in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the scent is not always appreciated by everyone and can be blended with other oils to make it less obvious.

  • Alleviates tension
  • Beneficial for meditation
  • Relieves worry, anxiety and stress
  • Promotes concentration and focus
  • Helps with wrinkles and scars
  • Helps prevent dry, rough skin
  • Massage scalp for healthy hair and no dandruff
  • Reducing bloating
  • Reducing fatigue
  • Balancing hormones

Add a couple of drops to a carrier oil and apply directly to the face to keep your skin looking fresh and healthy. For grounding emotions, place a drop in the hand, cup the hand over the nose and mouth and breathe in naturally for a few minutes to receive the emotional and hormonal benefits.


Orange

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Popular and affordably priced, open a bottle of orange essential oil and the room will smell like you just peeled a fresh orange!

  • Settles digestive distress
  • Invigorating and energizing
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-septic
  • Aphrodisiac
  • Encourages positve emotions
  • Boosting immune system

Add a few drops of orange essential oil to a spray bottle filled with water to use as a room freshening spray, counter disinfectant, or bathroom cleaner. Place a few drops of orange oil into a cool mist humidifier and diffuse into the room to boost moods, improve blood flow, and reduce stress.


Marjoram

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This oil made from the flowering marjoram plant has a slight ‘green’ scent that is similar to herbs such as thyme and cardamom, with a hint of peppery and camphor smells.

  • Fighting fatigue
  • Promoting healthy circulation
  • Reducing constipation and cramps
  • Uplifting the mood
  • Reducing tension and related headaches
  • Relieving insomnia
  • Reducing asthma symptoms
  • Helping with healthy digestion

Add to a carrier oil and apply to the back of the neck to reduce feelings of stress and tension. Or apply, diluted, to the bottoms of the feet to promote heart health and have a positive effect on the nervous system. Diffuse into the room to soothe fussy children or calm anxious students. Not recommended if pregnant or breastfeeding.


Grapefruit

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Another oil from the popular citrus family, Grapefruit has an attractive scent that is energizing and affordably priced. Blend with spicy oils such as cinnamon for a balanced, warming atmosphere.

  • Fighting jet lag
  • Disinfecting bathrooms and kitchens
  • Giving an energy boost
  • Aiding with appetite suppression and weight loss
  • Stimulating the immune system
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Helps reduce depression

Diffuse into the room to help balance emotions, boost energy, and suppress sugar cravings when trying to lose weight. Dilute in a carrier oil and apply topically for fighting throat and respiratory infections. Add to a spray bottle filled with water and white vinegar for a germ-fighting counter spray or bathroom cleanser.


Cinnamon

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With a scent reminiscent of autumn, pumpkin pie spice, and warmth, cinnamon essential oil brings a cozy, comfortable atmosphere. The scent is especially enjoyable when blended with other spices (such as nutmeg and clove) or citrus oils like lemon and orange.

  • Killing germs
  • Treating headaches
  • Calming negative thoughts
  • Improving blood circulation
  • Boosting brain function and clarity
  • Maintaining a healthy immune system
  • Relieving sore muscles and joints

Diffuse in the air to promote healthy blood flow to the brain and reduce headaches, as well as encouraging self-confidence and balancing emotions. Add a few drops to a carrier oil and apply directly to sore joints, or apply to the bottoms of the feet for pain relief throughout the body.


Clove

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The scent of clove is strong and spicy, with a deep earthy tone that can be overpowering to some people. It is often blended with citrus or floral oils to tone down the scent.

  • Reducing inflammation and swelling
  • Relieving sore tooth or mouth pain
  • Treating acne, cuts, or scrapes
  • Reducing stress
  • Treating headaches and sinus congestion
  • Preventing or fighting infections
  • Insect repellent

Add a drop to a glass of water and gargle for oral hygiene. Dilute with a carrier oil and apply topically to acne, boils, sores, rashes, or other skin problems. Apply, diluted, to the bottoms of the feet to promote good circulation, aid in digestion, eliminate toxins, and reduce inflammation or nausea.


Clary Sage

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This plant is not quite a well-known as some of the others, but its powerful benefits make it super popular as an essential oil. It does not smell like the commonly known cooking spice, called sage. The scent of this oil is earthy, herbal, balmy, and woody. Some people do not prefer the aroma and find it more tolerable when blended with lavender or other floral essential oils.

  • Hormonal balance
  • Fighting depression and reducing stress
  • Relieving spasms and convulsions
  • Preventing bacterial infections
  • Promoting removal of free radicals and oxidants
  • Reducing gas
  • Caring for skin
  • Regulating menstruation
  • Lowering blood pressure

If you’re a woman dilute with a carrier oil and apply directly to the abdomen and bottoms of the feet to help promote and stimulate regular menstruation in younger women and hormone balance in menopausal women. This same application on the feet can be used to calm nerves, lower blood pressure, and relieve depression. Apply, diluted, directly to the abdomen to reduce stomach disorders and relieve trapped gas. Use, diluted, as an anti-stress massage oil.


Cedarwood

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Cedarwood essential oil has a woodsy scent. It’s extracted from many varieties of cedar and juniper trees. Cedarwood oil is relatively safe and has many potential uses, such as:

  • Soothing and calming
  • Diuretic
  • Antiseptic and fungicide
  • Improves focus and wisdom
  • Promotes hair growth
  • Has anti-inflammatory agents and stimulates metabolism
  • Relieves spasms

Diffuse it after a stressful day to relax the mind and body. Use with a carrier oil in massage therapy. Add 1–2 drops to facial toner or moisturizer for added clarifying properties. Inhale directly or diffuse to promote healthy respiratory function.


Ylang-Ylang

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The canaga tree is native to Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Hanging delicately from its branches are intricate star-shaped flowers that produce a unique element: Ylang Ylang Essential Oil.

  • Helps with insomnia
  • Beneficial for high blood pressure
  • Helps calm rapid heartbeat
  • Soothing and calming
  • Good for nervous tension and anxiety
  • Antidepressant
  • Aphrodisiac
  • Antiseptic and antiseborrhoeic
  • Sedative substance

Apart from aromatherapy, it can be used in cosmetic applications, Ylang Ylang Essential Oil can be diluted and applied to the skin to maintain its health. To reduce the signs of aging, to soothe irritation, and to generally protect the skin, simply dilute 1-2 drops of Ylang Ylang Essential Oil in 1 Tbsp. Coconut Carrier Oil or Jojoba Carrier Oil, then gently massage it into the face 1-2 times daily.


 

Lemongrass

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Lemongrass essential oil is derived from the steam distillation of the plant and, true to its name, it possesses a mild, sweet, lemony-yet-herbal aroma.

  • Anti-bacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Helps prevent gastric ulcers and relieve nausea
  • Helps to ease diarrhea
  • Uplifting  and refreshing

To use lemongrass in aromatherapy, add up to 12 drops of essential oil to 1 teaspoon carrier oil such as coconut oil, sweet almond oil, or jojoba oil. Mix into a warm bath or massage into your skin. You can also inhale lemongrass oil directly

 

Reiki

Reiki

What is Reiki?

Reiki is a Japanese alternative medicine called energy healing. Reiki practitioners use a technique called palm healing or hands-on healing through which a “universal energy” is said to be transferred through the palms of the practitioner to the patient in order to encourage emotional or physical healing.

Reiki is very good for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy. The word Reiki is made of two Japanese words – Rei which means “God’s Wisdom or the Higher Power” and Ki which is “life force energy”. So Reiki is actually “spiritually guided life force energy.”

An amazingly simple technique to learn, the ability to use Reiki is not taught in the usual sense, but is transferred to the student during a Reiki class. This ability is passed on during an “attunement” given by a Reiki master and allows the student to tap into an unlimited supply of “life force energy” to improve one’s health and enhance the quality of life.

While Reiki is spiritual in nature, it is not a religion. It has no dogma, and there is nothing you must believe in order to learn and use Reiki. In fact, Reiki is not dependent on belief at all and will work whether you believe in it or not.

The Origins of Reiki

Mikaousui

Mikao Usui is considered the founder of Reiki. He was born August 15, 1865 in Japan. In February 1922 he went to Kurama yama, a sacred mountain north of Kyoto to fast and meditate. As time passed, he became weaker and weaker. It was now March 1922 and at midnight of the twenty-first day, a powerful light suddenly entered his mind through the top of his head and he felt as if he had been struck by lightning; this caused him to fall unconscious.

As the sun rose, he awoke and realized that whereas before he had felt very weak and near death from his fasting, he was now filled with an extremely enjoyable state of vitality that he had never experienced before; a miraculous type of high frequency spiritual energy had displaced his normal consciousness and replaced it with an amazingly new level of awareness. He experienced himself as being the energy and consciousness of the Universe and that the special state of enlightenment he had sought had been given to him as a gift. He was overjoyed by this realization.

When this happened, he was filled with excitement and went running down the mountain to tell his Zen master of his great good fortune. On his way down he stubbed his toe on a rock and fell down. And in the same way anyone would do, he placed his hands over the toe, which was in pain. As he did this, healing energy began flowing from his hands all by itself. The pain in his toe went away and the toe was healed. Usui Sensei was amazed by this. He realized that in addition to the illuminating experience he had undergone, he had also received the gift of healing. He also understood that this was his life purpose; to be a healer and to train others.

In April 1922, he moved to Tokyo and started a healing society that he named Usui Reiki Ryoho Gakkai (Usui Reiki Healing Method Society). He also opened a Reiki clinic in Harajuku, Aoyama, Tokyo. He taught many students until the end of his life.

5 Reiki Principles

“Just for today, I will not anger.
 Just for today, I will not worry.
 Just for today, I will be grateful for all my blessings.
 Just for today, I will work with honesty and integrity.
 Just for today, I will be kind to all living beings.”
– Mikao Usui

The Five Reiki Precepts are often ignored – unfortunatelly. And yet in reality, these precepts are an integral part of Reiki practice and Reiki cannot be really used successfully without integrating these precepts into the life of the practitioner.

They are like guidelines, showing you the best way to heal your life, by making changes in five great fields of life –emotions, thoughts, gratitude, self-growth and compassion to all that exists. Usui suggested that the precepts should be repeated (meditated and contemplated upon) each day and each morning, preferable with your hands in a Gassho mudra.

Reiki Levels

Reiki Level I: Also called Shoden in Japanese. This is entry-level Reiki training where you study Reiki history, learn how to perform self-Reiki, and how to give Reiki to someone else, and are initiated (attuned) for life to the Reiki energy.

Reiki Level II: Also called Okuden in Japanese. You learn how to use the first three Reiki symbols and how to perform distant Reiki techniques. You receive further attunements to the Reiki energy. After this class, you are considered a Reiki practitioner.

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Cho Ku Ray
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Sei Hei Ki
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Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen

https://reikiguide.org/reiki-healing-symbols/

Reiki Level III: Also called Shinpiden in Japanese. This is the Master Teacher level of Reiki, and the class may be separated into two parts. You receive the Master Reiki attunement and learn the Master Reiki symbol and how to give the Reiki attunements to others.