Natural Health
Better living through nature

4 Yoga Poses for Mental Health

Today, many of us view yoga as a fitness exercise, but it is actually a centuries-old life philosophy that aims to unify the mind, body and spirit. By combining breathwork, meditation and physical postures, yoga provides many benefits for overall health. Instructors have seen yoga help with anxiety, insomnia, and pain, as well as give practitioners more energy and lower stress levels.  Add these four yoga poses to your self-care routine to reap the mental and physical health rewards.

reclining bound angle pose
Photo courtesy

Reclined Bound Angle (Supta Baddha Konasa)

When life gets too hectic, remember to give yourself the time and space for relaxation. Reclined Bound Angle Pose is great for taking a moment to unplug from the constant state of connectedness we’re all in. In this pose, we can focus on our breath, clear our minds and become centered once again.

camel pose
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Camel Pose (Ustrasana)

Boost confidence and happiness when anxiety strikes with this pose. Any pose that creates a backbend position is invigorating, and Camel Pose can be modified in a number of ways to accommodate your flexibility and experience with yoga. Backbends also help reverse the effects of forward bending—whether from sitting hunched over a desk all day or poor posture—which occurs all too often in our modern world.

standing forward bend
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Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

Simple and relaxing, Standing Forward Bend stretches the hamstrings, calves, hips and back. It may also alleviate anxiety and symptoms of mild depression by calming the brain.

yoga inversion headstand
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Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana)

Although more advanced, inversions, such as headstands, can be the ticket to boosting mood and energy quickly. Inversions are the definition of gaining new perspective (you’re literally upside down). Quiet an overactive mind by focusing on the balance required to maintain this pose. If you don’t have the strength or balance just yet, you can do Legs-Up-The-Wall to achieve a similar effect.

Whether you’re feeling the stress of daily life, suffering from SAD (seasonal affective disorder), fatigue or simply have a case of the blues, these four yoga poses are sure to help relax, re-energize and get you back to feeling like your normal self.

Essential Oils for a Healing Bath

The power of bathing not only cleans but relaxes the body, and creates a sense of peace within the soul. Bathing helps relax tense muscles, opens pores, softens the skin, detoxifies the body, boosts the immune system and promotes sleep.

We can patronize spas and hot springs, but when we need to immediately restore ourselves the bathtub is usually a few steps away. We may be so tired when evening arrives that we don’t even have the energy to wait for a tub to fill up. But there’s good news, once you are in the tub with a few drops of essential oils and a scoop of salts you’ll be hooked. All you need is up to 20 minutes of soaking and you will emerge ready for a good night’s sleep.  

Before you get in the bath leave electronic devices in the other room, make a cup of organic tea, burn a soy candle, play calm music and make sure your bathroom has been decorated in relaxing colors. Go ahead, make a home spa appointment with yourself!  

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Essential oils for a bath

“There’s no place like a bath to stretch your soul and listen to your own inner voice.” -Seneca

Bergmot, Jasmine and Frankincense are therapeutic essential oils with constituents that help you unwind after a long day.

Bergmot citrus bergamia - The aroma is fruity with a faint floral scent and constituents that help you relax when tense or anxious.   

Jasmine sambac - It has an intense floral aroma and properties to help with nervous anxiety and restlessness.

Frankincense boswellia - The odor is fresh terpene-like, and is used to alleviate nervous tension and stress-related conditions.

Combine these essential oils and then add 5 to 10 drops to your bath water, along with a scoop of Epsom salts.

If you are not up combining these essential oils, Nectar Essences has a blend of the oils infused with flower essences that are ready to be added to your bath or to rub on your hands for inhaling. Use the coupon code desiree10 for 10% off.

Desiree Bell is inspired by nature and loves to explore, write, and create to help others achieve a naturally creative and healthy lifestyle. Follow her on Facebook at Beyond A Garden.

How to Make the Outdoors Your Gym

Outdoor Gym

Even the most basic gym should have all the equipment needed for a complete workout, so why does it often feel so lacking? We drag our feet through the front door, push out a couple sets of bench press, bore ourselves on the treadmill for 15 minutes and then leave. Only the most dedicated gym rats can make it through those places without going crazy. There has to be a better way.

Believe it or not, there was a time when there were no gyms and humans were all in much better shape, but over the centuries our sedentary lifestyle has caught up to us and now there's nothing left but to do the bare minimum at the gym each week. But if you just stepped outside you would see a world just waiting to be your natural gym.

If you're ready to step out of the globo-gym and embrace the outdoors, here are some great places to get started.

Trail Running

Trail running grew from niche hobby to popular sport thanks to events like Ragnar, which give trail runners a place to socialize and compete (though must run for non-competitive fun) across some of the most scenic trails in the country. But if you don't live near the national parks of Utah or the redwood forests of Northern California, chances are there is still a trail waiting for the tread under your shoes.

Check with local parks to find good trails, and grab some of the few essentials for an exhilarating and challenging workout. A good pair of trail running shoes from Merrell, Salomon, or La Sportiva offer the support and traction needed for rugged terrain and a hydration pack from CamelBak or Osprey will provide plenty of water on the trail.

Stadium Climbs

We all don't have the luxury of climbing the steps at the Los Angeles Coliseum, but every town with a decent high school football program also has a stadium that can double as the perfect outdoor gym — and running up the stairs is just the beginning. There are a variation of different elevated push-ups you can do thanks to the different heights of the bleacher seats. And when it comes time to run the steps, add some variety to your stride by skipping a step, two-stepping (when both feat touch each step before moving on) or broad jumping steps. This provides a killer cardio session while also adding in great footwork.

Competitive Shooting

Target and sport shooting is a big part of outdoor life, but it doesn't do much for physical fitness outside of hand-eye coordination. But there is a new activity growing in popularity that tests accuracy and endurance.

The "3 Gun" competitions require you to quickly navigate a course and shoot targets with a shotgun, handgun and rifle. It's tons of fun for anyone who loves to shoot and requires more movement than traditional target shooting. If you need to purchase guns for sport shooting, check local and online retailers for their selection of firearms.

Park Workouts

If you think park workouts are a puny alternative to a real gym, think again. Monkey bars might be fun and games for kids, but they can deliver serious muscle building and toning for adults. The various bars and rings found in parks and playgrounds are perfect for pull-ups, dips, muscle ups and other body movements that will build grip strength, improve mobility and target muscles that you might neglect in a tradition free weight gym.

Jim Burch is a copywriter from Phoenix and avid admirer of alliteration. His goals are to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, see all 30 baseball stadiums, and eliminate the improper use of "literally," but he figuratively can't even.

4 Simple Yoga Poses for Arthritis Pain

Regular physical activity has proven psychological and physical benefits, from improved mood and longevity to weight loss and reduced risk of chronic disease. But for those living with arthritis exercise can seem problematic; your joints hurt, so why would you want to stress them any further by exercising? However, regular exercise may promote joint health, decreasing pain and discomfort associated with these conditions. It can also help build strength in areas prone to arthritis, such as the spine, knees and hips.

Recent studies have shown that a regular yoga practice can benefit those with arthritis in a number of ways. Although not all study participants reported changes in the amount of daily pain they experienced, yoga did help them change their attitude and relationship with the pain. The following poses are extremely gentle and will help you relieve pain, improve mobility, and live a happier, longer life.

cat pose and cow pose
Photo by Fotolia/f9photos.

Cat & Cow Pose

Both of these poses are great for spinal health as it increases blood circulation—even if your spine mobility is very minimal. Cat Pose will lengthen the spine by increasing the space between vertebrae, while Cow Pose will stretch the spine. Together they may improve back flexibility and posture.

mountain pose
Photo by Fotolia/alexshalamov.

Mountain Pose

This very simple, low-impact pose often begins yoga sequences. Although Mountain Pose may not seem to do much, the prayer position used in this pose stretches the hands, fingers and wrists to improve circulation and create space between joints.

bridge pose
Photo by Fotolia/f9photos.

Bridge Pose

Bridge Pose is yet another way to improve circulation to the spine, stretch and strengthen the back muscles and reduce headaches.

crescent lunge yoga
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Crescent Lunge

Improve flexibility and reduce tightness in your hip flexors with this deep stretch. While Crescent Lunge is a more advanced stretch, modifications can be made for those with knee, shoulder, neck or back pain.

If you think your range of motion is too limited to benefit from yoga, think again: Iyengar poses are easily modified to accommodate limited mobility. So don’t count yourself out if your arthritis prevents fully bending. Plus, the soothing nature of yoga will leave you feeling relaxed and reinvigorated!

Try an Herbal Steam

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Your childhood memories may include a bedside humidifier with Vicks VapoRub, a common home treatment for cough and congestion from colds and flu. It’s still a medicine cabinet staple today, containing synthetic camphor, eucalyptus oil, and menthol to purportedly help open up stuffy nasal sinuses and relieve cough and labored breathing.

Many people swear by it, but Jay L. Hoecker, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic, reports that not only does Vicks not really relieve nasal congestion, the camphor in it can be toxic, especially to babies and young children. You can get the same kind of comforting steam for breathing ailments by using fresh or dried herbs and flowers without the risks of camphor.

Why Herbal Remedies Instead of Prescription or Over-the-Counter Drugs?

Preparing and using natural and herbal remedies is a beneficial form of self-care that many feel they don’t have time for in today’s stressful, overscheduled modern lifestyle. You may ask yourself, “Why should I use an herbal steam for my stuffy nose and cough when I can just take some medicine?” The short answer is that it’s an opportunity to care for and soothe yourself in a much more natural and relaxing way.

Using an herbal steam is a form of self-care that requires a little more time than popping a prescription anti-biotic or using an over-the-counter treatment filled with chemicals.

Selecting organic herbs that you possibly pick from the garden or a trusted source, and taking the time to boil clean, filtered water, and sitting with your face over a bowl of hot, steamy botanically-infused water means taking 30 to 60 minutes of time out of your day to purposefully care for your body. It requires you to stop other activities and focus on healing yourself.

You will feel the textures of the leaves and flower petals, see the soft, natural colors, and smell the unique scents of different plants. Even if you use dried materials, you will get much more sensory input than you ever will from a sterile white pill or store-bought preparation. Slowing down and taking the time to care for yourself is a relaxing and beneficial bonus.

Using steam to treat respiratory ailments is effective. The Medical Research Council found that steam cuts sick days in half in those who are sick, and lessens symptoms for those who are just starting to feel ill. Warm, humid air brings relief from cold symptoms like a runny nose or congested breathing. Steam helps conditions including bronchitis, bronchial asthma, coughs, hoarseness, and congestion.

Photo by Fotolia

What to Use for Herbal Steams

Aromatic herbs, petals, and greens to use in boiling water for steams to soothe stuffy nose and cough include:

• Peppermint
• Spearmint
• Lemon balm
• Sage
• Basil
• Lavender
• Chamomile (unless you are allergic to ragweed)
• Eucalyptus
• Rosemary
• Thyme
• Floribunda and hybrid tea roses

You can also include cloves and citrus peel from organic oranges, lemons, or limes. High-grade, organic, food-grade essential oils from any of these materials is an acceptable substitute but isn’t as fresh as using leaves, petals, and peels.

Use clean, fresh, filtered water for healthy steams. Use distilled water, spring water, and purified water if you don’t have a good water filter on your faucet.

Using a clean stainless steel pot, boil two to three cups of water and toss in a handful of herbs. When the water comes to a rolling boil, remove from the heat, pour it into a glass bowl, put your face over the water and over your head and the bowl with a towel. Breathe in the steam for five to 10 minutes.

Herbs have been shown to help with depression, anxiety, or simple blues from overwork or lack of sleep, and using them in steams is a refreshing way to get a pick-me-up and get out of a rut.  Lavender, cinnamon, pine, citrus, and jasmine are helpful when you feel down or run down.

Grow Some Herbs for Steaming in Winter

Herbs for steams are not difficult to grow. You can have a steady supply of fresh herbs on hand in winter if you grow them yourself. All it takes is a couple of pots, some potting soil, and good light from either a window or grow light. Grow basil, lemon balm, chamomile, sage, and mint and you’ll always have fresh herbs to snip and toss into boiling water for steams to fight off colds and the blues.

Take a little time to try an herbal steam the next time you feel a cold coming on or have a runny nose and see what a difference it makes.

Heidi CardenasHeidi Cardenas is a freelance writer and a gardener with an interest in herbs and natural living. Although she has a background in human resources and business administration, she has studied horticulture, and enjoys writing about gardening, natural living, and herbal and home remedies. Her favorite herbs are cilantro, lemon balm, and rue and her favorite places to be are libraries and greenhouses.

Experience Tulsi: The Queen of Herbs

Holy Basil
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Tulsi… What is it?

More commonly known as holy basil (Ocimum Sanctum), tulsi-holy basil is a species of the Lamiaceae family. While culinary basil has many benefits of its own, the restorative properties of tulsi are beneficial for body, mind and soul.

After more than 5,000 years of use in its native India, tulsi is expanding to the United States as a go-to herb, and for good reason. From digestion to immunity, stress relief, mood enhancement and all bodily systems in between, tulsi will keep you balanced. 

Why the funny name?

“Tula” translates to balance, while “si” means horizontal line. The two together emphasize an even level, that the body is balanced. Named after the Hindu Goddess, and known as the “Queen of Herbs,” tulsi truly means balance.

Benefits of Tulsi

1. Health and Wellness:Tulsi has been used for thousands of years as an herbal tonic. Tonics are herbs that are safe to take daily over the long term. As a potent adaptogen, tulsi is believed to assist in the body’s ability to counter or adapt to physical, emotional, biological and environmental stressors. Herbalists believe adaptogens help maintain homeostasis while balancing all systems of the body.

Tulsi has numerous health benefits. Traditional uses of tulsi include immune, digestive, and respiratory system support.

Tulsi is also believed to be beneficial for cleansing and detoxing due to its antioxidant and diuretic properties. 

2. Stress Relief: In traditional Indian medicine, tulsi is known as an intuitive herb. According to practitioners, this means it knowingly provides the body with what it needs. When ingesting tulsi, those that are overstimulated may experience a relaxing and calming effect, while those that are run down and lethargic may experience an uplifting and boosting effect. Whether stress levels are high, low or in the middle, tulsi knows what to do.

More recently, in an over-stressed, over-worked society, the most well-known use for tulsi has been stress relief. Studies who that tulsi helps lower cortisol levels (stress hormones), providing relaxation and rejuvenation for body and mind. 

Tulsi’s powerful effect on the central nervous system makes it a effective assistant in achieving mental and emotional harmony.

3. Spiritual: Known as the “Incomparable One” in India, tulsi is believed to be spiritually life-enhancing in providing uplifted mood, positive energy, protection and balance. Traditional belief states that tulsi brings abundance and longevity to the mind, body and soul. Whether it’s planted in the garden, potted in the house or consumed in the body, Tulsi wants to nourish us.

Quality is Key

As with all herbal medicines, quality is key when it comes to tulsi's benefits. While the current trend is to isolate compounds for their specific therapeutic quality, many herbalists believe whole herbs are more effective, founded on the belief that the sum of the parts of the whole plant is more balanced than any one constituent. Restorative properties of herbs are derived from the synergistic quality of plants. 

Some products advertised as tulsi may contain other types of basil instead. What's more, studies have found non-organic herbal products grown in areas with high pollution to contain toxins, so it's important to purchase tulsi products grown in well-managed sustainable farms. Regenerative agriculture is a sub-sector of organic farming that goes beyond sustainable and organic agriculture practices in order to rejuvenate and rebuild unhealthy soils. Regenerative agriculture practices regenerate soil health and entire ecosystems, restoring vibrant health to the environment. Powerful herbs come from healthy soils. Healthy soils also grow herbs rich that are rich in microbial diversity, which help to achieve balance in the digestive tract.

In addition, regenerative agriculture practices keep carbon in the soil, our earth’s most powerful carbon reservoir, minimizing agricultural contributions to climate change.

Whether you’re looking to boost antioxidants, speed up digestion, enhance immunity or protect your body and mind from the harmful effects of stress, consider tulsi a go-to herb in your pantry for everyday care. From immunity to stress relief, tulsi will provide healthy, grounded, sustainable energy that you can count on.

Note: Do not use tulsi or any herbal medicine while pregnant or nursing, unless under the supervision of a medical professional. Do not use tulsi if you are taking medications to lower blood sugar, as the two may interact.


The benefits of Tulsi are nothing new to Organic India, whose entire tea line is built around the enchanting herb. Its whole-herb Tulsi Teas and herbal supplements are lovingly grown by small family farmers using regenerative agriculture practices, to restore the health of the land and ensure the highest quality harvests. Organic India utilizes whole herbs in its tulsi formulas. In honoring the divine intelligence of the earth, Organic India keeps herbal formulas as close to their original form as possible, bringing you the potency and balance of whole herbs.

While other Tulsi formulas may service a particular body type, Organic India’s tulsi blends are composed of Rama, Vana and Krishna Tulsi—a combination that is balancing to all body types.

Organic India’s 24 flavors of Tulsi Tea include blends that individually spark a desired flavor and response (i.e. handpicked rose petals for opening and soothing in the Tulsi Sweet Rose Tea, or turmeric & ginger root for digestion and circulation support in the Tulsi Turmeric Ginger Tea). Organic India also offers more therapeutically targeted formulas, such as Tulsi Sleep Tea and Tulsi Tummy Tea. If tea is not your thing, try the Tulsi-Holy Basil supplement to get your daily dose of this powerful adaptogen.

Natural Remedies for Women's Health

Raspberry Leaf

Photo by Pixabay

(Purifies Blood, Tones Female Reproductive System, Relieves Cramping, Rich in Vitamins & Iron, Energizing)

High in Calcium, iron, magnesium, Vitamins B1, 2, 3 and C, raspberry leaf is my favorite Moon Flow beverage. I drink raspberry leaf tea religiously around my moon to replenish these vital nutrients that leave the body rapidly with blood loss. Raspberry Leaf is, in my opinion, the best uterine tonic and relaxant. It tones the uterus, corrects excessive blood flow, and eases menstrual cramping. Plus it tastes great, like a mild black tea without the caffeine but because of the nutrients it offers, it is energizing in a non-jittery, stabilizing way. Like a good friend offering you a helping hand.


(Purifies Blood, Deeply Moisturizing, Cooling, Rejuvenating to Female Reproductive System, Stress Relieving, Mild Aphrodisiac)

"Shatavari,'she who possesses 100 husbands,' is the main Ayurvedic tonic for the female reproductive system. Deeply nourishing & rejuvenating, Shatavari regulates the menstrual cycle, rejuvenates the system, and purifies blood. It is a natural aphrodisiac that promotes fertility and healthy libido. It is an adaptagen that relieves stress and it is a powerful internal moisturizer that soothes, cools, and moisturizes the membranes of not only the reproductive organs but of the respiratory tract (lungs), stomach, and urinary tract." — David Frawley, The Yoga of Herbs, pg 183-184

Several years ago, a young woman in her late 20s came to me with dry, dehydrated, premature aging of her reproductive organs. I recommended she take Shatavari. Within 3 months, the same doctor that told her about the premature aging told her it was absolutely gone with no signs of it! Her entire reproductive system had been rejuvenated. She was in disbelief! Now that is a power plant! Take it as a tincture, tea, or supplement. I get mine from Banyan Botanicals.


Photo by Pixabay

(Stress Relieving, Eases Heart Palpitations, Strengthens & Gladdens the Heart, Tones Uterus)

It ain’t called Motherwort for nothin’! This plant ally brings gladness to the heart, calms anxiety, and tones the female reproductive system. Easy to remember, my teacher Susun Weed, used to say, “Take it when you need some mothering.” “Motherwort contains leonurine and stachydrine, alkaloids that not only help lower blood pressure but also have a sedating effect on the central nervous system, which supports motherwort’s traditional use as a treatment for depression anxiety.” (  Warning: if you are trying to get pregnant, or are pregnant or nursing, do not use Motherwort. Take it as a tincture, capsule, or tea. It is bitter tasting, so you may want to sweeten it with honey.

Cramp Bark

(Relieves Cramping and Muscle Spams)

Another easy herbal ally to remember by its name is Cramp Bark. Cramp Bark is good for relaxing and softening cramps and spasms, including menstrual cramps and muscle cramps.  It is also useful for softening any area of the body that tenses up and is hard to relax, abdomen, shoulders, lungs (constricted breathing), and bowels.  Perfect for when you need to relax physically but don’t want to be sedated.

Shar VedaShar Veda, Southern Oregon’s Premier Alternative Therapist, is an Ayurveda Lifestyle Counselor & Health Educator, yoga therapist and herbalist. Shar has been blessed to study with leading teachers in Ayurveda, Yoga, and herbalism. However, it was her adopted grandma, Doe (English-American and Blackfoot Native), who instilled within her profound appreciation for the supreme power of loving touch, healing arts, and world family. Visit her website for a video, full bio, and photos or find her on Facebook and Instagram.