Natural Health
Better living through nature


Aromatherapy Skin Care During Summer

Keep your skin feeling great while looking great by embracing the aromatherapy nutrients needed before and after sun exposure.

Spring has arrived and we are enjoying the warmth and gardening season. Which means a lot of sun exposure! Caring for your skin during this time of year is absolutely a number one priority. Working in the garden can turn into hours when you least expect it. Including a safe SPF is a great start. Despite this, your skin will need nourishing after exposure. Remember your skin is your largest organ. Exposure to the sun, soil and dust can require some mending afterwards. You can create a cooling mist to have handy in your garden basket for those moments when you are experiencing intense heat, or a soothing spray for natural sunburn relief. Your hands will need mending as well, and you can make a hand salve infused with essential oils for this. These additions to your gardening are a great self-care practice.

calendula

In many ways, we forget to care for the rest of our bodies and only care for our face and hands. Some may not even think to apply something after you have been outdoors all day. This is where taking the time to make a mist or a salve comes into place.  One of the wonderful experiences I have gotten to embark on is making my own skin care regimen. I have tried frankincense essential oil with lavender, and rose. All of these create a relaxing aroma that leaves my skin feeling fresh and smooth. You can jump to the next level and apply this regimen to your neck and shoulders.  I can easily hide my face with a hat, or wear comfortable breezy pants in the garden, but my neck ends up exposed. I can only handle so much coverage during those hot summer days. My body is usually taking a beating from my love of the outdoors.

I have decided to make self-care easy to do, so that you can create this sort of routine. I believe you can simply add it to your current practice. Here is a recipe to revive your skin during the summer days.

Calendula and Peppermint Revitalizing Mist

Uplift and refresh your skin during the summer with this homemade skin soothing mist.

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz (60ml) glass spray bottle
  • 1 oz  (60 ml) Calendula Hydrosol (Calendula officinalis)
  • 8-10 drops Peppermint Oil (Mentha x piperita)
  • 2 ml Soluble dispersant

Directions: Fill glass spray bottle with the directed amount. Shake before using. Spray around face and other body parts exposed to the sun.

Choosing essential oils for simple ailments is a lifestyle change that might require gradual assimilation. Essential oils have changed the way I approach common life events, from emotional health to seasonal allergies, and I’m always happy to learn about effective natural remedies that can replace over-the-counter medications.

peppermint

Learning the power of plants is a beautiful journey. Our Earth has given us these magnificent herbs; It’s our job to re-introduce them to our modern lives.

If you are out in the sun all day, lavender is a great option, not only for your mind but also for your skin. If you are sore and have achy muscles try German chamomile, it has calming effects and reduces energetic heat, one of its therapeutic properties is the ability to provide pain relief due to it being an anti-inflammatory. These two can be combined and blended with one ounce of cream or carrier oil.

Freshening up is something you might want to do after a walk or while you are knee deep in the garden.  You can create a mist with the hydrosols mentioned in the recipes above. Remember, hydrosols are a gentle alternative to essential oils; they are aromatic waters with many of the same properties. 

A hand salve is necessary for me. It is an option at all hours of the day.  A salve is great when you have washed your hands, worked outside, washed dishes, or if your feet are tired. Is your back is sore? Apply some of your homemade salve. 

Finally, you want to remember everyone’s skin is different and what might work for you could create the opposite experience for someone else. Creating your own products is a personal experience and allows you to understand the intricacies of your own body. You can add or remove whatever you desire, while following a base. I hope you come to love and appreciate your skin, in a way you have never experienced. I recommend researching and getting comfortable with each plant to understand how these essential oils can become a part of your life.

Spring Greens, Herbal Tonics, and Natural Detoxification

Spring has sprung and many of us are still feeling sluggish from our winter hibernation, heavy eating, and lack of sunshine. While we need those heavy and hearty meals during the cold winter months, Spring is the time to lighten up our diets and head outside.

Historically, people grew and harvested their own food and ate with the seasons. Local spring greens and herbs were coveted as they would help to invigorate the blood and rejuvenate the spirits. There are numerous references throughout history which refer to herbs as “blood purifiers” or “blood cleansers”. Wild herbs and greens would be eaten or otherwise consumed in the spring as a tonic to help improve digestion and “cleanse” the blood. Cleansing the “blood” is more of a reference to improving elimination.

Today you hear people talk about doing a “detox” or a “cleanse” using harsh and expensive products which act more to “purge” or force the body into eliminating or “detoxing”. Traditionally people relied on the body’s natural ability to eliminate and would give the body a little nudge in the spring by consuming fresh greens and herbs, getting outside and by breathing fresh air.

flowering allium
Allim spp. flower. Photo by Natalie Vickery

5 Tips to Naturally Improve Elimination

The body is very adept at the process of elimination. However, when the system becomes a bit sluggish, elimination can be enhanced naturally through various means. Here are a few tips to give the body a nudge to improve elimination.

  1. Improve digestion: Eating healthy foods and avoiding those that are refined and processed not only helps to maintain health but will also help to improve digestion. Another great way to improve digestion is by incorporating bitter foods and herbs into our diets. These bitters help stimulate digestive secretions, improve integrity of tissues, increase nutrient absorption and increase elimination.
  2. Deep Breathing: One way the body naturally detoxifies is through respiration. Most people are shallow breathers and respiration is inhibited. By focusing on breathing and taking deep breaths not only can we increase energy and reduce stress, but we also increase elimination.
  3. Stay Hydrated: Water is essential to our well-being. Not only does water carry nutrients and oxygen to our cells but it also helps to rid the body of waste byproducts.
  4. Exercise: The benefits of exercise on health are almost endless. Exercise improves elimination by increasing lymphatic flow, perspiration and respiration.
  5. Sleep: While we sleep our bodies are repairing and rebuilding. A lack of sleep or inadequate sleep can be very detrimental to overall health.

5 Herbs to Help Improve Elimination

Burdock (Arctium lappa)

Burdock has been traditionally known as a “blood purifier” and “spring tonic”, helping to improve elimination and used for skin conditions such as eczema, boils and psoriasis. The root acts on the liver where there is sluggishness and is often used for conditions such as gout, arthritis or muscular rheumatic conditions.

Burdock root is mildly bitter and oily and can be combined with other herbs to help improve digestion and may be beneficial for constipation associated with dryness due to poor utilization of fats. The seed has more of an influence over the kidneys and acts as a mild diuretic helping to remove gravel and metabolic debris. The seeds may also benefit the digestive system helping to ease indigestion and the respiratory system where the mucous membranes are dry and irritated.

chickweed greens
Chickweed. Photo by Natalie Vickery
 

Chickweed (Stellaria media)

Although it seems like a very simple and unassuming plant, Chickweed can be quite beneficial when incorporated into our diets. Chickweed’s uses are diverse being both edible and medicinal. As an edible herb this tender little plant has a mild lettuce like flavor with a slight little sour tang and contains numerous vitamins and minerals.

As a medicinal herb, Chickweed is considered a lymphatic herb and is indicated for swollen glands and edema. When applied topically, it helps to soothe tissue where there is redness and irritation. Chickweed acts as a diuretic and can be combined with other herbs to address urinary tract infections.

Plantain (Plantago spp.)

Plantain is one of those herbs that can be found just about everywhere. The young leaves are edible and the Plantago psyllium is the species from which we obtain psyllium seeds and husk. Psyllium is used as a laxative by some and helps to lubricate the bowels while creating bulk. As a wound healing herb, Plantain is top notch. Plantain contains a constituent called allantoin which increases cell proliferation and other constituents which help to reduce inflammation and pain. When taken internally it can benefit conditions such as ulcerations, gut permeability, hemorrhage, diarrhea, dysentery, hemorrhoids and infections.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion is one of the first herbs to pop up in the spring and is a traditional wild food. The leaves are slightly bitter as well as acting as a mild diuretic. The leaves can be added to a salad or sautéed and are high in vitamins and minerals. The root is one of our traditional bitter herbs which improves digestion, supports the liver and acts as mild laxative.

Violets (Viola spp.)

Violet leaves and flowers are edible and can be added to salads, vinegar, as a thickener or candied. Steeping the leaves and flowers in cool water over night helps to extract the vitamins and minerals from the plant as well as creating a tea rich in soluble fiber.  Violet is a wonderful herb to use to help reduce inflammation and to soothe irritation in a host of different conditions such as constipation (lubricates the bowels), sore throats, dry coughs, red and angry looking skin conditions, etc. As a lymphatic herb, it can help to reduce swollen glands, abscesses and has also been used topically for mastitis and fibrocystic breasts.

yellow dock plant and seeds
Yellow dock plant and leaves (left); yellow dock seeds (right). Photos by Natalie Vickery

Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)

The root of yellow dock is used medicinally and is bitter, therefore affording it all the qualities attributed to bitter herbs such as improving digestion, absorption, metabolism and nutrition. The young leaves may be eaten raw in small quantities but contain high amounts of oxalic acid which is reduced when cooked. The seeds of the yellow dock plant can be dried, ground and used like flour in various recipes.

So, before you rush out to purchase the latest very expensive and very harsh cleanse, consider incorporating this gentle approach into your daily lives. It is always better to support the body naturally rather than trying to force the healing process.

Disclaimer: Never consume any plant without positively identifying it first.


All information and resources provided are based on the opinions and experiences of the author, unless otherwise noted. Information is intended to encourage readers to do their own research and come to their own conclusions, and should never substitute or replace the recommendations of a qualified healthcare provider. Always consult your physician before making changes to your diet, exercise, or general wellness plan, even when using holistic methods.

Herbal Vinegar: An Easy, Versatile Folk Remedy

Herbal-Vinegar-Blog-Photo
Photo by Sarah Baldwin

Vinegar has been one of humanity’s staple brews for millennia, with the earliest known record of its use dating back 10,000 years. Its discovery was likely a happy accident when wine was left out and exposed to air, allowing wild yeasts to ferment the beverage into the health-promoting concoction we know as vinegar. In fact, the word vinegar comes from the French term vin aigre, meaning “sour wine.”

Benefits of Vinegar

There are many different types of vinegar, and most of them possess medicinal properties even without the addition of herbs. Vinegar has been used in folk medicine for numerous issues from indigestion and arthritis to wounds and warts. Many folks consider it to be a health-promoting tonic and imbibe vinegar daily to ease various chronic issues and maintain vibrant health.

Vinegar has been used as an antimicrobial long before the term was created. In times of plague during the Middle Ages, an herbal vinegar known as Four Thieves was used to prevent infection by legendary French robbers who stole from the dead and dying. According to Maggie Oster in her book Herbal Vinegar, recipes for Four Thieves vary, but they often include rosemary, rue, sage, wormwood, mint, lavender, and camphor.

Indeed, modern research has shown vinegar to have antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-tumor properties. It can also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as normalize blood sugar. Adding vinegar to a meal promotes better absorption of calcium, which is especially important for aging women. In fact, vinegar does a great job of extracting minerals from foods and herbs and making them more available to our bodies. Herb-infused vinegars combine the best of both worlds: You get the healing power of plants combined with the added mineral absorption and health benefits of vinegar.

Making Herbal Vinegar

Herbal vinegars are easy to make, very similar to crafting a tincture. Mineral-rich medicinals like chickweed and nettle as well as aromatic leaves like bergamot and lemon balm make great vinegar infusions. You can also choose spicy plants like garlic and ginger or other kitchen-friendly herbs such as rosemary and dill. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a good choice because it’s readily available at health food stores in an organic, unpasteurized form. You can use the simpler's method of chopping up fresh herbs, filling a jar, and covering the herbs completely with ACV. Or, you can weigh out one ounce of fresh herbs for every two liquid ounces of vinegar.

Be sure to use a plastic lid, since vinegar will corrode metal lids quickly. In a pinch, you can also put a layer of plastic wrap between your lid and the jar. Depending on the desired strength and flavor, let the herbs soak for 2-6 weeks, shaking the jar daily. Then simply strain out the plants and enjoy!

Versatile Vinegar

Herbal vinegars have a wide variety of applications both topical and internal. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Just like other herbal extracts, you can use herbal vinegars medicinally. Start with one tablespoon in a full glass of water daily.
  • Herbal vinegars preserve the flavor of your herbs and are a great way to season foods. Splash vinegar on cooked greens, add some olive oil and enjoy it as a salad dressing, or use it to liven up soups and other dishes.
  • ACV is great for the skin, so herbal vinegars can be added to bath water or used as a hair rinse. For example, try nettle vinegar as hair rinse to alleviate dandruff or simply to add luster to your locks.
  • Herbal vinegars make great homemade gifts! Pour the infused vinegar into decorative bottles and add a sprig of the fresh plant. You can also tie a label to the neck of the bottle listing suggested uses or recipes.

Sarah Baldwin is immersed in the world of herbalism, writing and teaching about the physical and spiritual benefits of healing plants. She is the author of The Herbal Healing Deck, an earthy and mystical oracle deck featuring guidance and wisdom from medicinal plants. Sarah is a regular contributor to Plant Healer Magazine and The Herbarium and has also written course material for The Herbal Academy. Her interests include gardening, yoga, meditation, dance, and music.

Dandelions: If You Can't Beat 'Em, Eat 'Em!

Dandelions love us. How do we know? Dandelions not only bring health and healing to our entire digestive system, but also contain inulin. Inulin is a prebiotic, a food for our gut flora. That means that dandelions help to provide food and a healthy, strong “home.” Food and shelter. The basic needs of all beings.

bees on dandelion flower
Photo by Suzanne Tabert

Dandelion is a digestive bitter. It heals, nourishes, and balances the entire digestive tract, including the liver. Our entire digestive system comprises our mouth, esophagus, stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, large and small intestines, and colon. The small intestine is where 80% of the body's relaxing neurotransmitters are created, and 70 percent of immune activity occurs. By strengthening and nourishing the digestive tract, including the small intestine, dandelion helps a body have healthier nerve function and better immunity. As moods are a function of nerve strength, it seems once again that dandelions wish to bring us the healing we need to cope with day to day stresses that can add up.

Dandelion is the premiere herb to support the liver, allowing it to be strengthened, healthy and available at all times to do the many jobs it is designed to do. Dandelions help the digestive system to obtain full nutrition from the foods we eat. It tones and nourishes the spleen, skin, nerves, kidneys, glands, the urinary, circulatory and lymphatic systems, and the gallbladder. Dandelions can aid in reduction of uric acid and reducing edema in the joints. Dandelions can be a good herbal aid for treating inflammatory diseases such as chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.

Dandelion acts as a diuretic, removing excess water from the body, while adding potassium and other minerals. Commercial diuretics remove potassium and minerals from the body. Potassium is vital to cardiac health; therefore, dandelions may be a good choice as a diuretic.

That's a lot of healing and nutrition from a plant that most people try to eradicate from their yard and gardens!

It so easy to get dandelion’s medicine in us as all parts of the plant are edible and delicious any time of year.  In the spring, fill a jar with unopened flower buds, and a half part each of chopped onions, garlic, and grated ginger. Fill the jar to the top with 2 parts organic unpasteurized apple cider vinegar and 1 part liquid aminos or tamari. Let steep for a couple weeks before using as a healthy yet tasty condiment.

My Dad’s grandma used to send him out to pick dandelion leaves in the spring and cooked them up with onions, garlic, and bacon for a nutritious and inexpensive side dish. Feel free to substitute olive oil for the bacon grease if you wish.

As the seasons progress, the dandelion flowers infused in oil make a wonderful rub for strains and bruises. The fresh leaves and flower petals are a valuable addition to salads and sandwiches. Dandelions stimulate the digestive system and may inspire a desire to eat in those with dull appetites due to inactivity. Use the greens to make a crowd-pleasing pesto!

In the winter, dig the roots to make tinctures, vinegars, and roast them for a great tasting coffee substitute.

harvesting dandelion root
Photo by Suzanne Tabert

Roasted Dandelion Roots

Dig up the roots, clean them well, and chop them up finely by hand or food processor. Place the chopped roots on a cookie sheet about 1/2-inch thick and roast them in a 250-degree oven for about 3-4 hours until they are completely dry and dark brown. Let cool before putting the roasted roots in a jar. They’ll keep for up to a year! Substitute half the amount of coffee with roasted dandelion roots to wean off coffee. Over a few weeks, gradually add more roasted roots and less coffee until it’s all dandelion! As our bodies understand that good nutrition and medicine is coming in, it will begin to crave what’s good and forget to ask for what is not so good. Now that’s good medicine, hey? Personally, I love roasted dandelion root decoction with herbal honey and raw cream. The taste is full bodied and satisfying.

dandelion greens
Photo by Suzanne Tabert

Dandelion Greens Pesto

• 4 cups washed dandelion greens. Do not blanch.
• 2/3 to 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1 cup nuts of your choice –  almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, etc.
• 2-6 cloves garlic according to taste
• 1/4 cup romano or parmesan cheese

Put all ingredients in a food processor and process on high until creamy, making sure all ingredients are well blended. Use the pesto on baked potatoes, as a dip, on pizza, noodles; the choices are endless! The pesto can be frozen for up to a year. Bon appetit!

Thank you, Dandelions! Thank you, my friends! As always, I’m Wild About Plants and so happy to share some of what I know with you all. Take care and happy spring!

Essential Oils for Nasal Allergy Relief

Find the right essential oil blend during the allergy season to help regulate allergy symptoms via inhalation, topical application, and aromatic use. 

flower-allergies
Photo by Getty Images/swissmediavision

There is nothing like the first signs of spring, the birds are chirping and the garden is returning to life.  We find ourselves outdoors and ready to explore nature … until the allergies kick in. Our eyes begin to water and suddenly we are unable to breathe clearly. Welcome to allergy season! Most of us have been there, we immediately reach out for a nose spray or an antihistamine medication. This is our way of coping with spring, and most of the time it works. However; there is an alternative, more natural way of handling allergies and the occasional cold.

Essential oils can help regulate allergy symptoms via inhalation, topical application, and aromatic use. Aromahead recommends several possible blends for allergy relief, including both eucalyptus and tea tree essential oils. These oils are both particularly effective when dealing with allergy symptoms that manifest as nasal discomfort and an itchy, runny nose.

Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata) has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, making it easy to understand why this essential oil can aid with allergens. Because eucalyptus is also an expectorant, it can help ease congestion due to pollen exposure or a common cold. The scent of eucalyptus is fresh and medicinal, which I find instantly refreshing.

eucalyptus-leaf
Photo by Getty Images/tarzhanova

Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is great for respiratory, oral issues, and skin care. Because of this, I keep tea tree oil in hand at all times. In the case of allergies, tea tree is wonderful as an expectorant. Most importantly, it is one of the best oils to treat infections, including bacterial, fungal, and viral.

Allergy Relief Inhaler Recipe

One of my favorite ways to access the allergy-reliving properties of both tea tree and eucalyptus essential oil is by making a simple inhaler.

Ingredients:

1 blank inhaler

8 drops eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata) essential oil

8 drops tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) essential oil

Directions: Unscrew the bottom of the inhaler and carefully drip the essential oils onto the inhaler’s cotton wick. Hold the tube upside down, and reinsert the cotton stick into the inhaler.

Use the inhaler every 15 minutes for an hour by holding the wand near your noise and inhaling deeply. The inhaler should alleviate congestion.

For additional information, check out this video for how to make an aromatherapy inhaler.

Allergy Relief Diffuser Recipe

If you have an electric diffuser, then try diffusing a few drops each of eucalyptus and tea tree essential oil.

Ingredients:

2 drops eucalyptus (Eucalyptus radiata) essential oil

2 drops tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) essential oil

Directions: Fill an electric diffuser with filtered water to the max line. Add the eucalyptus and tea tree essential oil drops. Diffuse for 30 minutes to an hour.

If you suffer from asthma, then use care when using eucalyptus and turn off the diffuser (or stop using your inhaler) if your body shows signs of discomfort.

Choosing essential oils for simple ailments is a lifestyle change that might require gradual assimilation. Essential oils have changed the way I approach common life events, from emotional health to seasonal allergies, and I’m always happy to learn about effective natural remedies that can replace over-the-counter medications.

Learning the power of plants is a beautiful journey. Our Earth has given us these magnificent herbs; It’s our job to re-introduce them to our modern lives.


Queren was inspired to write this blog post during her time enrolled in Aromahead’s Aromatherapy Certification program. She is a photographer and Digital Content Assistant for Mother Earth Living. 

5 Ayurveda Myths Busted

Ayurveda, with its rich history, attracts people from all around the world. It is not just a health system but rather a lifestyle, as well as a tradition. And the long tradition and ancient nature makes Ayurveda misunderstood quite a lot of times. This makes people hesitant when approaching Ayurveda.

Though I was using Ayurvedic medicines from my childhood, the knowledge and interaction with this tradition came during my BAMS studies. Now that I am a practitioner and educator of Ayurveda in United States, I come across a lot of myths about this ancient wisdom. Here,I would like to elaborate on a handful of myths and misconceptions about Ayurveda. The main reason behind many of these misconceptions will be the public's lack of proper awareness about this science.

traditional ayurvedic medicine
Photo by Adobe Stock/nilanewsom

Myth No. 1: Ayurvedic medicine is less effective and takes longer to cure.

Fact: This aspect of slow cure is because Ayurveda does not just pacify the symptoms, but uproots the cause and causative factors. Another important thing is that people tend to approach Ayurveda medicine after they have tried other medical systems, this face also delays the effect of the medicines. If approached at the initial stage of the disease the results can be seen soon. Also, the amount of time taken to cure each person depends on how soon the issue was found, the severity, the receptiveness of the body to the remedy, and the dedication with which the patient follows the routine.

Myth No. 2: Ayurveda is purely vegan.

Fact: Though people became deep rooted in this belief, if one sees the classics in Ayurveda the detailed description of most of the meat, egg, milk, and milk products have been dealt in this science. For example, the use of meat soup (Mamsa rasa) is strongly advised as a treatment for emaciation. Only when the people are spiritually inclined do we recommend pure vegetarianism or veganism.

Myth No. 3: Ayurveda prescribes strict dietary restrictions, or Pathya.

Fact: Certain dietary restrictions are necessary and this fact has been recognized even by modern medicine. For example, salt restriction in edema, sugar restriction in diabetes, milk and milk product restriction in prostate cancer, and so on. A pathya diet need not always be sugar-, salt-, or condiment-free. It can be palatable, acceptable, and nourishing to the patient while simultaneously serving the genuine purpose of a dietary regimen.

Myth No. 4: Ayurveda has no side effects.

Fact: Even the food we eat in improper ways ends up in various diseases, so how can medicine be free from side effects? If consumed without proper instructions and knowledge, Ayurveda medicines can cause a lot of side effects like acidity, aches, muscular spasms, and skin diseases. Improper timing and dosage, as well as expiry of herbs can cause side effects even in Ayurveda. All herbal products are not Ayurvedic. Though it may contain herbs and natural products, medicines have other ingredients like metals, ghee, rock salt, honey, and some synthetic products in some cases. So never get a medicine over-the-counter thinking Ayurveda is without any side effects.

Myth No. 5: Ayurveda medicines lack clinical testing; it is simply home remedies.

Fact: Ayurveda is time-tested and is regulated through Drug and Cosmetic Act 1940 under which pharmacopoeia standards, including Standard Operating Procedures and Good Manufacturing Practices, are mandatory. Make sure you get medicine from a registered Ayurvedic practitioner and be aware of quacks.

The list is never ending, but I have addressed the major concerns about Ayurveda here with the top five. People have framed their own opinion, developed wrong notions, and totally misconceived Ayurveda and hence have lost confidence in the effectiveness of Ayurvedic treatment.

The tradition and legacy of Ayurveda is going to stay forever and continue to help mankind uproot the diseases and prevent the cause. Make sure to have personal interaction with qualified Ayurveda doctors and practitioners for health concerns. Spreading awareness about this science is the only way to clear myths about Ayurveda and its tradition.


All information and resources provided are based on the opinions and experiences of the author, unless otherwise noted. Information is intended to encourage readers to do their own research and come to their own conclusions, and should never substitute or replace the recommendations of a qualified healthcare provider. Always consult your physician before making changes to your diet, exercise, or general wellness plan, even when using holistic methods.

Nritya Yoga

Yoga and Indian Classical Dance are inseparable. Nritya Yoga is a combination of dance and yoga, both of which have common roots that go back thousands of years.

What is the importance of Nritya Yoga?

Yoga has become an increasingly popular form of exercise worldwide. By combining yoga with the mudras and hitting toes and heels on the ground the benefits of acupressure will be received as well. Concentration is really important while you dance to music. Therefore, Nritya Yoga gives the benefits of meditation, as well.

What are the components of Nritya Yoga?

Nritya Yoga constitutes Hasta Mudras (hand gestures), Shiro Bhedas (head movements), Drishti Bhedas (eye movements), Greeva Bhedas (neck movements), and Adavus (basic steps with feet)
Nritya Yoga starts with prayers to Lord Shiva, who is said to be the king of dance. The dancing form of Lord Shiva is known as Nataraja, and this offering to Lord Shiva is called as Dhyana Shloka which says:

“Whose bodily movement is the entire Universe
Whose speech is the language (of the Universe)
Whose ornaments are the moon and the stars
Him, we version the pure (serene) Lord Shiva!”

nritya yoga standing pose
Photo by Arya Krishna

Mudras

Mudras start electromagnetic currents within the body which balance various constituting elements and restore health. Mudras have been classified in to Asamyukta Hastas (done using single hand) and Samyukta Hastas (done using both hands).

Benefits of Hasta Mudras (Hand Gestures)

It can be practiced at all times while sitting, lying, standing, walking or even talking. For good results, they should be practiced for 24 minutes continuously, but can be practiced for 4-5 minutes also at one time. If a mudra cannot be made in both hands, you may do it with one hand only.

Mudras have the power to increase concentration and memory. They've also been considered a cure for insomnia (sleeplessness), and may help in psychological conditions like anger, stress, and depression. It even controls the high cholesterol levels.

Adavus

Adavus form the ABCs of pure dancing (Nritta) in Bharatanatyam. It is a combination of position of legs, postures of standing, walking, movement, and hand gestures.

Benefits of Adavus (Footwork)

• It helps to develop flexibility and overcome the initial muscle cramps and sore feet at the beginning stages
• Attain proper posture
• Develop stamina
• Become swift and agile, and attain control over the body

nritya yoga squat
Photo by Arya Krishna

Shirobhedas

Shirobhedas are the movements of head. These are nine in number.

Sama: Equal or not moving, beginning of any Nritya
Udvahitha: When head is raised up
Aadhomukha: When you look down
Aalolita: Circular movements of head
Dhuta: Move your head side-to-side
Kampita: Moving head up and down (it’s a kind of nod)
Paravrittam: Forcefully turning face to one side
Ukshitam: Tilted upwards any side
Parivahitha: Kind of satisfaction or wavy movement of head

Grivabhedas

Grivabhedas are the movements of neck. These are four in number.

Sundari: Movement of neck side-to-side with minimum body movements
Tiraschina: V-shaped movement of neck
Parivartita: Semi circle or moon-shaped movement of neck
Prakampita: Movement of neck forward and backward

Benefits of Shirobhedas and Grivabhedas

Side-to-side head rotations and neck movements may help decrease tightness in the sides and back of your neck. They will also help increase mobility, and act as physical exercise for increasing brain activities.

nritya yoga
Photo by Arya Krishna

Drishti Bhedas

Drishti bhedas are movements of eyes. These are eight in number.

Samam: Evenness of the eyes
Allokita: Circular movement of the eye
Saachi: Glancing from corner of the eye
Pralokitha: Glancing to both the sides
Nimilitha: Looking right in to the heart
Ullokitha: Eyes raised upwards
Anuvritta: Up and down movement of the eye
Avalokita: Eyes glance down to earth

Benefits of Eye Exercises

Not only can these exercises reduce tiredness and stress around the eyes, they can also strengthen eye muscles and improve sight, while reducing the risks of many eye diseases in later life.

Eyestrain mainly occurs due to hours in front of a computer. The symptoms include tired eyes, headache, blurred vision, stress, difficulty focusing on distance, differences in color perception etc. These symptoms can be removed completely by following these simple exercises for 10 to 15 minutes daily.

Combination of basic yoga, Mudras and Adavus along with bhavas will help you to conquer Nritya Yoga. 

The benefits are many, as already mentioned:

• Improved body balance
• Eye movements act as eye exercises
• Improving memory and concentration
• Improved blood circulation and helps to get closer to a healthier heart
• Increases aerobic fitness and controls weight

“Where the hand goes, eyes should move. Where the eyes move, mind should follow. And where the mind goes there will be the expressions and where expressions are there it can recreate emotions.” (Natya Shastra – Indian Treatise of Performing Arts)

Let this therapeutic dance form bring physical and spiritual wellness with happiness all around.


All information and resources provided are based on the opinions and experiences of the author, unless otherwise noted. Information is intended to encourage readers to do their own research and come to their own conclusions, and should never substitute or replace the recommendations of a qualified healthcare provider. Always consult your physician before making changes to your diet, exercise, or general wellness plan, even when using holistic methods.