Calming, Cleansing And Rejuvenating Herbal Treats For Yoga (or just anytime!)

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Behold the Lemon Balm & Wild Rose Tea and Chocolate Rose & Dandelion Root Energy Bites I’ll be serving for Restorative Herbal Yoga For Spring – the very first session of The Yoga Apothecary. Because I’m so grateful that this very first class is full (and that so many others of you have wanted to attend) I’ve decided to share the recipes for the treats that we’ll be sampling in class, so you can also enjoy their healing and revitalizing gifts at home.

In these classes we’ll be marrying the benefits of cleansing, calming and rejuvenative herbs, with restorative yoga postures and breath. Our focus is on releasing the stagnant tension and toxins that get “stuck” in our bodies over winter – allowing the fresh life giving energy of spring to flow IN. And to help us to do that, we’ll be calling in plant allies like Lemon Balm, Wild Rose and Dandelion Root!  So before our practice we’ll sip a fragrant and uplifting lemon balm and wild rose petal tea – spiked with a grounding dandelion root tincture.

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Left: Dandelion Root Tincture  Right:  Steeping Tea

Lemon balm is a delicious lemony herb in the mint family that helps soothe anxiety and calm the nervous system, this will help us relax and release tension in our bodies as we practice. The loving energy of rose and her heavenly volatile oils also help us to enter a deeply relaxed state. Her anti-depressant qualities and ability to uplift the heart and spirits are also well known. These benefits in yoga therapy, and especially in restorative yoga, are important physiologically to healing – because without first feeling safe and relaxed, we cannot fully restore.

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Stress and chronic tension can often get held in the body, from our jaw, neck, shoulders, bellies, hips and most especially our psoas muscle (which connects our legs to our torso). This can keep our flight/fight/freeze sympathetic nervous system activated, and turn down the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Sadly this can bring a host of negative effects from hampering digestion, dampening our immune system, compromising cellular repair and exhausting our adrenals etc. So we’ll be calling on the power of our lemon balm and wild rose petal tea to help us release tension, deeply relax  and switch our healing parasympathetic nervous system back on. (more detail on this here)

In yoga, the First or Root chakra is related to issues of survival, security and feelings of being safe and stable. Located at the base of the spine, it governs our feet, legs, hips and psoas muscle, and is the source of our life-giving connection to the earth. And if we take a lesson from mother nature, she teaches us there is no standing strong without first rooting down. Feelings of being ungrounded, anxious or depressed, of never feeling truly safe in the world, can signal a first chakra imbalance.

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And so the perfect 1st chakra remedy is dandelion!  Because if you’ve ever tried digging up dandelion’s roots you know the true meaning of being deeply, firmly and stubbornly rooted in the earth. And there’s no doubt about why dandelion is a premiere root chakra plant, she’s truly a sunny survivor and prolific thriver!

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Her roots have been used for thousands of years to cleanse and revitalize organ systems of the lower body, from bladder, to kidneys, to liver. Dandelion also improves digestive system function and encourages the release of toxins from our blood. (This is especially helpful when chronic constriction in our lower bodies, impedes the fresh of nutrients, lymph and waste.)

Filled with vitamins A, C, D and B complex, minerals such as zinc, silicon,  iron, calcium and potassium, dandelion root contains more betacarotene than carrots!  And because it’s so packed with healing nutrients (which helps restore the optimal function of our cells and organs) we’ll end our class with a Chocolate Rose & Dandelion Root Energy Bites- to help nourish and fortify of course!

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Yes they’re pretty yummy! And don’t worry, you won’t even notice the dandelion. Gluten free and packed with almonds, sunflower seeds, chopped fresh dandelion root, cocoa powder, organic chocolate chips and all ever so slightly perfumed with rose water, they’re ready to root, cleanse and restore you anytime – not just after yoga!

Finding dandelion root is pretty easy, while digging her roots out may take some effort. Cut in deep around the centre of the plant with a sharp tool or trowel, then pull up the whole clump. Pull out roots. You’ll need to wash these thoroughly and then chop for use in the recipe. And if you can’t find any (how can that be?!) dried dandelion root can be bought at the store and whirred up in a coffee grinder to make a fine powder. You’ll just add this powder to your recipe.

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You can find fresh lemon balm peeking up in most gardens right now -and their tender first leaves are just filled with the revitalizing energy of spring! I’ve used dried wild rose petals from my own, but they can be purchased at most herbal stores, as can the dandelion root tincture. But if you can’t find all of ingredients, don’t worry, just use what you have, lemon balm or rose on their own will still do the trick.

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So if you’re looking to enjoy these herbal spring treats with yoga, remember before you practice to take some quiet mindful time with your tea. Close your eyes, and inhale the tea’s fragrance, then take a sip and taste. Note any feelings or emotions that rise. Now see if you can bring these sensations together to form a sense memory you can reimagine and call on in practice.

Restorative yoga should be slow, movements should be gentle. Any sudden or quick moves can cause the body to tighten – which is what we don’t want!  You might want to begin lying on the floor, taking time to settle down and feel all parts of the body supported by the earth. Using belly breath (place both hands over the navel area and slowly breathe in feeling the belly rise up and then on exhale feeling the belly fall under your fingers) begin to relax into the floor, allowing yourself to deeply sink into the earth’s supportive energy…

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Using postures like knee to chest (apanasana) and happy baby (ananda balasana) use the exhale of the breath to soften your hips, gently releasing the tops of the thighs and psoas muscle. (see illustrations below) Don’t wrench your knees up close to your chest all at once, take your time, calling in the fragrance memory of the rose and lemon balm, as you breathe.  Allow their calming energy to move through you. Remember also to soften your mouth, neck, shoulders, chest and belly.

And if you’d like to release deeper, try Garland Pose (malasana). You might want to sit on a block  or high firm pillow if your heels come up off the floor, you want your feet on the ground for this posture. Concentrate on feeling the rooting through the toes, heels feet, legs, and breathe, allowing the pelvic floor to open, bringing in fresh blood flow to the lower body. Call on Dandelion root’s cleansing and nourishing powers to help revitalize your root chakra area.

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Top image from ktrnaaa

But remember – you can enjoy Lemon Balm & Wild Rose Tea anytime you feel stressed or overwhelmed. And following your tea up with one (or two) Chocolate Rose & Dandelion Root Energy Bites will help ground you after.  And remember, just taking some quiet time for self care, even if it is gifting your senses with aromatic tea and a tasty, nourishing treat, is pretty rejuvenating! So relax, release and restore, and invite in the revitalizing energy of spring!

Lemon Balm & Wild Rose Tea w/ Dandelion Tincture

(makes enough for two cups)

  • Couple of handfuls of fresh lemon balm leaves.
  • One handful dried rose petals
  • Add two cups of boiling water and let steep (covered!) for about 10 -15 minutes.
  • Strain and serve.
  • Add 2 droppers full of Dandelion tincture to each cup (about 10 ml total)
  • Enjoy!

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Chocolate Rose & Dandelion Root Energy Bites

Makes about 1 dozen

  • 2 heaping tablespoons of chopped fresh dandelion root
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup organic chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons coconut butter or oil
  • 1 tablespoons rose water

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Mix all ingredients well into a wet dough (it will be very sticky)
  • Form into little balls best you can and place in mini-cupcake tins
  • Bake for 20 – 25 minutes
  • Cool and serve!

Yoga Apothecary: Nourish Your Third Chakra With This Autumn Tea for Digestive Health

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” Herbs are powerful aids in the practice of yoga…They are useful not only for treating diseases and for rejuvenation but for awakening all our higher faculties.” Dr. David Frawley, The Yoga of Herbs.

I want to share a little background of how this warming, healing tea came to be – and how in conjunction with yoga practice (and even without!) it can be used to soothe even the most disgruntled tummy.

While most of you know me as a wild food enthusiast, I’m also a yoga teacher. And for the past three years I’ve been completing my yoga therapy certification – meaning I’ve been exploring the many ways yoga can be used to support health, recover from illness and manage chronic disease. And through my recent herbalism studies and apprenticeship with herbalist Betty Norton, I’ve been discovering the many ways plants can do the same. So its become obvious through both fields of study, that fusing the therapeutic benefits of herbs with the therapeutic benefits of yoga – just makes good sense.

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After all, both have been demonstrated to offer profound benefits for physical and emotional health, from supporting digestion and detoxification, balancing hormones, reducing inflammation and boosting our immune system to soothing anxiety and creating feelings of well-being!

And besides, it isn’t anything new.  Herbs and herbal medicines have been used in yoga for thousands of years. References in ancient Tantric and Vedic texts to the use of herbs and sacred plants abound.

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In yogic tradition the physical and subtle body is likened to a tree with different branches and different herbs were believed to interact with these branches in specific ways. Some cleansed and vitalized, others nourished and balanced the chakras and others facilitated the flow of prana through the bodies energy channels (or nadi’s).

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And according to Dr. David Frawley, some plants (especially wild ones) were believed to be particularly high in prana or life-giving essence (often called soma) which extended longevity and created “an exhilarating effect that promotes healing and transformative processes on all levels”.

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I find this especially intriguing because many plants with similar medicinal qualities to those used by yogis (and even direct relatives) grow all around us today. And because our bodies, like trees, are subject to the same energetic forces and seasonal cycles that flow through the landscape we live in, I personally believe that consuming locally growing plants can bring us into “healing harmony” with our direct environment.

So from wild botanicals to backyard weeds to garden herbs, I’ve been exploring the many ways common seasonal plants can be used in simple teas, infusions, tinctures, salves and essential oils to support therapeutic yoga practice.

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For example, digestive aliments are epidemic today. This is pretty bad news considering that over 80% of our immune system is housed in our gut, and that digestive health shapes every aspect of our emotional and physical well-being. But the good news is that both yoga and herbs have been shown to be effective in helping manage everything from irritable bowel syndrome to heartburn, to our ability to digest and detoxify.

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In yoga, certain postures and breathing techniques work to stimulate the fiery metabolic energy of digestion (agni). This assists the body to assimilate food while eliminating wastes and toxins (ama). So before a digestive enhancing practice that massages, compresses and opens the abdominal area (more on this later) I’ll use wild local plants and herbs like Wild Fennel, Chamomile and Dandelion which are renowned for their digestive supporting abilities.

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(left to right) Lemon Balm,  Chamomile, Wild Fennel, Dandelion

I might take a few drops of Dandelion root tincture or drink Fennel, Chamomile, Lemon Balm and Wild Violets in a tea – all of which are known to support the digestive organs, aid metabolic processes and the elimination of waste products.

Chamomile and Lemon Balm are also known to calm the nervous system, which helps when digestion is adversely affected by stress. Restorative yoga and meditative practices help calm nervous agitation and an overactive parasympathetic nervous system. So whenever I (and my belly) get particularly stressed out I use a combination of gentle relaxing postures in conjunction with mild sophoric plant tinctures (like California Poppy and Wild Lettuce) to help me chill – and get some sleep.

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California Poppy, Wild Lettuce

Another fascinating way to utilize yoga and herbs is in harmony with seasonal and astrological cycles. Early herbalists observed the connection between time of year, celestial cycles and cycles of plant growth. They believed that the same cycles that affect plant growth affect our bodies as well, so they correlated systems of the body with certain planets, which governed specific medicinal herbs.

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For example, last month was governed by Leo (July 23rd August 22nd) which oversees the cardiac system and upper back – so I practiced heart openers and backbends (Cobra and Bridge) in conjunction with heart supporting herbs like Calendula and Hawthorn.

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This month is Virgo (August 23rd to Sept 22nd) which governs our abdomen, intestinal track and digestive organs, so using Fennel ( A Virgo ruled herb) long renowned for it’s tummy soothing abilities is one obvious choice.  (For more info on Fennel click here). I’ll also be consuming Dandelions, Plantain and Yellow Dock in salads and pestos, all of which help cleanse the body and remove toxins from the internal organs.

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Wild Fennel

And while it all sounds a bit woo, I’m excited by the possibility that we can integrate ancient astrological knowledge with herbal and yogic traditions to achieve optimum levels of health, vitality and well-being.

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So in tandem with the celestial and seasonal cycles of the natural world – I offer you an autumnal recipe for a digestion enhancing wildcrafted tea. It utilizes the plants growing around you right now under the auspices of Virgo – which of course governs the entire digestive process.

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In yoga, the digestive system is under the dominion of the third chakra, the centre of command and control. This is the home of our gut feelings, and it not only gives us the will power and strength to carry out our intentions – it helps us fully digest the physical and emotional experiences of life.

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(left to right) Supine Twist, Knee to Belly, Boat, Bridge

So get in touch with power of your third chakra – and the energy of the season. This month, drink this tea before a practice of digestion enhancing postures like Pawanmuktasana (knees to belly) and gentle twists (like Bharadvaja) which compress and massage the abdominal area. Belly opening postures like Bridge and Bow pose can be used to help bring blood flow to the internal organs. And if your’e looking to fire up the empowering energy of the solar chakra, try Boat or Breath of Fire.

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 Autumn Herbal Tea For Digestion

Note: This is a list of local herbs and wild plants that promote good digestion (besides many other good things). Since this tea or infusion is meant to be “wildcrafted” you may not find all of the ingredients nearby, so just use the plants from the list that are growing near you. This will help bring you into harmony with the seasonal and energetic forces of your local landscape.

Ingredients (To make a one pot or about 16 ounces of tea)

About a tablespoon of:

-Fennel fronds, blossoms and seeds
Yarrow leaves
Skullcap leaves
Linden leaves
Mint (Wild if you can find it)
Lemon Balm leaves
Chamomile blossoms
Queen Anne Lace blossoms
Chrysanthemum and/or Sea Aster blossoms
-2 cups of hot water

Directions

-Muddle your plants (meaning gently crush them with a mortal and pestle or the back of a wooden spoon)
-Boil water
-Remove water from heat then place your herbs in the hot water
-Let infuse for 10 -15 minutes
-Strain and drink

Note: Starting this October I’ll be offering a series of yoga classes that will utilize locally growing common plants and herbs. If you live in Victoria and are interested in participating or learning more – send me an email here.