For centuries, Zen masters have used stories and koans, or paradoxical riddles, to help students realize their true nature. These stories are often puzzling and may seem nonsensical, but ponder them yourself and you might emerge wiser and more self-aware. Here are seven of our favorite Zen stories.
MARCH 25, 2015 5:53 AM EDT
Ayurveda, the 5000-year-old Indian science of natural medicine, is as much a lifestyle guidance on an individual’s well-being as it is a powerful system of medicine that delivers long-lasting results by addressing the fundamental, root causes of disease.
Within Ayurveda, the relationship between humans and their environment is considered sacred, and maintaining that balance is foundational to our well-being since everything in the universe is believed to consist of five basic elements: Ether (space), Water, Fire, Earth and Air.
They manifest themselves within the human constitution in three basic doshas: Vata (Ether and Air), Pitta (Fire and Water) and Kapha (Earth and Water). Understanding your dosha helps guide you in lifestyle choices, as well as in diagnosing the causes of imbalance within your body.
Simply put, ailments (from stress to acne to stomach aches) originate when there’s an imbalance. All Ayuvedic treatments work by bringing these principles back into balance. Before we get started, it’s important that you determine your Ayurverdic skin type:
- Vata skin tends to be dry, darker and with a tendency for roughness. Cool to the touch and often thin, this type of skin is especially likely to experience excessive dryness, flakiness and even eczema in times of stress.
- Pitta skin is typically soft, oily, fair to pale with a warm complexion. Medium thick, this type of skin is more prone to rashes, acne and sores when experiencing an imbalance.
- Kapha skin is thick, oily, typically very light and cool to the touch. Kapha skin tends to show enlarged pores, blackheads and water retention in times of imbalance.
Armed with this understanding, let’s start to explore Ayurvedic rituals that work to deliver beauty. Here are three areas of life where listening to your dosha and taking action to correct any imbalances is crucial to the quality of your skin:
Food and water form the core of nourishment for your skin, so eat well and eat for your type. It seems rather obvious, but Ayurveda recommends that you eat by acknowledging the body’s natural triggers of hunger or thirst.
How much you consume at a time is also important. Ayurveda suggests that your stomach be filled a third each with food, water and air at mealtime, with an emphasis on fresh foods. The guiding thought here is that incompatible foods create toxins, which in turn create the imbalance in your basic doshas.
The best foods to correct imbalances in your dosha:
- Vata: Avoid dried fruits, apples, melons, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, beef and peas. Eat avocados, sweet fruits, cherries and oranges.
- Pitta: Avoid tomatoes, garlic, sour fruits, bananas, peanuts and spicy foods. Eat prouts, green salads, sunflower seeds, mangos, pears, plums and mushrooms.
- Kapha: Avoid coconut, dates, pineapples and dairy products. Eat dried fruits, pomegranate, cranberries and basmati rice.
2. Lifestyle & Exercise
Lifestyle habits and exercise have a huge impact on the health and vitality of your skin. Overarching lifestyle guidance within Ayurveda includes waking before sunrise and going to sleep before 10PM; eating breakfast before 8AM, lunch before noon and dinner before sunset.
Activity and exercise is beneficial across the board for the skin (and for eliminating the toxins that cause skin ailments).
The best yoga asanas to correct imbalances in your dosha:
- Vata: head stands, backward bends, plows, cobra, locust and lotus poses
- Pitta: shoulder stands, half wheel, hidden lotus and fish poses
- Kapha: boat, lion, palm tree, half wheel and spinal twist poses
3. Skin Care
Now that we’ve taken care of how to eat and move, let’s focus on how to actually treat your skin depending on your dosha.
Vata: This skin type dries quickly and is especially vulnerable to shifts in weather. Vata skin must be protected from harsh heat and cold, and pampered to retain its natural oils and moisture. Avoid hot water baths and showers (they can dry your skin out), be sure to use pH-balanced soaps and drink lots of water for hydration from the inside out.
You may also want to steam your skin with mint leaves and water to open your pores and increase circulation. Try gently massaging aloe vera onto your skin when you need extra moisture. Antioxidant-rich avocado is also great for vata skin as it’s full of fatty acids and vitamins.
Pitta: This skin is very susceptible to rashes, so it needs to be treated gently. Cleansing with rose water, exfoliating with a sugar scrub and moisturizing with coconut oil are all great options.
Kapha: This skin type is usually oily and prone to acne, so it’s important to avoid dairy in your diet. In terms of skin care, exfoliating with a sea salt and honey scrub is a good option, as is adding turmeric to your regimen.
BY ANNIE YATES
MARCH 15, 2015 5:35 AM EDT
So much modern skin care comes from a bottle or jar, and advertisements make health and beauty look complicated, leading us to believe that we need a chemicals and secret formulas to remain attractive and young.
But there’s a lot more to skin and nail care than anti-wrinkle creams and miracle serums — it’s important to consider not only what we put in and on our bodies, but also how our thoughts and emotions affect the way we look.
Sure, we all like simple solutions to fix problems, quite often ignoring the cause. For example, stress isn’t just a mental state. It takes a toll on our appearance, with our skin becoming dry and pale, and the tension in our muscles can make our faces appear lined and wrinkled. To compound this, we often neglect ourselves when we feel stressed and rundown, leading to a less-than-ideal diet. We indulge in sugar, caffeine and alcohol, all of which can affect skin cell hydration and make our skin look dull and dry.
Together with a good diet and exercise, regular meditation is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety, and give ourselves time to breathe and gain perspective. Try introducing meditation to your beauty regimen with this simple daily practice that easily fits into your schedule.
As with all natural beauty, I always encourage people to be realistic when it comes to results. Nothing pure and natural is a quick fix — there are no miracle creams or meditations with dramatic results. Rather, that improvements will be seen over time as your wellbeing improves.
Before you start …
- Make sure you’re wearing comfortable clothing. Anything tight and restrictive may draw attention from the moment.
- Choose a comfortable seat. I recommend sitting upright in a comfortable chair with your back supported. When I’m feeling under the weather, I sometimes choose to lie flat on my back.
- I often like to perform alternate nostril breathing a few minutes before starting my meditation.
A Simple Meditation For Natural Beauty
Close your eyes and mouth, breathing normally or taking a few deep breaths through your nose. Bring your awareness to your breath and focus on inhaling and exhaling. Try to take you mind away from your thoughts and focus on your breathing. In and out.As thoughts pop into your head, acknowledge them, then brush them aside. This will continue to happen, but it’s important that you quickly shift your focus back to the meditation. This gets easier the more you practice.Aim to practice this mediation every day for 10-15 minutes. It may be useful to meditate more often during times of stress.The benefits of regular simple mediation …
- Lowers blood pressure
- Decreased anxiety and stress levels
- Increased happiness and energy levels
- Improved immune system
- Better sleep
… and these in turn will have numerous beauty benefits!
BY DAVID ZULBERG
FEBRUARY 11, 2015 5:40 AM EST
In a world of conflicting advice from all sorts of health and fitness professionals, it’s easy to lose sight of the most important principles of health. I find it refreshing and a breath of fresh air to return to the wisdom of some of the greatest minds of all time, and simply get back to the basics.
With that in mind, here are eight quotes that are centuries old, yet still shed light on what makes for optimal health.
1. “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” – Aristotle
Do you often wonder why it’s so hard to keep to your diet and fitness goals? We often think in terms of seeking enjoyment or pleasure for its own sake, but if an activity is productive, Aristotle teaches us that it can also be the key to its perfection and optimal success.
The same applies to diet and fitness. If you resent your diet plan or dread your exercise routine, it’s only a matter of time before you throw in the towel. Make sure your exercise workouts are varied and fun. Add some of your favorite foods in moderation to your meals and avoid extreme diets. Then not only will you take pleasure in the journey, but you’ll also succeed in your health and fitness goals.
2. “Without exercise, a good diet alone is not sufficient and eventually medical treatment will be needed.” –Hippocrates
In a world where “skinny” is the ultimate goal, we often associate it with idyllic health. But looking skinny, even if you’re eating a well-balanced diet, is simply not sufficient for ideal health.
Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, wrote more than 2,000 years ago about the many health benefits of exercise and the illnesses that result from a sedentary lifestyle. Simply put, without exercise, you’ll eventually require the expertise of a doctor.
3. “Walking is man’s best medicine.” – Hippocrates
With so many new fitness programs out there, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, which often leads to skipping exercise completely! One of the most effective exercises is a simple walk outside. If you cant make it to the gym or just aren’t in the mood to work out, don’t skip your daily exercise. Take a walk around the block for 10 to 20 minutes, and you’ll still gain the many health benefits of cardio exercise.
4. “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” – Hippocrates
Even after all the recent achievements in science and medicine, exercise and diet are still the most effective health solutions. The key is to find the right balance. Don’t overexercise or overeat, even the best foods. Don’t under-eat or do too little exercise. Moderation is fundamental for optimal health and prevention of illness.
5. “Don’t explain your philosophy. Embody it.” – Epictetus
We often talk about our fitness and diet opinions with enthusiasm, yet fail to actually implement them. We have grandiose plans and complex resolutions. But how real are our beliefs if we don’t live them? Turn your theories into action, starting today!
6. “One should eat to live, not live to eat.” – Benjamin Franklin
We all have our favorite foods and ‘treats’. There is nothing wrong with making exceptions once in a while. The problem is when exceptions become the rule. The body requires food for its sustenance and its vitality. How many of us really view food this way? Think about it. The food you eat does not simply vanish. Every cell in our body is affected. Choose foods that will improve your quality of life and health.
7. “God has entrusted me with myself.” – Epictetus
If you don’t take your personal success into your own hands, no one will do it for you. We may not be in control of every external influence or experience but we do have free choice and control of what we do and think. Excuses and placing blame on others or situations will simply stall any progress. Start with small practical changes. Ultimately, your success is dependent on you.
8. “A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body.” – Proverbs 14:30
Both ancient writings and current scientific research show that stress affects our emotional well-being and physical health. Exercise has been shown to reduce stress significantly. Find ways to distress everyday and make the most of your life and well-being.