Archive | Product Reviews

Love Potion, I Mean Love Oil

I visited Pratima Spa in Soho last June. Was quite a treat as I have been a fan of Dr. Pratima Raichur book Absolute Beauty since 2003.

In honor of the upcoming holiday, I want to tell you about their Love Oil, which I used and love. Smells and feels just wonderful. Scent of cinnamon, clove and cardamon as well as rose, lavender and vanilla. You can use in the bath or as a massage oil. Her products have no preservatives so use it!

You can buy here.

Ayurvedic Skin Care in the Cold Season

Or Vata season. Dr. Pratima Raichur is the author of Absolute Beauty, to me the bible of Ayurvedic health. I discovered her nearly 10 years ago and gave her book to all my friends who came and celebrated my birthday with me in 2003. And I had the honor of meeting her finally this past June when I was in NYC. Her clinic in Soho is amazing and I enjoyed some health promoting treatments there.

Here is a short piece on how to care for your skin during the Vata season, which is now, called “Why fall is skin-freak out season?” And Dr. Raichur says in part because….

The Ayurvedic calendar says October through February is a time when our bodies—and skin—are plagued by imbalances and change, says Dr. Raichur, who has made skin health her specialty.

Here is her clinic Pratima Spa. And here is her online store Pratima Skin Care (I love so many of the therapeutic oils but this one
Healing Neem Oil with Rose, Lavender and Sandalwood is my favorite).

If you’re lucky enough to live in NYC you can see her at

Pratima Spa
110 Green St
Suite 101
Soho

So What About this Eat, Pray, Love?

A year ago, within the span of about 2 weeks, five friends told me about this book. I was even going to go to a book talk, without having read the book, but a snow stormed ended that plan! Just as well. I wasn’t quite ready last January. I read it in August in 24 hours. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is her true account of a spiritual pilgrimage over a year. She spent 4 months regaining her health and vitality by living in Italy – surrounded by beauty, learning a beautiful language and eating sensual food. Over the next four months, she explored her spirituality at an ashram in India. Finally, she headed to Bali because she deemed it a place of beauty and spirituality combined. And while in Bali she found love with a Brazilian.

And I had mixed feelings and views about the book. (Okay, besides jealousy). The story obviously engaged me. But I felt it did so because it was a fairy tale. My yoga teacher’s response to that was: “You know, fairy tales do come true.” And yes, I do believe that – but I felt that too much went too right for her. She wrote a note of intent – a message asking for her husband to sign the divorce papers. And lo and behold, minutes later her lawyer called with the news. She prayed for her nephew who was having trouble sleeping and she called home after and her sister was astounded to report the nephew was better. Liz meditated and felt the kundalini rising. (Kundalini means “coiled energy,” and rarely during meditation that energy is released in a feeling that, apparently, moves up the spine. The result is a sense of deep connection with all living beings. For more information, click here.) And in Italy she ate pasta every day and gelato every day, sometimes twice a day, gained 20 pounds and wasn’t overweight! See, a fairy tale!

Okay, so what’s wrong with that? I agree that books should entertain. Ideally, they do so while they educate. And she did the best description I’ve ever read of the process of developing a meditation practice – the frustrations, the goal, the process and how to set your intention. And I felt her self-deprecation and voice offered an accessible tone. These types of stories can be so preachy and condescending. She avoids those pitfalls. Reading about her, you cared about her and wanted to find out what happened.

But, I worried that she set up expectations that could create yearning, a sense of deprivation by comparison and/or inspire people to follow her path exactly. Now, in interviews since the popularity of this book took off, Gilbert made clear that her path was her path and that one doesn’t need to go to Italy, India and Bali to turn around their lives and find happiness. (She addresses this question specifically on her web site.) For one thing, most people can’t. They don’t have a book advance to make it possible. They have children who can’t be abandoned for a year. I’ve heard her concede this in subsequent interviews. Also, I was relieved when a friend, Richard, whom she met in India, appeared with her on Oprah – he described his own experience with meditation which was very different. And to me more typical and more real. And he noted that not all people have or need to have, as Liz did, the kundalini rise.

Secondly and more importantly, I felt that the doubts of veracity would undermine the helpful messages embedded. Perhaps readers would say, no way because the story was too good to be true and likewise dismiss many of the very helpful lessons. And her lessons are worthwhile.

Well, in the week before Christmas, NPR finally got the memo that people were interested in this book. I love NPR but sometimes they just miss the ball and seem to be of the view that if something is popular (on Oprah!) that their listeners would not be interested. Talk of the Nation‘s Neal Conan interviewed Ms. Gilbert. The discussion was a good one – mostly because of the callers’ questions. One caller, who said maybe she was a skeptic by nature, observed it was such neat package. Too tidy. “You go from divorce to marriage. You go from looking for God, to finding God. How much is genuine and how much is wanting to sell a good book?” (It’s about 23 minutes into the interview).

I thought, yeah – I wanted to know that too and could add to the aspects that made me suspicious. Gilbert admitted that she felt an obligation to her reader not to make them go through every moment of “my 4 years of despair with me”. (Because readers need to be entertained, engaged?…) She took a 5 year period of her life that was a “disaster zone,” and condensed it. The book was the way I wrote myself out of it. “I didn’t know how it was going to turn out.” She admitted a lot of what happened isn’t even in the book.

The book is very good and worth the read. But I think it would have been even better if she had included a few more of the times that her prayers weren’t answered quickly so tidily. I acknowledge that she was balancing interests – engaging her reader and being honest with them. I just wish she’d tipped the scale a little bit more toward reality once her journey started. That would have made her example all the more potent and stimulating.

To buy the book, click here. To check out Elizabeth Gilbert’s web site, including her thoughts on writing and photos of some of the real people she met on her journey, click here. And the Oprah site has an Eat, Love, Pray section.

On Happiness

Five years ago,on September 11, this month also became forever tinged with sadness. In response to that, I’ve been reading a book by Matthieu Ricard called Happiness. I’m not far along, but already I’m learning new ideas.

Many yogis are familiar with sukhasana. A cross-legged seated pose, many translate the posture as “easy pose,” or sometimes as “pose of happiness.” (Some with tight hamstrings find it anything but easy or happy!)

But sukha in Sanskrit means something more beautiful and more encompassing. According to Ricard, sukha is “a way of being that underlies and suffuses all emotional states…A happiness so deep that, as Georges Bernanos wrote, ‘nothing can change it, like the vast reserve of calm water beneath a storm.’ ” Find Out More about Ricard’s Happiness

If you wish to read something shorter on happiness, try the provoking article on happiness by another favorite author of mine, Sally Kempton – click here. Perhaps building on that definition of sukha, Kempton tells us how “yoga teaches us that happiness is always available to us, no matter what our circumstances.” Find Out More about Ricard’s Happiness

Best Meditation Products: Dharma Crafts

Dharma Crafts offers meditation supplies and support. I love this catalog and the web site is terrific too – with all sorts of freebies – a page of “Buddhism Basics.”

Right now, they are featuring gifts of “loving kindness” for Valentines Day.

I also recommend subscribing to their newsletter, In the Moment. You can do so by clicking here.

Finally, they have really terrific written pieces on Buddhist teaching, including how to meditate, all of which are helpful.

Guided Yoga Nidra by Local Yoga Teacher

Last month, I discussed yoga nidra. Robin Carnes, whose CD is reviewed below, reminded me of the purpose of doing yoga nidra:

While relaxation is a worthy outcome in and of itself, the true purpose of yoga nidra, as with all forms of yoga, is to help us access the actual experience, not just the concept, of our Oneness with all creation. It helps dissolve our separateness and experience our connectedness.

Well put and captured in both of the guided yoga nidras reviewed below. Robin also brought to my attention a short, helpful piece on yoga nidra from a recent issue of Yoga Journal. To read, click here.

Yoga Nidra by Robin Carnes A short introduction outlines the purpose and practice of yoga nidra. Ms. Carnes teaches at a local DC area studio, Willow Street Yoga Center, in Takoma Park.

In her introduction, she captures the state of being in yoga nidra as a “hovering between sense consciousness and sleep consciousness.” Two guided yoga nidras follow.

Her confident voice calms and comforts. As you set your resolve (your sankalpa) for your yoga nidra, she encourages you to conjure an image that captures your intention – something or some way of being you wish to bring to fruition in your life.

Then, as traditional she guides your awareness around your body in several layers – sometimes specific small parts of the body (each finger), other times larger areas (whole leg). She directs you to be aware of the surface of your body (the skin in specific areas), channel your breath, wash colors through your body or conjure images of landscapes (tree, mountain, cloud) or objects (rose, ball, tunnel).

New to me, Ms. Carnes brought an “awareness of sensation” and suggested I feel my body first heavy then light, cold then hot.

The second nidra at 42 minutes is slightly longer the first (27 minutes), but both are excellent and authentic.

Judith Lasater once said to me,

that you don’t do restorative yoga, it does you

Robin Carnes said the same of yoga nidra “you don’t do it, it does you.” And when yoga nidra is done doing you, you free great! This rewarding CD is $15. To purchase, contact Robin Carnes at
rdcarnes@starpower.net or 301-587-1835.

Shiva Rea’s Drops of Nectar

This 2 CD set is subtitled, “Yoga Relaxation for Rejuvenation and Healing.” Last month I describe yoga nidra and the steps to achieve that yogic state of rest. Only one track on these CDs is a formal yoga nidra, but it’s a delicious 19 minutes.

Shiva Rea (her website here) is known for her integration of dance and yoga, but this CD demonstrates her talent for going deeper in another way. Music underscores her voice and the nidra track opens with “a sea of Oms” chanted one over the other while she encourages you to “become one vibration with the sound.”

She directs you to imagine your body looking down at yourself, as if outside of yourself, set an intention, sankalpa, and then leads you through a brisk survey of the body. She also brings attention to each of the chakras “brightly flaring” and connects the image of your heart to other living beings to foster a sense of connectedness.

Throughout, simple tones of music, graced with bells that sound like wind chimes, support the experience just as much as the surface underneath your body. Her guidance may be confusing if you’ve not perused the liner notes; she presumes you know the location of the chakras and familiar with certain terms.

But as excellent as her guided CDs are, her liner notes are more outstanding. She presents additional information concisely and clearly to enhance your practice and even includes helpful photographs.

The rest of the tracks include information on how to do a Moon Salutation, Chandra Namaskar, a cleansing breath exercise, Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, and several guided Corpse Poses, Savasana – one inspired by the moon, another by a Rumi poem and another by a sunset over the sea.

To purchase, click here.