4/15/2015

Spring Break

Slow Down

Hello loves! Jason and I are leaving this afternoon for a much needed vacation to Kaua’i! We’re staying on an organic farm up in the North Shore and words cannot express how excited I am for this much needed break from everything.

Last night I was busy setting vacation notices on emails and the shop, packing, getting the cat sitter situated, running last minute errands. In the middle of it I had to pause and take some long, deep breaths reminding myself to calm down. It’s amazing how simple tasks can get away from me sometimes, allowing myself to get caught up in the frenzy rather than take it slow. In that moment I was so grateful for my breath work and meditation practice. My body just knew what to do, it was like, hey, too much stress, let’s breathe this out for a few minutes!

Jason and I have been planning this vacation for months. It’s our first real vacation just the two of us, no family. With everything that we have been going through in couples counseling I am looking forward to having lots of time to just hang with him. Not having the energy pulls of work and city life will be a blessing even though I am imagining it will take me 24 hours to decompress and adjust my frequency to that of this incredible island.

Everyone says time moves slowly in Kaua’i and that is super appealing to me! I feel like my life has been moving so quickly this year and I am looking forward to just hanging out in nature and watching the clouds move across the sky.

I’m committed to not blogging or doing any work while on this trip. Aside from the occasional Instagram post because come on, it’s KAUA’I and it’s epic, I’m going to be totally offline. An intewebz detox if you will. And wow do I need it! Sometimes I feel like my iphone/computer might as well be attached to me and that’s not how I want to continue to live!  The only times I have gone offline in the past were on meditation retreats. In some ways Kaua’i feels like a retreat and I am up for just tuning into nature and allowing myself plenty of space to breathe.

Alright, that is all from me today. Initially I wanted to have queued up blog posts to fire off while I am away but after consideration I realized that was an energy tie that I didn’t want to have during the vacation. I’ll see you all back here on the 27th and if you’re anxious to see photos hop over to Instagram and I’ll post a few.

Love you all so much.

xoa

4/13/2015

My Favorite Nourishing Broth & Why I Am Drinking It Daily

Healing Broth by Ashley Neese

I know I’m a little late to the bone broth party on the blogosphere, but hey, it’s taken me over a year to fully understand and feel the effects of this healing liquid in my own life. As with all of posts here I want this one to be rooted in my actual experience over time, not just something I tried for two months and decided I was qualified to write a factual article about.

More and more I see bloggers sharing holistic remedies that aren’t solidified in their practice. I am all for sharing information online, but I feel many of these ungrounded approaches dilute the potency of many healing rituals that are meant to be lived, not just tried and discarded like the next juice cleanse protocol.

We are living in very fast times. That is not lost on me. Everyday my social media feeds and inbox is flooded with the next thing that is going to heal you. It’s just like our western culture to take this quick-fix approach to everything, including holistic health. I realize I am going on a bit of a rant here but my aim is coming directly from the heart. I want the internet to be a place where folks can find tried and true suggestions based on actual experience from people that live what they write about.

As many of you know my blog and nutrition consulting practice started from eating a whole food vegan diet for years and people reaching out to me for support. Plants of all kinds are still the majority of what I eat on a regular basis, but in order to heal my body I had to introduce nourishing animal foods into my routine. While I eat a selection of animal foods on a regular basis I haven’t quite bridged the gap between my food life at home and the blog. I’m sure you’ve noticed eggs in recipes like my recent coconut banana bread, which btw if you haven’t tried it yet you are totally missing out. It’s seriously good stuff.

Having a somewhat public life through my website and social media is such an interesting experience. I was talking with a woman the other day and she mentioned losing a bunch of followers and subscribers because she shifted the focus of her practice. I remember writing my food journey post and being a bit worried that people would be disappointed in my choices. Typing this out right now makes me feel silly because I know in my heart of hearts that isn’t what any of this is about. This blog started as a platform for me to honestly share my life and create community. In that community people are free to come and go as they please and that ultimately makes me feel really good.

Healing Broth by Ashley Neese

Now. On to bone broth and why I am drinking it on the daily.

The first time I tried bone broth I couldn’t even swallow it. Almost instantly after taking the first sip I spit it right out into the sink. The animal smell and fatty consistency of the broth made me gag. I’d already started eating a little meat at this point, but the broth was just next level. I couldn’t drink it straight up.

After a month of fiddling around with different techniques and recipes I found a broth I was able to stomach and eventually really enjoy. Chicken broth similar to this aromatic soup was familiar to me. I grew up loving my Mom’s matzoh ball soup and chicken stock was the base. It was the beef broths that were so unfamiliar and weird to me. They are much fattier and have a gamey flavor for lack of a better word. Kinda gross I know but trust me, once you add all the herbs and veggies that I do, you will be amazing at how incredible this broth truly is.

Bone broths are a staple food in many traditional cultures. People around the world made variations of healing broths using the entire animal, not a pressed bouillon cube they got from the supermarket. From Asia to South America, each culture uses different animals as the base of their broths. They all take it a step further and turn that broth into a range of foods from stews, to sauces, to cooked vegetables. You can use bone broth in any recipe that calls for stock and it adds amazing richness to cooked legumes and grains as well.

Bone broth is a deeply healing food. I started drinking it over a year ago to nourish my body, support my digestion and prepare my body for conception. I know. I started the preconception phase super early but with my history of being a little low in minerals and hormone imbalances I wanted to get everything in smooth order long before it was time to conceive. I continue to drink bone broth each day because it has helped my body heal in ways I didn’t think possible and making it has become a ritual that I cherish.

Healing Broth by Ashley Neese

It’s amazing how bone broth works wonders to repair our digestive tract and is a superior food when it comes to healing many illnesses. For the highest quality broth I recommend making it yourself. Fresh broth from well sourced organic free range chicken or grass feed cow bones is far more nutrient rich than anything you can buy in a package at the store. If you live in a city where you can buy actual bone broth that is great option. If you’re going to drink it daily like we do, it’s much more economical to make yourself.

Most bone broths are simmered 36-72 hours, depending on the types of bones you use. This long simmering time releases their minerals and produces gelatin from their joints.

“Broth contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons–stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.” – Sally Fallon

Here are just some of the incredible benefits of this miracle broth:

  • Reduces joint pain
  • Promotes healthy hair + skin
  • Heals the gut
  • Adrenal support
  • Supports healthy digestion
  • Fights inflammation which is the root cause of most disease
  • Enhances brain function + mood
  • Helps sport recovery

And if that wasn’t enough bone broth is my number one preconception and fertility food. Yep. You read that correctly! I can’t even tell you how many clients I’ve gotten on bone broth who were trying to get pregnant and after several months of broth and working with their energy through yoga and custom tailored energy healing sessions they conceived! Of course pregnancy can be much more complicated than that but for a nourished, strong body, 1-2 cups of bone broth will help create a lovely first home for your babe.

Nourishing Broth by Ashley Neese

If you want to dive deep into all things broth get you hands on Sally Fallon’s new book asap. She is a pioneer in the traditional foods movement and has loads of resource material that is a staple in my life and in my work with clients.

Typically bone broth is made with bones and sometimes a little meat. Bones can be roasted before making broth but I almost always skip this unnecessary step. I haven’t found it changes the flavor drastically enough to warrant the extra time in prep.

I highly suggest getting a good crock pot for making broth. I prefer clay pots as they season over time like a good cast iron skillet and are the safest to use for long periods of time. If you’re cooking for a family definitely get a larger crock like this one. It’s a bit of an investment upfront but they last forever and you will get your use out of it. I get 2 batches of broth out of each bag of cow bones that I purchase. Chicken bones are much smaller and one batch of bone broth is all they are good for.

You know the bones have had it when they crumble when pressed with a spoon. At that point it’s time to toss them. You can make broth once, cool and freeze the bones for later use. Simply toss the frozen bones in your crockpot, cover with clean water and start again.

I know this probably goes without saying but please get your hands on really high quality bones. Research some local butcher shops or farmers markets. Ask questions. My favorite neighborhood spot is McCalls in Los Feliz. I buy several pounds of their marrow bones and cartilage bones each month for our broth.

The key to a supportive broth is to SIMMER it the entire time. You don’t want to bring the broth to a rolling boil. It’s fine for chicken soup but for authentic bone broth use the simmer setting, or lowest setting on your crockpot. On ours it’s the WARMING setting. Keeping the broth simmering on the lowest setting helps extract the most nutrients and gives your broth a beautiful golden color. Do not salt the broth until you are ready to serve it. I prefer to salt each serving on its own with a little miso or Celtic sea salt.

Nourishing Broth by Ashley Neese

About the gelatin. You want the gelatin in your broth, that is one of the reasons for making it. I like to make sure that at least 1/3 of the bones in the broth are coming from joints – this is where the cartilage is that will breakdown in to a form that our body recognizes when we drink it – gelatin. Some folks swear by chicken feet and necks, I often use beef knuckles. You will know your broth has a good level of gelatin because it will get clumpy when chilled. Don’t worry if you’re broth doesn’t gel on the first try, keep practicing and always include cartilage in the broth.

There is no wrong way to make broth. It is simply bones and water. Don’t be intimated by all of this, trust your intuition and try it. Initially it was difficult to overcome my fear of handling raw bones and the heavy feelings of sadness touching these animal parts. I always say lots of prayers when I am making my broth and give loads of gratitude to the animals lives that were taken. It’s really important that we connect with this process and learn to heal our relationships with how and why we eat, as well as how and why we prepare certain foods.

Below are two recipes. The first is just for the straight up, no frills bone broth. The second is for the flavored broth, the way we like to drink it around here. I add a boost of Chinese herbs to take the soup to a new level. You can always add dried herbs to the no frills recipe too. Depending on the size crockpot you have the bone amounts will vary. My base recipe is for a 3 qt. crock pot, if yours is larger just double the recipe. You want your crock pot filled to the top with bones and water to just cover.

For overall health and wellness drink 1 cup per day. For preconception/fertility drink 1-2 cups per day. Bone broth is excellent during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. As mentioned before you can use this broth as a base in many recipes. It keeps for one week in the fridge and will last frozen for months.

Healing Broth by Ashley Neese

No Frills Bone Broth

Makes 2.5 quarts

 

Ingredients //

  • 2 lbs. grass fed, organic marrow bones
  • 1 lbs. grass fed, organic beef knuckles
  • 1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

 

Method //

Place the bones in your crock pot. Cover completely with clean water. Add the vinegar and cover. Let sit for 1 hour. Adding the vinegar helps the bones release more of their nutrients.

Set your crock pot on the lowest setting. Simmer at that low setting for 72 hours.

Allow to cool completely before storing in the fridge in glass or in the freezer in a container of your choice.

 

Ashley’s Nourishing Broth

Makes 5 quarts

 

Ingredients //

  • 5 quarts bone broth
  • 1 large bulb fennel with fronds
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard stems
  • 4 large carrots
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 3 leeks
  • 4 stalks lemongrass
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 5 inch knob ginger
  • 5 inch knob turmeric
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 slices of dried astragalus (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp. reishi powder (optional)
  • Non soy miso
  • Fresh lemon juice

 

Method //

Roughly chop the fennel, chard stems, carrots, celery, leeks, lemongrass, garlic and add them too a large stock pot with the broth. Next add the parsley, cilantro, bay leaves, astragalus, and reishi poweder. Bring to the lowest possible simmer and simmer for 1 hour until all of the veggies are well cooked.

Drain the veggies and add to your compost.

Serve warm with a bit of miso stirred in and a squeeze of lemon.

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Ok there you have it! I know this was a super long post but this is HUGE topic and there is lots of cover.

Have you made bone broth? Has it supported your wellness? I’d love to hear your experience with this incredibly healing food.

Lots of love,

xoa

4/7/2015

Holistic Beauty // Herb + Flower Facial Steam

Herbal Face Steam by Ashley Neese

Good afternoon lovelies! It’s cooling down again in L.A. and is the perfect time for some warming self care practices. If you get cold feet like I do in the evenings, definitely try this. I’ve been looking forward to sharing the next post our Natural Beauty series, Herbal Face Steams! This is one of my number one weekly treatments for keeping my skin clear and sinuses happy. It’s great for beauty and also excellent for allergy or cold/flu relief.

Steaming is such a great treatment for near instant relaxation. Here are some additional benefits:

Get Glowy. Boosts circulation and leaves skin clear and refreshed.

Unclogs Pores. The warmth from the steam helps loosen pores so dirt can come out.

Oxygenates Skin. Revives tired skin.

Improves Circulation. The heat encourages blood vessels to dilate which keeps blood flowing freely.

Calms Nerves. Breathing in aromatic herbs skin helps to sooth frayed nerves, promotes relaxation and reduces stress.

Herbal Face Steam by Ashley Neese

Using herbs and flowers in steam treatments will soften the water and add vitamins to replenish tired skin. Steaming opens the pores on our face and prepares the skin for extractions. It also boosts exfoliation post steam. To maximize the benefits follow up your steam with a fruit enzyme peel or herbal clay mask.

I’ve created two recipes for steaming, one for dry skin and one for oily skin. The oily skin recipe is also great for clogged sinuses too. You can create facial steams from many herbs, flowers, and essential oils. Fresh and dried herbs work in steaming. Essential oils are the most concentrated and easiest to use. It’s important to source quality ingredients and use purified water as you will be breathing in all of the vapors.

If you are using fresh or dried herbs allow them to steep for 7-8 minutes before steaming your face. I like to keep measurements with herbs loose and you cannot mess this up! Let your intuition be your guide, get creative and have fun with it. As a general guide a handful of fresh herbs and a tablespoon of dried will do the trick ;) For essential oils, let the water cool for 4-5 minutes then add the drops and begin. I suggest 2-3 drops of each oil

Herbal Face Steam by Ashley Neese

Dry/Irritated Skin Steam

  • Chamomile. Anti-inflammatory, healing, calming.
  • Dandelion. Re-establishes balance, nourishing, promotes clear skin.
  • Rose. Moisture retaining, toning, nutritive.
  • Peppermint. Increases blood flow, cools, refreshes, revitalizes, astringent.

 

Oily Skin/Cold & Flu Steam

  • Eucalyptus. Anti-viral, decongestant, breakouts.
  • Lavender. Anti-inflammatory, balances oil production, stimulates new cell growth
  • Rosemary. Stimulates blood circulation, restores elasticity, tones.

Herbal Face Steam by Ashley Neese

You can purchase facial steam machines but I’ve always used a large bowl and towel and it works really well. I find it’s easiest to steam sitting up in a chair with my head leaning over the bowl. This way I can keep my feet on the floor and rest my arms on the table.

Pick a spot in your home that is clutter free for your steam. If possible light a candle, turn on some relaxing music, really make this a way to slow down and take care of yourself.

Method //

Bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Pour into a large mixing bowl. Add dried/fresh herbs if using and let steep 7-8 minutes covered. If using essential oils let the water cool, covered for 5 minutes then add the oils. Lean your head over the bowl and cover your head with a large towel making a tent to keep the steam inside. Steam for 10 minutes for non-irritated skin or for cold/flu relief. Steam for 5 minutes if you have sensitive or irritated skin. When finished rinse with lukewarm water and move on to a peel or mask. If you’re finished with your face treatment follow up with a simple toner and beauty oil.

 

I invite you to try an herbal face steam in the coming week as a gift to yourself. This is such a nourishing practice and very easy to incorporate into even the busiest weeks. Check in and let me know how you are.

xoa

P.S. The lemons in the photos were just used for color ;)

// Photos by Asami Zeri

4/6/2015

Spring Dandelion Juice

Dandelion Juice by Ashley Neese

Today I am sharing a spring juice recipe to support seasonal wellness. Dandelion is one of my favorite spring weeds which has incredible cleansing properties. If you haven’t tried this wild weed before proceed with caution, this juice is BITTER!

Dandelion grows all over the world. It has been used for medicinal purposes since 900 AD. I know, that totally blew my mind too! Dandelion is easy to spot on my neighborhood walks and often grows by streets and freeways. It is easy to recognize from it’s yellow flowers and toothy edges. Picking it wild is fine, but not close to the street – too much run off from the cars. I usually get mine at the Hollywood Farmers market and it’s super inexpensive. A bunch or will last a week depending on how you use it.

Dandelion Juice by Ashley Neese

Dandelion Juice by Ashley Neese

In Chinese medicine dandelion is classified as cold, bitter, and sweet. It is one of the top 6 Chinese herbs because it is so effective in treating a range of health conditions with great success. Dandelion benefits the liver and stomach. It clears heat from the body, cleanses the blood, and reduces inflammation. The roots of dandelion can be found roasted in teas. This tea is one of the most powerful herbal diuretics and is often used in herbal coffee substitutes.

Amazing benefits of dandelion:

  • Cleanses the digestive tract, urinary tract, and liver.
  • The richest vegetable source of beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A.
  • Cycle regulation which is key in promoting fertility. It can help reduce PMS symptoms and prevent irregular cycles.
  • Magnesium and potassium help lower blood pressure.
  • Vitamin C, copper, and zinc which strengthen the immune system.
  • Sodium = loaded with electrolytes.
  • Choline, which is essential for memory and brain function.
  • Calcium for bone health.
  • B vitamins reduce the harmful effects of stress.

Dandelion Juice by Ashley Neese

During the spring season I drink dandelion juice 3-4 x per week. In addition to juicing dandelion leaves you can toss them in salads and stir them into soups. You can also drink dandelion tea or take it in the form of a tincture.

To balance the crazy bitterness of the dandelion I added fennel, romaine, parsley, and lemon. These flavors work really well together and keep the juice from being loaded with sugar. This is a seriously cleansing juice! If you’re new to dandelion juice start with just a few leaves and work your way up. The bitterness has a way of masking all other flavors it comes into contact with, balance is key.

Dandelion Juice by Ashley Neese

Spring Dandelion Juice

Serves 1

Ingredients //

  • 2 medium bulbs fennel with stalks and fronds
  • 1/4 bunch dandelion greens
  • 1 medium head romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 bunch flat leaf parsley
  • 1 lemon

 

Method //

Run all ingredients except the lemon through your juicer. Squeeze the lemon juice by hand at the end. Stir well. Best consumed within 3 days at room temperature.

 

Have you tried dandelion juice before? I can’t wait to hear how it goes!

Happy Spring Cleaning!

xoa

4/1/2015

Four Mudras For Self Healing

Four Life Changing Mudras by Ashley Neese

Mudras are pure magic. A mudra is a hand position that balances energy in the body and mind. Mudras were created by ancient yogis to calm the mind, restore physical health, and optimize energy. I’ve been practicing and studying mudras for years and they have become an integrated part of my daily life. The power we hold in our own hands to balance our lives blows me away!

Each part of our hand corresponds with a particular area of our brain and body. Mudras stimulate our glands, nerves, and organs. By using specific hand positions on a consistent basis, we can communicate very clearly with our body and mind. One of my yoga teachers Gurmukh says, “the hands become a keyboard for input to our mind/body computer.” Imagine, your hands have the ability to recalibrate what is happening inside your mind and body, amazing right?

Our hands are a map of our entire consciousness. As babies we use our hands to explore the world and that stays with us into adulthood. Think for a minute about everything you have done with your hands even in just the last few hours. We use our hands to communicate, feed ourselves, touch each other, wipe tears from our face, heal pain, hold our loved ones, feel the trunk of a tree. There are more than 2,500 nerve receptors per square centimeter in each one of our hands. By practicing these simple mudras we can stimulate holistic healing in our bodies.

There are hundreds of mudras and I have practiced many of them at different times in my life. Today I am going to share four that are a great introduction to this practice and are some of the most widely taught mudras in Kundalini yoga. Below you will find an image of each mudra and its corresponding information.

Life Changing Mudras by Ashley Neese

Gyan Mudra (Seal of Knowledge)

One of the most popular mudras in the world.

Benefits
Enhances intuitive wisdom, increases memory, eases anxiety, depression, and sadness, stimulates the root chakra,

How To
Gently touch the tip of your index finger to the tip of your thumb with the other three fingers stretched out.

Stimulates
Endocrine and pituitary glands as well as the nervous system.

Planet
Jupiter

Represents
Expansion

When To Use
To calm your mind and body, to inspire creativity, boost concentration, and to expand consciousness.

Four Life Changing Mudras by Ashley Neese

Shuni Mudra (Seal of Patience)

Shuni is sanskrit for Saturn which is in Vedic astrology is the planet of discipline.

Benefits
Improves commitment, focus, patience, and understanding. This mudra helps one carry out their life’s responsibilities.

How To
Gently touch the tip of your middle finger to the tip of your thumb with the other three fingers stretched out.

Planet
Saturn

Represents
Courage and responsibility

When To Use
When you need stability and strength, if you need assistance turning negative thoughts into positive thoughts, and for support following through with tasks.

Four Life Changing Mudras by Ashley Neese

Surya or Ravi Mudra (Seal of Life)

Excellent mudra for overall health and wellness.

Benefits
Revitalizes energy, strengthens the body, promotes vitality.

How To
Gently touch the tip of your ring finger to the tip of your thumb with the other three fingers stretched out.

Stimulates
Nervous system, increases the element of fire in the body which improves digestion.

Planet
Uranus

Represents
Energy, health, and sexuality

When To Use
When you need an energy/metabolism boost, if you’re looking for support during a life change or transition, to strengthen your intuition.

Four Life Changing Mudras by Ashley Neese

Buddhi Mudra (Seal of Mental Clarity)

Buddhi translates as “higher mind” or “intellect”.

Benefits
Promotes clear communication, intuition, and psychic development. It can also help relieve muscular pain.

How To
Gently touch the tip of your little finger to the tip of your thumb with the other three fingers stretched out.

Stimulates
Balances water element in the body

Planet
Mercury

Represents
Communication

When To Use
For support with communication, making sense of intuitive messages, and for greater access to your inner knowledge.

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To begin your practice pick the mudra that resonates with you the most. Practice it for 40 days and then move on to the next one. If after 40 days you feel like there is more to explore keep going for 90 days. There is really no right or wrong way to do this. I encourage you to jump in and see where the practice takes you!

Yoga texts suggest practicing one mudra at a time for 45 minutes for the greatest benefits, all at once or in 3 segments of 15 minutes. I suggest starting with 7-10 minutes and working your way up. Sure 45 minutes is great if you can do it, but it is more important to be realistic about your current lifestyle and how much time you have to devote to this practice.

If you already have a meditation practice going you can easily add one of these mudras to it. There are many different ways to use them. For each of the mudras keep your arms straight and let your hands rest on your knees. To connect with more universal energy keep your palms facing the sky. If you feel like you need more grounding, turn your palms towards your knees. Experiment turning your palms in different directions and notice if it feels like a different energy. Practice these mudras sitting in your favorite meditation posture on the floor or sit in a chair if that is more comfortable.

Each mudra should be practiced with a slow and steady breath. Take long inhales and exhales through the nose. Once you find your rhythm with your breath bring your attention to the point where your fingers touch in the mudra. Allow your awareness to rest on that point and breathe for the length of time that you are working with.

Alternatively, you can focus your attention on your third eye or brow point (this is typically how it is often practiced in Kundalini yoga). If you are new to this practice setting a timer can be helpful, that way you can focus on the meditation and not worry about the time. With consistent practice your body will learn the timing of your meditation and you will naturally know when to stop.

The beauty of these mudras is that you can use them at any time. I often encourage students to practice them outside of more formal meditation too. Feel free to practice it lying down, standing up, on a hike in nature. Bringing these mudras into your life doesn’t need to be complicated or hard. Just start sprinkling them into your everyday and allow yourself to be open to receiving the messages they share with you!

Do you have a mudra practice? If not are are you inspired to begin one? I’d love to hear how you are or plan to make these incredible mudras part of your life!

Lots of love and happy mudra making ;)

xoa

 

// Photos by Sera Lindsey

© ASHLEY NEESE 2015