By Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, Oregon, USA
If you practice yoga and live a healthy, happy, and holy lifestyle, you're pretty well covered. Yoga is without doubt the ultimate system for helping you stay balanced and joyful throughout your life. Sure, there are a lot of rules and guidelines, but it all comes down to four things to concentrate on.
In the yoga world, the big four are Bana (personal behaviors), Bani (prayer), Simran (meditation), and Seva (selfless service). Our lineage of teachers has consistently ranked serving others right up there with our most important personal spiritual practices. The ten Sikh gurus were all appointed to their positions based on service, not necessarily personal accomplishments. Guru Nanak's son, Baba Siri Chand, was the perfect yogi, but one of his fellow students was bestowed with the light of Guru Nanak. By the time Guru Angad (his very name means "limb of the Guru") inherited Guru Nanak's title, he had served selflessly for decades and it was his life's mission.
We know devotional service is important, and we want to do seva, but sometimes life just seems to get in the way. What to do, you say? Ayurveda has figured that out. Getting your body attuned to your spiritual frequency is one of the cornerstones of the yogic lifestyle, so a little herbal tea might be in order.
Tulsi plays a central role in the folk medicine of South Asia. Tulsi is said be on Earth to serve humanity and to help humanity be serviceful. This herb expands and sharpens awareness, aids meditation, and promotes compassion when taken as a daily food. This basil relative opens the heart and mind, and encourages devotion. As an herbal remedy, tulsi supports the energy of attachment to the Divine, the energy that attracts prosperity, and keeps it in our lives. And, if that's not enough, this little garden plant sanitizes the aura and stimulates the immune system.
Tulsi is usually used as a tea, in a dose of 3 tsp. of dry herb, brewed into water, per day. Since it's a mild and safe herb, some people have more results from higher doses. You may also drink the fresh juice, taking about one-half ounce three times a day. It can also be combined with ginger and black pepper for asthma, or with honey for cough.
Shatavari root is one of the key yogic herbs, especially for women. We know it as a general builder and regulator for a woman's body, but it might surprise you to learn that even though it is a potent aphrodisiac, it is also a superior herb for developing love and devotion.
Shatavari is related to the similar Western asparagus root. Women in Asia start shatavari at puberty, and often take 1-2 grams per day for long periods. To use shatavari to promote your seva, work up gradually to about 7 grams per day as powder stirred into ghee or honey, or in capsules.
The Sanskrit name for the beautiful deep red hibiscus flower is japa, because it strengthens devotion in meditation with a mantra. Hibiscus flowers destroy all spiritual and material life obstacles, and help in achieving your life goals. They purify the physical and spiritual heart, and promote wisdom, judgment, and awareness. In the body hibiscus is a blood cleanser and is generally helpful for first and second chakra disorders, especially those due to heat and lack of circulation. While encouraging devotion, Japa flowers nourish the skin and hair as an added bonus. Ayurvedic practitioners use it to normalize menstruation and stabilize blood pressure. Several scientific studies have found that a tea of hibiscus flower benefited blood pressure and had a protective effect on the heart; and a growing collection of recent research shows that hibiscus protects against liver damage and blood sugar issues. Brew japa as a delicious tea and drink it throughout the day.
The famous lotus is the very symbol of spiritual life, as it has its roots in the mud and its gorgeous flower reaching for the heavens. This plant, in its many forms, brings material and spiritual abundance. As an herbal food, the root relaxes the mind, opens the heart and the root chakras, and assists devotion and spiritual aspirations. Lotus seed is a rejuvenating tonic, especially for the heart and reproductive system. Both the seed and the root can be prepared as food. The root is a common ingredient in Chinese stir-fried dishes. Peel and slice the root and use it somewhat like potato and employ the seeds the way you would use garbanzo beans. You may also take the powdered herb in capsules, or brew as a tea.
Seva is one of the four pillars of the spiritual life, and anything we can do to help us stay in tune with our spiritual growth is all to the good. These special herbs and foods are here to help, so why not make a point of using them?
Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, Yogaraj, D.N.-C., R.H., studied Ayurveda with Yogi Bhajan for over 30 years. He lives in Eugene, Oregon, where he serves as Senior Research Scientist and Chief Medical Formulator for Yogi Tea. His recent book is The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs. Read his Yogi Blog at www.yogiproducts.com/well-being/. You can find more information about Ayurvedic herbs in The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs by Karta Purkh S. Khalsa. To purchase Ayurvedic herbs, visit www.a-healing.com.