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Month: May 2017

Leek Soup with Purple Sage: Transition to Spring

By Dr. Amy Sedgwick & Dr. Rashmi Bismark share a delicious spring leek soup recipe. They also discuss what Eastern medicine says about the transition into spring, and what it means for your body.

Spring Leek Soup with Purple Sage

Spring is here in the Northern hemisphere and the green unfolding around us nourishes the soul through our eyes.  Our energy and creativity are arising as we emerge from a more introspective winter phase and move into the active nature of spring.

During this time of year, Chinese medicine emphasizes light and pungent foods such as fresh herbs, garlic, young plants, fresh greens, sprouts and immature wheat or other cereal grasses.  Foods are best cooked for a shorter time but at higher temperatures.

The Ayurvedic tradition of India offers similar wisdom. As the earth thaws from winter, frost turns to dew, and rains abound, the lusciousness of Spring is associated with the kapha dosha – cool, moist, heavy, soft, dense, and stable. Like in Chinese medicine, diets to maintain balance during kapha season encourage foods that are warm, dry, light, pungent, and astringent.

Spring Foods

While you explore ways to nurture equanimity and resilience this Spring, consider bringing awareness to how the foods you are eating impact your vibrancy. Inviting a taste of mindful eating, use meals or snack times as an opportunity to simply observe the effects of various foods on your whole being with full attention and a bit of playful curiosity. What sensations arise in the body? Is there a feeling of lightness or heaviness, a sense of satisfaction or aversion, or maybe no change at all? What emotions and thoughts are triggered? How do these foods nourish you?

We would love to hear your experiences and invite you to share your favorite healthy Spring recipes with our Yoga Medicine community. In the meantime, here is a wonderful spring soup to tap into the essence of this time of year.  Drawn from the amazing cookbook, The Love and Lemons Cookbook, by Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews – the Spring Leek Soup with Purple Sage is a sure winner.

Love & Lemons photo,


4 medium leeks

2 teaspoons (10ml) extra-virgin olive oil

2 Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped into 1/2-inch cubes

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/4c loosely packed thyme sprigs, coarsely chopped

11/2 cups cooked cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 recipe traditional pesto

Crusty sprouted bread

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Traditional pesto (mix all of these ingredients together in a food processor until smooth):

1/4 cup evoo

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 clove garlic

2 cups basil

1/2 cups pine nuts

1/4 parmesan cheese (omit if vegan or use a vegan substitute)


  1. Slice the white and light green parts of the leek into rings.  Using a strainer, rinse the leeks thoroughly.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.   Add the leeks and a pinch of salt and pepper.  Stir and cook until the leeks begin to soften, about 2 minutes.  Add potatoes and another few generous pinches of salt, and cook until the potatoes begin to soften about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and sage and continue cooking for 1 more minute.  Now add the vegetable broth and thyme.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 18 minutes, adding the cannellini beans during the last 5 minutes of cooking time.
  4. Add the lemon juice, then taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt and pepper as desired.
  5. Serve with traditional pesto and crusty sprouted bread on the side.

Additional Authors:

Dr. Rashmi Bismark, MD, MPH, RYT

Rashmi is a US-trained physician, board certified in Preventive Medicine and Public Health. In parallel with conventional medical training, Dr. Bismark has spent the past 15+ years studying various complementary and alternative healing modalities, including ayurveda, energy healing, yoga, and meditation. She is currently in the process of completing RYT-500 training with Yoga Medicine and is receiving mindfulness teacher training through the Oasis Institute, Center for Mindfulness, University of Massachusetts.

To learn more about the Yoga Medicine team, click here.

This 360-Degree Video Helps Correct Yoga Form Issues

Think you know how to strike a perfect Warrior III pose? What about something as simple as transitioning from Tadasana (standing upright) to a forward fold? These moves may seem simple, but it’s actually easier than you think to flub classic yoga poses, all of which require proper alignment, focus, and total-body strength.

That’s why yoga teachers correct your form in class; proper alignment is important not only for your practice but to prevent injuries. What’s more, doing a pose the wrong way can compromise the strength you build in your core, and potentially mess with your posture too.

In this video, we’re using a 360-degree camera to show you the right and wrong way to do four basic yoga poses. Yoga Medicine founder Tiffany Cruikshank does the postures correctly, while Health staffer Janet makes common mistakes while she does the same moves. The side-by-side view allows you to see exactly what you need to keep in mind when doing the below exercises.

Ready to be the star of your yoga class? Watch the video for a tutorial on the best and worst ways to do five standard poses. If you don’t have time to watch, we’ve also listed the moves below, along with key tips for how to properly do each one.

Tadasana to forward fold:

If you have tight hamstrings, be sure not to hunch your back as you stand upright. If you have flexible hamstrings, try not to over-arch your lower back. Remember to engage your core as you roll down, lengthening your spine and stopping folding before you lose the correct alignment.

Warrior III:

Don’t allow your hip to turn outward in this powerful stance. Instead, square your hips so both point down toward the floor.

Triangle pose:

Remember to lift out of your torso so it doesn’t collapse toward the floor in triangle pose. Make sure you don’t over-arch your back and keep your shoulders stacked on top of one another. Finally, keep your torso on the same plane as your hips and legs, as if placed between two panes of glass.

Chaturanga dandasana:

Make sure to keep your shoulders lifted so they remain above elbow height and don’t round toward the floor. Instead, broaden your collarbones and feel your upper shoulder muscles supporting you as you slowly lower the upper body toward the mat.

Click here to watch the 360-degree video featuring Tiffany. And if you just can’t get enough of Tiffany, visit YogaGlo for more of her classes.

Dandelion: The Cure Growing in Your Back Yard?

Rebecca Powell-Doherty, PhD shares some uses for the dandelion, dives into the chemistry and breaks down the studies.

Dandelion: A Not So Humble Weed

Head out to the nearest green patch available to you starting around the early days of Spring, and you will, undoubtedly, identify that bright yellow flower that has unceremoniously been labeled a ‘weed’. Wait a bit longer, and the yellow beauties will turn into soft white puffs of seed that children and adults alike love to blow on and spread all around. The bane of those trying to keep a well-manicured lawn, I am of course speaking about that Spring perennial, Taraxacum officinale, or dandelion.

If you’ve read Tiffany Cruikshank’s book, Optimal Health for a Vibrant Life, you may remember that when she discusses the use of herbs, teas, and tinctures, she indicates that keeping it simple with dandelion might be a great way to go (Cruikshank, 2014). There is a myriad of scientific investigation to support such a statement. Additionally, teas and tinctures made from dandelion have been reported for use in liver, spleen, and kidney ailments dating back to the 10th century (Schütz et al, 2006).

The Chemistry of Dandelions

There’s quite a bit of chemistry that breaks down the how’s and why’s of dandelion’s good work. The Schütz article cited here is a great place to start if you want to dig deeper. For those who just want the core info, though, I can safely say that there is study after study that demonstrates the efficacy of dandelion teas and tinctures as being hepatoprotective, mildly diuretic, anti-diabetic, anti-rhematic, and choleretic. For our purposes, though, I’d like to focus on that concept of hepatoprotection and link it somewhat conclusively to the antioxidant properties of this humble but ridiculously useful ‘weed’.

Antioxidants are, as you might already know, compounds or substances that inhibit oxidation of other substrates. They, therefore, protect against oxidative stress. In terms of the human body, oxidative stress is most closely associated with the function of mitochondria, those “powerhouse” organelles you learned about in biology. The production of ATP, the preferred form of cellular energy, uses oxygen in the process, but it also loses electrons in the process here and there, producing reactive oxygen species (ROS). Those compounds go on to oxidize other very stable molecules, therefore causing a fair amount of damage at the cellular level. These kinds of interactions have been linked to all sorts of issues, from aging to cancer.

Antioxidants & the Liver

That said, our bodies have really great mechanisms for dealing with these guys. Our cells have redundant enzyme mechanisms that are antioxidant in their activity and capable of dealing with reactive oxygen species fairly easily. These include enzymes like glutathione peroxidase, catalase, and superoxide dismutase. Our livers have one of the highest concentrations of mitochondria in the body, and therefore, very high concentrations of these enzymes as well.

Generally, a well-functioning liver filters all sorts of things from our bloodstream with ease, from cellular waste by-products to alcohol. However, sometimes even the liver can fall behind and become less effective. It does, however, take a great deal to permanently damage your liver. This is certainly true for individuals who suffer from cirrhosis or other liver diseases, but it can also be true for otherwise healthy people who just aren’t firing on all cylinders. Stress, anxiety, lack of exercise, and dietary issues can all contribute.

Study 1

So, if we find ourselves in that position, science and history both tell us that incorporating dandelion into our diets is a great way to give our livers a bit of support. A study in Food and Chemical Toxicology (You et al, 2010) examined the role of ‘aqueous extract’ from T. officinale on alcohol-induced oxidative stress. The study extracted dandelion root in both ethanol (a tincture) and water (a tea). In both cases,  pre-treatment with the dandelion extract protected hepatic (liver) cells from oxidative damage.

It is worth noting that the tincture produced more robust results than the tea, but both demonstrated benefit in reduction of ROS in cells, improved cell viability, and protection of antioxidant enzyme levels in the liver. The study was conducted using a pre-treatment approach, so it suggests that incorporation of teas or tinctures into one’s diet regimen should be done consistently and not in the hopes of alleviating damage that has already occurred. That’s not to say damage can’t be undone; the liver is a remarkable organ for regeneration, but certainly prevention and mild injury are easier things to address.

Study 2

A second study, appearing in the same journal (Gargouri et al, 2012), examines how dandelion mitigates damage associated with lead poisoning in neonates. So, while alcohol goes straight to our livers; lead more readily affects our brains and, specifically, the development of young brains. While I mentioned we would focus on the hepatic protection component of dandelion, it makes sense to link antioxidant activity to other organs that also have high concentrations of mitochondria, and our brains most certainly qualify! In this case, rather than testing teas and tinctures, the researchers decided to explore what simply adding raw dandelion or spirulina to the diet of pregnant rats could accomplish.

Remarkably, doing so improved the weight of lead-poisoned neonates back to control levels at birth. It also significantly reduced peroxidation levels (damage by ROS) in the brain and cerebellum of those neonates (more so in male offspring), and restored brain protein levels in offspring to control levels. The effects were also observable in the levels of antioxidant enzymes, restoring them to control levels in every instance. This study was conducted during gestation of the rat neonates and through 14 days postpartum. This points to the power of both herbs to mitigate the damage of lead poisoning during gestation, and more excitingly, during lactation.


The studies we discuss here are really the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amazing powers of dandelion. They speak to how different preparations can slightly alter the efficacy of the herb. They also suggest that there’s no need to get fancy about how you decide to consume it if you choose to do so. Teas and tinctures are very effective, but so is tossing it, washed and clean, onto your salad now and again.

Certainly, eating it means you need to consume more of it to achieve that same concentrated therapy, but don’t we all need more greens in our life?! As always, you should add any sort of supplement or herb to your regimen after a chat with your doctor. It is important to remember that herbs absolutely count as medicine. Once you get the go-ahead, head back out to the yard (pesticide and lime-free) and enjoy what nature offers up so freely and abundantly.

Other articles by Rebecca Powell-Doherty:

Yoga for Chronic Disease Management

Does Yoga Improve Recovery and Shorten Wound Healing Time?


Cruikshank, Tiffany. Optimal Health for a Vibrant Life: A 30-Day Program to Detoxify and Replenish Body and Mind. Createspace Independent Pub, 2014.

Gargouri, Manel, et al. “Spirulina or dandelion-enriched diet of mothers alleviates lead-induced damages in brain and cerebellum of newborn rats.” Food and chemical toxicology 50.7 (2012): 2303-2310.

Schütz, Katrin, Reinhold Carle, and Andreas Schieber. “Taraxacum—a review on its phytochemical and pharmacological profile.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 107.3 (2006): 313-323.

You, Yanghee, et al. “In vitro and in vivo hepatoprotective effects of the aqueous extract from Taraxacum officinale (dandelion) root against alcohol-induced oxidative stress.” Food and chemical toxicology 48.6 (2010): 1632-1637.

9 Women Share Their Meditation Testimonials

Kristen Fischer for interviews nine women who share their meditation testimonials. Tiffany Cruikshank and eight other women swear meditation changed their lives. Read on to learn more.

9 Women on How Meditation Changed Their Lives

Who doesn’t have that one friend who’s always gushing about meditation? She finds time for it, doesn’t have a problem sitting still and claims it’s changed her life. Admit it: You kind of want to know her secret.

May is National Meditation Month. So, we thought it was the right moment to ask women about the real ways it’s impacted them. All of the studies already laud meditation for things like lowering risk of heart disease and cancer, improving calm and focus and overcoming fears and anxiety. But aside from avoiding a super-scary diagnosis and feeling better overall, which are obviously great benefits, what does that actually mean in day-to-day life?

For me, it began in the last few moments of yoga class during Savasana. At first, it was hard to lay there and hear the silence around me, but I soon embraced the downtime. Before long, I found myself taking Savasana breaks at home for a few minutes at a time. Ultimately, I think meditation is most helpful at helping us focus on our actions so they align with what we really want. For instance, I may not react as quickly to something that upsets me, which helps my body avoid harmful cortisol or adrenaline surges that come with being an anxious person.

Meditation can happen in many ways, and once you practice it, you’ll find that it works itself into your day seemingly without even having to try. To me, that’s the biggest benefit of all. Here’s how other real women use meditation in everyday life.

Click here keep reading.

Why you Should Try Acupuncture Now

Kristi Pahr for Paste Magazine sits down with Tiffany Cruikshank to discuss acupuncture, its history, how it works, and why you should try it.

You May Be Convinced to Try Acupuncture After Reading This

Would you let someone stick needles in your face? Better yet, would you pay someone to stick needles in your face? What if they told you it would make your headaches go away or help with your allergies? Or that it wouldn’t hurt? No? What if they told you it is a legitimate form of medicine that has been around for thousands of years? Skeptical? You shouldn’t be.

Acupuncture is legit medicine and has been around for over 5000 years. It’s a foundational part of Oriental or Eastern medicine and has been shown to help with everything from headaches to depression. According to the Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences, “Acupuncture is a very ancient form of healing that predates recorded history. The philosophy behind acupuncture is rooted in the Daoist tradition which goes back over 8000 years. The people of this time would meditate and observe the flow of energy in the universe.” That flow of energy, or qi, is the basis of acupuncture.

The philosophy is based on the principle of two opposing forces, yin and yang, that provide balance to both the universe and the body. When yin and yang are out of balance, however, the body is out of balance. Your life force energy, or qi, flows through channels in your body, called meridians, and keeps yin and yang in balance. If those meridians are clogged or your qi is blocked, you get sick.

Click here to read the full article.

1000-Hour Yoga Teacher Training: Why you Should Enroll

More and more yogis are realizing a 200-hour YTT just scratches yoga’s surface.

Teaching yoga has never been so desirable: For every current teacher, there are two more people interested in becoming one, according to a 2016 national survey by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance. And while 200-hour yoga teacher trainings remain the most common option available (and the base requirement for becoming a registered teacher), a growing number of instructors and students alike believe 200 hours of education is not enough.

Enter 1,000-hour teacher training programs, which are cropping up at yoga schools across the country. “We know yoga teaching as a profession is still evolving, and we want to do our part in helping to elevate the standards for teaching,” says Micah Mortali, director of the Kripalu Schools, which now offers a 1,000-hour track that exposes students to a wide range of teachers and lineages. Tiffany Cruikshank, founder of Yoga Medicine, also offers 1,000-hour training. “I want to raise the bar for yoga teachers. I want to enable them to have both better credentials and more confidence in their interactions with students,” says Cruikshank. Sounds like the best summer school ever!

Are you considering leveling up your yoga teacher training? Check out Yoga Medicine’s advanced yoga teacher training programs: 500-hour or 1000-hour.

The Anatomy of Fascia & How to Target it

Senior Yoga Medicine teacher Rachel Land breaks down the anatomy of fascia and four effective ways to keep it fit through yoga practice.

You’ve heard the most sure-fire approach to fitness is to “keep the body guessing,” but what if we said the same was true about flexibility? We know that fascial fitness is created in response to stress. Research, led by Robert Schleip, Ph.D., at the Fascia Research Project in Germany, suggests that fit, resilient fascia results from stressing our tissues in varied ways—stretching, compressing, and twisting them in multiple directions, at varying speeds, and under different loads. Looking more closely at the myofascial tissue, we can start to understand why.

Within our muscles are spindles that measure changes in muscle length. Each of these spindles has about 10 sensory receptors in the surrounding fascia. There are four different types of these myofascial mechanoreceptors. Each of these measures the mechanical load on our muscles and fascia and respond to different types of stress. Let’s breakdown and how we can target each of them on the mat.

Please visit Yoga Journal to read the rest of Rachel’s article.  

Workout Podcasts: 6 Health Experts Reveal their Picks

If you’re growing weary of your workout mix, podcasts for the gym can offer a whole different kind of boost. Tune in when you’re running a few laps—or slogging through your morning commute—and take in expert insights that can help you tweak your health, habits, food, and fitness in whole new ways. Check out the 6 must-have workout podcasts as chosen by health experts.

Image from Men's Health Podcast from an article about the six best workout podcasts for the gym.

But how to choose among the thousands of podcasts available? Click here for a cheat sheet on six different workout podcasts from health experts (including Tiffany Cruikshank!)

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