Category Archives: Mindfulness

Mind Your Mouth

Not to complain, but right now I feel like Edward Scissor Hands brushed my teeth for about 3 hours straight, and it’s rather unpleasant. This week, I had gum surgery to repair some recession. This was my third and, thankfully, final one. (They only do small areas at a time.) I’m grateful that this helped prevent me from becoming toothless in my old age, but it would be way better not to get in this situation at all.

Preventing gum issues isn’t only about keeping your teeth and avoiding painful surgeries either. The health of your mouth, teeth, and gums has a massive impact on the health of the rest of your body. Chronically inflamed gums are strongly correlated with many chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s. The inflammation simmering in the gums can spread to other parts of the body. Because inflammation is at the root of all chronic disease, controlling inflammation in your mouth is an important part of prevention. Also, when your gums are inflamed, weakened, and injured, bacteria can more easily get through and start trouble around the rest of the body.

Brushing, Flossing, and More!

We all know to brush and floss at least twice a day, preferably also after meals. Yadda yadda yadda. But here are a few refinements, some of which I learned only recently.

  • An electric toothbrush like Oral B or Sonicare really do clean your teeth better than a regular toothbrush. I couldn’t believe how much cleaner my teeth felt after I started using one 20 years ago. It almost feels like you had a professional cleaning every day!
  • My hygienist told me that recent dental research has found that slowing down, and spending a few seconds on each area is much more effective than mindlessly moving the toothbrush around the mouth, like I used to. I think of this new (to me) approach as “mindful brushing”. A little more mindfulness is always a good thing!
  • It’s also recommended to angle the brush into the gumline, GENTLY wiggle it, and slowly angle the brush so that you clean the rest of that tooth. Let the brush do the work. Don’t be like me and grind the brush into the gums. There are youtube videos showing this – it’s called the modified Bass technique.
  • When flossing, bring the floss down the inner edge of the tooth into the gum, rather than slamming it into the top of the gum between the teeth, if you can picture that. My gums are apparently scarred from doin’ it wrong.
  • Now, the next topic makes me want to run screaming down the street wearing an old bathrobe, waving a toilet plunger in the air. Get this – some floss is coated with teflon, that forever chemical that is being phased out because its so toxic and persistent. There are flosses with no teflon, like Cocofloss. Only get the mint flavor though, because the others have synthetic fragrance at this time, which makes me want to put my head through the monitor. (Okay, breathe and relax, Lisa.)

Mouthwash Kills!

You know how the intestinal microbiome (the good bacteria in the gut) is so incredibly important for every aspect of our health? Well, your mouth has a microbiome too! It’s made up of 20 billion microbes with 600 different organisms, all highly organized in different neighborhoods in your mouth.

It might sound gross but those critters are an important part of your immune system. They keep pathogenic microbes in check and help you digest food. We should not kill them. Listerine, first developed to sterilize operating rooms, demolishes the protective ecosystem you have in your mouth. If you really want to swish something around in your mouth, try oil pulling with coconut or sesame oil. This is an Ayurvedic practice that’s excellent for gums and teeth, whitens your teeth naturally, and helps you to detoxify. Check here for more info.

Lactobacillus species are particularly important for a healthy oral microbiome. You can “repopulate” your mouth by eating yogurt with active cultures or other fermented foods on a regular basis. Some experts even suggest letting the yogurt sit on your tongue for a few moments. The non-dairy options are excellent and better for you overall. Forager vanilla is almost dessert like, but does contain a little sweetener. I really enjoyed the Kite Hill plain as well, especially after I put some berries in it.

Tongue Scraping

It’s not as bad as it sounds. In fact, once you start tongue scraping, you’ll never go back. Tongue scraping is another Ayurvedic technique to cleanse the bacterial debris (they call it “ama”) off your tongue. It’s usually recommended first thing in the morning.

To scrape your tongue, you can get a stainless steel or copper tongue scraper, like Banyan Botanicals’ Tongue Cleaner. Stick your tongue out and and gently move the scraper across the surface of the tongue back to front five times, rinsing the scraper after each round. Follow with brushing and flossing.

Trust me, you’ll love it!

Mouth Breathers Beware!

I always thought “mouth breather” was just an insult kids hurl at each other. Turns out, there are health related reasons not to breathe out of your mouth. Our saliva is important for maintaining pH, cleansing the oral cavity, nourishing the oral microbiome, and facilitating healing of any gum injuries. When you breathe through your mouth, your saliva evaporates and the oral cavity dries out. You also lose more hydration when you breath through the mouth vs the nose. You end up with more plaque, which causes gum recession, inflammation, and bad breath. Research has found that mouth breathing actually changes facial structure in kids, resulting in an elongated face, crooked teeth, gummy smile, and more.

So breathe through your nose! If your nose is stuffy, investigate the cause. It could be food sensitivities (especially gluten and dairy), synthetic fragrance in your home or detergent, or allergies. After my friend Kim told me about “Breath” by James Nestor, I’ve been working really hard to breathe through my nose during exercise, which has a nice side effect of increasing cardioprotective nitric oxide.

If you tend to breathe through your mouth when you sleep, they actually suggest putting a bit of tape on your lips. It won’t stay the whole night, but over time can train your brain to keep your mouth closed. The good news is that as you retrain yourself to breathe through your nose, the passages open up more and nose breathing becomes more natural.

Dental Armageddon

As if we aren’t dealing with enough, some experts are concerned that the pandemic is also ushering in a “dental armageddon”, from missed or delayed appointments, stress, or possibly even masks. There have been reports of increased gingivitis in patients who never had that before, an upswing in broken teeth possibly due to stress-related teeth grinding, and complaints of “mask mouth”. Masks increase the temperature of your mouth area by 2 degrees C, which modulates the oral microbiome. Compounding that, people may tend to breathe through their mouth when they wear a mask. When wearing a mask, be sure to breathe mainly through your nose and stay well hydrated. As you know, steer clear of antiseptic mouthwash, because that will only exacerbate the issues.

Nutrition for Gum Health

After I already was committed to doing the surgeries, I came across “Nutritional Medicine” by a Alan Gaby MD. It’s a treasure trove of natural health approaches to a huge variety of medical issues. He recommends excellent nutrition for gum health including avoiding refined carbohydrates, and taking specific nutrients like Coq10 (ubiquinol), folate, zinc, vitamin E, vitamin D, and ensuring sufficient copper and calcium. (Don’t supplement with calcium or copper without verifying there is a need.) He also shared this amazing case report:

“I saw a 49-year-old woman with moderately severe periodontal disease who had been told by her periodontist that she needed extensive surgery. She was advised to take 60 mg/day of CoQ10, to use 5 ml of 0.1% folic acid mouth rinse twice a day, and to brush buffered vitamin C (calcium ascorbate) powder gently into the gums once a day. After 1 month of treatment, the periodontist remarked with surprise that her condition had improved substantially and that she no longer needed surgery.”

If you’ve been warned that you’re heading toward gum surgery, this might be a cool experiment that could save you some physical and financial pain. Be sure you get the exact vitamin C recommended – calcium ascorbate.

You can read the entire chapter for free here.

Summary to Smile About

We’ve known for decades how important it is to take care of our mouth, teeth, and gums. In these wacky times, it’s more important than ever, and maybe even more challenging than ever, to practice excellent oral hygiene. Just as the eyes are the windows to the soul, the mouth is the gateway to the body. Oral hygiene is an important pillar of overall health.

Book Review: Breath – The New Science of a Lost Art

I am so thrilled. I’ve been wishing for years, maybe even a decade, that my funny, deep thinking, well read, amazing yoga teacher, lawyer friend Kim Blanc would do some book reviews for the hundreds of books she reads every year. Over the years, we have had many illuminating discussions about what she learns. She’s so well spoken, in a relatable and inspiring way, that I’ve always believed that her knowledge needs to reach a wider audience. Today is that day I’ve dreamed of. I am so happy to share her review of James Nestor’s book, “Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art”, that has the yoga world buzzing. Without further ado, here’s Kim’s reflections:

These days, more than ever, we need to take responsibility for our own health. Currently, our healthcare system is over-burdened and healthcare costs are through the roof. As individuals, there are simple things we can do not only to maintain our health but even improve it. Improving diet and exercise, reducing toxins and stress can have a profound and lasting effect on the prevention and treatment of most chronic ailments and diseases. However, there is nothing more important to our health and well being than the way we breathe.

I’ve just finished reading BREATH: The New Science of a Lost Art, by James Nestor. I honestly believe that if the whole country read this book, and learned to breathe better, there would be no health care crisis (physically or financially) in the US (COVID-19 aside). “Modern research is showing us that making even slight adjustments to the way we inhale and exhale can jump-start athletic performance, rejuvenate internal organs, halt snoring, asthma, respiratory issues and autoimmune disease, and even straighten scoliotic spines.”

In a nutshell, Nestor’s research, dating as far back as 500 BCE, and citing ancient wisdom and modern science, tells us that for optimal health we need to breathe through our nose, day and night, and breathe less by slowing down the breath. The perfect breath being to breathe in slowly for about 5.5 seconds and breath out for about 5.5 seconds. That’s 5.5 breaths a minute for a total of about 5.5 liters of air.

As part of his research and under the supervision of an Otolaryngologist (a nasal and sinus surgeon) at Stanford, Nestor conducted an experiment where he plugged his nose and breathed only through his mouth for ten days. At the end of the ten day period Nestor’s snoring had increased 4,820 percent, he experienced, for the first time, sleep apnea which dropped his oxygen levels some nights to 85%. When oxygen drops below 90% the blood cannot carry enough oxygen to support body tissues. If this continues for too long, he writes, this can lead to heart failure, depression, memory issues and early death. In addition to a whole host of other miserable symptoms, Nestor’s blood pressure rose to the level of stage 2 hypertension, his stress related hormones spiked, suggesting that his body was under physical and mental duress, and his heart rate variability plummeted. Luckily, when he removed the plugs after ten days and began to breathe through his nose all system returned to normal. Since he is now primarily a nose breather, and regularly practices breathing exercises, his overall health has improved significantly.

Most of what I read in this book was not a big surprise to me as I have been practicing yoga and its recommended breathing techniques for ten years. In reading this book I appreciated so much all of the research and science that Nestor brought to light. I won’t bore you with a litany of my own past ailments, but suffice to say that the quality of my life has vastly improved since I began practicing yoga with an Ujjayi breath (slow steady balanced breath with an inhale for 5 and an exhale for 5 through the nose while constricting the back of my throat to created an ocean sound) and other forms of pranayama (breath exercises). A mouth breather my whole life, especially during sleep, and the host of health issues that went with it, I now sleep with my mouth closed and I no longer suffer from periodontal disease, sore throats, a whole host of sinus issues, anxiety and the misdiagnosis’ of many doctors. I now take responsibility for my own physical and mental health by breathing better and consistently practicing yoga and as a result, I have not had to see a doctor in years. This isn’t to say that I don’t appreciate doctors, I certainly do, but I take as much responsibility as I can to avoid having to see one in the first place and breathing better most definitely helps.

Let me close by saying that if you snore and/or experience sleep apnea, try placing a one inch piece of surgical tape over your mouth before going to bed. Nestor describes it as a Hitler mustache dropped down one inch over the lips. Don’t worry if it doesn’t last the night. Just keep doing it night after night. You will eventually train yourself to keep your mouth closed. If your sinuses are blocked try some saline spray before bed. By employing these two strategies, over time, your sinuses will open and enlarge and your overall health will improve, guaranteed! The nose is a use it or lose it apparatus! Use it!

Read the book! You’ll never breathe through your mouth again. Improving your health is that easy and it’s free!

(Note from Lisa – Thank you Kim!)

8 Reasons to Cleanse During the Quarantine

  1. We’re not going out partying, drinking Starbucks, or eating decadent restaurant food.
  2. You don’t have to miss out on any fun because you’re cleansing. There’s nothing to miss out on!
  3. We actually have time to exercise, meditate, and sleep.
  4. Although some things are being hoarded in the stores, inexplicably, there is still plenty of produce!
  5. Cooking breaks up the monotony.
  6. You’re bored so you might actually read the eBook.
  7. You’re already cranky, might as well make the most of it.
  8. Because you can come through this pandemic, healthier, stronger, and better lookin’ than before.

PLUS I’m offering a steep 77% Corona discount to make this comprehensive program as affordable as possible (just $35), so more people can improve their health and immune system.


This Might Sound Weird, But…

Last week, I listened to a raisin. Sounds crazy, right? But don’t worry, I wasn’t hearing voices or having a conversation with the raisin. I listened to the raisin as part of a mindful eating exercise in the MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) course I’m currently taking.

Have you ever done a mindful eating exercise? If not, I highly recommend it. It’s so surprising what you notice when you slow down and engage all of your senses in the act of eating. You notice flavors, textures, sensations, and yes, even sounds. We rolled the raisin between our fingers near our ears and did actually hear a small sound.

Mindful eating isn’t just for entertainment though. It has very real benefits.  

  • You chew and digest your food much better. If you have digestive issues of any kind, even something as simple as bloating, try eating all of your meals mindfully for a few days and I can almost guarantee that you’ll notice improvement. Better digestion further improves nutritional status – you’ll absorb more of the nutrients in all that healthy food you eat. 
  • Because you slow down, you appreciate your food more, instead of just throwing it down the hatch barely noticing all the complex flavors. So you’re actually satisfied and not scavenging all day and night to get that satisfaction.  
  • You eat a lot less. Because you’re slowing down, your body has a chance to register signals of fullness and satiety, and you actually notice them. This is a natural, easy, enjoyable way to lose weight.
  • And lastly, but not leastly, you feel more peaceful and centered. Multitasking of any sort including eating while driving, working, reading, watching TV, etc is subtly stressful. I never realized that until I had a mindful meal. I felt so relaxed after my mindful meal, that now I notice how shoveling food in while doing something else is agitating.  

When you eat mindfully, you don’t need to go to extremes and listen to your food. It can be as simple as – “When eating, eat” – aka not doing anything else while eating. Slowing down and noticing the flavors, chewing well, pausing between bites, and checking in with your belly sensations several times during the meal. If you’d like more guidance, check out the Center for Mindful Eating’s resources.   

Image by Hiroki Yamamoto

Memorial Day Musings

Instead of taking just a moment of silence for all the brave men and women who lost their lives defending freedom, I think it would be wonderful to honor them in our meditation practice. When we meditate, we cultivate a sense of peace and expanded consciousness that metaphysically ripples out into the world around us.  

This was demonstrated when 4,000 monks descended upon Washington DC in 1993 to reduce crime by 20% through their own meditation practice. The police chief, who apparently was not a meditator himself, was understandably skeptical. He thought the only thing that could reduce crime by that much would be 20 inches of snow. Imagine his delight when the crime rate decreased by over 23% during the six week experiment! With no added costs, details, trainings, or outreach… just strangers meditating nearby.    

Imagine if more people in our country meditated daily? The Dalai Lama asserted, “If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”    

Perhaps one of the solutions to violent crime is not “thoughts and prayers” but “meditation and prayers”. My prayer is for humanity to recognize that we are co-inhabitants of a small planet, and every individual, group, race, and species has a right to peace, prosperity, and the pursuit of happiness.

“Imagine all the people
living life in peace, you
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one”
 John Lennon

Image credit: Michael Levine-Clark

He who half breathes…

… half lives.

Or as one yoga student amusingly misquoted, “He who doesn’t breathe, doesn’t live.”

In our culture, we tend to only think about breath when it becomes a problem, like when doing burpees or after eating garlic. Or more accurately, when someone else eats garlic (and then joins you in the sauna*). We assume breathing is more of a subconscious activity, and there’s no need to think twice about it.

So, it may come as a surprise to learn that breathing is the new yoga (as MM Owens pointed out in his magnificent article Breathtaking). Breath exercises, known as pranayama, have been an integral part of yoga for thousands of years. Many popular styles of Westernized yoga relegate pranayama to a few deep breaths in the beginning of class and “coordinating movement with breath”. Although these are vital for yoga, there’s a whole world of breath techniques to discover – breaths that calm, energize, focus the mind, “polish the skull” (no kidding), detoxify, enlighten, and even tranquilize, if that’s what you’re looking for. Just like the tagline “there’s an app for that”, there’s probably a breath for that.

There’s even a type of breathwork that’s been described as “20 years of therapy in 1 hour”. Mystical and legendary, it goes by many names; integrative, holotropic, kriya, and more. I was first exposed to this practice at the Energy Intensive program at the Kripalu. As much as I believed in the power of breathwork, I found myself scheming how to skip this portion of the workshop because it sounded so dreadful. But out of my immense respect for our instructors Sudhir and Shoban, I showed up.

They set you up in small groups with a dedicated coach. You lie down, get super comfy with pillows, blankets, and bolsters – whatever you need – and then commence the breath technique. It’s a very simple practice actually. I can only describe it as those little breath spasms that would come after crying really hard when you were a kid. It’s a quick inhalation, with a long, “letting go” exhalation. That’s it.

And you do it for an hour.

The first 10 minutes aren’t fun. It feels like it’s going to take forever and be tedious and your mouth is going to be dry, yadda yadda yadda. But then something takes over, and the breathing becomes automatic; you don’t even have to try anymore. If you do happen to space out out, your coach will gently remind you to begin again.

What happened to me the first time blew my mind, and still does to this day. My coach, Laura Mushenko, asked me early on if I needed anything to get more comfortable. I asked her to roll up a blanket under my neck. After she did that, I asked her to make it just a little bit higher. Here’s where it got bizarre… As soon as my neck relaxed on that perfectly rolled blanket, I started instantly bawling like never before. Totally out of the blue, like someone flipped a switch. I cried so hard for so long that my face twitched. It was ugly crying at its finest.

Although I was probably in an altered state, what I experienced felt very real. I saw myself as a newborn, alone and scared in my crib, with terrible stomach pains. (After I was born, they called me “Screamer”, and the doctor assured my parents that crying alone in the crib was good for babies.) My adult heart broke for that little baby. But understanding the suffering that I endured so early on, felt profoundly like “healing my inner child”, and I didn’t even know there was an inner child to heal. All that crying was soul cleansing, letting go of an incredible sadness that I didn’t even know I had. It. Felt. So. Good.

So yes, it really was like decades of therapy in one hour.

I became a huge fan of this technique. I went back for a second session at the Kripalu a year later, which surprisingly turned out to be more blissful than anything. Then I arranged another small group session for my friend’s 50th birthday. Because who wouldn’t appreciate the gift of crying until your face twitched?

That angel who perfectly supported my neck, and wiped my tears and boogers for an hour, flew in to our area to lead our birthday group in this process. It takes a very special person to hold the space for people to go through something that intense, and Laura is that special. She led us lovingly and expertly.

With this type of experience, there is a deep respect for our own innate intelligence, and we trust that what needs to happen will happen. That said, I honestly would have liked to hear my friends cry more (wahahaaa!) because I wanted them to have the same depth of experience I had the first time. But even though there was less emoting than I expected, I believe good things happened. After the session, everyone looked so refreshed, relaxed, and kind of sparkly. In the week that followed, I heard reports of lightness, vivid dreams, and feeling more alive.

My own experience the third time felt metaphysical, deeply meditative, and expansive. At one point, I stopped breathing for what seemed like a very long time, and floated in that pristine stillness. Admittedly, I kind of wanted to cry hard again myself, but this was probably just as good. When it was over, I felt cleansed and refreshed, even without all the tears, and was reminded of just how powerful breathwork is. When you bring a subconscious process under conscious control, you may catch a glimpse into your own subconscious. You also enhance your sense of vitality, joy, and clarity, especially through regular practice. Practicing simple techniques like the full yogic breath for a few minutes each day can make you feel calm, energetic, and focused. Who wouldn’t like a little more of that?

Image credit: Tasha Marie

* That was me… sorry Karen and Beth!

365 Days of Wisdom, Inspiration, and Insight

Yoga teachers all around who I deeply respect, have read this book year after year. Each of the 365 short passages are imbued with stunning, poetic insights and thought provoking concepts that will help us to become better people as the year progresses.    

I fell in love with it after just the preface!    

I hope you’ll join me in reading it this year. I’d love to hear back from you any way that it has impacted you. If enough of us read it, we could even create a private Facebook group to discuss over the year. Comment below if you’re into that!

Did we miss the best part of Thanksgiving?!

If you’re like most people, your Thanksgiving involved gross overfeeding, family (the good, the bad, and the ugly), lots of work, and manic Black Friday shopping, perhaps all sprinkled with a tiny bit of stress. Although it’s written right into the name, we’re too busy washing dishes and buying stuff to focus on the “thanks” part of Thanksgiving. But if we really knew just how life changing giving thanks is, we would jump on that bandwagon with more vigor than we jumped on the treadmill today!

Like exercise, gratitude practice makes us feel happier, more energetic, healthier, more attractive, and so much more. You’d think it would be our default state, but the human tendency to focus on what could go wrong (or kill us) is probably one of the reasons we survived as a species. But in modern life, that mindset isn’t protecting us as much as it is detracting from our quality of life.

The good news is – we can change it! Through gratitude practice, we rewire our brains, the way we look at life, what we feel capable and deserving of, the way we react to others, and consequently how they react to us. Feeling grateful gives us more energy, clarity, and joy. When we have those things, we aren’t as prone to engage in unhealthy habits like too much food or drink. We just feel better and more at ease all the time, and everything ripples out from that.


You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.

– Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance


There are many variations, but one of the simplest ways to practice gratitude is – upon waking and before going to sleep, just think of a few things that you’re grateful for. Do this consistently, every day, and watch how all the good things in your life magically expand.

We’d love to hear about your gratitude experience, how you do it, and what happened… Share below!

Photo credit: iStockPhoto