THE MAGIC INGREDIENT: CHAGA MUSHROOMS ARE SUPER HEALING & SUPER DELICIOUS

Feeling the Spring fever? Ysanne Spevack whips up an immune boosting pudding with chaga mushrooms that’s equal parts powerful and subtly healing. Main Image: Mariano Peccinetti 

April is an invigorating time of year, with spring’s changing moods inviting us back out of our homes and into the streets. The month also brings indecisive weather, from thunderstorms to sunshine. To face this fluctuating weather and to address the rising allergen percentage in the air, our immunity needs a natural boost right now.

Enter chaga mushrooms, a humble type of mycelium that grows on trees. More like a tree fungus than a regular mushroom, chaga is probably best known and most widely used for its scientifically confirmed anti-oxidant qualities that protect against cancer, and also for its use for people with HIV. Chaga doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to antioxidant qualities.

That said, chaga is equally powerful when eaten to reduce seasonal allergies, and it has a soothing effect on the respiratory system. What’s more, chaga mushrooms have a subtle flavor that lends itself well to sweet recipes. It has a woody taste with an undertone of vanilla, so blends well with anything containing vanilla.

Chaga grows right here in the US and is always wild, never cultivated. You can find it on birch trees anywhere along the East Coast that experiences a cold winter. And if you’re not ready for a trip into the woods, you can find it ready-powdered online at High Vibe or your local independent purveyor of high-quality medicinal superfoods.

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Chaga Chia Pudding Recipe 
by Ysanne Spevack 

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

2 medjool dates
1½ cup water
2 tbs hemp hearts
2tsp powdered chaga
½ tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup black chia seeds

Method:

Remove the pits from the dates using your fingers, and drop them into a blender. Add the water, hemp hearts, chaga, and vanilla, then cover and process at the highest speed for 45 seconds.

If you have a Mason jar, pour the chia seeds into it, and pour the liquid into the jar. If you don’t have a Mason jar, any kind of 2 cup lidded container will work.

Secure the lid, and shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds, to ensure the seeds are all thoroughly wet and aren’t clumping together. If you see obvious clumps, open the lid and break them up with a fork.

Set aside on the counter to gel for at least three hours. After that duration, it’s either ready to eat, or to refrigerate. Consume within 3 days.

Discover more about Ysanne Spevack HERE.

SENSITIVE SOUL: WORK WITH A CANCER MOON SIGN

Tips and practices to help understand and work with your Cancer Moon sign from Ash Bonelli. Artwork: Prince Lauder via Behance.net

The Moon represents the inner subconscious world that we usually only share with those we love and trust. It can show us our needs and how we care for others—and as such, our Moon sign (where the Moon falls in our birth chart) shows the style in which we express this softer side.

Work out your Moon sign, when you do you chart for free here.

The inner world of the Cancer Moon sign is a gentle, vulnerable and emotional landscape. The Moon rules the sign of Cancer so she feels quite at home in this sign making it easy to fully express her archetypal nature. When we think of the crab itself (the symbol for Cancer), we see the hard protective shell on the outside but know there is nothing but softness on the inside. A small being that carries its sanctuary on its back so it can feel at home wherever it goes.

These themes symbolize the Cancer Moon sign. You can put on a brave face, but deep down you feel EVERYTHING. You usually cry easily and really experience the emotions of any particular situation or environment you happen to be in. This Moon is very in tune with its intuition, thoughts and feelings—so much so you sometimes forget that not everything is always about you. Being sensitive is great, until it isn’t and you become resentful and hide away in your shell. There is a fine balance to be found with the Cancer Moon sign.

Taking care of others usually makes you quite happy, but when it goes unappreciated or the care isn’t returned you can get quite hurt. And so Cancer Moons are often working on expressing their needs. Working on being vocal about this is really important, as you can get so lost in taking care of others that you end up with the short end of the stick.

Fear of getting hurt is very real for you for you, mainly since being hurt in love, for example, you may feel it more deeply than others. Honestly, unless you live under a rock, you will be familiar with this pain and what it can do to you. So this is a genuine fear, but not one that should stop you from receiving love.

Often times the Cancer Moon sign is associated with the mother, and rightfully so—since both Cancer and the Moon represent this energy. But not every Cancer Moon sign wants to be a parent. The mother archetype is actually about nurturing and caring for others, offering tender love and support, and this can be applied to anything in life. Your career, your pets, your friends, your home or your hobbies. You can channel this inner need to love into anything and it will be fulfilling, just as long as you let others love you back so there is a sense of balance in your life.

Below are some suggestion to connect more to your sweet Cancer Moon sign, and make the most of its intuitive expression…

:: ACTIVE LISTENING ::
The Cancer Moon sign has a tendency to feel first when engaging with others. This can go badly if you what you intuitively pick up about someone is incorrect, which can shape the relationship in the wrong direction. You can get your feelings hurt because you feel you know what they “really meant.” But assumption is really dangerous, since it can lead to un-founded resentment which can turn into distance.

This can be easily avoided if you work on listening to what they are actually saying, rather than simply feeling into their energy. If assumption-based feelings occur take the time to ask questions to gain further insight. Use your nurturing nature to engage in a more open conversation. This way you aren’t incorrectly just reading (or rather feeling) between the lines.

:: SANCTUARY ::
All Cancer Moon signs need a place to retreat. They need a space to feel safe and secure where they can let all of their emotions out without judgement. This doesn’t need to be an entire home or apartment either. It could be one room, or even a space within a room. Maybe a meditation pillow with a small altar if this practice speaks to you.

It could also be a certain location, such as your favorite park or beach. For some it could be a place from your childhood. The Cancer Moon sign can be very nostalgic so places that awaken happy memories really warm your heart.

:: NURTURE ::
Find something to nurture in your life that isn’t another person. The need to express care is innate, but you can get burned out if this means attracting energy vampires. Needy people love the sweet lunar crab, for you will always try to help solve the problems they should be dealing with on their own. And so learn to be selective.

Finding a hobby that will reward your nurturing with feelings of worth and accomplishment is such a good idea. Think gardening, or cooking, working with animals, or becoming a beekeeper. What do you want to be good at that requires time, nurturance and patience? Find something that makes your heart feel good and you will bring some emotional balance back into your life.

:: INTUITIVE PROTECTION ::
Being that you are such an intuitive, maybe even psychically gifted person, you need to work on protecting your energy. Otherwise it’s likely people will energetically take from you until you are totally drained. This can make you feel vulnerable in an unhealthy way.

Begin by taking time each morning to visualize yourself being cleansed by white healing light. Just a simple shower before (or even during!) your regular shower. Then imagine a bubble of light surrounding you, which people can only enter into when invited by you. It can be any color that you love.

These are your mental and energetic guards for the day ahead. You could also burn some sage in your space before your start your day or make a healing spray with essential oils to mist yourself with. Anything that  creates an energetic boundary between you and the world will help.

Also, be present to when you feel depleted. What was going on? Who were you around? Sometimes the best defense is creating literal space between you and the people or situations that take advantage of you.

Above all, may you find comfort in your innate ability to be vulnerable—and use it to show others the strength in letting down our guard in a world that needs it more than ever before.

CURIOUS COMMUNICATOR: WORK WITH A GEMINI MOON SIGN

Tips and practices to help understand and work with your Gemini Moon sign from Ash Bonelli. Artwork: Prince Lauder via Behance.net

The Moon represents what we need in life to feel safe, secure, and how we need to be nurtured, and understanding your Moon’s requirements can help you connect deeper to your more private self. When you have a bad day or are just feeling “off” you want to tap into your Moon. She is the cosmic mother and learning more about the sign where she sits in your birth chart, can reveal so much about your internal landscape.

Work out your Moon sign, when you do you chart for free here.

The Gemini Moon sign is forever curious. She wants to learn about anything and everything. This Moon loves to engage and communicate, since Gemini is a mutable air sign that needs mental stimulation and variety. When things become stagnant the restless demons set in—and so keeping things moving in life is key.

Depending on the rest of your chart, these behaviors/tendencies may express in a need to always have light and breezy conversations. You enjoy gathering data, processing it and then moving on to the next interesting person, subject or experience. This flitting about keeps things upbeat and interesting yet can have a downside.

The Gemini Moon sign is learning to also go deep. It’s about finding some balance between superficial experiences and really getting to know yourself and others on a more intimate level. Because of this Moon’s voracious appetite for new information, you can come across fickle or insincere if this expression is out of balance.

This analytical moon usually symbolizes a gifted speaker, writer or teacher. Since you are always gathering information you put it to good use by sharing it with others, and this exchange of thoughts, ideas and insights can be quite soothing for you. The give and take is the thrill that propels you forward to find more.

This is a delightful quality that makes you fun to chat with, as well as being able to turn a negative emotional situation into a happier one. The Gemini Moon sign is clever and witty, so having an innate emotional tie to these abilities can bring true fulfillment through expression.

Just make sure to keep the input and output in check or you will never be able to get to your deeper self. There can be an avoidance of darker undercurrents if you don’t allow yourself time to really feel your feelings, which may mean missing out on the beauty of vulnerability.

Below are some suggestions to bring some balance back to your energetic moon as well as ways to emphasize it. These are meant to empower and bolster your emotional wellbeing to be at your best!

:: FOCUS ::
Zero in on a project that you have to stay committed to—anything that will require you to stick to it long enough to actually become proficient at it. Since Gemini is placed in the linguistic camp you could learn a new language. Mercury being Gemini’s ruler is associated with dexterity so you could learn to play an instrument. The other benefit of this for you emotionally, is that once you’ve mastered this new interest you then get to share it, creates a beautiful cyclical effect for your heart, and your Gemini Moon sign.

:: BREATHWORK ::
Learning to control your responses in more hectic situations could be very healing—and one way is with the simple art of breathing. Try practicing the 2:1 ratio breath, in which increasing the length of your exhalation helps to relax your parasympathetic nervous system. Start by breathing through the nose in your natural way without counting. Then after a few rounds begin to breath in for a count of two, and exhaling for four. Work your way up to deeper breaths from there, and try doing 10 rounds the next time you begin feeling the frazzled.

:: MINDFULNESS ::
In the simplest terms, this simply means being aware and in the present moment without judgement—actually quite hard, since the Gemini Moon sign is often stuck between wondering what the future holds and dwelling on the past. Finding a meditation practice that works for you is key, and if sitting still is just too much for you try doing a walking meditation, which will burn up any restlessness through mindful movement. You could also try Qi Gong—which covers practices from the gentle Tai Chi to the more fierce option, Kung Fu. Potentially a healing double whammy, helping you to focus and be more in the moment while still satisfying the need to learn and grow.

LET’S GET DEEP: YOGA SEQUENCE FOR SCORPIO

As the nights get longer, Scorpio season is here to make us face our inner demons – all in the name of transformation, of course. Use Ash Baker’s simple yoga sequence for Scorpio like a physical prayer to take you there…

Madonna shot for H&M 2006

SCORPIO
October 23 to November 21

Ruler: Pluto, Mars
Element: Water
Modality: Fixed
Anatomy: The nose, genital organs, blood, bladder and bowels.

8th sign of the Zodiac

Phew – we survived. Coming out of Mercury Retrograde and two Eclipses, now it’s time to transform and integrate what we’ve learned – and there’s no better sign than Scorpio as a backdrop. Symbolising re-birth and transformation on the deepest level, the most mysterious sign of the Zodiac invites us to do a deep dive and shine a light into the Cosmic cave.

Scorpio season knows it takes serious determination to kick out of our comfort zone and rise above the banal. As for the famous sting in the Scorpio tail? Sure, if you piss ‘em off you’ll feel it – but all of us possess that inner warrior, the loyal guardian of our deepest truths.

To harness this energy in the month to come, let us focus on the strength, wisdom and determination of the Scorpion. The poses chosen here are designed to ignite the energy to overcome that which no longer serves you, and to dig a little deeper into your own dark corners to bring your truth to light.

Skull Shining Breath :: Kapalabhati Pranayama
This breathwork will help to eliminate toxins, amp up your energy, and get your blood moving. Find a comfortable cross-legged seat on a blanket to prop up the hips and lengthen the spine. Let your hands rest on your thighs. If you’re a tactile person you can place your hands on top of each other on your belly. Take a deep inhale through your nose. Exhale and quickly contract your belly inward pressing all of the air out. The next inhale should be automatic and passive. Aiming for 60 rounds of beath per minute, the contractions in your lower belly should follow in rapid succession. One minute is enough if you’re new to breathwork, otherwise try three minutes. When you’re finished take a deep inhale through the nose and exhale fully through the mouth.

*Avoid this if you have high blood pressure, hernia, heart disease or are a pregnant mama to be!

Boat Pose :: Navasana
Come to sit and bend the knees with the feet on the floor. Take your hands behind you with your fingertips pointed towards you. Press your hands and sit bones down towards the floor to lengthen your spine upward. Engage your pelvic floor by scooping the tailbone slightly forward and your pubic bone up towards your chest. This action will automatically engage your abdominals. If you’re a total beginner stay here and just breathe. If you wish to go further, draw your calves up in alignment with your knees, parallel to the floor. You can keep your hands behind you for support or take them behind your thighs. Keep lifting your chest up and keep the spine straight. Don’t let your lower back round at all. To move into the full pose, straighten one leg and then the other, reaching through the toes. Take your arms straight out parallel with the floor. Keep lifting the heart with each inhale and squeeze your pelvic floor (bathroom muscles) with each exhale.

Bound Angle :: Baddha Konasana
Find a comfortable seat. Imagine your spine lengthening with each inhale, pulling you up from the crown of your head. Draw the soles of your feet together to touch. If you need a little support or feel a pulling sensation in your inner thighs you can sit on a blanket or place a block under each knee. Take a hold of your feet and pull your chest through your arms to feel as much length in your spine as you can. Inhale your arms up over your head and begin to fold forward at your hip creases with a flat spine until you reach the edge of your stretch. Then place your hands down and allow a little rounding of your upper spine and neck to happen. Stay here and use your breath to help you relax into the pose more deeply. With each inhale lengthen out a little more and with each exhale sink deeper.

*Counterpose: Lay down on your back and bring your feet as wide as your mat. Let your knees fall in. BREATHE.

:: Sea Breathing Meditation ::
Come to lie on your back and drape a blanket over your body. You want to be fully relaxed so take a pillow under your head and a rolled up blanket under your knees if you wish. Imagine you are on the beach, warm and safe. Everything is calm and serene. Feel the heat coming from the sand beneath you and a slight breeze in the air. Scorpions are usually linked to fire but we often forgot that they are water warriors, so direct your attention to the ocean. Listen to it breathing, inhaling as the tide comes in, exhaling as the tide goes out. Now listen to your own breathing. Imagine your breath is syncing up with the tides. You are breathing the ocean. Think briefly about what you would like to wash away from yourself. Picture the vast amazing power and beauty that is the ocean cleansing that which you don’t need. Use the strength of the ocean to find your inner strength. Stay with this practice for as long as you like.

Monthly Mantra: “I am empowered by my own truth.”