Saturday, January 30, 2010

Beautiful Santorini Greece

Santorini Greece in the Cyclades, Aegean, has one of the most spectacular landscapes in Greece and in the world. The traditional villages of the island, built on tall cliffs, offer a breathtaking view over the submerged volcano. They represent the beautiful Greek cliche you have always dreamed about! Among them you mustn't miss Oia, the place gifted with the most famous and stunning sunsets.
Santorini Greece is one of the most popular destinations of Greece and is known as the home of one of the most spectacular landscapes in the world.

Every year, thousands of tourists visit Santorini to discover the famous submerged caldera, the volcano’s crater, which is situated today in the middle of a 32 square miles basin of water. Around the basin, hanging on cliffs of 150m to 300m height, one can admire some of the most beautiful traditional villages of the Cyclades. The lively colours of the white Cycladic houses and blue painted windows contrast stunningly against the black volcanic rocks rising from sea. This scenery keeps inspiring artists and visitors…These villages are named Fira, Firostefani, Immerovigli and Oia.

The island name comes from ‘Santa Irini’ and it is officially called Thera.

Santorini is located in the south of the Cycladic islands, just between Ios and Anafi, 130 nautical miles from Piraeus and 70 nautical miles from Crete. The island covers an area of 96 km2, has a coastline of 69 kilometres and its length reaches 18 km. Santorini has a population of about 6500-7000 inhabitants during winter, a number that rises up to 11.000 during the summer.

During the ancient times, the shape of Santorini was circular and that was the reason it was also called Strongili, which means circular in Greek. The volcano’s eruption destroyed the centre of the island, causing it to sink and to create today’s caldera.

The first eruption of the Volcano took place around 1500 BC, and is said to be responsible for the destruction of the great Minoan civilisation of Crete. The last eruption took place in 1956 but the volcano remains active until today. Some believe that the destruction of Santorini could be related to that of the mythical Atlantis.
To learn more about Santorini Greece, you may like to visit this website:
Hereby, I would like to share with you some of my pictures of the beautiful Santorini Greece.  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Prana, Chi and Life Energy

In both Eastern and Western traditions, the breath is associated not only with life itself, but also with the spiritual world and the indwelling spirit in man.  The word inspire is a good illustration of this: it means both the "in-breath" and an "influx of spiritual or divine influence".  (The words suspire, respire and expire all come from the same root, and relate to giving up the breath or spirit.)  In the East, the breath has also been linked to prana, the Sanskrit word for the non-material life force or energy that is said to be drawn in with the breath.  In China this is known as chi or qi; and in Japan as ki.

Chi  (which is pronounced "chee") is thought to pass through twelve main channels or meridians in the body.  Each channel is associated with a different organ, and along each are points that may be accessed or stimulated to treat physical and mental disorders caused by blockages to chi.  When chi flows easily through our bodies, we feel relaxed.  But when chi becomes blocked by negative thoughts, its flow is hampered, and this may cause stress and ill-health.  Current research on the medical efficacy of acupuncture, which uses these channels, tends to support this idea.  It is also thought that through the mind power and awareness of the breath developed by the practice of meditation, this life energy can be brought under conscious control, to the benefit both of spiritual development and of physical health.

An important first step along the path of meditation is to use the awareness of your breathing to gain insight into the quality of the breaths themselves.  The Buddha was very specific about this.  In the Anapana-sati Sutra (Mindfulness of Breathing) he teaches that:"When breathing in a long breath [the meditator] knows that he breathes in a long breath, when breathing in a short breath he knows that he breathes in a short breath."  The meditator thus comes to know whether the breathing is long or shallow; whether it is from  the upper chest or from the diaphragm; whether it flows evenly or is jerky; whether it is fast or slow; whether it is noisy or quiet.  The breath reveals a great deal about the meditator's state of mind and his or her state of physical relaxation.

An ancient yoga teaching holds that each person's life span is represented by the number of breaths allocated to them before birth.  Quick, shallow breathing uses up the allocation faster than slow, deep breathing, thus shortening life.  Like many such teachings, there is an underlying truth to this in that slow, deep breathing is associated with the relaxation of body and mind, which is clearly beneficial both to meditation and to health.

It is important to remember that deep breathing refers not to the length of the breath, but to the fact that breathing takes place from the diaphragm, as low down as possible, rather than from the restricted area of the upper chest.  Upper chest breathing is useful after exercise, when the body has an urgent need for oxygen, but during sedentary periods requires unneccessary effort.

The complete breath, which some texts advise you to employ two or three times at the start of meditation as an aid to relaxation and concentration, refers to a slow measured breath that commences at the diaphragm, then fills the middle and finally the upper chest until the whole of the lung area is fully expanded.  But take care not to hyperventilate (take in too many complete breaths in quick succession), as this can lead to dizziness and even fainting.

The breath can also be used in connection with the power of visualization.  One simple practice is to imagine the breath flowing into your body in the form of white light and exiting in the form of grey or black smoke that contains all your tensions and tiredness.  To do this, allow your awareness to move from its usual place at the base of the nostrils and to extend from the nose down to the abdomen.  On the in-breath, the white light is seen as flooding this whole area, absorbing impurities, and then the smoke flows out leaving the body purified.  This practice can be combined with The Alternate Nostril Breathing, and used at the start of each meditation.

Source from Learn to Meditate by David Fontana

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Yoga Posture: The Wheel (Chakrasana)

This asana is also known as Upward Bow Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana).  Urdhva means upwards.  Dhanu means a bow.  In this posture the body is arched back and supported on the palms and soles.

This asana strengthens the muscles of the abdomen and thighs.  It makes the back and hips supple, improves memory, and is said to relieve afflictions of the trachea and larynx.  It brings very good flexibility to the spine, stimulates and activates all parts of the body.  It strengthens the arms, shoulders and legs.  Only those who are free from any disease can perform this asana.

Advanced students can try to come into the Wheel from a standing position.  This will give you a complete backward bend to all parts of the back, neck, shoulders, and limbs.

When you feel that you can stand firmly and comfortably in the Wheel, many variations await you.  These are designed to bring an even greater increase of strength and flexibility to the spine, shoulders, and upper back.  Example of one of the variation is to bring both legs together follow by stretching and straighten the both legs with knees lock instead bend and arms straight too.  (see picture below)

Another example of variation is to raise one leg up.  In addition to the benefits derived by the Wheel, this beautiful asana develops a sense of balance and gives grace and poise.  (see picture below)

Note: Please perform the yoga posture under the guide of a certified yoga teacher especially for beginner. You are at your own risk and responsible if you perform on your own. Whatever provided here is just act as an information.

Source from Yoga Mind & Body - Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre
                      Light on Yoga - B.K.S. Iyengar

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Muffins Recipe

Home-baked bread and muffins are irresistible, and generally much healthier than the shop-bought varieties.  If you can't grind your own flour, buy the freshest stoneground wholewheat flour you can find.  Most baked goods freeze well.

Raisin-Bran Muffins

These are especially good straight from the oven for breakfast - for variety, try replacing half the brown sugar with molasses.

  • 600g (1 1/4lb) plain wholewheat flour
  • 100g (3 1/2oz) bran
  • 150g (5oz) raisins
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 litre (1 pint) water
  • 6 tablespoons oil
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.  Lightly oil the muffin tins.  In a large bowl, mix the wholewheat flour, bran, raisins, salt, baking powder, and brown sugar together.  In another large bowl, combine the water and oil.  Add the dry mixture to the water and oil mixture, and fold them together quickly until the dry ingredients are evenly mixed and just moistened.  Do not overmix, as this will make the muffins heavy.

Spoon the mixture into the oiled muffin tins, and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean.  Leave the muffins to cool slightly in the tin before removing, but serve while still warm for that fresh-baked flavour.
Makes 12 muffins.

Savoury Cheese Muffins

These unusual savoury muffins are a treat with any soup at lunchtime.

  • 100g (3 1/2oz) grated carrot
  • 600g (1 1/4lb) plain wholewheat flour
  • 100g (3 1/2oz) sweetcorn
  • 100g (3 1/2oz) finely chopped courgette
  • 150g (5oz) grated vegetarian Cheddar cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 x 400g (14oz) tin tomatoes or 500g (1lb) fresh tomatoes, liquidized or mashed
  • 200ml (7fl oz) water
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  •  100g (4oz) grated vegetarian Cheddar cheese
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried oregano
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5.  Lightly oil sufficient muffin tins.  In a bowl, mix the grated carrot with the flour, sweetcorn, courgette, cheese, basil, oregano, baking powder, salt, black pepper, and sugar.  In another bowl, mix the tomatoes, water, and oil together.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and fold together until they are evenly mixed and just moistened.

Spoon the mixture into the oiled muffin tins.  Combine the remaining grated cheese and the oregano, and sprinkle over the top of the muffins.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of a muffin comes out clean.
Make 20-24 muffins.

Variations: Try adding fresh rosemary or thyme for another delicious flavour.  Vegans can use soya cheese instead of Cheddar.

Source from Yoga Mind & Body - Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre