Guest post graciously contributed by Kara Aubin.

I hear some version of the question “What’s right for me?” often from my clients. We have a sense that there are foods that would work well for us, a type of asana or meditation that would be more beneficial than others, a best number of sleep hours, etc. We seek this connection to balance as evidenced by the rapid-fire transition many of us have moved through exploring diets (Blood Type, Atkins, South Beach, Raw, Paleo) or exercise (Spin, Bikram, Pilates, Ashtanga, CrossFit, Barre). We know there’s something out there that will leave us feeling like we have enough juice, and that we can rest into ourselves (feeling, you know, balanced). For various reasons we can find ourselves disconnected from our inherent wisdom, which means we aren’t all at a place where we can best intuit what’s going to bring us balance.

Ayurveda offers an amazing tool for sorting out this question of “Is this right for me?”. It’s the 10 pairs of Universal Qualities. Not as well known as the three constitutional types of Ayurveda (the doshas), these 10 pairs of opposites (the gunas) offer what I think is an even more practical, more applicable guide to personalizing the choices you make towards wellness.

So let’s look at the list…

Heavy                                     Light

Slow/Dull                              Sharp

Cold                                        Hot

Oily                                         Dry

Smooth/Slimy                      Rough

Dense                                     Liquid

Soft                                         Hard

Stable/Static                         Mobile

Subtle                                     Gross

Clear                                       Sticky/Cloudy

In Ayurveda we see everything: organic and inorganic substances, thoughts, and actions as having these attributes. These qualities are the potential energy of a substance. This potential energy eventually becomes the action of a substance when it is transformed in a reaction like burning or digestion. That means this these qualities act on and in your body.

To understand how these qualities affect us we need to look at a precept of Ayurveda: “Like increases like, and opposites balance”. So, if we are experiencing a lot of a quality, like dryness, substances that are also dry will exacerbate the issue, where as substances that are oily will bring balance. This simple concept becomes mind-blowing when you begin to understand that these qualities apply to everything. That means that everything has the potential to be medicine (balancing) or poison (imbalancing).

If you take one thing away from this, here it is…

Everything can be medicine or poison. It depends on the qualities of the individual interacting with it.

This is why when I’m asked about the lasted fad diet, my answer is typically “It depends.” There is no one-size fits all approach that will work for everyone. While someone may thrive on particular foods, or foods prepared in a particular way, another may suffer indigestion, mal-absorption, weight imbalance, and a build up of toxicity in the body because of them.

So the next time you’re wondering “What’s right for me?” try this practice out. Ask yourself what symptoms you’re currently exhibiting and see if you can identify the qualities behind the symptom.

  • Are you constipated? Chances are that dry, rough, and hard are present. If so, then substances that possess the opposite qualities of oily, smooth, and soft will be medicine.
  • Do you have a rash? Is it a hot, oily, mobile rash? Then cold, dry, and static are for you.
  • Are you tired and sluggish after eating? Does it feel heavy, slow, and dense? You’ll want to bring in light, sharp, and liquid.

Using the Universal Qualities not only gives you a quick check on whether something is balancing or not, but it also helps to connect us to the world around us. We see ourselves as connected to the food we eat, the movement we partake in, and the qualities of our relationships. I invite you to enjoy exploring and being supported by the idea of the Universal Qualities. If you need some help deciphering and decoding how these qualities are present in the world around you an Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist or Practitioner can help.

Kara Aubin is a certified ParaYoga teacher (ERYT) and Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist based in Kalamazoo, MI and Albuquerque, NM. She weaves the teachings of yoga, ayurveda, and holistic living into group classes, workshops, and private sessions to share radical wellness with you.
 
 Photo Credit: Lauren Macdonald, https://www.flickr.com/photos/42386632@N00/
 
 

Guest post graciously contributed by Maria-Luisa Chea.

I find that there is an exciting feeling of freshness to these first days of the year, a promise of unlimited possibilities waiting to unfold before us. The holidays are officially over and it is time to get on with our lives. It is also the time to harness the heartfelt desire to bring forth the best in us, and integrate our intentions for the New Year into our lives. But where do we start?

The best place to start is to meet ourselves where we are. Seems obvious and simple, doesn’t it? Think again! During the last year, I have been sharing with my students and especially working on integrating into my own life, this apparently obvious place to start whatever it is we are starting, be it our day, our practice or even the New Year. And though I feel I have made some progress, I have to admit that I need to keep working on it.

Meeting ourselves where we are means taking a deep and sincere look inside so that we don’t confuse the place where we want to be, or the place where we think we should be, with the place where we really are. This is where the challenge begins. We might feel a strong resistance to accepting to see where we really are. We are caught within that lopsided image we have of ourselves. It is so much easier on our ego to see just the good and pretty and forget about the bad and the ugly.

Becoming aware of where we stand physically, energetically and emotionally might not thrill us. But the truth is that the only place where we can truly relax and release stress and tension is by meeting ourselves right there where we are. Furthermore, it is only by opening up to ourselves where we are, and relaxing into that space, that we can take a next step that is aligned with our own truth or Dharma.

Thankfully, Yoga and Ayurveda provide us with the tools we need to take that deep and sincere look inside, to work through our resistance, to relax in our space and to nurture our intentions for our next step towards our truth. Here are some of the practices that have helped me make some progress in this direction. Try them and I’m sure they will help you as well.

  • Take a moment to check-in upon waking. Taking a moment to notice how I feel as I wake up in the morning and connecting with my heart helps me start out on the right track. It allows me to figure out what I need this day from my practice. Do I need an early morning relaxation? Or is it a day for hearty sun salutations?
  • Abhyanga, give yourself a daily dose of self-love through self-massage, with the oil that is best suited for your dosha. I find that in addition to nourishing my body and my soul, abhyanga brings me to the now. It makes me more aware and present in my body.
  • Take time to relax deeply. Practicing deep relaxation, if not daily, at least a few times during the week, helps me cut through the armor of tension that builds up when I’m not watching. It helps me open up the heart. It is also a great preparation for the next practice.
  • Sit with the breath. This I find to be the most powerful of the tools. Just sitting with my breath, without trying to change or correct it, without trying to shape it in any way, just being with the flow and movement of my breath as it is. This quiets my mind and brings it inward so I can hear the whispers within. It helps me to release resistance by giving me perspective. It is all right to be where I am now.
  • Practice Yoga Nidra to plant your intentions deeply into your subconscious. Meeting myself where I am and relaxing into that space doesn’t mean that I will stay there forever. It just means that I am in the most suitable position to discover and take my next step. The practice of Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep, is the perfect soil to plant my intention, or Sankalpa for my next step.

May the New Year bring light to your consciousness; peace to your heart and may your path unfold with ease and grace, manifesting your deepest intentions.

Hari OM!

 

 

Guest post graciously contributed by Liz Ritoli.

Shortly before the beginning of December, during a particularly dark and dreary week, I started to think about how short the days had become and how my favorite day of the year, the Winter Solstice, would be coming up soon. Yes, I thought, the days will soon be getting longer and the sun will start to travel northward again. My mind immediately went to dreams about what could be different in my life as soon as there were more minutes of daylight – short evening walks, getting home before dark, not feeling like it’s bedtime at 5:30. Then I started to getting excited about the winter holidays and the start of the new solar year.

What changes at the start of a new year? We are time-bound creatures who measure our lives by the cycles of the sun, moon, and stars. Even if nothing particularly significant is changing in our lives we have a stirring of newness and opportunity, fresh eyes on the sameness of our circumstances. We feel free to press our personal reset button, or claim a legitimate “do-over,” confident that no one will step in to contradict our claim. We are absolutely empowered to take stock, wrap our arms around ourselves and carry our sweet selves over the annual threshold.

But wait, what about “the list” of resolutions that start with “I will never . . .” or “I am going to . . .” or “I will quit . . .” or “I will lose . . . ?”  May I suggest that resolutions may be old school? Our knowledge of Ayurveda prepares us to take stock, make modifications and adjustments, and step lightly into 2015 with renewed enthusiasm and peace of mind. Each of us is a work in process, right? Our lives and environments are constantly changing, right? We’ve learned how to balance ourselves through the hours of the day, seasons of the year, and cycles in our lives. With that knowledge and understanding we can certainly make flipping the calendar to January 2015 a graceful transition.

OK, that’s the mindset, but here’s the reality. The weeks right before the “graceful transition” can be anything but graceful. All the major winter holidays are jammed into a tiny window of time that starts with preparations for Thanksgiving and ends with New Year’s Day or Twelfth Night. By the time the last black-eye pea is eaten, many of us are strangers to ourselves and very possibly strangers to our family and friends. We vow and resolve to get back to our “normal” routine now that the holidays are over.

Let’s get down to it. Start by tidying up around the house and making a note to take the greenery out of the house by Twelfth Night. Take your winter whites and pastels to the dry cleaners so they’ll be ready for next year and take a look in your pantry to see what needs to be restocked (basmati rice and mung dal?). Check your houseplants – do they need a little cheering up, a.k.a. water? Check in with yourself – do you need a little attention, too?

Spontaneous and last-minute moments and events rule during the holidays which makes it all too easy to sidestep your Dinacharya during the Holidaze; but it’s just as easy to get started again, and the positive effects will be immediate. If you haven’t remembered to scrape your tongue every day, start again with gentle vigor (don’t damage your taste buds!). Any ama from the fabulous food you enjoyed? Just thank your sweet body for digesting what it could, clean your tongue and move on!

Has daily oiling become a memory and not a basic part of your daily shower routine? Remember when you first learned about oiling and got the suggestion to start with the massaging your feet at night and work up to oiling the whole body? Go back to that beginner’s mind if you need to – whatever it takes to get slippery again! Seriously, folks, we’re in a Vata time of the year and have just celebrated our way through a very Vata holiday season, so we NEED the oils to ground us, warm our bodies and souls, and protect our skin.

‘Nuf said about the outside of the “super tube,” what’s going on inside? If it’s been a while since you had your morning glass of warm lemon water, put a note by the bathroom sink to start that again tomorrow! The warm “cuppa” wakes up your senses and kick-starts your digestion. Bye-bye ama, hello happy gut.

If you haven’t been visiting your mat and cushion as much during the festivities, and you’re thinking about returning to your full practice, start easy with a couple of sun salutations and a few rounds of bastrika and agni sara, followed with sitting quietly for about 5 minutes.   Consider whether your full practice will be too much now and, if you need to, come back slowly and thoughtfully.   A simple practice done with a focused intention is a nice post-holiday gift to yourself.

By the way, what did you give yourself during this holiday season? Was it the fabulous gift of time with family and friends or playtime in your kitchen making delicious baked goodies for your neighbors? Did you allow yourself the leisure to choose perfect gifts for your dear ones? Maybe one day you were so tired that you gave yourself permission to say, “Enough, I’ve had it!” and took a nap? Or better, maybe you blocked out an entire day to just BE, not DO.

I’m preaching to the choir, and I haven’t said anything new and brilliant. What I write is just a reminder that the “graceful transition” marks a time to get back to business after celebrating the Return of the Light. We’ll all spend some time readjusting our sleep cycles, meal times and food choices. We’ll get back to our yoga mats and meditation cushions and will be profoundly grateful when we realize how much we missed them. Our bodies will feel like home again. Our minds will come to rest in those quiet places where we visit with our thoughts, visualize our dreams for the coming year, and put aside our disappointments from the past year.

Whether we measure our year from Solstice to Solstice or New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Eve, we instinctively know that we are living in a constantly changing world of causes and effects, the grand play of manifestation and dissolution. My friend Kay Allison says, “Everything in the universe is subject to change and everything is on schedule.” All we can do is watch what’s happening in our lives, remember what we’ve learned, and make changes as necessary. It’s a flow, and what’s more graceful than being in the flow?

 

 

Guest post graciously contributed by Julia Cress.

“Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” – Louise Penny. This came from a novel my mother was reading and brought my thoughts around to the work of mantra, similar to the sound of church bells, how it’s vibration when held internally changes us, brings us to stillness, lightens us up, and allows our human heart to meet the divine within.

Recently we were hit by a snow storm that for days the snow fell and drifts would pile to cover our backdoor. Every day we had to push hard through it, shovel, and make plans for where to go next in the driveway as the snow banks were so high, flinging it over the banks became intense physically, mentally, emotionally. The very first day when we came out of our house, the snow was 4-5 feet deep and we walked through it slowly like we were in the lake, yet it felt a bit scary, cause you weren’t in a lake, you were surrounded by something much denser, and the drifts on the roof ready to fall at any minute kept your ears tuned to all sounds so you could get out of the way. It truly felt like our Everest of a storm, we had to keep shoveling, breathing, and praying. We prayed and did our mantra for the strength to continue the manual labor that we would not lose power, that our roof would not cave in and we would not lose ourselves to anger or fear.

The mantra I chose to say internally and out loud at times when the going got rough was one that is meant to help work with anger. Interestingly I don’t feel like an angry person, yet when you are meeting resistance of any kind, whether it’s a difficult personal relationship, money issues, or a natural disaster, well, anger tends to arise. I used the mantra consistently for 5 days, that in itself was intense, I found that saying it out loud at times was better cause I could hear it and its guidance was undeniable, it cleared my thoughts so I could be present for the task at hand and through that was able to be patient, calm, and steady.

There were many times during this time that I was able to stop and see how beautiful the snow was as it blanketed everything making the environment quiet. On the fifth day we were on a neighbor’s roof shoveling off the snow and stopped several times to watch and listen to the birds and also breathe in the fresh air that the snow created. The mantra helped me the whole time stay with the work, be kind, and work with nature.

As of late, building Ojas for me is about letting past truths fall away in order to live authentically. The understanding is that to have Ojas, means to feel vital, contained, strong, enthusiastic, luminous, and fluid, the old ways of doing this would have been to exercise more, study harder, and be busy, which for me was reflecting an outward appearance of success.

This year had taught me something about deep rest, autonomy, and authenticity in ways I have never experienced. For whatever reason my once easy to wake habit has passed, it’s not that it is hard for me to wake up early but I just don’t want to any longer, to arise and feel refreshed at a later hour now is more appealing than getting up before everyone else as if it is a race to be won. Getting more sleep and using the morning hours to be present with myself, notice how I feel at that moment and what I am grateful for allows for a better pace throughout the day.

This change came about naturally and truly feels so good right now, almost like being in love again, I am in love with slowing down, letting my waist get a little wider, yes I had to buy some big lady pants. At this point in my life it wasn’t horrifying, embarrassing, or shameful, just what needed to be done, like buying more groceries. I am enjoying this new pace and the real me at this time. In the past I was running, cycling, and even doing yoga cause it felt great but also I was in the midst comparing my body shape to that which was deemed acceptable, attractive, etc., that tended towards the more masculine framework than a curvy, soft feminine frame that right now I really like.

Oiling every day is part of my routine and became even more important when a gentleman told me about his ritual that came from being in AA. As he massages his body he prays, practicing the art of anointing and celebrating that he is still on the planet helps increase his appreciation for his life and the world around him and gives him support to keep from falling victim to alcoholism.

Slowing down has also helped me love meditation practice. Before it felt like something to get through to get to the next more important task, now I revel in sitting, making time for comfort, solitude, and connection with that force that is my own and all around me.

When nature gives us an experience whether it’s a storm outside of us or inside, the use of mantra and meditation helps us align with the experience instead of fight it as if it was wrong somehow. Nature is never wrong and righting ourselves with her helps the light get in.

“There is a deep wisdom in giving up the fight to make it go away. When we instead come home to our path, we come home to what is. You are where you are. So be there. Stop trying to protect yourself from the harshness of right now, fleeing into a long fabrication about how it’s going to be one day. That’s a way of avoiding the here and now truth of our lives.” – Sue Monk Kidd

Guest post graciously contributed by Heidi Audet.*

If you live in a cold climate during the winter months, staying healthy can have its challenges. Since roughly 80% of our immunity comes from our intestinal health, it’s important that we nourish and support our digestion in ways that honor us. Thankfully, the science of Ayurveda recognizes this. It teaches us how to support our health with good digestion and assimilation of nutrients to keep our immune system strong. I think about my grandfather and his generation who used old time remedies based upon observation and sworn family testimony that helped keep a generation of grandchildren on the road to recovery from colds and flu.   As I began to study Ayurveda, I was amazed at how many of my grandfather and grandmother’s folk remedies bore a striking resemblance to the suggested Ayurvedic treatments. After living and surviving many cold winters in the Adirondacks, they knew how to maintain their health. I can count on less than one hand the number of times in the 36 years knowing him that my grandfather had been sick with a cold or flu virus.

The one thing my grandparents never gave me when I was feeling the ill effects of the flu or a nasty fever was a cold drink. “Puts a chill in your bones,” my grandfather, Harold, would say. Like increases like, and he knew it, even though he never studied Ayurveda. My grandmother, Libby, would make me a homemade chicken bone broth when I lacked appetite, and my grandfather would brew me a nice hot cup of ginger tea, and many more to drink throughout the day while I was huddled under a mountain of covers resting. The concept was simple. Nourish, support, rest.

Tips for Building Immunity

Winter time is Vata time – air and ether dominant. When you look at the qualities that are present in this season – cold, light, dry, irregular, rough, moving, quick and changeable, and knowing that like increase like, the opposite qualities will help to mitigate the qualities of excess Vata. We need to slow down and create moisture, warmth, smoothness, stability and constancy.

Rest is vitally important. Follow a routine of bed by 10pm with 8 hours of sleep to recharge your immune battery. Winter activities can be refreshing and exhilarating, but as the body works to maintain warmth your energy can be depleted. Proper rest will help keep you healthy and aid in recovery from those illnesses that sneak up on you.

 Another one of the keys to building a strong immune system is largely by paying attention to what you put in your body. In Ayurveda, a strong agni (digestive fire) is needed to help with digestion. Warming foods, especially when the season is cold, helps to kindle the fire. Cold foods and drinks act as dampers and diminish the firepower of your digestive function.

Ayurveda utilizes the Six Tastes – Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter, Pungent and Astringent – to create balance in our immune and digestive systems. Each taste can have a therapeutic effect if done in moderation. Sweet has a nourishing effect on the body and supports tissue building; it helps to ground. This taste has a pacifying effect on Vata. Sour has an invigorating effect on the body, encourages the eliminatory response, and helps improve digestion while stimulating appetite. Salty taste encourages warmth, moisture and adds heat to the digestive process; in the cold, dry season of Vata, this proves beneficial. Pungency, in moderation, brings a heating quality. Use sparingly, though, as its other qualities of light and dry can increase Vata aggravation. Combined with the heavier taste of Sweet can help anchor Pungency. Bitter and Astringent’s drying nature can help clear out inflammation in the body, and congestion in the lungs and sinuses. In very limited quantities, these can help to thwart the congestive mucosal effect colds and flu has on the head and chest.

Below are a few remedies to bring balancing qualities to Vata and support winter wellness.

Turmeric Milk Drink

This recipe combines the sweet tastes of warmed milk, cardamom, ghee and cinnamon with the pungency of ginger and black pepper. Turmeric’s heating quality and bitter taste alleviates Vata.

1 cup fresh raw whole milk
1/2 inch minced ginger
2 whole cardamom pods, cracked
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 whole black peppercorns
1 tsp cinnamon1 tsp of ghee
Add jaggery, maple syrup or turbinado sugar to sweeten spiced milk at end of cooking.

Directions:
Bring the milk to a boil. Reduce to simmer. Add the ginger, black peppercorns and cardamom pods. Bring to a quick boil then reduce to simmer; add the turmeric, cinnamon and ghee. Heat for 3-4 minutes. Strain, add sweetener (optional) and drink. 

Chickpea Pudding

My dear friend, Navita, shared this family recipe with me. Her mother used to make this for her when she was a little girl growing up in Punjab, India. Chickpeas are rich in zinc and contain the astringent quality; this helps with colds and bronchitis. Navita’s recipe was used to clear congestion in the chest, help with coughs and support the immune system during bouts of respiratory and digestive illness.) (Serves 7)

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups of chickpea flour
2 cups of water
2-4 tbsp Jaggery or raw sugar (turbinado)
3 Tbsp of ghee

Saute ghee in saucepan.  Add chickpea flour and when it turns brown (under 3 minutes), remove from heat and add the jaggery (or turbinado sugar) and water.  Stir for 5-6 seconds. This sweet pudding can be used in place of a kichari during detox or cleanse.

Ginger Tea

My grandfather’s recipe was strong but effective. You may adjust the amount of ginger based upon your tolerance.

Ingredients:
1-2 Tbsp of dried ginger
1 Cup of boiling hot water
Squirt of fresh lemon juice
Sweeten to your liking

Directions:
Steep the dried ginger and lemon juice in the boiling water for 5 minutes. You may strain, or add more hot water once you drink down to the grounds. Once tea is cooled to warm, add honey or brown sugar to taste.

With warm, moist food and drink, proper balance of Ayurveda’s 6 Tastes and supportive rest, Vata season can be managed in a way to help bring about winter wellness and an enjoyment to winter. Happy Holidays!

 
 *Heidi L. Audet is an ERYT, RYT 500 and AYS Torchbearer graduate.

Guest post graciously contributed by Heidi Audet.*

Wellness is often regarded by what is observed on a bathroom scale. It sometimes is perceived in one-dimensional terms that only serve a limiting belief of what we should be, often purported by doctored magazine covers. Many of us spend extreme amounts of energy trying to lose weight without understanding what true wellness is. We need to remember that we are individuals who possess our own innate wisdom of health. Instead, many of us get drawn into the one-size-fits-all fitness programs that don’t always work for the masses to whom they are marketed. Practical tools for wellness far extend beyond the dinner plate, gym membership or desire to fit into a size 4.   Total health encompasses a great deal more. We need to ask ourselves, “What gets us into bad habits of unhealthiness?” We need to look at the hidden causes residing in the deep lake of our consciousness, bubbling up to the surface, pulling us into a pattern of sadness, disease and poor choices. While we might choose what is considered the best foods to nourish our bodies, lets not forget that our mind and soul crave nourishment too. We exercise to become fit, but for some there is just not enough exercise in the world to calm their mind and bring them the happiness they think they will find on the face of the bathroom scale. A total approach to health, one that incorporates mind, body and spirit and recognizes the uniqueness that exists in each person is a path worth travelling.

Stress and its Effects on Wellness

Many years ago around the holidays, I was going through a painful end to my marriage. The relationship’s end brought me to a place of excessive weight loss; I was buying clothes in the junior section because the size one was not available in the women’s department. I had always been a fit person, but the experience of loss left me less than that. I had lost my appetite; I was unable to eat without feeling jabs of pain or sick to my stomach. For 6 months I slept no more than 3-4 hours a night because sadness kept my mind stirring. I went to the gym, ran 5 miles a day and every other day leg pressed over 200 lbs because as a good pitta, I just needed to push away the feelings that were pulling me down. Many of my friends commented on how good I looked since losing so much weight. Deep down, though, I was not doing so well. Hiking, one of my favorite past times, began to be a chore. I had no energy. I had no stamina. I had no fight left in me. Exhaustion became a constant companion. By late Autumn, my hair was breaking off and falling out, and my skin had become paper thin. My eyes were empty pools that had lost their sparkle and I struggled with feelng cold all the time. As if it were some marker to my fitness, I was happy that at least my jeans still fit nicely.

Then the next big shift came: I began to swell. My health took a downward spiral and by January, only three short months later, I had gained 30 pounds. I was seeing doctors and specialists who were testing my thyroid, my pancreas and my blood; my general practitioner suggested I might have an adrenaloma. I watched my potassium and sodium levels move up and down like a yo-yo. What happened? For so many months I had put my body through undue stress with the intense exercise, lack of real nutrition and proper sleep that my hormones were out of control – the pendulum had swung the other way. When tested it was revealed that I was carrying around nearly 10 pounds of excess water weight from the inflammation. My feet were so swollen it felt like I was walking on shards of glass. I suffered recurring asthma and panic attacks and I was out of breath walking up a flight of stairs. Clearly, my whole system was a mess but I couldn’t understand why. My appetite had returned by that fall and I was eating healthy salads and all the suggested “right foods.” I worked out the gym and practiced my yoga asana, but nothing was changing for the better physically.

Yoga & Ayurveda Bring Balance

Thankfully my Yoga was that one activity that gave me a bit of solace to stay in the present. For that one hour a day that I practiced, I felt a margin of calmness.

The root of my drastic weight loss and rapid weight gain in a year’s time had been the same. Mental and emotional sadness that was not resolved had manifested physically, and was wearing on my whole system. The deep lake of my mind craved nourishment and healing as much as my body did. A good friend who saw the pain I was in lent me a book to help me understand my sadness over the divorce. My therapist suggested I read Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth and write in a journal. I reclaimed my practice of Ayurveda with my longtime Ayurvedic Practitioner, Betty Moylan, and I began to dabble in meditation, something I once thought of as a waste of time because I could be doing something else more meaningful. Hah!

My practice of Dinacharya (self-care) increased to a daily ritual. I practiced Abhyanga self-massage and nourished my nervous system with oils to pacify my Pitta and Vata doshas. Soon I was feeling increasingly balanced mentally and physically.

I took some to learn about myself through Svadvaya (self-reflection); soon I began to understand what went awry. I began to worry less about the excess weight loss and the sudden weight gain, and focused more on how to nourish all of me properly. I surrounded myself with likeminded folks who craved harmony, peace and joy, and limited my time with folks who had the tendency to drag me down. My Ayurveda practice reminded me to eat whole nourishing foods according to my Prakruti and I worked on ways to incorporate those foods and practices that addressed my current vikruti (imbalances); I observed my reactions, journaled my feelings, practiced more yoga and pranayama, got better sleep and even allowed myself times to reflect in silence. My mate, Dan, encouraged me to enjoy meditation and walks in nature with him when I was feeling stressed, and reminded me to engage in these practices whenever he witnessed my tell-tale signs of aggravation. In 2010 I underwent a surgery. Prior to the procedure my tests revealed that aside from being slightly anemic, I was in good health. After the surgery, my doctor informed me that my tissues were pink and healthy like that of a 20-year old. She credited my lifestyle behaviors and practices for this state of wellness.

I was no longer a size 4, but it didn’t matter. Health and wellness were mine, and I had holistically achieved it. It didn’t matter what the scale said, the tests were very clear. In 2011, my desire to learn more about Ayurveda led me to AYS studies with Kathryn Templeton at the Himalayan Institute. I gained more insight and understanding about myself and how to help others who struggle with total health challenges. The program gave me the tools to balance my life in more ways than just through food and exercise; I learned how to balance my pitta tendencies towards overdoing and became more comfortable in my own skin.

Today, nearly 7 years since that life-changing divorce, I am happier, more whole and continue to follow a path that is right for me. It doesn’t come from a one-size-fits all program, it certainly no longer includes a scale, but it does come from that innate wisdom deep within, and with guidance from a 5,000 year-old philosophy meant to honor the inherent nature residing inside of us: Ayurveda, the science of life. As Pandit Rajmani Tigunait states in his book, Secret of the Yoga Sutra, we are all “islands of excellence.” We simply need the proper tools to remember. I thank my partner Dan, my friends, my teacher Kathryn and most definitely Ayurveda and Yoga for guiding me to true wellness.

*Heidi L. Audet is an ERYT, RYT 500 and AYS Torchbearer graduate.

Guest post graciously contributed by Laurie Dean.

Ways To Survive The Holiday Craziness!!

You’ve heard that song before – it’s been playing in every department store since October! And while the holidays are so wonderful – loving times with family and friends, delicious meals, sharing the spirit of the season – it also means jam-packed schedules, lots of stress, no time to relax!!

Especially during the holiday season, it is so important to take time for your own wellness. If you don’t, you won’t have the energy, time or patience to give to others. So what does Ayurveda offer us to take care of ourselves this holiday season?

First – take the time to connect with something that feeds your soul – a walk in nature, a cup of tea with a dear friend, playtime with your pet – all simple actions that bolster your feeling of well-being. Start or end your day taking time to appreciate all the many gifts life has given you – doesn’t have to be in the form of a formal meditation practice – just find a quiet space, light a candle, sit still and reflect on all the goodness in your life!

Put my 2 favorite Ayurvedic practices into practice – Abhyanga and Nasya.

Nasya_Pure_Bliss_1200x1800_mediumNourishing self massage – or abhyanga – is a loving ritual we can do each day to nourish our skin and calm our nervous system. Gently warm your favorite oil – add to it a relaxing essential oil like lavender or rose and apply the oil before your daily shower. Let the oil absorb for 10-15 minutes before you jump into the shower and wash up. This practice is a delicious and simple way to pamper yourself as you start or end your day.

Use Nasya oil every day! Nasya means “nose” applying a few drops of nasya oil to each nostril every day helps to keep our nasal passages clear and our brain calm and refreshed. Check out the Himalayan Institute webpage – they have 2 types of nasya oil for sale – Clarity, a lovely invigorating scent and Pure Bliss, a soft subtle scent that invokes a feeling just like the name implies!

Use these 2 simple daily self-care practices. You will feel calmer, more relaxed and be able to enjoy this most wonderful time of the year!

Guest post graciously contributed by Lisa Snowden

Ahhh…the Thanksgiving holiday is my favorite and one that is unique for each and every person and family. The spread of dining options varies from one household to the next based on the collected harvest to the cultural background of the family. What we’d all like to find in common with each other is enjoying food prepared with LOVE. Gratitude for what we have, be it little or lots. Gratitude to have made a nurturing meal for others or enjoy what others made for us. I find myself with sensations of gratitude for the people who have nourished me through life and the appreciative role I take to nourish others.

Prepared for you here are some recipes to help you bring Ayurveda food love onto your holiday table.

Ayurveda expresses a fulfilling dining experience to be one consisting of the six tastes: Sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter, astringent. The food plus the spices used to prepare the food help gather all these tastes. In respect to the elements dominant during the dry, cold and often unpredictable fall and winter season, this is a time to experience sweet, grounding and moist tastes. Sweet foods are loving to body, mind and build tissues in the body, which is important as we head into winter. Winter is a depleting time of year. Even bitter and astringent foods, like seasonal greens, can be oiled, cooked and spiced in ways to aid digestion and offer a variety of tastes and colors to any dining experience.

Are you getting hungry just thinking of Thanksgiving? I do! Add more Ayurveda love to your table with these recipes, packed with flavor and modified for your holiday table of abundant, palette-pleasing options.

  • Baked apples for fall
  • Sweet Potatoes with a Kick
  • Kumquat and Cranberry Relish

Bonus for you is KT’s six taste pumpkin pie recipe! Posted separately here. It’s free! only Nov. and Dec. using the code (Pumpkinyum) at checkout.

 

 Baked apples for fall

Baked Apples

Baked Apples

Baking dish, square or rectangular to fit each whole apple.

Apple(s), one per person or half apple per person. Your favorite is perfect. Jonathan, Braeborn and Jonagold are good bakers.

1/3-3/4 cup real fruit juice, I had fresh pomegranate on hand today- Just enough to coat the bottom of the baking dish.

FILLING, per apple:

  • 1T ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1/2t cinnamon.
  • SPICES: 1/4t each: nutmeg, salt, pink peppercorns, ginger, and cardamom
  • 2T any combination of raisins, cranberries, chopped nuts, even granola and dried fruit works well.

Directions: preheat oven to 325f.

Begin by thoroughly washing apples. Cut off top ½”slice of apple, along the stem and remove core with melon baller. Don’t core through the bottom, but definitely remove all seeds creating a hallowed out section.

In a small bowl, combine all the filling ingredients. Next, place apples upright in baking dish, evenly spaced, and spoon filling ingredients into each apple’s core. Push the filling mixture all the way to the bottom!

Pour fruit juice into baking dish until about 1/4″ of liquid is in the pan. Sprinkle more cinnamon on top. Place foil gently overtop of apples to prevent scorching.

Bake for 35 minutes, until apples are soft enough to cut easily with fork or spoon, and top is golden brown.

Apples can be served whole or cut in half or even quartered to serve. Finally, a little drizzle honey overtop and enjoy. Serve warm.

 

Sweet potatoes with A Kick! Serves 6-8

4 large sweet potatoes washed well and cut into 2″ cubes. You can remove the skin if you’d like, I leave it on for cooking ease and extra nutrients (if the potato is organic!)

  • EVOO
  • Dash of salt.
  • 4 T ghee (clarified butter)
  • Spices! 1/4t each: black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper! 1/2t each: cinnamon, ginger and cardamom.

Preheat oven to 375f. Place sweet potatoes into covered baking dish and drizzle with EVOO until lightly coated. Lightly salt and bake for 20 minutes.

Place ghee into saucepan on med low heat. Add the spices. Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes being careful not to burn these spices.

After 20 minutes remove potatoes from oven and drizzle the ghee/pepper mixtures over potatoes. Cook uncovered on bottom rack for another 5 minutes until potatoes are soft enough to poke a fork though. Serve hot. Enjoy!

 

Kumquat Relish

A few years ago we had an abundant harvest of kumquats! It’s the most petite and exhilarating citrus fruit I know of, and I love citrus…the sour, sweet, bitter…combines with astringent flavors of cranberry and pungent ginger. This makes this a wonderful appetite stimulate to taste at the beginning of a meal. I see Kumquats often at my local grocer here in Kentucky (during the fall). Mandarin oranges, or tangerines, make a substitute for the kumquats but you will be lacking a distinct sour note making this recipe such a flavorful item sure to spark conversation! If you use mandarins then downplay the honey a bit.

Kumquats are intensely sour citrus fruits that are usually smaller than your big toe! The entire fruit can be eaten, rind and all! Keep this ‘no cook’ relish recipe handy-everyone will want it-

Ingredients:

  • one 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • 16 kumquats, stemmed, rinsed, patted dry
  • 3/4 cup raw, liquid honey
  • 1/2 cup minced crystallized ginger

Preparation:
Coarsely chop cranberries in processor. Transfer cranberries to medium bowl. Mince half of kumquats, removing any seeds. Thinly slice remaining kumquats. Mix all kumquats, sugar, and ginger into chopped cranberries (as mixture sits, sugar will dissolve). Cover relish and refrigerate at least 4 hours. Cover tightly and keep refrigerated.

Guest post graciously contributed by Caroline Schmidt.

I recently stayed with some friends who have a 3-year old daughter Nina. For my last night with them we all went out to a restaurant for dinner. Nina had spent the day with her dad at an indoor inflatable kiddie park. This was a wonderland for a 3-year old full of huge inflatable slides, bouncy jumping houses and pits with pools of foam balls to dive into and play. Needless to say by dinner time she was worn out and to keep herself interactive she restlessly walked around the table requesting escorts to the bathroom, not to use it, but mostly just to keep moving and exploring. Finally her parents had enough and they said to her, “Nina, are you making good choices? Do you want me tell Mrs. So-and-So you are not making good choices?” In response Nina pleaded, “No, no! I am making good choices! Don’t tell Mrs. So-and-So I’m making not making good choices!” I thought this was so cute! To see this little person pleading, bargaining over the merit of her choices. Her mother told me this is the language they use with the children at the pre-school.

 

Are you making good choices with your eyes?

Are you making good choices with your ears?

Are you making good choices with your words?

Are you making good choices with your actions?

 

Like Nina, we often find ourselves worn out and exhausted by our work, family and social responsibilities. – This, all before we even weigh in on our extracurricular “fun-time” activities. – Rather than slowing down or stopping to rest we push though our exhaustion, we continue in motion seeking stimulation of all kinds to keep ourselves engaged in the exterior world. Like Nina, we have a fear that we will miss out on something if we give into stillness.

The senses: Pratima Raichur writes,” We ‘digest’ the world through the senses in much the same way that we digest food- the force of agni transforms all the energy and intelligence that is outside us- taste, smell, sound, color, form, texture- into energy and intelligence that gives us- thoughts, emotions, nutrients, cells, tissues. In that way, all sensory experiences creates balance or imbalance in the bodymind.” –Absolute Beauty, p. 164-165

Why we can’t slow down and the virtue of boredom: Sakyong Mipham explains about the 4 types of boredom.

  1. Boredom as an undercurrent of anxiety. We are not comfortable with ourselves. With no external amusement our pattern of habituated rapid sensorial stimulation is up.
  2. Boredom rooted in fear. We are afraid of being left alone with ourselves because we are unable to relax our mind. We feel awkward and uncomfortable. The fear of not being able to imagine the mind at peace.
  3. Cool boredom. A seasoned quality of boredom, it is no longer needy, it is spacious, comfortable and soothing.
  4. Being fully bored. We see the tricks we play on ourselves with thoughts, emotions and concepts. It all becomes boredom we are no longer hooked into our need for constant entertainment.   We can relax.

– Sakyong Mipham p.76, Turning the Mind Into an Ally

Pratyahara and Healing. The art of making good choices.

“To understand the truth of reality, we have to have a mind that is not completely overwhelmed by prefabricated patterns and has roused the motivation to be truly compassionate in its quest.”

-Sakyong Mipham p.189, Turning the Mind Into an Ally

Learning to control or close off the senses and their sensory input through mindful awareness practices helps us to get comfortable with our inner reality. This inward moving energy helps us to perceive where we are at in our mindspace, hearts and physical bodies. When our prana (intelligence) is being constantly sucked out through the windows of the senses we have little energy left to manifest and develop insight and understanding, the seeds of natural wisdom. However, when we make good choices by restricting the amount and minding the quality of sensorial stimulation we conserve our energy for the internal development of own health and healing. “Ayurveda states that all imbalance- all disease and disorder- is noting but the loss of this natural wisdom, which is part and parcel of consciousness.” Pratima Raichur p. 27, Absolute Beauty

Ask yourself the questions:

Is Awareness outside of me?

Does my connection to my heart live in the external world?

Are wisdom, insight and inspiration separate from me?

Pratyahara can be practiced in many ways. A few suggestions for this season in the Vatic wonderland:

Take up a chanting practice.

Choose a sound meditation.

Practice an internalizing pranayama like brahmari or Ujjai breathing

Practice your asana in silence

Do more restorative yoga/ practices

Bundle up for a quiet walk in nature

Bhakti yoga- connect, study and worship the Divine

Settle in with your solitude

Meditate

 

Illustration by Caroline Schmidt, copyright 2014

Guest post graciously contributed by Kara Aubin.

If you’ve spent any time around me, or Ayurveda, you know we love oil. A lot. In a fat-phobic country I’m preaching the oily revolution. Why?

Ayurveda loves oil for many reasons. Applied topically, not only can it be an organic moisturizer, but also a medicine delivery system via the body’s largest organ, the skin. Applying this lipid layer to the dermis also has amazing benefits for the nervous system, helping to create a sense of containment and swaddling for the pranic body. These benefits are especially important in our culture, where even if you weren’t born with a lot of vata (air + ether elements) in your constitution, your vata can easily become imbalanced due to our fast-paced, multi-tasking, flying from here-to-there, all-the-while-on-sensory-overload lifestyles. Therapeutic applications of oil, through self oil-massage or other means help to ground and warm those light, cold, rough, mobile vata qualities so that we can feel grounded in the present moment more often.

One of my favorite therapeutic oil applications is called Nasya. Nasya is the practice of lubricating the nasal passageways with oil. According to Ayurveda, the delicate mucous membranes of the nostrils and sinuses, as well as the Eustachian tubes of the ears require adequate lubrication to remain healthy and balanced, especially in the colder, dryer fall and winter months. Nasya delivers this necessary lubrication and can be helpful in a number for a number of conditions, including: head, neck, shoulder, or jaw pain; headache and migraine; sinus pain and congestion; allergies; dry nasal passages and nose bleeds, insomnia and emotional stress, among many others. If you’re someone who runs a little dry and always has a bit of a dry crust in your nose, you’re going to feel like a whole new person!

Although there are many specialized medicinal nasya preparations, we’ll look at two typical applications that you can use daily.

Nasya for Newbies:

The first is the “finger in your nose option.” This is a great nasya newbie option, or for the on-the-go application. Put a few drops of nasya oil on your hand, and with a clean pinkie finger swab the oil inside the nostrils until they feel well lubricated. Then closing one nostril at a time give a gentle sniff to help move the oil upward. I always have a bottle of nasya oil in my bag, and will use this method a couple times a day when I’m feeling particularly dry, or if there’s any air travel happening that day. This practice is a must for you frequent fliers! This method can by used anytime.

Next Step Nasya:

The second application method provides a deeper, more through, and thereby therapeutic effect. Lying on your bed with your head tipped off the edge, you will drop 5 drops of oil directly into the nostril. One drop each is applied to the top corner, bottom outer corner, bottom inner corner, outer edge, and center of the nostril. After oil has been applied to each nostril sniff a few times to bring the oil up into the sinuses. Keep the head tipped back for a minute or so to allow absorption to occur. The method can be used daily. It needs to be spaced out from showering and eating by an hour, so using this method first thing upon waking works well for many people. If you’re a neti-er, you’ll want to space nasya out from your neti, as you don’t want the oil to trap any moisture from your neti pot in your nose.

There are a number of nice general use Nasya Oils on the market.

These are a few of my faves…

  • Banyan Botanicals makes a nice gentle Organic Nasya Oil
  • The Ayurvedic Institute’s Super Nasya is stimulating, and a great morning nasya oil
  • The Himalayan Institute’s Pure Bliss is a relaxing and nurturing blend
  • Clarity, also from the Himalayan Institute is stimulating and cleansing

So find some Nasya Oil and get some of that unctuousness in your nose. If you already use Nasya Oil I’d love to hear why you love it. If you’re just starting this practice share your thoughts or questions in the comments. Enjoy adding this practice to your personal routine!