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.
Nourishing 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
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!)
- 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!
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-
- one 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
- 16 kumquats, stemmed, rinsed, patted dry
- 3/4 cup raw, liquid honey
- 1/2 cup minced crystallized ginger
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Cool boredom. A seasoned quality of boredom, it is no longer needy, it is spacious, comfortable and soothing.
- 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
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!
Graciously contributed by Sarah Guglielmi.
Fall is in full swing here in the Northeast– it’s the season of change and contrast! Striking colors on the trees move into muted shades of barren brown; yesterday’s clear blue skies were replaced by a cold wintery wind today.
Fall is the season of “wind.” The air and space elements are more dominant in nature, bringing forth qualities of cool, light, dry, and variance. We can see these qualities in nature around us, and if we take a closer look, many of us will find these qualities inside as well. Remember, we are a microcosm of the macrocosm, and natures’ rhythms are at work both outside and inside of us.
Air and space comprise the vata dosha, and it is common to experience some vata imbalance during the Autumn season. It may manifest as dry skin, stronger thirst, constipation, variable energy levels and variable digestion. You may find yourself wanting a second power nap each day, or you eat something you’ve been eating for months, and out of the blue you’re saddled with gas and indigestion.
How can you counter this tendency towards Vata imbalance? Apply the opposite! One tenant of treatment in Ayurveda is to look at the qualities of your imbalance (cool, dry, light, variable) and then incorporate practices and foods that have the opposite quality (warm, oily, heavy, steady).
Warm oil, used externally and internally (through diet), is one of the main ways to support balance for vata. Remove raw food and salad from your diet, and incorporate proteins, grains, and vegetables cooked with oil and warming spices such as turmeric, ginger cumin, and fenugreek. Try warming, moistening teas such as licorice, cinnamon, and ginger – yum!
The other must do practice is Abhyanga, or Ayurvedic Self Massage. As the winds pick up and temperatures drop, our minds move to visions of being warm and swaddled. I think about bundling in a blanket with a warm drink in front of a fire place. To kick the “swaddling” effect up a notch, incorporate a massage with warm oil into your daily routine. Oil is heavy and moisturizing. When it is warmed, rubbed on the body, and allowed to absorb for a period of time without any movement or stimulation, the oil creates a steadying effect on the nervous system. I experience it as a “downshift” in my nervous system, a deep calm. This is one of the most effective ways to counter the variable (i.e., moving all over the place) quality of vata. Try organic sesame oil which is heavy and warming, or if you tend to get overheated, use organic sweet almond oil or organic olive oil.
Choose a bathrobe you don’t mind getting some oil residue on! Place your bottle of oil in a cup of hot water to warm it up. Find a seat, and take a moment to acknowledge the time and care you are taking for yourself through this practice. With the bathrobe and/or towel underneath you, begin by oiling your head and scalp using circular motions. Place a small amount of oil on your index finger and rub just inside your nostrils and just inside your ears. Rub the outside of the ears as well. Massage your face, and then upward along the sides, back and front of the neck. Use long strokes to rub oil into the arms, and circular motions at the wrist, elbow, and shoulder joints. Follow the same routine on the legs, knees, and ankles. Now move to the navel, chest, and back rubbing in a clockwise direction. Oil the hips, buttocks, lower back and lower abdomen. The pelvis is the home of vata in the body (where it is most concentrated) – so take care not to skip this area! To finish, oil the soles and tops of your feet, toes, hands and fingers. Massage your skin as if you were being given a professional massage – with loving presence and patience. Take your time and feel the sensation of the skin being nourished.
Now wrap yourself in a bathrobe, blanket, pajama bottoms, socks –whatever allows you to feel cozy and warm, and sit in a pleasant space. Sip warm water, warm tea, relax, or meditate. Avoid stimulating your senses in any way (This is not the time to clean the house or check your iPhone!). Sit quietly for 10-20 minutes and feel the “swaddling” effect of the oil and cozy clothing and blankets. When complete, shower and begin your day.
Short on time? Focus on your head, nose, ears, lower back, hands, and feet – the areas with the most nerve endings. Pay attention and notice any changes in your body sensations, mood, and the flow of your day. Abhyanga sets a calm, centered tone for your day as it supports detoxification, stimulation of the immune system, circulation of energy flow, and softness and luster to the skin. Happy swaddling!
Sarah Guglielmi has been on a personal journey of healing and spiritual growth for over 15 years. She has taught yoga since 2002 in corporate, studio, and clinical settings. Originally drawn to yoga practice to relieve chronic stress and illness, Sarah has not only regained her health, but has discovered a spiritual dimension of life she finds rich and inspiring. Sarah serves on the teaching faculty of the Himalayan Institute and is the Professional Education Manager at their headquarters, where she has lived in residence since 2004. She holds a Masters Degree in Materials Engineering from the University of Delaware, and completed an eight-year engineering career with W.L. Gore and Associates, prior to joining the Institute.
Dear Ayurvedic Abbie is a feature where you ask Abbie your most important ayurveda-related questions. Anything goes! Send an email to email@example.com and your question may be in the next issue!
I call this time of year “Blue Fall.” Why do I feel blue every time Autumn comes around? I love the color of the leaves and the start of the football season, but somehow I always feel a little weepy. Would seasonal cleansing help me with this?
Dear Blue Fall,
I hear ya! For years I felt melancholy every Autumn. While I love the bright colors of the leaves— I live in New England, lucky me!— and the kids going back to school, I use to get a bit nostalgic and feel the need to take extra time getting my daily activities done. This is often what happens when we feel “blue”— we take a little more time to savor and become more aware of how our feelings are connected to our behaviors and the environment.
Ayurveda acknowledges that Ritu charya (seasonal change in our routines) is important to pay attention to, as we are part of nature and reflect the same elements in our body and mind.
When the heat leaves— as it does in nature when the leaves look as if they are on fire— what is left is very light, dry, hard and can blow away with ease. As we move from Summer (Pitta Dosha) to Autumn and early Winter (Vata Dosha), we are also moving from intensity to dispersement, from hyper-awareness and singular focus to a more floating and multi-focused energy. This can be a time of letting go and moving on.
Ayurveda has a lot to offer us to navigate these seasonal changes: food lists, pranayama, asana, deep relaxation and dinacharya (daily routine). I call these changes our “Seasonal Glitches”. Here are some ways I help myself transition, and be kind to myself when the residue of grief or letting go makes me a bit blue and I naturally slow down.
KT’s Top 5 Tips to Navigate the Pitta to Vata Transition without the Blues
- SLOW DOWN! Yep, this is the first step to a smooth transition from Summer to Autumn.
- Detach from sensory overstimulation. Let yourself have time and space to move through feelings and let them go. This means less TV or computer, and more walks (keep your ears covered from the wind!) to spend time in nature.
- Decrease processed foods in your diet and eat the bounty of the season! Use yummy warming spices and take special care to savor every bite.
- Practice restorative yoga daily. Even one or two supported poses that allow you to rest in the pose for 5 to 10 minutes will help you to surrender the mind and body, and aid in your seasonal transition.
- Use warm oil to massage your body before bathing. I like to use warming and calming aroma therapy in my sesame oil. If that oil is too heavy, sweet almond oil is a lovely option.
Don’t worry Blue Fall! This is a natural season to feel melancholy, but allowing yourself to move through those feelings will help you flow into the season of Vata with greater ease and resiliency. Autumn cleansing is about making space to rejuvenate and bring sweetness, softness, moisture and love to each cell in your body. Remember, you are of value, resilient, adaptable and deeply loved.
Guest post graciously contributed by Liz Ritoli
Apples of all kinds are coming in and my first inclination is to put them into my oatmeal for breakfast. Sometimes I have this as a light dinner with whole grain toast and ghee.
1. In a small pan, measure:
- 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons of water
- 1 small apple, cored, peeled (optional if organic), and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 Tablespoon raisins
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- Pinch of salt
2. Bring to a low boil.
3. Simmer covered for about 5 minutes…
Or, until the apples are cooked and the raisins are plump.
4. Add rolled oats.
1/2 cup of rolled oats go into to the simmering water and cook on low until the oats are done. For creamier oatmeal, add the oats at the beginning and cook all together.
To enhance the nourishing effects, hang by the stove while the spices and apples are cooking. The spicy fragrance and the warm steam from the pot is a great way to wake up your senses.
It’s going to be rainy this Columbus Day weekend and I’m pretty sure I’ll be eating this more than once!
Guest post graciously contributed by Ginny Mazzei.
The crisp, clear, dry days of autumn are perfect for ramping up our ojas-enhancing routines. The best way to nourish ojas year-round is to honor seasonal changes to help keep the doshas in balance during times of transition. Ojas, the vital essence of kapha dosha, is the end-result of optimal digestion. It gives us vitality, stamina, and a sturdy immune system— especially helpful for the cold months that lie ahead. Enhancing good digestion is an obvious way to build ojas. Other powerful ways include restorative, rejuvenative practices, and observances that deepen a sense of devotion and gratitude.
Here are a few tips for building ojas in the autumn.
1. Oil Massage
Ojas is boosted with nurturing self-care. Now is the time for daily self-massage (abhyanga) with a warming oil such as sesame. If you already have a daily abhyanga practice, consider some extra oiling of the pelvis, the hallowed seat of vata dosha. I like to add an extra 20 circular strokes to the back of the pelvis/small of the back, the lower abdomen, and the hips. This nurturing action provides great seasonal support to the main seat of Vata, and in turn supports the vital essences.
2. Turmeric Milk
That chill in the air can make you crave something warm and yummy. Enjoy a mug of warm turmeric milk an hour or so before bedtime.
- In a small saucepan, add:
- ¼ cup of water
- 1 cup of milk from a happy cow
- ½ to 1 teaspoon of turmeric
- a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon (if you’d like)
- Bring to a soft boil.
- Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool to a temperature that is easy to sip.
- Once the mixture has cooled down, you can add a bit of raw honey for extra sweetness.
The ingredients of milk, honey, and turmeric are known for their ojas-enhancing qualities. Plus, a warm milk drink close to bedtime helps induce a nice, deep sleep – another way to fortify ojas.
3. Give Thanks
It’s interesting to note that even in our fast-paced, high-tech culture, we reserve a day in November to give thanks and recognize the blessings of abundance from the harvest. Creating a small ritual around mealtimes that includes pausing and giving your full attention, awareness, and thanks for what you are about to ingest is a wonderful way to insure a daily dose of gratitude. And gratitude ups ojas.
4. Re-set Your Digestion with an Autumn Rejuvenative Cleanse
This final suggestion is not classically considered an ojas-builder. If you look at the qualities of ojas and the qualities of those things that build ojas, the common theme is one of fortifying or adding substance: milk, honey, warming oil, and sweet and positive thoughts. Cleansing comes in the camp of purification. Yet, a rejuvenative Autumn cleanse is just the ticket to reduce ama, strengthen agni, reset your digestive capacity, and set the stage for the kind of superior tissue-building that will result in superfine ojas.
How to do a Fall Rejuvenation? Check out Kathryn’s upcoming e-book!
Dear Ayurvedic Abbie is a feature where you ask Abbie your most important ayurveda-related questions. Anything goes! Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and your question may be in the next issue!
Why do I have such a hard time getting up in the morning? I’m a male, in my 30s, and my yoga teacher tells me I have a lot of vata.
Well, first let me share that you are not alone! I am not sure of your yoga teacher’s diagnosis of Vata imbalance, but I can give an explanation to some of the general ayurvedic reasons folks have trouble getting started in the morning.
There is a concept in ayurveda that dictates how time, in our 24 hours system of day and night, connects to our doshas. This explains why we have certain tendencies, regardless of our dosha constitution, at different times of the day. For example, at high noon when the sun is at her brightest, we are best at digestion! All digestion—in our physical bodies, mental body, energetic body, spiritual body..
If we were talking, I would ask you two important questions about your sleep. These questions would help me gather necessary info to better understand your sluggish mornings. First question, do you sleep through the night? This is important as if your sleep is broken you will be tired when the morning comes round! Back to the ayurvedic clock..in the middle of the night, around 2am, our ayurvedic clock moves from pitta to vata energetically. This is often when folks report “break through” waking, also known as “broken sleep”. We move from a focused energy of pitta to the lighter, dispersed energy of vata. It is often a time when folks wake and then go back to sleep. Our 90 minute sleep cycle gets off rhythm (vata) and we can have trouble getting any quality of sleep before dawn.
The other question is a two parter :) First, do you have any trouble falling asleep? And second, what time to you go to bed?
Here is the skinny on this situation! Our ayurvedic clock tells us that after 6pm we are under the gaze of kapha. Then transitions into the fiery and focused Pitta energy around 10pm. SO… the magic time to get to bed in ayurvedic medicine is around 10 or 11pm (depending upon season). If you miss this window you might just “light the midnight oil” and “burn the candle at both ends”! Often folks have trouble falling asleep if they go to bed later than 10ish. Or they have trouble falling asleep as they have not been engaging in relaxation for the hour before bedtime. Going at full speed and dropping off into exhaustion often is a false sense of rest. Rather this creates a short deep sleep and then break through or broken sleep as the clock hits 2 or 3am.
More to say about this…ayurvedic considerations to begin to support a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed morning…how are your adrenal glands functioning? Try taking your dinner closer to 6pm so you have time to digest before bed at 10. Start a deep relaxation practice in the afternoon or evening: 31 points, or 61 points of light to help your body and mind get ready for sweet dreams! And…there is always our nighty-night rasayana to help with getting to sleep and staying asleep!
Rise and Shine Sleepyhead,