Ayurveda is all about the ways our organism adapts, or fails to adapt to the conditions within and around us. In the case of mal-adaption, we practice the balancing actions that reconnect us to health mentally, emotionally and physically. Winter season, comprised of the qualities of earth and water, is cold, heavy, wet and dark. The outer cold sends more blood flow to the core of our bodies to keep our organs warm, so our digestion tends to be stronger this time of year than at any other time. There has been a need since the fall to eat more to insulate us from the cold, and we naturally, and healthfully store a little more fat for this reason. The outer cold and dark sends us indoors and hopefully to bed a little earlier, as adequate rest is one of the prime supports we have for our immunity and overall health. The holiday indulgences, if they continue into the New Year, will weaken our immunity and leave us vulnerable to the colds and flus going around. The heavy, dark days can lead to a feeling of stagnation both physically and emotionally. The excess fat our body stores this time of […]
In my last post, I began a series on the topic of mental digestion. Indigestion at this level is at the root of so much of the malaise, lack of focus and diminished vitality we feel in our lives that I wanted to focus some time on the topic and offer simple ways to work with it.
We all know what it’s like to be overly full at a physical level. In fact, over the holidays we probably experienced more than usual while socializing with friends and family, nibbling throughout the days and evening–not really hungry, but enjoying the abundance of celebratory food and drink. This is as it should be. Life was also made for celebrating, and these times can be wonderful in so many ways. AND these times take their toll on us when they have gone on for too long….All the leftovers and sugary treats around the house begin to bog us down and we start to feel lethargic, achy and ripe for whatever cold or flu is going around. The remedy is to give our bodies time to process the excess by waiting for true hunger to return, sipping hot water with lemon (gently detoxifying) and once our appetite […]
Caring for our Senses
Agni is a Sanskrit word that means ‘fire’ and is often used to refer to digestive strength. Mental agni is our capacity to process (digest) information and emotions—our life experience. When agni is strong at this level, we comprehend what we experience and this yields understanding and wisdom. Just as when the physical body has a backlog of undigested food we feel heavy and sluggish, so, too the mental body can get full and heavy when we don’t take time to digest our life experience. When we routinely take in more than we can digest and assimilate mentally, we weaken our agni, and thereby our whole system.
This mental/emotional backlog results in a kind of toxicity–‘ama’–which clogs the mental pathways. When mental agni is impaired, our thinking becomes cloudy, our memory, faulty, our capacity to make meaning of our lives is weakened and we may experience insomnia, depression and anxiety.
Most of us know but don’t often consider the impact of the tens of thousands of sense impressions we ingest daily—some of them may be healing—but many of them are not. Additionally, we lead lives that are quite busy and full and so there is simply not enough space to process of […]
Its not surprising that my Ayurveda teacher, Dr. Vasant Lad, began our 6-week intensive talking about AGNI—digestive “fire.” Ayurveda teaches that all imbalance in the body starts in the digestive tract. Those low-level, chronic gut issues undermine our good health and over time, send imbalance into the deep tissues (organs) creating disease. Basically, everything we take into our organism we need to digest (and that includes the zillions of sense impressions we register daily–more on that next month.). With the holiday season and colds and flus in the air, I wanted to offer you some ways to support agni, this season so you and your family can stay healthy and bright.
Agni, the sanskrit word for “fire,” refers to all of the digestive juices in our stomach as well as the digestive enzymes from the liver and pancreas and the rest of the digestive tract. According to Ayurveda, there is agni in every cell in our body (think cellular metabolism) and in 40 main sites in the body. But the primary Agni, called “Jatara Agni” is in the stomach. If agni is strong we are physically radiant, with lustrous skin and eyes, good immunity, balanced temperature regulation, a clear mind and […]
So much of my spiritual journey began when I was a young college student on a tight work/school schedule. Back then, I used to manage my workload by sticking to a daily routine that even included times to use the bathroom. I remember the day I realized how crazy that was.
I had begun practicing yoga regularly and ending my practice feeling very emotional–sometimes crying. My understanding of the mind/body connection was just developing–at that time, I saw my body as something separate from my mind and spirit–something I would stretch and strengthen, but not a source of wisdom or healing. I worried that the tears after class meant I would have to give up yoga. As my emotional body continued to unravel with ongoing practice, I reached out to the mental-health center at school and made an appointment.
I remember sitting in the clinic waiting room before my first session, anxious and uncertain. When the therapist called me in, I entered and sat down and began to sweat under my arms. Soon after, I began to cry. I didn’t know why I was crying, and I felt embarrassed not to have any words for my feelings. I think I mumbled a little between the tears and afterwards I signed up for another session. Each […]
Fall is a time of year when the ether and air elements increase and with them their qualities of mobility, dryness and cold. To balance this increase, we bring in the opposite qualities of stillness, moisture and warmth. It’s the same in the late afternoon. You know that time of day when you start to feel scattered, tired and a little frayed? This is a great time to take 10, and rather than push through to completion, step away from whatever activity you are engaged in and take a moment to gather yourself together. Part of staying healthy and sane in our modern life is learning to align with the Natural rhythms rather than fight them.
It’s so common when we start to feel the lull of the late afternoon to drink more coffee, reach for a quick burst of energy through a sugary carbo-laden snack, and push through to complete whatever we’ve been working on. However, most of us who’ve tried this know that this exacerbates the problem, and while we may succeed in pushing through, we sacrifice our peace of mind, and drain the little energy we had left for our work day, and return home frazzled and exhausted.
Yoga and Ayurveda are both at essence about expanding awareness and entering more fully into relationship with Reality. Through Hatha Yoga, we relate to our embodiment, not as a mental concept, but as our direct experience or felt-sense that includes layers of mental and emotional tension patterns as well as depths of intuitive knowing and at essence, Being itself, as our very nature.
Our physical and mental habits can either free or obscure the flow of prana through our system. With more awareness of our habit patterns comes more freedom to choose responses that support our deeper intentions. Yoga reveals to us directly that we are not separate from the whole, but intimately a part of it. Ayurveda shows us that our interconnectedness with all means that our organism is always registering changes in our environment. By adjusting our routines and daily rhythms to support our body’s balance, we can come into better alignment with ourselves, others and all of Life.
Ayurveda, which is the science of life describes those things which bring health and well-being and those things which bring disease and anguish. As we become more aware of the impact of our choices, we are free to choose things which bring us more calm and happiness.
Ayurveda is a 5,000 year old system of natural medicine, originating in the Indus Valley in India, outlining how to live in a way that promotes happiness, peace and health in the body, mind and spirit. Made up of two sanskrit roots: ayuh: LIFE and veda: SCIENCE, Ayurveda describes those things which create health on and those things which destroy it. Ayurveda came into being at the same time as the Vedas, the oldest recorded spiritual teachings on record, that were passed down by rishis, (wise beings who spent their lives immersed in spiritual practices). Yoga, Vedanta and Buddhism, which came along later, all influenced Ayurvedic Philosophy. Inference, Comparison, Testimony, Vedic Scripture (revealed knowledge) and Logic all constitute valid ways of knowing in this science.
Ayurveda has been described as an energy medicine in contrast to our modern allopathic “matter medicine” (Thanks to my friend, Dr. Bill Dean for that statement). Ayurveda views all matter as arising from energy or prana, in a top down, subtle to dense approach. This is similar to Traditional Chinese Medicine, which comes from Ayurveda. Whose view of the body/mind organism and how to treat it shares many similarities. Working with the subtle ways our organism […]
What to do when your actions betray your own deep knowing.
The familiar expression is ‘old habits die hard.’ Even when we are doing something that causes us pain, or prevents us from enjoying something we want in the present, we often continue acting from the outdated pattern. The habits we live by come from our history, our ancestry, our recent past, our distant past, and both yoga and Ayurveda are interested in freeing us from these patterns that keep us stuck and which are no longer serving us.
We can’t change what we don’t see. When I was in Ayurveda school my teacher often said that Ayurveda is the expansion of awareness. Ayurveda, the science of Life, that living body of knowledge that describes those things which support life and those things which go against life, begins with awareness.
I have been successful at changing patterns simply by paying more attention to them. For example, I wanted to get to bed at a certain time. I found myself habitually staying up later than that, night after night, online with unimportant media that I couldn’t even remember in the morning. My habit of staying up late and online was interfering with getting to sleep easily, getting up when I wanted to in the morning and with having as […]