Hello everyone, we are in the middle of summer and are still dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Hang it there, my friends! I hope the articles below will help you to bring your body and mind into healing and balance, and give you some sense of stability and security. Enjoy!
10 Tips to Manage Your Doshas While in Quarantine
By Suhas Kshirsagar, B.A.M.S., M.D. (Ayurveda),
If you have been feeling emotionally fearful and have thoughts of uncertainty, here are a few simple techniques that you can follow to restore your faith in the divine and diffuse anxiety and pressure.
These are uncertain and challenging times. It is probably the first time where all of humanity, in every corner of the world, is collectively affected. The most difficult aspect is the lack of clarity about the future. Everybody is anxious—from children to seniors—about health, money, travels, and much more.
Thoughts and emotions affect everyone, but how you respond to them can vary. Ayurveda talks about different mind-body types, called doshas, and how, depending on your type, you process and react to stress. This is what stress can do to you depending on your type:
- Vatas (or air predominant) can get anxious very easily. They can become fearful, restless, sleepless, and terribly worried.
- Pittas (or fire predominant) can get angry, petty, agitated, impatient, and overly critical.
- Kaphas (or water predominant) can become lazy, dull, heavy, depressed, and depleted of energy.
Now, imagine you have all of these mind-body types living under one roof in quarantine—it can heighten stress levels substantially!
However, there are specific positive emotional antidotes you can use. For example, you can combat fear with trust or faith, anger with love, and depression with motivation. These positive emotions, along with affirmations, can help to alter your mindset and make you feel relaxed and purposeful. Here are some ideas for you to check out during these trying times.
Meditation is great for mental health and well-being and can help relieve stress. Different doshas respond to the same meditation technique differently, but all enjoy the benefit of it. For example:
- Vatas can feel supported by the higher self or divine and are less anxious and fearful after meditation. They feel the presence of grace, which helps to restore their faith during uncertain times.
- Pittas can feel the love and stability during a situation that is beyond their control after meditation. They can willingly surrender in the “gap” and feel calm and content.
- Kaphas can feel the ever-changing energy of consciousness that lifts their depression and allows them to feel uplifted and motivated after meditation.
Breath is the link between the individual and collective consciousness. It can help you deal with the fight-freeze-flight mode. Practice two minutes of deep diaphragmatic breathing several times a day.
Practicing a conscious breathing exercise (pranayama) is a great way to link your mind with your body. Pranayama can help soothe a restless Vata’s mind, an impatient Pitta’s mind, and a heavy Kapha’s mind.
Accept the Wheel of Time
What goes around, comes around. For example, if you are worried about money, trust that it will get better. It is the cycle of nature. Even though space-time is an illusion it does affect the mind-body types differently. For example:
- Vatas tend to be more futuristic, thinking and worrying about the future.
- Pittas tend to stay present and overly focused.
- Kaphas often lament about things in the past.
Consciously slowing down the pace of life by meditating helps the dosha types learn to be present. They appreciate the present moment and do not feel anxious about the past or future. It may take a few more months to normalize these uncertain times, but be aware of and grateful for what you have right now. Conserve your resources and get ready for a new future with a better understanding of your finances and priorities in life.
Connect with Friends & Family
Humans are social beings, and Vatas especially, like to be touched and hugged. It calms their mind and makes them feel connected. Vatas like sunshine, bright colors, and a variety of experiences. Pittas enjoy sports, competition, and greenery. Kaphas enjoy the warmth outside, gardening, and lifting weights. Physical movements have a calming and relaxing effect on each mind-body type. If this activity is done with friends and in groups, it can be even more motivating and fun.
It is important to stay connected with your core group of friends, family, and loved ones who know you well and can provide unconditional love. Chat with them, laugh, share, and go down memory lane with them to get a better perspective on how far you have come with people who have watched you succeed. When life is stressful, it is great to be able to lean into your support group.
Feel Your Feelings
Your feelings are genuine. Your dosha-specific mind can generate thoughts, feelings, and emotions that affect your physiology instantly. Vatas’ minds are worried, anxious, and fearful when under stress. Pittas’ minds can be impatient, irritable, and reckless in a situation that is beyond their control. Kaphas’ minds may feel dull, heavy, and unmotivated.
Do not be afraid to share your feelings with others and even yourself. It is always a good idea to release the emotional pressure and gain insight into what you are feeling. When you talk to someone, you can replace feelings of helplessness with uplifting feelings of motivation.
Give others what you want for yourself. All dosha types respond best when they feel valued, appreciated, and grateful. When you give, it comes back to you. If you want to feel less anxious, help someone else calm down. If you listen to others and their needs, counsel them, provide them with resources, or simply try to understand their pain, you will feel calm, content, and relaxed. It is human nature.
Avoid Unwanted Clutter
Information is everywhere. News channels, conspiracy theories, and internet rumors sap your peace of mind and vitality. Vatas tend to easily and quickly reach information overload, Pittas can get very logical and overanalytical when overstimulated, and Kaphas can feel overwhelmed and depressed with confusing information. Replace the information clutter with something that you like—a favorite movie, music, or an inspiring Ted Talk.
The same goes for your physical space too. Clutter in your home, can lead to clutter and anxiety in your mind. During the stay-at-home order, it is even more important to keep a tidy dwelling since that is where you will be 24/7.
Avoid Nonessential Shopping
Shopping can be addictive. Vatas especially can get very tempted with various websites, sales, and promotions. Pittas can spend hours comparing products. Kaphas can get possessive and start hoarding things. Try not to buy anything that you do not need for now. Minimize unwanted financial burden by being selective and prudent.
Move Your Body
Keep yourself active. Physical movements help you unwind and relax. Practicing sun salutations, jogging, lifting weights, or enjoying some other fun-filled activity all help to improve your circulation. Vatas respond well to slow movements like Yoga or Tai Chi. Pittas tend to prefer cardio, weight, and sports. Kaphas may benefit from slow, long-distance hikes, cardio, and sauna.
Believe in the Divine
Every dosha needs to establish a connection with the Divine. It makes Vatas feel supported, it deflates the egos of Pittas, and helps Kaphas feel uplifted and motivated. Believe in something bigger and better than yourself. A deity, guru, spiritual teachings, or prayer that connects you with a greater field of consciousness and allows you to rise above the present crises with the wisdom of eternity.
Understanding your mind-body type and cultivating a positive lifestyle are great ways to help you maintain calm during these uncertain times. You should try to fill your day with mindful activities, positive affirmations, and extra emphasis on diet, sleep, and exercise.
More Than a Stretch: 6 Profound Effects Asanas Have on Your Body and Mind
By Adam Brady, Vedic Educator
Due to its high visibility in the public eye, asana has become somewhat of a cultural symbol for what it means to practice yoga. Here are six reasons you should incorporate asanas into your daily life. The study of asana is not about mastering posture. It’s about using posture to understand yourself.
Asana: Not So Static
To begin our exploration, let’s consider the way yoga asana relates to static stretching. Static stretching is defined as any stretch that is performed without movement. At first glance, this definition would seem to apply perfectly to yoga asana. However, if you dig deeper into the broader yoga philosophy, you’ll see why this comparison doesn’t really fit. This is because yoga doesn’t view the body as a fixed thing. The physical body is an ever-changing field of energy, transformation, and intelligence.
- With every breath, you exchange trillions of atoms with the universe.
- With each position you enter into, certain muscles contract (called the agonist muscles) while other muscles relax and lengthen (called the antagonistic muscles).
- With each macro- and micro-adjustment to the pose, circulation increases or decreases.
- With every shift in attention and intention, subtle energies are mobilized.
- With increased relaxation, your stress, anxiety, and mental and emotional toxins are released.
Seen in this light, the notion of “static stretching” is somewhat a misnomer when it comes to yoga asana because, in the final analysis, a yoga pose isn’t a noun or a fixed thing like a statue. Instead, an asana is a verb; it’s a process, a doing-ness that fosters a deeper integration between body and mind. It’s this communication that cultivates a feedback loop of self-regulation—your ability to return to a state of homeostatic balance.
As you tune in deeply to the sensations of your body, your breathing, and the content of your awareness during a yoga asana, you are able to make modifications that lead you toward a more comfortable and embodied expression of the pose. In this way, an asana becomes the physical expression of who you are in this moment; the art of expressing the human body through form, breath, and presence.
Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the profound effects asana practice can have on your mind and body.
Strengthens Primordial Movement Patterns
Outside of an athletic pursuit, most modern humans spend the bulk of their waking hours in one of four primary positions or movement patterns:
Sadly, these options make up only a fraction of the movements in which your body is capable.
By contrast, your primitive ancestors didn’t lie around all day; they were very active and used their bodies in many different ways. They ran, climbed, crawled, jumped, swung, twisted, bent, and reached their way into countless primordial and animalistic movement patterns. These movements might seem “primitive” by our modern standards, but they actually helped the human body remain strong, flexible, balanced, and harmonized with the laws of nature.
Yoga asanas embody these primal movements and help you connect more deeply to the roots of your humanity. In addition, since many poses are named after other members of the animal kingdom, they help you to integrate those qualities into your movements and practice.
Develops Functional Physical Attributes
All asanas can help you build one (or more) of several key functional movement attributes:
All of these are, to a greater or lesser degree, elements of the majority of all yoga poses. Depending on the pose, one attribute might receive more emphasis than others, but a well-rounded asana sequence will be structured so that it provides a balanced blend of poses that cultivate these foundational attributes. If performed at a vigorous pace, asana (such as Sun Salutations) can help to enhance aerobic capacity and cardiovascular strength. In addition, these qualities, along with the improved coordination brought about through practice, help to build proprioception—the awareness and perception of the position and movements of the body in space.
The movements of the body in and through asanas provide a boost to your circulation. As you bend, twist, fold, and extend your body, you flex and contract muscles, flushing a fresh supply of blood through that tissue. Strenuous poses can also increase heart rate, pumping additional blood to different parts of the body. Inverted poses in particular, use gravity to encourage deoxygenated blood flow back to the heart, improving circulation.
Enhanced circulation doesn’t only apply to blood, however. Your lymphatic system is a key component in your immune function, helping to move white blood cells throughout your body through a network of ducts and glands. Unlike the heart though, the lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump, so its circulation depends on the motions of muscles and joints for it to move. Asana practice is a powerful way to help keep your lymphatic system circulating and healthy.
Massages Organs and Strengthens Facia
Due to the nature of body positioning around the spinal axis, your internal organs often receive a gentle squeeze during asana practice. Twisting movements specifically create a massaging-type effect on several organs located in your torso, flushing them with a fresh supply of blood.
In addition, connective tissue called facia, which functions like something like an internal web or scaffolding around your organs, is also strengthened and toned through regular asana practice. The facia network also contributes to enhancing the previously mentioned inner sense of proprioception. Through a variety of yoga poses, the nerve endings in the facia send and receive an unending stream of information between mind and body, telling you a unique story about your body’s orientation, balance, weight, stability, and overall position.
Enhances Respiratory Function
Yogic Breathing or Pranayama is the fourth branch of Raja Yoga and consists of numerous techniques to enhance neuro-respiratory integration. Asana practice provides an opportunity to cultivate your breathing practice while you move through different poses.
As you take on different positions, your breathing is forced to adapt to the posture, the muscles involved, the pressure on the chest or abdomen, or the mobility of the diaphragm. Each subtle nuance in the pose may affect the depth, pace, or rhythm of your breathing. With each change, you can notice the sensations and strive to maintain deep, balanced breathing, often by using the Ujjayi Breath. This process of using your breath as a bridge between mind and body strengthens your respiratory function while simultaneously keeping you anchored in the pose and present moment.
As an added side effect, practicing pranayama during asana soothes your nervous system, giving you greater control over its autonomic function; if you can stay focused and calm, and breathe during a challenging pose, it will make it that much easier to do so during life’s daily stressors.
Channels Subtle and Archetypal Energies
Though not as apparent as the physiological qualities already mentioned, no discussion on asana would be complete without touching on the subtle benefits hidden within yoga poses.
Yoga asanas enliven prana or the primordial life force, and in so doing help to mobilize and circulate energy through the subtle body of mind, intellect, and ego. Different poses influence the prana allowing it to flow more easily through the 70,000 nadis or subtle energetic channels situated throughout the body. Asana practice also helps energize and balance the major chakras, or energetic junction points, between mind, body, and spirit.
Lastly, asana practice can invoke and activate subtle archetypal energies that lie dormant within you. For example, when you embody Warrior, Mountain, Tree, or Sage poses, at either conscious or unconscious levels, you are calling forth those qualities into your life. A warrior feels courageous, a mountain feels stable, a tree feels flexible, a sage feels wise.
When you choose poses with qualities you wish to embody, you are calling for those attributes to express themselves through you during your asana practice and throughout your life. As anyone who practices asana regularly can tell you, each pose has its own personality, its own character, its own energy. With consistent practice, those mythic qualities of gods and goddesses, mountains, serpents, and birds become a part of you—helping you discover your full potential.
Eating to Balance Your Chakras
By Erin Easterly, Ayurvedic Therapist and Educator, and Yoga Teacher
Your body, mind, and chakras need to be nourished. Here are practical ways to integrate dietary considerations into your overall energy balancing regimen.
Most people have heard of the charka system and understand it to be a collection of seven distinct energies that contribute to specific physical and emotional states. While there are numerous methods of modulating the energy flowing into the chakras, one very accessible means is through diet. Below are ways to integrate dietary considerations into your overall energy-balancing regimen and keep your chakras balanced.
1. Muladhara (Root) Chakra
The root chakra governs stability, survival, and security. It contains a predominance of Earth energy, which is the densest of the five elements. Of all the chakras, the root is the one most easily stabilized through food. Why? Food comes from the Earth, and as such, all foods contain a greater or lesser degree of Earth energy.
In that sense, simply eating regular meals with healthy, organic foods will churn the energy of the base chakra. Foods that contain a large quantity of Earth energy, and therefore ones that are best suited to increasing flow within the root chakra, include grains, nuts, legumes, root vegetables, and meats. At times when you are feeling particularly ungrounded or weak, roasted root vegetables, baked chicken, or quinoa can act as a particularly grounding meal.
Since the Earth element creates structure, frequently eating Earth-heavy foods may result in an increase in body mass. Except during times of extreme transition, such as the death of a loved one, a major move, or recovery from an illness, Earth-heavy foods are best combined with other elemental food energies.
2. Svadhishtana (Sacral) Chakra
The second chakra governs emotions, senses, intimacy, and connection. It is governed by water energy, which is nourishing, soothing, fluid, flexible, and dynamic.
When you are looking to enliven sexual energy and passion in your life, integrate juicy, orange fruits such as mangos, oranges, apricots, nectarines, and persimmons. Their lightness and high-water content will provide a burst of energy to the second chakra.
In addition, moist foods with an abundance of seeds such as passion fruit and strawberries are good for activating this chakra. Heavier orange foods, such as pumpkin, butternut squash, carrots, and sweet potatoes will offer more sustained, creative energy that can help to ground and stabilize the sacral chakra.
So, if you want to make love, eat a platter of strawberries, peaches, and passion fruit but if you want to write a book or engage in some passion project, go with roasted butternut squash and pumpkin bread.
3. Manipura (Solar Plexus) Chakra
The third charka houses the energy that contributes to will power, self-control, ambition, and personal transformation. When balanced, this chakra creates a sense of purpose and direction. The third chakra is governed by the fire element.
Pungent, salty, and sour foods—each of which contain fire—are helpful in activating its power. Pungent foods, a combination of fire and air, include chilies, peppers, garlic, onions, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and oregano. Salty foods, a blend of water and fire, incorporate all sea vegetables, fish, celery, and soy sauce. Sour foods, a mixture of earth and fire, encompass citrus foods, sour berries, fermented foods, vinegar, and alcohol.
Since the third and first chakras influence one another, the particular combination of foods you select for third chakra activation will be closely tied to the stability of the root chakra. A good rule of thumb is this: if you find it hard to initiate your motivation, spice things up with pungent foods; if you feel insecure and need to activate your personal power, go with the sour and salty foods. Regardless of root chakra stability, hot ginger tea is an ideal accompaniment for this chakra.
4. Anahata (Heart) Chakra
The fourth chakra is the energy center that nourishes love, compassion, kindness, understanding, and forgiveness. It allows you to feel for others and yourself. The fourth chakra is governed by the air element.
Astringent and bitter foods are useful in initiating air energy. Astringent foods, a combination of air and earth elements, tend to have tannins that result in a drying sensation in the mouth. Green tea, red wine, pomegranate seeds, unripe bananas, and most beans are astringent in nature. Bitter foods, a fusion of air and ether, consist of all leafy greens, coffee, and dark chocolate. Fresh green juices, salads, and smoothies are ideal compliments to a heart-opening regimen.
5. Vishuddha (Throat) Chakra
The fifth chakra houses the energy of communication, integrity, honesty, self-expression, and openness. It allows you to speak your truth clearly and kindly. The fifth chakra is predominantly ruled by the ether element. Ether is light, formless, and insubstantial.
As the chakra energies become less form-based, the foods that balance them have more to do with the subtle energies of color than of form. Blue foods, such as blueberries, blackberries, blue corn, and borage are significant contributors to the fifth chakra.
In addition, one of the best ways to balance this chakra is to take one meal a day in silence so that you may chew your food thoroughly. It is difficult to talk and chew well, so eating without talking or other distractions, including reading, listening, watching, or otherwise diverting your attention, will exercise and strengthen the throat chakra.
6. Ajna (Third Eye) Chakra
The sixth chakra, often referred to as the third eye, is the seat of intuition. Its energy encourages extra sensory perceptions, gut feelings, and hunches to make their way into your awareness. The element associated with the sixth chakra is that of light.
The sixth chakra is primarily activated by spending short periods of time in the sunlight. In the absence of sunlight, this chakra can be enhanced by spending time in the “inner light” via meditation.
Secondarily, the sixth chakra receives a boost from purple-tinted foods such as grapes, figs, eggplants, purple kale, purple cabbage, plums, purple potatoes, and lavender tea.
7. Sahaswara (Crown) Chakra
The crown chakra is located at the crown of the head and connects you to formless being. This chakra is sometimes referred to as the thousand-petaled lotus as its energy radiates in a thousand different directions. Since all elements are from the realm of form, there is no form-based element associated with this chakra. Its association is with pure consciousness.
The best way to balance this chakra through diet is to simply stop eating. Fasting has long been a revered part of most spiritual traditions. Even modern science is advocating relatively short (24-36 hours) fasting windows. Pausing the flow of food detoxifies the body, flushes out toxins, boosts your energy, and clears the mind.
While each of the chakras will occasionally need extra attention, the best way to maintain balance is to tend to each of them every day. Eat a varied diet full of colors, textures, and taste qualities. Also carve out time not to eat each day, perhaps from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Drink nourishing teas, spend time in the sun, and breathe in the fresh air. Your body, mind, and chakras will be nourished.