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Ayurveda

Grace

By Ayurveda, Breathing, Covid-19, Energy, Health, Mindfulness, Seasons, Values, Vulnerability, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

Last month, the concept for my blog focused on my observation that we act differently around others while wearing a mask. When we are anonymous, our moral codes are disguised and we are not accountable. It seemed like we were losing kindness, connection, common courtesy, and politeness as we interacted or avoided interaction with each other. Over the past month, I have personally witnessed and heard others relay stories of aggressive, hurtful, and rude behavior in our town. It feels like we have hit an energetic low in this community.

There are so many possible reasons or a combination of reasons for this. Steamboat is super crowded right now. It has become more challenging to get outside and enjoy the feeling of getting away from it all. There are more people on the trails, at the lakes, and in open spaces. There are ongoing economic concerns as well as uncertainty around COVID-19 and its future impact on our lifestyles, businesses, physical and mental health, children, parents, and politics.

One thing to remember is to take a breath and realize that we are in the middle of pitta season. Wait, what? Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, is the traditional medicine system of India. It is based on the idea of creating balance throughout the body’s systems via diet, herbs, yoga, and pranayama. Things that affect the body’s balance include the seasons and the associated temperature, characteristics, and elements.

Pitta, or fire, season runs from late spring to early fall. In this season of fire energy, we can get out of balance from living at a high elevation, being closer to the sun, enjoying outdoor activities in the heat, lack of air conditioning, and even the foods we choose to eat. Too much pitta may manifest as becoming impatient, quick to anger, confrontational, or grumpy. It can also manifest as skin rashes, joint pain, or gastrointestinal symptoms such as reflux or diarrhea. The bottom line is: it’s hot, crowded, and we are losing our cool!

The one word that keeps coming to mind as I begin my asana practice on my mat these days is grace. It is one of my favorite words. I love its simplicity and elegance when spoken aloud. The word has several different definitions and uses. It can mean smoothness of action or beauty of form. It can indicate a pleasing or attractive quality. It can refer to kindness, forgiveness, or reverence.

When I practice grace on my mat, I am meeting myself right where my body is with honesty and kindness. Through the lens of an observer, I honor myself. When I practice grace with others, I accept them where they are in their journey and I extend kindness and compassion. I honor them. Grace is ending class with Namaste, which means the light, spirit, and divine in me bows to the light, spirit, and divine in you. I honor myself and I honor you.

It is easy to practice grace. And it is easy to be full of grace, until you aren’t anymore. I can be full of grace until I walk into the grocery store and spot someone walking down the aisle the wrong way with their mask below their nose. Incredulity, righteousness, and rage flash through my system. And I am instantly reminded that grace is a practice, and I am committed to it. My righteousness recedes, and so does my judgment.

Grace means we acknowledge that we are all shipwrecked in this boundless and unforgiving ocean right now. And we acknowledge, too, that we are all in our own, unique boats. I cannot assume I know and understand the kind of stress someone else is experiencing, just as others cannot truly know and understand mine. Just as it is important to balance pitta by selecting or avoiding certain foods and activities, it is also important to find ways to cultivate grace with yourself and others around you.

In light and love,

Sandy

Transition Time, Pitta Energy, and Nachos

By Ayurveda, Energy, Health, Seasons, Transition, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

We are in a time of tangible transition. We’re on the other side of the first total solar eclipse since 1918, lively Leo is morphing into earthy Virgo, and kids are heading back to school and off to college. The calendar says August and summertime heat warms the day, but mornings are crisp and early light is reluctant.

I’ve felt this change over the past few weeks. My body naturally follows seasonal eating patterns. I’m ecstatic when berries grow in spring. I crave watermelon and fennel in summer. I think about kitchari, soups, and cinnamon apples in fall. But during this time of one foot in summer and one foot in fall, I eat nachos.

Yes, I said nachos. Why nachos? And why would I publicly admit this? Nachos aren’t the best choice, but in their defense, they’re tasty and easy. And with black beans and avocado, their nutritional value skyrockets.

I’m in transition. I’m not craving peaches like I did in July, but the days are still warm and I’m not ready for rice and lentils. Feeling unsettled, I easily revert to comfort food. My yoga has been scattered and I’ve struggled with inconsistency in my workouts and other areas of my life. Transitions can be messy: one look at my kids’ impressive display of back to school items—binders, dividers, color coded folders, and protractors—confirms the chaos. Anyone who has moved from one house to another knows what starts with beautifully packed and labeled boxes often ends with miscellaneous items strewn indiscriminately about and an adamant vow of eternal minimalism.

I’ve heard from several people recently who say they don’t have the same energy they had a month ago. They feel off and sluggish. There could be many possible causes for subdued vibrancy. One that rises to the top in Steamboat tends to be too much pitta or heat in the body—Steamboat is teeming with pitta energy. Summer and all its activities can leave us feeling depleted. We work hard and we play hard. We ride up mountains and trek long trails. We like to feel powerful and strong, pushing ourselves to achieve more and better. Sometimes, though, we need to soften a bit rather than going all out all the time. Even yoga can be presented and interpreted in this go for it manner instead of an invitation to soften and listen to your wise inner voice about what your body, mind, and spirit need.

The more awareness we have for these times of transition helps us do our work. Knowing we might feel anxious or unsettled, crave atypical foods, or experience low energy is the first step. We can mindfully return to the basics of self-care. Summer’s seductive long days tend to throw us off schedule and leave us short on sleep. For me, sleep deprivation means immediate carb cravings. Play with backing off an intense workout or two, or soften a bit on your yoga mat. Allow your body to rest between long or extreme activities. There are plenty of warm sunny days ahead to get outside and play.

We’ll be returning to our wellness focus this fall with a Back-to-School, Back-to-You September special offering. Jen Meister, Certified Holistic Health Counselor and founder of Simple Clean and Whole, will be giving a few talks before offering her 21 Day Challenge. Becky Obray, Licensed Health Care Professional and owner of Sole Balance Ayurveda, will guide us into a better understanding of Ayurveda before offering an Ayurvedic cleanse in October. In the meantime, enjoy these beautifully dynamic and unpredictable days. Meditate, play, and acknowledge the occasional nachos.

The seeds we plant in fall and tend to throughout winter bring beautiful flowers in spring. It’s a great time to evaluate your goals, begin to ground down, and lay your foundation for the future. What seeds will you plant this fall?

In light and love,

Sandy

 

Understanding and Managing Your Pitta This Summer

By Ayurveda, Health, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

In Ayurveda, summer season is Pitta. Pitta embodies constitutional elements of fire and water and the characteristics of being hot, sharp, penetrating, spreading, oily, and light. According to the deep traditions of Ayurveda and the constituents of nature, “like increases like.”

As the days start to heat up, accommodate for the longer, brighter, warmer, sunnier summer days with these cooling, centering suggestions….

Favor foods that are naturally sweet, bitter, and astringent. Melon, berries, dates, figs, avocados, artichokes, asparagus, leafy greens, kale, celery, peas, and broccoli are a few examples.

Avoid hot and spicy foods.

Use alcohol and caffeine in moderation.

Try self-oiling (abhyanga) with coconut oil or olive oil.

Exercise early morning or evening to avoid the hot midday sun. Favor refreshing activities like gentle yoga, swimming, walking, running, or biking in nature.

Observe your emotions and addictions. How long does the afterglow of your yoga practice last? What are you craving mentally, emotionally, or physically? Are you noticing that anger, frustration, judgement, or critical thoughts arise? Enjoy summer’s emotions by encouraging joy, peace, patience, tolerance, love, and harmony.

If you have questions about dietary, lifestyle, and herbal treatment strategies and how Ayurveda can support you this summer, or if you want to learn more about your personal constitution, please call me at Sole Balance Ayurveda LLC, 970.846.9699.

By Becky Obray

A Short Introduction to Ayurveda

By Ayurveda, Health, Wellness, Yoga No Comments

Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word. Like many other words, it’s a combination of two root words: ayur (life) and veda (knowledge or science). An acceptable definition of the word Ayurveda is “the science of life.” It’s a holistic science that places importance on spiritual health as a key to physical and mental health. In opposition to a lot of modern thought, Ayurveda doesn’t see health as simply the absence of disease, but rather as a state of positive and radiant wellbeing. This is not achieved by meticulously counting calories or nutritionally analyzing every type of food you consume. It’s achieved by identifying features in food and activities that will result in a balance of your Gunas and your Dosha.

I know what you’re thinking: “What’s a Guna? And, who’s a Dosha?” Right?

The three Gunas are found in Samkhya philosophy, one of the six Indian Darshans (or ways of seeing). The entire universe is considered to be a manifestation of a mixture of the three Gunas: Rajas, Tamas, and Sattva. Rajas is considered to be dynamic and can be thought of as kinetic energy. Tamas is associated with inertia or potential energy. Sattva is the luminescent consciousness that balances these two seemingly opposing forces. We’re all a mixture of these three Gunas. I’m sure you can think of people who are more inert or dynamic for their own good. Neither extreme is good. Like yoga, Ayurveda seeks to increase Sattva in the individual.

Ayurveda further classifies us by Dosha types—our constitutional tendencies, innate biological makeup, and intrinsic elements of who we are. For example, I have a deviated septum. This is a strong mark of the irregularity of Vata, and although I’m red bearded and blonde (both markers for Pitta), none of these will change as I move through life. As with the Gunas, we’re mixtures of the Dosha types. People are predominantly one Dosha or a mixture of two; few are tridoshic and split between three. Our Doshas aren’t dependent upon our habits for the last two months but rather our habits over the last 20 years.

The first Dosha is Vata. Vata is associated with cold, dry, light, irregular, mobile, rarefied, and rough. Colorado’s weather is a good example of Vata. The second is Pitta. Pitta is associated with oily, hot, light, intense, fluid, malodorous, and liquid. A digestive tract needs some Pitta to perform well, but it doesn’t need a lot. Stomach acids and the bile our bodies produce for digestion are good examples of Pitta. The third is Kapha. Kapha is associated with oily, cold, heavy, viscous, stable, dense, and smooth. We’re all likely to see some of these traits in ourselves as well as a cross over between the Doshas. In Indian sciences, this is normal—not everything fits neatly into one category. Balancing Doshas can be achieved by consuming or not consuming certain amounts of the six Ayurvedic tastes: salty, sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and astringent.

Each taste has several different elements. How the elements correspond to your Dosha generates positive health and balance or disease and imbalance.

  • Salty is water and fire, which increases Pitta’s innate heat and Kapha’s cool moist qualities. Salty is balancing for Vata because it warms and soothes Vata’s cold dry qualities.
  • Sweet is earth and water. It increases Kapha but decreases Pitta and Vata. Both Kapha and sweet are earthy, so they increase when mixed. The opposite is true for sweet’s effect on Pitta and Vata, which are either hot and wet or cold and dry.
  • Sour is composed of fire and earth. It increases Kapha and Pitta, but it decreases Vata.
  • Bitter is mostly air and space. Bitter leafy greens, for example, may seem like a big mass but wilt down to nothing when cooked lightly. Bitter helps to balance Pitta and Kapha and it also increases Vata.
  • Pungent, like hot chiles and garlic, increases Pitta and Vata with its qualities of heat and air and it also decreases Kapha. When wasabi clears out congested sinuses, pungent is working to balance overactive Kapha.
  • Astringent is the most difficult taste to pin down. An unripe banana or raw cranberry that leaves a dry feeling in your mouth is astringency at work. Astringent is mainly air and earth. It increases Vata and decreases Pitta and Kapha.

By using these tastes, we can start to balance our constitutions and eventually our Gunas. So, where do we start? Pay attention to the tastes and qualities you discover in your life and observe how certain tastes affect you physically, mentally, and spiritually. Being conscious of your consumption and its effects is an excellent first step toward the goals of both yoga and Ayurveda.

For more information on Ayurveda please read: Prakriti: Your Ayurvedic Constitution by Dr. Robert Svoboda.

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Until next time, may you all be Happy, Healthy, and in Harmony with your environment.

Namaste – A. R. Berger