Ayurveda Practices for Staying in Balance

Ayurveda translates to the Wisdom of Life. I like this definition because it reflects the truth that wellness and health cannot be separated from the larger whole. Our bodies and beings are intrinsically connected to our environment, to the larger whole: what is outside of us is also within us. 

Ayurveda philosophy is rooted in the three Doshas or Constitutions, which embody the elements of nature: they are Vata (air and space), Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (water and earth). According to Ayurveda, there is no “one size fits all” approach for wellness. For instance, a raw food diet, although it may work great for a Pitta dominant person, can wreak havoc on a Vata dominant person’s digestive system. I am a Vata dominant person so I can attest to this: Vata people are delicate like flowers while Pitta people tend to have a “strong constitution.” There are, however, daily morning practices, called Dinacharya, that work well for all three Doshas. They can also be tailored to meet the specific needs of your current state of being (note: your current state may differ from your dosha/natural constitution).

Below are the daily morning Ayurveda practices that I have committed to. They are simple and yet the accumulated affect is that I feel more grounded and balanced in the morning (the morning has always been difficult for me so this is a big deal). I encourage you to adopt any or all of these morning practices. If you’d like to learn about your natural constitution and current state of being through an Ayurvedic lens, I offer an online Ayurvedic Assessment and Wellness Plan.

  1. Use a tongue cleaner before brushing your teeth and on an empty stomach (7-14 scrapes). The Ayurveda perspective holds that a tongue cleaner is essential as a toothbrush because it helps to reduce Ama (toxins) in the body by keeping the bacteria level in the mouth healthy and stimulates the cleansing of the gastrointestinal tract.
  2. Drink a glass of warm (not cold and not hot) with lemon – this helps to soften Ama (toxins) and is cleansing for the system. *If you need to stimulate Agni (the digestive fire/metabolism), add fresh ginger.
  3. Meditation and/or Pranayama (I know this is a ‘toughie’ but you can make the time for at least 5 minutes! Shoot for 10 -15 minutes, but 5 is a great start.) *Pranayama is yogic breathing techniques for, for example, centering or stimulation/energy. This breath-work can be tailored for your dosha and/or current state . The benefits of meditation are many! A few I have noticed since I began meditating on a daily basis are greater mental focus and an ease of expression (i.e., easier time finding the “right” words), a feeling of contentment and more balanced emotions.
  4. Oil Pulling. On any empty stomach, take a tablespoon of Sesame Oil or Coconut Oil (or blend of the two)- swish it all around your mouth (in front and in back of your teeth) for at least 5 minutes and up to 15. It takes a little getting used to but there are many benefits! A few are: healthy teeth and gums, improves respiratory health (helps with allergies and asthma), supports the body’s process of releasing toxins. Banyan Botanicals, a site I used for my Ayurveda Products, developed a product called Daily Swish that has peppermint and spearmint essential oils so the taste is more palatable!
  5. A splash of cold water on face/eyes. This reduces heat or leftover pitta energy from the night, when your body undertakes repair work. It’s also stimulating and refreshing.
  6. Before shower or about 10 minutes after, put 1-2 drops of Nasya Oil in each nostril. This is a blend of  oils, herbs and essential oils. The nostrils are a direct passageway to your brain and in order to feel well and balanced this passage needs to be clear and unblocked so the breath/prana (life force) can flow. Nasya Oil helps to clear congestion, cleanses the tissues, supports mental clarity and is said to improve vision and the quality of the voice.
  7. Self Massage: I love this one as it especially beneficial for my prominent dosha, the Vata dosha. If you are a fellow Vata, you can do this after the shower like I do because your skin tends to be dry, but if you have oily skin this can be done before your shower. I use Sesame oil and this is the preferred oil for the Vata dosha (Sunflower or Coconut oils can be used for Pitta, especially during the summer months, and dry brushing may be more appropriate for Kapha). I add a few drops of essential oils, which is optional (lately I use Lavender and Eucalyptus). Massage the oil on your body, using long strokes on limbs and circular strokes on joints and broad circular strokes on belly (clockwise) and chest. There are lots of benefits, such as: improves sleep, promotes healthy skin, nourishes the tissues, stimulates circulation and the internal organs. This takes me about 5 minutes in the morning and truly makes me feel more grounded and supported. The oil is like a protective layer on your skin as you navigate the different experiences and energies of the day, and so, as I mentioned, this practice can be especially helpful for Vata because Vata people tend to be sensitive/delicate.
  8. Sun Salutations and Moon Salutations. Take 5-15 minutes to practice morning Salutations. Switch it up to Moon Salutations during the Full Moon Phase or any time you’re in the mood for a softer morning yoga routine.
, , ,

When Transiting Venus Conjuncts Your Natal Chiron, Hidden Gifts, and Dharma

A few days ago, I had an exact conjunction between Venus in the sky and my natal Chiron. I didn’t realize it until I checked my Transit Chart halfway through that day, thinking to myself what the heck is going on with me today? 

It started with a wayward paycheck. I sent a third email to the person who was supposedly in charge of payroll to ask when I could pick up my now 3-week late check. There were a few other minor work issues I was trying to sort out and as I spent the morning trying to track down money I was owed or pinpoint things that didn’t seem pin-able at that moment, my rising emotions took on a life of their own and I got swept away. (Note: the moon was going to be Full in two days, when emotions tend to swell.) I have had a recurring dream, on and off for years, of tidal waves and tsunamis and I remember one in particular in which I was in a canoe with an old friend in the middle of the ocean (ya know, just chilling) as an oncoming tidal wave roared toward us, turned our little boat vertical and we rode down the side of the wave. Interestingly, the canoe never capsized and maybe this is a sign of my internal strength even as I have navigated the turbulent waters of life.

I digress.

The issues I was facing this particular morning were, on the surface level, of money/income/getting paid for my work and also of receiving support I needed to complete tasks. On a deeper level, this was about supporting myself in the world and feeling valued for the work I am doing, for what I am giving. Chiron wounds have deep, deep roots. The spot in the Natal Chart where Chiron dwells points to the wounds that we have trouble even looking at; we bury them well. It’s the place where we feel inadequate and cut off from ourselves and we may attempt to compensate in some way, by either proving ourselves again and again (an endless cycle), or giving from an empty place (the giving is, therefore, not genuine/pure), or withdrawing and taking ourselves out of the game altogether because it feels safer than the rejection that may come if this wound was revealed or activated.

I have Chiron on the cusp of Taurus and Aries and so issues of self-worth, confidence, and valuing myself run deep. Taurus rules, among other things, the material world and earning an income, which is intrinsically connected to how we value ourselves. Aries rules the self and the physical body. Somewhere along the way I learned not to value myself and my own needs, and that to do so was somehow inappropriate. It’s no surprise then that I have often faced circumstances of not being paid enough (or at all in some cases!) for my work.

And so my emotions were running high this morning.  I decided to do a yoga practice. Note: if you have Chiron in Aries, yoga and other types of therapeutic body work are excellent for you. I use Yogaglo (online yoga classes) when I can’t get to the yoga studio and I’m in the mood to be guided. I have a few favorite teachers on Yogaglo and as I searched for a class to take, a new class taught by one of “my teachers” popped up. It was, amazingly, a class on Artha, the Sanskrit word for having the wealth or resources to fulfill your dharma or life purpose, i.e., using your innate gifts for service in the world. I felt like he (the teacher) was speaking directly to me. I have to pause here to say how cool is that? The universe was supporting me. Recognizing this inherent support is the first step in healing/integrating my Taurus/Aries Chiron wounds. It’s no coincidence that when I teach I often hear myself asking students to accept support, to feel the support of the earth underneath them, etc. We teach the lessons we are learning ourselves.

It’s interesting to note that I currently have Saturn transiting my 2nd house of earned income/material resources/self-value. I liked the way my Astrology teacher/mentor whimsically described Saturn Transits: “Wherever Saturn is in the chart, you know he’s going to be busting chops.” The chart house Saturn visits usually calls for some restructuring, discipline, hard work/effort and facing whatever it is you neglect in that area of life, so that you can fully utilize your resources and create something solid, something lasting. Once you get used to looking at Natal and Transit Charts, themes begin to pop out at you; if you see something significant (like, Venus making a conjunction with my natal Natal Chiron) chances are that theme will be highlighted elsewhere in the chart. Saturn is pushing me to face and organize this area of my life (my material resources), so that I can receive the support I need and, in turn, support others.

When Venus and Chiron get together in the Natal or Transit chart, ancient wounds connected to relationships (how we relate to others and our environment) can resurface and fester, and there is also a chance to clean them out. I love the idea of the wound actually being the gift, which is why I resonate with the Rumi quote: The wound is the place where the light enters you. The wound remains a wound, I believe, because we cover it up and emotionally cut off that area of life or ourselves. You can look to the sign and house Chiron is in to learn more about your ‘wounds’ and how you can learn to re-integrate them.

If you recall, my Chiron is on the cusp of Taurus and Aries and it sits in my 5th house, right near the cusp of my 6th house. I am learning to care for myself (I have an Ayurveda daily morning practice) and to support myself in the material world (building my business). I teach yoga and it has taken me a long time to free up my creative energy (5th house) and voice (Taurus) so that I can be “myself” when I teach. When I connect to my own creative flow students can connect to theirs. I notice that if I am “in my head” too much when teaching or when doing anything in life, I don’t give others the space they need to be in their own “flow.” It’s a good thing I started teaching yoga later in life, as I was beginning to face my Chiron wounds and lessons, or else I would have believed I was no good at it and have moved on AKA quit (6th house Chiron), which is what I did, work-wise, throughout my twenties and early thirties (tried something, deemed myself unfit and jumped ship).

I can only do my work and service in the world when I face these wounded pieces of myself because it’s difficult to give when operating from a place of lack. Once you “own your Chiron,” it’s as if you have a new found, unshakeable power that comes from those dark experiences. We can then use this power, this strength, to support others who have similar wounds. This is why Chiron is called the Wounded Healer.

I am learning how to play the harmonium and it’s a whole new world for me. I didn’t play instruments as a kid and have a memory of a Middle School chorus teacher insulting my voice (Chiron in Taurus). After that, I pretended to sing, mouthing the words, which is sad because I loved to sing as a child and always sang in the shower. I said to my Harmonium teacher, who happens to be interested in Astrology, “I have my moon in Taurus and I have read that this placement can indicate a hidden gift of singing or using your voice.” I said it with a chuckle because although I can carry a tune, I am clearly not a gifted singer and I didn’t want her to think I was delusional. She seemed to understand and confirmed, without hesitation, that it was indeed “a gift.” By singing and playing the harmonium I am healing my wound (freeing up my voice and my creative expression).

It’s no surprise that my throat is one of the most vulnerable places in my body; when I get sick I get a sore throat first. For most of my life, I felt I didn’t have “a voice,” that I couldn’t express myself well and clearly. I didn’t know how or have the capacity to express what was on the inside, what I really felt. For this reason, I never felt “heard.” Although I longed to be heard and seen, I deeply feared being heard and seen: my Chiron block. Leo rules the 5th house, where Chiron lives in my chart, which is about being seen and heard, how you shine, and using and expressing your creative gifts.

On the vision board in my bedroom, which I created at the beginning of the year, it says “I am enough.” Although I think the phrase is a little corny/cliche, as I spontaneously cut the words out of a magazine I knew it was an integral component of my “vision” for this year, without fully understanding why. Now I know.

“I am enough” is a good mantra for a Chiron/Venus aspect. With this aspect, there can be a feeling of giving a lot in relationships and not receiving in return what you need, hence the feeling of support needs to first come from within. We can do that through daily Ayurveda and yoga practices, for example, or any other form of self-care that keeps us feeling balanced. Taking the time to provide ourselves with care and nourishment is self-love. The key is to love ourselves enough in order to feel that we are worth this effort (something I am learning). As I cultivate self-love, I believe I will continue to draw situations and dynamics into my life that feel supportive and enable me to do my dharma. I am learning that my dharma is using and sharing my hidden gifts (creative self expression, being playful/joyful, teaching children) to support others in their creativity, in whatever form that may take.

If you’d like to know more about where Chiron is in your Natal and/or Transit Chart, please book a Reading with me. 🙂

,

Slowing Down

Restorative Yoga is one of my favorite classes to teach and this amazes me. I am a Vata girl to the max. The Eastern Medicine system of Ayurveda posits that we are born with one or two doshas, or body types, dominant. My dominant dosha is Vata, or the air element.

Vata people need to move. And movement is a good thing for people with this body type, however, as is usually the case in life, we need to find balance, and there is a tendency toward too much movement for us vata folk. We can move so quickly that we don’t feel what’s going on in our bodies. Movement becomes a means to avoid. Vata people need to slow down enough (I’m not saying to a halt; stop and go energy exacerbates Vata) to feel our bodies, to feel our emotions and get connected. When the Vata dosha is out of balance we are disconnected, ungrounded, frantic.

Being a movement prone gal, I rarely attended Restorative classes or slower moving classes, and would feel frustrated in yoga classes that began very slowly and sleepily. I wanted to get going! So, I laugh with the universe because of course I am a Restorative teacher. I think I get as much from teaching these classes as the students get from taking them. We all leave class calmer, lighter, and more grounded.

We need to allow ourselves the time to slow down, to just be, so that we can come back into a place of balance. And although it is hard, especially for us Vata souls (and I think for most in today’s world), to stop “doing,” it is vital. There is a growing field of research on the benefits of this type of practice.

,

Magical Goodness in Tiny Bottles AKA Essential Oils

A post, today, about my newfound love for essential oils. I began using them about a year ago and I think it’s safe to say that I am addicted. Just a warning: this is not a cheap hobby. I envision myself living in a tent or a van down by the river with nothing but my essential oils; at least I will smell good. Magical goodness in tiny bottles is what they are.

Ways to use the oils:

Just a drop or two needed on a body part. I recently used a “monthly blend for women” on my abdomen and did not have to take Advil for cramps.

A drop or two of peppermint oil or lemon oil, for example, in water or tea. I just ordered tangerine. Yum. BTW, you can also bake with them; I haven’t tried that yet. A drop or two of Thieves oil in water or juice if you’re feeling run down.

Add several drops with filtered water to a diffuser and your home will smell divine. You can buy a diffuser from the site I included below. Every home should have a diffuser. 🙂

I also use the oils in spray bottles (filtered water with several drops of the oil) to purify the air. I use the spray bottles in my yoga classes during Savasana (the final resting pose) and sometimes to purify the room beforehand. Below is a photo of the oils I have been using lately in my classes (minus the lemon: I use that one at home to clean).

IMG_1606

, ,

Faithful

Last weekend, I had plans to have tea with a student from my yoga class. We had been saying for months that we would get together and had finally set a date. I planned to get a certain amount of work accomplished in the first half of the day, and when the time to meet neared I realized I had not met my goal. I thought for a moment about asking if we could reschedule and was answered by my inner voice: “Stick to your commitments.” So I bundled up in my winter gear and stepped into the cold air. The snow had been whirling down from the sky all day. I walked the 15 minute path to the cafe, welcoming the feel of snowflakes on my face.

At the cafe, I ordered a green tea and sat at a small table, watching the door until I spotted my friend/student. I had not seen her in months and after we hugged, she pointed to her belly as she unbuttoned her coat. She was pregnant! She had trekked in the snow to meet me. She was happy to get outside and move her body, she said. We sat there, at the cafe, chatting about life for hours. It’s rare to meet people you feel completely comfortable around and she is one of those people.

I am working on sticking to my commitments (to myself and others) every day. Step by step. I realize now that every seemingly small decision counts, that all of the day-to-choices we make accumulate into something big: our reality. These daily decisions and habits are the threads of the tapestry that become our life experience. It’s okay if we mess up; it’s unavoidable (I shared this sentiment in my yoga class a couple of weeks ago and one student exclaimed aloud, “I’m in trouble!”). This isn’t meant to be a militant message (clean up your act or else!); it is simply a reminder that we have the power to change. At any moment. With each decision we confront.

Later that day, after meeting my friend for tea, I was back home doing research for a job I would be interviewing for and came across this sentence: “Excellent outcomes are the result of excellent habits”, followed with a quote by Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do.” I smiled at the synchronicity of the message.

I take a lot of classes during the week on YogaGlo (online yoga classes). One of my favorite teachers on the site, Marc Holzman, teaches a class called “The 60:60 Challenge for Endurance, Strength and Detachment.” Marc instructs us to hold each pose for 60 seconds throughout a 6o minute practice, committing fully to each posture, slowing down the practice enough to feel what’s happening in your body and mind. He reminds students that consistency, practicing each day (even if it’s only for 10 minutes) is the key to meeting your goals. It’s not the action of making goals that allows us to attain them (although that is step 1); it’s doing the work each day: that nitty gritty work that we love to avoid. Marc offers, the cool thing is that you can detach from the goal because you’re putting in the daily work that will take you to where you need to go; that’s when trust comes in. You can’t rely on motivation or inspiration alone, he explains, because those guys are fickle and elusive; it is consistency that you must befriend. For those of us who are not exactly consistent by nature (hello fellow Vata peeps), it is a hard earned lesson and one that needs to be learned over and over. And, yes, it takes discipline, Marc admits, but you get into a groove.

In the “60:60” class, Marc discusses the art of writing as an example of consistency. Lately, he shares, he has read a lot of blogs whose authors repeat the same message: the key to success is doing something, in this case writing, every single day (that annoying hashtag #yogaeverydamnday makes more sense to me now): wake up each morning and practice (yoga, write, meditate).

Last night, I was reading Sy Safransky’s preface to his new book, Many Alarm Clocks, in the February 2015 issue of The Sun, my favorite literary journal. He wrote this: “I write in my notebook early in the morning, almost always before the sun comes up. Some of the entries are long and carefully considered; some are just two or three run-on sentences; fragments of essays I’ll never write, snatches of conversation, postcards from the dream realm … I usually write each morning for at least one hour; on some mornings maybe a half-hour. Writing something every day is important to me – no matter how little sleep I’ve gotten or what mood I’m in. When I’m faithful to the practice, my skin has a rosy glow, the car starts in the morning, my cats come when I call. But I’m not always faithful. Sometimes I oversleep, or I wake up worried about an impending deadline and head straight to the office. Even then, I try to remember what the physician-poet William Carlos Williams said. He was also a busy man, known to compose poems between patients. He insisted that ‘five minutes, ten minutes, can always be found.'”