Tag Archive: Ayurveda

 I got this DVD after hearing my teacher rave about Sarah Powers. The DVD is one of a 2-part series (the other one being Heaven). Sarah uses yoga asanas
to guide the flow of energy into the body. Here, energy is conceptualized in the Chinese Yin/Yang system. The Earth DVD includes predominantly standing sequences – lots of warriors, tree, horse (temple), chair poses with barely any counterposes. The poses are supposed to help you draw Earth energy into the belly (a chi energy center). I found that the sequence didn’t progress smoothly – no warm-up, no cool-down. It was not paced like a typical yoga class. I was fairly tired at the end of the day and I did not keep up with all the standing asanas. I did like, though, that all movement was slow and coordinated with the breath.

As I lay in Shavasana at the end, I felt a monstrous stomach ache creeping in. I do get heartburn now and then, so I cannot make casual attributions here, but I’ll just say that, unlike most yoga classes, this one did not make me feel any better afterwards.

One Zantac, two Pepto Bismol, two hours and a ginger tea later, I wonder: Why is it necessary to innovate yoga? Why merge it with the Chinese energy system when yoga is already very tightly associated with another ancient healing system, Ayurveda? How do we know that this innovative energy work we’re doing here is not harmful? How and why did it come about? How do we know what we’re even doing here? It takes tremendous intuition, perception of energy flow and experimentation to figure out what we’re even doing. Honestly, Sarah Powers looks too young to have had the time to do all this in her lifetime (this one, at least).

What if it was not Earth energy that I needed right now – or ever? I have a strong kapha dosha (the Ayurvedic equivalent of Earth) – did I just aggravate it? When I read “balancing” Earth energy I interpreted this in the Ayurvedic sense, which means compensating with the opposite. I am not sure what I just did… Ayurveda teaches how to identify what your system needs at any given time, depending on disposition and season. It then teaches how to balance energies with their opposites. This can be done through a combination of diet, asana, herbs, etc. I think I might have just taken a pill without a prior diagnosis to determine whether I even needed it and now I’m dealing with the side effects.

Most likely, there’s more to insight yoga than I can glean from this DVD, but so far, I think I’ll stick with traditional yoga and Ayurveda before buying into innovative hybrid styles.


Listen to your heart

I visited an Ayurvedic practitioner a couple of weeks ago, and one of the many lifestyle, dietary, and yoga prescriptions I got was this exercise:

The exercise is meant to help you (and me) listen to your heart. Most people cannot live their ideal imagined lives. As a result, there’s a disconnect between the heart and the mind. This exercise can help at least pacify the heart by listening to it. It can also help make decisions, big and small. It goes like this:

  1. Sit comfortably, with your back straight, in a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted for the next 10-15 minutes.
  2. Rub your palms together to generate some heat and establish an energetic connection.
  3. Place your palms on top of each other, on your heart (right palm down, left palm on top).
  4. Close your eyes, sit and listen.
  5. Ask: “What does my heart desire right now?” “What have I been denying myself?”
  6. Sit and listen.

Something may come up, or nothing may come up this time. You may want to keep a pen and paper close, in case more stuff comes up than you can process without writing it down. If you’re doing this in a circle of friends, you may/or may not choose to share.

hands on heart sculpture

sculpture by Ducvy Maipel

If this exercise is from a book and I don’t know the source but you do, please let me know, so I can cite it appropriately.

Have a happy heart,


Avoiding hibernation

Winter is a hard time for many people, especially in climates where we don’t get a lot of sunshine. I often feel very tired in winter, and all I want to do is hibernate. If I allow myself to hibernate, however, I soon feel “swallowed by the couch” – it’s like I get trapped between the couch pillows and can’t dig myself out until March!

This sluggishness is unpleasant and scary, and I am learning to keep my energy up during the winter season.

In Ayurvedic terms, what happens is an over-accumulation of kapha. For people like me, whose predominant dosha is kapha, winter tends to aggravate it, and soon heaviness sets in. It’s as if the force of gravity becomes stronger in winter. We tend to feel drowsy and tired all the time, sleep a lot, but without waking up rested and energized.

So this winter, with a somewhat better understanding of what tends to happen during this season, I’ve been actively trying to add some fire (pitta) and to keep energy levels up. Here’s what I’ve been doing:


I keep practicing yoga at least twice a week, especially when I don’t feel like it. When I don’t feel like it, that’s a sign that kapha is accumulating, and I feel low energy. I’m learning that for me, nothing comes out of resting when having low energy – except lower energy. So I get myself on the yoga mat, start slow if need be, and with the energy accumulated from one gentle practice, I can move on to something more challenging the next day. I find that poses that move energy upwards and expand it, such as tree, royal dancer, triangle, crescent work well to light up that fire. I’ve discovered, with the help of yoga teacher Shari Gass,  that the fast movements of kundalini yoga, especially when practiced with breath of fire, build up a lot of energy in a short amount of time.

Even when I don’t practice yoga, at the first sign of sluggishness, I try to move my body and break a sweat. The other day, I gave my house a thorough cleaning – aka “vacuuming yoga” 🙂

Having a purpose

I’m discovering that not knowing what to do with myself, not having a purpose to work towards, is not serving me well. So I create work for myself – make a list of errands that I need to run. Getting out of the house is always a good thing! Cook something special, or invite people over for dinner, so I have a reason to cook something special! There’s always work-work to do, but during the break, well, I need a break. So even if I don’t work on research and courses for the next semester, I set small goals for the day.


Although I love creamy cheeses and red wine in winter, this year I kept them to a minimum. I’m noticing that drinking alcohol lowers my energy level. I try to eat, as much as possible, light foods and lots of vegetables. Spicy food is great for adding some fire to the body. I’ve also been taking kapha balancing tablets, a multivitamin, and extra vitamin D.

So far, so good. This is what seems to be working for me. I don’t know if it’ll work for you, and this is by no means a set of recommendations –  I’m just writing this down in case I need a reminder next winter. 🙂 Please keep in mind that I’m not qualified to give any advice or recommendations.

[a couple of UPDATES]


I try to follow my cat’s example and sit in the sunlight, even if it means having an awkward picnic on the dining room floor. I also use a sun lamp just about every day.

Also, I feel the need to further illustrate the point of being swallowed by the couch :).


Leaves blowing in the wind

photo credit: flickr user sparetomato

It’s been very windy in Indiana in the past few weeks. The cool, dry, windy weather is likely to lead to vatta imbalances. That’s exactly what happened to me. I was busy, stressed, and scattered. My mind was racing to all the things I had to do, just like a leaf blown by the wind in random directions. I spent a week, or maybe even 10 days, forgetting that I could take a deep breath, forgetting that I had some skills to settle down and help myself feel better – let alone actually practicing them.

Then things settled down a bit, I finished some tasks that had been piling up, and external circumstances allowed me to take a minute to think. I realized then that I had the symptoms of vatta imbalance. And that exactly when I need it the most, that’s when I forget to slow down or don’t have the patience to do so.

I started dressing warmer, eating cooked, warm foods such as cooked Morrocan lentils, roasted butternut squash (see previous posts). At least on weekends, I took the time to give myself a warming oil massage, and I took time to practice a vatta pacifying yoga sequence (from this book).

Now, I’m trying to make a conscious effort to slow down, take that breath, make some time for yoga no matter what. Yesterday, I was full of energy and ready to get going and start my errands for the weekend. I wasn’t in the mood for slowing down, I was eager to get out the door. And yesterday, I was lucky enough to realize, that it is exactly on days like that, when I’m ready to burst out the door like a gust of Fall wind, that I need to slow down, touch the base, warm up, get grounded, and only then go, step by mindful step.