A couple of weeks ago, within the first few minutes of an Ayuverda intensive I was taking with my beloved teacher, Ali Cramer, she said “Ayuverda is an art and a science.” And I was reminded all over again why I felt a deep sense of love and connection to this ancient wisdom. As I often tell the folks in my classes, Ayuverda takes all the philosophy of Yoga and makes it a bit more real, a bit more concrete and tangible. Yoga tells us that we are enough and we have enough and Ayuverda shows us how, in a concrete way.
The concept of the five elements is one of the most fundamental in Ayuverdic science. These five elements (space, air, fire, water, and earth) exist in all matter. These five great elements then combine into three basic energies, which are present in varying degrees, in everything and everybody. These energies or doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha and they govern our psychobiological functioning and correspond with seasons, times of day, etc…
If you’ve been to the center this month, you’ll know we are knee deep – not only in the teachings of Ayuverda but also in Vata season. As Bri Maya Tiwari says “all diseases begin at the junction of the seasons, and so all types are cautioned to be especially aware during the seasonal transitions. The fortnights of mid-September and mid-November are the most crucial periods during Vata season.” Cold, windy, clear and dry weather aggravates Vata dosha and may lead to colds and any number of vata ailments such as insomnia, constipation or joint soreness/pains. If you do feel that cold coming on or already have a flu, here are some tried and tested things I’ve done to either prevent a cold/flu or help treat it (most from Vasant Lad’s “the complete book of ayuverdic home remedies”):
The best remedy for a cold is ginger. Here are several home remedies using ginger:
Steep 1 teaspoon of this for about 10 minutes in 1 cup of hot water, strain it, and add agave for sweetness if desired. Drink this tea several times a day and it will help with the cold, congestion and flu.
Steep 1 teaspoon in a cup of hot water for 10-15 minutes. When the tea has cooled down somewhat, you can add about ½ to 1 teaspoon of agave for taste.
CAUTION: don’t combine ginger and aspirin. They are both blood thinners and should not be taken together.
Additional herbal remedies are:
Minerva has a deep love and appreciation for Ayuverda and living a life of balance through sadhanas. Come explore with her how Ayuverda manifests in our asana practice this month, Tuesdays at 10:45am & 5:30pm, Wednesdays 7am & Noon, Thursdays at 5:30pm and Saturdays at 11:45am; or contact her directly at www.namasteitup.com to learn more about living in alignment with your true nature.
Autumn is my favorite season and time of year. The glorious colors of the leaves changing, the wild movements of the skies and crispness in the air have me so inspired and energized! Unfortunately, it is also a time of getting run down, stressed out and prone to disease. It is a time of movement and change, a time to nourish our ancestors as well as ourselves. In Vedic wisdom, it is said if we want to be healthy and happy we must honor our ancestors to free ourselves from our karmic pasts and nourish our ancestors through daily offerings so they may serve us and support us. As the Great Ayurvedic Sage Maya Tiwari says: “At this significant time of year (Autumn) when ancestors are energetically open to receiving nourishment, we have an incredible chance to remember them, and in so doing, to free ourselves from ancestral karma’s of grief, despair and disease.” Creating an ancestral altar is a beautiful practice to reconnect to our roots and in turn the universe through which we are all connected. To start, place pictures of your ancestors or of the country of their origin, along with your teachers or anyone who has supported your growth and make daily offerings of fruit, candles, incense or anything you know your ancestors loved! Offer their favorite food, drink or music and speak to them and ask for their guidance and strength. Another way to honor the ancestors especially if you don’t know much about them is to do service in homeless shelters, or senior homes or serve in any way you can.
Autumn is also a time of self-nourishment, where if we forget to acknowledge and remember ourselves, we are most prone to dis-ease. In Ayurvedic Medicine, Yoga’s sister science of healing and living in harmony with nature, Fall is vata season, ruled by the elements of air and ether. Vata is translated as “wind” or “that which moves,” and is characterized by the qualities of dryness, lightness, coldness, mobility and erratic energy. As we see these qualities manifesting outside with the drying leaves, cooler and fluctuating temperatures and wind moving everything around we can see these qualities in ourselves such as: dry lips, dry skin, dry nasal passages. Constipation, gas, bloating, weight loss, insomnia, disrupted sleep, cold hands and feet, sensitivity to cold, feeling restless, depleted, weak, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, hyperactivity and excessive talking, nervousness, anxiety and fearfulness.
Here are a few Ayurvedic suggestions to balance the symptoms of Vata during Fall to enjoy the magic and richness the season has to offer and to prepare for winter! But instead of thinking of them as a list of do’s and don’ts, think of them as making sacred offerings to honor and connect to your self just as you are beginning to connect to your ancestors.
1. Stress Less!
Ayurvedic medicine believes that stress can weaken your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to dis-ease. One of the best ways to balance vata in the fall is to reduce stress through self-care. Create a daily routine, eat regular meals and make them nourishing, warming and grounding foods, don’t take on too many projects at once. Prioritize what is most important, make lists and give your self plenty of time to finish projects. Spend quality time with friends and family instead of quantity.
2. Sleep Deep!
Make sure to get plenty of sleep during Vata season, which strengthens the immune and nervous systems. Rise with the sun but also set with the sun. Maybe not going to sleep at 5 during the shorter days of Fall, but turning in and tuning in as the sun sets as Vata’s positive qualities are heightened during dawn and dusk. Spend time reading, writing, meditating and quiet time while limiting internet and television and try to sleep for eight hours.
3. Balancing Breath!
To reduce excess vata and its symptoms, practice a deep, balancing, gentle breathing practice called Nadi Shodhana, or Alternate Nostril Breath. Place your right thumb loosely on your right nostril, and your right ringer on your left nostril. Inhale and exhale through both nostrils a few times slowly and the gently close off your left nostril and exhale through your right, inhale right switch fingers and exhale left, inhale left switch and exhale right. This is one round, practice 9 -18 rounds in the morning or evening or both!
4. Nasal Nourishment!
The neti wash and nasya are two therapies that are great for the vata dosha. The neti wash flushes out dust, bacteria, viruses, and excess mucus. Mix ¼ teaspoon of non-iodized salt into one cup of filtered, distilled, or pre-boiled warm water into a neti pot. Bend over a sink and insert the tip into your top nostril to form a tight seal. Tilt your head slightly to one side and let the saline pass through your nasal passages and out the lower nostril. Repeat two to three times on each side, gently blowing your nose to release mucus from the nasal passages. Most sinus problems originate with dry and irritated sinuses, Nasya is a therapy aimed at lubricating the sinuses so they are less reactive to dryness and airborne irritants. To try it, lie down on a sofa or bed and tilt your head back as far as you can. Drop two to four drops of oil in each nostril and sniff the oil into the sinuses.
5. Slow Flow!
Make sure that your yoga practice is nourishing instead of fast and depleting to reduce stress and strengthen immunity. Slow down the flow and include more Yin and Restorative Yoga, as well as spending more time Savasana.
An Ayurvedic practice called abhyanga is a full-body hot oil massage, which you can practice yourself to reduces anxiety, stiffness, stress, and excess vata. Use warm organic sesame oil in the fall, as its warming qualities counteract the season’s cold, dry nature and massage into your whole body but especially your feet and everything is nourished through the ROOTS!
Jasmine Tarkeshi is the Co-Founder of Laughing Lotus Yoga Centers in NYC and SF and is a renowned teacher and devoted student of Yogas ancient and transformative teachings and practices. She has been teaching for 18 years worldwide with the deepest faith in every being’s innate ability to awaken to their truest Selves and become true agents for change and healing our world. She teaches open classes weekly and will be teaching a 50-hour Yoga Philosophy and History Intensive at Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in SF. You can also catch her at Yoga Journal Live SF January 2016! #YJEvents #laughinglotussf #ayurveda #yoga #vata #honoringourancestors