Too Busy to Breathe? 5 Easy Tips to Incorporate Yoga into a Busy Day
Regular contemporary life is quite hectic, and the mind, body, and spirit go through various spins just trying to keep up. While we’re running amuck, tending to chores, and fulfilling our duties, we have a tendency to fall out of sync with ourselves, which eventually results in a deterioration of our health and well-being.
The truth is that we all need a support system in the form of something that can help us keep running and remain healthy even on our busiest days. Yoga has been helping people for centuries to achieve complete balance in the body, mind, and spirit. The science of yoga is universal and does not require a specific time, place, or schedule in order for practitioners to benefit. You can make it your most reliable companion, even on the busiest of days. All yoga needs is the right mindset. Here are five ways you can incorporate yoga into your hectic schedule and achieve greater balance, harmony, and wellness.
1. Begin the Morning with Sun Salutations
If you snooze in the morning, then you shall lose the day! True to these words, yoga demands commitment, but in return, it will be your constant supporter, even through your worst days. The first step to incorporating yoga into a busy lifestyle is adjusting your body clock so that it is in line with the daily cycle. As a yogi, it is essential to function in harmony with the energy cycle of the sun. This means getting 6-8 hours of sleep, along with ensuring that the wake-up time is at or before the sunrise. Turn off the lights and put away your electronics by 11pm, so you can wake up feeling fresh and active just before the sun begins to shine its first rays. Begin your day with 10 minutes of Sun Salutations, which can have the same effect as a 45-minute workout. Through Surya Namaskar, you not only pay homage to the ultimate source of power (the Sun) but also start your day off prioritizing your mind, body, and spirit.
2. Practice Yogic Breaths On-the-Go
Breath is the source of life. Yoga explains how breath is directly linked to the health and wellness of the entire body and mind – this pranayama breathing technique can be performed anytime and anywhere. All you have to do is breathe into the full capacity of the lungs, retain the breath for a few seconds, and gently breathe out through the nostrils. This is recognized as Simple Relaxation Yoga Breathing. This process of breathwork not only clears any channel blockages in the body and mind, but also ensures that impurities are flushed out from the body in the form of carbon dioxide. If you want to kick it up a notch, there are a few other yogic breathing techniques that you can try, such as Alternate Nostril Breathing, Sudarshan Kriya, Sheetali Breath, or Kapalbhati.
3. Embrace an Ayurvedic Diet Regimen
Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, has a significant role to play in sustaining a yogic lifestyle. Our body is composed of different doshas (constitutions) that directly influence our physical and mental behavioral patterns. Maintaining a dietary discipline according to the body constitution is crucial for gaining the maximum results from your yoga practice. If you are unsure about your dosha, then seek the help of an Ayurveda expert, and begin to incorporate the suggested personalized diet that they will recommend.
4. Take Yoga Breaks
If you’re too busy to roll out the yoga mat and perform a full routine, this doesn’t mean you can’t practice yoga! If you are devoted and in need, then the science shall accompany you wherever you go. Take a few minutes in the car, at work, at your desk, or in the kitchen to practice some Chair Yoga. Try the Seated Spinal Twist, Cat/Cow Pose, Seated Camel Pose, Seated Forward Bend, Seated Tree Pose, or any other poses that you can perform comfortably and in the space of a few minutes. These poses are simple, restorative, and highly effective in keeping the circulation of energy up and running through the entire body from head to toe.
5. Conclude the Day with a 10-Minute Meditation
Now that you are all set to doze off, invest in a few minutes of guided meditation and self-reflection. This can be done by lying down in a supine position, and gently reminiscing about the gifts of life with gratitude while embracing any disparity with positivity. This will help you sleep better, as the practice puts both the mind and the body in a peaceful state.
The first step to welcoming yoga into your life is a resolution. The rest will follow.
By Manmohan Singh. Full article originally posted on ArtofLiving.com
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Shallot, Fennel, Thyme & Quinoa Bowl
“Thyme” for the seasons to shift
Eating seasonally is very important, and there are still plenty of delicious herbs and vegetables coming in fresh at this time of year. Take advantage of the deliciousness before “thyme” runs out, and the selection of herbs and vegetables diminish in winter.
A pungent herb, thyme is beneficial to pacify overabundant vata (space & air) and kapha (water & earth) qualities that can result in intestinal distress symptoms such as gas, bloating, or nausea. Thyme can increase pitta (fire) qualities due to its heating nature. So, if it is very warm where you live or you are experiencing a pitta imbalance, use it more sparingly or substitute fresh cilantro for it. Thyme is wonderfully aromatic and infuses this dish with a flavor that pays compliments to its culinary counterparts.
The shallot belongs to the allium family. It imparts a more refined, yet onion like flavor. Shallots are grounding, so they balance out the stimulating effect of thyme. Cooking shallots diffuses their heating nature and increases their sweetness.
You may know fennel as the vegetable with a mild licorice flavor. Sautéing or braising fennel softens the licorice flavor and brings out its sweetness. Fennel acts an amazing agni (digestive fire) enhancer without increasing heat in the body. It is diaphoretic and diuretic, so it can flush excess heat and fluid from the body. This comes in handy post-summer. Fennel is also known to help increase mental and visual clarity.
We tend to lump quinoa in with grains, but it is actually a seed. There are many varieties of quinoa, with the white, red, and black varieties being the most popular. You can often find all three mixed together, which reminds me of the three constitutional types of Ayurveda (Vata, Pitta, Kapha). Quinoa offers a protein punch and is tri-doshic (beneficial for Vata, Pitta, Kapha). If you tend to lean toward vata imbalances, be more generous with the amount of ghee you use in this recipe.
Shallot, fennel, thyme, & quinoa bowl
- 1 cup quinoa, soaked in water overnight and rinsed
- 3 large shallots, chopped
- 1 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced (reverse the wisp-like dark green fronds for garnish!)
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 carrot, grated
- Ghee for sautéing
- Pink Himalayan salt & white pepper to taste
- Generous handful of freshly-chopped cilantro leaves
1. In a medium-sized pot, sauté the shallots in ghee for a few minutes, until clear or slightly browned.
2. Add the fennel and sauté until soft.
3. Add the carrot, quinoa, salt, pepper, and about 2 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Turn down to simmer and cover.
4. Cook about 15 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed.
5. Remove from heat, transfer to serving dish, and garnish with cilantro and fennel fronds.
Interested in incorporating vibrant, delicious Ayurvedic cooking into your health and wellness goals? Check out the Ayurveda Culinary Retreat, hosted by renowned Ayurvedic chef Nalini Mehta at the Art of Living Retreat Center from November 2-4, 2018!
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
Living Well: Decreasing Physician Burnout for a More Fulfilling Practice and Life
Physicians working in the current healthcare environment are under an enormous amount of pressure and stress, and as a result, a condition commonly referred to as ‘physician burnout’ is becoming an ongoing concern in the medical field. Trying to manage the stress of patient cases and administrative tasks, on top of balancing the challenges of everyday life, are among the reasons why physicians are feeling the pressure.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 300-400 physicians die by suicide annually. That’s almost a doctor a day. As mentioned in the April 2016 issue of U.S. News & World Report, physicians have higher rates of depression, divorce, and substance addiction than the general population, and 50-70% of doctors suffer from ‘burnout syndrome’. A growing body of research shows that physician burnout and depression are linked to medical errors and to the kind of depersonalized care that is often both less effective and less palatable.
When the praise turns into stress
Health care professionals are inspired to serve their patients and profession. But in the process of caring for their patient’s needs, the care provider is subject to many stressors, and often neglects their own health. While putting their needs last may seem heroic and praiseworthy, this can compromise clinicians’ personal well-being, and may lead to:
- Emotional exhaustion
- Moral distress
- Compassion fatigue
- Poor clinical decisions
- Medical errors
- Loss of sense of self and purpose
- Lack of a sense of personal achievement
- Suicidal tendencies
Health and happiness start with you
By sacrificing their own well-being, health care providers are adversely compromising the quality of care they provide to their patients. As a doctor, you must remember that before you can take care of others, you must take care of yourself first.
Dr Susmitha Jasty, a practicing gastroenterologist in Brooklyn, New York, says, “One cannot serve from empty vessel. Historically, physicians are caregivers, but we don’t always take good care of ourselves. When we invest in self-care, we typically become better role models for our patients and our families and experience less stress and burnout. When we overlook these priorities, we might become wealthier, but may do so at the cost of our health and happiness.”
An interesting read in The Wall Street Journal mentions, “There’s a strong link between what doctors do themselves and what they tell their patients to do,” says Erica Frank, a professor of public health at the University of British Columbia who was the principal investigator on the Women Physician’s Health Study (WPHS) which surveyed the health practices of 4,500 women doctors in the 1990s, and has studied U.S. medical students and Canadian doctors as well. “If we pay more attention to physicians’ health, we’ll have a patient population that is healthier.”
Another interesting article in New York Times points out, “It has been shown in some studies that if the physician is exercising, if the physician are taking care of themselves, eating well, sleeping better, they have patients who have better clinical outcomes,” said Dr. Hilary McClafferty, a pediatrician who is an associate professor in the department of medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson.
In order to be truly effective in their work, physicians need to balance the demands of their work with self-care. This involves taking time off for introspection and self-care to replenish their personal reserve of adequate mental, emotional, and physical energy to stay clinically competent and present.
Caring for oneself to care for others: physicians and their self care
The famous Wellness Wheel refers to 6 types of wellness – physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social and occupational – and allows individuals to reflect on current life balance and self-care. Improving physicians’ wellness and implementing self-care strategies is a multifactorial process and includes attention to all these 6 types. Personal self-care refers to strategies for individual physicians to take better care of themselves.
According to a research study, strategies for personal self-care include prioritizing close relationships such as those with family; maintaining a healthy lifestyle by ensuring adequate sleep, regular exercise, and time for vacations; fostering recreational activities and hobbies; practicing yoga, deep breathing techniques, mindfulness, and meditation, as well as pursuing spiritual development.
Meditation over medication
According to the American Medical Association, burnout and ignoring the source of problems is not the way to wellness. Meditation can help to protect the mind, which can help healers to heal while they maintain personal well-being.
According to Psychology Today, 6.3 million Americans, or roughly 1 in 30 Americans, are being referred by doctors to practice activities like meditation. The high number of referrals shows that doctors are recognizing the benefits of meditation and yoga. A Harvard study shows that mind-body practices like yoga and meditation have been shown to reduce your body’s stress response, and to have many health benefits, including improving heart health and helping relieve depression and anxiety.
The Living Well: Intensive Retreat for MDs and HCPs
The Art of Living Foundation, a global pioneer in yoga and meditation for more than 35 years, offers the
“Living Well: Intensive Retreat for MDs and HCPs” program for busy medical doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals seeking to build a proficient practice for self-care to enrich their quality of life and patient care. The tools and techniques taught in this retreat have been well researched and backed by many scientific studies at different universities world wide.
- This retreat provides the health care provider an opportunity to learn yoga and meditation-based, simple hands-on self-care practices that
- Reduce stress, exhaustion and compassion fatigue
- Enchance physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being
- Enrich quality of life
- Improve ability for intuitive diagnosis, focus, concentration
- Help to navigate the challenges of personal as well as professional life with more tranquility and dynamism resulting in improved performance
- The retreat also provides physicians and allied health professionals with an update on the latest research in yoga, breathing practices, and meditation, as well as their therapeutic applications, including benefits and risks.
Earn CME/CNE credits while you learn
Recognizing the importance and essentiality of self-care for physicians, the NYU Post-Graduate Medical School designates this program 10-30 CME credits. By attending this program HCP not only learn excellent self-care tools, but also earns 10-30 CME / CNE credits as provided by NYU Post-Graduate Medical School.
This course, which is designed for physicians, medical students, residents, fellows, osteopath practitioners, nurses, nurse practitioners, allied HCPs and complementary and alternative medical practitioners, is offered in various locations in the USA throughout the year by the Art of Living Foundation.
— Dr. Bharti Verma, M.D.
This article first appeared on artofliving.org
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
Wellness, Naturally: Balancing Pitta in Winter
In Ayurveda, there are three types of energy, including pitta. Pitta is a building block of the world, and can be found in everything and everyone. It’s closely related to digestion and intelligence, and is regarded as “fire energy.” Pitta individuals are typically athletic and tend to gain weight evenly. The pitta individual is typically success-oriented, energetic, quick witted and has a great capacity for achieving balance. However, an excess of pitta can overheat the body and mind.
Signs of pitta imbalance
There are typical manifestations of pitta imbalance that can signal as an imbalance of the mind and body. These manifestations include anger, irritability, overall discontent, acid indigestion, heartburn, inflammation and heartburn. Pitta can become imbalanced when one doesn’t get enough rest or eats spicy foods.
Here are three easy ways to bring pitta back into balance.
1. Drink a cool glass of milk. Milk cools the fiery energy of pitta.
2. Stay hydrated. Make sure to drink lots of water throughout the day.
3. Take regular breaks. When pitta is high, there is a tendency to focus and dive in. This can be useful, but it must be balanced with occasional breaks. This will help refresh your spirits and keep you cool and relaxed. This way you can work without letting the work overwhelm you.
Understanding how to feed your fire
If you have a pitta constitution, it’s wise to avoid pungent, salty and sour foods. Reduce sour fruits like grapefruits, and stick to sweeter fruits like mangoes, pineapples, grapes and melons. Avoid veggies like tomatoes, onions, and hot peppers. Instead, favor veggies like cucumbers, green beans, potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli.
Pitta individuals should use seasonings that are cooling and soothing. These include clove, cilantro, cardamom and fennel. Hot seasonings, such as cumin and mustard seed, should be used sparingly. And if you’re a non-vegetarian, chicken and turkey are better than beef and seafood. Dairy can help balance the heat of pitta and should include things like butter and milk.
Keep your cool
Balancing Pitta also includes lifestyle. Allow for some free time every day, so you can balance rest and activity. Don’t skip meals and wait till you’re famished. Spend time in nature. Take a stroll in the woods and keep plants and fresh flowers at home. Most of all, make sure to laugh a lot every day. You may even want to consider performing a daily massage with cooler oils like coconut. Take in some aromatherapy with mint, lavender or sandalwood.
At the Art of Living Retreat Center, we provide guidance on how to keep your pitta in balance. We offer a sense of connection, inner peace and rejuvenation. Nestled on scenic mountaintop in the Blue Ridge Mountains, our center is the ideal location for Ayurveda and personal transformation. Everyone is cared for like family.
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
Wellness, Naturally: Balancing Kapha in Winter
When you learn to look at the world from an Ayurvedic perspective, it won’t be long before your view on achieving and maintaining your own personal sense of wellness will become not only clearer, but also attainable in ways that you may not have thought possible. In this post, we’ll be focusing on the various techniques for balancing Kapha through the cold months of winter.
Know your dosha
One of the first steps toward gaining clarity and control over your own health is understanding the three dynamic energies known in Ayurveda as doshas. These are Vata, Pitta, and the one we’ll be focusing on specifically in this post, Kapha. Doshas are, put very simply, the biological energies that make us who we are as individuals. They are not one size fits all! Your dosha is not only as unique as you are – it is what makes you so unique.
What does it mean to be kapha?
Each of the three doshas project both mental and physical attributes that will reflect the elements related to them. The elements related to the kapha dosha are earth and water. This manifests in people who are thought to have a dosha balance dominated by Kapha as both a solid physical frame, as well as a strong, calming presence and grounded personality.
Kapha in winter – losing your balance
When you fail to take care of yourself properly, your doshas can become imbalanced. This will be noticeable both in the way you feel physically and mentally, but also in the way that you interact with others and even how they respond to you. If you find yourself feeling “off” or “unsteady”, chances are good that your doshas have gotten out of proportion.
Kaphas who allow themselves to be too sedentary in the winter months will suffer the consequences, and often find themselves experiencing some of the following negative effects:
● Weight gain
● Depression and lethargy
● Poor circulation
● Respiratory issues
● Oily skin
Balancing kapha: 3 easy ways to feel lighter in winter
Ayurveda is all about keeping your doshas balanced. Fortunately, when you become aware of an imbalance, there are a lot of ways to make balancing Kapha again a cinch.
1. Get Moving! – Regular physical activity is key for balancing Kapha . Bundle up and take an invigorating winter walk around your favorite park or better yet, use the chilly months to give hot yoga a try!
2. Keep Your Diet Light – It’s easy to fall into a routine of eating more in cold months, no matter what your dosha is, but Kaphas often tend to have a slow metabolism anyway. Be mindful of your portions and don’t let yourself go overboard, especially on rich, heavy foods. Which brings us to…..
3. Avoid Kapha-Rich Foods – Foods that increase Kapha will tip your balance, so you’ll want to take a pass on that big slice of gooey pecan pie, and anything else that is overly salty or sweet. Heavy foods will only weigh you down, but try taking inspiration from the pitta dosha until spring comes, with lots of warm, light veggies (think green beans, yellow squash, or zucchini) and oats, quinoa or basmati rice. And be sure to have lots of ginger and lemon hot tea!
If you’re new to Ayurveda, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by information – but don’t forget that intuition and self-awareness about how you feel mentally and physically play a big part in living an Ayurvedic lifestyle. It will soon become second nature and the benefits to your overall health are worth it!
Wellness, Naturally: Balancing Vata in Winter
Seasonal changes affect our lives in many ways. They play a role in a person’s very nature, something known as a dosha in Ayurveda. The winter season can affect and imbalance a vata dosha, or constitution, so balancing vata is important during this season.
Vata is one of the three constitutions in Ayurveda. Associated with the air element, it expresses itself in attributes like cold and dry skin, feeling restless, having a thin body, talking a lot, and gravitating toward a warm climate.
It’s important to be mindful of how a dosha imbalance happens. Once you understand this, you can focus on preventing it or bringing yourself back into a state of balance. Some factors that imbalance vata include sleep problems, high-pressure work situations, a lot of worry and stress, and an abundance of talking or traveling. During the winter season, cold and windy climates can throw off a vata constitution. Winter is generally hard on a vata type, because of their cold and dry skin, cold hands and feet, and overall difficulty handling cold weather.
These problems are particularly pronounced when a person’s vata is unbalanced. Some things that indicate an imbalanced vata include problems with the joints, body pains, restlessness, and trouble sleeping.
A vata constitution will feel much better when in balance. You’ll feel healthier and happier, with a more calm state of mind. You’ll sleep better, feel less pain, and have a more stable and focused mental state. And throughout the winter, you’ll feel warmer and experience healthier skin and circulation. While there are numerous steps you can take to balance vata, try these three methods this winter:
Follow a daily schedule
Create a better routine that provides balance. Your schedule should help manage your workload and personal responsibilities by breaking them down into smaller steps and allocating enough time. This way, you can reduce stress and still remain productive. Plan ahead of time for personal care and meditation. Make an effort to get to sleep earlier by making your nighttime routine more calming. Try to find motivation in getting more sleep, such as noticing the difference in how you feel, both mentally and physically, when you go to sleep earlier.
Help yourself achieve a better state of calm by cutting down on stimulants. This includes caffeinated beverages like coffee, as well as processed sugar that creates a quick sugar high and then an energy crash. Instead, find more stable sources of energy through complex carbohydrates and healthy fats and proteins. Meditate and use other methods to calm and rejuvenate yourself, rather than reaching for stimulants.
Follow a vata diet
Rejoice in winter comfort foods. Foods that are cooked, warm and soft will be good for you, so enjoy stews, macaroni and cheese, and similar comfort foods. Take in healthy oils and a lot of moisture through foods and beverages. Some ideal vata-balancing foods include olives, dairy products, avocado, nuts, seeds and wheat. Also, choose salty, sweet and sour tastes like fruit, yogurt and kimchi instead of bitter, pungent and astringent ones like radishes, kale and legumes. Fried dishes and overeating can cause problems to vata, while rich yet nourishing meals help balance this constitution’s lightness.
Ayurvedic Recipes: Beet Soup a la Poland
Food blogger and yoga teacher Kasia Fraser specializes in healthy, delicious food with a flair for vegan and raw cuisine. Here Kasia shares a recipe for one of her favourite winter meals – beet soup a la Poland! Beets are a wonderful Ayurvedic winter food, due to their ability to cleanse the liver and rejuvenate the blood.
Beet soup a la Poland
- 2 organic beets with the leaves intact
- 1 organic potato
- 1 organic carrot
- 1 organic parsley root
- 1 small celery root
- 1/4 teaspoon ginger (optional)
- 3 tbsp of olive oil
- half of a lemon, juiced
- fresh dill
- salt and pepper
- Cut all veggies, and cook in the hot water with a bit of salt. Once soft, add olive oil, black pepper, and lemon juice.
- Add chopped beet leaves and turn the heat off. Keep covered for 3-5 minutes.
- Spoon into a bowl, and garnish with fresh dill! Enjoy with a spoonful of vegan yogurt and wheat-free warm toast.
Check out more of Kasia’s amazing recipes at hellodelicious.info!
The Practice: Sri Sri on the Nature of the Yogi
Yoga is so much more than exercise — it’s a way of being. Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar shares his thoughts on the far-reaching impact of yoga on the body, mind, and spirit, and the true nature of the Yogi.
A disease-free body, a violence-free society, a confusion-free mind, a inhibition-free intellect, a trauma-free memory, a sorrow-free soul and a quiver-free breath is the impact that Yoga can make on your life.
More than the body
If you claim that you are a Yogi, then you should have an undying smile on your face. I would say, that is the sign of a Yogi. Yoga makes your emotions softer and more peaceful, and you blossom in your emotions. It brings freedom in your expression and your thought patterns. These are the real signs of Yoga. It is not just to do with the flexibility of the body. Of course, that too is a part of Yoga. The body becomes flexible, and the mind grows in faith and conviction. If all this happens, know that it is the gift of Yoga, and consider yourself as a Yogi.
The path of the Yogi
Many people think of the eight limbs of Yoga as a step-wise process to go level by level. They think that one has to strive to become proficient in one level before ascending to the next. This is not really so. I would say that all these eight limbs or aspects of Yoga are woven together and happen simultaneously.
When a child is conceived in the womb, then all its organs are formed together. It is not that first the feet are formed and then the arms take shape. No, it is not so. All the limbs and organs develop together. This is why we must take all these eight aspects or limbs of Yoga together at every step. Only then can we experience the fullness and totality of Yoga, and can bring about an extraordinary transformation and experience in our life.
Join one of our upcoming yoga retreats and feel for yourself the power and light of the eight-limbed path.
This article first appeared on srisriravishankar.org.
Wellness, Naturally: 5 Ayurvedic Diet Tips for the New Year
If you’ve ever had a delicious meal at an Indian restaurant, you’ve experienced the healthiest and most balanced method of cooking in the world. Applying Ayurvedic principles to your own diet isn’t at all complicated, but learning to modify your food choices and cooking style requires a basic understanding of the term itself.
Ayurveda, the foundation of wellness in India, is centered in the idea that our bodies are made of five elements: space (akash), air (vayu), fire (tejas), water (ap), and earth (prithvi). At the helm is space, the cosmic space that allows the remaining elements to operate. Balancing the elements through diet and lifestyle can help you achieve greater wellness. Here are five tips to consider as you integrate Ayurveda into your diet.
Eliminate fast food
All too often, the modern American diet subsists on processed foods containing chemicals, fermentation, and oils that negatively affect the natural dietary balance your body needs. Make a commitment to reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates and saturated fats, especially those that come from meat and cheese. Cook with fresh, whole ingredients in your own kitchen instead of grabbing meals to go, ordering pizza or heating frozen entrees loaded with fat and sodium. With less saturated fat and more attention to food combinations that suit your constitution, your body can better extract the nutrients it needs.
Learn the terminology
An Ayurvedic cook knows how to categorize food according to traditional terminology. Learn to speak the language. Besides the elements, you should learn the three mental properties: sattva (curiosity), raja (motivation), and tama (the desire to stop, slow down, and rest). Also learn the three terms for doshas, or body constitutions: vata (air and ether), pitta (fire), and kapha (water and earth). Observe your behavior and determine which dosha or combination of doshas rule your own body and eating behaviour.
Strengthen your prakruti
With the understanding that learning and living an Ayurvedic life takes time, you can begin to strengthen your constitution, or prakruti, by eating foods that remedy your imbalances. For example, if you’re like the many Americans who gravitate towards tamasic foods that make you feel sluggish and slow, a simple change like replacing your frozen breakfast burrito with grains or fresh fruit will encourage mental clarity. As you gradually eat more sattvic foods such as beets, greens, lentils, soybeans, wild rice, and fresh yogurt, your improved mood will help fight colds, fatigue, and other health problems.
Monitor your digestion
The most valuable benefit of eating in the Ayurvedic tradition is an improved and healthier digestive system. Part of your new regimen should be an increased awareness of how you eat. Do you shovel the food in quickly to keep up with a partner who eats at the speed of light? If so, slow down and take your time. Put the fork or chopstick down between bites. Drink water or tea at room temperature (the Ayurvedic tradition shuns icy drinks with meals), and go at your own pace. Also consider the time of day you eat and drink, adjusting mealtimes to reduce hasty eating on the run — no more breakfast in the car on your way to work!
Look for balance in your life. With the basics under your belt, move forward by fine-tuning your diet. Remembering to maintain a primarily sattvic approach, experiment with dosha combinations to balance your moods.
Ask an experienced Ayurvedic cook for help and guidance in learning how to pronounce the terms, and determine why your habits are steering you toward a particular direction. With focus and dedication, you’ll soon see why Ayurvedic cooking as outlasted every food fad on earth. Namaste!
Exploring Wisdom: Nikki Myers on Overcoming Addiction
Recent Art of Living Retreat Center retreat host Nikki Myers has created a revolutionary, holistic approach to addiction recovery that combines yoga philosophy and the tools of the traditional 12-step program. We recently spoke with Nikki about how these two philosophies work together, the role of sacred transformation, and her own road to recovery.
A practice born from lived experience
Here’s the story: my life was in the thrall of addiction for many years. There’s a phrase used in 12-step programs that goes ‘jails, institutions, and death’ — well, all of those I understand, and all of those I have experience with. My inspiration to create this program comes out of my own lived experience with addiction and recovery.
I found my way into 12-step programs by the grace of something bigger than myself. The 12-step program absolutely, positively saved my life. For 8 years, I was immersed in this program, but even after 8 years clean, I relapsed, and found myself falling back into addictive behavior all over again.
After my first relapse, I was reintroduced to yoga. I’d had experience with yoga before, but coming back to it, I truly fell in love with the practice for the first time, and began to understand how closely the philosophy and practice of yoga relates to the 12-step program.
Working together to heal addiction
There were so many connections that I saw between yoga and the program, and after four years of studying yoga and staying clean, I decided that I didn’t need the program anymore. And you know what? I relapsed again. It was only after that second relapse that I came to realize that I was keeping these two practices in separate boxes. What I really needed to sustain recovery was a marriage between the two.
Y12SR was created out of my personal experience, and along the way, I discovered there were so many more people like me. The 12-step program deals with the cognitive aspects of addiction, but yoga helps with the somatic aspect, and together, they create a full-system set of teachings.
There is a model in yoga philosophy that comes from the yoga sutras, stating how the root of so many problems is in Avidya, which ultimately is a misconception of who we are. We think we’re separate from each other and from nature, from the universe, and even from our own bodies.
The founders of the 12-step program address the same problem, but a little differently. They call it “stinkin’ thinkin'”, but it’s the same thing as misconception. We look at things through the lens of our own subjective experience, which can lead us to misinterpretation of the world around us and ourselves.
One of my teachers says the answer to everything is ‘it depends’. When the pain of not doing something at all became greater than the pain of taking a step forward, then I knew it was time to take the step forward.
This step could simply be an investigation. I tell people all the time to just try some things on. One of the things I personally tried early on was giving up — if you want to see if you’re addicted to something, watch what happens when you take it away. Your mood, your attitude, even your physiology can change. If you experience these kinds of changes, it could be an indicator of a serious problem.
A spiritual solution to a spiritual problem
There are many avenues to combat addiction. Of course, there are 12-step programs, which are absolutely brilliant, and do tie very closely to yoga. You could try yoga, or online resources. There are many ways to begin the journey to recovery.
At its heart, the crisis of addiction is a spiritual problem, a spiritual crisis. We’ve taken a pharmaceutical approach to it, and in my experience, what I assert is that there will never be a pharmacological answer to a spiritual crisis. Both yoga and the 12-step program affirm this. Addiction is a spiritual issue that needs a spiritual remedy.
What I love about the combination of yoga and the cognitive pieces of the 12-step program is that together, they offer tools and processes to begin to support that spiritual transformation, that sacred road to recovery.