The Planet is Tridoshically Provoked (Self-Care Tips for Detoxing from Big-City Life) by David McConaghay
The original intent of this article was to provide seasonal self-care advice from an Ayurvedic perspective. As I sit down to write, however, I am struck with the awareness that “seasons” as we’ve known them no longer exist.
I currently live in Colorado, where more than once this autumn we’ve had two inches of snowfall followed by 80 sunny degrees the next day. California, after years of “ridiculously resilient” drought, flipped into El Niño-induced flooding and now devastating fires.
As a practitioner of Ayurveda, I am trained to adjust treatment protocols in accordance with the climate in which my patients live. This is becoming an ever more tricky task as otherwise reliable weather patterns disintegrate into apparent randomness.
Observing through an Ayurvedic lens, it is simple enough to diagnose Gaia (the living being also known as Earth, of whom humans are a part the same way there are billions of living bacterium in our bellies that perform vital duties, or sometimes don’t) with a trīdoshaja condition. Which is to say, all three doshas — vata, pitta and kapha — are malfunctioning.
The three doshas describe how the five great elements (ether, air, fire, water, earth) take form and act out the play of creation.
Vata (ether, air) is the principle of movement, activity and variability. It is associated with fear and anxiety, electrical energy and rajas guna.
Pitta (fire, and a bit of water when healthy) represents the transformative power of heat, the “fire in the belly” that feeds the ambitious visions of great leaders and tyrants alike. It is associated with radiant energy, eyesight and anger.
Kapha (water, earth) is the principle of structure, stability and form. It is associated with tamas guna and can be reassuringly reliable and/or infuriatingly stubborn. Kapha governs mechanical energy and relates to conditions like obesity and diabetes.
The frantic pace at which modern live moves is universally vata-provoking. The endless stream of information available and intruding on us through TV, radio and the internet is enough to scramble even the most vast of minds.
This flood of information arrives in our awareness mostly via screens, which have become pervasive. As electric points of encoded light enter the eyes, vata enflames pitta the way a gust of wind sparks a forest fire. Vata pushing pitta can result in frustrated rage or exaggerated inspiration; it can also manifest as skin rashes and sharp headaches.
Fires fed by swirling wind burn hot and fast, quickly consuming all available fuel. Pitta burnout leads to kapha hibernation. Overwhelmed, afraid and angry, kapha survival strategies involve sleep, overeating and all forms of numbing the senses.
Of course, the sense organs themselves are inherently neutral, and the world we experience is the result of our collective choices. As integral actors influencing the relative health or disease of our planet, we must apply intelligent means to resolve the myriad maladies we’ve until now let fester.
“Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”
— attributed to Mahatma Gandhi
“The only way to change society is like changing a cotton cloth to a silk one — by changing each thread one by one.”
— Swami Vishnudevananda
When considering the vast scope of the problem, it is easy to feel insignificant and slip into despondency. Indeed, certain of the issues we as a species face are beyond the influence of single individuals and require mass movements of coordinated action to overcome.
We are already participating in “mass movements of coordinated action” on a daily basis, but mostly without conscious awareness. Without conscious application of our best intelligence, human beings become like cancer cells in Gaia’s body, rather than the vital organs we are meant to be.
So what can you do? These suggestions can apply to anyone anywhere anytime who is feeling any of the symptoms described above.
For a week-long self-care and detox from big-city life, join us for FREEDOM TO FLOW on June 20-27, 2018, our 5th Nature, Culture & Yoga Adventure Retreat in Costa Rica! Find details here.
David Telfer McConaghay is an Ayurvedic Practitioner and Vedic Astrologer based in Boulder, Colorado. He expects to graduate from Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula as a Doctor of Ayurveda in May 2018. His work and play is collected at VedaDave.com.
Much gratitude to Jasmine for sharing her recipe for our fall holiday cooking!
1 medium sugar pie pumpkin
2 TBS oil or vegan butter
2 yellow onions, roughly chopped
2 shallots, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp poultry seasoning, or 1⁄2 tsp dried/ground sage
2 vegan bouillon cubes, vegan “chicken” style or vegetable 4 cups boiling water
1⁄2 cup cashews
Extra water as needed
Preheat oven to 350.
Cut the pumpkin in half and fully scoop out the seeds, reserving for another use if desired. Place both halves, cut side down, on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour.
In a soup pot, saute onions and shallots in oil or vegan butter over medium-low flame. Sprinkle with salt, and cook about 7 minutes, or until translucent and soft, just beginning to brown. Add garlic and poultry seasoning, mixing well to combine, continue to cook for 2 minutes.
When pumpkin is done, carefully remove the skin (it should come away easily). Scoop out soft flesh and add to pot with onions.
In a separate bowl or measuring cup, mix bouillon cubes with boiling water and make sure they have fully disintegrated. Add to pot, along with the cashews. Cover pot with lid, and simmer on low for 15 minutes.
If possible, transfer entire contents of pot to blender, and blend on high. If need be, blend in 2 batches, then combine. Check consistency, adding more water, a little at a time, if too thick.
Connect with Jasmine on her You-Tube Channel:
How many times have you felt butterflies in your stomach or worry in your gut? How about anxiety bringing you to a point of constipation or inability to control your bowels? The premise of holistic healing practices is the interconnectedness of the body, mind and soul, as yoga in itself means the practice of “union” of the various aspects of your being. What we choose to feed ourselves in every way, like the environments we constantly live in, the choices we make daily, the foods we nourish our cells with, the roles we play in our relationships, our perceptions of our selves, what we read or watch and more affect our ability to feel grounded and move with ease in this world.
Digging into a Colon Hydrotherapist’s perspective on digestion as a holistic experience, I interviewed a long-time friend and trusted wellness professional, Monisha Garner:
1. How important is digestion to overall wellness?
Our digestive system is a very simple system of releasing and absorbing. Without an effective working colon life becomes a little more difficult and disease will not be too far behind. During the 8th week of pregnancy is when our digestive system starts to form, and around the 13th week it is fully functional. It is directly connected to our nervous system, so what you hold on to emotionally, physically and spiritually is mirrored in your colon as constipation, diarrhea, inflammation, etc. If regular bowel movements are not present, the body’s amazing technology will try to reuse the waste that continues to sit and ferment in the colon, creating gas, distention, bad breath, body aches and more. The problem is that the body cannot reuse trash, so in turn, the person will start to feel sluggish, have a poor complexion and begin facing other health challenges. The colon is the cornerstone of entire wellness.
2. If you had to narrow down three important tips to optimizing your digestion of food, what would they be?
I would definitely say to eat foods from each color of the rainbow (omitting any foods white or brown in color), add plant based fiber to your daily intake of food and sip warm water with lemon, aloe vera juice and chlorophyll daily.
3. How does the way we digest life’s experience affect our overall wellness? What would you say is the most essential ingredient or life tool in being able to digest life with grace?
I absolutely love this question because most people don’t feel that their digestive upset stems from emotional imbalances. However, it’s a direct result. Our colon is directly tied to our nervous system. So large amounts of stress, long-term stress, unnecessary stress, lack of sleep, consuming large amounts of caffeine, sugar, prescription medications, yelling and arguing create the perfect breeding ground for disease to manifest within our body. Holding onto or forcing the occurrence of events that no longer serve us affects imbalances within our colon. Not speaking your truth and asking for what you need create imbalances within your colon.
The tool that I use for myself to move through this amazing planet with grace is to give MYSELF grace. I give myself time and do not overload myself. I talk to myself in a loving manner and speak to and from my heart space as often as I can. Change is an inside job. It starts with you first. Treat yourself with ease and gentleness, your body will respond with the same, and so will others.
This insightful interview with Monisha provides a peek into an important topic we’ll be diving into at our upcoming Digestive Wellness Workshop, Nourish, on November 4: How do you digest life with grace? We’ll address digestive well being through various angles using yoga, meditation, nutritional cooking, eating mindfully, community discussion and wisdom and practical tools from Paola Cardona, yoga teacher and long-time friend, who holistically healed herself through Stage 3B Colon Cancer.
As holistic medicine bases its work on the interconnectedness of your various realms of being, Yoga further rides on the premise that all beings on this planet are interconnected. Thus, an individual’s wellness and wisdom can ripple empowering healing onto others. Anita Moorjani, inspiring author of “Dying to Be Me,” wrote about her spontaneous remission from Stage 4 Lymphoma and redefines “remission” as “remembering your mission” in this world, and through self-love, share unconditional love with others.
Monisha Garner is an Advanced and Clinical Colon Hydrotherapist, Holistic Health Practitioner and Owner of Moya Body Care. She specializes in digestive wellness, herbs and natural living. She is dedicated to empowering others to find their unique journey towards health and wellness through detoxification and cleansing. She embraces practical techniques and tools that the average person can easily infuse into their daily routine. Connect with Monisha at: www.moyabodycare.com
The fall and winter holidays, with its many social gatherings around food, can often spin us off our healthy habits into a whirlwind of consuming. As a young child, Halloween habitually marked my upsurge of dis-ease into the winter, starting with sore throats into flu and so on. Only as an adult moved to heal my body holistically did I see the link between my health disturbances and the conditions I created, which were not just the colder weather, as I was made to believe, but how I treated my entire being—mainly through digestion of food and life. Curious to learn more, I delved into much personal research on the topic of digestion, changed many of my lifestyle habits to improve my well being, and much later, felt compelled to collaborate with various wellness experts on the topic to spread awareness and empowerment through information that inspires positive choices, hoping to make a timely impact just before the eating momentum of the holidays.
As a preview to our upcoming third year of Digestive Wellness pre-holidays workshop on November 4, 2017, I've decided to interview two experts in the field of holistic wellness. Part 1 of this article is an interview with Ayurveda Practitioner Isabel Castro (Stay tuned here for the next interview):
1.) How important is digestion to overall wellness?
Digestion is the foundation of health. It sets the stage for creating health in the body or opening it up to disease. When properly functioning, digestion allows your body to absorb nutrients, eliminate toxins and build ojas, a form of life energy, our reserve or backup battery when in stress mode. If digestion is not functioning properly, our body is imbalanced, causing the burden to overflow into other systems of the body. Ama is anything not digested that stays in the body and is not processed and eliminated. This can also be indigestion in the mind, leaving the mind clouded, cyclically drawing us to things that will keep us out of balance. Thus, our digestive system can either be in a proactive or reactive mode in keeping us healthy.
2.) If you had to narrow down three important tips to optimizing your digestion of food, what would they be?
First is the Goldilocks Principle: eat a balanced meal that is not too small or too large, not too heavy or light in quality and not too hot or cold, so that it doesn’t leave you feeling overstuffed, still hungry, on fire from excessive spice or any extreme. Secondly, eat in a relaxed atmosphere. Even if your surroundings seem chaotic, breathe consciously as you eat and put the fork down between bites to relax your nervous system and allow blood to flow to the center of your body for effective digestion. Lastly, value space by not filling your plate with so much, literally and figuratively. Leave room in your day for rest and processing events, rather than over-busying yourself. Give yourself 3-4 hours between meals so your body knows when it’s time to break down food and when it’s not. Give your digestive organs room to move things around, rather than jam-packing things into your system.
3) How does the way we digest life’s experience affect our overall wellness? What would you say is the most essential ingredient or life tool in being able to digest life with grace?
It’s all connected. If you’re constantly taking things in by having a busy schedule or constantly snacking, you allow no time to release what needs to move through you. Start the day relaxed to enable your evacuation first thing in the morning from the previous day. If you don’t give yourself a chance to process what the takeaway is—whether in nutrients or life events, you’re just constantly consuming. Take time to process. Find balance and remember the yogic virtue of ahimsa, or nonviolence toward self.
Optimizing our digestion of whatever we take in, be it food or life, through various angles—physically, mentally and even spiritually—is a gateway to creating radiant wellness. Stay tuned here for our next interview on Digestive Wellness.
Join us on November 4 for Nourish, a Digestive Wellness integration of yoga, meditation, nutritional cooking, community discussion and a personal talk by my dear friend and yoga teacher, Paola Cardona, about her journey of surviving and thriving past Stage 3B Colon Cancer, sharing her healthy lifestyle tools.
Isabel Castro is an Ayurveda Practitioner based in Bellingham, WA. She was drawn to Ayurveda after years of trying a multitude of treatments for her eczema and realizing its direct correlation to digestion. Through Ayurveda, she effectively treated her skin condition and discovered other benefits, like improved clarity, focus and calm—experiencing a balancing integration of mind and body wellness. Connect with Isabel at www.LivingBalanceAyurveda.com.
Stephen "Tree Man Steve" Duprey is a transplanted New Yorker, Urban Forester for the City of LA and Garden Advisor for the Peace Garden in Long Beach, CA. He enjoys music, art, military history, biblical archaeology and wood carving, and began his yoga journey in 1973 when he simultaneously dove into the fields of massage and meditation.
Since 2010, he's attended weekly yoga classes with Michelle Chua at his workplace fitness center in Downtown LA and connects with Root 2 Rise Yoga community on Hike + Yoga adventures, sharing his wealth of knowledge about plants on our most recent Waterfall Hike + Yoga at Monrovia Canyon Park in September. He also traveled to Costa Rica for our 2017 Retreat, now planning on his return for June 2018, with an added personal excursion to plant trees in the Costa Rican rainforest beforehand. Reminiscing about the retreat last July, he exclaims, "...whitewater rafting, zip lining, parasailing over the Pacific Ocean and fresh tropical fruits were the BEST!"
Sharing about his yoga practice, he finds gratitude in its ability to ease daily tension and fatigue while increasing his flexibility, saying, "Yoga grounds my body, while the outdoors grounds my spirit." Driven by his belief that humanity's purpose on earth is to find union with the divine, he shares insight from his personal practice, "Find what connects you to the divine. Follow that path--be it yoga, prayer, meditation, service, etc."
Stephen is passionate about his role as Manager/Advisor for the Long Beach Peace Garden, where he has taught youth for the past six years about the value and benefits of growing their own food for a healthier diet and awareness of nature. He deeply believes:
The more they (the youth) garden and learn about nature, it opens up a world of connectedness to plants, smells, tastes, insects, birds and soil. Living things have a magic in them, that iPhones, a can of Coke and a bag of chips cannot match.
Catch Stephen on one of our Hike + Yoga adventures with his gloves and cleaning tools picking up trash before or along our hike.
What's the bigger picture? (A Personal Testimony)
A busy-addict schoolteacher in 2001, I was first attracted to yoga because of how it could physically challenge me to my edge, as I only viewed it as exercise then. In any workout, I often overexerted myself, motivated by self-reprimanding discipline, ego-driven competition or catharsis for repressed emotions. 2006 hit me with a year of frustrating stillness and sadly slowing down, recovering from surgery after a dance injury.
Yoga then played a new role--a tool for genuinely being kind to myself, and thus, awakening to the bigger picture or WHY behind everything I did. I gave myself permission to not always push to my edge--to value rest and balance.
Living abroad teaching in 2009 brought a lot of alone time, amplifying the voice of my inner critic, which fueled much of my obligation to busy-ness and self-torturing workouts. A more dedicated yoga practice began peeling layers of my resistance to vulnerability and learning to listen compassionately to this inner critic, realizing the past experiences that gave it a voice. Love began coloring my approach to exercise, yoga, eating, running, working--everything. Busy-ness became less a currency of my self worth.
When I'm tempted to fall into my old mindset, Mother Nature kindly taps me to look over my shoulder as I'm on my computer intensely doing office work. She whispers through a beautifully fading sunset: Psst...remember the bigger picture. And I go upside down to get a fresh perspective.
Yoga & Mindfulness Writings…
Yoga Sutra Chapter 1 Verse 39 offers another revitalizing tool for attaining the goal of yoga, which is union with greater consciousness, or enlightenment: through contemplation (or dhyana, in Sanksrit) of love. It invites us to act, in daily life and in physical (asana) practice, with the motive of love to help align us with our bigger picture as beings on the path of awakening.
Mindfulness Author Pema Chodron shared:
When things are properly understood, one’s whole life is like a ritual or a ceremony. Then all the gestures of life are mudra, and all the sounds of life are mantra—sacredness is everywhere.
Great Poet Rumi encouraged:
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.
Spinal Twists with Love…
This week’s asana sessions will focus on spinal twists, and their ability to help peel layers of stuckness—in digestion, in the lower back and in the subtle energy body.
Yoga Journal (Sept-Oct 2004) highlights the importance of spinal twists:
After we exert ourselves in forward folds and backbends, twistscan help reset the spine, coaxing it back to an even keel. This makes twisting an indispensable part of yoga practice, since the spine is, after all, the central axis around which we balance the body from left to right and front to back.
To dive into a deeper understanding of yoga postures and how they may lead to energetic release, emotional detoxification or spiritual awakening, I highly recommend reading The Secret Life of Asana, an informative article that provides a general overview of the tools and potency of Hatha Yoga.
Here are a few sample twisting postures:
Here are 4 Principles for Safe & Effective Spinal Twists, summarized from Susi Hately Aldous’ book, Anatomy and Asana: Preventing Yoga Injuries:
Transitions between seasons are a beautiful time to pause and reflect on what you have been creating with your daily thoughts, words, actions and focusing energy on. These mindful moments of self-reflection amid change can empower your awareness to let go of what may no longer align with your life’s purpose or serve useful in our world, as they may have in the past. Thus, you create space for or renew what you now choose to manifest and share with the world. This balance of surrender and non-attachment to goal (or, Vairagyabhyam in Sanskrit) and focused action with steady practice (or, Abhyasa in Sanskrit) are the two main qualities described in Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Chapter 1, v. 12) for entering the state of yoga, that is, ultimate union with inner and universal consciousness.
At Fall Equinox, we prepare to transition from the leisurely pace of hot summer and its light seasonal cuisine of watermelons, asparagus and kiwi to cool autumn with its busier schedule paralleled by wind and some rain. In fall, nature offers her blessings of heavier produce—pumpkin, apples, brussel sprouts-- to sustain our increased activity and keep warm and nourished. In adapting to the new season, it’s important to nourish your entire being—body, mind and spirit. Here are some ways to use yoga to prepare for your transition into fall:
7-Minute Re-balancing Breath Work
To watch the guided meditation, click here.
Yoga Postures for Creativity & Welcoming Change
Opening the hips through both fluid breath-led movement and sustained postures aid in the clearing of the creativity energy center, called Sacral Chakra or Svadhisthana in Sanskrit. A balanced sacral chakra aligns with your ability to be open to change, take healthy risks with childlike curiosity, express yourself uniquely and embrace your sexuality. Thus, at a time of environmental seasonal change, embodying the natural element of water, as hip-openers promote, can well-equip you with resilience and joy.
10-Minute Yoga Sequence for Opening the Hips
To watch the guided yoga practice, click here.
Guided Meditation on Letting Go to Create
Stay tuned on our social media (Instagram or Facebook) this week for a guided meditation on letting go to create. Either before or after, enrich your meditative state with a nature walk, soaking in with all your senses the natural beauty of the fall season as it comes.
Connect with Community
Besides your personal preparations, gathering with a community of like-minded people also seeking personal growth and positive change offers a supportive and inspiring atmosphere for welcoming the new season. Consider joining a community event, such as Flow into Fall: Flow + Soul Movement + Restorative Yoga with Live Music gathering for increasing vibrations of peace as you enter autumn.
With these many suggestions, choose the practice that best resonates with you, if not all. However you welcome fall, allow your practice to guide you into clarity and grace flowing with life as it unfolds breath by breath, a means of predisposing your inner conditions to fully experience the present moment.
Backbends offer a physical opening of the chest, fronts of the shoulders and front of the torso, down to the hip flexors and quadriceps. Energetically speaking, they open the heart energy center, which encompasses our openness to connect with the world around us with love, as The (Deepak) Chopra Center article elaborates here.
Discover more about backbends and heart-openers in Eckhart Yoga's article, “All About Backbends.”
In exploring heart wisdom, experiencing life openheartedly is being open to the full range of our human condition, both joys and sorrows. Rather than the common tendency to avoid unpleasant feelings, allowing ourselves to completely be present with all that is empowers our capacity for compassion and two important virtues of yoga--equanimity, which is a mindset of non-attachment, and santosha, or Sanskrit for a pervading sense of contentment. A wonderful read exploring this concept further is Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation by Joseph Goldstein and Jack Cornfield. (For more practice in living with an open heart, take a peek at Freedom to Flow, our upcoming yoga retreat in Costa Rica.)
Diving into yoga philosophy, here's a yoga sutra that complements the study of expanding your experience of the world, beyond the mind's eye, as extracted from Yoga International:
Yoga Sutra 1.3 - Tada drashtuh svarupe'vasthanam means:
Once the mind is crystal-clear, we begin to perceive the objects of the world the way they are; our perception is no longer distorted. We come to see that material objects are neither good nor bad, neither pleasant nor unpleasant, but neutral. It is our attitude toward them that makes them appear either positive or negative. Once this realization dawns, the mind finds no reason to be agitated. The charms and temptations of the world no longer affect it. Even while it is active in the world, the mind remains still.
In yoga that stillness is known as samadhi—a state in which the mind is free from all disturbances. Yoga likens this state to a perfectly clear crystal that poses no obstruction to light. In this state, truth is known in its fullness. That is called enlightenment or self-realization.
In the Yoga Sutras of Pantajali, Sutra 1.2 defines yoga as “the calming of the fluctuations of the mind.” So, how do we practice this in a Vinyasa Flow class? There are many answers to this question, but let’s explore the union of breath and body while in continuous movement, as is the characteristic of Vinyasa Flow.
Through a consciously balanced steady breath, particularly with the soft whispering sound of Ujayi Pranayama, or victorious breath, you can steady the mind’s focus on the sound and its soothing vibration and tune into an inner calm or sensation of stillness while moving the body from pose to pose. Specifically, during the physically warming Surya Namaskars, or Sun Salutations, the repetitive motions linked to sustained rhythmic breath create a feeling of peacefulness and ease, even while exerting effort in some potentially challenging movements and postures.
This practice of cultivating tranquility from the inside out, through balancing effort and ease, or sthira and sukha in Sanskrit, is an empowering practice that can be transferred to daily life within stress-inducing situations, like driving in traffic or conversing in an escalating argument. As yoga is always a practice, progress may vary with what you’re currently working with—physically or psychologically—in creating this state of equanimity through conscious breath and conscious balance of exertion. However, as with any new skill, diligent consistent practice opens the gateway for mastery.
Practice Sun Salutations A, B and C on our video tutorial here.
Take a look at Sun Salutation A (photo from Mark Stephen’s book, Yoga Sequencing), which are often repeated in various versions in a flow class:
Born and raised in Armenia, Anait came to to the USA with her family when she was 18. She loves helping people, especially the disadvantaged, so she chose the perfect profession to be able to do this. As a special education teacher, Anait loves working with students with special needs and their families.
Anait started her yoga journey at the East Valley YMCA about 12 years ago and have had several teachers since then. Seeking a workout to improve her posture, she walked into her first yoga class with her daughter. Little did she know it was going to become a lifelong activity to enjoy in many different ways. With encouragement from teachers and other yogis, she persisted in her yoga practice overcoming challenges on the journey.
Anait joined the Root 2 Rise Yoga community about 7 years ago when Michelle started teaching at the East Valley YMCA, and has been attending Michelle's Saturday classes regularly since then. She's also attended several retreats, hike + yoga, yoga + meditation + potluck at Michelle's mom's backyard (the original location for Root 2 Rise Yoga's early years of yoga tastings), Sunday yoga at the park and "am always looking forward to what's next," she says, "Every event with Root 2 Rise Yoga has been memorable because it's all about being yourself, sharing who you are and learning from each other."
Anait reflects on insights gained from her 12-year practice:
Yoga has helped me gain confidence and strength in my personal and professional life and in my relationship with my family. As we smile and find joy through even difficult poses and flows, I remind myself to do the same every day of my life. I always remember: smile, and breath, you are not going to be here forever. Yoga has made me stronger physically and emotionally. It has helped me understand myself, my habits--good or bad, and how to overcome them. As yoga poses are always work in progress, so are we as individuals. We continue to grow and hopefully become better in every aspect of our lives.
I am thankful and grateful to have met Michelle. I am always inspired by her energy, courage, love and compassion. As we all know, life happens. There have been periods in my life when I couldn't attend classes but continued my practice on my own and returned as soon as I could. I encourage everyone to not give up, continue taking classes and attending different events. The benefits are incredible for both mind and body. My hope is to join Costa Rica retreat with Root 2 Rise soon.
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