If you’re one of my readers, I assume that you are interested in taking care of your body. Most of my blogs are related to health, in some way, shape or form. I’m sure you’ve probably also heard the overused phrase about taking care of our mind, body and spirit as well. But that’s not just new-agey mumbo-jumbo. According to Ayurveda, we are all made up of five bodies, called koshas. Kosha translates to sheath, because each body is sheathed within another. All of the bodies are interconnected, from the outside in and from the inside out. They all require care. If any are neglected, we cannot live a life of balance, ease and joy. Any one neglected kosha, blocks access in both directions.
Annamaya Kosha – The Physical Body
The outermost layer, the Annamaya Kosha, is the physical body as we know it. It is our muscles, bones and organs, as well as our appearance. Annamaya Kosha translates to Food Body, because it is sustained by food and requires nutrients. It is the grossest of the bodies. (Not gross as in disgusting, but gross as in solid or dense). We take care of our physical body by eating a healthy diet, exercising appropriately, staying hydrated, sleeping well etc. The physical body is the base. If it is unhealthy, it is very difficult to access and balance the inner bodies.
Pranamaya Kosha – The Energy Body
If you are a yogi, you’re probably familiar with the word prana. It means energy or life force. It is carried on the breath. The energetic body is more subtle than the physical body, but it can still be felt as a physical sensation. When energy is full and balanced, we feel good. We are awake, focused, active. Neither lethargic nor scattered. We connect to our energy body with our breath. How lovely and relaxing does a deep breath feel? To access our pranic body, we can simply move our body until we are conscious of our breath. Take a brisk walk or jog and breath deeply, do some sun salutations and sync breath with movement, get out in nature and breathe in mother nature’s fresh air. This body is so important that an entire limb of yoga is dedicated to it – pranayama, or breath control. We can’t see or grasp the energy body, but we can feel it, in ourselves and others.
Manomaya Kosha – The Mental/Emotional Body
By the time we hit mid-adulthood, we’ve all got emotional baggage. We’ve had trauma. We’ve lost loved ones, lost jobs, been hurt by people we trusted. Maybe we’ve been divorced or widowed. Many have had serious injury or illness. If we’ve lived for more than 4 or 5 decades, we’ve got baggage.
It’s not about how much baggage you have, it’s how good a baggage handler you are.
We can use our traumas and experiences to grow our wisdom and become more skillful at life. Or we can do the opposite. When we do the opposite, we are attempting to protect ourselves, but what we are truly doing is limiting our potential. We put up walls to keep ourselves from being hurt, but the result is, we don’t truly live. We react with anger, when what we really feel is fear. We avoid people who push us out of our comfort zone. We feign independence when what we really want is love. We use alcohol, weed, social media, food etc., as distractions to avoid feeling our real feelings.
What’s wrong with doing that? Well, besides the obvious answer of we never live our lives fully, we cannot access our higher, innermost layers. You see, the five bodies build upon one another. We start with the Annamaya Kosha, the food body, because, we literally cannot live without food and physical health. Nor can we survive without the breath, or prana. We can survive without taking care of the Manomaya kosha, but our existence will be fraught with stress, drama and unhappiness.
How does one optimize the Manomaya Kosha? Have you ever wondered why you keep getting yourself into the same negative situations? Bad jobs, difficult personal relationships etc. If so, it’s time to look at your emotional body. The job of a yogi is to master our emotions so they don’t master us. Do you run away or lash out when confronted with difficult emotions (yours or someone else’s)? Next time that happens, try to just stay with the emotion. Don’t react, just feel it. Go back to the first two bodies. How does this emotion feel in your physical body? How does it feel energetically? What is it doing to your breath? As we become more skilled in feeling our emotions, we can begin to truly understand them, and respond appropriately, rather than reacting. Meditation is a great tool for strengthening this body, as is pratyahara, the practice of sense withdrawal. Simply taking time to step away from sensory stimulus for a little while each day, does wonders to balance our emotions.
Vijnanamaya Kosha – The Wisdom/Intuitive Body
As we work more and more with our mental/emotional body, we gain access to the Vijnanamaya Kosha. We might start to notice our thoughts coming from a deeper, subtler level of our being. We are connecting to our intuition, or inner wisdom. We all have the ability to access this body, but it does take some work to get there. We all have intuition, but we don’t always listen to it, or even recognize it. If we haven’t done the work on our mental/emotional body, we will not be able to access the intuitive and we will not cultivate wisdom.
We can all probably think of examples of when we ignored our intuition. Taking a job that looks good on paper, but you just have a feeling isn’t right for you, is an example of ignoring intuition. Any time you say to yourself, “I knew I should/shouldn’t have done that!” Is an example of ignoring your intuition.
A deeper meditation practice, spiritual study and a deep desire to know one’s self will strengthen this sheath. Noticing our gut feelings and honoring them, will grow our intuition.
Anandamaya Kosha – The Bliss Body
The Bliss body is most etheric aspect of the self. Every level of happiness, from full-blown ecstasy to simple contentment is connected to the Anandamaya Kosha. It is aligned with our soul’s desire, purpose, and living our dharma. The Bliss Body is related to enlightenment. But, getting there is not a goal that we can set and achieve. Only mystics, saints and sages are generally able to access this body on a regular basis. For the rest of us, it is a place that we pulse in and out of. We’ve all had glimpses of it. The feeling of being in love or holding our new baby. I’ve felt this feeling skiing; standing on top of a mountain and gazing at the utter beauty of nature. I’ve also felt it in music; dancing at an outdoor concert on a summer evening and getting totally enveloped by the sound. I don’t think it’s possible to give specific directions on how to access our bliss. But, I can certainly give you some ways to guarantee you’ll never get there. Hold grudges, carry resentments and anger, blame others for your woes, be dishonest with yourself and others, suppress your emotions.
The best advice I can give someone looking to access the Bliss Body, is to work on the other bodies. All of them. You can’t skip one. A healthy body and a closed heart will not bring you bliss. Intellectual knowledge without connection to spirit will not get you there. Spiritual devotion without physical health won’t cut it either.
The Koshas are all part of us. Just as we can’t ignore one arm and have a full life, neither can we ignore one of these bodies. If you’ve been neglecting one, or several, make a concerted effort to work with your neglected parts. I guarantee you’ll feel better. And you might just get some bliss.
As a student and teacher of Ayurveda, I have a lot of experience with seasonal cleanses and detoxes. Ayurveda generally recommends a cleanse/detox/reset twice a year – during the juncture of winter and spring, and again as summer turns to fall. There are many reasons to cleanse once or twice a year and there are equally as many ways to go about it.
Why do we cleanse at seasonal junctures? Let’s illustrate this by looking at how we feel at the end of winter. We have likely been eating heavier foods for a few months, a natural phenomena in winter. Maybe we’ve been exercising less due to lack of outdoor time. Maybe we’ve put on a few pounds. We could have gotten sick once or several times during the winter. We might feel tired and a little sluggish. We’re ready to throw off the heaviness of winter. As we head into spring, it’s time to lighten up our diet. In days of old, this happened naturally; our winter stores of food were running out and the greens of spring were yet to burst through the ground. We don’t have that natural feast/famine cycle anymore. We have all the feasting, but we have to consciously bring in the famine part – the cleanse. (Please don’t be panicked by the word famine.)
A seasonal detox does not have to mean starving. We need to give our digestion a break, to rev up our Agni,
or digestive fire. We need to replenish our Ojas
, which is related to our immune system – especially if we’ve been sick.
Just as there is no one-size-fits-all diet, there is no single detox that works for everyone. The traditional Ayurvedic detox is a kitchari monodiet
, which is great for those with depleted immune systems, leaky guts and lethargy. It’s good for vata
types, in general. But, it may not be the best for those with a sluggish digestion or those who have difficulty digesting beans or grains. A juice fast is great for a kapha
type or someone who wants to lose weight, but might be too extreme for someone who is under stress or feeling depleted. For some, just cutting out junk food and snacking is enough of a detox. And all this only covers the food aspect of detoxing. Detoxing can and should involve rest, downtime, connecting with nature or spirit, detoxing our space and relationships as well. My post
from last year goes more into the non-food aspects of a cleanse.
As my spring detox rolled around this year, I had to admit to myself, that I really hadn’t done a true detox since the spring of 2016. I did the Master Cleanse
that year and although it was a good cleanse, I got horribly sick afterwards. According to my Ayurveda teacher, I was so full of toxins, that the sickness was necessary. Shortly after that cleanse, my father died. That fall I moved across country and just never got around to a fall cleanse. There was just too much upheaval in my life. I planned a better cleanse for the spring of 2017, once I was settled in my new home. Sometimes, the best laid plans don’t happen though. In early 2017, my daughter’s father died. Now I was in double-grief. I don’t even remember if I tried to do a cleanse that spring. After that I did a couple of mini-cleanses, but was always left feeling unsatisfied, like I hadn’t really accomplished what I set out to do. But by early 2019, my body was craving it. I knew I needed a big cleanse. So, I decided on a modified fast. Five days. It was tough, but great.
I had some bone broth, some green juice, a few fat bombs, some sprouts and a couple handfuls of nuts that week. I exercised normally. I went to work. I slept well. I lost 7 pounds. Sometimes I was hungry, sometimes not. Sometimes I was crabby, sometimes not. I went to hot yoga. I sweated. I smelled bad. The toxins were pouring out of me. I didn’t get to the fasting euphoria that I’ve felt on prior fasts, and I was ready to be done when I was done. And I was 100% satisfied with it.
And what’s come from it? I still feel lighter and more focused. My appetite continues to be smaller. I’m practicing intermittent fasting
most days. I’m not craving sugar. My salt craving is returning, but that’s always been stronger than any sugar craving for me. I am now doing a 24 hour fast once a week. Sunday dinner until Monday dinner. I lift with my awesome trainer (Thanks John!) on Monday mornings and go to hot yoga on Monday evenings. This process actually turns Monday into one of my favorite days of the week!
If you haven’t tried a cleanse or detox (BTW, I use those words interchangeably), I encourage you to do so. I’d suggest an organized, group cleanse with an experienced leader if it’s your first time. There are plenty online and many local yoga studios and healthcare providers offer them. But, you can certainly do one on your own. Remember, there is no single way to do this. Let me know how it goes!
At the beginning of 2018, I set an intention to read 50 books in the year. That’s essentially a book a week. I had read numerous articles about how all the most successful people in the world, Bill Gates & Mark Zuckerberg, to name two, read 50 books a year. I’d read other articles about how regular people, like me, found it life changing. I love reading and am a confessed book junkie; my definition of which is someone who buys way more books than she reads and often has five or six going at a time. So, I decided to go for it.
I didn’t make it to 50. But I made it to 41. I was pretty impressed when I added it up.
I’ve listed my 41 books of 2018 below. I haven’t put links on all of them, but they are all available on Amazon. As you peruse my list, you’ll find I don’t have a genre. I read both fiction and non-fiction, business, yoga & spirituality, self-help, health & wellness, memoir, and pretty much anything that someone I respect recommends.
I’ve included books listened to on Audiobook. Noted with an *. I’ve also included books I didn’t finish. This might sound odd, but there we a few books that I didn’t get quite to the end, but still felt I got a lot out of. There were also some that I skimmed parts. If I felt that I got most of the gist of the book, I included it. I wasn’t sure about cookbooks. I love cookbooks and I really do read them. I decided to only include cookbooks that have at least 100 pages of informational reading before the recipes.
Here’s my list, in more or less chronological order. I’ve rated the books from 1-5, 5 being I loved it, 1 being Ugh, torture. Interestingly, there were five 5s and one 1.
- Devotion by Dani Shapiro – 5
- The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz – 1
- You are a Badass at Making Money by Liz Sincero – 4
- Predictable Revenue by Aaron Ross – 2
- Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari – 5
- Women, Food & God by Geneen Roth – 2.5
- Yes, Yes, Hell No! by Brian Whetten – 3
- Creative Confidence by Tom & David Kelley – 4
- Building a Story Brand by Donald Miller – 4
- The Thyroid Connection by Amy Meyers – 3
- How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan – 5
- The Art of Money by Bari Tessler – 3.5
- E- Squared by Pam Grout – 3.5
- The One Thing by Gary Keller – 3
- True Yoga by Jennie Lee – 4
- The Yamas & Niyamas by Deborah Adele – 4
- Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle – 2.5
- The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony – 5
- Finding Ultra by Rich Roll* (read previously) – 5
- Pussy: A Reclamation by Regena Thomashauer – 3.5
- Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo – 4
- The Keto Reset Diet by Mark Sisson – 3
- Liminal Thinking by Dave Gray – 3
- Lean In by Sheryl Sanberg – 3
- The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson – 5
- Know Your Value by Mika Brezezinski – 4
- Simply Keto by Suzanne Ryan – 3.5
- Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris – 3.5
- The Wisdom of Menopause by Christiane Northrup – 3
- Goddesses Never Age by Christiane Northrup – 4
- Super Ager by Elise Marie Collins – 3
- Calling In the One by Katherine Woodward Thomas – 2
- The Urban Monk by Pedram Shojai – 4
- Beyond the Mat by Julie Rosenburg – 3
- 37 Ways to Build Your Coaching Business by Steve Chandler* – 3
- The Artist’s Journey by Steven Pressfield* – 3
- This is Marketing by Seth Godin* – 4
- Grit by Angela Duckworth* – 2.5
- Coconuts & Kettlebells by Noelle Tarr & Stephanie Ruper – 4
- Keto-tarian by Will Cole – 4
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – 5
So, what did I learn from this attempt? I didn’t read enough novels. One? Can that be? And it was my last book of the year! I thought I loved Memoir, but turns out I really just love Dani Shapiro. I read a couple others and lost interest in a few more, but I didn’t love any as much as her trilogy (4th coming out this year!). And, I suppose the Elephant Whisperer is a memoir, though I’m sure the author would say it was about the elephants. I learned to be discriminating. If a book starts out poorly, I don’t force myself to finish it. Life is too short to read crappy books. I learned that great books aren’t that common, but there are plenty of good ones.
I am ready to start the challenge again. Who’s with me?
At this time of year, I often remind my yoga students to take some down time; to intentionally carve out some time for quiet, rest and reflection. We can so easily get stressed and out of balance during the holidays. We get very busy. Parties, shopping, school concerts and events. Depending on your profession, work can become crazy-busy at this time of year too. If you’re in the hospitality industry or have year-end deadlines to hit, the stress increases.
All this is amplified by that fact that what we are doing is diametrically opposed to what nature is doing. We are living completely out of sync with nature’s rhythms at this time of year. You only have to look around to see that what nature is doing, is very different from what we are doing. Trees and bushes are dormant. Flowers are not blooming. Wild animals are hibernating. You might even notice your pets sleeping more. The days are short and the nights are long. We should be resting more and sleeping more. Rejuvenating. If we follow nature’s rhythm, spring and summer should be our most active times. We should be recovering from all that now.
Of course, we are not going to stop celebrating our holidays and hibernate. But it is important to rest more, so we don’t burn out.
I’ve been pushing myself in a lot of ways. And some good has come from it. I’ve been working out hard and am beginning to see a stronger body emerge. I’ve been throwing myself into my job and being innovative and taking a leadership role at work. I’ve also been excitedly creating my new coaching program (which you will hear more about very soon). I spent six weeks on a ketogenic diet, which was amazing in many ways. I felt focused and sharp, lost weight, offloaded my cravings and propensity for snacking.
There’s been a downside to all this pushing. According to Ayurveda, what I’ve done is pushed myself right into a pitta imbalance. (If you’re not familiar with Ayurvedic doshas – vata, pitta and kapha, click here for an explanation and quiz, to find out your propensities). All three doshas have positive qualities when balanced and negative effects when out of balance. The characteristics of pitta are sharp, hot, intense, fiery. So, when in balance, pitta types make great leaders and entrepreneurs, are smart, funny, interesting and inquisitive. Pitta out of balance leads to anger, irritation, sharpness, short-temperedness. Qualities that pacify pitta are sweetness and cooling, calming activities.
I got sharp. Which isn’t all bad. My focus has been sharp. I’ve been able to get a lot done. But I was also getting short-tempered and angry.
So, I’m focusing on bringing some sweetness back into my life. That doesn’t mean loading up on Christmas cookies and eggnog. According to Ayurveda, most, if not all carbohydrates are considered “sweet.” This makes sense from a Western perspective, because carbs convert to glucose in our bodies. On the keto diet, I was getting no sweet at all.
I’ll be navigating the rest of the holiday season, through self-care and sweetness. A little less pushing. A few more carbs. More yoga and meditation. More snuggling with my kid. Connecting to spirit, reading and rereading yoga books and spiritual texts. Being easier on myself and others.
I want to wake up on January 1, 2019, feeling good, refreshed, joyful. Ready to start the new year and focus on my intentions. I may do keto again sometime. I’ll definitely have periods where I push myself hard again. But, as we move towards the darkest day of the year, I am moving towards softness, sweetness and rest.
Being someone who’s all about health and wellness, and with a background in sales, I’m often approached by direct-selling companies about representing their products. I’ve been asked to represent supplements, ketones, CDB oil, cosmetics, essential oils etc. I am actually a doTERRA rep, but since statistically, one in three people you know is a doTERRA rep, you don’t need to buy from me. (You can if you want. Click here). While I found most of those products good, they didn’t get me fired up the way Beautycounter does.
For years, I was like many people (maybe you), and went to great lengths and expense to buy organic, natural and local foods, while at the same time, buying whatever hair and skin products were on sale. So, while was downing my organic kale green smoothie, I was allowing all kinds of toxins into my body through my skin and hair. Sound familiar?
I first heard of Beautycounter from a couple of gals with whom I went to college. I knew they were both passionate about health and wellness, so I became interested. After a bit of research, I found out that this is an awesome company!
First of all, Beautycounter is a B-Corp. B-Corps are companies which meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Beautycounter discloses every ingredient in every product they sell and has a Never List, of over 1,500 toxic or potentially toxic ingredients that will never be found in their products.
I think what hooked me though, is Beautycounter’s commitment to advocacy and education. If you know me, you know I’m a bit of a political junkie, so anyone who’s willing to go to Washington and advocate for health and wellness is a star in my book! Beautycounter actually advocates for stricter regulations in the beauty and cosmetics industry. Have you ever heard of a company lobbying for more regulations in its own industry?
Oh, and their products are wonderful.
I encourage you to check out Beautycounter. Let me know if you’d like to try it out. You don’t have to host a party (though you can if you want) or become a rep too (again, you can if you want). Just try putting some safer products on your body, and your family’s bodies. Don’t counteract all that healthy food & yoga with toxic cosmetics.
Beautycounter products make great gifts too. Last day to order for Christmas delivery is December 17.
I wish you a joyous holiday season!