Freedom, Discipline & Security
Ask yourself what your life would be like, if it could be anything you wanted.
Write a list of small things you can do to work towards that.
Spend 5 minutes a day getting through that list and working towards your dream.
A Return to Ayurveda
I was introduced to Ayurveda when I took my first yoga teacher training in 2007. Though it was the most basic and cursory introduction, I felt an immediate connection to it. I felt drawn to it enough to know that I wanted to know more, that I needed to know more. I took some online dosha (body/mind type) quizzes and bought a few Ayurveda cookbooks and thought that I knew a lot.
Then I bought Dr. Vasant Lad’s Textbook of Ayurveda. I knew that Dr. Lad was credited with bringing Ayurveda to the west. The book blew my mind. But, not in the way you think. I read it cover to cover. I learned nothing. It was so over my head. I put it in my bookcase and bought a few more books. I could relate to these books on varying levels; most were either written by Indians, who grew up with Ayurveda and then spent years studying it at universities, or by Westerners who had gone to India to study it. Their knowledge was vast, but I still couldn’t figure out how to put Ayurveda into my own life. I needed something practical and applicable.
In 2010, I found what I was looking for – an online Ayurveda course for yogi householders, taught by a western woman who was also a mom with a small kid. I signed up and dove into a deep study of the everyday, practical ways I could use Ayurveda to create a healthier and happier life for myself and my family. I loved it. I loved my teacher. I stayed with this teacher for years and learned so much. While I will always be grateful for the teachings I received, there came a point when I began to see a lack of ethics and personal integrity in this teacher. The unfortunate consequence of that was that it pushed me away from Ayurveda for some time. I wasn’t able to separate the teaching from the teacher, so I pulled away from Ayurveda.
It took me a couple of years to feel the pull back to the study and lifestyle of this beautiful science. I began to follow other Ayurveda teachers and read different books and had to remind myself over and over that Ayurveda was not my teacher. Ayurveda was a thousands year old practice, a beautiful system and practice for living. It is not, cannot be personified by an American woman born in the 1970s. It cannot be personified by any one person. I’ll be writing a lot more about Ayurveda, as I prepare my Ayurveda for Modern Yogis online course, which will begin in mid-November.
So, for those of you who know little or nothing about it, here is a short list of ways that a knowledge and practice of Ayurveda can make lives better:
- Ayurveda gives us an understanding of our personal mind/body constitutions, so we can eat, exercise, sleep and work in the best way possible
- Ayurveda connects us to the natural world, and helps us to eat and live in accordance with the seasons
- Ayurveda teaches us to deeply know our bodies and those of our loved ones, helping us to recognize early signs of sickness and dis-ease and often prevent them from manifesting (this is HUGE for parents!)
- Ayurveda has been teaching the benefits of daily habits for centuries before Charles Duhigg and James Clear made them buzz-words for the super-successful
- Though Ayurveda is an ancient practice, it is non-dogmatic and was designed to grow and evolve change as humanity does
- A knowledge of Ayurveda can help to heal digestive and other chronic health issues
- Contrary to popular belief, Ayurveda does not ask you to adhere to a strict or specific diet; it is very flexible and forgiving
Because I know that many of my readers are yogis, I want to emphasize this point – Ayurveda is not a separate thing from yoga. Ayurveda is yoga. Ayurveda is the diet and lifestyle practices of yoga. It is yoga off the yoga mat.
Why does Ayurveda recommend seasonal detoxing?
Because we are part of nature, when nature goes through a seasonal transition, we do as well. After summer, we all have accumulated heat in our bodies, as do animals and plants. Heat accumulates and rises. We see this in the trees, as heat rises to their leaves, the leaves then turn colors, dry and fall off. That is how trees detox and rid themselves of summer heat.
After the harvest, when there are no more fruits or berries for the wild animals to eat, they naturally detox, just due to lack of available food. That is how they dissipate heat and prepare for winter.
What happens to us if we do not cleanse the heat from our bodies? The heat rises and dries out our sinuses, making them less able to protect us from pollen and other airborne irritants. This causes the sinuses to produce excess mucus. All this equals lots of fall allergies and predisposes us to colds and other winter sicknesses.
A gentle fall cleanse helps remove the excess heat and sets us up for a healthier fall and winter.
I’ll be leading an online fall detox, starting October 13. It’s suitable for both the new and experienced detoxer. It can be gentle or deep. And it’s probably the most affordable online detox you’ll find. You’ll get a lot for your investment.
Learn more here.
What can you do now?
As we transition from summer to fall, continue to eat the fruits and vegetables of the season. Apples are particularly good at removing heat from the body. Melons, green juices and salads are still good. Though it’s tempting to dive into heavier warming foods as the temperatures begin to drop, it’s not quite time. Opt for a lighter soup and some root vegetables when you’re yearning for cold-weather food. It’s transition time, but it needs to be taken slowly. If it’s at the farmers market, it’s a go. Eat what’s in season and you can’t go too far wrong.
I hope you’ve found my intro to Ayurveda and cleansing interesting. More to come.
Did You Try Anything New This Summer?
Make new friends
Learn something about yourself
Discover new ways to feel joy
Stimulate your creativity
Break out of a rut
Try a new sport
Take a class ( a new language, art, creative writing, cooking; the possibilities are endless)
Start writing or drawing (don’t worry if you think you’re good!)
Learn to cook something you’ve never cooked before
Take up a musical instrument
Do something alone (travel, go to a concert etc)
Join a group or club that interests you
An Introduction to the Eight Limbs of Yoga – Part 1
Are you only practicing one-eighth of yoga?
I’ve been wanting to do a series of posts on the Eight Limbs of Yoga, specifically, the first two limbs, the Yamas & Niyamas.
If you aren’t familiar with the eight limbs of yoga, that’s not surprising. In the modern, western world, yoga is focused almost entirely on the third limb, asana. That’s right, when you show up on your mat every day or every week, you are practicing one-eighth of what yoga is about. This is not to lessen the importance of the physical practice of yoga, but to introduce and explain the importance of the other seven limbs.
For those of you who have a familiarity and a practice of the eight limbs, I hope you’ll find my perspectives interesting and worth reading. For those of you unfamiliar, I hope you’ll be inspired to investigate and find a deeper understanding of the many facets of living yogic life.
This series is not going to be in any particular order, nor is it going to be a specified number of weeks in a row. It’ll simply show up, based on what I am experiencing, reading and contemplating in my life at the time. I hope to begin to answer the questions of where do we pick up after we pick up our yoga mats? How can we cultivate the feeling that yoga brings us, in our everyday lives? How can practicing yoga both on and off our mats bring us greater contentment, peace and joy in our own lives? How can it help us to help others and become better stewards of the planet?
Deep questions, I know. I am not attempting to answer these questions for you, but to introduce you to a pathway to begin answering them for yourself.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
- Yama ~ restraints
- Niyama ~ observances
- Asana ~ physical practice
- Pranayama ~ breath practices
- Pratyahara ~ turning inward
- Dharana ~ concentration
- Dhyana ~ meditation
- Samadhi ~ enlightenment
The Yama & Niyamas – The First Two Limbs of Yoga
Put simply, the yamas and niyamas can be thought of as ethical guidelines for living. They are the foundation of yogic thought. The yamas are defined, variously, as restraints, moral qualities, self-regulating behaviors or attitudes towards life. They are about how we treat other beings and the world around us. The niyamas are described as observances, personal practices and an evolution towards harmony within ourselves. Put very simply, the yamas are about how we relate to the world and others; the niyamas are how we relate to and evolve ourselves.
If you’re wondering where these guidelines came from and who the heck put them together, they were compiled by the sage Patanjali, approximately 2,500 years ago, into the spiritual text known as The Yoga Sutras. Patanjali is not the author, but the editor or compiler of the sutras. Prior to Patanjali, they had been taught and passed down orally, from teacher to student for millennia. There are many different translations and interpretations of the Yoga Sutras. The closest comparison of a text that I can think of is the Bible. The sutras are a series of short threads or verses that explain how to live a yogic life. Like the Bible, they are sometimes difficult to grasp and have been interpreted many different ways. Unlike the Bible, the sutras were meant to evolve and change with the times and circumstances. While they were originally meant for saints and ascetics, they can and should be adapted for the 21st Century householder (us). Also, unlike the Bible, they are not dogmatic and not meant to be taken literally. Interpretation is allowed and encouraged.
There are five yamas and five niyamas. We are instructed to practice them in thought, word and deed.
- Ahimsa ~ non-harming
- Satya ~ truthfulness
- Astheya ~ non-stealing
- Brahmacharya ~ non-excess
- Aparigraha ~ greedlessness
- Saucha ~ purity
- Santosha ~ contentment
- Tapas ~ self-discipline
- Svadhyaya ~ self-study
- Ishvara Pranidana ~ Surrender
Even as I write, I want to say so much more. These one or two word definitions just barely scratch the surface of what the first two limbs of yoga are all about. But, I don’t want to overwhelm. I know that many yoga students and teacher trainees get overwhelmed when starting to study yoga’s deeper texts and philosophy. I certainly did. It took me years to “get” what the yamas and niyamas were really about, and still, I am no expert. But, I do feel that I have a pretty good working understanding; at least enough to share in a (hopefully) helpful way.
As I continue this series, I’ll delve deeper into the individual yamas and niyamas and share how I’ve incorporated them into my life. I’ll give suggestions for you to do the same.
If this subject lights you up and you can’t wait for more, there are some resources below. If you want to dive deeper, you’re probably a good fit for my yogi-mentoring and yoga teacher mentoring. I love helping yogis fit these ancient teachings into their modern lives and seeing how their light begins to shine brighter and brighter. I’m offering all of my readers a free, 30 minute yogi-coaching session, to chat about mentoring and see if I can help you find what you are looking for in your yoga practice ~ on & off the mat.
Here is a list of a few of my favorite, user-friendly books on the subject:
The Yamas & Niyamas by Deborah Adele
True Yoga by Jennie Lee
The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi
Do Your Om Thing by Rebecca Pacheco
The Tree of Yoga by BKS Iyengar (slightly more advanced, or old-school, depending on how you look at it).
Well, there’s a little yoga philosophy for you to nibble on. I’ll go deeper into one or two of the yamas next time. PS – I don’t know how many times I have to type yamas, before my auto-correct stops changing it to yams! So, if it says yamsanywhere in this post, I apologize!