Love Food and Yoga
~Tracy McDonald, Nutrition Specialist, Samahita Retreat
Learning about Ayurveda – the ancient, 3,000+-year-old East Indian science and medical system – was one of the single most helpful things I ever did. I began studying Ayurveda soon after finding yoga, so by 2007, when I traveled to Mysore, India, I was deeply “in it” – trying to understand myself better, how I could bring more balance to my life and help others. In fact, I was so “into” diagnosing the doshas (constitutions) of my friends and family that when talking with them, I would pick out their constitutions in my own mind – and then, if they were willing participants! I would ask them a bunch of questions, look at their tongues, read their pulses, tell them what doshas I thought they were and what they needed to do to get balanced! This was such a fun and exploratory time, I am really grateful for it!
I am going to share something personal with you, as I believe this to be a big part of the human experience: before I found Ayurveda, I was very confused about myself and definitely rejected certain aspects of myself. In fact, I wanted a divorce from those parts of myself that caused me suffering that I couldn’t understand – it would have been fine with me if they’d left and never come back! (And I couldn’t say that I was just going through a phase, because they seemed to always be there over time!)
Thankfully, I do not feel that way anymore. Part of the journey to self-acceptance has come from my delving into this brilliant mind-body system that is Ayurveda, and you can get a taste of it yourself on retreat with me and Anthea Grimason!
Those aspects which always seem to be there within you, over time, are part and parcel of what Ayurveda considers your individual “constitution” – or make up – also called “prakriti.” These are the aspects that we are born with – comprised of the five elements (ether, air, fire, water, earth) that exist in everything – AND we are each unique and have them in different measure. Thus, how we understand and treat ourselves needs to be very different and individualized.
These “stable” aspects over time get unbalanced depending on what is going on around us and how we interact with (or “react to”) our environment and life circumstances; but these are the aspects that we need to work with if we hope to accept ourselves, our true nature, and take it in hand for the parts that need a little extra “help” so that we can evolve – which, you might say, is the point of all of this!
Before finding Ayurveda, I also often felt that I was at war within myself (which I believe to be another natural human condition). Even now, I can STILL feel that way. We are lucky for the gift of yoga – meaning “to yoke” or bring together – and breath practices, as these can bring into our lives what is missing, and help us to restore balance: to the nervous system, body at large, and between the mind and body.
I have always been a HUGE fan of the traditional Mysore-style Ashtanga Yoga practice, because not only do the series of postures make a lot of sense for opening up the energy layer by layer, but also, when you do this style of yoga as a self-practice, you can do it intelligently, as a self-help tool and a therapy, in a way that balances your constitution in the moment (the “vikriti” – and whatever is off!).
For instance, my main doshas include the airy dosha, “vata,” and so in times of transition – times when things are “up in the air” anyway! – I know that I need to bring more “earth-y” energy into my life, otherwise my “airy” qualities can take on their negative aspects, showing up as fear, anxiety and ungroundedness. So I have to: create a routine, eat regular meals, do a slower ashtanga yoga practice, maybe even only Primary Series with emphasis on longer standing poses and less focus on the airy/fiery jump-throughs. Transitions have always been a very de-stabalizing time for me – (we all have our struggles!) – AND this used to be so much worse before I knew why I was “getting crazy,” as I call it, and how to get re-balanced.
There are little tips like this to help ANYONE get through your life in a more easeful, less stressed way. Awareness is so important because as you learn more about your own self, the more quickly you can identify when something is “off,” and hopefully the quicker you can take steps to correct whatever is wrong.
I really love Ayurveda, it has given me so many wonderful tools in my life, and a tried and true means of understanding myself and others. When I found it, I felt that it was truly a life saver. This blessing can lead to a greater sense of peace, self-acceptance, and forgiveness of self and others. How priceless is that??!
To attend a WHOLE RETREAT on Ayurveda and learn how to balance your doshas with food and yogic practices (of which you will get a self practice to take away!), join myself and my colleague: Anthea Grimason, for an illuminating, life changing, life ENHANCING week of fun, information, and awesome PRACTICE!