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In my last Ayurveda Foundations post, I described the main qualities of Vata dosha (the energy of Air and Space): dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, mobile and clear.

In human beings, Vata’s primary responsibility is to coordinate movement and communication. When Vata is in balance (i.e., when it is maintained at the original baseline level set at an individual’s birth), then that person’s movements and communications are effective and healthy.

However, when Vata dosha gets elevated above an individual’s unique “norm,” then signs of Air and Space emerge: cracking joints, dry skin, constipation, weight loss, insomnia, poor circulation, pain, stiffness, tremors, irregular heart beat, fatigue, and ringing in the ears.

In the mental-emotional realm, aggravated Vata can create fear, anxiety, worry, forgetfulness, and an inability to focus. “Spaciness” is a sure sign of excess Space element, a component of Vata.

What causes Vata dosha to get elevated? According to the law of “like increases like,” exposure to Vata’s qualities will cause Vata to go up. Some common culprits include windy weather and eating leftovers (incarnations of the dry quality), high altitude and caffeine (light), cold weather and frozen food (cold), crunchy chips and granola (rough),  repetitive thought patterns and recreational drugs (subtle), excessive exercise and travel (mobile) and staying up late (clear).

Since Vata is responsible for movement and change, it plays a critical role in maintaining overall balance – and it is often implicated when balance is lost. According to the ancient texts, more diseases arise from an excess of Vata than from the other two doshas combined.

During the particularly changeable and dry seasons of autumn (and sometimes winter), Vata is high, as it is in our elder years. Considering our cultural tendency towards constant movement (with air travel, commuting, and multi-tasking as our norms), most Western city-dwellers consistently experience high Vata. The persistent influence of cyber-“space” doesn’t help.

Therefore, it is wise to take extra steps to keep Vata dosha from getting aggravated.  The best antidotes contain the opposite qualities to Vata: oily (moist), heavy, warm, smooth/slimy, gross (substantive), and stable. Bring on the oatmeal with ghee, slow walks on the earth, and a steady meditation practice!

In the next post, we will dive into the intricacies of Pitta dosha, the energy of Fire.

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A reminder… TOMORROW NIGHT is my free webinar:

“Stop PMS and Menstrual Pain with Ayurveda:

How to Create Boundless Energy and Feel Great All Month Long”

Tuesday, June 26, 7-8:30pm CDT

To register or for more details, click here

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A pivotal concept in Ayurveda is the theory of the tridosha. This theory explains how and why energy moves in nature in certain ways.

Since humans are part of nature, this system also describes us. For example, it gives a rationale for why some people always get heartburn after eating tomato sauce, while others don’t.

The word dosha refers to an organizing principle or pattern. The ancient teachers noticed that certain qualities show up in nature together like a constellation and move in predictable ways.

They observed three primary organizing patterns in the world, and they correspond to the major elements. Since there is no equivalent concept in the English language, we use the Sanskrit terms for these three forces: Vata, Pitta and Kapha.

Vata dosha is made of the elements Air and Space (or Ether). Vata is the most mobile dosha (like air), and it is involved whenever there is movement – when wind blows the trees, when a rabbit’s leg muscles contract and he leaps, or when someone sneezes a piece of dust out of their nose.

Pitta is made primarily of Fire (although there is a little Water in there, too). In any instance of heat or transformation, Pitta is at work – when the sun heats the desert floor, when an apple core decomposes in your compost, or when your face flushes as you step up to the karaoke mic.

Kapha includes the qualities of Water and Earth. The heaviest dosha, Kapha is present wherever there is stability and structure – in the form of a boulder, or the stillness of sleep. Kapha also governs lubrication, both the moisture in the atmosphere and the moisture in the body.

The three doshas interact and influence each other in nature to maintain an overall equilibrium, balancing out each others’ qualities. At times, one dosha will be dominant, and then naturally give way to another dosha, creating a dynamic yet balanced whole. It is a beautifully comprehensive and complex system, which becomes clearer the more you learn about it and look for it (I promise!).

In subsequent posts, I will dive deeper into each dosha and explore how they govern the activities of our bodies and minds. Until then, let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below. I look forward to hearing from you!

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Om gung Ganapataye namaha!

In Vedic tradition, at the start of new undertakings it is customary to honor and invoke Ganesha, also known as Ganapati. Ganesha represents that energy or force that clears the way before us, removing any obstacles that may be in our path.

He is depicted as the elephant-headed god in the Hindu pantheon, a powerful force to be reckoned with, but also a gentle soul whose dear companion is a mouse. A scribe himself, he is especially fond of academic endeavors, so I invite him to smile brightly on our virtual gathering here and bestow his gifts of reliability, dedication and brilliance. May our studies be filled with light!

What Is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is commonly translated as “the science of life.” With such a broad scope, Ayurveda offers an incredibly diverse set of teachings on how to maintain longevity so that we can fulfill our dharma, the mission or purpose that we are called to serve on this planet.

Established in the region that is now India some time between 2000 and 5000 years ago (depending on which expert you consult), Ayurveda is the oldest continuously practiced health system still in use today. More than a regional set of practices, it is built upon a coherent cosmology and set of principles that underpins local variations observed in different areas.

The word Ayurveda comes from the roots ayuh, which means “life,” and veda, which means “science or knowledge.” As a health system, Ayurveda includes the knowledge not only of how to address illness or disease, but of how to live well.

“Ayurveda” is a Sanskrit word, an ancient language that is not in common usage anywhere today. It continues to be studied, however, because so many ancient wisdom practices are preserved in Sanskrit texts, including many meditation traditions, Yoga and Ayurveda.

Ayurveda offers guidance on many lifestyle practices including dietary choices, food preparation, herbal remedies, methods for detoxification, behaviors to attain desired outcomes, yogic practices, appropriate exercise, and much, much more.

In my next post, I’ll cover the incredibly important concept of the tridosha, one of the pillars of the Ayurveda system. Stay tuned! Use the “subscribe” button at the top right of this page to have future posts sent to your In Box.

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And I do mean hot!

Today is the full moon, so my June Full Moon Newsletter is now available. Topics include:

  • Key strategies to manage the heat of summer
  • The Venus transit across the sun (from our earth-bound perspective)
  • Details on my free teleseminar, “Stop PMS and Menstrual Pain: How to Create Boundless Energy and Feel Great All Month Long with Ayurveda,” on June 26.

Let me know what lights you up in this issue, and what other topics you want to learn about!

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Summer is here – and have I got some steamy summer reading for you!

Some of you may already have a deep and abiding interest in Ayurveda, while others may have just been introduced to this “Science of life.” Perhaps you came across an article on Ayurveda in a magazine, or there was a reference to the three doshas in your yoga class, but it kinda went over your head. For those of you who are just entering the shallow end of this vast and beautiful ocean of wisdom, I’m pulling out the floaties: a step-by-step introduction to the basics.

For the month of June, I will be starting from square one, covering the foundational concepts of Ayurveda and building from the ground up. In the first week, we’ll dive into the three doshas Vata, Pitta and Kapha, starting with what the heck a dosha actually REALLY is.

If you haven’t already, use the “Subscribe” box on the right sidebar to get these posts delivered to your inbox so you don’t miss one. Each post will build on the previous post’s content, so you’ll want to read them all.

Life may get busy once summer hits full stride. With these bite-sized snippets, Ayurveda will slip its way into your heart with hardly any effort at all.

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Well, it’s hot here in Texas. There’s no doubt about that. The people in both places are truly welcoming and friendly. And cows are important (in rather different ways, admittedly…).

This spring, I immersed myself in the study of the local Texas medicinal herbs. While my training in Ayurveda gave me a beautifully comprehensive system to understand the effects of herbs based on their inherent qualities and influence on the doshas, I had not applied this system of energetics to western herbs before. It definitely works.

In India, my teachers emphasized the importance of befriending our local herbs back home. They taught that there is an affinity between two organisms who live in the same community, suggesting that an herb will have a greater effect on the people who live near its home than another herb shipped from around the globe – to say nothing of the impact that the shipping process itself has on our planet.

Alma de Mujer Lodge

I have been studying at the Wildflower Herb School here in Austin. Our program began with a Native American ceremony honoring the earth through the four cardinal directions and their associated elements: water, air, fire and earth. There is an obvious parallel between this local indigenous cosmology and that of Ayurveda, which is also built upon an element theory and grounded in the cardinal directions. It felt serendipitous to find myself in a western herbalism school with such a holistic, earth-centered focus, fitting so well with Ayurveda’s perspective.

Making Medicine

It is also a school with powerful female energy – our primary teacher is a woman, Nicole Telkes, and our classes have been held at a retreat center called Alma de Mujer (Soul of the Woman). Our opening ritual was led by a woman who is a member of the Indigenous Women’s Network, which owns the land. Mother Nature herself is a presence here.

In our first herb walk with Nicole, we crossed the open meadow stopping every few feet to kneel down and inspect another herb with medicinal uses right at our feet. I felt awed again at the power and gifts of our earth. It seemed every “weed” we passed had generous medicinal properties.

Eclipta alba, “Bhringaraj”

And then Nicole stopped and turned to me. “Do you know what this is?” she gestured to a small nondescript plant happily sprouting up among some grasses. “It’s Eclipta alba – Bhringaraj.” Right here in the wilderness of Central Texas, a standard of Ayurveda’s pharmacopeia is equally at home.

As our national health care crisis continues to deepen, I believe more and more people will be drawn to the accessible, effective, and inexpensive realm of herbal medicine and preventive care. Built as it is upon universal truths, adaptable to different cultures and locations, Ayurveda’s healing vision is already right here. quite at home in the heart of Texas.

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In my May Full Moon Newsletter, which came out last week, I mentioned that May Day conjures up images of maypoles and children frolicking among sweet new spring flowers.

Well, not a week later, I came upon the following scene at the American Botanical Council’s annual Herb Day.

Image

I snapped this shot after the interweaving dance had progressed quite far, and the adults were having to bend down to weave under each other’s ribbons. Even clad in modern clothes, the image of this intergenerational group carrying out this ritual struck a timeless chord in me. I loved watching the two circles of people moving in opposite directions, passing each other over and over again, creating such a physical symbol of community connectedness. A mother carried her infant child, a couple of toddlers spun around the pole, one modest 13-year-old carefully tread her path, plus a few grandparents laughingly wove their way.

Meanwhile, in the background the good folks of the American Botanical Council (ABC) were selling small starts of local herbs for people to take home and plant. We were surrounded by their prolific and lovely teaching herb garden. I was fascinated to discover earlier this year that this national group is based right here in Austin. An independent nonprofit research and education organization dedicated to providing accurate and reliable information about medicinal plants, they produce a wonderful quarterly peer-reviewed perodical called HerbalGram with educational articles on herbs, including many Ayurvedic ones. ABC was a perfect setting to celebrate May and the gifts of the garden.

At the end of the maypole dance, what I had not anticipated was the final result – a beautiful basket-weave of ribbons covering the entire pole, a perfect testament to the beauty of our intricately overlapping lives.

I hope your spring is full of dancing and unexpected beauty!

 

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