31 Days of Ayurveda - Week 3
Updated: Jan 21, 2020
Day 15 - Morning Routine PT.4
And now we get to my 2 favs - Dry Brushing & Self-Massage. I fell in love with these Ayurvedic practices so much because they have me engaging with my entire physical body. Spending the time feeling and nourishing myself. This act of self-massage connects mind-body-spirit, and has actually turned out to be an intensely important healing practice for me.
For most of my life, I never really felt connected to my body. The sever happened at my neck, or throat Chakra. My mind ran the show for decades, and when my body would start to communicate with me that it was ill or hurting, my mind would overrule and I would numb or ignore or worst of all, turn to self hate. Bit by bit, with the help of these 2 nurturing practices, I began for the first time to feel pieces of my beautiful body, and absorb into it all the misplaced love I hadn’t offered her for years.
It’s such a beautiful practice, one I would love for you to give a few go-rounds before making any judgements. Here are some further benefits and instructions for both:
Dry Brushing - Performing this practice before self-massage is key. And the physical benefits are pretty awesome. For one, it kick starts your lymphatic system, helping to stimulate normal lymph flow within the body and detoxifies the body in a most natural way. It exfoliates the skin by removing dead skin cells, and is said to reduce cellulite by boosting your circulation. First, you’ll need to purchase a bristle brush. I would recommend starting with a soft one, and then test our firmer ones once your body becomes more attuned. I actually use a dry brush mit. I prefer this type over a bristle brush because I get to actually have direct contact with my skin & body through the touch of my hand. I believe you can purchase one at any health food store. Begin at your feet using upward brush strokes, making your way up towards your heart. On my stomach, I brush in a gentle clockwise motion. Repeat as many times as you wish. If you have sensitive skin, especially in these dry, cold winter months, begin as gently and soft as you can. Don’t ignore signs of discomfort. If it irritates your skin, I would suggest opting out of this practice.
Self-Massage with Oil (Abhyanga) - According to the Ayurvedic text “Ashtanga Hrdayam”, oiling “wards off old age symptoms and exertion, bestows good vision, nourishes your body, and equipes you with longevity, good sleep, and healthy skin.” Ah - Sign me up! For me, a direct connection lies between oiling my body and loving myself. It's taking the time for myself, and really looking at and feeling my body. There was definitely a time where I wasn’t able to do that. When I didn’t love my body, which translated to not loving myself. Now, that’s not to say that I’m all healed and don’t have moments where I don’t love things about my body. But what I do have is appreciation for all that she allows for me to do everyday - how she repairs and heals herself, how she turns the food I eat into nutrients and nourishes my body from head to toe, how she can look and feel strong yet posses beautiful feminen qualities. And it’s an exercise in staying in present mind and body too. It’s all a work in progress, I'm far from having it all figured out. I am however happy to report I have started the process and am willing to do anything that makes me just feel better - in a healthy, natural way. Oiling your body daily also aids in lubricating the joints and skin, increases circulation, slows down aging, softens and also increases firmness of the skin, so so much.
So, how do we Oil Massage?
Make sure to have an old towel placed at your feet. If you can, try and heat the oil to a nice warm temperature before beginning. Not hot, warm. It’s recommended to use either sesame oil or coocnut oil - my preference being coconut oil. Starting at your feet, work your way up your body using up and down motion when oiling bones and limbs, circular motion when rubbing joints, belly & chest. Spend time on each part of your body. Gently massage in to neck, scalp, crown of head & temples. Put some soft music on and light a few candles. This is YOUR time. Be present. Breath. Again this can be done in the PM as well, before a shower or bath, but my preference is in the am. Lastly, wait a few minutes before entering a warm shower. The warmth of the water will help the pours and joints absorb the oil a little deeper. Do not use soap to wash off the oil. Ensure you have a ‘no slip’ mat in your tub as the oil will make the tub slipery. Towel dry gently when coming out of bath.
Tomorrow we chat one last AM practice - breakfast and what to eat according to your Dosha.
DAY 16 - Morning Routine PT.5
To round out Daily Morning Routines, I thought I would end with what to nourish our bodies with for breakfast. I’ll be expanding on Ayurvedic food and the Doshas in later posts, so this will just be a quick one today.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, it’s best to eat your biggest meal of the day around noon, when your digestive fire mirrors the heat of the sun. In keeping that in mind, breakfast should be light and balanced, allowing for easy digestion. Remember, your digestive fires have been fanned low while you've been sleeping, and they are just being awakened at this time. A heavy meal in the morning could end up making you feel sluggish throughout your day, and your digestion could suffer. It’s recommended that eating breakfast should be the last of the Daily Am Routine before heading out the door. General Ayurvedic recommendation is 3 meals a day, ensuring you are receiving proper nutrients to fill you up so you won’t reach for those in between snacks. This may vary though is you are to take into account things like physical activity, your particular metabolism and the season.
Ayurveda has a deep connection with the seasons through diet & lifestyle. I will break this down further towards the end of the month, but something to keep in mind when talking about the suggested foods each Dosha should prepare and eat. To keep things simple here, I’m just going to suggest some easy basic & balanced food appropriate to eat all year round. The goal in Ayurveda is always to maintain balance and flow, which will improve your health and quality of your digestion.
Vatas - Our cold tempered bodies are an indication of our digestive fires. Think of your gut literally as a fire. Vatas tend to be less a flame as say our Pitta friends. This means that eating cooler foods and drinking cooler liquids can decrease our digestive flames even further - especially in the winter months. Best for Vatas to avoid cold, raw or frozen food/drinks and opt for more warming foods. I ditched my morning smoothie when, although on paper it was healthy, it was wreaking havoc on my stomach often leaving me bloated. For breakfast, try warmed oats/oatmeal with stewed fruits and plenty of warming spices such as cinamon, ginger, coriander, etc. I also rotate in a fried egg on toast with tumeric and ghee.
Pittas - Given the digestive fire within Pittas is already incredibly strong, we don’t want to keep adding to that heat as it will most likely cause some major discomfort to the body in the form of rash, acid reflex, heartburn, sweating, etc. Pittas do well with cooler temperature foods at meal time and could take great benefit themselves to chia puddings or smoothies for breakfast.
Kaphas - Should opt for foods that aren’t too heavy generally speaking, as their digestion can be slow at times, especially in the early morning hours. They should also stay on the same page as Vatas and not eat or drink anything cold, especially in these winter months. Sticking to the same type of food intake as Vatas is best, and adding in some warming spices as well. Maybe opting for warm oat porridge, or herbed frittata.
Also, do I have to mention that we should all be eating fresh ingredients, organic in nature, and avoid all processed garbage? I will anyway ;) And keep watch and experiment with your breakfast routine. Observe when you eat and how much and see if that can satiate you until lunchtime.
And now we move onto tomorrow, and learn simple ways to begin to balance our Doshas. Thanks again for continuing on this journey with me!
DAY 17 - Balancing Your Dosha
By day 17, my hope is that you’ve come to not only understand more about Ayurveda, but your Prakruti, or Dosha as well. Once you start to get more of an understanding about your mind, body & lifestyle, you can then begin the process of returning balance within yourself. This will come to serve you in the following 6 days as I review some practices to help begin that process, on the most basic levels.
Let’s review - The purpose of Ayurveda is to return our mind-body to a state of balance to that of our Prakruti - your essential true nature. Remember that this remains unchanged in life, just as our DNA. It is our Vikruti that changes - our current state of imbalance based upon constantly changing internal & external forces. To live at our healthiest highest potential, the balance of our Dosha needs to be maintained. When this balance is disrupted by diet, weather, season, lifestyle & state of mind, illness will eventually be the result in the form of physical pain & discomfort and/or mental & emotional suffering.
Ayurveda provides the practices to first discover our Dosha (constitution), become more familiar with our body & mind, recognize where we are out of balance, and by utilizing the appropriate foods/drinks, the proper exercise routine, time of year (season), daily routine, panchakarma, etc. begin the mechanisms with which to untangle the web.
Ayurveda is almost insistent that, at the most basic level, we just get to know our bodies and our minds. It’s a beautiful thing to begin to connect with this space suit that we’re in whilst were here on this planet. Maybe you’ve already begun and have started to see positive results. Maybe it’s a little intimidating for you since you’ve never really taken the time to get to know yourself, and that’s OK too. Nothing needs to be rushed in this practice, and nothing worthwhile really ever happens in a flash. Taking your time, being present, & really listening to ourselves can start to melt the flow of fear & pain. I know because it’s happened to me first hand.
The first few months of incorporating Ayurveda were scary for me since up until that point, I had done no real inventory of my body, and very little on my mind. Now, one year later, I’m beginning to feel the love like never before. It’s a daily work in progress for me, and will be the rest of my life. But each day I incorporate and practice my Ayurvedic ways is a day I inch closer to my true self and true nature 🌱
So, how do we do we begin the balancing process? By listening to our body and mind. Experiment on yourself - what makes you feel off, what makes you feel good. Overtime, you’ll get to know yourself on a much deeper level. I can attest to that. And that’s why I love this practice so much. Tomorrow we start with how to help balance the Vata Mind 🌪 •
DAY 18 - Balancing the Vata Mind
Good luck with this one. Juuuust kidding. I am the Queen of balancing the Vata mind-body, if only I took my advice once in a while. That being said, I’ll be speaking more to my experience when bringing balance back to the Vata mind-body, b/c well, that’s where I’ve lived for the past year.
If you can remember back to the beginning post about the Doshas, Vatas are made of the Elements Air & Space, making the mind of the Vata very quick & very active. Out of the 3 Doshas, Vatas are the most prone to symptoms of depression, anxiety and fear. I have suffered to varying degrees from all 3 and worse than the suffering was how I chose to rid myself of them - alcohol. When feelings of self-doubt, fear, inadequacy, shame, guilt (all adding up to bouts of depression & anxiety) would arise, I had no coping mechanism in place to handle them. Through no one’s fault, in my developmental years, I was not taught how to feel my feelings or given tools to sit with and deal with them. In order to protect myself, I chose to self-medicate with booze. That lasted for decades until it just didn't work anymore (had it really in the first place??). Meaning I was leading a completely imbalanced life for many, many years.
Along with getting off the booze train, discovering Ayurveda helped me lift the thick layer of fog that had seeped into my brain over the years. And so here are the practices I began to set in place to begin my Vata Mind balancing act:
Mediation - I touched upon this already and will be covering it more towards the end of the month, but this has been a KEY to my mental health. It was a slow go incorporating it at first. I wasn't practicing regularly, but still began noticing the days I did meditate I was more clear headed, calm & less agitated. Noticing that difference is what has helped me step up my mediation game to daily sits in the am for 20min, feeling the warming effect of a not so active mind. I am now on my way to working up to 20min pm sits as well, which I believe can only enhance this experience.
Grounding myself - Given that as a Vata, I spend most of my free time in my head, practicing grounding exercises has extreme importance to me. Ayurveda suggests walking around barefoot as much as possible - in the sand if you’re lucky enough to live near the water (one day soon!!) or lush grass. Obviously, in Canada, this is suggested in the Spring/Summer/Fall months. If that’s not available to you, or it’s in the winter months, stand in Tadasana or Mountain Pose. Your feet are the gateway to the dust of the earth. They are our connection with the ground and are what support our physical bodies as we move throughout this planet. Standing in this powerful pose, you will feel the earth below you and bridge the gap between mother nature and ourselves.
Self-Massage - This touches upon mind & body, but my dry brushing and self-massaging practices have upped my self-love game. I am in awe and appreciation of so many more parts of my body than I ever have been, simply by taking the time and staying present in feeling out every part of me, and doing so in front of the mirror.
Journaling - If you can’t tell already, the written word means a great deal to me. It’s my way of communicating my story with the world. Even in my most dire, world collapsing around me moments of life, I have always journaled. And I’m so happy I have. What a gift to look back on times in my life and reflect on where and when I was hurting, and send love to the girl who had no idea what was going on, and still ploughed through. What lessons can I learn from her? And it also just helps at the end of the day to release my thoughts onto paper so they aren’t left swirling around my head.
Reduce Excess Stimulation - This is especially the case after I stopped drinking and numbing my senses. I couldn’t be in environments that had loud music, bright lights, crowds of people - it all just overwhelmed me and created so much excess stress on my mind-body. These days, I make sure to exercise my boundaries and know that I can leave any type of situation that is overwhelming when it’s my time, or ask myself if I need to be in that type of environment in the first place.
Embrace my Creative Side - For years, I thought I had to get a “normal” 9-5 to be “happy” and fulfill my due diligence as a human being. So I did that, and all the while my insides were screaming at me to stop. This wasn’t my path in life. I have strong creative force that lives within me that I had buried for way too long. Now, I love and embrace that part of me, especially my writting. If you haven’t noticed, that’s how I’ve begun to connect with people and share my story. And who knows where it can take me now that I am conscious of it.
Routine - BIG ONE. B.I.G. O.N.E Without my daily am and pm routine, I think my head would rattle off my body. As Vata, I have been known to fight routines, mostly because we dislike anything that keeps us in one place for too long. Now that the mask has come off, and I can feel the benefits of incorporating them, I will fight myself to the death to keep them in my life.
Yoga - I will touch upon this tomorrow too in the Vata Body post, but let me say this - Taking my YTT has lit an internal fire within me, to come back home. Closing my eyes, breathing and moving gently into poses has helped me feel so grounded within my body. The philosophy of yoga has also started me on a trek to peel away more layers of myself - we get into it, deep. It’s painful to disect the person you thought you were, and reprogram the behaviours that have been your protective mechanism for so long, but no matter how painful it is, I am finding it extremely fascinating, and have an awesome instructor who challenges my status quo.
Holy WOW, well this turned out to be much longer than I had expected. I couldn’t stop writing. Tomorrow I will get into balancing the Vata Body 🌱
DAY 19 - Balancing the Vata Body
Believing that in order to make any headway to begin healing my mind-soul, I must first make the necessary adjustments to my physical body. Once I feel as though I have made enough progress on that front, and have the balancing act a little further under control, I am more clear to begin to focus on my mind-soul. Imbalances in the body can lead to physical pain & discomfort. If this occurs over a length of time, illness in the body can begin to form. Lucky for us, our bodies are pretty resilient and can begin to heal one we provide them the necessary tools.
Up until discovering Ayurveda, I thought that I was maintaining a healthy diet - I made & ate organic berry smoothies and salad + protein + homemade dressing. If I was basing the ingredients on ‘healthy' options, then yes, I was eating, generally speaking, 'healthy'. But then why was I feeling so bloated & gassy most days? Why was I not eliminating regularly? In learning more about my Dosha, I came to understand that raw & cold foods just weren’t good for my digestion given my already dimly lit digestive fires. And having a healthy digestion is the best indicator of overall health in Ayurveda.
Here are some recos to begin to balance the Vata Body:
Eat Warm, Heavy, Grounding, Oily Foods - To counteract the already light & cold Vata temperament, Vatas do well with cooked foods which incorporate healthy oils such as ghee, coconut oil, avocado oil & sesame oil (which will also help to lubricate our joints and soften our skin & hair). Soups & stews are a fav as well as cooked veggies. Sweet, salty & sour tastes are to be incorporated into all meals. Minimize consumption of all cold, raw & dried foods (although you can’t make me give up my stove top popcorn with coconut oil & dark chocolate - you just can’t).
Live in Warmer Climates - If you say so Ayurveda.. As I plan my escape to California and ultimately the Island, I must still sit and suffer through another -30 degree dry, cold Calgary winter. Although, it must be said that I am grateful to have a roof over my head, food in my belly, and a car to get me from A to B. If you know me though, you know my #1 complaint (besides tomatoes) is that “I’m cold”. Moving to a warmer, more humid climate is next on my list of “things of major changes to shake it up”.
Exercise - I touched upon this already in AM routines, but to refresh - Vatas do well with a more creative, gentle exercise routine as we tend to exhaust quicker than Pittas or Kaphas. Yin & Restorative Yoga are suggested to get out of that Vata mind and connect with the body.
Reduce the Amount of Alcohol & Caffeine - Or omit them all together. Everything that I write and suggest through these Ayurvedic practices are merely suggestions. You are ultimately guiding your own ship, but I would HIGHLY reco you think to decrease if not completely omit both of these from your life. I’d love to get into all the harmful ways alcohol is destroying your mind-body-soul, but I just don’t have the time, and I’m not one to lecture, and I have no judgment on anyone's life. Let’s just say it’s rough, I know first hand through experience. Since I gave up alcohol, I no longer live in a tornado of shame, I have so much more clarity & focus in my life and projects, my skin is glowing & clear, I can sleep through the whole night without my sheets being drenched in sweat, I have regular periods again - the list goes on & on. When it came to letting go of caffeine, that was well, surprisingly rough too. I had come to rely on my morning cup of coffee, not so much to wake me up, but as comfort in a mug. A warm hug. But, in time, it also swelled my anxiety to knee buckling moments. I was probably up to about 3-4 cups a day, sometimes, drinking it into the night. I never thought it was an issue b/c I could always fall asleep so easily. One day, after almost suffering a full blown panic attack, I decided to give up caffeine cold turkey to see if that was the culprit. It was and I proceeded to have a migraine headache for 5 days as my body detoxed. From that day back in April 2019, I also proceeded to no longer suffer from any anxiety or panic attacks, so there’s that. Extreme examples, I know, but still def not the healthiest options even in the smallest of amounts.
Self-Massage Body & Head with Oil - Another repetition of Ayurvedic practices, but it should be noted that massaging my body & scalp with oil really nourishes my dry skin, joints & hair follicles, key in these dry winter months
I feel like I’m missing one more, but I’ll just leave you with the above. I’d like to state again, I’m literally just scratching the surface on Ayurveda and its practices to live a more balanced, healthier life. If you catch the Ayurveda luv like I did, continue to do some research on your own - there’s no limit to what you can learn in this magical practice.
Tomorrow - how to begin to balance the spicy Pitta🔥I’ll try to not make it as long as Vata, try..
DAY 20 - Balancing the Pitta Mind
Remember back to the breakdown of the Pitta Dosha - The Elements are Fire & Water. Pittas carry with them a fire in their soul.
The Pitta mind, when balanced, is focused, highly productive & intelligent. They are full confidence and can be strong leaders. When out of balance though..watch out. Out of balance, Pittas are spicy 🌶 They can be controlling, blameful and critical of others. They can have a quick temper that can cause more reaction than reflection in heated situations, or when the stakes are high.
A balanced Pitta I want in my corner. Here are some helpful tips to help start to balance out the Pitta Mind:
Uncompetitive Activities - Although this may have been a positive experience at a younger age, as Pittas get older, a competitive nature may actually cause more harm to the mind-body than good in terms of stress. It’s best to move away from highly or unhealthy competitive natured exercises/events.
Leave Work at Work - When it’s time to rest, rest. And make time to do so. Promoting a loving, relaxing lifestyle outside of work can help reduce aggression, conflict and consistent bouts of anger.
Meditation & PM Routine - Common theme in Ayurveda. I have a VERY Pitta friend who had a lot of heated energy at night. He decided to incorporate a calming nightly routine to see if that would help, and it has. At 8pm, he shuts down electronics, puts on his diffuser, takes a cooling bath (to bring body temp down) and mediates before lights out.
Get Out in Nature - Pittas thrive best out in nature. This ties in with the body, which I’ll talk about more tomorrow, but performing any type of exercise or activity outside brings Pitta back to present moment and soothes the incessant fire within.
Laugh - Try not to take things so seriously! Seriously. Add some humour to your day, and laugh at yourself. Remind yourself that no one is perfect, including you.
Tomorrow begins Pitta Body and practices than can help regulate that internal heat 🔥
DAY 21 - Balancing the Pitta Body
Pittas are naturally drawn to exercise, albeit the competitive type. Put plainly, Pittas like to win. On and off the field. Incorporating a sense of competitiveness can be useful in some situations, however it can also add excess stress to the body over time. They do have more stamina than Vatas - overuse of the body however may lead to experiencing some type of adrenal fatigue in the long run.
When it comes to appetites, no one’s is healthier than a Pitta’s, when in balance of course. Good thing they love to eat, but at the same time, take care that they don’t overeat. Or skip a meal as they tend to get irritated when that occurs. Given the fiery nature of their digestive system, certain foods will cause aggravation leading to inflammation, indigestion, heartburn, acid reflux, loose stools & profuse sweating.
Here are some tips to help start to balance out the Pitta Body:
Exercise - Stick to moderate outdoor exercise if possible. Hiking, jogging, biking, are all beneficial to PIttas. Flow, Vinyasa or Ashtanga Yoga is recommended, and try to stay away from Hot Yoga which can increase your Pitta fire causing major discomfort in the body. If you live by the water, try to relax in cooler areas such as walking near or swimming in an ocean or lake.
The Foods you Eat - Try and steer clear of any hot, spicy or fried foods, even though you most likely really want to eat them. This is what will cause suffering from indigestion, heartburn, acid reflux - all that fun stuff. Increase your intake of cool, calming foods, especially in warmer season & climates. Avoid spicy, salty & sour foods. Stick to sweet, bitter & astringent ones. Salads, smoothies and raw veggies are great options for a Pitta palate and stomach.
Skin - It’s funny just as many Pittas who I know love spicy foods, love hot climates. It’s not to say you can’t ever live in a warmer climate, you just may have to protect yourself a little more than a Vata or Kapha so as not to irritate the skin. Pittas tend to have fair skin with lots of freckles & moles. Excess sun and heat exposure can irritate the skin cause rash, so just be smart and safe out there.
Tomorrow - Day 22, we head into Kapha land where we begin to learn to balance the Kapha mind 🌍