Many Axis YTT students choose to experiment with taking a physical action to balance their dosha during the Ayurveda portion of the training. These include changes to diet, completing a cleanse or changing their asana practice. This student took a different approach by changing her mind set in order to find balance.
When I first began learning about Ayurveda, I was astounded to see how much sense it made. Reading about vata dosha was like reading a handbook on my life. Physically, I am the vata poster child. I have dry skin, hair, lips, a thin light frame and muscles. I HATE being cold and LOVE being warm and have perpetually cold hands and feet. My joints crack constantly and I always have lower back pain. On top of the many similar anatomical attributes, I am internally also very vata. I talk fast, think fast, understand fast, but forget even faster. I am creative, intuitive, imaginative, love exercise but love traveling even more. What may have surprised me most are the imbalanced attributes of vata including anxiety, worry, insomnia, and fear, all of which I have struggled with since I was a child. It was very clear from the beginning that my primary prakruti is vata. However, not everything fit into the vata and my secondary dosha is pitta.
In a few major ways, I am more pitta than vata. I am extremely driven, determined, ambitious, critical, goal oriented, confident, competitive, and a leader. I also have (thankfully) regular digestion, which is not vata at all and much more pitta. Due to the fact that I am so strongly vata, and vata dosha is the easiest to become imbalanced, I decided to focus my experiment on balancing vata.
When we began discussing the experiments, I was personally feeling very overwhelmed in my life and out of balance. I felt pulled in every direction. I had taken on too much (again) and did not feel like I was giving enough time or effort into any of my commitments because there were just too many. I am a wife, a high school teacher, department chair, a coach, and a sponsor of an international traveling service club (which I plan completely on my own). I had just barely finished my Master’s degree when I began the Axis Teacher Training Program. I felt like I did not have room to breathe and my anxiety was suffocating me. My insomnia was in full force and I could feel myself spiraling into a depression.
Many people in the class were taking on major cleanses, changing their diets, changing their routines. A few weeks before the experiment began I had to get an emergency appendectomy. This had uprooted and paused my life for the time being and changed so much of what I was working for. Over the last few weeks I had been desperately trying to get stability and normalcy back. The thought of making another change in my life was overwhelming and terrifying. My body and mind did not need more change, it needed grounding, it needed normalcy, and I needed calm stability. After class I wrote Beth about my struggles and fears. I felt so lost and reading back on the email I can feel the emotional desperation. When I read her reply email, it was as if a huge weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Her soothing words and advice were exactly what my imbalanced prakruti needed to hear. Beth told me that it was natural to feel this way, and that our society has set us up for it. She then wrote, “It does sound like your body and perhaps even your heart are begging you to slow down, to allow life to be more simple.” Beth advised that I needed to slow down at work, ask for help, and delegate responsibility. She told me to try the sesame oil massage, practice slow restorative asana, stay warm, eat warm, and even get a massage. Beth stated I needed to not add more but to do less. She finished by adding, “Any combination of these really soft, gently nurturing, luxurious things is what you need right now Amanda. Yes, some things may fall through the cracks but I really think you need to let some of that happen AND ask for some support from others (and then receive it!).” What a concept!!! Ask for help and then receive it? While this may not be revolutionary for some people, it was for me. I have always felt that if you want something done you have to do it yourself. The thought of asking others and delegating work was a little anxiety provoking at first but I was so exhausted by that point I figured I would give it a shot.
I did everything Beth advised me to do and in some ways, let go of doing things. I practiced the sesame oil massage, along with swishing with it in the morning, and scraping my tongue. I practiced slower, restorative asana instead of my usual vigorous, challenging asana. And at work, I delegated! I started asking people to do things. Instead of making the test myself, I had someone else do it. I asked others to research the trip, I asked someone else to go to that meeting, I said I could not take on more work. It was exactly what I needed. My experiment was not about doing more and changing my diet, it was about letting go and changing my mindset.
While this experiment may not have “cured” me of my anxiety or tendency to take on too many things, it did show me a new way of approaching life and what it throws at me. My experiment may have been a little different than most but it was exactly what I needed and I am thankful for it. Beth’s last email to me contained these words, “You are doing great, achieving the “goal” with relaxed effort, not forcing, but letting things unfold and that my friend, is a skillful yoga practice.” I am so thankful for you Beth and for the knowledge of Ayurveda for helping me understand what yoga is to me and how to shape what I hope to be a lifelong practice.
Ayurveda, the sister science to Yoga, can be wonderfully easy in application because it is based on common sense ideas, however, it can also be tricky to identify which doshas need treating. This Axis YTT student’s Ayurveda experiment took some adjusting to find the right balance.
Ayurveda is a completely new form of natural healing for me. I am familiar with other types, but prior to Axis Yoga Teacher Training I had never even heard of Ayurveda. With that said, I had a hard time deciding what parts to try for this experiment. Ayurveda is so involved and overwhelming at first. I took two different tests that both told me my dosha is vata … extremely vata, with just the tiniest pinch of pitta and no kapha at all. I figured if two tests say that, I must at least be mostly vata.
With vata in mind as my dosha I decided to try to do something about my dry skin and the fact that I am cold all the time. I chose to oil my entire body with sesame oil 15 minuets prior to every shower and use it nightly on my arms, hands, feet and legs. I also have trouble with my feet turning into ice cycles before bedtime, so I bought a blowup footbath that I filled with hot water and a bit of oil to soak in before bed. For the diet portion I chose to not change what I was eating, but to change the temperature of what I was eating. I switched to all warm food from my normal diet of some warm but mostly raw vegetables with chilled beverages. I am a vegetarian so a raw diet is easy and enjoyable for me.
I did not get the response I had expected. I was pretty sure that these things would help reduce my vata but only barely. What actually happened was quite different. After about 4 or 5 days I found myself being repulsed by warm food and craving only sugary iced drinks and frozen desserts. Not really what I was hoping for. My skin on the other hand was wonderful. My feet and hands were in great shape and the rest of my skin was clearing up nicely.
I felt like I was failing. I just couldn’t make myself eat warm food any longer. When I expressed my concerns in class, Beth and Susan suggested I might not be as vata as I had thought. Susan took my pulse and said the left side was vata and the right side was pitta. It seems that I was aggravating my pitta side while trying to pacify my vata side. Susan suggested room temperature food rather than hot and almond oil rather than sesame … so I tried again.