Change of Pace

Lots of people don’t like mornings. They can be rushed and hectic and leave us feeling behind before we’ve even gotten started. But there is another way. Through the teachings of Ayurveda we can learn how to start our day with grace and gratitude that will ease us into our daily responsibilities. This is something the following Axis Yoga Teacher Training student was able to experience first-hand. By doing an Ayurvedic experiment as part of the YTT course, students are able to truly understand the benefits of these ancient teachings. And, as in the case of this student, create permanent changes.

 

Change of Pace: A New Intention

For years I was the type of person who got out of bed last minute, threw on some clothes, brushed my teeth (hopefully!), and grabbed coffee to-go before speeding off to work. Due to this routine, I was often physically and mentally tardy for work. Reflecting now, it seems like my mind spent the morning trying to catch up to my body! I was endlessly anxious, constantly checking my to-do list and focusing on what was next in the day. Although I still was being proactive in regards to my health through my daily spiritual practices, these activities were often just things to check off my to-do list as well. I knew I needed a change. For my Ayurvedic experiment, I decided to reconsider and rework how I was spending my mornings. Deciding to approach my daily routine, specifically in the morning, appeared to be a daunting task but it seemed necessary in order to balance a recent move to Denver, yoga teacher training, work, preparations for a 27-month Peace Corps deployment, mind, body, and spirit. In addition, I decided to modify some aspects of my diet and eating habits. I adhered to a primarily Pitta diet and worked on eating one meal a day in complete mindfulness.

Dinacharya, Ayruvedic Daily Routine

The daily routine which I decided to follow started off with a moment to look at my hands, give gratitude and/or pray directly upon waking up in the morning. Following this, I engaged in tongue scraping while noting the feeling and appearance of my tongue, oil pulling to remove built up ama or toxins in my body, choosing water (over coffee!), and meditation to start my day consciously. After work and in the evenings, I worked on eating a meal in mindfulness. I did not specifically decide to target a before bed routine as part of my experiment although, as a treat, I often drank milk with ghee and turmeric or gave myself a warm oil massage.

Change of Pace: A New Routine

1. Good morning! Starting the day by looking at my hands, giving gratitude and/or praying has been the catalyst for positive thinking throughout the entire day to follow. Although I am not new to the practice of starting my mornings in this way, I found myself specifically working on giving gratitude and praying in different, intuitive, and creative ways. In addition, I found that these techniques didn’t just stop after I got out of bed in the morning. More and more, I am carrying more gratitude and reverence with me in my heart and soul all day. Some examples of what worked well for me are below:

• ”Today is my favorite day”- Winnie the Pooh from The Tao of Pooh- I love this quote! Winnie the Pooh replied with this answer when asked which day of the week was his favorite. This quote reminds me in a playful way to be in the moment, every moment of every day.

• “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu”- (i.e. “may the entire universe be filled with peace, joy, love, and light”)- This Sanskrit mantra is my current favorite. Not only do your thoughts actively participate in the creation of your day, they participate in the manifestation of the lives of others. This quote reminds me to give selflessly for the highest good of all beings.

• Prayers- I often found myself praying to be used as a divine tool throughout my day. • Gratitude- I often gave gratitude for my snuggly cats, my aliveness (my awakeness!), my silly clients, and the unknown that had yet to populate my day.

2. Tongue scraping I had hoped to use my tongue as a diagnostic tool to examine my current health as well as any changes that occurred over the duration of the experiment. Upon first examining my tongue, I found that it was scalloped around the edges, denoting unabsorbed nutrients. I also noticed that there appeared to be a midline, signifying emotions in the spinal column. During the experiment, I kept a journal to record the appearance/feeling of my tongue. For the entirety of the experiment, the description of my tongue in my journal stayed the same. I continue to note that my tongue is scalloped along the edges with a profound midline. I have noted small changes though. The scalloped edges appear to be less distinct, indicating that I may be absorbing more nutrients than I was initially, and the amount of tongue scraping I do has decreased, indicating that I may have fewer toxins to remove from my body. I have a couple hypothesis about why changes to my tongue were not more profound. The first is that I may have needed to do an Ayurvedic detox to remove built up ama from my body. It is possible that from years of bad habits, this more intense method of purification may have been necessary for obtaining more visible results. My other hypothesis is in regards to my Pitta based diet. I mentioned in the introduction that I followed a primarily Pitta diet. I did and do continue to eat chocolate and some spicy food and enjoy eating out once a week. These foods are potentially keeping the appearance of my tongue steady.

3. Oil pulling This technique was very enjoyable for me. At times in the past I have noticed gum bleeding while brushing my teeth but this was not noted at any point during the experiment. I have a dentist appointment in one week and am curious about any observations by the dentist/dental hygienist.

4. Water I cut out coffee in the mornings and introduced water instead. I anticipated that this might be difficult but that was not the case at all. Even the first day was easy for me! The water had a similar effect of waking my body up. In the traditional Ayurvedic morning routine, one would drink their water from a copper cop. I drank mine from glass jar instead as I do not own a copper cup (note to self: obtain a copper cup!).

5. Meditation Meditation is my love. Meditation is and has been my link with myself and with the connectedness of all that is (you, me, copper cups, kitty cats, etc.). As a “list person”, meditation was usually an activity which I anticipated checking off my to-do list. Now, meditating before I even leave the house allows me to start my day mindfully and helps me to feel a sense of accomplishment before I even leave the house. I believe moving my practice to the morning has made my days feel more spacious and has assisted in removing that feeling of my mind working on catching up with my body in the mornings.

6. Work The effects of my morning routine have been most prominent in the workplace. I love working with children diagnosed with autism. I get to play all day! It is glorious! It can also be difficult in that I deal with challenging and demanding behaviors. I find myself coming back to the way in which I initially begin my morning and drawing upon some aspect of my morning (ex: the object of my prayer, the feeling of gratitude, my truest intention, in the moment awareness, etc.) for strength when things get tough.

7. Mindful dinner This aspect of my daily routine was the most difficult for me. I attempted to make the environment conducive but often my roommate was chatty, blaring music, or my mind sometimes (but less often!) became a distraction. I either took deep, thoughtful breaths, said a prayer while bowing my head in gratitude and acknowledgement of the amazing source of food, or gave my food Reiki to begin my meal. This part of my meal routine was the most thoughtful and significant but, during the rest of the Pitta based meal. I have a sensitive history with food and continue to work on my approach to food daily. I realize that changing habits can be difficult and am taking it day by day.

Change of Pace: A New Experience

The results of my experiment have certainly had life altering effects. They have become aspects of my life that I do not plan to change. I look forward to waking up early for my daily routine. I enjoy the effects that these small changes have made on my days. I appreciate the positive changes and recognize the room that I still have to grow, specifically in terms of my eating habits. To close I will end with a quote from Sri Swami Satchidananda in regards to having a daily routine. This quote best summarizes how my perspective on my daily tasks has changed and why. I no longer overly anticipate checking off my daily practices from my to-do list, rather I spend more time experiencing the joy contained within each activity.

“Whatever job or practice you have been doing, do it on a regular basis. If you miss doing it daily, you will have to catch up on doing it the next day. The longer the gap, the more effort and time it will take to catch up. Even while trying to catch up you are putting pressure on yourself and you may start losing the joy of doing your project”- Sri Swami Satchidananda

Honoring the World Within

One of the unique aspects of Axis Yoga Teacher Trainings is the inclusion of Ayurvedic study. Additionally, the students have the opportunity to apply the lessons of Ayurveda to their own lives. This student experimented with Ayurvedic recommendations to help alleviate fatigue which led to “a new lifestyle built upon awareness of healthy decisions and alignment between my body and mind.”

Honoring the World Within: Structure

In an effort to formulate the structure of my experiment, I applied some fundamental principles of

ayurveda to my current life. Doing this gave me a new perspective on my everyday life and opened my eyes to different methods for staying healthy. I learned about vata imbalances and how they can be provoked by consistent movement, dry climates, and high altitudes, all of which I had been subjecting myself to on a regular basis. Therefore, I chose to base my personal experiment around developing a consistent morning routine accompanied by a dosha­specific diet. The dosha­specific diet included eating foods that would serve my constitution positively and spacing three meals by 2­3 hours.

 

Honoring the World Within: Expectations

My lifestyle prior to conducting this experiment was not necessarily unhealthy, but rather unaware of the detriment some small actions had on my health. I was able to recognize everyday ailments, such as fatigue or allergies, but unable to identify their source. For instance, I have always been prone to snacking in between meals on the go. I did not realize the significance of eating slowly and consciously at specific points during the day. In addition, my food choices were not entirely beneficial to my body based on my doshic constitution. I was aware going into the experiment that eating only three set meals a day would be very difficult for me, however I had confidence in my decision. I believed that conforming to the guidelines of my experiment would result in less fatigue and increased general happiness.

Honoring the World Within: Reflections

I began by first establishing my full morning routine and purchasing any necessary items for my experiment. I utilized the intellectual resources provided by my instructors as well as those found in the

Ayurvedic Home Remedies textbook. I began to understand the importance of dedicating my morning to promoting a healthy, happy day ahead. Using this knowledge, as well as additional intellect gathered through research, I began each morning by rising before 7:00 am with a prayer of gratitude prior to leaving bed. I had initially arranged to wake by 6:00 am each day but found that it was not beneficial for me at this time, or at least that’s how it felt. The next step was bodily evacuation, which I found easy to fall into a steady routine with. Following this process I proceeded to splash my face with lukewarm water and massage the lids of my eyes. I then blinked them seven times and looked steadily in all four directions to promote alertness. I then scraped my tongue of any excess ama using a small spoon and found it to be lightly­coated and white throughout the entirety of my experiment. After my tongue felt sufficiently cleared of ama I practiced oil pulling by swishing for 15­20 seconds. I chose to implement coconut oil for the purpose of my research based on its pitta­reducing qualities. I also considered sunflower oil due to its benefits towards both kapha and pitta types, which is my primary doshic constitution. To ensure that my mouth was clear of any excess oil containing, which can contain harmful toxins, I gargled water just after completing the pulling. I would typically boil water while waiting for the pulling process to be complete so that a warm cup of lemon water was readily available afterwards. After I became fully hydrated marks the time for my sadhana practice, which took place on my balcony seated upright with use of a block under my sit bones. I employed a variety of techniques to help with my home practice, including online guided meditations and breathing exercises. The typical duration for my morning meditation was roughly 20 minutes, which I hope to extend as my practice continues. The mental clarity provided to me through meditation carried over into the asana practice which followed. I explored surrounding studios offering a variety of classes and also worked on developing my personal home practice. Following the physical practice I honored my body with self­abhyanga prior to showering. I initially employed coconut oil for the massage due to its cooling qualities but found that it irritated my skin. I changed over to sunflower oil and found this to be much more beneficial for me. Breakfast concluded my morning routine and marked the start to a healthy day set with good intentions.

In terms of the foods consumed during my experiment, I researched what I believed would be the most beneficial for me based on my personal constitution. I found that dark green vegetables, sweet fruits, lean meats, and few grains were among the foods I should be including in my diet every day. I had intended on eliminating snacking but found that this did not serve me in a positive way at this time. My current lifestyle is very fast­paced and I am often eating while hiking or driving. Although I did make a tremendous effort to sit down and focus on the meal I was eating, I found that I got very hungry in between designated meal times. I conformed to three set meals for the first 2 days of the experiment before deciding that it was not working for me at this time. Despite the lack of three set meals each day, I still maintained a conscious awareness of my digestive processes and gave food time to digest before introducing more food. Eating for my doshic balance has proved to be very beneficial for me and is greatly enhanced by following a structured morning routine.

Honoring the World Within: Results

Throughout this experimental process I have developed a new awareness of how my body functions and how I can help maintain my health through diet and lifestyle choices. Ayurveda has given me new tools through which to examine myself and the world around me, which has lead me further down the path towards discovering my higher ‘self’. I have found the morning routine to be extremely beneficial because it promotes honoring the world within myself before offering attention to the world around me. I find myself to be much more clear and focused when practiced regularly and my day is genuinely happier. Paired together with the ayurvedic diet I have noticed a remarkable difference in my energy levels, as I was quite lethargic in the weeks prior to experimentation. This ayurvedic assessment of myself has manifested into a new lifestyle built upon awareness of healthy decisions and alignment between my body and mind.

Spring Tonic!

Dear Yogis,

With a big sigh of relief, I’m happy to say that spring season is upon us.
Now is the time for a fresh start…

The new season invites us to rediscover a new level of playful vitality, delight in warmer days and clean house of any lethargic energy that may have build up over the winter season.

The ancient yogis looked deeply into the patterns of nature and discovered that certain practices are most appropriate for particular seasons. The relationship between our bodies, the seasons and our health are not a random process. In fact, they are deeply intertwined.

By shifting our bodily physiology, through asana practice, we can open up a wellspring of health and renewal. Here are a few useful suggestions on how to best adapt to the spring season.

Generally, now is a good time to pick up the pace and make your asana practice more invigorating and stimulating. Get your body, breath and lymph moving!

1. Sun Salutations: Now is the time for this all time favorite asana sequence. Invoke the power of the sun to shine more brightly throughout your day.
2. Backbends: Shake off stagnation by integrating some of these stimulating postures. Think Ustrasana (Camel), Urdhava Dhanurasana (Wheel), and Setubandhasana (Bridge).
3. Twists: Here is another classic, detox delivering, genre of poses that will serve you well this time of year. Give your liver some love!

Of course, this list offers some general suggestions and is a great start for shifting into the season. To find out more about how to seamlessly sequence these categories of poses into a complete soul-refreshing session, I invite you to attend our next Monthly Community Class titled “Spring Tonic”, April 19th, 10:30-12:30 at 3250 E. 6th Ave.