Ditching the Distractions

Yoga gives us time and space to hear ourselves, to feel our emotions, to connect to who we are apart from the distractions of our world. This isn’t always comfortable. Many times it’s easier to gloss over unwanted thoughts and feelings rather than to connect and process them. The following posts were written by an Axis Yoga Teacher Training student who decided to confront this discomfort in order to create change. As part of the YTT course, students experiment with chosen Yogic and Ayurvedic principles. With the instructors’ guidance, these experiments allow the students to feel first-hand the impact simple changes can have on daily life.

 

Ditching the Distractions: New Routine

I struggle with addressing my disliked emotions and energies. I associate words like “anger” and “anxious” with shame, and so I generally avoid recognizing those presences within my body and mind. I choose quick-fix, lazy distractions instead. Gently and kindly observing manifestations within and external is a new practice for me, one that I exercise with variability. I continue to desire for groundedness in this endeavor, and to conversely but just as fluidly, let go of the experiences. To quiet my mind and warm my heart, I decided to experiment with relaxing and soothing Ayurvedic methods before bedtime. I hypothesized that this nightly routine would help me to engage more honestly and compassionately with my surroundings and myself.

I chose the following as my evening routine: 1) light incense, 2) massage coconut oil into my feet, 3) meditate (keep the mind on the breath) for 15 minutes, and 4) drop lavender essential oil on my pillow. From the onset I took notes to outline my experiment and to tinker with the design. On night one I learned that meditation should follow massaging the coconut oil, versus the opposite order, so that my mind would be most quiet directly before I placed my head on my pillow. Night one also taught me that I should not look at my phone light directly before turning towards sleep; I used an app called Insight Timer to measure the minutes of my meditation, and I decided that I would close out of the app in the morning to avoid the irritation of the phone light prior to closing my eyes. I learned, as one of the Axis mentor’s had stated, that a little bit of oil goes a long way.

 

Ditching the Distractions: New Sensations

I experienced profound peace within the first couple of nights of experimentation. On night 2 of the experiment I had this crazy thought: that if I were to not wake up, things would be ok…it wasn’t that I didn’t want to wake up, I’d just be ok with not waking up, too. This thought occurred in the few moments after I had tucked myself into bed and before I fell peacefully asleep. I did, of course, wake up the next morning, joyful and well-rested and smelling lavender. But the warmth of that thought stopped me in my mental tracks throughout the following days, likely because of it’s supreme oppositeness to general thought patterns of my life, and specifically a grand fear surrounding the mystery of death. It was an interesting experience.

I practiced every night for the first 8 nights. I felt more aware of my disliked sensations throughout the day, and I chose to recognize their presence and breathe through them. I was more aware of liked sensations, too! I experienced lightness as I woke in the morning, and I felt gratitude for a calming night’s sleep. I found myself abiding in greater clarity.

Ditching the Distractions: New Changes

As time went on, I practiced the evening routine inconsistently, in both occasion and quality. By three weeks’ end, I engaged with the routine with genuine intention about two-thirds of those nights. Sometimes I lazily chose distractions because they seemed momentarily easier. Almost always, I felt the ramifications of evading the practice. I found it more difficult to recognize internal sensations as they arose, rather noticing these vibrations when they had already grown large enough to usurp homeostatic and healthy functionalities. Basically, I got madder, sadder, and anxious-er more often.

There have been some other changes in my choices during this experimental period. For the last 10 or so mornings, I’ve oil pulled with coconut oil before brushing my teeth, varying in duration between 5 and 15 minutes. I enjoy this morning purification process. I also choose to eat mostly pitta-pacifying foods; I often eat a few pieces of ginger before a meal and I drink more tea each day. I avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight (something I used to bathe in!), and I am more aware of dodging pitta-aggravating substances and environments. These are all new undertakings that I believe have happened somewhat subconsciously but in connection with my experimental and more structured evening practice.

Ditching the Distractions: New Clarity

I know that one of the most fundamental components of practice is to just-do-it. Regarding this philosophy, I like to think about laws of physics; namely the Law of Inertia, which states that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion at consistent speed, unless acted upon by an external object. Applied to my experience, this law exemplifies that: changes in my nightly behavior towards peace will create greater peace in my life, and continuance with the status-quo of distraction will lead to greater distractions in my life.
Writing this paper has given me the opportunity to reflect significantly on my experience, and in doing so I am realizing that much of life is actually fairly simple, and to complicate is a conditioned habit. I’m grateful to have this paper as testament to clarity. Thank you for helping to guide me, Susan and Derik! Initiating and committing to growth is, as of today, not easy for me. But it is freeing. Thank you for your time, heart, and for creating space for sharing and listening.

Thicker, Healthier Hair

In the age of the billion-dollar supplement industry it appears that there is a product for every need. But this is not a new concept; nature has always provided us “products” to help heal our ailments. Ayurveda, the sister science to Yoga, has taught people how to use nature for optimal health for thousands of years. The following posts, from one of Axis Yoga’s teacher training students, is a great example of Ayurveda at work. This student used Ayurvedic recommendations to help reverse the hair loss that began after childbirth.

Thicker, Healthier Hair: The Ailment

My Ayurvedic experiment focused upon making my hair thicker and healthier.
Background:
Shortly after giving birth to my daughter I started to notice hair loss and even developed bald spots on both sides of my forehead. Previous to this course, I had tried taking vitamins that promote hair growth in addition to shampoos recommended by my hairstylist, but neither seemed to work for me. The suggestions for the design of this experiment were taken from the Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies by Vasant Lad.
According to the Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies, hair (along with nails) is considered to be a byproduct of bone formation. Even though I was aware that the hair loss occurred because of the hormonal changes from giving birth, I read that proper bone nutrition is necessary for healthy growth of hair. For example, if I don’t completely absorb both calcium and magnesium, not only will my bones themselves be adversely affected, but my hair may become brittle, develop split ends, break easily, and even begin to fall out.

Thicker, Healthier Hair: The Experiment

My Experiment:
My experimental timeline was 4 weeks, during which time I focused on two main areas: diet/supplements and massaging hair oils.
First, it was immediately obvious that eating a properly nutritious diet would be vital. Adding more calcium in the form of dairy foods such as cheeses, milk, and freshly prepared yogurt is beneficial for bones and hair. Additionally, I bolstered this diet with a daily mineral supplement containing calcium, magnesium, zinc, among other minerals.
Second, I focused on two specific massaging oils for my hair. According to the Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies, rubbing a little oil on your scalp each night can be beneficial for your hair. This part of the experiment was run with two types of oil, Bbringaraj oil and Amla oil, graciously provided by one of my mentors, Ms. Susan. Before going to bed each night, I took extra time to oil and massage my scalp. At first, I had to overcome the strange odor and fear of making an oily mess on my pillows. The application was focused on my forehead scalp and then gently massaged gradually to the back of my scalp for 10­15 minutes. Next, to stimulate the scalp, I brushed my hair continuously for 5­10 minutes. The brushing benefits are twofold: it helps improve the blood circulation at the root of the hair which makes the hair healthier as the necessary minerals are delivered to the hair through the bloodstream. Brushing also helps the oils absorb deeper into the scalp.
As early as the third night, I started to notice a tingling sensation on my scalp during my massaging which led me to believe that the process was working! Previously, I would shower daily, but in order to allow this experiment to work properly I decided it was necessary to skip a day or two giving my scalp a chance to absorb these essential oils more thoroughly.

Thicker, Healthier Hair: The Results

Results:
The developments from both diet change and ritually oiling and massaging my head each night have been profound. Not only has my hair begun to look shinier and healthier, but it has begun growing again (and quickly!) Another unexpected benefit of the process has been the deeper sense of relaxation from the ritual at the time of sleep each night, the result of which has been better sleep! In reaction to these markedly positive outcomes, I have maintained this nightly routine even after the length of my experiment period, I really enjoy the nightly scalp massage. The success of this experiment has truly made me a believer and I look forward to testing many more of the Ayurvedic Home Remedies on my own as I encounter them.