Speaking about Ayurveda...

We had our first snowfall in Michigan today and though the nights are already darker and the weather much colder, the snowfall felt like our official initiation into the change of seasons. During this time of the year, a lot of people (myself included) can become a little depressed and a little too tired.  Its cold and all we want to do is relax in the comfort of our home with our heat on and our Netflix ready.  Our Western lifestyle is based on convenience and in winter we find ourselves wanting nothing but convenience which can lead to a disconnect with mother nature.  

Its through the Eastern Perspective that I found the missing link to cultivate that connection. In Ayurveda, winter is affiliated with the qualities of Kappha. It is damp, cold, and heavy, everything moves just a little slower. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing and when we can move in the ebb and flow of nature within the seasons our own journey to health may become a lot easier.

Ayurveda is a life science that utilizes the qualities of nature to bring about harmony (or disharmony) in our lives.  It discusses how the world is made up of 3 doshas that are constantly intermingling in nature and within us.  These doshas are: Vata which is airy and dry, Pitta which is fiery, and Kappa which is cold and wet. When we study Ayurveda we can attempt to balance the inner to the outer by adapting practices and routines that move in sync with these intermingling relationships.

So, if we’re looking at this from an Ayurvedic perspective, winter (Kappha) is a time of rest, joy, family, and receptivity. The cold and darkness drive us to seek inner warmth which is why it is a good time to start a spiritual practice as well as take more time to relax with those we love.  

At the opposite end of the spectrum too much of a good thing can be a bad thing and when we indulge in too much Kappha qualities or tendencies we can become unbalanced.  In winter this looks like depression such as those “winter blues” and it explains why many of us feel lethargic, sluggish, lazy or tired.  We aren’t taking time to balance out these qualities that are already quite potent in mama nature.

So, as with everything in life its all about balance baby. If it’s cold and wet what do we need? 

The opposite.  

In the midst of your hibernation here are a few things you can do to keep your body healthy:

1. Eat warming foods 

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Not Surprisingly, cold smoothies do more damage than good over the colder months for many reasons that I wont get into with this post.  During the winter stick to warming foods like roasted vegetables, oatmeal, soups and stews. It’s also what our body craves so trust your body’s intuition when it comes to eating.  

2. Avoid dairy 

From an Ayurvedic perspective we avoid because dairy is because of the amount of mucus and congestion it creates in our body.  We’re already congested in the winter, lets not add to it.  

3. Exercise 

Exercise is a great way stimulate digestion and remove toxins from the body. In winter, the cold causes the body to take heat from where it’s most needed (our vital organs) and exercise helps to counter that. We need to find movement of a Pitta nature (fiery/sweaty/heat inducing).  That may be why you crave hot yoga in the winter.  

4. Drink Warm Water 

Specifically when you first wake up if you can remember as a way to kick start digestion.  Feel free to add ginger. Again, all of these seem innate if we’re paying attention.  

5. Reflect to Create 

Tho this is a Kappha activity it is a beautiful way to celebrate the quiet solitude of winter through creativity and the art of dreaming.  Take time to rest and reflect in a sacred way on your past year as a way to plant seeds and create intentions for the next one.  

Though the Ayurvedic perspective may be new to you it makes sense to me. I am allowed to utilize this time of hibernation and rest but am also responsible for not getting too tied into it.  When I look at the seasons from an Ayurvedic perspective it makes it more sacred and when we make things special our whole life becomes more special, so why not try it? 

 

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I talk a lot in my classes about slowing down and listening to what your body is asking of you in the present moment.  Every day she needs something new and try as we may to push her, our body may not be entirely game for it.  There is a fine line between being disciplined and indulging our ego.

I never realized how much ego I had in relation to my body until I got mono.  Thats not true, I always knew, but this mono has magnified my blindspots. You may be asking yourself how does a married woman get mono? But that’s besides the point…

So now with mono I am relearning what that actually means.  I am extremely fatigued all the time! I was diagnosed prior to Christmas and thought I could muscle my way through it by continuing to work the way I do and keep up with my practice. Two weeks later, my schedule has been sliced in half and I haven’t moved in weeks. 

As a yoga teacher and educator, I understand the importance of movement, but what I am realizing is that there needs to be a clear distinction between using the body and believing you are the body. Sir BKS Iyengar helps us to understand this by stating “It is through your body that you realize you are a spark of divinity.” So though we need to take care of the body we understand that we are not the body. Though we use the body as a gateway towards enlightenment, we recognize it’s not a machine to achieve perfection.

Why then do we place such high standards on our body? If it doesn't operate the way we want it to why do we chastise it for not being good enough if it isn’t who we are? Is it the Western inheritance that cultivates such a relationship? I understand perfectionist tendencies in other modalities of movement perfectly; in weightlifting we are going for an aesthetic goal and in calisthenics it can be looked at in the same light.  However, what has always separated yoga from these other modalities is its depth.  It is deeper than the superficial which is why so many of us come to it when nothing else has worked.  

I found yoga in the midst of heartbreak.  Up until that point, my relationship to my body was not based on anything more than her looking good in a bathing suit, and though I’ll admit yoga also helped me look good in a bikini, it was how I felt more than how I looked that has kept me on this path for ten years.

Habits, however, are hard to break and if someone has lived 25 years chasing an ideal that their worthiness is based on how their body looks than that belief is going to stick around until you get to the bottom of it.  In being able to do nothing I have realized how much I continue to cling to untrue beliefs about my body.  Old beliefs that at their root stem from unworthiness and a deeply engrained thought that I am this body.  

If we begin yoga to achieve a certain aesthetic that’s fine, but hopefully ten years down the line our intentions morph and we practice for other reasons: to be quiet, to find our heart, to indulge in self-care.  If we look back and see that we are still using asana to achieve a certain body than maybe it is time to review and understand our own deep seated beliefs about our body. “Your body is the child of the soul. You must nourish and train that child.”  The practice is a guide to help us understand that though we use the body we are much more than that.   

It is a slippery slope and even though we may practice with the best of intentions it is very easy for the habitual belief of unworthiness to perk its way in, especially when you have so much external factors constantly telling you that if you do x or weigh y you will finally live the life you’ve dreamt of for so long.  We’re bombarded daily with the belief that worthiness is quantifiable but those deep seated beliefs will still be there regardless of how many hours are spent on the yoga mat or how many pushups we can do in a single session.  The practice then, needs to be an inside job.  

Maybe through the continuous reflection we can catch ourselves when we veer to far to indulgence and kindly bring ourselves back to our why.  “What we shall discover is that the practice is the reward.  The moment we sit in quiet self-reflection, slowly stretch out limbs, or enter deep relaxation, we become the thing that we are seeking, and in doing so it is possible to experience the end result from the very beginning.” [Donna Farhi]

To be honest I don’t know.

Here We Are Again

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It is fall.  The temperatures begin to drop and the colors begin to change.  In the midst of transition from what was to what will be I am once again left in awe with natures ability to show us so clearly whats necessary.

To let go.

She makes it look so graceful.  Staying in the unknown while she drops everything.  Shedding every little piece off until there is nothing left and when there is nothing there is nothing but possibility.  

I attempt to follow suite.    

But in my attempts to let go I grip to what could be.  My mind makes plans: maybe I’ll run away and travel the world or maybe its time to settle down.  I know this game to well. I am attempting to create comfort in the discomfort and in turn am only amplifying the discomfort. 

Discomfort when I am feeling stuck.

Or in transition. 

In the free fall. 

Or sitting in the middle.  In the in between.  

Rather than sit in it I attempt to create comfort by keeping one foot in the past and one in the future. 

Holding on too tightly.    

So in the midst of these chaotic thoughts I decide to clear my mind with a walk outside.  Immediately I feel the cool air on my skin and the beautiful colors of the trees.

I am in awe of the beauty. 

This short and fleeting season of fall used for the trees to become completely bare.  There will be nothing left of what was.  Only trust in whats unknown.  How do they live and breathe with such faith? 

Its their only way.   

A leaf drops by my feet and I look up to see where her journey began.  She is all colors and I realize my moment with her is fleeting.  That everything is fleeting and I need to drop what was in order to be in the now.  Just like this leaf and that tree and this moment and this season and all seasons.  It comes and goes.  

How freeing it must be to trust so deeply in the ebb and flow of life

To let go moment to moment

Be in the space between.

To live this messy and beautiful and perfect life.

I will forget by tomorrow.    

Thank you

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For the beauty. 

For the opportunity. 

For the ability to breathe and learn and dream.

For our home - which is simply with one another. 

For my home- which is this body, good coffee, movement and self-love. 

For consistent change but peace amongst the flow.

For my independence. 

For slowing down to truly sip in life's beauty; off the screen, in relationships, through words.

For a few extra moments of silence. 

For these moments that I remember how lucky I am to live this life, with these people that surround me and with this vocation that constantly schools me in how to love.

 

I am Enough

It is so easy for us to forget this.  We see people who are more successful, more beautiful, and way more brilliant.  We see flawless representations of lives on social media and cant help but compare as we're bombarded by images of a woman who seems to truly do it all while we're still wearing our pajamas at 3:30 in the afternoon and haven't even brushed our hair.  I catch myself judging and comparing constantly.  I find myself stopping my dreams before I even start (or sabotaging halfway through) because of my inability to move past my own inadequacy.  "I cant go after what I want because I haven't had enough training or experience."  "I cant meet the love of my life yet because of these five pounds" "First I need to grow my hair out or make X amount of dollars before it can happen."  The excuses go on and on....  This is trickery of our subconscious mind telling us that we're not enough.  It is a false belief system based on the stories we were told throughout the years that no longer needs to apply because we are enough, right now, exactly as we are, in this moment.

 

Repeat after me a million times "I am enough."  There will never be a perfect time and the only way to know you're enough right now in this moment is to dive full on into your life with heart and eyes wide open.  This mantra of "I am enough" needs to be repeated as we ted to forget. Post it on your mirror, set an alarm as a reminder and constantly affirm to yourself that you are worthy, deserving, and enough exactly as you are, right now, in your perfectly imperfect self.

I will practice and forget a thousand times today.