Where in the world are you? What’s the weather like outside? What’s going on in YOUR world i.e. your body? What’s the weather like inside?
In Ayurveda it’s all about eating and living according to the season (outer climate) and your body type (inner climate). It’s fairly easy to check weather patterns but what about your own body’s tendencies? How well do you know yourself?
Do you tend towards being hot or cold? Is your skin dry or moist? Do you gain weight easily or find it hard to retain? Are you sensitive to heat, cold or damp? How is your digestion? How is your appetite? Are you a fast mover, talker and walker or slow, patient and calm? Do you sleep deep or wake up frequently? Do you sweat a lot in practice?
Evaluating these tendencies and many more over your entire life, not just in the present moment, can help determine your unique mind body constitution / prakriti. This gives you extremely valuable information about your own inner climate which, when evaluated along with the climate you’re living in, can be extremely useful in determining the best way to eat, live and even practice at any given time of year, to create vitality in your body and balance in your life.
In the ancient science of life and living there are 3 basic energies of life or doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha, which are a combination of the 5 elements in nature: Vata – air & space; Pitta – fire & water; Kapha – earth & water.
Most people’s constitutions are made predominantly of two – a primary and a secondary dosha. Plenty of online questionnaires are available to help you determine your prakriti but being objective with yourself can be hard and often there’s a tendency to answer based on your current state rather than looking at your whole life. So consulting an Ayurvedic doctor is highly recommended to truly discover your own nature. I would even go as far as saying it can be life changing if you take on the guidelines for living according to your constitution – it was for me! Your prakriti can never change but what can and will change is your vikruti / imbalance, depending your lifestyle. So anyone can have an imbalance in any of the doshas but once you know your constitution it’s so much easier to see your natural tendencies and to keep things in check.
The doshas in summary: Vata types are airy, cool and light and spend a lot of time in their heads, thinking. When balanced, they are creative, good communicators, artistic, adaptable, alert, enthusiastic, spontaneous, intuitive and charismatic. Imbalances will show up as mental & physical over activity, sensitivity to people and environments, sleep issues, a lack of confidence, being judgmental, disorganised, forgetful and fearful.
In our modern fast-paced world, anyone can be susceptible to a vata imbalance especially if life is stressful and you’re running around jacked up on caffeine and sugar. Even I, as a kapha-pitta, have experienced a vata imbalance from a work-hard, play-hard lifestyle for too many years. What fixed it? Complete change of lifestyle, career and climate, slowing down and practicing more yoga!
Vata types need warm, calming foods and activities. Sweet, sour and salty tastes calm the nervous system down. Raw food, being cold and dry, will only aggravate vata further (more on this topic at a later date!).
Pitta types are hot, fiery, and competitive, they are sensitive to hot weather, overheating easily, experience inflamed tissues if out of balance, yet they rarely get sick because their systems burn toxins quickly. When balanced, a pitta person has excellent digestion, clear eyes, radiant skin, good muscle tone, a healthy sex drive, they are passionate, determined, ambitious, funny, perceptive, confident, make excellent leaders and have a sharp intellect. A pitta imbalance will show up as intensity, stubbornness, jealousy, aggression, egotistical tendencies, agitation, impatience, control and attention seeking.
You might recognise some of these qualities in the business leaders of the world! Pitta is the fire needed for action. Thank goodness I have a healthy dose of it or I’d never get on the mat, certainly not to practice Ashtanga anyway!
To balance pitta, foods and activities should be cooling and soothing, avoiding too much spice, heat and intense activity.
Kapha types are calm, slow and earthy with more solid body types. In a balanced state a kapha person is patient, sweet, gentle, forgiving, emotionally stable, loyal, nurturing, community orientated, enjoys helping others and entertaining, a good listener and generally deeply satisfied with life. On the other hand an imbalance will show up as depression, lethargy, heaviness, greed, being attached to people and things, introversion, complacency, being easily taken advantage of and accumulating weight easily.Kapha time of year in the Northern Hemisphere is now– cold, wet and damp. Mucus and colds are signs of a kapha imbalance.
To balance kapha activities should be stimulating and exhilarating and foods should be bitter, pungent and astringent – lots of greens and spices, while reducing mucus-forming foods like dairy, soy and grains.
So Ayurveda is about bringing balance to life. Opposites balance while like increases like – this is the tricky bit. We’re often attracted to things similar in nature to us but what we need is often the opposite. E.g. if you have the winter chills you need soups, stews and hot drinks, and to leave those cold green smoothies and salads until summer time – they may have healthy ingredients but they ain’t gonna warm that body! Or, if you’re suddenly dealing with excess sweat or burn out, having gone from a cold climate to practice in the tropics or Mysore, you need to slow down, cool down, stay out of the sun, avoid spicy foods and best of all…enjoy lots of coconuts! So to eat, live and practice in a way to balance – check in with yourself. Each individual is unique. Check your outer world and know your inner world. One will often reflect the other. As Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie put it: “We are the world…”!!
Are you one of those crazies who gets up at ridiculously early hours to fit in your yoga practice before the rest of the world wakes up?? Or maybe you’ve considered it but not quite managed to get past the alarm stage?! Or perhaps you’ve only thought about it, and the thought alone was enough to put you off!
It’s fair to say that practising yoga early in the morning is not the easiest thing in the world. Especially for those of us in colder climates when literally the last thing you want to do is get out from under that warm, cosy duvet with the rain pelting against the window and it still feeling like the middle of the night. Yet anyone who has dared to try it will know that yoga sets you up so amazingly for the day. You walk off the mat and into the world feeling calm yet alive and ready to face whatever life throws at you. A stark contrast to how you felt when the alarm went off!
In Goa, we will open every day with a wonderful yoga practice. Ah but the difference is, there it shall be warm and you’ll probably have already woken up naturally to the sound of the sea and the sun peeping through the bamboo walls of your beach hut. Yeah it may still be a little hard to roll out of bed. You might have a touch of jet lag. You might think to yourself, why oh why do I have to practice yoga so early on my holidays! But you will soon see, it will be worth it. There is a certain peaceful magic to tap into at this time of day. And being on holidays, there’s no rush to finish your practice. We will have all the time in the world to be fully in it, without any other pressures. Time to sit, to breath, to stretch, to relax, to get ready for another warm day by the beach in magical India. Bliss!
Each morning we will gather in the outdoor yoga room and start with a meditation, maintaining the quiet of the dawn. Taking this peaceful time to tune into our inner selves, tapping into our intuition that is often heightened at this time of day. Away from your daily worries at home, this will be a perfect space for you to reflect on your life, as you are guided through a meditation practice that will focus on letting go - of your worries, stress, anger, and moving forward - with gratitude, clarity and guidance. A chance to lose some baggage and to gain some perspective.
Moving on from the meditation we will shift the focus to the breath. Deepening and lengthening the breath, using it fully, with awareness. Breathwork will be a key focus of the morning. You will be guided through simple breathing techniques to enhance the quality of your breath and to experience its powerful effects on the body and mind.
Then using our enhanced breathing we will simply start to add movement, as we move on to the yoga asana practice. You will be guided through a sequence to awaken every part of your body. We’ll start the week off gently, building the yoga practice each day and focusing on different parts of the body. But always moving with the breath and with focus. Starting with sun salutations we’ll then move through a standing sequence, followed by seated postures before winding down with a closing sequence. Full guidance will be given and beginners will be taken through each posture step by step. More advanced practitioners will go deeper, each working to their own ability. It will be a dynamic, ashtanga based practice but accessible to everyone.
Finally, there will be rest, deep rest. But with an awakened mind and body. To leave you rested yet feeling alert and alive. And then comes the toughest decision of the day...swim before breakfast or breakfast before swim??!
After a week or two weeks of this routine perhaps you will return home and think, right, I'm ready to give this early morning yoga lark a try! Or you may develop a sitting practice with some breathwork to add to your current practice, which you can do in the comfort of your own home with a hot brew by your side. What you take out of this retreat and integrate back into your life will be entirely up to you. But one thing’s for sure, you will go back a whole lot more relaxed and at peace than when you first decided to take the plunge and book that flight to India, thinking...a yoga holiday....I must be mad!
Are you mad enough to join us or still wondering what this craze is all about?! Email any questions you have to firstname.lastname@example.org. All kinds of crazy welcome!!
Yoga is this week's topic and it can fulfil many of our primary food needs including Spirituality, Joy, Physical Activity, Health, Social Life and even Career. In fact, if practiced properly and truthfully over time, yoga can indeed benefit every part of your life including your relationships, both with others and perhaps most importantly, the relationship with yourself.
Yoga is a science, and not one developed for the purpose of giving you a great body! It goes a whole lot deeper than that, but that doesn't mean we cannot enjoy the positive effects that a yoga practice can have on our bodies and minds. Used correctly over a long period of time the physical practice of yoga can bring about incredible transformation to the body, cleaning it up of toxins that have built up over time and reducing the desires for substances that intoxicate our bodies in the first place. Transformation can be quite dramatic for some but not necessarily immediate or initially visible. To experience real change, without a doubt requires discipline, focus and no real attachment to a particular outcome. If the goal is really to lose weight or tone up there are plenty of sports and other physical activities that can produce better, faster results.
So what is it about yoga then? Why do it? On purely a physical level yoga is one activity that can be practiced in some shape or form for all of your life. It can support the body, as it changes through various life stages and, inevitably, slows down with old age. It helps lengthen muscles, increasing flexibility and ease of movement in the body, which could make tying your shoe laces at the age of 80 a whole lot easier! Some people practice for this reason alone.
In terms of the subtler aspects of yoga we certainly notice benefits to the mind in its calming effect. Lying in Savasana (corpse pose) at the end of a practice one notices a stillness of mind, a reduction in the chatterings that go on most of the day, perhaps more clarity in thought therefore an ability to make better decisions. Some people simply enjoy the 'time out' for themselves, away from the madness of their daily lives and responsibilities. The breathing element of a yoga practice by itself can bring about positive effects to the mind. The breath and mind being so connected in the way the breath changes when we experience different emotions, such as sadness or anger, means we can use the breathing techniques in yoga to control the mind and bring it to a more level place. Breath work is a fundamental part of any yoga practice and arguably the most important. The effects of correct breathing can be felt on every level – physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual.
It's true with any practice whether it be yoga, a musical instrument, a sport or a religion, that focus and commitment are required in order to see results. Repetition is key, and belief in the system, sport or instrument to which you dedicate yourself to. The outcome is entirely unpredictable. But for many who decide to take up yoga, initially for some of the physical benefits mentioned, it becomes much much more than a physical activity. It might even become a spiritual practice, a system to follow to improve not only your own life but of those around you, an awakening of a desire to lead a cleaner, healthier life and to contribute positively to the world.
For others yoga enhances their social lives and becomes a new way of meeting great people. I haven't met many nasty yoga practitioners on my travels, it has to be said. It can be a great excuse to go on yoga holidays to explore exotic places, or simply a breakfast with some interesting folk after class on the weekend.
And for others, the call to teach after practicing for a long time themselves is too strong and yoga becomes a whole new career. Again this can't be predicted and certainly shouldn't be the goal of starting yoga. There are much easier and more profitable career changes available! But it could be that the benefits from yoga are such that you feel stronger and more confident as you decide to make changes within your current career or take on an entirely new one.
So which Primary Food needs your attention? Are you already working on one particular area of your life? Could yoga help you along the way?
The Love Food & Yoga retreat in Goa will provide the perfect environment to tap into some of these amazing benefits. If you're new to yoga, you'll be fully supported in getting started. And if you've dabbled but haven't committed, fear not, there will be no judgement, just gentle encouragement to get going again. Those with steady practices are of course most welcome too, as you will most likely know, there is always growth, always learning.
Look forward to sharing and of course experiencing a whole lot more in Goa!!
Questions? Email Anthea at email@example.com.