Balancing Vata During Seasonal Change

This morning I watched Vata blow in, signaling the continuing change of seasons, and I was reminded by my dear friend Christina from SimpleVeda, that when we grab the fall hoodie it’s also time to check the summer routine at the door.

*Here are some helpful hints to keep Vata from sneaking out of the house!

Just as the Moon revolves around Earth and Earth around Sun, Mother Nature depends on a simple and reliable routine to stay on track. Guess what Dear Vata Yogi? So do you…
~Routine Routine Routine – go to bed at the same time each night, wake at the same time each morning and eat your quiet and healthy meals at the same time each day. Vata rests in the dependability of schedule – your daily routine is called dinacharya.

After scraping the morning toxins off your tongue, include a glass or 2 of pure warm water with a squeeze of lemon. This is a 'good morning I love you' to clean your GI tract, refresh your kidneys and awaken peristalsis (that which makes you poop!).

“too much” of anything is imbalancing to Vata so SLOW DOWN.  Selectively reduce the ‘outside’ commitments, hustle and bustle and be mindful to reduce driving time.

Daily Abhyanga (oil-massage) – As part of your dinacharya, take 5-10 minutes for a warm sesame oil massage before your shower or bath. Your dry skin will soak up the warming, soothing and calming nectar to reduce muscle tension and improve circulation. Light a scented candle, put on that playlist of love songs and sing them to yourself. Your mood will be elevated and your dry, popping joints will feel better. Now you can glide through your day with a get-calm-stay-calm attitude. *DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THE OIL....*

Pranayama (breath techniques) is a powerful process to balance hormones, strengthen your nervous system, improves mental capacity and purify your nadis (energy channels). Try Alternate Nostril Breathing in your dinacharya – start with 5-10 rounds and work your way up to 40. Your mind and your family will thank you.

Be Still. This is a big one friends and fairly difficult for active, creative and on-the-go- Vata:
~Between each project, activity and task, take a mindful pause to bring closure before beginning the next task. This reduces the loose ends your mind subconsciously has to keep track of.
~Find time in daily meditation (begin with 3-5 minutes at the same time each day) to systematically relax the body from head to toe, then observe the feeling of your breath in your nostrils.
~Try to reduce time spent driving here there and everywhere, reduce the amount of time in spin class and on the bicycle. Lean towards slow yoga and other consistent, low impact activities such as walking, swimming, tai chi or chi gong. We should only exercise to about 50% of our capacity, or until a mild sweat appears on the forehead, under the arms and along the spine, or until your mouth begins to get dry.
~Most of all - be gentle with yourself! Just like re-booting your laptop, your nervous system craves the re-set.

*As always in Ayurveda, food is super important!

~3 meals at regular times each day is key – Vata is Space and Air and when we’re empty, we increase our spaciness and airiness!
~Prefer warm, slightly oily, heavier meals – it’s OK! Sesame, ghee, and olive oil – this is what you need inside and out!
~Include cooked food with warming spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. It’s the season for 1 pot meals such as savory kitchari (mung beans + rice and veggies), stews and casseroles.
~Things to avoid: ice and bubbly drinks (drinking Air increases your Air), light, dry, cold, crunchy foods, green juices, leftovers, white sugar, caffeine, dried fruits and dry nuts (try adding the dried fruits & nuts to your morning-spiced oatmeal made with ghee is lovely and plumps them up nicely!).
~Remember that raw fruit is a snack and should not be eaten as part of your meal – digestion begins with the sweet taste. Fruit + Meal = fermentation in the belly, which leads to bloating and passing gas (pardon me!).

*Agni – this is your digestive fire and keeps the motor running – this is important Yogis!!

~15 minutes before meals, stoke the fire by chewing a tsp. of fresh ginger with a touch of salt,or if you’re feeling fancy, add a drop of lime and a bit of honey – this is your appetizer to awaken the furnace in your belly.
~Spice up your life with cumin, coriander, fennel, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, dried ginger, a little pinch of hing (asafetida) black pepper, mustard seed, and just get spicy!
~Drink more ginger tea and take sips of warm water throughout your meal to avoid dousing the fire all together! Avoid dandelion tea (drying) and Yerba Mate.
~Eat when you are hungry and avoid snacking all day – try to take your meals 3 times a day and if you must snack, wait at least 2 hours between meals.
~For each meal, consider that eating more than what fits into 2 of your palms overtaxes digestion, your liver and creates ama (toxins) that lead to disease. Avoid over-eating those holiday goodies!

*And finally – how you eat is as important as what you eat:

~Meals should be taken according to your regular routine, when you are hungry.
~The atmosphere should be pleasant but not over-stimulating.
~Before taking the first bite, take 3 slow breaths and smell the amazing meal you’re about to enjoy. Give thanks and realize that the food you eat is nourished by the Sun, whose energy is now being passed on to you.
~Conversation should be light, non-emotional and friendly.
~No TV, no loud music and no reading –your belly can’t digest efficiently when your senses are being asked to ‘digest’ other experiences.
~For the love of the deity of your choice, please don’t eat on the run, standing or in the car.
~After taking the last bite, wait 3-5 minutes before standing, allowing sufficient time for your food to make its way to your belly. This is a nice time to journal, be still and observe your surroundings or chat with friends.
~10 minutes after a meal is a nice time for a nature walk, to help your belly churn and digest.

Wow – that’s a lot. If you want to learn more, or chat about any of the above, just reach out. Feel free to ask!!

Live, Love, Learn and Grow

In Love and Light,
Kirsten Joy
Prani Lifestyle Consulting

*This blog is dedicated to Natalie - may you love, respect and nourish yourself - you are a Divine flowering of Mother Nature! Never forget it! -KjB

Beginning Meditation - Month 1

Learning to sit….

1. Environment matters
Find a clean, quiet space in your home where you can sit undisturbed, away from the distractions and pressures of the external world.
The air should be clean, fresh and well ventilated but not breezy.

2. Cleanliness is a factor
Your face, hands and feet should feel clean and fresh, adding a certain respect and vibrancy to your practice. If you practice meditation in the morning, you will want to evacuate your bladder and bowels first.

3. Preparing the body, energy and mind
If you have time, spend 5-10 minutes stretching the muscles, soft tissues, joints and glands, to circulate the blood, regulate energy channels, calm the mind and prepare the hips and back to sit. It should be gentle and mindful. You should consult a qualified Teacher for the Hatha postures most appropriate for your stage and dosha (constitution).

4. Consistency is key
Agree to sit at the same time every day, without fail, as this will train your Mind to develop your new habit automatically. Depending on your schedule, either early in the day or in the evening will be most accessible.

5. Sitting options may vary!
You can sit cross-legged, keeping your head, neck and torso in alignment. The first month you can sit with your back against a wall, while your muscles and soft tissues are being trained. You may also sit in a chair, with your feet resting comfortably on the ground or use blocks or blankets to bring the ground to you! It’s best for your low back if your hips are level with, or slightly higher than your knees. If sitting on the floor, use folded blankets, or a sturdy pillow or bolster to elevate your hips.

6. Relax your body...please!
Scan the body from toe tips to scalp, acknowledging where you might feel yourself holding or tense, and observe the tension release; ust feel each segment of your body relax. Then move from the scalp to the toes again, spine tall, body relaxed. Be effortless.

7. Meet your breath – it’s the secret we so often overlook
Without changing anything, experience your body breathing. Observe where and how it breathes, and then gently begin to shape your breath. Take 10-15 smooth, even, quiet breaths, neither to deep nor too shallow, allowing the breath to become smooth. Resolve any hesitations or shakiness. Feel the body relax and release on the exhale, and experience refreshment and clarity on the waves of your inhale. When your breath becomes smooth, release all effort. Relax. Then bring your attention to the effortless breath beginning at the tips of your nostrils, and experience the sound of ‘So’ on the inhale and ‘Hum’ on the exhale. Repeat, relax, and sit as long as if comfortable or as time allows. If the Mind wanders, it's ok and natural, just bring your attention back to your breath and the sound and feeling of So Hum.
(There are several breath practices that are beneficial to meditation preparation, which can be suggested by a qualified Teacher.)

To finish your meditation and transition from the inner experience to the outer world, become aware of your breath again and allow it to gently deepen. Observe your body, and how it feels to be held by the surface on which you are sitting. Place your cupped palms over your closed eyes and as you become ready, gently open your eyes on an inhale. Then slowly lower the hands, and in your own way, give thanks for the time you had to dedicate to your practice and experience the joy of looking forward to the next practice.

Mindfully transition back into your day – when stress hits, just remember your happy place of peace and calm.

Process and methodology comes from the tradition of the Himalayan Masters, and the teachings of Swami Rama.

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