The Hawaiian Way of the Adventurer

If you’re in my entourage then you are well acquainted with my (other) odd fascination with all things Hawaiian, and for everybody else this is me coming clean.

Magnum PI had a lot to answer for in the early years but as I have supposedly become a grown-up so have surf legends, the appeal of fierce raw Nature, Lomi Lomi massage and Hawaiian shamanism for some.

Huna

Serge Kahili King from whom I draw king-sized inspiration describes shamanism as a distinct form of healing and Hawaiian shamanism as a distinct form of shamanism. Whilst most shamans follow the path of the warrior aiming to develop power and combat skills in order to deal with fear, illness or disharmony, Hawaiian shamanism focuses on developing skills of love, cooperation and harmony. In that tradition illness is viewed as a self-generated effect of stress – which is a strong statement for sure but one that would make sense at least to a degree. And all Hawaiian words for healing have undertones of causing energy to flow, implying the release of stress-related tension.

Everything we do creates stress to a level but the patterns become un-natural when we deal with sustained stress. In a natural flow of life the cycles of stress and tension would be followed by relaxation but modern life often cuts us off from that relaxation period and we go from one stress to another building tension in the body and mind without an outlet.

Serge explains that the source of stress is resistance. There is a degree of natural resistance that we live with to function physically and deal with our circumstances but again resisting overly creates undue stress. You resist over and beyond healthy behaviour when you are in fear or anger, when your expectations do not meet what life and others can bring to the table, going into defence mechanisms. Hawaiian shamanism offers a rainbow of tools to re-pattern and create relaxation in the body and mind as well as implement healthier ways of living.

Pikopiko

A short relaxation technique for coming back to your core and calm whenever you need it: inhale with your attention on the top of your head, exhale with your attention on your navel. Intend to relax or be energized, whichever calls. Give up trying to move the energy or interfere in any other way, just continue giving your full attention to your breath and the top of your head and navel alternatively. Perfect for a quick energy boost.

Kaulike

Kaulike is a very simple seemingly casual but profoundly caring technique which literally means “balance or harmony” that Serge describes as a Magic Touch.

Simply “stand in front of the receiver and touch him or her with the fingers of alternating hands for about the length of two heartbeats on the crown, throat, chest, solar plexus, and navel. Then use both hands on either side of the body and touch in turn the jaws, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles, and toes. Finish by raising your arms out to your sides and above your head, and sweeping your hands palm-outward down in front of the receiver to about hip level. That’s it.”

Performed with the right attitude from both the giver and receiver it engages your subtle energies, subconscious and conscious mind and does what it says on the tin.

Tiki

Tiki is a type of creative meditation – or object of meditation to be more precise – designed to develop powers of concentration and allow you to “journey” within and learn much about yourself as well as give you the opportunity to work on what you don’t like. It uses created images of sight, sound and feelings.

Here is one easy example:

“Imagine yourself in a meadow in springtime. A stream cuts across the meadow and you are seated beside it. Build this image in as detailed a way as possible, using every one of your senses. Feel the grass with your fingers. Dip a hand in the stream. Is there a breeze? Is it cool or warm? Do you hear birds or insects? Are there flowers? Can you smell them? Are you alone in the meadow? Is this a place you have been to before or seen in a picture, or is it brand new? Explore this meadow carefully with all your senses. This is going to be your place for re-attuning yourself to your own nature.

When you are ready, take a deep breath and bring yourself out of meditation to consider the experience. Was it pleasant, or did you experience things you didn’t like? The meadow represents one part of your mind. Your conscious mind creates the overall meadow pattern by design or intent, but your subconscious fills in most of the details. Anything that was imperfect in the meadow is a reflection of imperfections in your thinking.

If you can correct the imperfections in the meadow by using your creative imagination during meditation (e.g. cutting the grass if it’s too high to permit you to see anything) you will be taking a giant step towards correcting the problems they represent in your daily life. A careful analysis of everything in the meadow as if the whole thing were a reflection of yourself will increase your self-knowledge greatly.”

On you go

For those missing Ayurvedic specifics take a look at http://www.halepule.com a website and in-person as well as online programmes in Ayurveda founded by Myra Lewin out of Kaua’i, Hawaii. It is chockablock full of Ayurvedic tips and recipes.

The lovely Clare Raggozino of Vidya Living has also relocated to the islands and is a breathing living example of walking the path of Ayurveda.

And finally for those local to me here in Dorset, England I cannot recommend Alice’s kahuna  massage more if I tried for deep bodywork Hawaiian-style. http://www.AliceLilaFlynn.blogspot.co.uk

I leave you with a little sense of fun & adventure but practical solutions too. Hawaiian shamanism is very much of the opinion that if you meet an obstacle, say an animal that bears its teeth at you, you smile back. If that doesn’t work and nothing else does either, let it eat you, be transformed, come out the other side, and keep going. Basically try all the practical solutions and finally evolve with it, come out renewed and stronger.

This is a path of cooperation, community, solution-finding, way-finding, love and a very pragmatic lifestyle in a way that works and brings happiness. Now I’ve gone all Moana on you…

And of course it is very much to do with energy, raising your energy and building abundant Mana which is the Hawaiian equivalent to Prana, the life-force but with an added sense of confidence in yourself and your skills. Nothing wrong with that!

### I pinch a fair amount from Serge this week so if it appeals please do check out his books and his work with Aloha International.

The perks of a midlife crisis

img_1389Midlife. Years of running fast around the wheel like a hamster in a cage trying to make it big in the city then full 180. Drop off everything. Take on yoga teaching. Get wellies and an allotment. And now what? That sneaky little existential crisis that creeps up on you.

If you’re there (I’m there), you’ll know the signs.

Mind racing, low-level anxiety peaking in the middle of a perfectly sensible conversation about the practicalities of motherhood, rummaging lists over lists, life envy, music blasting off out loud in the car as you drive off the school run, maybe a little sob at Coldplay.

Now to be helpful if one can in the circumstances, what would you do?

BRING THE FUN BACK INTO THE SCHEDULE

Snatch it wherever you can, make it happen. Prioritise enjoyment and gratification at least once a day until you recover your spark. You can’t be fun if you’re not having fun so your being miserable is no good to anyone. It’s important to wangle some light-hearted pleasure into your day. If money and time are scarce you’ll need to be more resourceful. Imagination and creativity are the most playful tools you have. Put music on, think up a victory dance and get wild at it or check the internet for some inspiration. Tell yourself stories, eat what takes your fancy and make a moment that is not normally fun into a fun time for you.

For the right attitude Mama Gena’s School Of Womanly Arts has been dug out from under the bed where it had been gathering dust for the best part of 10 years (Oh the naughtiness). She describes pleasure, call it joy/fun whatever speaks best to you, as a self-discipline. It is so easy to be miserable day after day and wallow in self-pity. It is a lot harder and much more work to decide over and over again to focus on the good. You must put efforts into creating amusement and joy but the more you do the brighter you’ll feel and the quicker your life will actually start looking the way you want it to.

If you’re a mum follow @JetSetMama on instagram for a daily dose of laugh-out-loud sarcasm and self-deprecation.

And humour, humour, humour. If you’re a little light on the subject as I am then surround yourself with people who have it to share. Which brings me straight to my next point.

COMMUNITY

In my case sisterhood. Thanks to all my girlfriends for keeping me (half) sane, you know who you are ladies! Here is where I bow to all my girls near and far. Thanks for afternoon (and evening) vino in the garden whilst the 4-year-olds fight for themselves Lord-Of-The-Flies-style and thanks for endless Skype calls to Hawaii (hello Ella!). Big thanks for indulging me and listening at length whilst I fret about all the things I still want to do, the ones I’m freaking out about missing out on and mostly thanks to all those still keeping gracious whilst I ramble yet again about how much I miss London and “the life we had”. And no, nothing else will do, not even the pristine local dunes of Sandbanks. Cry me a river, life’s a beach. And by the way, the grass is greener on the other side.

Anyway… Very grateful for my ladies holding the space and allowing my quirks to pass but on a serious note: it takes a village.

It takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to raise a mother if you ask me. It takes a village to achieve anything of value that brims integration and happiness. So don’t isolate yourself. Make that phone call, accept that offer for help, pencil a date for coffee. Go out of your way to talk to people, and really listen. The greatest gift you can give anyone is to make them feel truly seen and heard, exactly what you’re after. Give it, get it. What goes around, comes around.

CHOSE HOW YOU WANT TO FEEL

The core of midlife crisis is that list of things you want to do that you haven’t yet and worry you never will. Perhaps that might be true, perhaps not. The quickest and most efficient way to achieve ticking all items on the list, or come as close to do so as possible, is identifying how you would feel if you did tick the items off. And basically the idea is that perhaps the exact form of what you want is not really that important but the feeling you want to obtain is – which can be created through a different mean, another kind of experience.

What is the emotion, sensation, desire that would be fulfilled by doing the deed? Zoom in on the essence of how you want to feel. Once you are clear and have a “new list” of feelings then go out and do every little thing you can do to feel that way as often as possible. This could be as simple as choosing to feel that way despite the circumstances (which is a sure magnetic force to allow actual situations to bring you that feeling with outside material objects/events) or introduce smaller/different ways to feel how you want to feel. You’ll be instantly better for it whatever the outcome.

So having a midlife crisis does have its perks. Self-proclaim having one and you’ve got your ticket to a little bad behaviour on the side (aka get away with murder) and way more fun.

These are my two-cents on the subject, now for a bit more meat look up Miranda Sawyer’s latest book Out Of Time. Highly entertaining and oh so spot on. She has chapters such as “Is this it?” which will resonate or the very fitting “Never mind the 90s”. Hell yeah I’m showing my age though I do have to admit to remembering the 90s somewhat differently, perhaps I had far too tame a time! And I should probably read more than 2 chapters before recommending but who has time?

One last call on friendship and community, perhaps a bit out of tone here but I do really love this quote by Starhawk: “We are all longing to go home to some place we have never been – a place, half-remembered, and half-envisioned we can only catch glimpses of from time to time. Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom you can speak with passion without having the words catch in your throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Some place where we can be free.”

Now that seems like a good answer to my current nausea.

(P.s. Girlies, anyone wants to go see the latest Bridget Jones please P. M. me?)

4 tips to deal with fear and despair

img_1392It’s hard to describe how much satisfaction I get from reading and learning about Ayurveda continuously. This morning as I was randomly perusing through my collection of books I read these words which strike so right I want to share them with you exactly as I found them in Dr Robert Svoboda’s brilliant little book Ayurveda For Women: A Guide To Vitality And Health. Advice so simple it would appear airy fairy but in truth is rad if applied consciously. The following tips for dealing with fragmentation, fear, depression or related imbalances is just as pertinent whether you are a man, woman or young person. So here it is word for word:

“”

FINDING THE CENTRE

What is the answer? Reconnect with the center of life. Unless the life you create for yourself is flowing along in harmony with Nature’s flow, you will find yourself slogging through existential fear and despair as the firm ground beneath your feet slips away. If that should be happening to you, here are a few suggestions for gaining back some traction.

LOOK BACK. Remember a moment from your earlier life when you felt happy, healthy, safe, and relaxed. Maybe it was during your childhood or your adolescence, maybe during early adulthood. Whenever it was, return yourself completely to that moment, and let the feelings you had then flood you until you are swimming in them. Then, floating in that feeling, return your conscious mind to the present time and try to overlay your current condition with those pleasing feelings.

LOOK FORWARD. Consider ways in which you can simplify your life. If you don’t even have time to think, ferret out some time for yourself (if necessary, without letting anyone else know what you are doing) and do something with it that makes you feel really nurtured – even if that something is nothing more than taking a catnap. Once you are feeling rested and renewed, review your priorities carefully. You are sure to find something that you can eliminate, or postpone, or reduce, and when you do, you will be at least that much less fragmented.

LOOK AROUND. Find a mentor, a wise and trusted counselor. She/he need not be older than you, but it should be someone who is interested in you and who has a better perspective than you do on what is going on in your life. He/she may have practical hints on how to restructure, revitalise, and renew yourself, or may simply be a wise person who nourishes you with their presence alone. (…)

LOOK WITHIN. Mother Nature lives within us all, all of the time. Once you have learned to contact her, you will never feel lonely again. That moment from your past when you felt integrated and whole (…), the inspiration you receive when you take time for yourself to reflect is engendered by her. (…) Wherever you are, you can always put yourself in Nature’s presence, if you can learn where to find her.

“”

I leave you with a link to my Boundless Energy programme page where I have now added a course modules outline for tease. All being well I am working to launch in the last term of the year. If it appeals make sure to be in touch.

 

 

Creating a morning routine

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Start the day as you mean to go on.

We’ve all heard it but in truth this advice is worth its weight in gold. How you prepare for your day every morning from the moment you wake to the moment you start – be it your work, school, productive activities of the day – that time is precious in forming what your day is going to shape into. Either a good day or a bad day. A day spent frazzled, rushed, stressed or a day where you feel present, grounded, calm and together.

This reasoning is very trendy amongst the health gurus nowadays but that knowledge is age old and Ayurveda is very strong on designing healthy rituals that you perform day in day out to create wellbeing. It’s like working from the ground up, you wouldn’t build the wall of your house before you’d dug the foundation. Morning routine is your foundation for the day and it’s an inside job. The self-care we practise and the time we dedicate to ourselves daily before we go out in the world builds our stamina for facing the day ahead.

In Ayurveda the optimal daily routine is called Dinacharya and here is a little flavour to give you an incentive. Do what you can when you can. Create habits by starting somewhere, anywhere, and adding a little to your daily regimen. What you focus on will grow in your day. If you focus on self nourishment and serenity then guess what, you’ll see more of it pop-up in your day.

WAKE UP EARLY

Timing is everything. Our days are sliced into cycles of energy. Wake before 6am to benefit from the Vata cycle and rise refreshed, energetic and light. You’ll be more alert than if you wake later and you hit the Kapha cycle risking feeling weighed down and sluggish. You’ll also gain the time you need for your self-care practise (that’s if you haven’t got a toddler-in-tow like me obviously, in which case you need to become a bit more resourceful or wake still earlier…)

ELIMINATE

Early morning is the time of Apana Vayu, a downward flowing energy in the body which supports the body’s clearing functions.

TONGUE SCRAPE (& brush your teeth)

I’m not going to re-invent the wheel, I already wrote about it here.

DRINK WARM LEMON WATER

I wrote about that there.

MEDITATE

Make the best of the early hours’ peaceful environment to cleanse your senses and center your mind. You needn’t meditate for hours on end but regularity is what will bring a real difference to how grounded you feel in your days. Start with 5 minutes and build up if you have the time. Try to keep a loving attitude to balance the airy energy of vata prevalent in dawn and to create a relaxed energy, helping prana – the life force – flow.

EXERCISE

Move your body. Raise your energy. Perhaps find out what your metabolic make-up is here and exercise in accordance, though yoga and walking are generally good for everyone; helping you loosen up, warm up and prepare for activity and digestion. Jumping up and down on a trampoline might be a good way to wake up all your internal pipes.

SLATHER ON SESAME OIL & shower or vice versa

For this one see my post here (this is turning out to be an easy post!).

EAT A NUTRITIOUS BREAKFAST

Fuel your body with fresh quality food that releases energy slowly to keep you going until your main meal of the day (lunch).

All systems go!

Work-life Balance + My First Puja

What is the biggest barrier to your wellbeing, health and happiness? From personal experience, and what I can witness around me, in more cases than not the answer is likely to come down to work-life balance or the lack thereof.

img_1401So it’s worth spending a little time there.

– Acknowledge what’s not working and what is

Put it all down and paper, the good, the bad and the ugly. What is it you’re trying to do? Be clear with your intentions. Why is it you have to do all the things you think you have to do? Question it. And question it again. Reflect on the last 6 months. What worked for you and what didn’t? What felt right and what weighed you down? What took too much of your time? Come back to your core values & loves and re-arrange your life around those.

Also what energy suckers can you ditch, right now? From getting stuck in traffic to spending too much time on facebook or watching too much TV; zoom in on the areas of your life where you are not managing your time well and look at different options or cut out the crap for lack of a better word. Find better ways to unwind than zoning out in activities that are not nourishing.

– Identify priorities

Work from a list and always keep in mind the tasks to prioritise, if possible no more than 3 a day and plan accordingly. Put your plan into action, that is execute then re-evaluate. Did that work for you? Did you end up spending your time where you should have or not. Be intentional. Focus on what you can do today, now.

Say no more often and only accept invitations or work commitments you can meet without resentment.

– More vs Better

Stop should-ing yourself about doing more and be efficient by doing a better job that also means less time & energy leakage: be present rather than just “there” and focused rather than scattered & distracted and you’ll gain by truly connecting with clients and co-workers and doing things right first time around rather than going over the same piece of work again. To recover concentration take a professional savasana, in other words take a break. And ask for help, if the job is better done with the help of someone who knows best then it’ll be done quicker and will free your time.

– Set non-negotiable time: for exercise, meditation, dinner at home with the family, self-care that works for you. Schedule some playtime and do not cross it over your list for something else more “useful”. Unwinding is necessary. Now, how you unwind is your choice. You might want to go out with the lads or take a yoga class. Think about what you would enjoy the most and what will truly give you renewed energy. A hangover probably won’t, call me party-pooper, though a good giggle will. So weigh in on that. If you don’t have time to throw out the window then make sure it is spent exactly where it will bring you the most benefit and enjoyment.

So anyway… what on earth does work-life balance have to do with my first puja you’ll ask?

This week-end I started Yoga Teacher Training. Only 2 days in and I can already tell you this: this is a majour enterprise which requires a huge amount of participation, personal work (internal & external if you get my drift), daily practise and of course time. I spent a beautiful week-end reviewing goals for the next 10 months and already learning more about yoga, teaching and myself than I could imagine. We also had a little Puja, a Hindu prayer ritual to bless our journey on this course.

My first Puja was the most delightful moment spent in a bubble of peace and calm like I haven’t experienced in a long while. It was a very special time I will cherish for a long time to come. I feel like I’ve stepped into sacred space and am totally rejoicing in my new life direction.

However I must get real, juggling motherhood with a lively toddler who deserves my undivided attention, working on setting up my own business, writing an on-line course, blogging and Yoga Teacher Training might be a little more than this lady can handle in a week. So I have decided that although all of these projects matter enormously to me, and will get done… eventually, the Ayurvedic Health & Lifestyle Coaching business and blogging may have to go in second gear for the next few months. This means that I will still post but not as regularly as I have. You will hear from me, but it will be once in a few weeks rather than weekly. I’d still love to hear from you and what you might be interested to read about so if you want to drop me a line  go ahead, I’m all ears.

 

 

5 quick stress-busting tools

This week I’m thinking a little out of the box.

My true passion is for Ayurveda but I realise not everyone has the space to implement time-taking techniques around their busy-buzzing days. Although if I must say, the clue is in the pudding. When you are over-scheduled is exactly when you should make the time. If you want to feel like bouncing out of bed in the morning raring to go then you do need to cut out on some of the activities you currently still feel are necessary to your lifestyle. Are they, in earnest?

In the meantime here are a few tips that won’t need you to book an hour in your agenda:

1) 5 essential oils to take the pressure off:

All 5 senses are important in balancing your body-mind function and your nose is a gateway to your brain. Every scent you smell influences your mind and emotions. Aromas can be powerful in treating emotional disturbances. Here are my suggestions.

Lavender: it is balancing, soothing and normalising. Your perfect relaxing scent. It’s also very cooling so excellent for irritable Pittas.

Geranium: it is balancing, calming and uplifting at the same time – very grounding.

Neroli: soothing and regenerating, it gives confidence and strength to the mind.

Camomile: acts as a sedative and boosts the immune system.

Ylang Ylang: calming, balancing, it reduces tension and negative emotions.

I said 5 but I’ll throw another one in the bag just for good measure. Women can’t go wrong with Rose essential oil, it’s stabilising, fresh and so feminine.

Don’t use essential oils directly on the skin, a few drops in the bath are great or dilute in a base oil for direct application. Put a few drops on a scarf or hankerchief when at work. If you’re intrigued invest in a specialist book. Ayurveda recommends specific scents for each dosha.

2) 4 herbal supplements:

Kava kava is used to relax, it’s a sedative but doesn’t disrupt mental clarity. Gives a sense of wellbeing.

Ginseng helps build immunity to stress if taken for a period of time but be careful it’s quite powerful and invigorating, some people might find it too strong (excitation). Do not mix with anti-depressants.

Passionflower is great for insomnia due to stress and general anxiety or nervousness.

Skullcap can be used for mental and physical exhaustion. It relaxes the nerves and muscles, is calming and helps to cool Pitta disorders like fiery emotions, anger, envy.

3) Ditch the energy sapping stimulants:

I’m talking coffee, tea, the cookies box or cake from the staff canteen full of sugar, the cigarettes. I realise I might be stating the obvious but these create a short term gain and in the long run they will deplete your vitality. I’m not saying you can’t have a couple of squares of good quality chocolate once in a while but constant relying on these stimulants will actually drain you. Manage your stress by addressing the cause but don’t use stimulants which will re-stress the body. Replace these with a revitalising cup of herbal tea, ginger, cinnamon or tulsi. Start the day with a cup of hot water and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for an instant energy hit that will double as a daily cleanser. Turn to whole-healthy food for energy: read, research, cook. Also complex carbohydrates such as porridge release energy slowly all day.

4) Use sound as a stress buster:

If you’re feeling stressed, anxious or nervous, sitting and humming gently helps greatly. The sound resonation through your body is soothing. You could also try sighing to release irritability and tension, or chanting to cheerful music. Or you could use a mantra. Ayurveda has a theory that all creation stems from sound. Pratima Raichur has a terrific paragraph on Sound Therapy in her book Absolute Beauty which I couldn’t begin to explain here. Sound is healing when carefully chosen and mantras are Sanskrit sentences packed-full of specifically chosen primordial sounds used to create a specific effect. The well-known Om pronounced A-U-M with an internal bumble-bee-like tone is said to contain all other sounds and has a profound pacifying effect. Give it a go?

5) Try this basic energy-releasing acupressure technique:

Pinch the point between your thumb and forefinger for two minutes, then gradually release. How does that feel?

And finally I dare you: book an hour in your own diary for Me Time. Come on, you know you want to. Your body does.

As for me I’m just finishing a home cleanse with the lovely & wise Adena Harford Bright from Adena Rose Ayurveda and I’m feeling peachy! Check her out in my updated resources page.

Til the next time!

Digging into Vata dosha

imageAyurveda is a combination of complex analytic knowledge and simple practical solutions.

It encompasses a deep understanding of the intricacies of our environment, our bodies and the elaborate mechanisms that operate them and at the same time it suggests clear, coherent, intelligent and uncomplicated information and practises for dealing with disharmony in body and mind.

Ok this all sounds a bit puffed up! What am I talking about?

You’ll hear me talk about balance a lot because that is the real aim of Ayurveda, to support a harmonious way of living and bring balance to our bodies, minds and lifestyles in order to tap into our natural source of energy.

Each person is born with a set Prakriti which translates as its ideal configuration and which is a very specific balance of the 5 primary elements. This combination basically shapes your personality & physique. Once you’ve assessed your overall constitution you can look at its principal characteristics to understand what works for you and how to restore balance when you’re in a state of aggravation or dis-ease.

If you’re unsure of your personal make-up then please take a moment to take the test I posted with my previous article Know Your A, B, C’s.

Today we’ll look at Vata dosha but keep in mind that you could have more than one predominant dosha. I am very much a pitta-vata with very little Kapha in me and as I tend to go “over-board” quickly it is important for me to routinely soothe my vata and cool my pitta. Take the test and check-in with yourself.

So let’s dig in.

Vata governs flow and motion in the body. The basic elemental attributes (gunas) of Vata dosha are cold, dry, light, subtle, mobile, irregular, sharp and quick, hard, rough and clear. The physiology of a Vata will tend towards a thin body with a small frame, small eyes, possibly dry skin. You might be a light sleeper, finding it difficult to fall asleep and waking in the night. Your physical activity is variable and can jump from periods of intensity to nothing at all with bursts of high energy then feeling flat. You talk and walk quickly. You are impulsive and emotionally sensitive. You lean towards restlessness when out of synch. Your appetite is irregular as is your digestion, with possible constipation. You feel the cold more sharply and so prefer warmer climates. You hardly sweat and body odour is minimal. Menstruation in women can be irregular. You are more prone to disease, pains and aches as well as mental disorders. You are very alert and a quick thinker, grabbing and understanding information very quickly, forgetting quickly too. You tend to be fearful & anxious when out of balance but you are also a creative and bring freshness and enthusiasm to your many new endeavours. You are motivated, easily excited and vivacious when in balance. The subtle essence of vata is Prana (life energy/breath in Sanskrit).

To balance vata when it has gone in overdrive there are a number of options.

Eat a vata-pacifying diet. Ayurveda recommends including all 6 tastes with each meal but Vatas should favour salty, sour and sweet tastes above all. It is best for you to have a warm meal, using oils. Winter one-pot meals are very good and grounding as are porridge or other hot cereal breakfast types. Spices are helpful because heating, and a little fresh ginger in a hot drink taken sometime before a meal will warm up your digestive system. Don’t forget to drink lots of warm liquids throughout the day. Try warm milk with cinnamon or nutmeg 20 minutes before bed to sleep and as a Vata you’re actually allowed to snack inbetween meals if you feel a bit light-headed, a piece of fruit would be the ticket.

Ayurveda has a depth of research about what foods are appropriate to eat for each dosha. This knowledge is based on the potent energy (virya) of the food and its post-digestive effect. See “Eat Taste Heal, An Ayurvedic Cookbook For Modern Living” in my Resources page for now.

Perhaps the last thing you want to hear with your adventurous nature is that you really must bring in regular eating and sleeping habits. Have your meals at the same time every day, go to bed at the same time. Exercise at the same time even. Boring I’ll hear you say but there is truly no better advice for soothing the nerves and accessing your innate resources of energy. Avoid loud noises and crowds. Your packed commuter train is not your friend, any chance you can cycle in? Also try and get a rain-check on some of your evening commitments and get a proper night-in time-out to rest from your busyness and overstimulation if you sense that you’ve become all-a-frazzled. Get some rest and avoid stimulants. Pick up a good book instead.

Vatas will do well with finding at least one moment of true peace in their day to ground and find their core balance. Meditation is the ideal tool to bring pockets of calm into your life and deal with stress. Go to a class if you’re unsure, in fact it is really a necessity to learn with a “professional” if you’ve never had a go at meditation before. You’ll learn a technique and more importantly what to expect. Primordial meditation works best for me, using a mantra you give your attention to (most people think they have to work at emptying their mind which makes it a tall order!) You can start by simply focusing on your breathe for 5 minutes of quiet. Or check out http://www.headspace.com

Tip of all tips for Vatas, give yourself a daily warm sesame oil massage at the beginning of the day. Check my post Self-Love In The Shower for a full how-to.

According to Ayurveda spending time in nature helps heal our body and mind and of the many outdoor sensory experiences that promote wellbeing walking barefoot on the earth or grass for a few minutes every day is probably the best practice for grounding the turbulence of a vata racing mind. Put your attention on your feet, feel the earth’ solid support and imagine taking roots & absorbing nourishment from the ground up.

Also spend a little time in the sun to balance the cold nature of vata. If you feel sick, sit by a window and allow the light and warmth to seep in. Avoid drafts, put a layer on and as vata is also dry make sure that the air in your room is humid enough. If not get a houseplant or place a metal bowl full of water on a heat source.

Finally as Vatas spend a lot of time in their heads try and focus on your body more with a good yoga session but go for a gentle slow moving class, Yin yoga is a good example. Or do Tai Chi.

Good luck with these, and if in doubt keep in mind one of the tenet of Ayurveda which is “Like increases like” and take steps to “use opposites as medicine”.

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Self-love in the shower

Do I have your attention yet?

From Ashes
From Ashes

It sounds a bit kinky but a very innocent post afterall.

Snehana is the Sanskrit word for oleation or lubrication – and Sneha expresses a feeling of “stupendous love and immense tenderness” (Maya Tiwari).

For years now I had been meaning to introduce daily Abhyanga (warm oil self-massage) but life taking over as it does it is only when I started my Ayurvedic studies with my teacher in the US – Cate Stillman – and listened to her strategy video for the course that I was totally sold on the idea that I must make it an absolute necessity in my daily routine. And I did! A few words from her and I was hooked. From one day to the next I started oil massage as a morning bathroom ritual and have continued without fail. And I’m very glad I did too.

Here are some of the benefits it claims:

– radiant skin

– better circulation

– better sleep

– tones the muscles

– improves elimination of toxins from the skin, blood, plasma and lymph system

– regulates the digestive system

– feeds the inner tissues of the body (dathus)

– boosts the immune system

– calms the nervous system, reduces anxiety

– nurtures body and soul, grounds & gives you that feeling of connection

The list goes on…

And here is how to do it:

Allow between 5 and 20 minutes depending on how much time you are able to give yourself.

Use sesame oil especially in the autumn and winter and all year around if you are of a vata constitution, coconut is best for pittas in the summer time. Kaphas may like olive or mustard oil but will be fine with sesame all year around too. The benefits of sesame oil, and coconut oil for that matter, would require a full post of their own. Always buy food grade oils, organic from a health food store – if good enough to eat then it’s good enough on your skin, after all you are feeding your skin as well as the deeper tissues.

Warm the oil by placing the bottle in hot water for 5 minutes, or if possible to higher than body temperature.

Ideally you would want to start with your head but I for one understand the logistic & time-management restrictions with a 2 year old in toe. If you do then take a small amount of oil then use fingertips to work the scalp deeply, slightly pulling the roots of your hair.

Next massage your face using circular movements all over not forgetting important points like the third-eye, temples, around the eyes by circling along the eyebrow line then along the lower lid area, laugh lines (a face lift tip right there) and also the chin.

Be especially intent when massaging the ears, placing a few drops inside the ear and applying pressure all around the outer ear.

Move on to the neck, front and back, in long strokes then the shoulders with circular movements, the top of your chest including the collarbone in strokes. Next are the arms.

The rule is generally massage in firm long strokes with the palm of your hands on long bones and circular movement on joints, shoulders, elbows, hips, wrists and ankles – and you are massaging from top to bottom and always towards the heart.

Continue moving through the body, one arm then the other, paying extra attention to the hands (palms, knuckles & small joints of each fingers). Abhyanga will help keep breast tissue healthy. The abdomen should be massaged circularly, be gentle though. Massage the liver, pancreas & spleen by reaching under the ribcage. Proceed on to the side of the body then your back, hips, bottom and legs. Again pay extra attention to the feet including sole and toes.

If time allows keep the oil on a few minutes then have a warm bath or shower to both wash the oil off and deepen the benefits of the massage.

Totally overwhelmed by my instructions? Watch this video with Alicia Diaz. She’s a cool cookie in the world of Ayurveda and I’m a bit of a groupie.

I do believe that the massage helps activate the marma points (vital pressure points) and even though I have been a bit shy about owning up to it in public to start with, I truly believe that daily massage has contributed to my weight loss and with feeling and looking better than I have in years. So here you go, now you know my secret!