Loving this post from Well+Good (apparently we’re not the only ones on a major ayurvedic kick). Please tells us in the comments 1) what your dosha is (if you know it) and 2) what kind of exercise you do. Let’s see who’s balancing and who may be increasing like with like! We’ll start.
Lots of things explain why you love insanely hot, slow Bikram sequences, while your best friend would rather be running the city streets on a 40-degree day.
But from an Ayurvedic perspective, the workout you’re most drawn to may be the one your body needs the least. (Bummer!)
“Like increases like,” says Ayurvedic expert Monica Bloom, author of the blog, Hey Monica B. “So, if you’re a fiery, competitive person (a Pitta constitution in Ayurveda), you’re going to want to literally race. But that will just add more fire. What you really need is to slow down, to create balance.”
And certain times of year can really set off your dosha. Fall, for example, is Vata season according to Ayurveda, so you may feel more scattered and need some grounding yoga sessions. (And put your iPhone down more often.)
So what types of workouts do you and your dosha need? (You can find out your dosha here.) These are Bloom’s workout recommendations for each dosha:
Monica Bloom, the Ayurvedic expert behind the blog, Hey Monica B.
1. VATA What you’ll want to do: Run, cardio What you should do: Barre, Pilates, restorative yoga, strength training
“Vata people are go, go, go,” says Bloom. So, stop. “They don’t eat a lot and don’t have great endurance, so what’s good for them is a routine that’s not too intense and is grounding.” The concentrated, precise movements of a focused barre class, as opposed to running laps, for instance. Yoga is great for Vatas’ characteristically tight muscles and creaky joints.
2. PITTA What you’ll want to do: Competitive sports, triathlons What you should do: Bike riding, running, swimming, yoga
Pitta people are fiery and competitive, and Bloom says if you’ve ever passed out from exercise, you’re probably one of them. (Most of us are way too lazy to take it that far). “Pittas should do something that’s cooling and that they can enjoy alongside their more competitive sports,” she says. “Riding a bike with the wind in their face or swimming without clocking your time are great options.” Important: Don’t. go. to. hot. yoga. (Spontaneous combustion may occur.)
Oh man, you guys are going to have to tell me if you get sick of hearing about Ayurveda, k? After the weeklong retreat I just went on, I have little else on the brain. I learned lots of interesting bits and bobs about this ancient practice of truly preventitive healthcare—and ever the envangelist, I probably won’t shut up about it for some time still.
Siobhan and I have both been talking abhyanga lately, the practice of self massage with body-balancing oils. The wonderful Claudia Welch considers it a key prescription for hormone (and life) balance. But we—and some of you—have expressed a bit of a nagging concern over whether we’re doing it right. Do I just rub-a-dub in warm oil and call it abhyanga? Am I getting the benefits? Probably, yes, just taking the time to (lovingly) massage your body with oil is going to do plenty of good—but there’s more to it than that and I have some practical tips for the whole oil-stains-stuff conundrum too.
On the retreat I received a four-handed abhyanga which, as you may have guessed, involved not one, but two massage therapists (and enough oil to deep fry me). If you’ve never had one of these treatments, I suggest you put it on your bucket list. I get regular massages, but having my feet massaged at the same time as my shoulders? An unmatched joy.
Most of us would have to dig quite a bit to find one of these treatments in our respective cities—suggestions anyone?—so the DIY approach is the more practical option for the day to day. Here are some of my personal tips, and a few things I learned from the pros. It helps to know your dosha, which you can figure out here.
1. Do it in the bath if you have one. Just a bit of practical advice, really, because people get concerned about the mess of oil and such. The bath works great: I just lay a towel down (no water of course) and get to work. I use a lot of oil, but not so much that the towel ends up covered or anything. Still, don’t use the towel your mom got you for Christmas.
2. Warm your oil in a pot of almost-boiling water, and then use that water to shave if you want. I usually pour some oil in a measuring cup, or metal cup with a handle (careful though, the heat transmits quickly with those), and set it in a pot of super-hot, almost boiling water to let it warm. Then I take both the cup of oil and the pot of water to the bath. I use the oil for abhyanga, but then if I want to shave my legs with the oil (as many of us do in these parts), instead of running the tap, I use the super hot water to clean the razor. This was inspired by Krystal’s Morning Routine, where she advised to use super hot water when shaving with coconut oil, to get the oil out of the razor.
3. Try a different touch depending on your dosha type, or current state of mind. The basic method is to start at your feet, using long vertical strokes on your limbs/muscles, and small circular rubbing around the joints. So circlecircle ankles, strokestroke shins and calfs, circlecircle knees etc. I’ll get to the tummy in a moment. But when I received the treatment I was surprised at how vigorous some of those strokes were! Here’s what I learned, depending on your dosha and/or state of mind, change up the stroke. Feeling super anxious or ticked off? Go nice and slow. Feeling groggy and lethargic or cold? Get a little more vigorous and really warm up those limbs and joints. Logical enough, I’d just never thought about it.
4. Choose the right oil for your dosha, or just the season. Because Ayurveda is predicated on the notion that “like increases like,” it’s important to choose an oil that counterbalances your natural state. If you’re a warmer-bodied pitta, coconut oil is recommended for its cooling properties. Whereas if you’re a vata, heavier oils like almond and sesame are where it’s at. In all the texts I’ve read corn oil is recommended for the calmer, slower kapa types. But because that doesn’t sound pleasant, I’d suggest that kaphas choose one of the vata or pitta oils (depending on which is more dominant for them) and then add a bit of orange essential oil to it—this is very good for invigorating kaphas. Consider the season too. Example: Cooling coconut can be good for all the doshas in the heat of summer, and so on.
5. Follow your colon when you massage your stomach. That means up the right side, across and down the left in a counterclockwise direction. Ayurveda is very big on elimination. Enough said.
6. Make it a ritual. My bathroom is pretty dark in the morning, so I light a few candles, burn a little sage and try to get a bit Cleopatra-godessy about the whole thing. Like most women, I struggle with loving my body just as it is. I also work a lot, and generally indulge my more masculine/yang side. So abyhanga, for me, is a time to reconnect to that female energy and be nice to my body instead of telling it crappy things about how it looks and feels.
Aside from all the mental/spiritual benefits of this practice, it also happens to be wonderful for the skin and circulation. Have you tried it? What does it look like for you?
This is a fairly regular occurrence for me: It’s 4am and I’m woken up by something. Maybe it’s a weird dream, maybe I need a glass of water, or I have to pee. And then I’m toast. No matter what I try, I just can’t fall back asleep for about two hours, until I hear the birds chirping and see the early light. Does that ever happen to you?
In Ayurveda, waking up at this time would quickly be diagnosed as a Vata imbalance—because Vata rules that time slot between 2am-6am. And even if your dominant dosha is not Vata, you could be suffering from one too. For a dosha refresher, go here.
A quick recap on the Vata thing: All doshas represent elements, and Vata is air. It’s quick moving and it’s easily aggravated by just about anything: season change, travel, too much wine at dinner, stress, and most other things that are part of modern life. This is why it’s so common that we experience its negative effects. Other telltale signs: Dry skin, anxiety, indigestion, and a sensitivity to cold.
Luckily, for those of us who are frequent Vata sufferers, the onset of warmer weather usually helps balance this out. Of course, for you Pittas out there, that can bring on a whole different kind of imbalance: excess heat in the body, a hard time falling asleep, impatience and irritability.
Anyways, back to the sleep thing. When it happens now, I don’t try to fight it. I know like clockwork that around 6am, suddenly the warm veil of sleep will come back over me. Until then I’ll do everything: meditate, read, come up with ideas for blog posts. I’ve been particularly susceptible lately, because I’ve been both traveling a lot and socializing a lot. Booze and travel will get me every time.
What do you do when you wake up like this in the night? And of course, if you know your dosha… Let’s hear it. I’m a Vata-Kapha, whereas Siobhan is a Pitta-Vata (but with a very strong Vata). So you can imagine this wake-up thing’s a problem for us!
If this isn’t a problem for you, by golly, tell us your tricks for staying balanced.
We’ve talked a fair bit about Ayurveda—the ancient East Indian medical practice—but if you need a refresher on the principles, or want to know your dosha, you can find it all here. In very brief, Ayurveda maintains that we are all made up of three energy elements called doshas, with some dominating more than others depending on the individual.
But these three doshas—called vata (air), pitta (fire) and kapha (earth/water)—also govern seasons, time of day, and more.
Fall, with its cooler temperatures and blustery breezes, is vata incarnate—which means vata types are super susceptible to the shift. But all of us can be thrown out of balance by autumn’s arrival—and most of us have a little vata in it. Unfortunately, it’s the first dosha to get thrown off balance.
For instance, as the soon as the season shifted Siobhan and I both noticed that we weren’t sleeping as well, frequently waking up between 2 and 4 am (a.k.a vata time). It’s also easy to get stressy in the fall; it’s that total back-to-school-time-to-make-something-of-your-life energy. Which is awesome, until it’s keeping you up at night and disrupting your digestion. You get the picture.
So, to give us all a helping hand, I turned to one of my favorite new health practitioners in Los Angeles: Jennie Erke, an ayurvedic doctor who works out of the beautiful Raksala space in Culver City. Jennie’s all about applying Ayurveda to our western lives and I recently had an amazing session with her. She told me ways to balance my diet and energy, and I told her which shampoo I thought she would like. Barter styles! It was so awesome that I asked her to do a little interview for the blog on balancing our lives this fall.
1. So, Siobhan and I need some sleep help! What are your recommendations?
Sleep is the foundation of staying connected to nature’s rhythms. So Ayurveda recommends a bedtime routine. Start with a sesame oil full body massage (abhyanga)—include your head, but not your feet—before your shower or bath (great e.o.’s for vata are rose, geranium, lavender and neroli). Then get into bed (with no TV, computer or exciting novel), rub some sesame or castor oil on your feet, and pull on some socks to protect your sheets. Lights out by 10pm.
The best quality sleep is available from 10-2am. These 4 hours are a Pitta time and recharge your batteries (helping you build prana). Try to get 8-9 hours of sleep during fall and winter. This will help keep vata balanced.
2. Fall can people make a little scatterbrained, right? Tell us how to get our focus back.
Make sure to eat a warm breakfast (rice/oats/quinoa cereal with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger and vanilla almond milk or raw organic cow’s milk. (and as tempting as it may be Vata’s do best to avoid dried fruits.) Then be certain to stay level/balanced and grounded by eating every 2/3 hours. Do not skip meals. This aggravates vata the most. Resulting in too much space and air in the body. Feeling ’spaced out’, or stressed and multitasking, ‘hurrying’ are typical results. Vata needs routine routine routine to stay grounded and focused.
3. If there were three diet recommendations you would tell clients as we transition into a new season, what would they be?
1) Routine! Do not skip meals. Eat every 3 hours. Nuts are great for Vatas to always have with them and a great autumn snack (oils soothe their dry nature and the protein keeps them calm.)
2) Take only warm, cooked foods. Spice is also helpful for digestion. This means no salad because it’s too cold and light and difficult to digest, which can result in gas and bloating for people who are already vata dominant.
3) Drink ginger tea before meals to boost digestive fire. (This can help gas, indigestion and bloating.)
4. Any other tips you can share on seasonal changes?
I save time and mess by making a great scrub so I get my oil massage in the warm shower.
I use bath salts or sugar in the raw, mixed with sesame or coconut oil and essential oils: neroli and ginger (AM) or lavender and chamomile (PM).
5. What’s your favorite ayurvedic beauty ritual?
Stay warm. Always bring a jacket or sweater along. And get some sunshine by taking a morning walk (but not a jog or run) in nature.
Thanks Jennie! I’m going to have to work hard on routine, my greatest downfall, and try to get back into an earlier sleep pattern. What will you try to adjust this fall?
It just doesn’t seem right. Why would the food with the most nutrition, the one that makes us look our best, be so hard for some to eat?
A few weeks ago we talked about The China Study, a compelling book that sets about proving how animal protein may be linked to Western diseases. After reading it, I’m more inspired than ever to load up on greens. In fact, I’d be happy to subsist on a plant-based diet alone, as the author proposes, if only I could digest one.
But more often than not, eating veg for many means dealing with a distended belly, gas, and pain. A quick Google search shows this to be a common affliction—do any of you suffer from it?
According to Ayurveda, as someone who is Vata dominant (if you want to know your dosha, revisit this post), I am predisposed to tummy troubles. Many factors may be at play: Time of day seems to matter (afternoon snacking tends to wreak havoc), cold weather definitely aggravates it. But even warm, cooked, vegetables smothered in healthy oils (as Ayurveda recommends for Vatas) can cause problems for this girl.
If you are a fellow sufferer, what have you done to improve your condition? Do you take enzymes? Do you subscribe to the blood type theory? Do you avoid certain vegetables? Do you chew thirty times between bites? Let’s hear it.