I Feel Good… But Not *That* Good

Let there be light at the end of the tunnel.
Let there be light at the end of the tunnel.
When I left my day job at NPR ten years ago (gulp), I went on to Erik’s health insurance with his employer. When he left his day job two years ago to become a freelancer/entrepreneur/construction worker (gulp again), we had a big decision to make. Do we continue health coverage through COBRA? Way expensive. Do we purchase our own health insurance? Also way expensive, and even more so if we were to keep the same level of coverage we enjoyed through his employer. Or, do we risk it and go health-care-coverage-free until one of us stumbles across an employer willing to offer us this important piece of social safety net?

For better or worse, we chose option three. Thank goodness there were no major issues for either one of us in the last two years. We knew we were taking a big risk.

I can say that now because recently we evidently were approved for health care coverage on our own. By our own little selves. This is still in process, but we must have been approved because they have already taken our payment. Hopefully soon we will get our insurance cards.

When I noticed on the bank statement that our payment went through I felt a palpable thread in the fabric of my life get a little stronger. Now, don’t be mistaken, this is catastrophic insurance, our deductible is $10,000 (gulp 3x)… but at least the other members of our families will not be burdened if something horrible were to happen to one of us.

The only reason I’m bringing this up here is to point out that Erik and I are pretty average human beings. We are both smart enough… we just happen to want to work for ourselves and therefore not only are we charged with extra tax due to self-employment, in the past we had been effectively excluded from health care coverage. We are not an unusual case, and this is late in the game for me to chime in to this conversation. I am consciously not making this a political rant, but something is wrong in American society when you are required by law to have auto insurance but, until now, health insurance was your own choice.

As a yoga teacher, I believe strongly in preventive medicine — and in the power of the individual to take care of him or herself through lifestyle choices and behaviors first. But at some point in everyone’s life, a doctor will be necessary, and thank goodness we as a society are a little bit closer to everyone having an opportunity to see a doctor when in need.

Go back to Dealing With Distraction.
Go forward to Mamacita Costa Rica.

Dealing with Distraction

Photo by Erik Dunham
Photo by Erik Dunham
I am currently teaching a Meditation For Stress Relief course at Willow Street Yoga Center in Silver Spring. We are cultivating a state of witness consciousness in which we can sit and accept whatever thought or feeling arises as it happens by observing without passing judgement. Recently a student asked me about how she can maintain better focus when she is sitting because she seems to always notice sounds — someone walking, a cough, a siren in the distance. Here is my response:

Sustaining focus is a big part of the practice! There will always be things that distract us, so first of all, just knowing that is the case can help relieve you of some of the burden of “should.” For example, “I should have better focus than I do,” or “I should be able to sit still and not be distracted for longer than 2 minutes!” When something distracts you, it is natural to notice it, but can you notice it without falling into the “should” trap or without having a physical reaction, like the adrenaline rush if it is a loud, scary noise for example. Simply notice it and return your attention to your point of focus for your practice. (Unless that loud scary noise is actually a warning of impending danger. Must beware of danger.) Continually returning your awareness to your point of focus is major.

So the question is not necessarily how can I sustain better focus? But the question becomes, how can I accept fully each moment as it arises? If that moment is one of silence and focus, all the better; if that moment is one of a distracting noise, or a phone call, or an appointment that you do not want to attend, can you allow yourself to be in that moment without getting too caught up in the drama, in the story of it.

Meditation practice helps smooth the edges. Over time, your awareness no longer has huge swings from happiness to sadness, pleasure to pain, anxiety to calm. Over time you learn to maintain a more even keel which actually brings about a state of “satchidananda.” The yogis call this state our true nature. And our birthright as human beings.

Sat = being or existence, the truth of our lives
Chid = conscious awareness, knowing that we exist
Ananda = joy or bliss

As they say, we are not human beings having spiritual experiences, we are spiritual beings having human experiences. Like standing on your head, this shift of perspective can turn the world upside down. In a good way.

Go back to Durga Mahashakti.

Go forward to I Feel Good… But Not That Good.

Durga Mahashakti

DurgaAs promised a little sumpthin’ sumpthin’ about Durga. She has been my go-to girl of late. Her name means Tough Going or Difficult to Know or Hard to Conquer, many shades of a similar idea. Really, she is unknowable because she is invisible, but she is always ready for you when you call. She is invisible because she is inherent in the atmosphere, her awareness is dispersed everywhere and in all things, but so subtle that she cannot be perceived. Until you call her.

And then if you look to the mountaintop, reality fractures like many shards of glass, and from the space within the cracks, her form emerges, radiant with a red-gold light, almond eyes, flowing black hair, dressed impeccably in a red sari, with eight arms holding shining weapons like a mace and a bow, a noose, a conch, riding her tiger and laughing like thunder.

She is the Divine force that contains all other forces. You can recognize Durga in strong winds, crashing waves, and bonfires. Autumn is her season (something to look forward to!). She is the impulse to protect and she is courage that arises from the heart.

If there is a burning building, she is the first responder who runs into it to assist. If all of the beauty of the world is consumed by two hungry, greedy, demon-king brothers, she is the warrior who appears to relinquish them and restore balance to the world.

In my own life things are a little topsy-turvy as Erik and I continue to renovate a 1950’s split level house into the earth-friendly home we dream it will be. He just happens to be off teaching art at Coker College in South Carolina for the fall semester… and even my yoga teaching schedule has changed pretty dramatically this fall. When things get all shaken up, it is fun to imagine the Durga archetype breaking free of her atmospheric dissolution to coalesce into a sharp-shooting, tough-as-nails beauty who is the cosmic protector and empowering mother all at once.

As Douglas Brooks says, “you are every character in the story.” Durga POWER!

Return to: Namaste Floyd Yoga Jam 2013.

Go forward to Dealing With Distraction.

Namaste Floyd Yoga Jam 2013

FYJ welcome I just got back from my second year at Floyd Yoga Jam. This year’s meditation was on Durga, the Warrior Goddess and Protectress of all that is just and honest and good. More on her in another post. Again it was a great time and the music was even better with Donna de Lory, Durga Das, DJ Drez and MC Yogi as guests. And please don’t let me forget local (relatively) favorites Bryan Elijah Smith and the Wildhearts.

Beryl Bender Birch led several classes that I really enjoyed. She is quite down-to-earth as one would expect a person who’s been meditating for 40 years to be, and she had many good things to say regarding the benefits of yoga and how to incorporate the practices into your life.

But what I want to mention this morning is the greeting from those driving down the back roads on the way to and from the YOJam. Have you seen this out in rural areas? People drive with a hand near the top of the wheel, and when they pass you they lift a finger. Index Finger. Not the one next to it that could mean something quite different. The one index finger lift is a greeting. A simple acknowledgement that you and I are both out here on this skinny road that is two lanes but at some points seems more like one. When people would do this to me, of course I would do it back — I’ve seen this before where my parents live in Lake Gaston, VA, and it is definitely rude to not respond — and it made me think about how such a simple gesture acknowledges a profound aspect of being human. We are in this together.

In the middle of relatively no where, which I am judging by lack of cell phone service, people acknowledge each other just for being there. It is a great practice. Here we are, never met before, but I know that you know that we have a shared human experience. Why not just be cordial to each other? Well, why not?

Take the greeting in yoga, and of course throughout India and other Asian countries too… Namaste. It is like Aloha, or even Shalom, in that it can be used as hello and goodbye. It means salutations, greetings. Douglas Brooks puts a nice spin on it when he examines the root word nama. He talks about how nama can mean “I defer” to you. And defer is in the sense of equals, not subordination in any way. Namaste is a deference to what is great and auspicious within you. I acknowledge that you are a being of light and consciousness and because I am the same, I see you, acknowledge and accept you just as you are with all of your gifts and your challenges, in short, your human-ness. With the recognition that you accept all of my human-ness too.

Field of WildflowersWhat a relief to not have to put on a show for someone. When we meet each other where we are, so much unnecessary tension dissolves. It is defused. It becomes easier to smile when you meet someone new, rather than wondering ‘what can I get from this person?’ or ‘how can this person help me?’ Just simply be there. Together.

If you meet someone who has exceptional artistic ability and you get to enjoy their art, we are all better people for it. Likewise with talented musicians or writers or even doctors or healers. We all have unique talents, and when we develop them and hone our skills, we all become better for it. Namaste is an acknowledgement that we are all in this together and we are all human with our greatness and our challenges, our joys and sorrows, our laughter and our fears. I love the one-index-finger-lift-greeting in southern Virginia.

The light within me honors and greets the light within you. Namaste.

Next up: Durga Mahashakti.
Return to: Yoga Indulgence 2013.

Yoga Indulgence 2013

Lucy Lomax, E-RYT-500, and I are pleased to announce that our fall yoga retreat, Yoga Indulgence, at Kent Manor Inn on the eastern shore is now SOLD OUT! This will be our fifth year on Kent Island and we are looking forward to seeing those of you who registered there. As always, there will be plenty of yoga classes as well as yoga nidra, meditation, and kirtan plus free time to walk, kayak, bike ride, sit quietly — whatever you choose. The retreat is all-inclusive. Chef at KMI is always accommodating to any kind of dietary need and the food is always delicious! Please see our brochure below and put your name on the waiting list in case of a cancelation.

YI2013brochureOutsideSmall
YI2013brochureInsideSmall

Next up: Namaste Floyd Yoga Jam 2013.
Return to: Mantra Wisdom.

Mantra Wisdom

Snelson Tensegrity sculptureLet’s diverge from Ayurveda for a bit. One of the things I like to do to entertain myself is, after my morning meditation practice, I’ll pick up a book, often a poetry book, and flip to any page and read what is there waiting for me. It’s entertaining because there is always something different to think about.

Today, Mary Oliver was first. When I Wake Early is a great collection of poems about nature and At Black River is a haunting poem about an alligator. “Don’t think/I’m not afraid./There is such an unleashing/of horror.”

I didn’t want to end on that note, so I picked up Tantra Illuminated by Christopher Wallis and flipped randomly to page 141, Pure Mantra-Wisdom, Shuddha-vidyaa. It was quite appropriate because this week in my classes we’ve been embodying the inherent wisdom of the universe. Prana is vital life force and has consciousness, and when we breathe fully and move with the breath, we infuse that consciousness into every cell of our bodies. When muscles are tight, prana cannot flow properly. Do yoga to stretch and open our bodies and we feel better because there is clarity in the channels in which prana flows.

In some of those classes, we’ve been chanting the seed sound, bija mantra, for the heart center, anaahata chakra, YAM. Through the chant, our bodies get vibrated with the sound. Sometimes it is even palpable. Subtle, but real. The mantras carry awareness.

Then this morning I was reminded that the feminine form of the word mantra is vidyaa, wisdom. The idea is that the vibration is the conscious thing. This is the beauty of the Sanskrit language, the letters/sounds/syllables evolve from the actual vibration of the created world. If you chant “yam,” you feel it at the heart (if you are so sensitive). Of course this takes lots of practice and trust at first, but slowly slowly the yogi begins to recognize it for herself. Wallis says that we know this doctrine that mantras are conscious was taken seriously because the texts tell us that “if the guru grants initiation into the Tantra to someone who subsequently falls from the path, then that guru must perform a special ritual to apologize to the mantras for putting them to work needlessly.” (p.141)

LakshmiOm Shrim Mahaalakshmyai Namah — the very vibration “is the Goddess Lakshmi in sound form.” (p.141) The vibration is abundance and beauty, elegance and radiant diversity. At this level of awareness the yogi experiences the diversity of energies that arise from a single source, conscious awareness that abides as the vibrational fluctuation and the ground of being itself.

Yam might be simpler to comprehend since it is directly connected to one’s own body at the heart. It is a great place to begin. Or end. Or abide within.

Don’t think I am not afraid. There is such an unleashing of wonder.

Next up: Yoga Indulgence 2013.
Return to The Depth of Great Taste.

The Depth of Great Taste

Veggie KormaLast night we just finished season 4 of Mad Men. SPOILER ALERT! It ends with Don Draper getting engaged to his secretary and he has to break up with Dr. Faye. Dr. Faye is quite distraught on the phone with him and her comment to Don was to make sure that the secretary knows that he only likes the beginnings of things. Yes, we are playing catch up on episodes, but thank you very much Netflix.

Who doesn’t like the beginnings of things? Springtime, learning about the other person in a new relationship, your first stand-up paddleboard yoga class. The promise of adventure awaits. It’s like that with food too… the first thing you notice is how it tastes. Smell and presentation play an important role as does the setting in which you eat. Have you noticed when you eat in a relaxed setting, everything just tastes better? When you are comfortable, not in a rush, and food looks, smells, and tastes delicious, your digestion is much better too.

In my last post we discussed the beginnings of digestion — taste. The sat rasa, the concept of six tastes, is an important component of Ayurveda and is helpful in encouraging good digestion too. But if we only care about beginnings, that is superficial and not sustainable over the long term. Food has a taste, but as it moves through your system, it also has a virya, potent energy, and a vipaka, post-digestive effect. Both are important components to good health.

Virya
SUP headstand
Virya means energy, strength, potency, or power. After food is chewed well and swallowed, it moves to your stomach and small intestine. What does the energy from the food feel like in your body then? Generally, it can be described using pairs of opposites, in particular hot-cold, heavy-light, oily-dry, and soft-sharp. Regarding virya, hot and cold will be the dominant pair. You may have a tangible experience or even intuitively be able to guess what sort of effect certain foods will have inside you. For example, sweet foods generally have a cooling quality which would pacify pitta dosha but perhaps aggravate kapha dosha. Pungent foods generally have a heating energy that can improve digestive fire if that happens to be only smoldering inside you.

There are exceptions to these. Honey and molasses are sweet, but they both have a heating effect. Raw sugar, maple syrup, or brown rice syrup are cooling sweeteners. Limes are sour and sour taste is usually heating, but limes have a cooling energy to them.

A normal amount of food with a heating virya generally promotes metabolic activity, therefore it increases your metabolism and body temperature, enhances circulation, and can promote strong agni and digestion. Too much heating virya can cause “burn-out” or even acid indigestion, hypoglycemia, and inflammation.

A normal amount of food with a cooling virya usually stimulates anabolic activity, meaning growth or in ayurvedic terms it will build bodily tissue. It will slow agni or digestion, relieve burning, irritation, and inflammation, and decrease body temperature. Too much of the cooling virya can cause abnormal growth, dull digestive fire, poor digestion and malabsorption and ultimately increase ama.

Vipaka
As food moves into the colon, rasa continues to unfold with a post-digestive effect. Vipaka is what brings rasa to its conclusion. Either the nutrients and other components of food are absorbed in the system or they are excreted, and this is how we tell what effect the vipaka has on a body. Ayurveda uses three of the six tastes to describe the post digestive effect: sweet, sour, and pungent. Generally sweet and salty rasas have a sweet vipaka, sour rasa has sour vipaka, and pungent, bitter, and astringent rasas have pungent vipaka.

Sweet vipaka promotes tissue growth and anabolic functions of the body, so it can be said that sweet vipaka has a building function and increases kapha. It also aids in proper elimination through feces, urine, and sweat.

Sour vipaka promotes metabolic function and therefore increases pitta. It can create acidic pH in bodily secretions and has a reducing quality on tissues in the body. This one can cause loose stools if there is too much heat.

Pungent vipaka increases catabolic activity in the body. What you say? I had to look it up — catabolic activity encourages the breakdown of complex molecules into simpler ones and often creates energy during the process. Pungent vipaka increases vata dosha, which is the energetic, mobile, creative quality in the body. In excess, this one can cause constipation.

Conclusion
So ultimately, we are looking for what can maintain healthy balance of all the functions within the human body ecosystem. We want to enjoy the beginnings of our food — does it look, taste, and smell appetizing? But it doesn’t end there. How does food feel once it enters your stomach? If it causes gas, bloating, indigestion, or other discomfort, there may be some imbalance in its virya, perhaps due to improper food combining. That’s a whole ‘nother post. And what about the end result of rasa — vipaka? Does the food you eat help you maintain a healthy weight and provide enough energy for you to carry out your daily activities? If so congratulations to you, that is no easy task in this fast-food culture.

Meanwhile, can Don Draper dig beneath the surface of a relationship to make this marriage last? It takes more than an exciting beginning to maintain something lasting. (Don’t tell me… we start season 5 tonight!)

Next up: Mantra Wisdom.
Return to: Balanced Diet = Balanced Taste.

Balanced Diet = Balanced Tastes

Photo by Kathryn Andrews
Photo by Kathryn Andrews
Good morning. Last week I mentioned the tenth suggestion for fascial fitness is to keep active and eat a balanced diet. Seems like there are so many theories out there on how to eat well and maintain proper weight. Despite the fact that I love numbers, I abhor counting calories, and so the Ayurvedic approach to eating well is much more appealing to me.

A balanced diet according to Ayurveda has much nuance based on your own personal constitution, but a good starting point is knowing about the Sat Rasa, the six tastes.

“Our tastebuds do much more than simply identify tastes; they unlock the nutritive value of foods and provide the initial spark to the entire digestive process.” [Eat, Taste, Heal, Thomas Yarema et al, p.43] As they say in Ayurveda, you are what you digest.

The starting point of the six tastes is the Ayurvedic paradigm of the world being composed of five basic elements — earth, water, fire, air, and space. Each taste is a combination of two of these five and therefore have corresponding qualities to match:

1. Sweet – earth and water; heavy, moist, cooling
2. Sour – earth and fire; light, moist, heating
3. Salty – water and fire; heavy, moist, heating
4. Pungent – air and fire; light, dry, heating
5. Bitter – space and air; light, dry, cooling
6. Astringent – air and earth; heavy, dry, cooling

To be completely satisfied, one should include all six tastes during every meal. Practically speaking, for me personally this is often a challenge, so I make myself content attempting to get all six tastes in any particular day. Some days are better than others, and some tastes are easier to come by then others.

Sweet is the first, and the most abundant. This does not mean simply sugar. Other “sweet” foods are most grains like wheat and rice, milk, butter, and cream, some beans like limas, sweet fruits, and some vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets.

Sour foods include citrus fruits like lemon, lime and grapefruit, yogurt, cheeses, sour cream, and fermented products like wine, vinegar, sauerkraut, and soy sauce.

Salty foods might be more obvious, anything that you add salt to, like nuts, chips, or pickles, sea vegetables like kelp or nori, and even celery is considered salty. (Sometimes the taste is very subtle.)

These three tastes are considered building tastes. If you eat a lot of them, you will build tissue in your body — all kinds of tissue, including muscle and fat.

The second set of three tastes are considered reducing tastes. If you eat more of these, there is a cleansing effect that helps your body reduce stored energy, generally in the form of adipose tissue.

Pungent foods are spicy, think chili peppers, garlic, onions, and spices themselves, black pepper, ginger, cumin.

Bitter foods include leafy green veggies such as spinach, kale, green cabbage, chard, zucchini, eggplant, as well as turmeric, fenugreek, and dandelion roots and leaves. Cate Stillman of yogahealer.com says that wild foods like dandelion are superfoods that can replace long lost minerals from your body and also detox your liver, blood, and fat.

Astringent foods generally are harder to name because astringent taste is harder to identify. You know how after you eat cranberries or pomegranates your mouth tends to pucker a little and feel dry? That helps to identify astringent taste. Other examples would be certain beans again like lentils and chickpeas, and also pears, dried fruits, broccoli, cauliflower, artichoke, asparagus, turnip, rye, buckwheat, quinoa, coffee and tea.

Many foods are a combination of tastes. I’m thinking of coffee here, it is astringent but it is also bitter. Beans are sweet and astringent. Oranges are sour and sweet.

Photo by Kathryn Andrews
Photo by Kathryn Andrews
The authors of Eat, Taste, Heal tell us, “Food speaks to us directly through taste. A juicy pear may call out to us with a gentle message of delight, while the flaming chili pepper cries out in warning. As we tune into the tastes naturally desired by the body, we tap into the body’s innate wisdom regarding food and nutrition.” [p.43]

Yoga practice including asana and meditation helps one tune in to the wisdom of the body. This takes time and dedication, but it is possible to attune yourself to your health needs. When you slow down and listen to your body, appetite and cravings mellow to the point where they do not dominate your life and you can make proper choices based on desire rather than denying yourself the pleasure of taste.

“If you observe no other guidelines, at least do not eat too fast or too often.” [Prakriti, Robert Svoboda, p.87] They say your stomach should be full with 1/2 food, 1/4 water, and 1/4 air. Slow down and TASTE your food.

Next up: The Depth of Great Taste.
Return to Fascianation: CTF V.

Fascianation: CTF V

Welcome to the fifth and final installment of the 10 Steps to Fascial Fitness. Special thanks to Tom Myers, author of Anatomy Trains.

7. Gentle Perseverance A: You can go far when you go consciously.

This is perfect for yoga practitioners. Work and family commitments often cause one to rush without thinking from one activity to the next. A week, a month, a year, moves rapidly by when one is continually over-scheduled. If you move quickly and without thinking in yoga, you may find some benefit, but when you slow things down in order to really get to know the sensation within a posture, that is when your connective tissue becomes your friend, and your yoga experience truly blossoms.

Think of Virabhadrasana II for example. When you take the outer form of the pose, it helps to build strength in your ankles, feet, legs, and hips, while you experience a greater sense of lift and lengthening in the spine and openness of the upper body in general. If you linger in the pose, yes, your muscles will feel more intensity, but your awareness will sink deeper. You notice a certain grounding stability through the lower body that leads to a sense of spaciousness around your heart. It is a warrior pose, the yogi is battling lethargy or fatigue (among other things perhaps), in order to access her own birthright — consciousness and freedom and happiness. Linger further and the breath opens up in a way that allows you to reap the benefits of clarity in the pranic channels called nadi. This is much more fun when felt — it’s the hit you get when you reach the sweet spot in a pose. (akin to Runner’s high, perhaps?)

Photo by Erik Dunham
Photo by Erik Dunham
Especially in more challenging postures like eka pada rajakapotasana, slowing your movements down to be fully aware in each moment will help tremendously in allowing you to deepen your experience.

A note about coming out of a pose: most injury in yoga occurs when releasing a posture. This is often because the yogi figures the work is done, I can let go without thinking. But the moment you let go of conscious movement is the moment you become most vulnerable. A posture is not complete until you safely dismount, to use a gymnastics term. As one of my teachers used to say, it is not about how far you go… it is about how you go far.

8. Gentle perseverance B: Think long-term progress. The tortoise wins the race.

In very real physical terms, muscles can reshape in a matter of weeks. It takes six to 24 months for fascia to reshape. Patience and perseverance will be helpful, and necessary.

Our culture has trained us to want things right now, when we want them. If something is wrong, you can usually buy something to make it better — or better yet, take a pill for what ails you. But these are short-term fixes that often only treat symptoms and not the cause. It takes patience and perseverance to address an issue at its core. And, if you don’t treat the underlying cause of the issue, whether physical or psychological, it will keep recurring until you do. You can count on that.

In considering long term progress, the first step to me is to recognize that you are already perfect just the way you are. You are how you are because of all of the things that have happened to lead you to this point. Perfect. Nobody else is exactly like you. The yogis have a term for that, purna, which means fullness and it also means perfection. This to me means that if you are experiencing life to the fullest, if you are doing your best, then everything is already perfect. Your job then becomes to reveal more and more of your self. Just do your best. What a concept, huh?

There is no need to rush. The hare ran and ran and got tired and burnt out. Set an intention to live fully as you are and simply allow things to unfold. Do your yoga practice and “all is coming.” Thank you Shri K. Pattabhi Jois.

And finally,
10. Move it or lose it. Be active and eat a good diet.

The human body is a marvelous machine. It is a conduit for vital energy. If we continuously sit still, joints get creaky and stiff, you know how it is. Your body is meant to move. Walking, dancing, riding a bike, playing sports, practicing yoga… whatever it may be for you, movement lubricates the joints and the connective tissue. Your heart pumps blood throughout your body so cells and tissues can be nourished, but what moves the water through the fascia? Movement. What allows lymph to circulate to improve your immunity? Movement. What keeps muscles supple and strong? Movement. What feels good when we do it? Movement.

Are you sensing a theme here?

Eating a good diet is a more complicated matter. There are many theories on how to eat. Ayurveda has lots of good suggestions for the proper diet for your dosha, or body constitution. I think that will be the next blog post. For now, let’s stick with plenty of fresh, preferably local, fruits and vegetables, rice and other whole grains, and legumes. Take less dairy, and even less still of meat and processed foods.

See you on the mat!

Next Up: Balanced Diet = Balanced Tastes.
Return to: Fascianation: CTF IV.

Fascianation: CTF IV

Snelson Tensegrity sculpture7. You are unique. Respect your body.

In many ways we humans are the same, but in many ways we humans are completely individual. The one-size-fits-all prescription for health and wellness is just not possible. You are fully in control of your own self, and more than that, your body has an innate wisdom that you would do well to listen to. I often witness how people, my students, my family, myself included, unconsciously act as if we have no control over our actions. A shift in perspective is sorely needed.

Expansive consciousness is the source of being. There is an underlying pattern in all things and we are all subject to that rhythm, that pulsation. Animals and plants in nature have no choice but to follow this underlying structure. But lucky us, we humans have the ability to choose whether we want to align with nature or whether we want to completely and rebelliously strike out on our own.

I like to think balance is the key, asserting your own freedom, but knowing why you make that choice. Maintaining that balance is a big part of yoga practice, the more you practice, the more you understand yourself — who you are and why you do what you do. Choices are no longer unconscious.

So, regarding fascia, Tom Myers explains physiological differences based on the “Viking” or the “temple dancer” models. A Viking comes from a northern climate, is relatively strong, with thicker skin and a hearty, tougher constitution. A temple dancer hails from a southern warmer climate and is more lithe and flexible. In this scenario, very broadly speaking, Vikings would do exercise that helps them become more limber and temple dancers would do exercise to help them become stronger.

Ayurveda is more specific in its description of different body types. There are three main categories, called dosha, in which human bodies can be described. These dosha develop out of the five elements – earth, water, fire, air, and space. I will list them here:

Vata Dosha
Consisting of air and space elements, a Vata person has a relatively slender build, loses weight easily and has trouble gaining weight. Her energy level is variable and comes in short bursts, her appetite is unpredictable and her skin tends toward dryness and is darker in tone. She is a light sleeper and often has difficulty falling asleep, and she prefers weather that is warm and moist as opposed to cool and dry.

Pitta Dosha
Consisting of fire and water elements, a Pitta person has a medium build and can gain or lose weight relatively easily. Her energy and activity level is high, her appetite is strong and she eliminates well. Her skin tends toward oily and is ruddy in tone. Her sleep varies and she tends to prefer cooler weather; hot weather can cause her irritability.

Kapha Dosha
Consisting of earth and water elements, a Kapha person has a full build and has trouble losing weight. Her energy level may be slow to get going but she has plenty of long-term stamina. Digestion might be weak and she might often feel heavy after meals. Her skin is paler and will be smooth and more oily. She generally has deep, sound sleep, and she prefers hot weather over cold or damp.

Most of us are some combination of the three dosha. If you did not take the constitution quiz with the last post, you may find it here.

What does this mean for fascial fitness? If you listen to your own body, you will notice on certain days you have more or less energy, appetite, and so on. Let your exercise be guided by this awareness.

If Vata is dominant, you would want your yoga to balance those qualities, slower movements and longer holds of postures, things that build heat in the body. Practice poses that have a more grounding quality, like forward bends, hip openers and twists.

For Pitta, your yoga practice can include poses with more cooling and calming effect. Side bending and rhythmic flows will be helpful. Slow, deep breathing during postures held for a medium amount of time will encourage the calming effects of practice.

And for Kapha, let your practice be more energizing. Sun salutations and other poses that will get you moving with shorter holds are ideal. Backward bending poses can help move the water element and break up the stagnancy the earth element can cause.

Again, most of us are some combination of these body types. Generally speaking, getting up with the sunrise to meditate and exercise for at least 20 minutes – doing yoga or even walking – to get your circulation going will work wonders for the fascia. One of my yoga teachers once said, “After lunch rest a while, after dinner walk a mile.”

Balance is key in all things. Practice listening to your intuition. Do not work too hard and take time each day to be thankful for your own unique and wonder-filled gifts.

Next up: Fascianation: CTF V.
Go back to Fascianation: CTF III.

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