A Novice’s View of Ayurveda + More Shinrin Yoku

There’s an ancient healing system called Ayurveda. You may have heard about it, but most of us in the Western world are not well-versed in its practices. Over the years, I’ve dabbled with Ayurveda; I adopted some of the practices, I took an introductory class on it, consulted with a practitioner, read books (Deepak Chopra’s Perfect Health is one of the most popular). It’s very complex, but even knowing the small bits I know – I’m still a total novice – has helped me understand health in a more complete way.pgh from a hillThe most basic concept of Ayurveda is the doshas, or body constitutions, which correspond to the 5 elements. I find comparison, metaphor, and visual cues to be immensely helpful in my understanding the body and healing, and thinking about the connection of the doshas with elements helps me to really get it.

In a nutshell, Vata is air and ether, Pitta is fire and water, and Kapha is earth and water. If you think about the attributes of each element, you will start to get a better picture of how this plays out in the body. While most everyone has a dominant constitution (or sometimes 2), imbalances happen that can set one’s ideal doshic balance off.

doggie in the rainSo, I was sitting in my yoga class one day. My teacher always checks in with me before we start, prompting me to check in with my body and mind. I gave her some things to go on and we started our session. We got to a strong grounding pose, and I felt all this emotion rise inside me. It was like a big thank you from inside, a tired sigh followed by an energetic pulse. I told my teacher, “Uh, I just realized that I’ve been feeling really Vata, and I need grounding.”

At the beginning of the session, I thought I knew what was going on with me, but this is a great example of why it’s so important for us not just to check in with ourselves, but also to let go of the questions. Meditation, folks, is invaluable. We can ask and think and wonder too hard, and then we miss what we’ve really been carrying with us. In meditation (yoga poses can be meditative, too!), our busy brains have a chance to relax and we can realize our current state more clearly.

cherry treeThe untethered body, chattering mind on overdrive, and overall weightlessness/groundlessness continued after my yoga session. I slowed down and focused on the solid ground under me, literally and metaphorically. I ate grounding foods, warm spices like ginger and cumin and root vegetables like beets and sweet potatoes. I had small sessions of meditation throughout the day instead of in one chunk of time. I sought the healing powers of nature, shinrin-yoku, earthing, all of it.

A couple days later, I ventured out to the park with Tucker and by the time I returned home I felt a returning to my center, my earthly Kapha balanced my spacey Vata. I almost didn’t go to the park because it was supposed to rain, but I threw caution to the wind and went anyway. We got caught twice in storms, but we had the shelter of the trees. Lesson? When you know what you need, don’t let anything stop you from going forward.

white wisteriaI spent time deep breathing in the silence and letting my thoughts flow in and out. I listened to music and sang along with it. I walked around and created my own melody and poetry. I picked bags of flowers to make aromatherapy mist and got pollen all over my hands. I discovered a new secret spot that’s just for me. I people-watched. The rain showers came and went and I lived in it. My phone, on airplane mode, was for music and nothing else.

wisteriaEven though I was in the city the whole time, when I started toward home, I had the urge to turn right around and head out into the woods with just myself and a tent. How I can feel culture shock when I’d only been out of it for 7-8 hours, I don’t know. But, it was strong. I eased myself back in by stopping at a coffee shop for a cup of herbal tea and then went home to make flower tinctures with the flowers I picked. Another 2 great choices to keep me feeling grounded!

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