Intro to Ayurveda: Grounding Vata

Hi friends! Happy almost-Friday. 🙂 We are back from the hospital (wahoo!!) and starting to get in the swing of things. Thank you again for all of the lovely wishes this week, and hanging in there while we’re getting settled as a family of four (six with the pups!). This week, I have some special posts going up. This first one is from a dear friend of mine, Kristen, whom I first met while I was in Orlando and working at lululemon. She is one of the kindest and most genuine women that I know, and I was instantly blown away by her yoga knowledge and impressive practice. I was able to take many of her yoga classes in Orlando, and they were magical. She is also the founder of Ayurveda Orlando, and has so much knowledge to share. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did! It’s helpful to have Ayurveda demystified a bit. 🙂

Kristen

Words are just words. It’s the meaning behind the words that count. I understand the trepidation that comes with learning something new, especially when it includes unfamiliar words and concepts. I’ve felt intimidated by subjects that seem foreign, grandiose and esoteric. But what I’ve found is that once they’re clearly explained to me, I begin to see how simple the meanings can be. Once I understand, I get excited! I see how the themes directly apply to my life. With newfound knowledge, I begin to explore, experiment and play, and more often than not, my life improves. If you can relate, I have a gift for you!

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I want to tell you about Ayurveda, pronounced “r-u-veda”. This snazzy little form of science and medicine originated in Ancient India over 5,000 years ago. You might think, “5,000 years ago? How is that going to apply to me today?” Great question! Because the principles of Ayurveda are grounded in fundamental laws of nature, they are as relevant today as any other point in time. And because the core concepts of Ayurveda reconnect us to the laws of nature, I dare to say they are more necessary and vital now than ever. 

Ayurveda teaches us that there are three doshas, which are categories of elements. Each dosha governs an assortment of physical characteristics, as well as a slew of mental and emotional attributes. The three doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each dosha corresponds with a season of the year, and Fall is Vata season. Allow me to introduce you to the characteristics of Vata.

Vata is made of space and air. Let’s give Vata a nickname. We’ll call her Wind. People with a lot of wind are typically small boned, thin and either really tall or really short. They tend to have dry and rough skin, hair and nails. Wind types are known for being creative, intuitive, easily excitable, and adaptable. These individuals love movement and travel. This is all fantastic! But when wind types go out of balance they may experience gas, bloating, constipation, cracking joints, worry, anxiety, insomnia, and forgetfulness. In short, Vata, or wind, types can get a little spacey. Sound like you? Then you may have a Vata constitution or are currently in a state of Vata. 

Because of the current culture of our hyper-stimulated, quick-moving world, most of us, regardless of our true constitution, have a Vata imbalance to some degree. Vata thrives off movement, speed and stimulation, but when these things scurry in excess it’s easy to feel frazzled. Since fall is Vata season, the propensity for Vata-like imbalances to occur is higher now than other times of the year. In such, we will focus on balancing Vata. 

Let’s paint a picture of a textbook case of high Vata. I wake up feeling rushed. I quickly brush my teeth, throw on clothes, snatch what I need for the day and toss it in a bag. I grab a piece of fruit or protein bar, run to my car, swerve and beep through traffic while listening to tunes and changing the station at the start of every commercial I don’t like. I get to work, feeling overwhelmed by the chaos on my desk, jet through it and surf the internet. I sneak out quickly for coffee and a bagel, gulp my latte and scarf down bites in between calls. Oh no, I’m late for a meeting, then I gotta grab the kids from school. Eeeks, I nearly forgot the gym. I race to run on the treadmill. Shower. Eat. Try to unwind. Watch TV. Answer emails. Check Facebook. Go to bed. Get up to pee. Toss and turn. Finally pass out. Repeat. Sound familiar? 

I used to live many days not too dissimilar from this. I usually swayed between anxious and exhausted. I suffered from gas, bloating and constipation. I was often overwhelmed and, despite my better intentions, short-fused. And to top it off, my cycle was either absent or excruciatingly painful.

While this might sound extreme, the more I talk to friends and other women, the more I realize this is often accepted as the norm. But Ayurveda teaches us that just because something is common, doesn’t mean it’s normal. There’s nothing normal about burning the wick at both ends, rushing around like chickens with our heads cut off, and relying on coffee, diet soda and Advil or Midol to make it through our days. 

Ayurveda teaches us that to create peace, balance and health we need to bring in the opposites. If we’re hurried, we must slow down. If we’re doing too much, we should do less. If we’re cold, we should bring in warmth. If we’re dry, we should introduce moisture. Simple. Yes?

You may be thinking that this “seems easy enough, but how do I apply this to my life?” Well let’s take the previous example. The exhausted woman had a lot to do and seemingly not enough to time to do it. She was juggling a lot of balls, functioning off caffeine and adrenaline, and was experiencing burn out. In short, she felt depleted. 

Let’s do her a favor and overlay that day with the nuggets of support from Ayurveda. 

Now she wakes up 20 minutes earlier. She doesn’t feel rushed getting ready. She even has time to sit down, sip warm water with lemon and eat a bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon or an egg white omelette. 

On the way to work she listens to ambient, pleasant music or an inspirational track by Wayne Dyer, Marianne Williamson or someone of interest. She uses the time in the car to clear her mind and find inspiration.

She gets to work and makes a list, prioritizing the things she needs to get done that day. Because she’s functioning from a grounded place of clarity, she ploughs through her to-dos.

She takes pause for lunch. She walks down the street for a hot tea and bowl of soup or warm wrap. She takes time to sit, eat and enjoy her food because she knows this will give her the fuel and energy she needs to enjoy the rest of her day with an appropriate blend of efficiency and calmness. 

She returns to work for an afternoon of calls and meetings and she starts to feel a wave of stress. She pauses to take a few deep breaths. She’s back! She ties up loose ends, writes herself a note for the next day and heads out.

She always keeps a gym bag, dates and nuts in her car. She eats a few dates and nuts as a snack on the way to the gym. She hops on the elliptical for 20 minutes, does a few crunches and stretches. She notices how rejuvenating that feels. 

She drinks room temperature water on the way to pick up the kids. She’s a little tired but finds comfort in knowing the day is winding down. She wants to keep dinner light and easy. At home she puts chicken in the oven, checks Facebook, responds to her final emails for the evening and helps the kids with homework and after school activities.

She throws veggies into the wok, ensuring everything tastes yummy by adding ghee and spices. She sits down to actually taste and enjoy dinner. 

The house gets quieter as everyone winds down. She rubs a light layer of sesame oil over her body and she gently massages it into her skin. She feels instantly soothed. She takes a warm shower, then spritzes a little rose water on her face and dabs a little coconut oil under her eyes. 

She steps into the kitchen one final time for the night to heat her almond milk or hot water. She makes Golden Milk (a blend of turmeric, ginger and spices) or chamomile tea. She sips the warm beverage and feels like she’s drinking relaxation. She heads to bed to listen to a meditation track and read. She sweetly drifts off to sleep. 

She wakes up feeling rested and ready to begin the new day! 

Sound idyllic? Well it is. And it’s possible too. Our friend was able to accomplish as much, if not more, than before. Not only was she more productive, she did it from a place of steadiness and harmony. She created a template and structure for her day that allowed nourishment of both the body and the mind to balance out the stimulation and movement of the day. 

Let’s focus on the key points:

1. Make balance and nourishment a priority.

2. Don’t rush. Slow down. Take time to ground.

3. Simplify. Prioritize and organize to refine your focus on how you want to spend your time and energy.

4. Sit down to eat. Eat mindfully. Enjoy the colors, tastes and aroma of your wholesome food. 

5. Sip warm fluids like water, tea and Golden Milk to stay hydrated and calm. 

6. Take deep breaths. Pause and take three deep breaths at various intervals through the day.

7. Move your body to break up stagnation, increase circulation, and promote happy chemicals and hormones. Sweat away mental, emotional and physical toxins. 

8. Eat a warm, light dinner.

9. Create a self care ritual before bed. Be exploratory and see what works for you: an oil massage, a lavender bath, a restorative yoga practice, a cup of tea or Golden Milk, a meditation CD, or curling up with a good book. There’s a candy store of self care at your finger tips. Indulge. 

10. Give thanks. Being grateful immediately transforms and elevates the way we feel and the life we live. 

You are a brilliant, talented, beautiful woman. You have the capability to be both powerful and peaceful, and you have the right to feel good while you do it!

To learn more about how Ayurveda can support you, sign up for a free Dosha Quiz and educational newsletter at www.wellblends.com. While you’re there, browse the tasty, soothing and healing blends of organic spices and oils specially compounded to bring you nourishment and balance. Purchase your “wellness bundle” today. As a special offer, put in the promotional code #selfcare for an extra 10% off (now-December 25th). I’d also suggest downloading the free smart phone application “insight timer” or “head space”. There you’ll find guided meditations to help promote relaxation.

Kristen Schneider is an Ayurveda Practitioner, yoga teacher, renowned public speaker, and writer. She studied in China, India and the United States. She earned formal education from the University of Central Florida, Kripalu School of Ayurveda, the Ayurveda Institute in New Mexico and Chakrapani Research Center in Jaipur, India. She is currently completing her first book, to be published in 2016. She is the founder of Ayurveda Orlando, a holistic clinic in Orlando, Florida, and Wellblends, an organic Ayurveda product line for self care. Contact Kristen at: kristen@ayurvedaorlando.com or on Instagram @kristenschneideryoga. Visit: www.ayurvedaorlando.com and www.wellblends.com.

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Comments

  1. What a small world! I went to high school and danced with Kristen 🙂 (HI!) Loved reading this post!

  2. This is probably one of my favorite guest posts ever. Thanks!

  3. Kelsey Halena says:

    This is such a great, informative post – it motivated me to take a look at how I manage my day, and even made my realize the stress and frazzled-ness I had while reading. I’ll definitely put a new spin on how my evening goes tonight!

  4. This is an awesome post and so informative on a subject I knew very little about. Now Kristen, can you tell me more about Golden Milk?? Going to do some Googling on that right now … (Thanks for sharing this one, Gina!)

  5. I’m currently in a linguistic class right now, so I find this topic fascinating. It’s only been recently that I have come to the realization that words are power. There is so much weight carried in each semantic and each word we say. It’s actually got me wanting to start my own practice with yoga because I want to be more intend. This post really could not have come at a better time, and I’m so thankful that you shared this.

  6. I’ve read about the three dosha types before, and I am definitely a Vata! Very interesting and enlightening post!

  7. I really like this post! I find ayurveda so interesting 🙂 It really is up to us to take care of ourselves, and manage our day. I’m a Pitta according to all the quizzes I’ve taken.

  8. Best guest post ever 🙂

  9. Great guest post! I have read a lot about ayurveda in the past. Kristen – this is such an easy to understand explanation of a vata imbalance and how to get back on track. I know I have a vata imbalance and this is the most approachable explanation I have read. Thanks for the great info!

  10. This was such a great post! So informative – thank you for the great info and sample ways to bring about balance!

  11. Congratulations, Gina, on your newest addition to your family. Penelope is gorgeous!
    Lots of love and blessings for you to heal and bond together as a family.

    As an Indian, I have to respectfully point out that Ayurveda is pronounced exactly as it is written: a-yur-veda, and not r-u-veda. The beauty of Sanskrit (and most Indian languages really) is that they are pronounced exactly as they’re written, unlike English 🙂

  12. This post could not have come at a better time for me…I’ve been exhausted, waking up late, and feeling stressed all day as a result for about the past month…this definitely gave me some ideas as to where I can make some changes!

  13. Loved this!

  14. Stephanie says:

    Awesome guest post. I am going to refer back to this often! Thank you!!!

  15. Really enjoyed this post. It was relaxing just reading it and I like that gave practical suggestions for how to counteract the crazy pace.

  16. Thank you Kristen, for explaining Ayurveda. Now I have a name for what I did to get over a burnout. I realized the big reasons were worrying about things I could not control, and always feeling hurried. I deliberately slowed down. I took the time to eat nourishing breakfast instead of grabbing a bite standing at the kitchen counter. It really does make a huge difference in your mindset. And it literally takes ten minutes. (I do prepare breakfast the night before. For instance chia pudding, or a breakfast cookies are great options. Or I throw together a quick egg & veg scramble.)

    Everything you said I agree with. I have realized things usually don’t turn for the worse if I take a deep breath and concentrate. And I get at least as much done, but I don’t feel completely spent at the end of my workday. Thanks again, it makes me feel like I actually did something ancient and wise to make myself feel better and more at peace with myself and the world around me.

  17. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  18. Loved this post! I’m a Pita Vata type and it’s cool to understand the Ayurveda ways to then make changes or shifts that will be beneficial rather than just feeling crazy and not understanding why.

  19. This is one of the most insightful posts I’ve read in a long time. So helpful and so inspiring. I think I’ll print that list of your key points. They’re such important things to practice. Thank you so much!

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  20. Normally I enjoy guest posts, but Ayurveda posts should come with a massive disclaimer.

    From Wikipedia:

    Although laboratory experiments suggest it is possible that some substances in Ayurveda might be developed into effective treatments, there is no evidence that any are effective in themselves.[117] According to Cancer Research UK, no significant scientific evidence has shown effectiveness of Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of any disease, although massage and relaxation are often beneficial for some cancer patients and there are indications from animal studies that some herbal products used in Ayurveda might be explored further.[95]

    Today, ayurvedic medicine is considered pseudoscientific on account of its confusion between reality and metaphysical concepts.[118] Other researchers debate whether it should be considered a proto-science, an unscientific, or trans-science system instead.[119][120][121]

    A review of the use of Ayurveda for cardiovascular disease concluded that the evidence is not convincing for the use of any Ayurvedic herbal treatment for heart disease or hypertension, but that many herbs used by Ayurvedic practitioners could be appropriate for further research.[122]

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