This Is Ayurveda

Society paints this picture where you have to have the longest hair and the thinnest body and you can’t help but want to be that beautiful person you see on that picture. But then you have to start asking yourself the question — Is that realistic for you? I began to ask myself those questions: Who am I working out for? Who am I looking good for? When I look in the mirror who do I want to please? Do I want to please people or do I want to please Mary first? So I began to want to please myself first. I can’t please everybody. I can’t be the slimmest girl. Be the best you that you can be. — Mary J. Blige

photo courtesy of kanvas

I read this in Gala Darling‘s “Darling Dispatch,” her weekly newsletter (I know, adorable name, right?). The first thing that came to mind, to the tune of Mary J. Blige’s soulful voice, were the words I use to editorialize every single Ayurveda workshop and training I’ve done.

To find out what Ayurveda is, check out my Desserts + Doshas article (more to come, I’m sure, after this weekend’s session), but for a brief explanation, Ayurveda is the sister science of yoga. Ayurveda is a holistic science for balancing our bodies, minds and hearts. It consists of three primary categories (doshas) and a plethora of sub-doshas and combinations and permutations of the three. While doshas are categories, they translate to “imbalance.” But in Ayurveda – unlike in Western science – “imbalance” is not a negative; it is a natural state of being. Ayurveda suggests that we become the most balanced form of our imbalance.

That explanation was not meant to make sense…that is why we need Mary J. Blige. Hang in there, please!

The first Ayurveda workshop I took part in was during a particularly imbalanced summer at the Laughing Lotus Yoga Center in San Francisco. The woman who I would later take a 50-hour advanced Ayurveda training with was visiting and, due to low attendance at the workshop (always a blessing in disguise) we really got into a discussion on what this ancient science means within the context of our modern lives. One woman in the workshop, who was also Kapha-Pitta (see here) – although I have a hunch I am Pitta-Kapha, who knows? – said that she feels that Pitta is more valued in our society and Kapha is devalued. Go figure, seeing as Kapha is the “curvy” dosha and I have long wanted to write an article on how we discuss Ayurveda in the context of body love for every single size. Pitta, meanwhile, is the driven dosha, the medium build, the socially acceptable type under present-day norms.

When Mary J. Blige says “be the best that you can be,” I yoga nerd out and think of the doshas. Ayurveda does not tell us we have to be all three or that if we’re Kapha we have to be more Pitta or if we’re Pitta we have to be more Vata. No, it does not tell us to change our baseline constitutions. It tells us to be the best versions of our imbalances. To be our best selves means to celebrate what makes us unique and to take on the optimal forms of that uniqueness. So if you’re Pitta, be ambitious. Get things done. Rock that red hair and freckles. But do it with grace and kindness. If you’re Kapha, embrace that softness and use it to be of greater service to yourself and to the world. Rock those curves. Fuel the softness (the sukha) with strength (sthira). If you’re Vata, channel the whirling mind into boundless creativity…just keep both feet on the ground while you do that.

Now, for the reader who has no idea what all that even means, be you. Rock you. Celebrate you.


Reigniting the Mini Practice

The starting position is your home base and you are setting out to see how far you can travel from home. … You’re following your impulses, letting your mind and body provide you with the answers. – Twyla Tharpe, The Creative Habit

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We have all heard the old adage “big things come in small packages” (says the 5’2″ girl). Yet when we approach yoga, we don’t always see the big gains in the small actions at first. Many of us begin by taking 90-minute-long classes. It is only when the practice gets more subtle, when we take time to integrate it into our daily lives, that less becomes more. The physical practice has the capacity to shrink and simultaneously grow in strength to make room for the other benefits of yoga.

Not to sound like a broken record but…I have a broken leg. Throughout the healing process, I have, bit by bit, come back to the physical asana practice. There is nothing like certain poses – be it downward facing dog or extended side angle – to allow the body the spaciousness to feel Breath in the joints. And, as a yoga teacher, one of my arts is that of sequencing. My body – in whatever state it is in in the present mOMent – is my muse. I wholeheartedly agree with Twyla Tharpe – limitations are our friends. Especially when it comes to creativity. My mini practices give me long-lasting fuel. They are a testament to the piece of advice that all yoga teachers – in my humble opinion – should give to beginners: it is not frequency or length, but consistency that matters. Why? We want our practice – our fuel for the rest of life – to be sustainable, achievable. As a yoga teacher friend of mine says, we want to set ourselves up to win.

Here are some steps you can take to cultivate a mini practice.

1. Find a space where you can spread out undisturbed.

2. Don’t plan.

3. Breathe.

4. Target a body part you would like to open.

5. Begin the practice like one would a freewrite: don’t pick up the pen, let each word flow into the other; let each pose lead beautifully, unexpectedly, into the next.


Want more mini practices from yours truly? Check out the Yoga U E-Book!

January Link Love: Selma, Style + Safe Sex


Introduction to the monthly Link Love column: One of my favorite blogs (and a total blogger role model of mine) is Gala Darling. Every month, Gala Darling publishes a link roundup in a narrative form of what she’s been reading. Lounging in bed on lazy Friday mornings (when I was in college) or Sunday mornings (now that I’m a working lady), I open up the links Gala posts like presents on Chanukah evenings. I want to create a similar experience for my readers…with the added bonus of documenting these reading gems so I no longer have 17 tabs open on Google Chrome. So, without further adieu, thank you Gala for the inspiration. Here is a delightful (Central Park) link carousel of my own.

January has been another month of lots of reading…but this time, mostly reading on the go, which has been a pleasant change from December’s broken-legged stationary ways. Reading on the go has been aided largely by my (relatively new…at least in terms of use) Twitter account, Pinterest and The Skimm, my daily news email. The above image, created (also on the go) with the app Kanvas, has to do with a large fraction of the articles I mention in this Link Love column: articles from the New York Times Styles section, which I devoured like the ritual devouring the New York Times is when paired with tea and a couch one Saturday afternoon. Taking the time and spaciousness to read large portions of a newspaper…even on an iPad…has the potential to be a profound act of ritualizing life, something all us busy souls could use a bit more of in our days, weeks + months.

Well…here goes!

* Last weekend, I saw Selma, which broke my heart in dozens of ways. Here is what Common Dreams says you should know about the historical event…that feels all too current.

* Which made me think about Solutions Journalism and the importance of all of us – especially writers – to never stop imagining political possibilities (in fact, possibilities should be inherent in the word political).

* Glamour Magazine shares 7 ways to be happier right now and 5 signs of happy, healthy relationships.

* Now that I live in Portland, I really, really want to go to the World Domination Summit!

* The Left Brain Buddha shares 40 ways to bring mindfulness into your life!

* From my entire afternoon of devouring the NYT:

Ours was the kind of accelerated intimacy I remembered from summer camp, staying up all night with a new friend, exchanging the details of our short lives. At 13, away from home for the first time, it felt natural to get to know someone quickly. But rarely does adult life present us with such circumstances.

It’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time.

Most of us think about love as something that happens to us. We fall. We get crushed.

But what I like about this study is how it assumes that love is an action. It assumes that what matters to my partner matters to me because we have at least three things in common, because we have close relationships with our mothers, and because he let me look at him.

I’ve begun to think love is a more pliable thing than we make it out to be.

We spent weeks in the intimate space we created that night, waiting to see what it could become.

Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be.

* Thank goodness Glamour recapped the Golden Globes because I was too busy watching the GIRLS premiere.

* Forbes’ 30 Under 30 came out…lovin the young people power. These young entrepreneurs started businesses like Bloglovin + The Toast.

* Remember when I wrote a novel in a month? NaNoWriMo calls what comes after the Now What months and here’s how to bump up that manuscript.

* My dear, dear friend and former roommate EmK is truly gifted at making GIFs of our most beloved president.

* Yes, January was the start of the New Year, but it was also the 15th anniversary of The Princess Diaries! And at this point, the Link Love column has got to know how much I adore Mia Thermopolis as a fabulous role model of a three-dimensional female character.

* Gala Darling’s Blogcademy went online!!! And I’ve been devouring the free videos on bettering blogs with style!

* Peppermint Mag interviewed Gala Darling on being a business babe + radical self-love.

* I really need to re-read this. Fellow Lotus Flow teacher, based in Austin, wrote this article about finding your focus as a yoga teacher.

* Speaking of Austin, they’re having a TV festival!

* My high school writing mentor and her hubby who’s also a YA author (if that wasn’t cute enough, they got married on the roof of Scholastic HQ) started a podcast: Writing in Real Life.

* This Is What A Yogi Looks Like tees!!! Can you say Wish List ten times fast?

* Right now, what a yogi looks like for me is being broken-legged and attending yoga classes anyway. That means I have to pay particular attention to my alignment and integrate physical therapy into my asana practice.

* Be You Media Group asks a yoga and Ayurveda teacher some intelligent questions.

* The Guardian brilliantly does an expose on exploitation in the wellness industry. A must-read for wellness professionals.

* BUST Magazine bows down to the last-living women of the 1800s. BUST has also been busy reviewing Tina Fey’s new Netflix show starring Ellie Kemper of The Mindy Project. BUST also interviewed the GIRLS girls on life, love + that amazing show of theirs.

* In looking to revive my thesis, I’m loving HuffPo’s thesis project.

* Brene Brown was interviewed on NPR’s On Being podcast on (you guessed it!) vulnerability.

* The monthly newsletter The Balance has a list of new PDX healthy food companies.

* Yet again, fellow FGSS major Ella rocked it with writing about writing the Other Love and safe sex in hookup culture and erotica.

* As an avid journaler, I am grateful to the NYT blog Well for advocating writing as a path to happiness.

* Gretchen Rubin explains happiness using the best literary example ever…Little Women!

It’s Meg’s wedding day, and she and Laurie start talking about drinking wine. Laurie explains, “I don’t care for it; but when a pretty girl offers it, one doesn’t like to refuse, you see.”

Meg answers, “But you will, for the sake of others, if not for your own. Come, Laurie, promise, and give me one more reason to call this the happiest day of my life.”