The outside world hosts an environment full of wonder and beauty, but sometimes it challenges us to find connection and maintain our equilibrium. If you live in a big city or an area that is highly populated, the swarm of high energy can have an effect.
One of my favorite practices is that of creating sacred space that feeds the heart and soul. The inability to control what happens outside of ourselves creates the opportunity to build upon what happens within ourselves. Focusing on our health and happiness gives new eyes to our perspective when looking outward. Focusing on our personal space and environment offers a container for peace and well being.
The energetic relationship of color
Colors have a subtle effect on our emotions. Colors are energy interacting with our own energy. Sattvic colors such as green, sky blue, soft orange, gold, violet and white are calming and harmonizing.These colors increase consciousness and sooth the heart and spirit.Brown and Black are considered to be Tamasic colors that connect us with darker energies. They can be very grounding and increase strength. Some sects of monks use their black robes as symbol of separation from the material world and ordinary desires.When used properly, the color brown can counteract conditions of excess lightness and instability which is good for Vata.Yellow and Red are considered Rajasic colors that are stimulating and sometimes too aggressive for the already hot and energized qualities of Pitta.
The Fabric of our Lives
As our society moved forward on the idea that quantity and cost efficiency was a priority, the materials we use in everyday life began to change. Plastic became a substitute material for things that were once made of wood, leather, bone, clay, tin, copper etc. The use of artificial fabrics sudden allow for us to have more while paying less. Everything from the houses we live in, to the items it holds and the clothing we wear has become in large part a manufacturing of unnatural fabrics. It is important to remember that our own subtle energies interact with the energies around us. It is healing and beneficial to be connected to materials that link us to the natural world. Invite nature into your home. Also, a wonderful ritual to have if their are children in the home is a nature space. In our home, that means a table with fresh wildflowers, a bowl of stones from our local creek, a unique piece of driftwood, and a cosy wool blanket.
Organization and Cleanliness
One day while sitting at home, I looked around me. I realized I had been collecting things that I had either been given or had collected on my own. Many of them I carried with me for years without even questioning my need for them or my love of them. I felt compelled that day to let go of everything I owned which did not serve a purpose, whether that purpose by functional or just function for my own enjoyment. I made a dozen trips to the Goodwill. I literally cleared out everything that was of no use in my life. Let the question be, "Do I need you or do I love you?" Even if its a pile of old books your questioning, the question makes it very simple. Your personal space should always make you feel connected to yourself and be the world that you crave.
The sense of smell influences emotions, memories, desires and creativity. Aromas can provoke the production of hormones the control physical and psychological functions. Ayurveda understands that aromas can influence our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual states.
For Vata the following essential oils can be very healing: amber, anise, basil, bergamot, camphor, cardamom, chamomile, cinnamon, clary sage, coriander, frankincense, geranium, finer, jasmine, lavender, lemongrass, myrrh, neroli, patchouli, rose, sandalwood, sweet orange, tangerine, thyme, vanilla, vetiver and ylang ylang.
For Pitta: birch, brahmi, chamomile, champa, calry sage, corianger, fennel, geranium, jasmine, jatamansi, lavender, lemon, lime, madarin, myrtle, neroli, peppermint, rose, sandalwood, spearmint, tangerine, tea tree, vanilla, wintergreen, yarrow, and ylang ylang.
For Kapha: angelica, anise, basil, bay, bergamot, birch, camphor, cardamom, cedarwood, cinnamon, clary sage, clove, cypress, eucalyptus, fir, frankincense, geranium, ginger, grapefruit, hyssop, jasmine, juniper, lavender, lemon, lemongrass, lime, marjoram, neroli, myrrh, myrtle, petitgrain, peppermint, rose, rosemary, sage, sweet orange, tea tree, wintergreen, yarrow.
Fill your beautiful sacred space with only the colors that interact best with your energy, with the things you love and need, and with the fragrances that balance your constitution and inspire you!
Megan Fleming for Marin Ayurveda
Every season has its own rhythm, and when we tune into that rhythm, we expand on our opportunity to find balance. As we venture into the Fall season, it’s important to nourish, nurture and love ourselves. Perhaps you’ve heard this language before, but this time, what if you made a small commit to finding the healthiest version of you this fall? What if you took a few small habits and repeated them daily for just this season, as a testament that your commitment and dedication to your health will reward you greatly. I encourage you to challenge yourself and see what awaits you on the other side.
Ayurveda understands everything in terms of qualities: Hot or cold, heavy or light, moist or dry etc. During fall, our bodies will most appreciate a diet that is warming, fortifying and substantial. By understanding the qualities of food and how our diet affects the qualities of our body each season, we understand how to support our own health.
Fall cleansing is not meant to be a time for drastic fasting, but rather a time to support the system and strengthen the liver. During Fall the body needs to be rejuvenated, not left more vulnerable going into winter. The liver works year round to detoxify the body. Toxins from the foods we eat, the products we use on our bodies and chemicals from our environment can overload the liver which creates “ama.” Ama in Sanskrit means excess build up that weakens. So the question becomes how do we reduce ama and fortify the body specifically during fall?
Unlike Spring when our energies are moved by more sunlight, new life and an abundance of food, Fall is about slowing down and conserving energy. Multitasking and overloading the mind will overburden the nervous system and harm the liver instead of heal it. Its important to slow down, reduce your workload, and eat meals in peace. Allowing your mind to have single focus will allow you to tune into your own natural rhythm. Afterall, perfect health truly equates to being in relationship with yourself.
Here is a simple guide for nurturing, nourishing and loving yourself this fall season:
1.) Favor foods that are in season and warming to the body and avoid processed, packaged foods. Remember that this is a time for fortifying and nourishing the body with what it needs instead of striping the body. Cleansing, most importantly, is about paying attention to what the body needs each season. Stick with well-cooked, nourishing, heavier foods like lentil soups, roots and tubers, warm spiced milk, whole grain baked goods, and Kitcheree. Make sure you’re able to digest a heavier diet. Kitcharee is a beautifully balanced meal of mung beans and rice with the perfect ratio of protein and carbohydrates. It’s also tridoshic, meaning it is balancing for all constitutions. Use Ghee as a healthy and beneficial fat to lubricate digestion and help move toxins out of the body.
2.) Slow Down! Create rituals around meal time so that you can focus solely on the nourishment you are receiving. By simple eating slowly with gratitude you are giving your digestion the ability to do its job. Daily yoga and meditation will compliment your detoxification process. Look at nature for signs. Fall is a time for tilling the soil, planting new seeds and preparing for next year’s harvest. You are that soil, so tend to yourself in a way that provides new life.
3.) Love yourself! Ask yourself questions like “How am I creating my best life?” “What am I doing to contradict my healing?” Keep a journal in order to reflect upon your insights. Also make time to compliment yourself; use loving words to acknowledge yourself each day. A particularly beneficial practice is Abhyanga or self massage. Take an extra moment before bathing to massage yourself with warm sesame oil and give love to your toes, your knees, your tummy, your shoulders. All that yummy love will flow through you and nourish you just as much as the healthy foods you eat.
I hope you use this time to connect with yourself and grow deeper into the awareness only you have of your unique and perfect self.
With Love and In Best Regards to your Health!
Megan Fleming for Marin Ayurveda
Ayurvedic Health Educator
Perhaps you are familiar with the term Vata, as it is used to describe an individual’s constitution. But it is more than that. It is an energy that combines the qualities of the elements "space" and "air". You could liken it to "wind", and because of that it is very mobile, light, dry, and cold. Vata governs the end of the year, and is at the end of a person’s life. It is the dryness after the fruit has ripened. It is the tiredness in the body after a long day of work. It is the deficiency that appears with aging. Vata is most present in the Fall, when the summer heat has dried the earth, and the weather becomes changeable and colder.
Identifying signs of excess Vata can help us nurture the body back into balance. Vata resides in the colon creating dryness and constipation. It reveals itself in the form of dry hair, brittle nails, and arthritis. It often aggravates the ears, causing ringing and sometimes disturbs the equilibrium. It floods the mind with anxiety, fear and racing thoughts.
Don’t be fooled though, Vata is a beautiful and necessary aspect of all living things and without it there wouldn’t be life. Vata fuels creativity, flexibility and energy. Individuals with Vata constitutions are often artists, great thinkers and imaginative types.
In my experience, the quickest remedy besides a simple nourishing diet, is to slow down. Vata thrives with routine to keep its energies stable and more predictable. Vata can be like a gust of wind that can sweep you off your feet. In times when you find that wind moving through you, become aware that it is simply an excess of Vata. Just as simply as you remove a glass from beneath the faucet so it doesn't overflow, you may remove the qualities of your life that add more Vata. To pacify excess vata, begin with digestion. The nutritional deficiencies of Vata can be remedied by choosing a comforting, nurturing and easy to digest diet. During the Fall in particular favor quality proteins, sustaining carbohydrates and healthful fats and oils. The sweet taste is most beneficial for alleviating excess vata. By sweet, that doesn’t mean sugar, it means the sweet tastes of nature. Sweet foods such as rice, oatmeal, warm spiced milk, ghee, eggs, broth, and pumpkin are examples of good nourishing foods for vata during fall. Slow down by bringing awareness to the pace of your speech, the speed of your walking, the activity of your mind. Meditate on the notion of slow. In moments when you find it challenging to slow down, practice grounding yoga. Imagine your feet as roots to the earth and plant them where they are, be still and silent. With dedication to nourishing your body, creating mindfulness and practice, all will find its balance.
Megan Fleming for Marin Ayurveda
With 7 billion people on this planet, it sometimes feels like we are 1 in 7 billion. The feelings of separateness and disconnection are a result of the bigger societies in which we live and easily ingest into our way of living. The truth is, we are all connected and we all crave that connection to what life is. Our spirits thrive when being given love, support and companionship because we are all part of one another experiencing life. Ayurveda connects us to the concept that pure conciousness Purusha and pure matter Prakriti represent the origin of all things. And with the theory of the 5 elements, we come to recognize that we are part of everything that is ether, air, earth, water, and fire. As human beings, we have a great capacity to recognize ourselves in each other. The relationships, we create and nurture in our lives, create opportunities to know ourselves more fully and to learn the lessons of our own personal evolutional.
It is common to perceive good health in terms of diet and exercise and the individual efforts put into bettering ourselves, but there are inklings of our journey that fill the summation of our whole living experience. In Ayurveda, even the subtlest of energies that influence our being are considered important to our health. There are continuous layers in which we can uncover and polish within ourselves and within the world we live. The concept of community and friendship is not often talked about in the context of health. But why? Our very survival once depended on the concept of a tribe working together to survive. That survival in simple context could be understood as a need for food and shelter, but it extended far beyond that. The relationships build amongst the tribe are what sustained the spirit and gave us the deeper nourishment that simple survival lacked. The capacity and ability to share oneself and be truly known by another is, perhaps, an ingredient to health we do not value enough within our modern society. So, the question becomes, "how do we create friendships that nourishes our spirit and sustain the subtle energies within each of us?
Shasta Nelson, a woman I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, dedicates her life’s work to helping others achieve meaningful friendships. She believes in the power of friendship and speaks openly about the health benefits it offers. She writes, “There is hardly anything else in life that impacts us more than our circle of friends. Healthy friendships are said to not only be the number one factor that determines whether women will survive breast cancer, but it also reduces stress, increases happiness, extends longevity, determines whether we'll accomplish our goals, and builds up our immune system. If friendship was every thought to be fluffy and optional, research is coming down on it being one of the most significant things we can do for our health.”
As with anything in life, cultivating a new practice takes time and effort: eating well, exercising, meditating, learning a new skill, etc. Friendship is not something we can rush into with perfection. It is something that requires our time, our attention and our love. Investing our energy in another person does require a commitment to making ourselves available and being present for them, but it also requires that they do the same for us. By being part of a community and having quality friendships, we are gifted the opportunity to share our life and be an important part of someone else’s. I believe that friendship has the power to increase our sense of purpose, add to our sense of happiness, reduce stress, and fortify us during times of challenge. The current of life pulls us through times of great prosperity in every sense of the word, and it drops us at the basis of an ebb without notice. That continuous ebb and flow of life is inevitable and though we manage through it with our own sustenance, the ability to call upon support in good times and bad can help us keep our feet on the ground.
This week’s focus is about friendship. Who is someone who inspires you to be your best and is there for you no matter what? Dedicate some time this week to making it known, that this person is meaningful to you. Invite them over for a meal, write them a letter, make time for them in your busy schedule. These sacred friendships you have in your life are there for you to nurture. Give yourself to them. By investing your time and energy in those who care for you and bring out the best in you, you will more fully enjoy the best of times and survive the worst of times. The more you put into cultivating healthy friendships, the more you add to the quality of your overall health and happiness. Set aside time for those you treasure. They need to know how important they are and it’s likely you’ll end up knowing how important you are too.
Best Regards to your Health and Happiness,
Megan Fleming for Marin Ayurveda
Ayurvedic Health Educator
AYURVEDA AND THE SEXUAL BEING
The Vedas teach us that sex is a profound experience that moves beyond
It sheds light on the possibilities within sex and inspires us to expand
consciousness, opening our hearts to ourselves and others with more passion. It
teaches that sexual desire is a yearning for intimacy between ourselves and the
divine. Ayurveda never separates the mind, body and soul. When we try to
act for the body alone, we never satisfy the true hunger from which our desires
arise. Intimacy is the union of the whole self.
According to the Vedas, life can be divided into four main concerns : spiritual pursuits
(dharma), economic pursuits (artha), pleasure pursuits (kama) and liberation
from the cycle of reincarnation (moksha).Creating fulfillment requires wisdom
and the ability to appropriately navigate one’s desires. If the pursuit of
pleasure, contradicts life’s other pursuits, sex becomes lacking. Instead of
nourishing our desires it only fuels more. In Ayurveda, it is advised to follow
certain observances and create mindfulness with sex. Sex is intended for us to
find pleasure, give pleasure, and feel in harmony with our natural sexual
beings. As intelligent beings, we must understand how to use sex in a way
that promotes health and happiness.
Treat sex as a sacred ritual. Create a “Sacred Space” (see blog article on
Sacred Space)that provides a feast for all your sense organs. Learn how colors
and aromas can arouse. Find music that makes your hips find their groove. Sex is
sexy and fun, and it is at the basis of life. Treat it as a teacher and a friend
and you will move beyond just the physical layer of pleasure. Be attentive to
your partner’s desires. Learn the contours of their body with your eyes closed.
Hold them with your hands and your heart. Create a dance that becomes better
Don’t get too attached though and don’t assume more of a great thing is a better
thing. Too much sex (some might say there is no such thing) is regarded in Ayurveda
as a detriment to health. Sex itself is not bad, as some religions might
point out. Ayurveda recognizes the need for an appropriate application of all
things in life to bring about a state of wellness. An excess of sex puts strain
on the nervous system, increases qualities of vata and lowers overall vitality.
Hippocrites once said, "Individuals who do not regulate their sexual impulses are more prone
to loss of strength, weak immune function, and various diseases owing to
depletion of vitality. Those who regulate their sexual energy will have
increased memory, power, intelligence, health, and
Vata, the unpredictable romantic, welcomes mental foreplay and stimulating
conversation as a preferred aphrodisiac. The anxiety prone Vata can benefit
greatly from soothing touch, calming aromas, and peaceful
The natural passion and fire of pitta gives a force to their lovemaking style. Pitta
can be prone to competing for the esteem of their ego, so it is good for a pitta
to remember to tune in to their partners more. Learning to redirect their
feelings through their heart rather than their genitals will help to chill out
these hot lovers.
These calm, gentle lovers embody endurance, affection and sensitivity. They are
nurturing lovers, but need encouragement to explore new aspects of themselves.
An enthusiastic, more passionate partner can offer Kapha types the motivation to
lighten up and get more creative!
PHASES OF DESIRE AND DEEPER MEANING
Each phase of life presents us with different energy and focus. There is a time for
growing, gaining wisdom and learning ourselves. There is a time for harvesting
from our efforts, and dedicating our energy towards family. There is a time for
reflection, slowing down and needing less. If we live in accordance with
what each phase offers and brings then we sustain our energies and savor life’s
pleasures more fully.
The sexual revolution of the 1960s sought to expand our understanding of sex beyond
the religious constraints of sex as sin. Great attention was placed on the
physical act of sex and freeing it from its notorious negative implications.
Yet, there was a failure to acknowledge the emotional and spiritual implications
of sex. The pursuit of pleasure, though emphasized by sex, is grounded in our
ability to expand our heart and transform our ever evolving beings.
The Bhagavad-Gita, states that lust is the greatest enemy, as it leads to
self-absorption and deluded meaning in life. Increasing our capacity to
give and receive love is life’s greatest lesson, challenge and gift.
This week’s challenge is to give yourself to love, to make love with all your heart
and to go deeper into your desires. “ When you perceive yourself as spirit, you
will not simply feel love you will be love” - Deepak Chopra
Be Healthy, Be Happy and Make Good Love!
Ayurvedic Health Educator
Over twenty years ago I started practicing yoga. I followed an inner voice while I was lying on the floor after a workout in the gym. I didn't like the gym. I loved yoga. Soon I was taking up to five classes per week. I loved learning to tune into the subtleties of alignment, to feel separate muscle groups and learn how to move them. I loved using my breath to bring my mind all the way with my body and my movement. I wouldn't notice anybody else in class. I learned a lot about my body and how to use yoga to make it feel better.
When I did a teacher training the the whole system of yoga opened up to me. I learned about the different philosophies and how they can bring more control of your mind. So I sat my first meditation retreat. It was very revealing of how the body, mind, and emotions feed into each other, and was not easy. I noticed the deep inner freedom I felt after sitting and watching my impulses for days at a time, instead of following my impulses day after day. I remember sitting outside in the sun, and feeling the sun's rays on my body and hearing the insect wings buzz, and it brought such deep satisfaction.
I loved the increasing subtlety of my "yoga" practice, and the emphasis changed from asana/postures to breathing and meditation.
Then I went to Ayurveda school in 2001, and studied even more ancient Indian science. This time it was the medical side. I learned that anything that we put or allow into our bodies - and that includes any sensorial impression - mental or emotional experience, needs to be digested and properly assimilated, in order to serve us. A healthy digestion makes for good health. I learned that "like increases like", and that "opposites balance". I learned that one man's food and herbal medicine is another's poison. And I learned about the cycles of nature, and that changing your lifestyle in order to flow with those cycles, really makes you feel better.
The ability to tune into subtlety increased again, this time extending to the chemistry of foods in my body, what it feels like to be 'acidic', and how 'vata' feels, and 'pitta' and 'kapha'. And the realization came that everything can be "yoga" practice. That I am not a bad yogi if I don't do any official "practice" during the day, but that if I do what I do with an awareness of how I do it and how it affects me and others, I am always practicing. Ofcourse I can sharpen my intuition, my mind, the tuning into subtlety, of myself and of others, with official practice, so I still do that too, just not as religiously, or maybe dogmatically. And when I practice I'm taking time out of my day to do things, yoga and meditation, to make my body and nervous system feel better. I'm taking good care of myself, I'm practicing preventative medicine.
Over the years I have found that having these ancient Indian practices in my life is empowering more than anything. It's given me a way to return to a balanced state, no matter what life throws at me.
I feel deep gratitude when I walk this path...