Yoga, they say is a good practice which helps to boost creativity and here’s just the contest to put that to test. (more…)
One Woman’s Ayurvedic Experience
by Jodi Boone
Over a cup of tea, she told me how they found her tumour. Mira, a middle-aged woman with large blue eyes and a gentle smile, holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Development and works as an administrator for the Swedish Army.
She explained how the stress and long hours of her work had culminated in 25 kilos of extra weight and high blood pressure. “For 20 years, I didn’t have time for myself – no time for exercise and no energy to shop or cook meals at home,” Mira said. Devoted to her studies in her 20’s and later to her career, Mira acknowledged that her trip to India in 2010 was the first time in her life she’d taken to focus on her health.
“I’d never been to India before, and I’d never heard of Ayurveda,” said Mira. One evening, as she searched the internet for weight-loss programs, she came across an Ayurvedic centre in Kerala. She was completely drawn to the centre’s website and their holistic and natural approach to weight loss. “I imagined myself flying to a weight-loss camp in the UK or, maybe to the US, but never to India,” she laughed. A month later, Mira was in Cochin.
The first morning at the centre she met with an Ayurvedic physician. “I was surprised by how much time he spent with me – we talked for nearly three hours,” Mira said, slowly shaking her head in disbelief. “At home, a doctor would never take this kind of time.”
After her consultation, she was informed of her Ayurvedic constitution: Kapha-Pitta, as well as given an outline of her treatments over the next month. Every day would begin with yoga, followed by daily Ayurvedic treatments. The afternoons were dedicated to quieter Hatha yoga practices, like pranayama, meditation and yoga nidra. All practices, treatments and meals were specifically chosen to help bring Mira, and her constitution, into balance.
“When the doctor showed me my schedule for the month, I felt so excited! I knew I’d landed in the right place,” Mira said. After her consultation she was escorted to the treatment room, where she would receive Abhyanga, the traditional Ayurvedic hot oil massage. “The doctor felt this was the perfect first treatment to help me arrive, get over my jet-leg and settle in.”
Abhyanga often begins with the practitioner laying her hands upon the abdomen, which is how it began for Mira. “The therapist started gently massaging my belly in a circular motion, and then she just stopped.”
The therapist excused herself, saying she needed to get the doctor. Moments later the doctor came in and began palpating Mira’s abdomen. “His face turned black,” she said. He explained to Mira what he felt: a large growth in her belly. He advised her to go immediately to the hospital for an ultrasound. Within the hour, Mira was sitting in a hospital waiting room.
She spent several days going between the Ayurvedic centre and the hospital, while tests were run. Some days later she received the results: a benign tumour, the size of a cantaloupe, weighing more than two kilos.
At first, Mira thought she would need to fly home immediately for surgery, but after consulting with her physician in Sweden, she was given another choice. Because her tumour was benign, her physician felt no pressing urgency to remove it. In fact, her doctor said it would take a few weeks to schedule Mira in for surgery. Her physician suggested that staying in India and undergoing Ayurvedic treatments could be beneficial.
For four weeks, Mira lived in the centre’s sattvic, or pure, environment. “To be honest, I had never felt so much love and care in my life. The Ayurvedic doctors and practitioners were beautiful.”
The Hatha yoga practices melted away her stress and tension. The Ayurvedic treatments nourished her on every level – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. The food was lovingly prepared, simple, yet delicious. “I got my taste buds back!” Mira said. She was referring to Ayurveda’s low sodium, no sugar and low fat food preparations. Too much salt, sugar and fat can inhibit our ability to truly taste food. Ayurvedic recipes highlight foods’ natural tastes of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent, subtly complimented by herbs and spices.
“I learned to listen to my body’s natural cues telling me when enough is enough,” she said. In Ayurveda it is believed that once we begin eating a meal, we will experience a ‘first burp’ at some point. This first burp, which we are often unaware of, is the sign that we have consumed enough. Another tip to help us determine the right amount of food is to ‘cup’ our two hands together. Our cupped hands represent the size of our stomach, and we can fill this space with 50 percent solid food, 25 percent liquid, leaving 25 percent for air, which is essential for digestion.
“At the end of the program, I’d lost 12 kilos and my blood pressure was 120/80!” Mira said. Something else quite unexpected happened too. Upon returning to Sweden, her craving to eat meat had completely disappeared. “Becoming vegetarian was not a desire of mine. I’d always felt strongly that people needed meat for protein,” said Mira.
The philosophical teachings of yoga state that when we live a sattvic lifestyle, our cravings and desires –things we thought we couldn’t live without – fall away without effort.
When Mira returned home, family, friends and co-workers commented on how different she looked. “It wasn’t just the weight-loss, I actually looked different. I certainly felt different,” she smiled. The Ayurvedic treatments also prepared her for surgery. She was healthier, and therefore, healing post-surgery would go much smoother.
I met Mira in 2011 while teaching a yoga and Ayurvedic cooking retreat. I returned to India as soon as I could!” Mira said. She wanted to study Ayurvedic cooking, plus she’d fallen in love with yoga while at the centre in Kerala. “The first trip to India saved my life, and my intention for this trip is to learn how to extend my life, “she smiled.
Jodi has certifications in both Yoga and Ayurveda and she holds a bachelors degree in international studies and a masters degree in nonprofit leadership. She has extensive knowledge in pre-natal and postnatal yoga and is a certified Doula. Today, Jodi offers workshops and teacher trainings in pre-and postnatal yoga as well as Ayurveda, both in Japan and Goa, India, where she has lived the past three years co-directing Satsanga Retreat.
For ten years, Ananda in the Himalayas has been supporting guests in redefining their lifestyles through traditional Indian practices such as Ayurveda, Yoga and Vedanta.
Located in the foothills of the Himalyas, this resort unites body, mind and spirit in an exquisite and luxurious atmosphere. Sushant, the yoga program director, explains more in our video.
You can also find Ananda in the Himalayas in our book “Yoga in India: a journey to the top yoga places”.
by April Mietz – editor for yoga.in
A welcoming surprise greeted me upon my recent return to India, only one day after arriving in Mysore, I learned that Yogacharya BKS Iyengar himself was visiting his mother city in order to participate in the National Conference on Yoga & Naturopathy for Holistic Health. With a full two-day line-up packed with speakers, performers, demonstrations, and much more. The event was a fantastic coming together of some truly amazing and knowledgeable minds from a variety of fields, with the goal of addressing our rising health concerns of the modern era.
As pointed out on the first day by Dr Ramachandra Bhar Kote Mane, the cause of death in our world today is no longer due to bacteria related illness and malnutrition, we have found many ways to combat these issues which used to be our biggest threat. Now we are facing much different problems of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes – these forms of illness are what are considered lifestyle diseases, brought about by stress, poor diet, and laziness.
In our fast paced modern world, money and success are replacing our priorities for physical wellness. People are spending all their time making money, then spending all the money on health issues caused by this excessive work load. These are problems that are occurring more and more on a global level, especially with the modernization of our world.
Fortunately for us, the ancient Sages and Rishis of India left us the tools to deal with even the toughest of these modern diseases, and now is the time for recognizing this potential, and spreading this knowledge. This was the main message of the event, which was organized by the Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH).
As the global recognition of these ancient practices rises, it is important that their potency and techniques are not diluted during their spread. The AYUSH is a branch of the Government of India which carries the role of standardizing educational requirements, improving availability of plant medicines, research and development of these practices, and both national and international awareness generation.
The speakers who attended and partook in the event touched on a wide array of topics and the diversity of talks included:
The headlining speaker Yogacharya BKS Iyengar presented a 30-minute talk on “Yoga in Daily Life for Positive Health”, during which he spoke of health as being more than a stagnant idea but a flow of life force energy, a constant forward moving flow which requires our attention and sensitivity in order to maintain its vibrancy.
“We say we are doing but we are not doing, we say we know but we don’t know, and that is why we are suffering with problems of heath,” he proclaimed, while expressing the importance of regular Asana practice, “even if just one pose”, and cultivating and maintaining complete awareness of the flow of energy whilst partaking in the Yoga Asana.
93-year-old BKS, looked strong as he presented his wisdom about this practice that he has dedicated his life to, and his presence was as inspiring as the words which he spoke. He exposed the knowledge of the multilayers of health and consciousness and the importance of keeping the energy free from constrictions through yoga. This is key practice in order to keep the complexity of layers fully functioning, therefore enabling our potential to connect with true bliss on a fully cellular level, “that is holistic health”, he stated.
Other highlights from the occasion included a Yoga Demo by Blind Students, presented by the Gnana Sindu Residential School for the Blind, Gadag, a beautiful demonstration of Artistic Yoga by Sri BP Murthy and Mysore Yoga Okkuta, and an educational demonstration of correct Asana from Medical Practitioner and long time Yoga student of the Ramamani Iyengar Yoga Institute in Pune, Dr Manoj Naik.
To learn more about AYUSH and their work, please visit http://indianmedicine.nic.in
For more on Yogacharya BKS Iyengar, see http://www.bksiyengar.com