Ayurveda & Dosha Types for Beginners

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Malasana / Garland Pose – a beautifully grounding pose for when I am feeling the effects of a Vata overload (South Easter to blame)

I posted recently about how the incessant wind that we’ve been having in Stellenbosch lately tends to make me go stir crazy, and that it’s got to do with Vata overload. Unsurprisingly, I had a few people asking me what that’s all about. So here’s a post as promised.

Ayurveda is a holistic science of health which is focused on maintaining a physically and emotionally balanced state. It began about 5,000 – 6,000 years ago when Indian monks were looking for new ways to be healthy. Revering their bodies like temples, the monks believed that preserving their health would help them meditate and develop spiritually. Over thousands of years of observations, they gathered all their conclusions and advice and preserved it for future generations. This collection of knowledge came to be known as the “science or knowledge of life” — Ayurveda.

It differs from modern medicine in that it views every individual as unique, and there is no lifestyle routine or diet that is prescribed for everyone. Aside from that, a major difference is that it focuses largely on prevention, and providing specific advice and guidance on how to maintain your physical and emotional health. Food and lifestyle routines are considered the most important medicine. If you come to an Ayurvedic doctor with a complaint, you are more likely to leave with a recipe than with a prescription for pills.

Ayurveda is based on the principles of three doshas, which are the energies that make up every individual and perform different physiological functions in the body:

The 3 Dosha types:

1. Vata Dosha: Energy that controls bodily functions associated with motion, including blood circulation, breathing, blinking, and your heartbeat.

  • In balance: There is creativity and vitality.
  • Out of balance: Can produce fear and anxiety.

Characteristics for Vata predominant types: Creative; Quick to learn and grasp new knowledge, but also quick to forget, Slender; Tall and a fast-walker; Tendency toward cold hands and feet, discomfort in cold climates; Excitable, lively, fun personality; Changeable moods; Irregular daily routine; High energy in short bursts; Tendency to tire easily and to overexert; Full of joy and enthusiasm when in balance; Responds to stress with fear, worry, and anxiety, especially when out of balance; Tendency to act on impulse; Often have racing, disjointed thoughts; Generally have dry skin and dry hair and don’t perspire much.

2. Pitta Dosha: Energy that controls the body’s metabolic systems, including digestion, absorption, nutrition, and your body’s temperature.

  • In balance: Leads to contentment and intelligence.
  • Out of balance: Can cause ulcers and anger.

Characteristics for Pitta Predominant Types: Medium physique, strong, well-built; Sharp mind, good concentration powers; Orderly, focused; Assertive, self-confident, and entrepreneurial at their best; Aggressive, demanding, pushy when out of balance; Competitive, enjoy challenges; Passionate and romantic; Strong digestion, strong appetite, get irritated if they have to miss or wait for a meal; When under stress, Pittas become irritated and angry; Skin fair or reddish, often with freckles; sunburns easily; Uncomfortable in sun or hot weather, heat makes them very tired; Perspire a lot; Good public speakers; Generally good management and leadership ability, but can become authoritarian; Subject to temper tantrums, impatience, and anger; Typical physical problems include rashes or inflammations of the skin, acne, boils, skin cancer, ulcers, heartburn, acid stomach, insomnia, dry or burning eyes.

3. Kapha Dosha: Energy that controls growth in the body. It supplies water to all body parts, moisturizes the skin, and maintains the immune system.

  • In balance: Expressed as love and forgiveness.
  • Out of balance: Can lead to insecurity and envy.

Characteristics for Kapha Predominant Types: Easygoing, relaxed, slow-paced; Affectionate and loving; Forgiving, compassionate, nonjudgmental nature; Stable and reliable; faithful; Physically strong and with a sturdy, heavier build; Have the most energy of all constitutions, but it is steady and enduring; Slow speech, reflecting a deliberate thought process; Slower to learn, but outstanding long-term memory; Soft hair and skin; tendency to have large “soft” eyes and a low, soft voice; Tend toward being overweight; may also suffer from sluggish digestion; Prone to depression; More self-sufficient; Gentle, and essentially undemanding approach to life; Excellent health, good immune system; Very calm; strive to maintain harmony and peace in their surroundings; Not easily upset and can be a point of stability for others; Tend to be possessive and hold on to things. Don’t like cold, damp weather; Physical problems include colds and congestion, sinus headaches, respiratory problems including asthma, allergies, and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).

Each person has all three doshas, but usually one or two dominate. I, for example, am Vata-Pitta. Various dosha proportions determine one’s physiological and personality traits as well as general likes and dislikes. For example Vata types will prefer hot weather to cold and Kapha types are more likely to crave spicy foods than other types.

My reference to the wind making me feel extremely flighty and unsettled has to do with the Vata in me, and the fact that when there is an overload of motion (wind is a classic example), I feel completely overstimulated. Once you know your Dosha make-up, you can work with your diet, your lifestyle, your entire environment to bring yourself into balance. When it’s blowy, I need my practice to be extremely grounding. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, is a classic Kapha, finds the wind absolutely exhilarating and wants to get out and about and do things when the South Easter is pumping.

Whilst I’m making this to sound extremely simplistic, it is actually a very complex science, so feel free to do some more indepth research – you will find a wealth of information on this topic. If you are curious about finding out about your dominant dosha/s, I give a link below to one of many. Most online questionnaires are very similar and will provide similar results. Please keep in mind that shorter questionnaires will give a more generalized and approximate result. Also, your body changes with age, seasons, and life situations so the results will change as well. Taking a few different questionnaires will give you a more definite result for your dosha type.

As with any of these online / DIY quizzes, please take it with a pinch of salt – I believe wholeheartedly in the premises of Ayurveda and the Chopra Centre is a reputable source, however to reap the full rewards of this phenomenal life science, I advise you to make an appointment with a proper practitioner, and am happy to refer you to one if you are interested. Just comment below and I will respond. In the meantime, here is the link for fun and to get you started.

Once you’ve done the quiz, feel free to let me know whether the results resonate with you. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Click here for the short time-lapse video that I posted on Facebook and Instagram that prompted this post: me attempting Tree pose in a gale-force wind.

I quote extensively from a MindBodyGreen article: for the original post, click here.

 

 

Winner of the Sentiens mat from our Spring Challenge

I announced a while back that the winner of our Spring challenge is Skye Van Der Walt, and tonight I was thrilled to – very belatedly – present him with his well-deserved prize. He chose the ‘Wanderer in Skyline’ design which is wonderfully fitting given his name! 

Skye, me and his wonderful mum, Meryl

It’s been an absolute joy to watch Skye’s practice blossom over the past year. He has always inspired me with his commitment to his practice and the way in which he has discovered and embraced the benefits of this ancient practice at a relatively young age (Skye is currently writing his matric exams at Bridgehouse) and it’s as if over the last number of months, he’s just crossed a threshold of some sort and has taken his practice to a whole new level – popping up into arm balances, and accessing a whole world of asana that weren’t in his practice a year ago. 

We hope that your stunning mat serves as inspiration in your practice moving forward and that your exams go extremely well! There’s no doubt that the self discipline, breath control and mindfulness you’ve developed on your mat will see you through. 

Namaste, Skye. 

(With a special mention to mum Meryl who leads by example and has passed her love for the practice on to her son. The gift that will keep on giving for a lifetime. Respect, Meryl) 

Yoga For Children starting at Yoga With Nicci in 2016

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I am so excited to make this announcement! For a long, long time now I have been wanting to offer yoga for children at our little Stellenbosch yoga studio, but simply have not had the time or the bandwidth to do it myself, despite the many requests I have had over the years.

And then, as has happened with all of the teachers at our studio, the right person just appeared!

Nia Thorpe-McFall will be teaching children’s yoga at the studio from early next year, and will be offering a kiddies workshop just as the schools break up for holidays in a few weeks, just to give you – and your little ones – a taster of what it’s all about.

Nia is highly qualified to lead our little ones in the ancient practice of yoga and mindfulness.

Nia is highly qualified to lead our little ones in the ancient practice of yoga and mindfulness.

She was recommended to me by a fellow teacher and when we met a couple of weeks back, there was an instant connection. I have two little ones (as most of you know) – seven and four – and I just know that Nia is exactly the sort of person that will be able to do enchant and inspire them and all their peers. She is calm, gentle, smiley person who commands ones attention despite the fact that she is softly spoken. She has a lovely way of making you feel like you are the only person in the world when she is talking to you, and I can understand exactly why she gets such wonderful results from the kids that she teaches.

Originally from the UK, Nia is a qualified primary school teacher who has taught here in South Africa but also in the UK and Spain. She has practiced yoga since she was in the womb and dedicates time daily to enjoy a self-led intuitive yoga and meditation practice. She has studied yoga under the British Wheel of Yoga and has done children’s yoga training through Yoga Beez, a Yoga Alliance teacher training provider.

Previous to becoming a primary school teacher Nia worked in the field of art curation and education as well as supporting NGOs. “I thoroughly enjoy teaching children yoga as a way to enhance their natural intuition and imagination- they are such natural yogis! With my background in formal and informal education I really understand that children need to work on balancing out their pressures and determining a more productive, confident understanding for life. I therefore aim to make each class I teach both fun yet grounding and do this by incorporating creativity, playful movement and peace.”

Aside from private and group lessons for children, Nia and her business partner also offer a powerful approach called ‘Calm Classrooms’ which encourage children to slow down from the inside out and provide meaningful tools they can draw on for their whole lifetime. These resources are currently in use by therapists, schools, teachers and parents, and I am a massive believer in the value that the tools of mindfulness and more can bring to our children as they make their way through the world.

You can find out more about Nia on her website and watch this space for further details on the upcoming workshop. Classes will be on a Wednesday moving forward next year and will cater for two age groups – to be confirmed but more than likely along the lines of 3-5 and 6-12.

We can’t wait to welcome Nia to our studio and we know that any mums and dads that already know the benefits of this amazing practice will be delighted to have someone properly trained and passionate about passing them on to the younger generation.

Who’s On The Mat? Meet Vanessa

Over the next few weeks and months, we will be profiling some of the fabulous folk that frequent our beloved yoga studio. 

Take a minute to find out a bit more about the person on the mat next to you. This is the kind of studio that we share – with intimate classes and even though we (mostly) honour noble silence in the space, there is always a real friendliness about the yogis that come to practice here. 

First up: Vanessa (cool dreadlocks, funky pants, fabulous lace-up boots and a growing love affair with arm balances)…

Vanessa flying in Bali on a recent trip. Thanks to surgical intervention, doctor were able to remove the speedboat from her Svadhistana chakra and her arm balances are now much lighter

Who are you? 

My name is Vanessa Von Der Heyde,  and I’m 29. 

What’s your favourite asana? 

I love arm balances! The hurdler was one of the first arm balances I learned and is just one of those poses that came quite naturally to me. It does feel a bit like flying which is why it’s one of my favorites 💚

Least favourite? 

Definitely Dolphin 🐬 no question about it! From the start it’s just felt awkward and although I consider my shoulders to be relatively strong and my hamstrings are not crazy tight this asana just kills me! My quads also often cramp in his pose. Like Victoria likes to say, “it’s my nemesis” 😅

How did you get into yoga? 

I used to swim competitively when I was younger and was first exposed to yoga during those days. I loved it from the start but never had any time for it as swimming took over my life. When I quit swimming and moved to Stellenbosch I went through a bit of a rough patch and just needed something that could help me calm my inner turbulence. So I googled yoga in Stellenbosch and it was the best thing I could have ever done for myself. I’ve now been doing yoga at Nicci’s studio for almost 4 years and I am loving my practice more and more each day. 
What do you most enjoy about your practice? 

Yoga is the only time I take just for me. When I get onto my mat it is the only time I manage to switch my brain off and just be in the present. One thing I love about yoga is that it’s a quiet practice and there’s no talking to others. So I am able to forget about everything around me. I have also really enjoyed learning controlled strength. The human body is capable of amazing things and it’s an awesome feeling to move into postures you never thought were possible. I think my body has become addicted to this feeling because when I don’t practice for a few days I get these urges to do an arm balance or inversion. So that #stopdropandyoga hash tag makes a lot of sense 😜

Anything you like about our studio specifically?

What I love about Yoga With Nicci is that it’s a small and intimate studio. The yogis that are attracted to Nicci’s studio are such lovely people and it feels like a community. Nicci is also the most friendly, open and happy teacher and she’s got a knack for making you feel welcome and comfortable no matter what level your practice is at. She’s just one of those people you just want to hug when you see her. 

Anything else? 

I’ve started doing Instagram yoga challenges recently which have been a really fun way to connect to the larger yoga community and I love looking for beautiful spots to take my daily yoga photo. It’s been a lot of fun. So connect with me on Instagram @missvn3ss 😊

Thanks for the insight into you and your practice, Vanessa. It’s a joy to see your love for yoga blossoming in front of our eyes. When you’ve done your teacher’s training, come and teach with us! 

Who’s next? Inbox me or message me your answers to these same questions along with a picture of your practice. 

Benefits of Balanced Chakras 


What are the benefits of balanced chakras?

First of all you just feel good. You feel balanced, relaxed, whole and healthy. You feel everything in your life is going well for you. All or most of your projects are flowing the way you like.
Tomorrow 8am is the first session of the 5 week chakra balancing course that I am offering. See flyer for more details. Remember to book.

Here are some more answers to frequently asked questions:

How do you know if your chakras are out of balance?

If you are out of balance, you will know it immediately! Your clues will be that you feel awful, depressed, or even that something is not right. What makes it sad is that most people don’t know why they feel this way. It can start with an empty feeling, sometimes it start in the heart or the stomach and if the “emptiness” is not addressed, the “emptiness” spreads throughout the body. There may be days you feel like you can’t get out of bed. After a long time of not knowing what it is, in some cases, health illness can develop.

What is going on?

You may be voicing your concerns to anyone who is willing to listen to you, your body, your biggest advocate has probably has been telling you for a long time what is not right. Most people don’t pick up on their own clues. In fact, most people ignore what their bodies are telling them. By continuing to ignore your body, your body decides to catch your attention by developing health issues. In many of cases, health issues start in the gastrointestinal, respiratory or in the jaw. Now the discomfort forces you to stop and look for help! You thoughts may turn to calling your doctor, a specialist or even a holistic practitioner.

What’s happening to your chakras?

They are getting blocked with negative energies! How does the blockage begin? It usually starts with how aware you are of your life style. Are you living a balanced life? Are you stressed out of your mind? Are you over-scheduled? Do you take time to breathe? What do you do you do for yourself? Are your worries overwhelming you?

Blocked Chakras – When a chakra becomes blocked, damaged, or muddied with residual energy, then our physical and emotional health is usually affected. Another way to know when your chakras are blocked, your mood announces your energy level. Are you in a bad mood often? Are the people closes to you now hiding from you or not returning your calls?

What does a balanced chakra feel like?

Calm, peaceful, less or no anxiety and balanced. Chances are good that you can handle stressful situations pretty well. If your energy is positive, the energy will flow evenly from the top of your head to your feet with ease.

Who can achieve balanced chakras? Everyone with practice, awareness and education.

How Do We Open Chakras?

If our chakras are opened and moving, energy runs from the top or our heads to our sacral chakra and up again (in a circle). If one of the chakras becomes blocked, this energy cannot move through it and all other chakras become affected and deprived. In time, with lack of energy, the chakra becomes weaker and eventually illness and disease can set in. When we start to feel “off,” the first thing we must do is to check in with ourselves and feel our body. We must start to be conscious of how we feel and what our body is saying to us. Time on your yoga mat is one of the best ways to listen.

For original article, click here.

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. -Maria Robinson

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. -Maria Robinson

After a lengthy hiatus, I am back. I’ve been on a roller coaster ride the past three months which I am going to be slowly and respectfully blogging about. It’s a big deal for me, and I’m still not sure if this platform or the actual act of disclosure is the best place for this but let’s see how it goes. Basically, it’s all about starting again and using yoga to help me on my path, and to working towards making a new ending. Watch this space.

I am looking forward to teaching again tomorrow at my beautiful yoga studio in Stellenbosch. It’s been my happy place for so long now. Every single time I set foot in there, I feel a sense of calm descending upon me. I breathe deeper. I smile slightly. I inhale the lingering scent of incense. I love every single thing about that space and I am constantly stunned by how fortune has smiled on me so kindly by making this dream come true: the dream of teaching yoga at my own house in my own home town.

 

Right vs. Left

I’ve recently had a friend/student ask why I instruct my students to turn over to lie on their right side before coming up from the final relaxation pose.

Good question!

Here are some ways of explaining it:

You lie on your right side for one basic reason:  Your heart is on your left side. When you roll to your right, your heart is above the organs on your right side – it’s less weight on the heart. It’s not that big a deal, but if you rolled to your left, the heart would have a bit more pressure on it after savasana.

And then another (much more technical) answer:

The concept of polarity, or balancing the opposites, is vital to both Yoga and Indian traditional life. The right side of the body is related to the solar/positive/masculine flows of energy that are manifest by the surya nadi, which is correlated to the termination of the pingala nadi (a major prana nadi which flows along the right side of the spine). The left side is related to the lunar/negative/feminine flows of energy that are manifest by the chandra nadi, which is said to be the termination of the ida nadi (along the left side of the spine).

We must also remember that even the term Hatha Yoga, which means “sun and moon,” has the right side placed before the left in its esoteric association of ha with the sun and tha with the moon (Hatha).

There are also some physical reasons for this:

If the goal is ‘action’ and one has ‘things’ to do after a practice, one rolls to the right side. It is generally recommended that one get up from bed by rolling to their right side, as it is energetically linked to ‘action’. If one is trying to remain calm, or preparing for bed, one should roll to the left side.

Rolling to the right side of the body is rolling away from the heart (less pressure and weight on the rested and open heart).

Pausing on the right side allows the students natural blood pressure to reach its potential homeostasis.

Resting on the right side allows the energy to be redirected in the present moment as needed and circulated appropriately.

And then this, my favourite, to the point answer:

An appropriate Savasana provides the room for the student’s nervous system to shift to a parasympathetic state. That is a state of ease – lower heart rate and blood pressure, stimulation of the digestive processes, lower body temperature, release of endorphins. For this reason it is imperative that students come out of Savasana gradually, slowly, with no hurry or jarring action. Additionally, rolling to the side and pressing the floor inhibits tension in the neck and lower back.

Namaste xx