How to find calm and be grounded during the whirlwind of Vata Season?

We have entered into Vata season with a vengeance this September here in Southern Ontario, Canada… without much warning. Fall is upon us.

Last week we were in the mist of fire and heating elements with over 30˚C degree weather. Exhaustion from lousy sleep due to the heat for those like myself who don’t use air conditioning. I personally like the heat, but being a dominant pitta dealing with two weeks of constant sweltering hot days and no relief at night was way too heating for my pitta / vata self. Then…. BAM!  Overnight it all changed. The vata side of me was thrown into a shivering cold frenzie ~ “Give me my sweater.. where are my sweaters ~ Why is it so cold?Bring back the heat!” I cried while wrapping myself in a throw blanket and desperately heating the kettle to make a tea.  One day we were fanning ourselves and dripping with sweat at 30˚C+ degree heat to waking with 12˚C degree of bone chilln’,  cold rain, windy weather and a sore throat.  This kind of drastic change in weather can cause havoc on the body & mind balance, completely throwing Vata’s off. So how do we find balance and calmness of the mind during this windy, cold, dry, season? How to deal with Vata season and come out on top!

Fall is the beginning of the Vata Season and during this time we want to work at pacifying vata elements.  This time of year for all dosha’s including both Pitta and Kapha, will need to pay more attention to the changes of what this season brings with it, especially those who are vata dominant or vata imbalanced.  If you are a dominant pitta, then the fall vata season may be your favourite, cooling to your over heating.  Although if like me who is both pitta and vata, this time of year if gradually changes is welcoming, I usually love the fall and the sweaters, scarves and boots to go with it, but the sudden drastic change in weather and seasons can be rather disruptive.  So, if you are already Vata dominant or blended dosha like myself pitta / vata you may find the sudden onset of this season to be particularly aggravating.

What is Vata Dosha and how does it effect us?

Vata controls all movement in the body. It controls blood flow / circulations, elimination of waste, our breathing and movement in mind and thoughts. Since vata controls all movement in the mind/body it is considered to be the ‘master or king’ of the doshas.  Therefore, Pitta and Kapha need to pay attention!  This is the season of wind, cold, dry, a lot of movement of air, causing dryness of our skin our eyes and scalp.  Our nails are more brittle, cracking and soreness of our joints, coldness in the body, especially the hands and feet. Difficult with respiratory, coldness in the chest. Decrease immunity. Our digestion may be off and circulation poor. Our minds tend to be a bit more scattered, and anxiety, worry, difficulty making decisions may be more prominent. All of these qualities can come into play. And if you are already vata dominant or vata imbalanced, it may worsen.

So how do we find calm amongst these cold blistering whirlwind days ahead?

We have to pacify vata elements. When you look at it and how the seasons work and corresponds to the elements and connections to the doshas it all begins to makes a lot of sense. When it is cold and dry, add warmth and moisture. When hot, add coolness. When moist and heavy, add lightness and dryness. Nature is designed to find homeostasis. Being one with nature, we too strive for balance and harmony of the mind, body and spirit.

So what do we do? We want to pacify vata elements. Therefore, during this time it is increasingly important to add warmth to the body by introducing pitta fire and grounding kapha earth elements to your daily life.  We want to add good quantity of oil, warmth in our foods and drinks, sweet (naturally), sour and salty. Foods are to be well cooked and softened, easy to digest.

One way to do this is through our foods. If we look at the fall harvest, we will begin to see a lot of root vegetables and vegetables of wonderful colour. Pumpkins, butternut squash and acorn squash all have a beautiful Orange colour, a fire colour which is pitta element and if you look at them from a nutrition point of view, they are filled with immune boosting nutrients and antioxidants, both very important for Vata’s.  E.g.: Vitamin A, C, Fibre, B2, B6, Folate, Copper, manganese, Vit. K calcium, magnesium,  potassium, etc..   The Yummies of Winter Squash . Everything that we need to keep strong and healthy this fall/ winter Vata season.

Other foods that are great to introduce this time of year are your root veggies like sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, turnips, celery roots, carrots. Roots are exactly that… grounding. A gorgeous blend of colours and warmth to keep you cozy on those cold days and nights. Roots vegetables come from the earth and hold earth qualities. Dense, nutrient and mineral rich, natural sweetness and full of fibre, which will help keep you feeling full longer and more grounded.  When cooking, you want to make sure that they are well cooked and soft. Roasting or making lovely fall soups with these beautiful grounding roots thisVata pacify time of year will help calm and ground Vata’s all season long.

Fruits of the season are apples, pears, pomegranates. We want to make sure our apples and pears are sweet to taste and juicy juicy. Eating these fruits help to remove heat of summer from the body and prepare for vata seasons. However, for vata’s we want to make sure to eat them at room temperature or even cooked like in an Apple Pie or bread {Apple Pie Oatmeal Recipe ohsheglows}. And when eating ensure they are Organic, so you can have the skins on.  Most of the nutrients in these lovely fall fruits are in the skins!  Apples are rich in Vitamin C and the skins hold a lot of goodness. Soluble and insoluble pectin fibre rich, and are helpful for respiratory diseases and disorders like asthma and lung cancers, and C.O.P.D, as well as cardiovascular health and regulating blood sugars.  Find out more about apples and all their goodness here.     

Pears too have an abundant of health benefits. They are high in fibre, copper, Vit. C and K. Pears are not conventional in what is considered to be an antioxidant, but these fall fruit along with apples are very helpful for chronic illness, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant function.  If you are choosing your pears to enjoy… choose them juicy!!! Pears and how they can benefit your health

Naturally sweet juicy fruit is good for Vata’s.  Sour flavours too, a squeeze of lemon or lime, oranges and ‘Pomegranates’. Pomegranates, are a fruit of the fall and winter months. These bright red coloured fruit is very important and hold a lot of antioxidant functions. Important for vata season where we need to build and increase our immune systems.  Pomegranates canIMG_2399 be a sweet and sour, and is considered a sour that is tri-dosha. Good for all constitutions.  In Ayurveda, pomegranates are used medicinally, as well as for food. When consumed as a whole, including the skins it is great for our digestion, dealing with parasites and more.   Enjoying the fruit inside too has many health benefits; anti aging, immune system boosting and antioxidant and good for heart health. You can eat the fruit as a whole or make juice with it.  And remember, we are pacifying vata dosha, so we only want to consume foods that are room temperature or warmed. Cold food, drinks and food are to be avoided. Pomegranates are also lovely to have warmed to enjoy as a tea.  Health Benefits of pomegranate and Ayurveda uses

Nuts, which are good healthy fats and healthy fats are important for vata to eat. Almonds, cashews and pistachios are especially beneficial for vata. May be good to soak them or mix them with some sesame oil, olive oil, or sunflower seed oil, and add a little rock salt or sea salt for taste.  Sesame Seeds too are very good for vata.  If eating dry fruit, you may wish to soak them to add some moisture. Oatmeal, cream of wheat, or if gluten intolerant or celiac then choosing a quinoa, sorghum or cornmeal to make a porridge for breakfast in the morning to add warmth and moisture may be a wonderful way to start the day. However, bear in mind that if you’re a Vata with Kahpa imbalance you may need to choose foods to help balance both doshas. An Ayurveda practitioner can help you with this.

Dairy is okay for Vata Dosha, and having a glass of warm milk at night with pure saffron – or with tumeric and a bit of cinnamon, is lovely too, {saffron has wonderful benefits for vata dosha. Saffron and it’s benefits.}Personally being vegan I drink almond or cashew milks. Therefore, if you too follow a plant based diet, you would look at non dairy alternatives.  As well, same if you have lactose intolerance or are Kapha dosha dominant with vata imbalance and create a lot of mucus… dairy is not your friend.  However, if none of these apply to you and you drink dairy, then choose Organic Cow. Or try Goat Milks. FREE from hormones, antibiotics and steroids.  And if eating cheese, you want for your cheese to be the same and free from all the above, as well as free from modified ingredients.  Cheese, is to be soft and moist as with cottage cheese or ricotta or goats cheese. And / or hand made cheese like paneer or if vegan and lactose intolerant then eat home made cashew cheese as an alternative.  How to make Cashew Cheese

Food is one aspect to help pacify Vata Dosha, yet it is not the only practice to use. Daily hygiene practices are very important in helping to calm vata.  One way of doing this is to use Oils. Oils add moisture and helps to retain moisture in the body and are just as helpful to use in our food prep and meals as it is to use topically.

Using a good quality sesame oil or olive oil to put in the hair and use as a body rup is most important to combat dryness in Vata’s.  Instead of store bought soaps that are toxic and dry the skin, begin to Oil wash for your face daily.  Here “Wellness Mama” gives her Oil Washing regime Oil Cleansing Method . Vata’s tend to have very dry skin. To get rid of dry skin, simulate blood circulation and lymph circulation, use a skin brush and dry brush the skin before going in the shower in upward circular direction starting from the feet and working up towards the heart. Same with the hands and work along the arms towards the heart.  Do this before showering.  Then bathe using clean non-toxic skin products.  When you have finished showering pat dry the body to maintain the moisture and then slather your whole body with oil. Sesame oil, olive oil or sunflower seed oil. These three are generally tri-dosha neutral.   Especially important to oil your feet and hands and face and hair.  Even add some oil inside the nostrils. Leave on and allow for the skin to fully absorb the oil for about 10-15 minutes before getting dressed.

Aside…

The soaps you are using can be drying your skin. Here is a list of chemical commonly used in soaps and shower gels found in some of your favourite products bought off the self, and sadly does not exclude products in the “health food section” or even organic for that matter.  Choose products that are pure and clean and free from these chemicals.  Right here in Alliston and where I provide ‘Healing Journey Sessions’ in Yoga Therapy and Ayurveda is Organic Lifestyles… check out their product list! Organic Lifestyle Product List!

The following list of products are toxic and cause dryness and irritates the skin:

-Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Chemical agents which make soap foamy. It’s harsh, can irritate the skin, and even cause dry skin. Slightly less irritating is sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), but this chemical still causes skin drying.
-Triclosan.  An antibacterial and antimicrobial ingredient added to soaps which can cause skin irritation.
-Lye. A concentrated, watery solution of sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, lye is often combined with animal fats to make bar soap. It is known as caustic soda, because it’s so corrosive. It may also cause itching, irritation, even burns.
-Polypropylene. Is  a possible carcinogen.
-FD&C dyes/Synthetic Dyes. Synthetic dyes that make our soaps colorful are made from petrochemicals that can cause allergies, skin irritation, even hives and respiratory problems. Choose brands that use natural colorants.

{List provided by Ingredients in you soap may be the culprit}

What about yoga? Where does yoga fit in to all this and how can it help pacify Vata?

Vata season or what most know as being fall and winter is a Yin time of year. This is a time when we need to begin looking at conserving energy. It is a time of year that we tend to hibernate, want to stay warm and be surrounded by warm cozy fires, wrapped in blankets and curled on the sofa, drinking tea, hot cocoa or warm milk. Winter is also a time of darkness and we tend to be more withdrawn and go inside both in a physical sense and spiritual sense.  It is a time when we are more introspective in our practices, both with yoga and meditation.

I find a good yoga practice for Vata’s  would be one that is grounding and nurturing for the Self.   Those practice would be Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga.  Yin Yoga is great for Vata dosha.  When looking at our physical bodies Vata is located from our lower lumbar /hip and down our legs. On an energetic level Vata is in the upper region of our head. A good balanced Yin Practice concentrates on these areas, stretching out the back, hips and legs and is a form of meditative movement.  Another practice that is healing, conserving of energy is Restorative Yoga and one of my personal favourites. Restorative yoga is a very grounding and warm practice, passive in nature yet quite meditative.

However, if you enjoy a vinyasa yoga practice, then begin to slow it down by practicing one posture at a time and balance your movement from left to right rather then practicing all on the left side and all on the right side; and connect to your breath, slowing down breath and movement. Vata is movement, air and space. High movement will aggravate vata’s a Hatha practice of holding would be beneficial.

As for breathing and pranayama I find practicing a 3-2-1 inhale and 1-2-3 exhale to be very grounding and centering.  Breathing into the belly, ribs, chest and exhaling from the chest, ribs and belly. Wonderful if you also tend to experience anxiety, very calming of the mind.

Another breathing exercise that I find most grounding and allows to focus the mind offering a very meditative practice is Bhramari or aka Humming bee. You can perform this either in savasana or in a seated Sukhasana (easy pose) or Padmasana (lotus).  I enjoy beginning in a seated posture and then moving to savasana while continuing my humming. This could be for 5-10 minutes or up to 30 minutes or even an hour. Once you lay in savasana, continue humming few more moments and then allow the body to fully rest in savasana and allow for the vibrational energy of the pranayam to resonate throughout your whole body.

These are suggestions to ease the transition into Vata season, especially those of you who are Vata dominant or Vata imbalanced.  I hope you find this helpful during these winds of change.  To be one with nature and find ease in it’s transitions… we strive for balance and harmony with the seasons of ones mind, body and spirit.  However, it is important to know that this is a generalization and a practice that has personally helped me with finding balance with my vata qualities. The best way to know what practice is most suitable for you is to see a Ayurveda Practitioner / Counsellor in your area.   They will be able to properly assess you and create a program best suited for your specific needs and your constitution.  For you own personal “Healing Journey” using Ayurveda, please feel free to contact me I would love to hear from you.

From my heart to your… Many Blessings and Namasté

Maa Moksha Anand {Michelle Joyce}

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Endometriosis… What it ‘Is’, What it doesn’t ‘Have’ to be & How Yoga Helps

It was through the regular practice of yoga that I can honestly say my symptoms of endometriosis began to subside and eventually became non-existent. Yes… I have endometriosis.  So I know very well what you women out there and even ‘teens‘ may be going through living with this disease.  I emphasize teens because I was a teen when the onset started and the idea of a teenager having endometriosis was unheard of.  Doctors didn’t take me seriously and even were patronizing in their care or non care.

When I was 18 years old I use to have the worse periods. The pain I experienced was like none other. Oh My God! I thought I was dying. Seriously. It literally felt like I was being stabbed in the abdomen. The only way I was able to find some kind of relief was to take my fists and press them in my belly while laying in a fetal position.  This was me for about a week before my menstrual cycle. Then there was the aching legs and lower back pain. This was unbearable and would go on for hours or even days.

I had no idea what was going on with me. I went to several doctors and the response I received was most discouraging and very insulting.  One physician told me after my examination “You have pain like most women get headaches“. This was a gynecologist, and Yes… that was his response.  Another was from a female doctor whom I was referred to because she specialized in Women’s Health, she told me that “You are just severely constipated“.  Another doctor advised for me to “get pregnant” and there were a few more… no need to get into all of the responses, lets just say, they weren’t very insightful.  Until one evening while at a pub watching the basketball game with some friends I had an episode. That is what I called them. Episodes. Well this time it knocked me off the chair in the pub, on to the floor in such excruciating pain (pain caused by the stabbing feeling in my pelvis and sheer embarrassment), it was so bad that my friend rushed me to the hospital.  I am very grateful for that moment, not the best moment to remember, but an important one; because, there in the emergency room I met a resident doctor who told me about this disease called Endometriosis.  And from that moment my life changed. I still remember his name.. it rhymed with Canola {dreamy smile}, he was quite handsome too.

I went to see another specialist referred to me by my aunt. He was a Godsend from Ireland. Older doctor and incredible gynecologist. He informed me that Endometriosis was a disease more common in older women 45 + years old and very uncommon to see someone my age of 18 years having it.  In 1993 a laparoscopy was performed and confirmed that I did in fact have Endometriosis. My diagnoses was medium – severe and the scar tissue and endometrium tissues was accumulated around my left & partial right ovary and all under my bowels.  It was partially cauterised where it could be and I was told that I needed to receive treatment as it may cause infertility and other health concerns.

At the age of 18 I was put in to a medically induced Menopause for 6 months and didn’t have a period for a year afterwards.  Wow… I learned quick what my mother was going through. Hot flashes, mood swings, short temper and I gained a bit of weight in my belly. Now, imagine being 18 years old and living in a house where you and your mother were going through menopause??? Yikes… it was no field day, yet at the same time I fully understood what my mom was dealing with, as she did with me and we got through it together.

To give you a general idea of what endometriosis is 
it is when your endometrium lining sheds outside of the uterus. It attached to areas within the cavity of the body and each month during the women’s menses it acts as the lining does inside the uterus. It thicken and then sheds.  However, creating lesions and scar tissue and adhesion’s,  growing on possibly the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bowels, and essentially anywhere inside the body creating inflammation and pain. There is no way for it to leave the body. It can even grow around the lungs, bladder, cervix etc… I attached a link to provide you with more insight into this chronic disease and it’s
symTEXTptom’s. What is Endometriosis? 

Suffering each and every month does not have to be a way of life. I know that you may have a difficult time believing in this idea, but it is true. There is another way.  I have had 3 laparpscopies over the past 2o years.  The 2nd was performed in 2006 for fertility purposes, to see if all was clear. There was some more build up on the left ovary and around the fallopian tubes and I found out my appendix is attached to my side. The doctor removed some more scar tissue and that was it. My symptoms and discomfort with my cycle were still there. Not nearly as bad as they were when I was first diagnosed at 18 years old, but still present.

It wasn’t until 8 years ago when I actually began to experience a pain-free cycle. It was just one day I came on my period and had no idea. There was no P.M.S, no back pain or pelvic pain, no leg aches and pain, I didn’t even bloat, in fact other symptoms too were gone,  This was awesome! Even my partner noticed a difference and welcomed it.  We thought to try to conceive, as getting pregnant was difficult; therefore, in 2010,  2 years after I started practicing yoga, my 3rd scope was performed and every thing looked good. Infertility was a reality; however, there was notable difference from that last scope in 2006. All healed well and no significant new growths. The fertility specialist cleaned up some areas inside and informed me that my endometriosis was mild. This was amazing news. I attribute this change in my body, balancing of my hormones and comfortable periods each month to my yoga practice.

Endometriosis is an estrogen dominant condition. It is caused by an imbalance of hormones.  Practicing yoga helps to balance the endocrine system, bringing hormones into stasis through increase oxygen, blood flow, and energy flow to specific areas of the body. One the main areas would be our ovaries and the pituitary gland which governs the processes of our ovaries, adrenals and thyroid. And we need a good balance between these three for our estrogen, progesterone and the stress hormone cortisol.  

In addition,  when observing the  energetic connection. Endometriosis is housed within the sacral chakra.  The sacral chakra is located in the naval centre. This is where we would find imbalances in sexual and reproductive organs. Sacral chakra deal with our personal relationships, our desires, creativity and sexuality. It identifies with our emotions, so feelings of depression, addictions, anxiety are associated with sacral chakra, as well a guilt.  The connection to our endocrine system is our ovaries, as previously mentioned; as well, associated with the womb, genitals and kidneys. The sacral chakra governs movement and connection.  

So what does this mean? It can have many meanings. It could be that there is an energetic blockage(s) deeply rooted that needs to open to allow for energy movement and flow. It can be due to hormone imbalance or emotions held in the body or a combination of the both.  This is not meant to diagnose, it is to provide you with some insight and possibly some new information that may assist you in your healing.   There are some asana’s that you may do to help target and ease the discomfort you may feel with the endometriosis.

Will yoga cure it?  I don’t know if there is a cure, aside from not having a period any longer.  Endometriosis is a fact of my life and is still present. It is under control from what I believe.  I am at a place now where I can tell when my body is out of balance, some symptoms may re-occur, but there is an awareness. That is what has changed.  I am aware and have a relationship with my body.  There’s a dialogue that happens and I listen. You too can develop a relationship with your body by starting a regular yoga practice, taking time to connect and listen to the messages your body is sending you.

Here are a few asana’s to get you started.  Practice with ease and comfort in the pose and allow for your breath to flow… relaxing in to your exhalations.

1} One of my all time favourite is the restorative version of Supta Baddha Konasana or reclining bound angle pIMG_2462ose. You may perform this as a restorative posture with props or without. It targets all the areas that we want: Ovaries, groin, kidneys, womb, whole pelvic area, the back and legs.  As well, it is opens the heart and allows for expansion of the chest. It eases discomfort, helps with sleeplessness, calming and very nurturing. It can feel exposing for some who may feel vulnerable being so open; therefore, covering yourself with a blanket will help.    Yoga Journal ~ reclining bound angle pose

2} Padmasana / Ardha Padmasana~ Lotus pose or half lotus. This is an intermediate or advanced posture. This is another asana that helps to direct circIMG_2433ulation and energy to the groin and pelvic area. It eases menses and menopause symptoms.  The hips are required to be open to perform, and can be hard on the knees and ankles (not good to do if you have any injuries in these areas). To start if you are able, perform Half Padmasana. Yoga Journal ~ Padmasana or Ardha Padmasana (Lotus / Half Lotus)

3} Another favourite of mine and is a go to pose when I am having any menstrual discomfort especially in my back and my legs is Downward Facing Dog.  Also good to ease mild depression as it directs blood flow and energy to the brain. Stretches out the back targeting the kidneys, adrenals as well, directs energy to the pelvic area and hip crease, which helps with menses and menopause symptoms.  Since DWFD causes a upward stretch of uterus as in inversions, you may wish to only do this one during the few days before your period starts,   Yoga Journal Downward Facing Dog

4} I have a few favourite’s and Seated Forward Bend~pashchimottanasana is on the top of my list.  This asana gentle massages the internal organs, focusing in on the ovaries, uterus, it stretches out the back targeting the kidneys and adrenals as well, feels really good for that back pain and leg discomfort. In addition, it helps to detoxify and cleanse the energy channels of the liver and kidneys. In my opinion pashchimottanasana is one of the master asana’s. Yoga Journal Pashchimottanasana

5} The last one is Half Lord of the Fisher Pose, Ardha Matsyendrasana http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/half-lord-of-the-fishes-pose/ . Seated Twist. This asana  helps to gently massages the abdomen, the liver and kidneys. It ease menstrual discomfort and helps with infertility. Stretches and lengthens the spin so it feels really good on the back all the way up to the neck. As well, it offers a good stretch to the legs.  One more to add to the top of the list for master poses.

I hope you find this post helpful. There are many more asana’s that I could add that would be helpful for Endometriosis,  but I don’t want to overwhelm you.  Just know and believe that your body is designed to heal itself and yoga is a wonderful tool to assist you with doing just that.   Please feel free to send me any comments. I would love to open up a dialogue with you.

From my heart to yours,

Blessings & Namasté ~ Maa Moksha Anand

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