Ayurveda Life: How Ayurveda Changed My Life
In honor of National Yoga Month, we are excited to bring you the first in a comprehensive series on the practice of Ayurveda. ‘Ayurveda Life’ will be a weekly series of posts from some of the most influential Ayurvedic authors and organizations. We are proud to partner with Banyan Botanicals and hope that you enjoy and share these posts with your communities.
“Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences that developed together and repeatedly influenced each other throughout history. Yoga and Ayurveda work together to enhance their great benefits on all levels”.
“The link between yoga and Ayurveda is prana, or the life force. Yoga is the intelligence of prana seeking greater evolutionary transformations, while Ayurveda is its healing power…” ~ Dr. David Frawley
I was first introduced to Ayurveda in the 1990s when Robert Svoboda would come twice a year to Yoga Works. For my body, taut from a daily tapas practice of third series Ashtanga, learning about “Rasayana” or as Robert put it “the path of juicing up” was revolutionary. I didn’t know my ayurvedic dosha or constitution so I wasn’t aware of how much a challenging intense practice that I loved was also creating imbalances in my body and life. Even though I practiced Ashtanga in a meditative way, it was the same series practice all-year round no matter what was changing in my being or life.
In my sincere yogic intention of going deeper in the asanas as a form of internal purification and realization, I was also burning up my ojas – one’s juiciness, luster, longevity, and happiness. As I looked around the room and in my own mirror, I would notice that other practitioners could do amazing asanas but didn’t always look very healthy. Even my teachers looked older than they were and some women were losing not just their body fat but their menstrual cycle too. I was flexible in practice but often felt stiff afterward. It occurred to me that the yoga that I loved so much as a path of freedom for me, was also limiting and imbalancing if I continued without changing. I was going deeper in my practice but my juice was evaporating – literally my female voluptuousness, luster and even my sweetness was going dry. I was one intense and imbalanced pitta-vata, but a very dedicated yogini. Ayurveda offers insight to living and practicing a more balanced yogic lifestyle; the Ayurvedic lifestyle allows the yogi to maintain juiciness!
Through Ayurveda I also learned about how our life-force could be used to move in harmony and to help see imbalances in the body. I began to explore in my own practice and teachings, how to embody and move from these underlying movements of prana in order to be more connected to our instinctual intelligence. This radically changed my teaching and was the source for the evolution of what I offer today as Prana Vinyasa Flow which is based on embodying the pulsations of prana within an asana and in the changing rhythm of the day, week, lunar cycle and seasonal flow. From doing a set series which I loved, I now offer pathways of over 40 namaksars and lunar-solar practices that give the tools for a person to change with the seasons and what is needed for balance. In working with Ayurveda teachers, I introduced Living Ayurveda in our teacher trainings and a path were yoga teachers can become living ayurveda consultants. We offer retreats to Kerala every year to receive Ayurvedic treatments and study in a complimentary way to yoga. In this way, Ayurveda was a huge shift in the way that I experience and offer yoga.
I wish I had learned about Ayurveda at the beginning of my yoga journey before I burned up the ojas that I did. But I am grateful for the wisdom teachings and life practices that came at just the right time for I do feel more connected to every aspect of my life.
These were the key shifts for me:
- Create a rhythm of life that is balancing for your constitution and then adapt that to lunar (waxing-waning) and solar (seasonal) cycles of the year as way of harmonizing being active and being restorative.
- Integrate key practices into your daily rhythm that are good for your constitution and living in harmony with the lunar and solar rhythms. The body self-care (dry-brushing, oiling, tongue scraping etc.) rituals are easily integrated and really make a difference over time.
- Eat and enjoy herbs and food that are in season and harmony with your dosha
- Learn to observe imbalances in your body, thoughts, emotions, and actions so that you can respond in the moment to creating greater balance. For example agitation is the classic sign of Pitta or Vata going out of balance so that we can look to ourselves to cool down and get grounded rather than react to every agitation and fan the fire and make something worse.
- Learn how to cultivate ojas in a daily rituals way that is good for your constitution (vata, pitta, kapha) so that you can stay juicy, and joyous on your path (see below).
Ayurveda has changed my life because ayurveda has become a way of life. I am getting juicier as I appreciate my ojas and healthy body fat as the sign of vitality. I hope I am getting sweeter as I learn to bring the healthy sweet taste as a vital part of nutrition for a smiling Pitta dosha person. I appreciate change and embrace the seasonal cycles and I am still very much a student of Ayurveda in the process of refining. I feel every yoga practitioner can benefit from the wisdom of Ayurveda particularly as our daily life rhythms become more fragmented.
Ayurveda is the yoga of life – may all beings be happy and juicy.
~Shiva Rea, prAna Ambassador
Shiva Rea is the founder of Samdura Global School for Living Yoga, a pioneer of Prana Vinyasa®, and the catalyst for the Global Mala Project. Her latest book, Tending the Heart Fire – Living in Rhythm with the Pulse of Life is a book of 108 meditations, healing wisdom for embodying the power of our energetic heart. www.shivarea.com