A lot has been going on. It’s hard to put in words, I have been re-writing this sentence several times now. Part of me wants to tell the whole story, another part doesn’t think it’s relevant for anyone but me (maybe that’s true, or maybe that’s just the part talking that is reluctant to show itself for what it is).
Waking my demons
The short version is: The circumstances in my life – less than two weeks away from unemployment, a long week at work coming up involving travel, and spiritual growth – have awoken an old demon: my eating disorder (binge-eating). It hasn’t been this bad since university, in some respects it’s even worse. For several weeks now it has been a daily struggle („struggle“ seems like a euphemism since I haven’t had much fight in me it seems), I have even gone and bought stuff I craved, which I never ever have done before.
Practical remedies for when you feel weak
I think I know what the underlying issue is here: and old karmic trauma, the memory of which I recently conjured when I made a wish. I do want to get into that at some point but right now I want to focus on the symptoms. For while I believe that my best chances of overcoming this self-destructive habit is by dealing with the issues I am trying to distract myself from with it, I also feel a need for something more hands-on, a lower obstacle. Because honestly: sometimes the advice „Well then just don’t give into these cravings, and you’ll find out what’s really the issue“ is just not practical. If it were easy, or if I felt that strong, I probably wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place.
This is the part I want to share with you not just because it helps me writing about these things but because I think that the information I came across this afternoon is helpful to anyone with an eating disorder/an unhealthy relationship to food (just out of curiosity, are there any people left who have a healthy one?).
An Ayurvedic approach to eating disorders
I remembered some of the Ayurveda books I read also mentioned eating disorders as symptoms of dosha imbalances (I wrote about Ayurveda and its terminology before, click on the category „Ayurveda“ or scroll down to the relevant links if you want to know more). So I tried to find books with an Ayurvedic perspective on eating disorders. Once again I am grateful for the internet, and people sharing their work there so generously. I found a very informative article (please note that all facts I’ll be stating are from that article, unless otherwise marked):
It uses a lot of Ayurveda terminology, so I am trying to make this a sort of easy to understand summary. I encourage you however to read the original article in any case. There are lots of cases to illustrate the technicalities, and also because I will (for obvious, selfish) reasons mostly be going into the things that pertain to my situation, since those caught my eye.
Some basic insights
Let’s start from the beginning:
- Eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia, overeating) are related to stress and/or food allergies.
- How we react to stress in our eating habits depends on our individual constitution (dosha – Vata, Pitta or Kapha).
- Bad choices regarding food may stem from lack of education (meaning: we just don’t know any better than to eat they way we were taught as children), and for some (especially Pitta) they are a way to cope with trauma.
I am a Pitta-Kapha (right now with a severe Kapha imbalance, I’d say). For me, just recognizing myself in a lot of the symptoms stated in this article helps. Heck, just reading that
- Vata types are prone to anorexia/bulimia and tend to forget to eat,
- Pitta cannot skip meals and has a tendency to sugar addiction,
- Kapha easily puts on weight and is inclined to overeating
is huge! It takes away the feeling of personal guilt, and shifts the perspective to „This is how I as a Vata/Pitta/Kapha person react to stress, now let’s see what can be done about that“.
There is no „one size fits all“ solution
I have been praising Ayurveda for its individualistic approach in probably every article I wrote, and I find myself wanting to stress this crucial point once again: what is great about Ayurveda is that it does not claim to offer a universal solution. What is good for you always depends on who you are, therefore any „‚one size fits all‘ approach“, as Alakanda Devi puts it, is bound to set you up for failure. Unless, of course, you just happen to be the right person for the method but I’d prefer finding the right method for me …
Like increases like
Although there are no universal remedies, Ayurveda knows of certain universal principles. One of them is: like increases like. Often times like is also attracted to like, which is highly relevant when it comes to eating disorders. For according to Devis article, some eating disorders are the result of food allergies, and once recognized as such can be (relatively) easily cured.
For example, Kapha types are often (or more often than other types) allergic to wheat, gluten, and cow dairy. The „like increases like“ and „like is attracted to like“ explains why someone can be craving food that is actually bad for them. Various readings and nutrition experiments have led me – time and time again – to the conclusion that I am better off skipping sugar, dairy, and carbs (mainly wheat/gluten). Yet when I have cravings, I want ice-cream, cereal with lots of milk, and bread with cheese. Now I know why. (I kind of want to put sugar in a separate category because it seems like it works more like drug. Some say that refined sugar isn’t good for anyone, especially not the amounts we are used to consuming nowadays, others say that only certain people are more sensitive to its negative effects – either way, I’m it, I guess.) I know that cutting out the foods that are bad for me does not help with the psychological aspect of my eating disorder – but I imagine that for someone whose problems with eating are the result of an (undetected) food allergy, this information is really a big piece of the puzzle.
I think my Kapha is out of balance …
Even before I read this article I had been observing myself and recognizing certain tendencies which just seemed to have „excess Kapha“ written all over them:
- I have been feeling very tired, pushing my getting-up time gradually to way into the Kapha or even Pitta phase of the day.
- I have been feeling heavy, and at the same time craving foods with that exact quality (peanut butter with honey turned out to be my no. 1 poison, not to give you any ideas …), which made me feel even heavier – both principles, „like is attracted to like“, and „like increases like“ working at their utmost here.
- My cravings and the binges have been at their worst at night, between 6 pm and 10 pm, which is the second Kapha cycle of the day (despite the knowledge of the different dosha cycles, I had not been able to connect the dots previous to reading Devi’s article, so thanks for that!).
- I have been lazy, not exercising at all, basically the thought of physical labor could make me feel exhausted.
There is a lot more in that article but this seems like a good place to stop for now.
Now that I have realized all this, what am I to do with this?
First of all, like I mentioned in the beginning, just having this information and recognizing myself in the symptoms/cases described makes me feel like a weight has been lifted off me. Apart from dealing with the underlying issue, which may seem daunting and hard to grasp at times, there are „hard facts“. There are factors that contribute to me going on binges, and factors that can make it easier to withstand them. Those seem more tangible, easier to change, even when I don’t feel strong enough to deal with the big picture.
Once again, it’s the little things – baby steps.
Like being aware of the fact that it’s not necessarily just a question of willpower and discipline whether I can withstand cravings at night but that the Kapha dominance during these hours is a contributing factor. So I prepare myself for the risk, and find something to do to take my mind off of food – like writing this post.
I am reminded of the impact that sugar, wheat, and dairy have on me – not only on my physical well-being but also emotionally. This makes me feel motivated to try and make more deliberate choices about what I eat. I try to focus on what is good for me, and what I enjoy eating instead of thinking of it as „All the things I’m not allowed“. This is a tricky one since I am never oblivious as to whether what I eat is good for me or not …
Exercising helps reduce Kapha – as with everything, I am going to try and set the bar as low as possible, and raise it gradually (I tend to set my goals to high, get frustrated by failure, and respond by giving up completely). Going for an hour long walk every day seems do-able.
I want to try and see my cravings as something positive: after all, they are undeniable hints of something being awry. In my quest to find out my what my issues are, what it is that I am so afraid of to surface that I need to stuff it down with vast amounts of food, there is one fail-proof way of finding out: not giving in to the cravings, and seeing where that leads me. Like I said before, this is the hardest part.
I want to get better at asking for help. Both friends and the universe in my morning meditation.
Going to see to it that I get back to getting up early again.
More practical advice
Here’s another site with a few more hands-on things to do, e. g. different yogi techniques, which I want to try:
- Sweet Ayurveda Treatment to Stop Emotional Eating & Lose Weight – I know I’ll feel silly doing this even when nobody’s around, but it’s worth a try, right?
- Healthy Ayurveda Diet To Burn Fat & Lose Weight – OK, that title does not sound good, and I am not so sure about some of the advice but still, I’m definitely in need of some Kapha reduction.
- 5 Healthy Weight Loss Tips from Ayurveda – More weight loss stuff. I am actually proud of myself for not even having tried hard to not make this the focus of this post (gee, that was a lot of negatives). And the fact that I am finally at a point where weight loss isn’t my main concern anymore (although claiming that it isn’t a concern at all would be a lie, sadly).
- 6 Safe & Natural Weight Los Solutions – again, dumb title, not so sure about some of the advice (drinking hot water with honey? From what I understand honey has the same effect as sugar, so probably a red flag for me) but most of it sounds pretty good to me, especially the meditations and yoga exercises.
- 11 Guidelines for eating healthy | Guide on how to eat right – This is straight up Ayurveda, you can probably find this in every book on the subject. I should print these out and put them up somewhere to remind myself. Very basic, very true – often times hard to abide by because we’ve overwritten this common sense (for that is really what this, or anything Ayurveda, is) with other rules.
Other relevant links
Ayurvedic Diet – A good overview
I really should have written this one on Thursday, when „everything“ happened but it got late, and I had to get up early on Friday (yesterday was my first day without a post – thanks, real world with money and work and stuff). As I feared, I really don’t feel like writing about it anymore right now but I am trying to get into it. Ironically, this post might not even be relevant or interesting for anyone besides me – then again, who’s the person caring the most about a blog anyway if not the writer, right?
As you probably can guess by now, this is going to be „one of those“ posts – no pix, just me ranting. Even though dinner on Thursday would have been perfect for pix: tex-mex à la Junkfood – for real, everything homemade, soup to nuts (or rather: salsa to wraps), with like a gazillion sauces, and everything really colorful. Real photogenic food in other words. But as I said: this post isn’t going to be that kind.
I guess the reason why I feel I need to share this is because as much as I like DIYs, recipes, and that kind of stuff, and as much as I like to write and post about that stuff, that’s not all that’s going on, and it’s not all I care about. I wrote about this before, and I know that I don’t HAVE to share everything here but somehow it’s important to me to not only show what I consider my good side. I actually see that as a theme or a red thread in my life – my inability to be someone other than me, to conceal and „unspeak“ things that some might say I should. As I wrote in that other post, I have come to the conclusion that I am not here to learn to get better at hiding my true self, but to „own it“ instead, to show it, and experience that any negative reactions aren’t as damaging as I might fear. On the other hand, the best case scenario would be that being honest about my „dark passenger“ (well, ok, it’s not that bad, I didn’t kill anyone, I am just exaggerating for dramatic effect) might lead others to the realization that has been so important for me: that it’s ok to be who we are, that we don’t need to hide, that there is enough room for all of us to unfold and grow to the fullest.
So, enough with the pre-ranting. What I actually want to say about Thursday is this:
While preparing dinner, I completely snapped. At Peter. Several times. Over the smallest things. Now by snapped, I don’t mean threw things at him – but I did throw stuff.
I am a complete control freak, I know that. I take it hard when things don’t go the way I had planned them. I keep going in circles with that one. I frequently come to the realization that I cannot possibly control all the factors that play a role in the plans I am making, so change of plans does not mean I failed. For that is how I experience it: as failure. It is my duty to control every aspect of my life, and if you happen to be my boyfriend, well, then that means you’re an aspect of my life I need to control, especially if you live with me. You have to do things my way (because only my way of doing things is right, obviously). Sorry but that’s just how it is.
Like I said, every once in a while I come to the realization that that’s NOT how it is, that I don’t control everything – and that I don’t have to. There is a force out there (I think of it as love or the universe, you might call it God or something else) that takes care of me – if I let it. When I look back at my life, the most amazing things that happened to me did not happen because I planned them or made them happen. They just happened to me, where brought to me, so to say. Sure, I applied for my exchange years, but it wasn’t up to me to decide whether I’d get into the program or where I’d end up. I met Peter right after I decided there was no point in looking for a serious relationship while you’re abroad and you know you’re going back eight months later. The list goes on.
So when I have these epiphanies (yes, plural, I keep having them because I keep forgetting) I walk around for while relieved from the burden of having to control everything. I don’t feel the need to complain about anything, even when I notice things that do bother me. I don’t care what anyone does, i don’t feel the need that I constantly need to run around like a headless chicken, restless, trying to find ways to occupy myself in order to avoid silence.
And then I forget. Again. And again. On Thursday, for some reason control was important. I think the reason was general anxiety about the uncertainty of my/our future – also a recurring theme: I try to have faith that it’ll be great and it’ll all work out even if I don’t see how right now, and then I go back to driving myself crazy over not knowing. Control/Feeling in control always matters the most when I feel like everything I try to grab is running through my hands like water, and when I forget that I don’t have to be in control, that that doesn’t mean everything is going to hell.
I don’t like when food is being wasted – I have a hard time even leaving leftovers for (irrational, duh) fear of the food rotting before it gets eaten. No matter whether I am actually hungry or whether I like the food. I’ve told myself a thousand times that no one is saved from starvation by me not throwing out food but making myself sick instead. Obviously this irrational fear has a deeper root. Maybe from another life, but also very likely from how I experienced my childhood: that we bought a bunch of groceries, while the fridge was full, so half of what was in there really was molding.
So, when Peter threw away the avocados that I had bought for the guacamole because they were hard as rocks and unusable, I threw a fit. I screamed at him, why we couldn’t at least try to keep them a few days and see if they’d ripen (they were already cut open), and then I tossed a pot with some milk in it into the sink (also a leftover from Peter which had aroused my irritation earlier), and dramatically told him to go ahead and throw away everything. The best part is: I can’t even eat avocados, they give me stomach aches.
I calmed down and apologized. I always regret my outbursts afterward (I sincerely do), which does not mean I can’t have another one just a couple of minutes later.
I could already guess that it would piss me off when Peter would end up talking more to his friend whom we’d invited over than helping me. Even though it had been me who wanted to do this tex-mex shindig from scratch in the first place, and even though it had been me who wanted to do so many different things (the tortilla bread, the beef, two different salsas, a bacon-bean sauce, … you get the picture). I tried not to be too naggy. Then Peter made Mojitos (also on my demand, I had been able to get some fresh mint at the store), and did it – as he usually does – by only paying half attention to the recipe I had to remind him to look up several times, and shooting from the hip. There was about a deciliter (ca. half a cup) of rum with a few drops of lime, and some sugar in each glas, no ice, no mint, and instead of laughing, as I later wished I had done, I just got so mad. Again.
Now you might want to jump in and say that this time I really had a point. When you want a mojito, you’re expecting something specific – and it is NOT a bottle of rum with a drop of lime and a grain of sugar. However, I think the point is something else here: I am convinced that, as much as Peter may have made an honest mistake (I know he did), this did not „just happen“. I believe that this happened to me because it was what I needed. When I am trying to gain control by force over things I cannot control, things need to happen to me that remind me of that. In my view, that’s how it works in general (I know that that’s not a popular view with everyone, at some point in my life I thought people who said stuff like this where ignorant). Therefore, I don’t believe either that it is coincidence that I am with someone who is particularly „uncontrollable“, who is spontaneous, gets lost in the moment, plays life by ear a lot of the times. It’s what I need. To learn.
My meltdowns then aren’t really about Peter, either (and he is wise, he knows, and doesn’t take them hard). This is what frustrates me: that even though I know this, I still keep taking it out on him in the situation. And although my apologies are earnest, I wish that I could just remember what I know to be true. Just a few moments earlier. Live and learn, right?
My (amazing, awesome, inspiring!) yoga teacher once said that the universe wants its own good, and we are part of the universe. I don’t like quotes very much but I find this thought worth hanging on to.
May we all feel like we’re taken care of and well protected. May we feel like we can let go of control where it isn’t ours.
Well, ok, it wasn’t a completely selfless act, I do dig these kind of diys. I have been meaning to write this post since last Wednesday (that’s when I tried some recipes) but I wanted to wait till I had some pictures. As most of the times, I am not completely happy with them but I am afraid if I wait until I am, I will never share this with you. And that would be sad because trying out these recipes really was a revelation for me. So: do try this at home!
The soap nut shampoo I simply did because I had those nuts (that are berries) at hand. It’s actually what we’ve been using to do the laundry with, I had no idea you could use them as shampoo. Boiling the soap nuts in water for 30 minutes, preparing the shampoo every time you want to use it rather than storing it – the procedure is simple yet somewhat time-consuming, so I am not sure I will stick with this one in the long run. The liquid does have a distinct smell, which I find neither particularly unpleasant nor particularly pleasant. It’s ok. As to whether this shampoo worked or not – I find it hard to say. I mean, my hair did get clean and looked nice but I can’t say for sure that it was the soap nuts, or simply washing my hair (after all, some do use water only), or …
… The green tea conditioner. Now this one I loved. My hair usually is very hard to comb (I don’t even use a brush). I have gotten used to it and don’t even think about the discomfort anymore but those days are over! I was skeptical, and wondered how this was supposed to work, after all, the green tea is water, and won’t that just run down before I even got a chance to rub it in? I have no clue how it worked – but it did. My hair was super-easy to comb, and it did look nice (again, I can’t know for sure what to contribute that part to).
The real revelation however was the coffee scrub. It is easy to make, relatively cheap yet it feels really expensive (which is the best, right?), feels nice, and makes you smell so good! I only deviated from the original recipe in so far as I used coconut fat instead of olive oil. Again: because it was at hand – and also because it is supposed to be good for Pitta (yup, I just had to sneak in something Ayurveda). Also I used vanilla sugar instead of regular since I had prepared a jar full a while ago (you just put a vanilla bean in a jar with sugar and let it sit), which we don’t use anymore (the sugar being white). Same goes for the coffee: we haven’t been drinking any lately, so this is the perfect way for me to enjoy its smell anyway.
In the original recipe it says it’s against cellulite but I just went ahead and used it as a full body scrub. Peter was concerned that maybe that way I’ll just end up spreading cellulite. Very good point, so I will keep you posted as to whether I suddenly develop cellulite on my nose or something.
I have been combining using this scrub with the Ayurveda massage technique from the morning routine, so I fancy myself getting the benefits from both. I am no expert though, so I don’t know, I am just going with my gut here. Another thing that’s great about this scrub (yes, there is more!) is that the coconut fat (or whatever fat/oil you’re using) keeps your skin from drying out in the shower. At the same time, you don’t get so sticky that your towel or clothes feel greasy after using them. Your skin just feels really nice and smells like coffee – how cool is that?!
FYI: all this coming from someone who normally doesn’t use more than shampoo and soap in the shower – read: I don’t get excited about beauty products very easily. Yesterday I even managed to get Peter excited about this coffee scrub. His only concern was that he was going to a lecture, and that the coffee addicts among the guests might be tempted to start licking his skin. No reports of the sort have been filed, so I guess this delicious scrub is safe for use in public. Well, maybe not the actual use but you know what I mean.
After having had the most horrible stomach aches after pretty much every meal for two weeks now, I finally seem to have found the root of all evil: my beloved ginger!?
First off, yes, I am aware of the irony of me being on such a health trip, and at the same time not really taking any time to look into (or have someone look into) this problem. My stomach was burning after seemingly anything I ate, my digestion was a nightmare – yet I kind of didn’t do anything about it. I attributed this to the sudden changes in my lifestyle I’ve been making, and just hoped it would go away once my body would adjust. As the saying goes, it’s easier to see the splinter in other people’s eye than the log in your own. So maybe this was karma.
I just don’t like going to doctors, especially not here where you don’t even have a specific doctor you go to – you go to a so-called health center, and you’re assigned whoever happens to be on duty that day. Plus I get the impression that the medical practice here is very „traditionally western“. It seems to me that antibiotics are subscribed as if they were skittles. I am just not into that.
Yesterday however I started looking up doctors in town with an Ayurvedic background or a homeopathic one, willing to bite the bullet, and pay for a consultation outside the tax-funded mainstream health system. Then Peter and I had a heated discussion about my state, his concerns that I was downplaying it, etc. And somehow, I don’t remember exactly how, we realized that the number one food that I have increased my intake of since I got into Ayurveda was ginger. It suddenly dawned on me that all the times my stomach couldn’t tolerate a meal, I had added ginger, and I had done that with about anything since it’s supposed to be so good in so many respects.
Perfect example of how there really is no universally valid recommendation, that it always depends on the particular case. For now that I’ve come to this conclusion I suddenly have been able to see all the lines where it says in which cases not to eat ginger – and they were all the symptoms that I had, or rather: developed in a chain reaction after continuing to eat ginger (high metabolism/high Pitta, diarrhea, all that good stuff).
So, today I avoided ginger, drank peppermint tea in the morning to soothe the stomach – and I haven’t had problems all day. I guess I did get around consulting an expert this time after all, and became a little more of my own expert (not sure whether that really is the take home message from this ordeal though).
I did discover one quick remedy (or rather: Peter pointed me to it), which is obviously no solution for the actual problem but which helps the immediate symptoms, and sometimes that is needed: baking soda. Just dissolve about a tea spoon or so in a glas of water, and drink – works within minutes. Baking soda seems to be good for a lot of things, so I guess there is a post about it in the future …
Do you get up just in time to throw on some clothes, leave for work, and maybe grab some coffee on the way? Do you get up early so you can take your time and wake up slowly, read the paper, and eat breakfast at home? What does your morning look like?
I have always found myself in the category of people who hate to have to rush, even if that means sleeping less. A while ago, before I got into Ayurveda, I started meditating or doing different mudras (good when you – like me – have a hard time letting your thoughts go – mudras work whether you are able to focus or not). It hadn’t occurred to me that there are other rituals that could help start the day right.
This is the daily routine as presented by Ayurvedic physician Vasant Lad (which is the one you’ll find most in books or online – with minor variations in the details).
I am posting this article from the Nithyayoga-site because it goes a little more into detail regarding the oil pulling technique („Gargling“ in Lad’s article), which I find important. Also, I think that setting a positive intention, and thus: the tone of your day, might be a little more accessible than the prayer for some.Ayurveda knows of routines not only for the morning but for the entire day – the Dinacharya in Sanskrit. Just type the word into your search engine of choice, and you’ll find a bunch of sites giving you a variation of this.Now do I do all of this? Well, sort of but not to a t. I am a person who loves rituals, and to some extend feels lost without them, so naturally, as I read about Ayurveda, the idea of adopting a morning routine (and one for the evening) sounded appealing to me.These days I start my mornings:
- early – I wake up between 4.30 and 6.30, depending on a variety of factors – usually around 5 or 6 (regardless of whether I am working that day or not)
- by drinking some room temperature water, sometimes with a little lemon and honey in it (Ayurvedic remedy if you have problems emptying your bowels in the morning)
- going to the bathroom
- boiling some water for tea and a nose cleanse – during the winter I often wake up with a stuffed nose, cleansing it with warm salt water helps
- over the past few days I started doing some yoga before (I don’t have/take time for this on the days that I work)
- meditating and doing mudras for about 30 minutes
- oil-pulling/gargling for about 15-20 minutes
- while I do that, I usually turn on the computer, check e-mails, start writing something
- after I spit out the oil, I brush my teeth, wash my face and underarms – or I take a shower
- when I do take a shower, I started combining this with a massage (again: if I have the time, so, not on working days, and not even on all days off)
- I get dressed
- drink some tea
- and start writing
The order in which I do things does vary, I also skip some steps some days, when I am too impatient and anxious to actually start my day – working on that one. Like today, I brushed my teeth but never really washed the rest, and I am still not really dressed. Sometimes I just feel like I need to start writing first, and then after a while I’ll get back to finishing the morning routine. In reality, it often doesn’t happen then, and I never actually sit still for a while to contemplate the day I am about to begin. Kind of funny, that I manage to rush into the day even though I consciously follow a morning routine.
I am not ignorant (or I’d like to think at least not THAT ignorant), so I know that me having this kind of extensive morning ritual is largely thanks to me not having a full-time job, and my hours being spread over only two to three days per week. Also, am guessing that not having kids might have something to do with it. Basically, I have the luxury of being able to use a lot of my time as I please.
I find this kind of morning routine very pleasant, energy-inducing, and thus: I find that it helps me make the most of my days. I can recommend it to anyone but I do wonder: is this realistic? Can anyone (who wants to) adopt such a routine? Is it just about setting priorities, and getting up early enough? Or does the world we live in today not really allow for paying so much attention to yourself? Will I still do this as a parent? Do those of you who are parents do this? What do your mornings look like?
Here comes some of that „basic Ayurveda stuff“ I have been meaning to write about. I have been using terms such as „Pitta“, „dosha“ and „dominant dosha“ without actually explaining them. Maybe you’ve looked them up yourself, maybe you just overread them.
The ten pairs of gunas
Ayurveda is much about qualities (gunas) of things, more precisely: keeping the balance of pairs of qualities. The Charaka Samhita, tells of twenty different qualities, or ten pairs of qualities (a pair consisting of two opposite qualities):
- heavy – light
- cold – warm
- oily – dry
- dull – sharp
- static – mobile
- soft – hard
- cloudy – clear
- smooth – rough
- dense – porous
- solid – liquid
Two basic rules
These qualities are used to describe especially food but also the different doshas, our environment, etc. When it comes to the relationship of the pairs, Ayurveda knows two basic rules:
- Like increases like.
- Opposites balance each other.
It is important to remember that everything is relative here: „hot“ can be „cold“ when compared to something even hotter, etc. Also: like is often drawn to like. This is the part where listening to your intuition gets a little tricky. For example, sometimes your body seems to be craving exactly what it actually has too much of.
Space, Air, Fire, Water, Earth – the five elements
These qualities can also be found in the five elements, that everything in the world consists of – according to Ayurveda:
- Space – cloudiness
- Air – lightness, mobility, dryness
- Fire – warmth, lightness, sharpness, liquidity
- Water – cold, liquidity, softness, smoothness
- Earth – heaviness, density, stability
Vata, Pitta & Kapha – the three doshas
These five elements in turn make up the three vital energies (doshas) that are the foundation for all physical and mental processes in body and soul:
- Vata – consisting of air and space, air being the dominant element
- Pitta – consisting of fire and water, fire being dominant
- Kapha – consisting of water and earth, water being dominant
Click on the excerpts to get to the source and read a little more about each dosha:
„Vata is the principle of mobility that regulates all activity in the body. It is this energy that governs the movement of everything from our own thoughts to the food in our intestines. Vata is responsible for creativity, speech, inspiration, excitement, adventure, happiness and joy.“
„Pitta is the principle of combustion and integration. Pitta is responsible for the absorption and assimilation of foods, thoughts, experiences and emotions, and is signified by order, logic, and reason.“
Do you recognize yourself in any of this? Maybe in more than one dosha? That’s what I like about Ayurveda: although it may at first seem like this is about filing people away into one of three neat little drawers – the system is actually quite complex, and helpful and easy to apply to yourself all at once.
Your dosha constitution – your finger print
According to this, yes, we all are a combination of only these three doshas. Yet, there are many possible combinations: some have one very clearly dominant dosha, others two (with one being dominant over the second), very few are evenly balanced. Yet, even individuals who have the same dominant dosha (combination) can be very different, for each dosha has many qualities, and we all express different aspects of each dosha, so it’s kind of like with finger prints: we all have them, yet no two people’s finger prints are the same.
Obviously, there is a lot more to learn about this than I can convey in a single blog entry. This is really more to give you an overview of what I find fascinating. If you’re hooked: Once again, I recommend Judith H. Morrison’s The Book of Ayurveda. Also, for the Swedes among you: Skapa din hälsa med Ayurveda by Maivor Stigengreen (available in German as Ayurveda: Die eigene Gesundheit stärken).
So what is the point of knowing your dosha(s)?
To put it simply knowing your nature is what it takes for you to be able to live according to that nature. Maybe you are so in tune with your intuition that you already do – then you don’t need any of this. This is just the irony: Ayurveda is actually a tool for following your intuition – which only those of us need who have forgotten/“over-written“ our ability to do just that. My guess is that there are many more like me who have been taught, and allowed others to teach them to obey somebody else’s rules rather than the signs their own body gives them. How many of us weren’t taught that everybody in the family eats at the same time, the same food? But what if we have different needs? The idea to make everyone equal is not a bad one. However, we are not all the same, so what’s really important isn’t „the same for everyone“ but creating the same opportunity for everyone to meet their individual needs.
Living in tune with your nature according to Ayurveda does not mean balancing out all three doshas so that you have exactly the same amount of each in you. Maintaining a balance means taking into account your personal dosha constitution and living according to it. This is nothing stable – your constituiton can change, and is dependent on factors such as environment, age, your particular situation in life (work environment, relationships, etc.). Everything is connected. Also, since like increases like, and like is often drawn to like, you will most likely develop imbalances in your dominant dosha(s).
Who are you?
Maybe you are curious now as to what your dominant dosha(s) might be, and whether you have any imbalances. Or maybe you just enjoy these kind of „personality tests“. Either way, here is a link to an online test. If you want to figure out whether you have any imbalances: take the test twice. Once answer according to your current situation, the second time answer according to what you would consider your normal state. The areas where you get different scores show you where your imbalance lies.
PS: This is a scheduled post by the way, like most everything today, Friday and Saturday will be. Contrary to what it may seem like, I am not a only a homemaker, I do have another job, one that society deems worthy of recognizing as such (= I get paid for that one). I have a weird schedule where I sometimes have long periods where I am off work, followed by days where I do nothing but work and sleep. So that’s that.
Part of me wants to just continue with an entry about my spring cleaning mission, post a picture about how great everything looks. That wouldn’t even be untrue, since it does look a lot better in comparison. Looks can be deceiving, if anyone knows, then it’s bloggers and readers of blogs, right?
It is easy, and thus tempting to make yourself look good on the web. It’s not even like you’re really lying about who you are: you’re not making up the great things you do, you just kind of leave out the things that you’re not so proud of. In a way it’s even wise because why should you make yourself vulnerable when you don’t even know whom you’re „talking“ to?
I have felt hurt and/or humiliated many times because I just couldn’t keep quiet about something that didn’t technically need to be said. It was only I who felt like I had to let these things out of my head (or was it my heart?). Like telling someone straight out I liked them when I didn’t know whether they did – the humiliating part being that they didn’t, and that after I had said it it became clear to me that all the signs actually had pointed into that direction the whole time.
Or writing a letter to my dad, telling him how things he did made me feel, which led to the most horrible fight. I had not seen that coming, which today seems naive. I was fourteen then, so it made sense. I could go on with examples but you get the picture, right? For the longest time I thought that I needed to learn not to do that. Not to reveal so much of how I feel, and how/who I am.
I know now that I had drawn the wrong conclusion from these experiences. The lesson here isn’t not to show yourself. It’s not about not making yourself vulnerable. It is about realizing that no matter how much our ego gets hurt, our true selves cannot be destroyed. In fact, the only chance we have of truly being recognized is by showing ourselves, rather than hide behind a façade of how we think others want us to be.
I cannot claim that I have been very good at this myself. Enough though, to know that I am right. I remember one incident in the very beginning of a relationship. He texted me, asking if and when I wanted to meet up again. I answered „As soon as possible“. A friend who was with me wanted to know what I had answered. When I told her she completely freaked out, and said that you CANNOT write such a thing, that it sounded desperate, that he now must think that I wanted to get married … ??? Needless to say that this line of commenting made me feel stupid, and it made me doubt myself. At the same time I was irritated – because this is exactly the kind of thing I am not interested in: having to follow a bunch of rules, pretending you don’t want something in order to get it. Some part of me felt that if he’s going to read me the way she did, then he wouldn’t be right for me anyway. We have been together (and happy!) for five years now.
I have spent a lot of time in my life trying to figure out how the people around me expect me to be. A lot of decisions I have made about my own life were based on that. Like I wrote in the about section of this blog, I have felt the longing to finally be me, to show myself, and to take the risk both of being rejected for that but also of being liked for who I truly am. Both seem scary in their own way but I know that either way, the only significant impact approval or rejection can have is on my ego. None of it changes who I really am.
So here are some truths from the past few days that I don’t have to share here with you but that I want to because I do think they pertain to the purpose of this blog. After all, what kind of soul-searcher would I be if I saw the potential for growth in success but not in failure (if it’s even useful to think in those terms):
- After having read so much about Ayurveda and the significance of eating right, I came home from a three hour yoga class on Saturday and stuffed my face with an entire pizza AND half a chocolate bar (the first half I had eaten on the way home from class). Our yoga teacher had told us about Durga that day, the Hindu Godess that, if I understood this correctly, represents the force in our life that gives us a good punch in the face when our ego gets bloated, to remind us that we are not better than the rest but part of it. So I choose to look at this pizza incident as an act of Durga. It was called for because:
- Writing this blog and getting so much (well, that’s relative, I really don’t have a frame of reference here) positive feedback does make my ego feel flattered. Like, a lot.
- I obsessively check the stats for this blog like 19,364,920 times a day.
- I spent more time fighting with my better half over how to re-organize the kitchen than cleaning and reorganizing it.
- I haven’t tried out a single no poo method on my hair yet although it seems so easy. I just love the smell of the poo I have right now.
May we all feel free to be ourselves a little more each day.
The urge to spring clean has overcome me early this year. And I am not even going to work my way up, I am going to start with the kitchen. Cleaning, and rearranging, and throwing out stuff we never use, and all that jazz. So, you probably won’t hear from me the rest of the day. Or ever again because this might take a long time.
This is what it looks like right now:
Here’s to hoping that it’ll look better by tonight, that I won’t get fed up in the middle of it, and just eat take-out from paper plates for the rest of my life.
If this makes anyone go „This is what I should be doing but I really don’t feel like it“, I recommend Karen Kingston’s Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui. It is an easy and inspirational read, and it’ll motivate you.
Basically, if you want things to happen in your life, new things to arrive, you have to make room by getting rid of old stuff that you have no use for anymore, that only sits there and steals your energy. Sound familiar? That’s right.
So let’s let go of the old and make room for the new.
My infatuation with Ayurveda still feels new, it’s only been a few weeks. That’s why it’s so amazing to me that it already has made such a huge impact on my life. The biggest change Ayurveda has led me to – perhaps like a lot of significant changes – is concerning something seemingly banal: my sleeping rhythm.
I already knew about myself that I really am a morning person. I have always loved the early hours, rising with the rest of nature. Most of all I have the best energy to get things done in the morning. Already in the early afternoon I feel like I can’t work/be productive anymore. After 4pm I really want to be done. The evening hours are definitely not mine, I get like a little kid: way too tired but still throwing because some part of me doesn’t want to go to bed. It’s a What?!-Surely-this-can’t-be-everything-something -more-needs-to-happen kind of mood. Do you know what I mean?
Yet when I had no external reason that forces me to get up early, I simply could not bring myself to do it. I have tried many times, and failed. I was trapped in that vicious circle of not being able to go to bed early, then for fear of lack of sleep not being able to get up early, either (or maybe it’s the other way around, you know, the hen and the chicken).
For some reason not getting enough sleep (enough being about 8 hours for me) bothered me a lot. I used to make myself even more anxious by checking out the clock, and thinking „I still have seven hours left – if I fall asleep RIGHT NOW“. I realized that that never helps (yup, I am that smart!). There is just something I resent about this tired state that you walk around in the day after, which makes it really hard to function even when you have to. Thus, whenever I could let myself sleep in, I did.
Thanks to these amazing Ayurveda books (man, am I sounding like a salesperson on a teleshopping channel or what?), I came to understand why my way of trying to compensate for lack of sleep did not work. Also, I’ve come to understand that being tired is not so much connected to actual lack of sleep but depends on what time of day you get up. After about two weeks, I now get up between 5 am and 6 am – without even setting an alarm. I try to make a point of going to bed between 9 pm and 10 pm, which works for the most part (and when it doesn’t turn out that way, it is now more often than not a deliberate choice because I choose to meet up with friends or something). The more important point: I am now able to fall asleep within minutes of going to bed, which has NEVER been normal for me. Even as a kid I often was the last person laying awake in their bed.
Before I go into what the Ayurveda take on sleep is, I just want to say that if you are not familiar with Ayurveda, then a few of the terms will probably be confusing. I am aware of that, and I do want to write more about the basic stuff – but I just felt like writing about this today, so I am just going be so bold as to refer you to „the internet“. I assume that that’s what you all do anyway – look up stuff you don’t know. Although it would obviously be much neater if I wrote everything in „the right order“, one post building on the next, it would not be very authentic (I know there is a better word, but I can’t come up with it right now). I don’t know about you but I am not really used to this concept yet, so I need to remind myself of this: You don’t need me to explain the world to you, and I do not need to sacrifice the impulse to write about anything to formal or stylistic rules. This linear way of expressing things/ourselves is no longer necessary today. We are free. To make the reading not completely aggravating, I will probably insert a few short explanation here and there anyway, but I will not go into too much detail. You would probably have found it yourself but here’s a link to an Ayurveda 101.
So what is the Ayurvedic take on sleep?
There are very few universal Ayurvedic recommendations, since we are not all the same in most regards. We do have different needs when it comes to how much sleep are good for us (ranging from six to eight hours, give or take), also depending on the season, where we are in our lives, etc. One thing that does apply to everyone, however, is that we are all part of nature, who „awakens“ in the morning, and that lays down to rest in the evening. So should we.
Ayurveda knows five elements (space, air, fire, water, earth) and three natural forces or energy forms (doshas) which reflect the energies of the five elements in different ways: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. This relates to sleep not only in so far as these doshas describe our own constitutions (which in turn determines how much sleep we need). The doshas are also linked to different phases of the day.
Each of the three doshas is dominant during two periods in a day:
6 am to 10 am – Morning’s Kapha period
10 am to 2 pm – Mid-day Pitta period
2 pm to 6 pm – Afternoon’s Vata period
6 pm to 10 pm – Evening’s Kapha period
10 pm to 2 am – Nighttime’s Pitta period
2 am to 6 am – Morning’s Vata period
Have you ever noticed that you woke up early in the morning – but then decided, „Nah, it’s too early!“, went back to sleep – and woke up hours later, even more tired?
That’s happened to me many times. The explanation, according to Ayurveda, is, that if you sleep through the Kapha period (Kapha having qualities like „heavy“, „stable“, „earthy“, etc.), that dosha rises in your own constitution – meaning, that you feel „heavier“ = it gets harder to wake up. This excess Kapha then influences you throughout the day. (Of course a lot of other factors play in, like always. The extend of the effects are different depending on your dominant dosha(s) in the particular situation.)
Ideally one should get up in the beginning of the morning’s Kapha period. And, looky there: the second Kapha period is between 6 pm and 10 pm, which is when nature prepares to „call it a day“. Here we should take advantage of the Kapha qualities, and do the same: finish up and unwind, so that we can go to bed, and ideally go to sleep by the end of that period.
Because the period that follows is dominated by the firy Pitta-dosha. When I read this it suddenly made sense to me how I could be tired, yet feel like I didn’t want to go to bed: I had pushed past Kapha period, and my Pitta dosha was rising again (Pitta also happens to be my dominant dosha, thus re-enforcing the effect).
So how do you break the cycle? And how do you compensate for lack of sleep?
The first rule seems to be: Whatever changes you are going to make, make them gradually. I somehow missed that part, so I went straight from sleeping until 12pm to getting up at 6 am. I had a burning stomach after every meal for over a week (still do, sometimes), and if I am connecting the dots correctly, that is the result of the sudden shift in my doshas. Before, when I slept long hours and through the morning Kapha and half of the morning Pitta period, Kapha naturally was more dominant in me. I really did have less energy then, despite getting so much sleep, as I thought. After the switch in my waking hours, my Pitta energy basically went through the roof, and all the spicy things I usually ate, that were before ok with my Kapha dominance, suddenly were too much. Sounds complicated, I know, and in a way it is, when you believe that everything is connected, which is what Ayurveda is all about. But it makes sense. Therefore:
Don’t quit any behavior „cold turkey“.
Get up 15 to 30 minutes earlier every day, and go to bed 15 to 30 minutes earlier every day – until you’ve got your ideal rhythm.
If you do get too little sleep, still get up at your usual time, and no later than 8 am. Don’t try to make up for it by letting yourself sleep in (the reasons have hopefully become apparent by now). Instead make sure that you do go to bed earlier the next day, and try to go easy on yourself during the day. I suppose for some it’s ok to take naps in the afternoon, I just know that that doesn’t work for me at all. But again, Ayurveda is all about being your own expert, so you really know what works best for you.
Well, this has turned into another long post with no pictures. I am sharing this anyway, hoping that you find this information as helpful as I did. I wish you the best for whatever changes you are making or hoping to make in your life. Remember to be kind to yourself, and forgiving if you find yourself not able to make certain changes.
The Ayurveda book that I like the most out of the bunch I picked up at the library is Judith H. Morrison’s The Book of Ayurveda. It gives a great overview over pretty much all aspects of life, has lots of info boxes and lists, which appeals to me.
I found a simple recipe for some herbal tea that is supposed to be good for those of us with a dominant Pitta dosha or excessive Pitta (over the past week’s reading I have realized that I have both right now, almost freakishly textbook definition thereof!).
So this is it: mix equal parts of fennel, cilantro and caraway seeds. Use one teaspoon per cup. Just boil some water and add. Done!
Due to the hot water the tea as such is obviously „hot“. But according to Ayurveda, the quality of the ingredients (the seeds) and therefore: the quality/effect of the tea is „cold“ or „cooling“. Ideal for me because I prefer drinking warm stuff but I really don’t need to pour any more gasoline on that Pitta fire right now!