Cell phones, internet, television, iPods, video games, commuting back and forth, working long hours and eating irregularly — all of these little things add up over time and can leave you feeling depleted, scattered, spacey and ‘tired but wired’. These everyday stressors can lead to what is known in Ayurveda as ‘vata derangement’ — simply put, an excess of nervous energy. And an excess of vata, if left unchecked, can eventually lead to dis-ease in both the body and the mind. Vata diseases include such things as poor digestion (gas & bloating), arthritis, anxiety, muscle stiffness, insomnia and more. Nearly 60% of all disease is attributed to a derangement of the vata dosha!
Understanding and implementing Ayurvedic therapies can help reduce vata derangement and bring you back into balance. By analyzing your basic doshic type (vata, pitta, kapha or any combination of the three), we can learn how to correct imbalances through diet, exercise and daily routines. Utilizing the simple principles of Ayurveda (like increases like and opposites reduce) helps us gain control of our health and well-being.
“Know thyself and be free.”
Yoga works in a similar manner. Posing the body in certain ways (asanas) as you work through a yoga sequence can reduce agitation in the nervous system, stimulate the lymph and acupressure points and help energy flow more freely, alleviating muscle stiffness and tension and promoting an overall sense of ease. Working with the breath (pranayama), helps rejuvenate the body and the mind as the breath is the bridge between both. Yogic breathing also helps us to work with prana or life force directly, enabling us to take in and conserve energy as needed. Final relaxation at the end of a yoga sequence helps integrate the practice at a deep cellular level and gives us a much needed ‘time out’ from the busy modern lifestyle.
Once all of the agitation has been removed from the body and the mind through proper diet, proper exercise, proper breathing and proper relaxation, we are encouraged to move on to the next stage that will help us lead a fulfilling life: the practice of positive thinking and meditation. By continually keeping the mind focused on the positive, we can actually attract more positivity to us. The practice of pratipaksha bhavanam is a method that helps us catch these destructive and distracting thoughts, and redirects our minds back toward the yogic path. The method is very simple: whenever a negative thought arises in the mind, counter it with an equal opposite positive thought. In this way, we train the mind and can start to alleviate worry, grief, sadness, etc. Sound too easy? Maybe too hard? Try it! You’ll soon see what a difference this practice can make in your life. As the mind becomes more positive, the body becomes lighter as negativity is released and less energy is consumed by the endless negative loop of the mind.
We can bring the practice of positive thinking into our meditations. Whether you focus on the breath, a mantra or whatever technique you use, inevitably the mind will wander. And often times it goes into those ‘dark places’ as we ‘should’ all over ourselves for this thing, that thing or the other. The practice of pratipaksha bhavanam can save us (from ourselves) in these moments and give us the space to guide ourselves back to the object of concentration.
As we continue with all of these practices, eventually the mind will become more transparent and we are more able to take on the Witness role as we meditate — watching the mind and silently chuckling with compassion at its never-ending chatter and jumping about. Once we learn to work through our own ‘limitations’ and the ‘shadowy parts’ of ourselves in the seat of meditation, we begin to become more able to take this compassionate Witnessing mind out into our daily lives, recognizing that each person struggles with the same problems and dilemmas as we do. And then change truly occurs. Friends and family begin to notice how different you are. Work becomes easier. More energy becomes available and finally — life feels a little bit easier and maybe even more fulfilling.
And this, in brief, is the way that these ancient practices can help change your life — step by step and day by day.