Emma Newlyn is a yoga teacher, Ayurvedic massage therapist, trained herbalist, wellbeing coach, and nature enthusiast. We talk to her about how she found Ayurveda, what Ayurvedic tips she’d offer to get through lockdown, and the full details of her early morning routine. (more…)
Well, 2020 has been quite the year, but one thing that we haven’t had to complain about this year is the weather. We probably tried – we’re British after all – but it would have been unfounded because the sun has shone and shone and shone and shone.
But the forecast this week says that the golden, late-summer warmth is set to be replaced with a distinctly chillier temperature. And the pandemic forecast is similarly gloomy, with case numbers rising and restrictions tightening.
So, how can we prepare for Autumn and make sure that we look after ourselves as we head into what looks like a second wave?
Our health is always a top priority. But in these last few months, the Covid-19 crisis has made many of us realise how important (and precious) our health is.
Those who are physically stronger, at a healthy weight and with a more resilient immune system are more likely to beat the virus if they catch it.
And in order to be in peak health, we can turn to the ancient science of Ayurveda for help.
How Ayurveda Can Help
Yoga is all about balance. Ayurveda, its sister science, is likewise focused on health as balance. This 5,000-year-old practice began in India and has spread throughout the world as an alternative form of medicine. It is a holistic approach to health.
A holistic approach means that it is a style of medicine that takes into consideration each individual as a whole, including their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health.
In contrast, western-style medicine is focused on waiting for something to go wrong and then treating the symptoms of the disease. Ayurvedic medicine is a complete system that creates a lifestyle that increases and maintains your overall health.
So let’s look into how Ayurveda works because this ancient system goes hand in hand with the practice of yoga.
Ayurveda and Balance
Balanced energies, balanced state of fire, balanced tissues, and excretions, peace of soul, senses and mind – this is called health.
– Susruta Samhita / sutra sthana xv 33
So says the ancient work, Sushruta Samhita, considered a foundational text of Ayurveda.
But what makes this ancient system of medicine so interesting is how there is no ‘one size fits all’ system of healing. Each individual is treated differently according to their makeup, which is a mixture of your genetic inheritance, your way of life, your stress levels, your personality and all the other differential factors, such as gender, age, and racial heritage.
All these different factors affect your energetic makeup, which is a balance of three types of energy – these are the doshas.
The Three Doshas
Fundamental to Ayurveda are the principles of the three doshas, or energies – referred to in the quote above. These are vata, pitta and kapha. These are combinations of the five elements that make up all living things: earth, water, fire, air and ether.
Vata is a combination of the qualities of the elements of space and air. It is a subtle energy associated with movements, such as breathing, muscle and tissue movement, and the heartbeat.
Pitta is a combination of the elements of fire and water. It drives the body’s metabolic system and governs digestion, absorption of nutrients and the body temperature.
Kapha is a combination of the elements of earth and water. It forms the body’s structure, holds the cells together and provides water for all the bodily functions.
In relation to the physical body, the three doshas can be seen as the three types of energy needed to keep the body alive: vata is kinetic energy, pitta is metabolic energy and kapha is homeostatic energy.
When these three energies are working in balance, the body functions optimally, and we feel full of vitality and energy. When one or more is out of balance, the eventual result is disease.
How do we know if the doshas are out of balance?
An imbalance in each dosha will have a different effect on the body. As an individual, you will be a combination of all three doshas, but you will have one that is your dominant dosha.
Too much vata causes aches and pains, dry and cold skin, bloating, gas, constipation, dehydration and weight loss. Its effect on the mind is to cause restlessness, dizziness, and a sense of feeling ungrounded. On the emotional level, when vata is in balance, it promotes creativity and flexibility, when it is out of balance, it causes fear and anxiety.
High pitta can cause excessive thirst or hunger, hot flushes, skin rashes and acne, and a disturbed tummy and loose bowels. When pitta is in balance it promotes intelligence and understanding, when it is out of balance, it causes anger, aggression and jealousy.
Too much kapha produces excess mucous, thick, white tongue coat, slow, sticky, sluggish bowel movements and carrying excess weight. It can affect the mind by making you feel sluggish, slow and lethargic, as well as overly sentimental and stubborn. When kapha is in balance it promotes love, a sense of calm and forgiveness, when it is out of balance it causes attachment and greed.
How do we create balance in the doshas?
When you go to an Ayurvedic doctor (who incidentally will have studied for just as long as Western-style doctors), you will be prescribed a whole host of things. In Ayurvedic medicine, herbs are used widely, as well as dietary recommendations, exercise – usually yoga or walking, breathing exercises, massage (called abhyanga) and meditation.
The principle of healing in Ayurveda is the ‘like induces like’. So if your predominant dosha is pitta, for example, you will have a tendency to be quick to anger, impatient and perhaps suffer from heartburn. To balance yourself you need to introduce things with the opposite qualities – so avoid fiery, hot foods, slow things down by introducing a meditation or pranayama practice first thing in the morning, and avoid eating late at night which will increase your pitta.
This is not a quick fix approach to health, but a long-term understanding of how your energies work, and consequently how to balance them to achieve overall health, increased energy levels and a better quality of life.
We have Ayurveda specialist courses coming up soon, take a look at our workshops for details
If you’re one of the multitudes of people who have booked holidays this summer, you’ll be wondering if you should just cancel it now, or wait and see. But the truth is, due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, it’s unlikely we’ll be jetting off to foreign climes for holidays in 2020.
The official line from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office is that the FCO advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. There is no end date to this advice. We just don’t know when we’ll be allowed to travel again. At the moment, the furthest we can travel is to a park to exercise.
So what about our travel plans? For most of us, instead of a holiday, all we have is the headache of trying to get our money back.
But we don’t have to leave the country, or even leave the house to create a sense of sanctuary and solace. What about creating our own little at-home, mini weekend retreat? Here are some ideas for how you can plan your very own mini-retreat so that you still have something to look forward to.
Have a think about what it is that you’d most look forward to on a retreat holiday. Is it the fact that you don’t have to think about all the dull domestic stuff? Is it the break from technology? Is it being pampered with treatments? Is it looking after body and soul with yoga and meditation? Or is it just lounging around with a book in the sun? Or perhaps a combination of ALL of the above.
You can also set an intention for the retreat; to reduce anxiety, to detox body and mind, to give yourself some compassion. Once you’ve decided on your aim, write it down so that you can remind yourself why you’re taking this time for yourself.
Once you’ve decided on the focus of your retreat you’ll need to do a bit of preparation. Spend the week before doing a bit of a spring clean – change the sheets, empty all the bins, and do a bit of a tidy. If you can get the house back to square one then you won’t be distracted by housework while on your ‘retreat’.
It’s also worth making sure you’ve got a little bit ahead with work if you can, so you’re not tempted to ‘just do a little bit’ over the weekend. Now that we’re working from home, the lines between work and home are blurred and it’s harder to switch off. To help with this, try to literally switch off – phones, PCs, iPads, etc. Put them in a drawer for a day and let the outside world recede.
Plan your Menu
Make the most of your mini-retreat by planning your meals in advance. Most retreats offer nourishing, fresh food that’s good for body and mind, such as those in line with the seasons, or an Ayurvedic diet.
You could do overnight-soaked oats for breakfast with a fresh fruit coulis, a ‘buddha bowl’ style lunch with quinoa, avocado, sprouting seeds, and anything else you fancy, and then after all that healthy food, you could buy some nice-quality ready meal, or splash out on a takeaway for dinner.
Time on your own
This might be a laughable idea if you’re the parent of young children in lockdown. You can only dream of going to the loo on your own, let alone a whole weekend of quiet solo time. But being a parent is a full-time job with no let up that can leave you feeling exhausted and on a short fuse. Could you carve out a couple of hours? Your partner could take the kids to the park, or keep them entertained elsewhere in the house while you have a long, leisurely bath, or watch a movie under a duvet, or do an online yoga class. Whatever means mini-break to you!
Immersion in nature
Now that we’re allowed out for exercise more than once a day, as well as travel to get some exercise, you could venture further afield than the nearest park and maybe even take a picnic and a thermos of tea. Take in the frothy May blossom, the fresh green of Spring, and allow Mother Nature to soothe your soul.
Do some yoga
There are more and more opportunities to do classes with some amazing teachers. Quite a few are offering weekend workshops, with two classes over one weekend. Why not tie this is to a whole weekend retreat? You could structure your day around the workshops, and in the evening go for a quiet walk to look at the sunset, or practice pranayama or meditation outside in the garden. We’re also offering an online Yoga Foundations course at the end of the month – like a mini retreat over the weekend, and it even counts toward your 200-hr yoga teacher training, should you wish to continue your journey further!
Try out Meditation
If this isn’t something you’re used to doing, then why not use your weekend retreat as a way to try it for yourself, especially if the current situation has you feeling anxious about the future. There are lots of ways to get into meditation using apps (see our article on Wellbeing during Coronavirus), but there’s also a free Monday meditation series with Ali Mortimer, founder of the ‘Heal yourself Happy’ method, sponsored by Marks & Spencers.
If you’re the kind of person that loves doing arty stuff, but it feels like you just don’t have the time at the moment, why not spend a weekend on a creative project that will give you joy. Rather than DIY, which most of us seem to be doing more of at the moment, try something that is for the sake of being creative, rather than just getting a job done. For example, you could set up a still life and try to depict it using lots of different mediums; pencil, ink, chalks, watercolour, even acrylics if you have them.
Okay, it’s not as exciting as a Spa day, but there are plenty of ways you can pamper yourself at home. Do a head-to-toe of treatments, starting with a pedicure, getting rid of all that gnarly skin on your feet, which you’ve been ignoring, because, you know, lockdown. Exfoliate, slather yourself in healthy oils which help to rejuvenate the skin, such as coconut oil, almond oil, or extra virgin olive oil, and you could even try an Ayurvedic self-massage (called Abhyanga) for the full relaxing effect.
As the New Year approaches, many of us are drawn to reflect on the past year with the intention to create something new, something better than what we experienced the preceding year. Your soul wants to expand and your mind wants to work diligently to discover, analyze, and create a new story. In this scenario, we’re oftentimes driven by the ego-mind which gives us a sense of Self. The ego-mind is what you learned about yourself from outside sources: other people, experiences you’ve had, and the society where you grew up. And so, it’s helpful when it comes to navigating the practical matters of life that we’ve created. For example, thanks to the ego, you can identify yourself as a Mother, Father, European, Accountant, etc. And while it helps create order it also creates a sense of separation, which ultimately is devastating to humankind. You can, however, use the ego-mind as it was intended, to help you evolve. The gateway to do so begins with self-care. Self-care gives you the space to quiet the ego-mind, look within, and create more consciousness. (more…)