A few weeks ago, I managed to drag myself to a yoga class on one of those days where exhaustion seems insurmountable and you seriously consider staying home and laying on the sofa instead. I had contemplated skipping class because I was so tired and stressed from daily life. Fortunately, I made the choice to get to the studio and onto my mat.
After her dharma talk, Michelle began chanting one of my favorite mantras. Almost immediately, my mood shifted and I felt more energetic. My toes began tapping, my shoulders got lighter, and my heart expanded. As we moved through the various shapes of the asana, my energy levels increased and I began to feel more connected. As we chanted the closing Om, a sense of overwhelming peace was present in my body. Briefly I wondered about this tremendous shift in my being. Then it clicked for me: this practice is the creation of sacred geometry in action. When we tap into sacred geometry with the movements of the body, we literally realign. I am sacred geometry!
When we feel stressed, tired, or ill, we are out of alignment with the natural order of the universe. By attuning our body to universal consciousness through the breath, mantra (sound), and yantra (form) we can realign with our natural state. When I realized this, a new appreciation for sacred geometry arose within myself.
Sacred geometry is the universal patterns existing in the design of everything in our reality. It’s in everything from architecture to art, geometry, mathematical ratios, and harmonics. It’s found throughout music, light, and cosmology. Sacred geometry confirms that there is a wholeness in a creation: a unity in design, pattern, ratio, and energy. Most readily these patterns are found in nature. We see them in hurricanes, spider webs, pinecones, pineapple fruits, seashells, and even our DNA. Beyond beautiful, the patterns of sacred geometry are nature’s design system for efficient and purposeful means of growth, energy flow stabilization, information sharing, and organization. Scientists have discovered that the growth patterns such as the Fibonnaci sequence allow plants to use the least amount of energy needed for growth and are so reliable that deviations from it are often used as indicators of genetic damage.
Ancient sages recognized that the patterns we see in nature are the result of the forces of creation. They organized these patterns into a complex system known as Yoga. Our yoga practice aligns the physical body in time and space, with the Cosmic forces acting beyond time and space. By aligning our body with these matrices, we can connect to universal consciousness.
During asana practice our bodies assume sacred geometric forms of straight lines, circles, squares, and triangles, all signifying an aspiration of convergence from duality to a unified field of consciousness. These patterns resemble sacred geometric forms known as yantras. A yantra is shape representing divinities, which exert their influence by means of higher vibrations. Like a magnet, yantras draw consciousness from the outer world to the inner world. The effect of moving our body into these yantras is a sense of peace and interconnectedness not present in other forms of exercise. Exercise, as the name suggests, projects energy in an outward motion, whereas yoga focuses on drawing energy in. For this reason, yoga can be thought of as more of an “innercise” than exercise.
The Pythagoreans taught that the five geometric shapes known as the Platonic solids were the core patterns behind physical creation. Modern day scientists confirmed this teaching by examining 3-D models of the elements of the periodic table. They found that each has a crystalline structure at an atomic level made up of these Platonic shapes. Plato, for whom the shapes are named, discovered that each of these shapes corresponded with the five classical elements, earth, wind, fire, water, and ether.
Developers of ancient healing modalities, like Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine, learned that systematically applying these elements through five-sense therapy can restore harmony and balance to the physical and subtle body. For example, the healing treatment Halotherapy uses salt crystals to restore balance to both the respiratory and energetic systems of body. Salt is made up of the elements Sodium and Chloride and has the crystalline structure of a cube. The cube is related to energy of the earth. Earth energy assists in grounding, clearing, increasing focus, relieving tension, and reducing stress.
I witnessed the healing benefits of Halotherapy on a personal level while trying to find a way to alleviate my daughter’s persistent respiratory ailments.
Like many New Orleanians, she suffers from frequent allergies issues year round. Living down here in the damp swamps, her immune system was battling oak tree pollen in the spring, grass in the summer, ragweed in the fall, and mold pretty much all the time. This led to frequent doctor visits and many missed days of school. The year I discovered Halotherapy she had missed nearly 5 weeks of school due to respiratory issues. While I valued our pediatrician’s care, I was frustrated by her repeated suggestions to give her Claritin & Flonase every day. I knew that these simply masked the symptoms of an imbalance she was experiencing rather than clear the root problem.
On a particular challenging spring night, unable to fall asleep because of the constant coughing coming from my daughter as she slept, I began researching holistic treatments for allergies and came across Halotherapy. I was intrigued and made an appointment for the next day at the nearest center that offered this treatment. I was skeptical, but to my surprise, 30 minutes in the Salt Room offered a relief to Stella that over-the-counter medication had not. We visited two more times that week & by the end of the week, her symptoms had completely subsided.
As I began to dive deeper into the science behind Halotherapy, I learned that the treatment was causing shifts on an subatomic level. All matter (the human body, air, water, etc) is made up of molecules which are made up of atoms which are made up of three types of particles: protons (positive charge), electrons (negative charge), and neutrons (no charge). Electrons orbit their molecules like planets revolve around a star. Occasionally an electron flies off and when it does, it leaves behind a positively charged ion whose sole purpose becomes to fill the void left by its little lost electron. In other words: it wants to steal a replacement electron from another molecule. Our atmosphere is over-saturated with positive ions, mostly due to the amount of electronics in our environments. Positive ions have a negative effect on the body. They sap our energy, increase stress, and lower our body’s immune system. The heated salt particles released by the Halogenerator release negative ions into the air and help counteract the effects of our over exposure to positive ions.
Furthermore, the crystalline structure of salt makes it super absorbent. You’ve probably witnessed this while cooking with salt. Just slice some eggplant and place table salt on it and watch the moisture come to the surface. When you inhale dry salt, it absorbs the excess mucous in the system and since pure sodium chloride is water soluble, it passes through our waste system. Additionally, the sodium chloride molecule is structured in such a way that it actually rubs against the cilia along the respiratory tract and loosens the dust, pollen, and toxins that we breathe in each day. Dry salt is also anti-inflammatory, which means that it opens and expands areas in the respiratory system. Another characteristic is that salt is anti-bacterial, which allows it to prevent bacteria and viruses from spreading.
These combined properties of salt provided a natural and effective solution for my when my daughters allergies would flare up but I knew as with all healthy practices consistency was the key to its effectiveness. Traveling an hour to get treatment every time wasn’t sustainable so I began the process of figuring out how to bring Halotherapy to New Orleans, and with the help of my Swan River Family was able to open the first Halotherapy room in New Orleans.
Sacred geometry gives the blueprint for the subtle framework, acting as map of both soul and body. The study of this subject will allow you to accelerate the return journey to oneness. Through the study of archetypal forms and retracing the Creator’s steps, you will learn to move and play freely within the grand construct. This liberation is goal of our yoga practice.
As you move throughout your practice on the mat, explore how different shapes elicit different emotional, psychological, and energetic responses. As you adjust your body to the alignment cues of the teacher notice how this affects those responses. Systematic alignment cues within the poses are not only for the anatomical and physiological balance of the body, but also for realigning the individual’s molecular structure in and around the body. By focusing on alignment, you are using asana to tune the auric field of the body and create connection to universal consciousness
Off the mat, witness and connect with the patterns of sacred geometry in nature all around you. These patterns confirm coherence with the order of the universe, with the elements, and with precise patterns of life. Nadine Artemis writes in her book Renegade Beauty, “When we resonate with the coherence of the cosmos, we dissolve the illusion of separateness and connect to the source of all things. Connecting to this infinite intelligence attunes us to our inherent perfection and our inherent worthiness, and we discern that we receive resources from Source as we allow the beauty of nature to continually revive our being.”
Written by Jessica Walther
Yoga Nidra also known as yogic sleep, is an immensely powerful meditation practice. During a yoga nidra session the participant is led through a systematic process to relax the body and the mind. I found my experience of Yoga Nidra deeply restorative and healing. In additional there are numerous benefits to this ancient practice.
Kapha dosha is comprised of the elements of earth and water. The qualities of Kapha dosha are heavy, slow, steady, solid, cold, soft, & oily. To counteract the general stagnation that occurs in individuals with imbalanced Kapha dosha a flowing practice that includes heat generating sun salutations is recommended. Asanas that include twist and core strengthening elements are most beneficial to combating the stagnation that often accompanies excess Kapha in the system.
Breath of Fire
Kapalabhati means skull shining breath. It’s a pranayama exercise as well as an internal kriya, or cleansing technique. This breath will help clear mucus in the air passages, relieve congestion, reduce bloating, and improve lung capacity. Kapalabhati is an invigorating breath that can build heat in the body.
How to do it: Start by sitting in a comfortable seat with a tall, straight spine, and exhale completely. Inhale briefly through both nostrils, then sharply exhale (again out of your nose) while pulling your navel in toward your spine. The exhalation is short and quick, but very active, while the inhalation is short and passive. Again, pull your navel in as you exhale and soften it on the inhalation. Do one round of 30 (counting your exhalations) and rest for a minute with some deep breaths in between. Repeat. If this seems strenuous, start with 15 and gradually work your way up.
Sun Salutations - Sun salutation is a common sequence of hatha yoga asanas. The physical base of the practice links together twelve asanas in an order that alternatively stretches the spine backwards and forwards. The routine engages the core, stretches the hamstrings, and loosens the shoulders. Regular practice improves blood circulation throughout the entire body, massages the internal organs, and promotes overall health. The practice is versatile and can be adapted to your individual needs. When practiced at a fast pace, the technique provides an excellent cardiovascular workout and aids weight loss.
Twists build heat in the body while simultaneously pushing out the stagnation that can build up in the chest and lungs from excess kapha. Twist also help stimulate the sluggish digestive system of those with excess Kapha in order to get things moving. Emotionally twists help to release those habits and tendencies that are no longer serving to create joy.
Revolved chair – Parivrtta Utkatasana
Revolved Lunge Pose Parivrtta Anjaneyasana
Half Lord of the Fishes Pose Ardha Matsyendrasana
Core Poses help to build heat in the body & stoke the digestive fire also known as agni. Stimulating the core region can help activate passion, power, strength, and transformation which can sometimes become dormant for those with excess Kapha.
Boat Pose Navasana
Tiger Pose (Vyaghrasana)
Vata dosha relates to the element of air. The nature of Vata includes the following qualities; cold, light, dry, irregular, rough, moving, and unstable. Since it is the natural tendency of person without a lot of Vata in their system to be always on the go; practices that intentionally cause them to slow down can help bring about balance. For this reason, a slow flow yoga class that incorporates standing poses, forward folds and hip openers would greatly benefit those beings with a majority of Vata dosha.
Slow the mind by balancing the breath...
Nadhi sodhana, also known as alternative nostril breathing, is a very relaxed, balancing breath that is used to help calm the nervous system of those with an imbalance of Vata.
How to do it: Nadhi sodhana can be done seated or lying down. To start, empty all the air from your lungs. Using the thumb of your dominant hand, block your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril only. Be sure to inhale into your belly, not your chest. Once you are full of breath, seal your left nostril with the ring finger of the same hand, keeping your right nostril closed, and hold the breath for a moment. Then release your thumb and exhale through your right nostril only. Be sure to exhale all the breath out of the right side and pause before inhaling again through the same side. Seal both nostrils once you’ve inhaled on the right side and exhaled through the left side. A complete cycle of breath includes an inhalation and exhalation through both nostrils. If you’re just starting out, you can do a four-count inhale, holding your breath for four to eight counts, then exhale for four counts. Perform up to ten cycles and notice how your body responds. You may feel more relaxed and calm in both your mind and body
Standing Poses – Standing poses help to ground Vata energy by developing strength and stability. They bring the quality of rootedness into the body because they are grounding and centering. For example, In Mountain, the most basic of standing poses, when you physically plant your feet firmly into the ground and bring your hands together at your heart center, your energetic body follows and that scattered feeling dissipates. This stability sets a solid foundation to help you withstand whatever life throws at you. Standing in Warrior with all four corners of your feet firmly grounded, lifting through your spine and ribcage and reaching up through the fingertips allows you to feel your inner strength and joy brings all your energy to center and sends it crisscrossing through the main central energetic pathway of the body.
My Favorite Standing Poses:
Mountain Pose - Tasdasana
Warrior 1 –Virabhadrasana 1
Warrior 2 – Virabhadrasana
Triangle – Uhitta Trikosana
Hip Openers help to release any pent up emotions or excess energy of Vata dosha. In my experience, most people physically hold emotions in the hip. Many people also have extremely tight hips. This is no coincidence. Hip openers are best when done slowly, sinking down gradually with each exhale. Then stay there for a while and let those emotions bubble up. Stay present and fully feel whatever you are feeling without judgment. Breathe into the emotions and allow them to release.
My Favorite Hip Openers:
Low Lunge – Anajanaeasana
Lizard – Utthan Pristhasana
Goddess Pose - Malasana
Pigeon Pose - Kapotasana
Forward Bends are calming to the ever active Vata dosha. Forward bends calm the nervous system and promote rest. Forward folds can help alleviate uncomfortable feelings of anxiety, vulnerability, & sensitivity that are common in those with excess Vata. Forward bends also release the muscles of the lower back, an area where many people experience tightness and hold emotions.
My Favorite Forward Bends
Head to Knee Pose - Janu Srisana
Cobblers Pose – Badha Kosana
Seated Forward Fold - Pachimottasana
Boat Pose – Navasana
Mild Inversions are great for relieving low back pain & calming nervousness in the body. When practicing these poses close your eyes to & focus on the breath to help further quiet the mind. Viparita Karani is also a great asana to help with insomnia that is also usually present with a Vata imbalance.
My Favorite Mild Inversions
Supported Bridge Pose – Setu Banha Sarvanasana
Legs up the Wall – Viparita Karani
Finally finish the practice with short snuggly savasana by placing a bolster under your knees & cocooning yourself in a blanket.
Allergy, cold & flu season is upon us. Unfortunately, myself & my daughter were early victims of the flu this season & it was no fun. A week of missed work, followed by a flu ridden trip to California & an almost missed Disney trip made for a sad & miserable two weeks. In an effort to spare others of this sad fate, I want to share some ayurvedic practices to protect your respiratory system and boost your immunity. We will definitely be incorporating these into our routine to prevent any other cold & flu misfortunes.
Halotherapy or Dry Salt Therapy
It is easy for most to understand how what you consume in your diet will affect your health & well-being. Naturally some foods are more nutritious than others. Fruits & veggies will lead to greater general health than candy & processed foods. Ayurveda takes the knowledge a bit further and predicts which fruits and veggies are best for you and why. At each moment we all have a unique make-up of the elements of earth, water, fire, air, & ether, known as our dosha or constitution. This constitution affects how we respond to different foods. For example being a predominantly Vata constitution my body responds better to root vegetables than to leafy greens, but for others this may not be the case.
Foods, like all of nature, are made up of the five elements and consist of a unique combination of qualities. When we understand the qualities inherent in a food and know the qualities inherent in ourselves, how a food will affect us is also known. If our ultimate goal is to bring balance to the body the foods with the opposite qualities of our imbalance should be consumed. For example, if you were experiencing a Pitta or fiery imbalance then dull & smooth foods would bring you back to balance.
The key is to know which foods have the qualities that you need. The qualities of food are determined primarily by their taste, though these qualities can be altered through preparation and processing. The body craves life-sustaining foods and we are drawn to them through our sense of taste. From a whole foods perspective, what taste good for you will be nourishing and what taste bad is not likely a food that will sustain you.
Ayurveda divides up food into six tastes, each having its own set of qualities and elemental make-ups. The six taste of Ayurveda are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, & astringent. The six different tastes will affect your health differently based on your dosha. To create optimal health in the body Ayurvedic teachings recommend that you choose foods to eat that balance your predominate constitution and take only a small amount of the taste that increase it. If you have an imbalance related to a specific dosha it is recommend that you avoid the foods that increase that dosha and increase the foods that bring you back to balance. The chart below will help you understand how each taste effects the doshas.
For me, my predominant dosha is Vata. Vata is related the constitution of air so in general qualities I experience are lightness and dryness. I would need foods that have the qualities of heavy & moist to bring me into balance. According to the table, foods with the constitution of earth and fire will help bring more harmony to my body. These foods have the taste of sweet, salty, & sour. I also have had times when I get stressed at work and begin to channel a lot of masculine energy. During these times I begin to accumulate some excess fire qualities in my body. This is categorized as a Pitta imbalance. During these times I have brought myself back to balance by consuming those taste which are Pitta are decreasing such as sweet, bitter, & astringent foods.
The key here to realize as with everything we are not striving for perfection but having the intention that the majority of the foods we consume bring balance to our bodies. One thing I’ve found helpful is to create a dosha specific pacifying shopping list & having a couple of go to recipes for breakfast lunch a dinner. This week I’ll be diving into the digestive qualities of each dosha and sharing some practical tips maintain a healthy digestion.
Ayurveda is closely connected to Yoga. It often known as the sister of Yoga. Ayurveda is the science of how to create optimal health, while yoga is the science of how to attain peace in the mind. Together, Ayurveda and yoga provide a prescription to remove unnecessary suffering and dis-ease so that you can fully blossom and thrive in this human experience.
Ayurveda teachings state that misuse of the senses is one of three primary cause of dis-ease in the body. The science of Ayurveda explores how we can use our senses in a conscious way to support healing & alter the physiology of the body. Ayurveda is the science of how to effectively use diet, visual images, sounds, aromatherapy, and touch to create within the body an optimal environment for healing to take place. We have all heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” Ayurveda pushes this a step further and states that you are what taste, smell, see, hear, & feel. The five sense are viewed gateways into the body, mind, and consciousness. If we consume that which is harmonious we will feel supported and balanced, conversely if we take in that which is disharmonious we will feel unbalanced & create dis-ease in the body.
In his book Healing Your Life Marc Halpern relates human health to the health of plants:
“In many ways, we are much like plants. If a plant lives in the right environment and receive all of the proper nutrients, has healthy soil, proper sunlight and is growing in the right temperature, it will attain a deep rich color and have lots of blossoms. If it does not it may still survive, but it will not thrive and reach its full potential of beauty. We are much the same. Our environment is what we take in through the five sense: food, sights, sounds, smells, and touch. If our environment is ideal, each of us will attain a deep, rich color and fully blossom into a healthy, whole, and joyous human being. If not, we may still survive but our well-being will be significantly compromise and there is no way we can reach our full potential. “
The challenge of course is to know what is harmonious & what is disharmonious. There is no right way to use the senses. We are all unique. Halpern goes on to state, “Nothing is right for everyone and everything is right for someone.” Ayurveda is ultimately the science of learning what is right for you!
Last month, I attended the first session of my Ayurveda Therapist Training. The first night my lovely teacher shared a myth called the Ocean of Awareness with us. It definitely struck a chord with me.
The story was about a heroic Turtle named Kurma. There was so much so many lessons to be learned in that story but, what stood out to me was that the hero decided to incarnate into a turtle to save the day. Now, turtles are cute and all, but when I think heroic, they are not the first thing that comes to mind. Upon further contemplation I came to the conclusion that the turtle does have some pretty admirable traits. Their sturdy shell makes them built to last. They move mindfully so they avoid burnout & when life does get chaotic around them they are literally able to retreat from the outside world to gain more clarity. These are all excellent behaviors to avoid dis-ease and bring more harmony to life.
The Ayurveda teachings give us three causes of dis-ease or lack of harmony in the life and they are as follows:
Around that time, I wandered into my first yoga class. I fell in love immediately because it gave me permission to slow down. The intentional movement helped focus my always whirling vata mind & the breath helped cool my fiery tendencies. Understanding my tendency to lack discipline (another vata trait) I signed up for Yoga Teacher training at Swan River Yoga to force myself to develop a consistent practice. The next few months were a complete transformation. My practice helped me feel more grounded, release competitive tendencies, and overall feel more balanced in my body and in my life. Today even though my full-time job is the same, I find a lot more harmony in my life.
See it’s not that Pitta Dosha tendencies are “bad” or that one Dosha is more favorable than the others. The problems arise when we become unbalanced. In Ayurveda, it is taught that we sign up to be born with a specific constitution of each of the doshas based on the lessons we are trying to learn this life time. This is called our Prakriti. It is our own unique natural state. Our task during life is to work to bring to balance to the imbalance or Vikriti caused by our lifestyle choices including our profession, relationships, habits, and tendencies.
While the faster equals better paradigm seems to be shifting amongst businesses as more companies are adopting a more mindful & steady approach to business. Retail management or any capitalist based business will always be a Pitta provoking profession due to it nature. It’s important for me to incorporate daily practices or Chikitsa’s or rituals that will help keep me in balance. Some of the recommended Pitta/Vata pacifying Chikitsa’s I have implemented thus far have been Restorative Yoga, daily abhyanga, shirodhara & meditation. All of these practices are beneficial for calming the nervous system & feeling more grounded in your body.