This past weekend was my annual September women’s retreat at Camp Friendship just outside Prince George. Nineteen powerful, inspiring and radiant women came together in nature to laugh, practice, breathe, dance, eat, meditate, ceremony, explore and connect deeply into the Divine Feminine. We kept our hearts soft and open, we honoured our bodies, we revered each women’s unique gifts, and held sacred the wisdom of each other and the great mother Earth.
I feel beyond blessed to be able to share sacred Shakti teachings within such an incredible community ~ I am so grateful for the power of sisterhood!
One of the many practices we explored was a very simple and divinely delicious self massage. The Ayurvedic system calls this Abyhanga. The first practice of the day, self massage is a devoted expression of self-love. It is also a way to detoxify the body’s largest organ (the skin), stimulate your body’s energetic channels so your energy flows freely, and revitalizes the mind preparing you for your day. And it feels amazing!
Here are the basics – remember to breathe deeply throughout:
- Begin at the head. Massage the scalp and do a little hair pulling to release the fascia around the skull and face
- Sweep your fingers across the face, from the midline outwards with your first 2 finger. Move from the hairline to the lower jaw
- Gentle rub the throat and hum a couple of times
- Massage the back of the neck, the shoulders and as far as you can reach on your upper back
- Knead the arms. Use softer circular motions at the elbows and wrists. Massage the entire hand right to the finger tip. Repeat on other side
- With flat palms, make circular motions across the front of the body including the breasts. Large clockwise circles around the abdominal area
- Rub the side ribs, waist and hips
- Rub the kidney area getting it nice and warm
- Make a loose fist and pound the buttocks and thighs, or rub briskly with your hand if you prefer
- Massage & knead the legs. Soft circular motions around the knees. Press into the back midline of the calves.
- Massage the feet – linger here, it feels so good! Lots of acupressure and reflexology points here. Repeat on other side
- When complete, shake out the hands, close your eyes and take several deep breaths savouring the experience and the feeling of energy running freely in your body.
To see how I do my morning self massage, check out this video.
Why not make this a part of your morning routine? Try it for a few days and send me a note to tell me about your experience and how this practice changes your day.
love & pranams,
PS. Would you like to join me on a 3 day women’s retreat outside of Prince George? 2019 dates are March 28-31, 2019 and Sept 12-15, 2019. Reserve your spot early, these retreats almost always sell out!
The Kapha Dosha. The earth and the water. It’s translation is: “that which sticks,” so beware of the immensity of Kapha’s motion. The water is in the lubrication for your existence, through physically lubricated joints and motion. It is the elastic that holds your existence together.
Physically, you may feel it as dampness, cold, heavy, dull, sticky, swampy, dense, cloudy.
Mentally, Kapha will govern patience, love, greed, forgiveness, and attachment. It will ground the fire of Pitta, and slow down the flight of Vata.
It’s located in the chest, throat, lungs, head, lymph nodes, all your tissue, ligaments, and tendons. All things that work as the physical function of your body: structure to our tissue, lubrication to our ligaments, energy to our organs, healing our wounds.
Does this sound like you, or a source of your imbalance?
Unbalanced Kapha can lead to a murky existence that harbours all sorts of bodily disorders such as mucous issues like sinus congestion, lung phlegm, or obesity. Being dormant with dominant Kapha can lead to lethargy, attachment, and depression. Overeating and sweets can throw the Kapha off balance, and you should really just stop that eating to offset emotions right away. Staying indoors too much as a couch potato will throw Kapha off, as is avoiding physical challenges. Speaking of challenges, avoiding intellectual challenges can also put Kapha out of balance.
So, it’s easy to see that a balanced Kapha will look like freedom, positivity, healthy action, learning.
To go towards a balanced Kapha, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- warm and light foods are a great choice, this means heated dry foods. Too much damp food and you’ll be doing your stimulating fire no good. Avoid fatty foods, deep fried foods, dairy, or heavy foods as they will weigh you down. Pungent foods will heat that inner Kapha up though. Focus on hot foods. Ginger is a good idea, as it stimulates the stomach, so is honey, cumin, sesame seed, or tumeric.
- avoid a lifestyle that is filled with excessive luxuries and leisure. This will encourage your mind and body to be over fed and under stimulated, which harbours lethargy.
- practice non-attachment. This may be as simple as letting another cook make the soup, or as complex as letting another person clean out your own clothes closet. Go with the flow, feel the excitement of the journey.
- check in with your emotions to make sure they’re stimulated and cleaned. It’s a sad way to be if you lose your emotions because they’ve become stifled with oppression or muffled by passive tendencies.
- practice taking control of some situations, from going grocery shopping without consulting everybody for anything they need and buying things you think they may need, to leading the way out on the trail while you’re hiking.
- create a schedule. Regiment yourself with stimulation and engagements that ensure you’re not getting idle!
The Pitta Dosha. The fire that burns around you, and the water the floats around you. It translates to ‘That which cooks,’ so it’s understandable that it’s filled with energy that effects digestion and metabolism in the body, as well as the driving force for many of the substances in your body like organic acids, hormones, enzymes, and bile.
Physically, Pitta types have oily skin. Think glands. Pitta governs eyes, skin, stomach.
Mentally, Pitta have a fiery temper. Well, ok, that’s not all true. Pitta governs intelligence, understanding, joy, courage, willpower, anger, jealousy… emotions that require a certain amount of inner heat to manifest.
The Pitta is located in the small intestine, stomach, liver, spleen, pancreas, blood, eyes, and sweat.
Do any of these psychological emotions or physical locations connect with you?
An unbalanced Pitta shows up in anger, rage, bitterness, ego driven actions that begin to yell. It can show up in the body through infection, inflammation, rashes, ulcers, heartburn, and fever.
A balanced Pitta will be joyful, sharp intellect and the will required to do what has been manifested. There are a few key actions that you can keep in mine to ensure your Pitta is balanced.
– First, eat a Pitta balanced diet. These are foods that are cool or warm, but not steaming hot. Avoid salt, as well as sour and spicy foods. Spices heat the body, so it can throw off your Pitta. Lemon juice helps balance the acidity of Pitta, so avoid vinegars and yogurts and cheeses. Cold cereals, cinnamon toast, apple tea are good. Vegetarian and even a raw food diets are best, as red meats heats the body from the fat in it.
– find peaceful environments to both eat in and exist in. If you eat stressed, chances are your digestive tract will be stressed. For that matter, find all sorts of peaceful calming activities to engage in, like walking through nature, meditation or yoga! Avoid sprinting, and high thrill activities.
– avoid artificial stimulants. Drugs, alcohol, smoking, caffeine, soda, sugars..
– avoid overworking. Avoid competition.
The Vata Dosha. The air that flows around you and the ether that holds you. Vata is responsible for motion through and within your body, from the flow of blood to food digesting to impulsive action. It is the motivator of all else, the catalyst for your function in your human body.
Physically, Vata tends to the extremes. Slender frame, weak muscles, prominent joints, dry skin, dark and brittle hair, long face, thin lips.
Mentally, Vata is a creative and enthusiastic human with a free and quick mind that responds just as quick, the makings of a talking human. With this in mind, with such high energy, a dominant Vata can easily be nudged out of balance, leading to insecurities and anxiety.
Does this sound like yourself? Well, let’s talk about (im)balance.
Cold, dry and windy weather can really throw Vata out of balance, as can a dietary change such as too much dry, raw foods. How will this be felt? Anxiety, worry, overwhelm, tired but unable to relax, digestion problems, negative thoughts, indecision, short attention span, constant dry throat, lips, skin and scalp.
Vata is mainly located in the colon, with sub regions in the pelvic region, lower back, thighs, bones, ears, and skin. If you remember Vata is associated with movement, these regions are very easily identified as the sources of movement, legs to walk with, colon to expel foods, etc.
With this in mind, we must talk about how to balance the Vata dosha. Moisture, warmth, heaviness are the opposites to dry, cold, and light imbalance. Some home remedies are as follows, depending on your symptoms:
– rubbing your body with oils helps increase skin moisture as well as friction creates heat. Think of heavy oils like sesame, walnut, or almond oil. Go on, rub it in!
– salty, warm, sweet and sour foods help stoke that inner fire. Avoid the cold foods and choose rich, oily, nourishing foods as often as possible. Try a teaspoon of peanut butter in the morning. Fresh rich fruits like banana, mango, avocado work great, as well as nuts. Avoid frozen foods, cold drinks, dried fruit, extremely hot spice, coffee.
– look to herbs like licorice root, cinnamon, nutmeg, mustard seeds, or ginger to bring that heat back into your belly!
– meditation, reading, calming music, or a nice yin yoga practice can really help to ground the Vata imbalance. Routine is also very helpful for the mind.
– dress warm! This is probably obvious, but don’t let that cold weather get the hand up on you.
According to Ayurveda (an ancient Indian system of medicine, health, and wellness), doshas are comprised of three bodily bioelements that are the foundation to one’s constitution. They are forever in a state of flux, day and night, winter, spring, summer, fall, full moon, new moon.
They central concept of Ayurvedic medicine is that your optimal health exists when there is a balance in all three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Vata is airy. Related to cold, dry, light, minute, and movement. Movement in the body is Vata. Pain in the body is also due to Vata: flatulence, gout, rheumatism, etc.
Pitta is fiery. It is the acid within your stomach, the flow to the liver, spleen, stomach, heart, skin. It’s related to heat, moist, liquid, sharp and sour. You know, those hot foods and the things it effects! Pitta energizes metabolism.
Kapha is the watery element. It’s related to heaviness, cold ,tenderness, softness, slowness and lubrication. This is the relieve from aching knees and burning pain.
Over the next weeks, we’ll be discussing each of the doshas separately with a focus on their Ayurvedic principles to hopefully encourage the smooth functioning bodily bioelements!
So I ask you, do you know if your doshas are balanced? And if so, how do you know?
Ayurveda may seem like a fairly obscure and overwhelming topic to start digging into, like identifying plants or counting the dots on the roof! But you may be surprised at how many ayurvedic practices you already incorporate into your life!
Breathing is a very common Ayurvedic practice. Depending on which dosha you’re trying to focus on, you can either speed up your breathing, or slow it right down. Quicker breaths, slower breaths. Give it a try.
Water, spiced water even! Pick out a spice that will help align with the dosha you’re trying to strengthen and infuse it in your water. Prepare for magic.
Waking up early, not just 5 minutes before it’s time to get to the day, but just before sunset you’ll notice that Vata energy fills the air. Vata is the movement energy, alive, and I guarantee your day will be infused with it if you practice this.
Check in to a morning ritual. Creating rituals allows you to tap into your ojas, or your bodies inner energy reserves. That’s you, being a luscious human being! Just one tip here, make it something enjoyable.
Ever given yourself a thorough shake in the morning? How about giving yourself a nice massage? Bring in some aromatherapy oils and you’re doing some Ayurveda! To balance vata, use ginger, cardamom, or orange; sandalwood or lavender work best for pitta; kaphas should try eucalyptus, rosemary, or sage.
Taking a bath is a practice that can help stimulate or calm your energy. Pittas will benefit from cooler temps, while lukewarm water is better for vatas, and even warmer temperatures are best for kaphas. So next time you’re thinking about a bath or shower, remind yourself that you’re balancing your doshas!
How many of these acts do you regularly do? See, I knew you already did Ayurveda!