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Being one to always want to analyze, this mental exercise allowed me to proceed with the next step of formulating my hypothesis which was: If I made an effort to be more aware of how I eat I would be introducing a new nurturing and self-healing behavior into my life.  In order to test out my hypothesis, I decided that I would try and eat one meal a day mindfully by myself. I defined mindfully to mean sitting down at a table, taking time before I ate to express gratitude for my food and then eating slowly in silence.

The duration of my experiment was 2 weeks and counting. My first meal was a dinner. I took the time to initiate the start of my experiment by cooking a special dinner consisting of salmon, sweet potatoes and salad. Before I ate I lit a candle and paused to think about all the people and elements that were necessary and responsible for my meal. This was a profound experience for me because even though I have felt appreciative and thankful for my meals and have expressed gratitude in the past I never took the time until this dinner to really think this process through in detail before eating a meal. Not only did I think of the natural elements in the process of growing our food ( i.e. sun, rain, soil), but thought about the person who planted the seed, caught the fish, tended and harvested the plants, packed the food for shipping, transported the food, received the food, stocked the shelves and checked me out in the store. I also started to think about who these people might be and what was maybe going on in their lives and did they realize the importance of their work to us all. This dive into this process of thought made me feel very humble and appreciative of how we are all connected not only in spirit but in human survival.

Often the thought of beginning something new can seem much more daunting than it actually is once you get started. That was the case for this Axis Yoga Teacher Training student in an effort towards leading a life of less stress and anxiety. Through an Ayurvedic experiment with dinacharya (daily routine), this student realized just how accessible that life could be.

To begin my Ayurvedic experiment, I first did a self evaluation in relation to the doshas and quickly learned that my Vata is extremely out of balance. I am constantly in motion and realized that it causes me to have anxiety and stress throughout my daily activities. Through this realization, I acknowledged that I really did have the desire to slow down and be more present. In order to implement this sense of control, I decided to design my experiment around the use of a more devoted Dinacharya that would lead me to a place where I felt grounded and content.

My original plan was to start with waking up earlier, which is not something that I was able to do every day but did make happen quite a few times over the last couple weeks. These are the days that stand out to me as being the most fulfilling. Having a large amount of Vata in me and recognizing that I do not slow down for much, it seems like waking up just a little bit earlier finally gave me a sense of stability. These days were the most rewarding because I had the time to give myself the attention that I need, both mentally and physically. The first thing I did after waking up was acknowledge my breath and then say out loud thank you, thank you, thank you. Doing this makes me STOP and smile and fills me with happiness. Beginning the day this way made me realize how important it is to me to practice gratitude and surrender to what is. After allowing myself to wake up in enough time to recognize the beauty within me and around me, I decided to start scraping my tongue. In class, I learned that the oral cavity is one of the main gateways between your mind/body and the environment so maintaining the health of this connection is critical to my general well-being. I found that since I was up early and no longer in a rush, I was excited for the tongue scraping because it made me feel a sense of renewal and cleanliness. Tongue scraping also intrigued me because I was able to assess how well my food was digesting and try to avoid foods that were obviously not agreeing with my body. I knew that this would help me to retain the feelings of clarity throughout the day ahead. The final part of my experiment was the practice of Nasya – administration of sunflower oil by the way of  my nasal cavity. I was incredibly nervous about this part because I simply could not imagine that this practice would be tolerable and most definitely not enjoyable. Feeling anxious and nervous, I went to Whole Foods to purchase Sunflower oil as it is good for a Vata-Pita person like me and headed home to fill my glass vile. The first drops were very strange feeling but I was able to find several full breaths while emptying the entire dropper, half in one nostril and half in the other per Susan’s direction. I laid down and hung my head off the edge of my bed as I let the oil soak in and contrary to my thoughts, everything was fine and it actually felt amazing! I could feel some sort of tension release in my face almost immediately. Naturally, I have an extremely dry nasal cavity and after just 3 days of practicing Nasya I could tell a major difference internally. My nose has been so dry for so long that I didn’t think anything could help but this did the trick and I couldn’t be more pleased. One thing I would like to mention is that when I first started this practice, I was doing it in the evening and in the morning my throat would hurt a little bit. The best part about it is that through tongue scraping, my throat no longer hurt and all is well!

Overall, my experience with Ayurveda practices has been eye opening and amazing. Though I was frustrated with the early morning wake ups and the sore throat, I always came back to a place of appreciation for the YTT training and the amazing support surrounding the program. I have already learned and continue to learn so much about myself and the world around me. I am grateful for every experience whether it is helpful or not because I am still learning and that is what is most important to me. My Ayurvedic experiment started out as what seemed to be an extremely extensive and unnecessary Dinacharya. It felt overwhelming at first, but ended up being something that I actually really enjoyed. It even made me realize that all of these things that I have been interested in incorporating into my life for a long time were much more accessible than I had thought. I plan to continue on with my Dinacharya and continue experimenting with more suggestions from Vasant Lad and his book, Ayurvedic Home Remedies.

Axis Yoga Trainings’ students received customized feedback and suggestions for their ayurvedic experiments.  Here is what Susan Bernhardt, AYT’s lead ayurveda instructor, had to say about this students process.

“I’m so glad that you found the experiment to be helpful. Waking up early, expressing gratitude, tongue-scraping, and nasya – all wonderful! It’s great that you went ahead with nasya despite the trepidation. I’m also glad that the sore throat cleared up. Traditionally, nasya is done in the morning, at some point before breakfast. Perhaps being vertical after, instead of horizontal at night, is helpful.

It’s great to hear that you plan to continue your dinacharya and experimenting. Good luck!

Thank you for the thoughtful experiment and paper.”

Lots of people don’t like mornings. They can be rushed and hectic and leave us feeling behind before we’ve even gotten started. But there is another way. Through the teachings of Ayurveda we can learn how to start our day with grace and gratitude that will ease us into our daily responsibilities. This is something the following Axis Yoga Teacher Training student was able to experience first-hand. By doing an Ayurvedic experiment as part of the YTT course, students are able to truly understand the benefits of these ancient teachings. And, as in the case of this student, create permanent changes.

 

For years I was the type of person who got out of bed last minute, threw on some clothes, brushed my teeth (hopefully!), and grabbed coffee to-go before speeding off to work. Due to this routine, I was often physically and mentally tardy for work. Reflecting now, it seems like my mind spent the morning trying to catch up to my body! I was endlessly anxious, constantly checking my to-do list and focusing on what was next in the day. Although I still was being proactive in regards to my health through my daily spiritual practices, these activities were often just things to check off my to-do list as well. I knew I needed a change. For my Ayurvedic experiment, I decided to reconsider and rework how I was spending my mornings. Deciding to approach my daily routine, specifically in the morning, appeared to be a daunting task but it seemed necessary in order to balance a recent move to Denver, yoga teacher training, work, preparations for a 27-month Peace Corps deployment, mind, body, and spirit. In addition, I decided to modify some aspects of my diet and eating habits. I adhered to a primarily Pitta diet and worked on eating one meal a day in complete mindfulness.

Dinacharya, Ayruvedic Daily Routine

The daily routine which I decided to follow started off with a moment to look at my hands, give gratitude and/or pray directly upon waking up in the morning. Following this, I engaged in tongue scraping while noting the feeling and appearance of my tongue, oil pulling to remove built up ama or toxins in my body, choosing water (over coffee!), and meditation to start my day consciously. After work and in the evenings, I worked on eating a meal in mindfulness. I did not specifically decide to target a before bed routine as part of my experiment although, as a treat, I often drank milk with ghee and turmeric or gave myself a warm oil massage.

1. Good morning! Starting the day by looking at my hands, giving gratitude and/or praying has been the catalyst for positive thinking throughout the entire day to follow. Although I am not new to the practice of starting my mornings in this way, I found myself specifically working on giving gratitude and praying in different, intuitive, and creative ways. In addition, I found that these techniques didn’t just stop after I got out of bed in the morning. More and more, I am carrying more gratitude and reverence with me in my heart and soul all day. Some examples of what worked well for me are below:

• ”Today is my favorite day”- Winnie the Pooh from The Tao of Pooh- I love this quote! Winnie the Pooh replied with this answer when asked which day of the week was his favorite. This quote reminds me in a playful way to be in the moment, every moment of every day.

• “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu”- (i.e. “may the entire universe be filled with peace, joy, love, and light”)- This Sanskrit mantra is my current favorite. Not only do your thoughts actively participate in the creation of your day, they participate in the manifestation of the lives of others. This quote reminds me to give selflessly for the highest good of all beings.

• Prayers- I often found myself praying to be used as a divine tool throughout my day. • Gratitude- I often gave gratitude for my snuggly cats, my aliveness (my awakeness!), my silly clients, and the unknown that had yet to populate my day.

2. Tongue scraping I had hoped to use my tongue as a diagnostic tool to examine my current health as well as any changes that occurred over the duration of the experiment. Upon first examining my tongue, I found that it was scalloped around the edges, denoting unabsorbed nutrients. I also noticed that there appeared to be a midline, signifying emotions in the spinal column. During the experiment, I kept a journal to record the appearance/feeling of my tongue. For the entirety of the experiment, the description of my tongue in my journal stayed the same. I continue to note that my tongue is scalloped along the edges with a profound midline. I have noted small changes though. The scalloped edges appear to be less distinct, indicating that I may be absorbing more nutrients than I was initially, and the amount of tongue scraping I do has decreased, indicating that I may have fewer toxins to remove from my body. I have a couple hypothesis about why changes to my tongue were not more profound. The first is that I may have needed to do an Ayurvedic detox to remove built up ama from my body. It is possible that from years of bad habits, this more intense method of purification may have been necessary for obtaining more visible results. My other hypothesis is in regards to my Pitta based diet. I mentioned in the introduction that I followed a primarily Pitta diet. I did and do continue to eat chocolate and some spicy food and enjoy eating out once a week. These foods are potentially keeping the appearance of my tongue steady.

3. Oil pulling This technique was very enjoyable for me. At times in the past I have noticed gum bleeding while brushing my teeth but this was not noted at any point during the experiment. I have a dentist appointment in one week and am curious about any observations by the dentist/dental hygienist.

4. Water I cut out coffee in the mornings and introduced water instead. I anticipated that this might be difficult but that was not the case at all. Even the first day was easy for me! The water had a similar effect of waking my body up. In the traditional Ayurvedic morning routine, one would drink their water from a copper cop. I drank mine from glass jar instead as I do not own a copper cup (note to self: obtain a copper cup!).

5. Meditation Meditation is my love. Meditation is and has been my link with myself and with the connectedness of all that is (you, me, copper cups, kitty cats, etc.). As a “list person”, meditation was usually an activity which I anticipated checking off my to-do list. Now, meditating before I even leave the house allows me to start my day mindfully and helps me to feel a sense of accomplishment before I even leave the house. I believe moving my practice to the morning has made my days feel more spacious and has assisted in removing that feeling of my mind working on catching up with my body in the mornings.

6. Work The effects of my morning routine have been most prominent in the workplace. I love working with children diagnosed with autism. I get to play all day! It is glorious! It can also be difficult in that I deal with challenging and demanding behaviors. I find myself coming back to the way in which I initially begin my morning and drawing upon some aspect of my morning (ex: the object of my prayer, the feeling of gratitude, my truest intention, in the moment awareness, etc.) for strength when things get tough.

7. Mindful dinner This aspect of my daily routine was the most difficult for me. I attempted to make the environment conducive but often my roommate was chatty, blaring music, or my mind sometimes (but less often!) became a distraction. I either took deep, thoughtful breaths, said a prayer while bowing my head in gratitude and acknowledgement of the amazing source of food, or gave my food Reiki to begin my meal. This part of my meal routine was the most thoughtful and significant but, during the rest of the Pitta based meal. I have a sensitive history with food and continue to work on my approach to food daily. I realize that changing habits can be difficult and am taking it day by day.

One of the unique aspects of Axis Yoga Teacher Trainings is the inclusion of Ayurvedic study. Additionally, the students have the opportunity to apply the lessons of Ayurveda to their own lives. This student experimented with Ayurvedic recommendations to help alleviate fatigue which led to “a new lifestyle built upon awareness of healthy decisions and alignment between my body and mind.”