Class Notes & Quotes

Shelter-in-Place: Ayurveda Remedies & MOR

April 7, 2020

Part 1:

Shelter-In-Place: Ayurvedic Remedies & Mor March 31st-April 4th

I have to admit, the yogi in me loves being in retreat… In fact, it took a week of students writing to me before I started teaching online. It was too much fun doing all the practices that I often don’t have time to get to. (See my self-retreat practice at bottom.) I felt like I was in southern India at my favorite Ayurveda center! What I am offering in this letter are some practices and choices for being in retreat (aka, Shelter-In-Place) and how yoga & Ayurveda have long recommended daily routines that the media is now suggesting in view of COVID-19. First some groundwork, recommendations that you’ve probably have heard but worth reviewing with the Ayurvedic/Yogic perspective thrown in:

Self-Care Ayurvedic Remedies in the Age of COVID-19:

Prevention Recommendations from Chinese Medicine & Ayurveda

  1. Drink hot liquids: tea, broth, soups, hot water with lemon, a pinch of sea salt, etc. Gargle with antiseptic in warm water daily, with lemon, salt, or apple cider vinegar. (Gargling with oil known as “kavala” or “gundusha,” is an ancient Ayurvedic dental technique that involves swishing a tablespoon of oil in your mouth on an empty stomach for around 20 minutes. This action supposedly draws out toxins in your body, primarily to improve oral health but also to improve your overall health.) Stay hydrated, drinking sips of warm water at least every 20 minutes. This not only keeps the mouth moist but if a virus has entered, it will wash it into the stomach where gastric juices can neutralize it before it gets to the lungs.  Avoid eating and drinking cold things. This is a basic Ayurvedic principle for keeping digestion strong and capable of proper assimilation as well as the best way for staying hydrated and to support your immune system.
  2. The virus attaches to hair and clothes–soap or detergent kills the virus but you need to wash immediately before sitting down or touching anything else. If you can’t wash clothes daily, hang in the sun for up to 48 hours. Natural cleaning products are not strong enough to kill the virus on surfaces. Pull out the big guns and use hydrogen peroxide or Benzalkonium Chloride wipes.
  3. The virus can last up to 9 days on metal surfaces, handrails, elevator buttons, doorknobs. Clean such surfaces thoroughly.
  4. Don’t smoke…  Anything! Cannabis can also compromise the immune system and weaken the lungs.
  5. Wash hands regularly and vigorously for 20 seconds preferably with a soap that foams. (Chant your favorite mantra for those 20 seconds!)
  6. Animals do not spread virus to people, people spread it to people.
  7. Keep zinc levels high, not just Vitamin C. Fresh fruits and vegetables are a good source.
  8. If you get a sore throat, attack it immediately with the above suggestions. The virus will stay in throat for 3 days before entering the lungs.
  9. Avoid getting the flu! I think this was lost in the translation but is another way of saying, keep your immune system strong. Getting the proper amount of sleep is a basic Ayurvedic/Yogic principle and is a great way to support your immune system. Staying at home affords us the luxury of better and longer sleep!

Also, because we are home, and possibly out of boredom we might be eating more often or snacking throughout the day. Maintaining a regular eating schedule of three meals a day will greatly support the immune system. Exercise! Yoga, Qi Gong, hike, bike… Get sunshine!!!

Nasal Drops for Clear Breathing & Prevention

The nose is the direct route to the brain and also the doorway to consciousness. It is the entrance for prana (life force,) which comes into the body through breathing. Healthy uncongested breathing ensures proper flow of prana throughout the head and body. When an excess of bodily fluids accumulates in the sinus, throat, nose, or head areas, it is best eliminated through the nose. Administration of herbally infused oil, “nasya”, helps facilitate this cleansing process. Nasya Oil soothes and protects the nasal passage while nourishing the tissues. Daily nasal lubrication helps to release tension in the head and relieve accumulated stress. Balancing for vata, pitta, and kapha doshas, Nasya Oil is also traditionally said to improve quality of voice, strengthen vision, and promote mental clarity. Not recommended if you have a cold, flu, or sinus infection (“Neti”, nasal irrigation with saline solution, is more astringent and better for these hindrances.) Keeping the nasal passages lubricated and moist, as well as the back of the throat has been discussed as a possible means of preventing viruses from landing since they seem to do better when landing on dry surfaces.

Nasya oils usual include refined sesame oil, olive oil, the Ayurvedic herbs of Brahmi/Gotu Kola powder, Calamus powder, Skullcap, Eucalyptus essential oil…

How to use Nasya oils:

  1. Begin by comfortably lying down on your back and tilting your head back with your nostrils opening towards the sky. If you are lying on a bed, you may hang your head off the edge of the bed or place a small pillow beneath your neck for support.
  2. Place 3–5 drops of nasya oil in each nostril. With skill, you can administer the oil, drop by drop, circling the inside perimeter of the nostril, thoroughly coating the nasal membranes.
  3. Take a big sniff in, then rest for a few minutes allowing the nasya to penetrate.

To buy Nasya Oil

Part 2: Touchy Subjects: The Age of “Me Too!” & COVID-19

April 6th-12th

Touch is one of our 5 sense organs, along with the eyes, mouth, nose, and ears. In yoga as in Ayurveda each sense organ is related to one of the 5 elements or “Pancha Bhutas” or “Maha Bhutas”; the eyes-fire, the mouth/tongue-water, the nose-earth, the ears-space, and the skin-air. Touch is as essential as hearing, smelling, tasting, and seeing. Can you imagine going without any one or two of these senses? How different our life would be. Yet, we live in an age where the amount of touch we receive and the amount we give is being restricted, perhaps even more than it has been in previous decades because of the “Me Too!” movement and now, “COVID-19.” Few of the other sense organs have had so much imposed upon it as touch has. So much so that we are more likely to forego touch before restricting ourselves from seeing, tasting, smelling, hearing. Consider all of the people that go without touch–the elderly in nursing care, the number of widows, young single people without partners, those who can’t afford a massage, sexless marriages or traumatized folks who get triggered from touch and therefore avoid it. (My partner is a doctor, going to the hospital daily, so we have also quarantined ourselves from intimate contact during this global Shelter-In-Place phenomenon.)

The current phobias around touch are accentuated by centuries of negative conditioning. No matter how liberated we become in our attitudes around sex and touch, it has left us–even on the most subconscious level–suspect of this vital contact. Think of the hesitancy and awkwardness that people often have around sharing a hug…The positive side of these current trends is that they are asking us to reevaluate what is healthy touch, appropriate, nourishing touch from that which is authoritarian, degrading and abusive.

We are inclined to forget how essential, how valuable touch is to our wellbeing prioritizing the other sense organs above it. Yet, our skin, our flesh is the body’s largest organ and therefore, capable of taking in a great amount of pleasurable stimulus–touching is how we experience life and how we nurture ourselves and others. Touch is a two-way street. Not only are we denying ourselves the healing, restorative, nurturing aspects of being touched due to COVID-19 but we may also be denied the pleasure of touching—both are essential and are, in fact, the same thing. When a massage therapist works on a client, the client opens up, letting go of stress as their mind and body begin wanting more and more of what they are receiving, “Don’t stop” goes the inner dialogue. At the same time the massage therapist is also being supported, receiving energy back through touch, satisfying their own desire for contact, while also being in touch with the healing energy moving through their entire body and accumulating in their hands. Or, how about when we touch our pets, isn’t it a joyously mutual exchange? We get pleasure in seeing our dog go ecstatic but we also feel that joy through our hands which is what we get back. Touch is as important to our overall wellbeing as a healthy diet, a good amount of sleep and exercise.

In both yoga and Ayurveda self-touch is part of these healing therapies, not only with the endless wrapping and folding of the body into itself in yoga postures but also through the use of “mudras” which use physical touch—mostly, but not exclusively, of the hands to redirect the subtle energy of the body. In Ayurveda, there is the fundamental daily practice of self-oil-massage called “Abhyanga.” This practice uses warm oils to lubricate, stimulate, and create better circulation the body and soothes the nervous system. “Abhyanga” is also done by an Ayurvedic massage therapist who will work this warm herbal infused oil deeply into your body, energizing the “marma” points (aka as Acupuncture meridians) and pathways. Another remedy is a Salt Scrub, traditionally done with chickpea flour but now with high-density mineral salts.  See below for both treatments:

Healing Touch: Abhyanga

Abhyanga oil traditionally has Ashwagandha (Indian Ginseng), Bala, Vidari Kanda, Bacopa, Shatavari and ginger or cinnamon for warmth in it. But you can use sesame or safflower oil by itself or optionally with your favorite essential oil instead.

Warm 1/4-1/2 cup of oil, then, starting with your legs, rub the oil into the skin just like lotion. Use long strokes on the limbs and circular movements on your joints. Continue to move all the way up the body, moving in the direction of the heart– don’t rush, indulge and love yourself! In Sanskrit, the word sneha can be translated as both “oil” and “love.” So, in Ayurveda, there is an inherent connection between enveloping the body in oil and enveloping it in love. Both experiences can give a deep feeling of stability, warmth, and comfort.

Spend extra time on tight knots or super dry spots and don’t forget often overlooked body parts like the ears and bottoms of the feet. Once you’ve applied the oil, wrap yourself in an old towel or bathrobe and let it soak into the skin for at least 20 minutes. This is when is a great time to roll out your mat and settle into a Yoga Nidra or to meditate. I usually do Qi Gong during this time because I can do it standing and not get oil on anything else and both the self-massage and Qi Gong are great prep before a seated meditation. After 20 minutes, hop in the shower and rinse off any extra oil, not applying soap except to essential parts–pat yourself dry. Please note that frequently washing with hand sanitizers and soap will eventually dry the skin, Abhyanga is a great way to moisturize the skin and keep it from cracking.

Healing Touch: Salt Scrub

The abrasive action associated with salt scrubs invigorates the skin and helps to improve circulation while assisting our lymphatic system. Improved circulation gives skin a natural glow. Scrubbing with salt also helps to remove bacteria from the skin and unclog pores. Salt has antiseptic qualities, and when applied to the skin it may help kill bacteria and reduce inflammation along with any itching and pain associated with bacterial-related skin disease.

Exfoliating with a salt scrub not only removes dead skin cells and increases circulation, but it also encourages regeneration. Sloughing away dead skin cells actually promotes the growth of healthy new cells. This regeneration process tightens the skin, giving it a firmer and healthier-looking appearance. Skin regeneration also reduces skin discoloration, evening out skin tone and improving texture. But this vigorous scrubbing effects more than the superficial layer of the skin and can increase energy through the entire body as well as bringing greater mental clarity affecting our overall attitude and wellbeing.

Once you’ve made (see below) or purchased your salt scrub, work it into the entire body starting from the feet up. Chant, sing, love yourself before washing it off in the shower. Do not use soap except where necessary. As with Abhyanga oil massage, pat yourself dry so that a thin layer of the oil remains.

How to make:

Amount of ingredients for single use: double or triple for extra.

  • Use a cup of a fine sea or Himalayan salt or a mixture of the two. (Coffee and sugar are also used)
  • Add ½ cup of oil–sesame for extra dry skin—good for cooler environments, sunflower oil for normal skin or coconut oil for oily and warmer environments or seasons.
  • Add 5 drops of essential oil. Usually lavender is a favorite for calming and soothing, peppermint for invigorating and daily aches and pains, rosemary is good for lung support and grapefruit is also uplifting and can even help with cellulite. The only essential oil that I had on hand this week was eucalyptus which is also good for the lungs and stimulation.
  • Mix together in a bowl.

Here are two other specific formula options for Face & Feet:

Fragrant Himalayan salt face scrub

Ingredients:

  • 2 TBSP Himalayan salt
  • 1 TBSP grapeseed oil
  • 2 drops ylang-ylang essential oil
  • 2 drops grapefruit essential oil

Refreshing Himalayan salt foot scrub

Ingredients:

  • 8 TBSP Himalayan salt
  • 2 TBSP coconut oil
  • 3 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 5 drops lemongrass essential oil

Part 3:

Home Practice: April 13th -20th

When I started studying yoga in the late 70s I would drive one hour each way to see my teacher. This was once a week or when lucky twice. The rest of the week I would practice on my own before or after work with only my dog occasionally joining me on my mat. Now, a Home Practice means doing yoga with an App–having your instructor in your house 24-hours a day, via downloads or with Zoom and, the rest of your yoga community joining in as well as your cats and dogs. There is much benefit in both ways of practising and as much as I love seeing you in my Zoom classes and love our community, I hope you will find time to practice just with yourself as it can be very informative and revealing. Below I have included my self-retreat schedule and practices that I started with this Shelter-In-Place journey. Try it as a day-long retreat or use some of the practices as your daily routine.

As we enter week 4 of SIP and the spring urge to be active and outdoors arises, I hope that you will continue to take this time to listen, to absorb the YOU that has been forming over these precious weeks and to keep this gift of time and home something sacred. The “normal” that we will eventually return to will not be “normal” as we once knew it and will continue to change. We have all had a better glimpse under clearer skies of what is valuable and real to us, keep this close to your heart and walk forward from here—choose those ways that keep your heart happiest.

Dinacharya: This is my Daily Routine for Stay In Place & Retreats

Upon Arising:

  • Nasya*
  • Abhyanga*
  • Qi Gong
  • Meditation & Pranayama

Breakfast: Kitchari

(Kitchari (pronounced kich-uh-ree) is the traditional cleansing food of Ayurveda. It is a combination of split mung beans and white basmati rice with plenty of spices, depending on your constitution. Amidst all of the modern diet trends happening today, this might seem like an unusual cleansing food.)

Let this be a healing time for all of us, you, me, the planet… See you online for class!! Om Shanti, David

Yoga In the Time of Coronavirus

March 7, 2020

Pandemic

“What if you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times? Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now, on trying to make the world different than it is. Sing. Pray. Touch only those to whom you commit your life. Center down. And when your body has become still, reach out with your heart. Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful. (You could hardly deny it now.) Know that our lives are in one another’s hands. (Surely, that has come clear.) Do not reach out your hands. Reach out your heart. Reach out your words. Reach out all the tendrils of compassion that move, invisibly, where we cannot touch. Promise this world your love– for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, so long as we all shall live.”   — Lynn Ungar 3/11/20

PLAYLIST: Henryk Gorecki: Symphony #3 Dawn Upshaw https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mcfy3UmnyDY

Winter Solstice 2019

December 20, 2019

On the Edge of The Solstice: It started with the dark skies and early morning rain. It was enhanced by the cold cave-like days just before the winter solstice and wound up with the heightened stress of the approaching holidays—even to the degree that some of us ignore them. Almost everyone felt it to some extent about the time their eyes opened to the morning–a dread, a sinking in the belly, stiffness in the bones, a cold. The day had a weight to it. Not the immobilizing weight of depression but more like a dark suspension. And, even though some felt righteously celebratory that our madman had been impeached, it did nothing to lighten things–no views were changed, no mistrust or suspicions resolved– divisions fortified. The world will never be what it was again. Even Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi was being tried for war crimes on this winter’s day.

The veil between what is happening out in the world and in our own lives is thin. Thinner each day as we hurdle towards 2020–dramatic divisions remain for now. Every time that we have a view of how we thought things should go, how we truly believe things could be different, will be challenged. Climate change, turbulent change, we fear change and…dislike the way things are. The grace is the practice, is meditation, is the awareness of that which holds all things, all displays, all manifestation in its vastness. So, we abide, surrender, open, yoga… I feel that too… I feel you watchful ones who chose love—a love full of contradiction. I feel that love and clarity too, and open, and open, and try opening some more… Blessed Solstice, David

PLAYLIST: Dinah Washington / Max Richter – This Bitter Earth / On The Nature Of Daylight  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXHGoaEtmFM

Peace: Om Shanti

October 7, 2019

“By meditating or practising yoga, we should not merely seek the peace that a wise practice inevitably leaves in its wake. Peace is not an end unto itself, just a means. When our mind is at peace, we can listen to our heart, realize our dharma, and then act upon it. A troubled, turbulent mind can hardly see itself objectively or fathom the purpose for its creation. Hence, cultivating peace of mind helps us discover the purpose of our existence. Peace must not simply serve our desire for comfort; it must serve our dharma. So find peace, yet reject peace. Strive for purposeful peace, while discarding the lethargic peace that prevents you from actively living your dharma.”

Aadil Palkhivala

Rest

August 7, 2019

“Be present. Make love. Make tea. Avoid small talk. Embrace conversation. Buy a plant, water it. Make your bed. Make someone else’s be. Have a smart mouth and a quick wit. Run. Make art. Create. Swim in the ocean. Swim in the rain. Take chances. Ask questions. Make mistakes. Learn. Know your worth. Love fiercely. Forgive quickly. Let go of what doesn’t make you happy. Grow.”

Paulo Coelho

Rest

January 7, 2019

“REST is the conversation between what we love to do and how we love to be. Rest is not stasis but the essence of giving and receiving. Rest is an act of remembering, imaginatively and intellectually, but also physiologically and physically. To rest is to become present in a different way than through action, and especially to give up on the will as the prime motivator of endeavour, with its endless outward need to reward itself through established goals.To rest is to give up on worrying and fretting and the sense that there is something wrong with the world unless we put it right; to rest is to fall back, literally or figuratively from outer targets, not even to a sense of inner accomplishment or an imagined state of attained stillness, but to a different kind of meeting place, a living, breathing state of natural exchange…”

David Whyte

Vows Playlist: “Landfall” Laurie Anderson/Qurnos Quartet

April 7, 2018

“As long as I live, I vow to die and be reborn, die and be reborn, die and be reborn, over and over again, forever reinventing myself. I promise to be stronger than hate, wetter than water, deeper than the abyss, and wilder than the sun. I pledge to remember that I am not only a sweating, half-asleep, excitable, bumbling jumble of desires, but that I am also an immortal four-dimensional messiah in continuous telepathic touch with all of creation. I vow to love and honor my highs and my lows my yeses and noes, my give and my take, the life I wish I had and the life I actually have. I promise to push hard to get better and smarter, grow my devotion to the truth, fuel my commitment to beauty, refine my emotions, hone my dreams, wrestle with my shadow, purge my ignorance, and soften my heart — even as I always accept myself for exactly who I am, with all of my so-called foibles and wobbles.”

Rob Brenzy

Shadows & Light; The Yoga of Eclipses

December 7, 2016

The sun is associated with illumination, and therefore enlightenment. The Sun is the king of the sky, the embodiment of righteousness (dharma), and is the most visible and easily recognized of deities. Seeing and being seen (dharshana) by an enlightened deity is auspicious and tends to improve luck.

Spending time near an enlightened being or in a location (like on a sacred mountain, or at the shore of a sacred river, or in a temple) that is auspicious will “rub off” on you and help you to align with the enlightened state of that being, or the auspicious nature of that location. Actions, situations, and locations that obscure your ability to see clearly or be enlightened are generally considered inauspicious and best avoided. Eclipses block the illuminating power of the Sun (Righteousness/Dharma) and the Moon (Nourishment/Intuition). The word for planet in Sanskrit “Graha” means “to seize.” because their influence is said to ‘seize’ our consciousness and cause us to play out our karma in a reactive way.

This can be understood as a kind of possession, a partial possession, in that you are being possessed by an energetic pattern that causes you to act like a puppet. You are still “you” but heavily influenced in an unconscious way. This isn’t “bad,” it’s just normal, but it does imply a lack of freedom. The whole point of spiritual practice is to increase your freedom, self-possession, the ability to discern and choose for yourself what you wish to do and which path you wish to walk. The more directly you view planet, or bathe in its light, and the longer time you soak up the light, the stronger the influence.

As yogins, our path is one of skillful means, choosing the situations and experiences that lead us toward our goal, whether that is stillness, liberation, or union. So it is important for us to be clear about the choices we make that lead toward illumination or toward obscuration. It is to CHOOSE what is appropriate for you at this time, what helps you along your path. In Vedic astrology, solar eclipses are said to accelerate social evolution, often through agitation, which may present as some kind of crisis or confusion. Synchronistic with this view is that the shadow of this eclipse will move across the states from cost to cost, at a time when the U.S. government seems to be teetering on the edge of a breakdown.

Monday’s solar eclipse falls in the area of the sky known as the heart of Leo the lion. The magnanimous Leo is a generous and honorable star that holds the blessings of our ancestors and the powerful bonds of loyalty held within bloodlines. But called the “throne of kings,” because it is also the star of authoritarian power, nationalistic and racial pride—it also happens to be the rising birth star (ascendant) of the current American president, a president who was born during an eclipse. Trump’s astrology shows a unique configuration where all the planets at the time of his birth were in “the belly of the serpent.” They are grouped between the shadow planets known as the north and south node that create the alignment of the eclipse. Traditionally it is recommended that one stay indoors during the eclipse, not to cook food or eat, and to wear lightcolored clothing (that which best reflects light.)

Day After the General Election

November 6, 2016

“The wrecking ball has arrived. Never fear. Never accept the appearance of things. The young king with Alexander the Great’s personality traits appears to have his prize. Hillary the warrior does not yet know the horror she avoided. All this shall pass in this unstable universe of ours. Do not under any circumstances engage in fear. Do what empowers you. Keep your hearts open no matter how hard. Do not engage in martyrdom, resentment or hopelessness. As the old Buddhist monk said when faced with alternating praise and condemnation,”Oh, is that so?” In every seeming impossible situation there is always opportunity…We are beyond ready for major change and as a collective we have chosen our agent. Let us not allow our attachments to stand in the way of the work ahead of us.”

Jose Stevens, Shamanic Healer/Visionary

Shifting Gravity

August 19, 2016

Inversions revitalize the whole system, reversing the effects of gravity – mentally and physically – by bathing the brain with nourishment. Inversions cleanse, nourish, clear the mind, and improve thinking. They improve circulation and assist the lymphatic system.

They relieve strain and fatigue in the legs and feet. Inversions can stimulate sluggish digestion and elimination and practiced with regularity can aid in good sleep. What’s not to like? This workshop takes on many inverted asanas from the most basic to the most challenging. Focus on neck strengthening, shoulder stabilization, core abdominal, and the fears associated with being upside down.

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