/ 23 September 2008

Dance to nature’s rhythm

Ananda is a Sanskrit word meaning “bliss”. Springtime is magical and dynamic, so rejuvenate, refresh and retreat — harmonise your internal system to blossom with the intelligence of yoga and Ayurveda.

Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science and the world’s oldest surviving system of healing, shows us that the key to being in synch with the seasons is to harmonise with nature, follow her lead and dance to her rhythm. The rishis (the ancient mystical “seers” who founded the yogic tradition) created rituals and festivals to honour each season and to remind us of our connection to the natural world.

The great yoga master T Krishna-macharya adjusted his approach to practising and teaching yoga to correspond with the time of year, incorporating principles of Ayurveda into yoga practice. Leading practitioners have designed yoga sequences for different body types depending on one’s Ayurvedic constitution.

Ayurveda makes reference to three main doshas (body constitutions/functional intelligence) of which we are all made up — some are more dominant than others, resulting in different body and mind types. The doshas are vata (air), pitta (fire) and kapha (water).

In winter our body tends to go more into kapha mode, becoming heavier and lethargic, accumulating more phlegm (resulting in sinus and congestion problems), requiring more sleep and often leading to some weight gain.

As we move into spring, it is important to balance the kapha energies by increasing metabolism through pitta (fire) and incorporating lightness of being and energy with more vata (air). Many people detox at this time. Ayurveda recommends an internal spring-cleaning process called panchakarma, which is a specialised medicinal way to balance the doshas at mental, spiritual and physical level. Yoga asanas (poses) and meditation help one sustain that balance on a daily level with constant discipline and practise.

Ashtanga vinyasa flow, kundalini yoga and hot yoga or any sequence of hatha yoga integrated with deep ujjayi breathing (breath of fire and heat, breath of victory) helps clear all the channels in the body encouraging a clean flow of prana (vital energy).

Generating internal body heat is important to prevent the accumulation of ama (toxins), which can affect the immune system in the long-term, giving rise to diseases. Inner heat melts and breaks down toxins in your tissues so your body can eliminate them. Ayurvedic treatments such as the abyangam massage focuses on further developing this internal heat and fast-tracking the elimination process.

Heat-inducing poses to boost the metabolism, increase fire and decrease the lethargy of kapha are encouraged. The sun salutation sequence is effective for balancing the doshas and generating­ internal body heat. Poses such as the uttakasana (chair pose) and the malasana (garland pose) create heat, increase joint mobility, aid digestion and elimination and improve circulation. A deeper rhythmic fire breath stemming from the abdomen can be developed in the virabadrasana (warrior pose) and bhujangasana (cobra). Other kapha-reducing poses that increase the other doshas include vrkasana (tree pose), salabasana (locust), danusrasana (bow), navasana (boat pose), setu banda­sana (bridge pose) and natarajasana (dancers’s pose).

Poses such as the downward-facing dog and the halasana (plough pose) are important inversions for excreting excess mucus through the mouth and nose. Kapalabathi (breath of the shining skill) is good for clearing any head congestion and the mind.

With a balanced yoga/Ayurvedic approach, you will feel light, warm and invigorated, with an alert mind, clear senses and fluid emotions throughout the day. Showing up regularly on your mat ensures your body will get what it needs for a gradual reduction of excess kapha and your mind will wake up from the fog of wintertime habits.

While you are on the spring cleanse, complement your yoga and meditation ritual with a diet that is light and easy on the body.

Bhavini recommends:

  • Early-morning pranayama breathwork (either alternate nostril breathing with retention or Kapalabati) for five to 10 minutes, followed by an energised cardio-sun salutation sequence for 10 to 15 minutes and then relaxation in the corpse pose.
  • Later in the day a deep hatha yoga practise focusing on generating­ internal body heat.
  • Once a week a deep-tissue massage to help eliminate toxins.
  • Light eating — fresh, raw vegetables and fruits and lots of warm liquids.