Taozi Tree Yoga

The seeds we water are the seeds that grow.


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Put. The. Cold. Water. Down.

January 2, 2013: Lesson 1

Put. It. Down.

I’m starting the year with this topic because I think it is one of the smallest changes we can make with the biggest impact. Its not super yogic, I’m positive Patanjali didn’t include it in his sutras but this is a very important lesson I have learned from many teachers. As I am home, with my family and friends, and I see so much ice water flying around… I thought maybe this would be appropriate.

Action Step: Drink warm water, never cold water and don’t drink at meal time.

I made a salad lunch with my friend Rich in Beijing before we both left for our world tours, I asked him what he wanted to drink and he said he didn’t drink with meals and I was like “Whatttt!?…” and he said, “Its not good for your digestion…” I had a hard time wrapping my head around this until I heard the water lesson from many more teachers along the way.

October, 2012 Varkala Beach, India: Mahesh gave me a glaring look as I held up my frozen water bottle, dripping with condensation as it melted from the heat of the day. I knew what he was thinking, “Bad girl! You should know better then to drink cold water and send it into your system killing your digestive fire!” And I did know better, but it was just so hot and the cold water tasted so goooood. And what? I give up drinking and smoking and eating meat and now I have to give up cold water? You have got to be kidding me! Since when was being a yogi so strict!? The truth is, I do have an incredibly sensitive digestive system. I should be doing everything in my power to make sure it can run at is peak performance. We should ALL take care of our systems as much as possible… Why? Because according to Ayurvedic medicine, all diseases are caused from faulty fire in the digestive track. This is why it is so important to love yourself enough to take whatever steps are necessary to maintain healthy digestion.

Alas, I stopped bringing the cold water to class, and made a point about it… Mahesh was proud.  Drinking cold water is not good for you. Room temperature coconuts are ok… but cold water… no.

Master Mahesh and his coconut.

Master Mahesh and his coconut. This is the look…

WHY!?

Isn’t there anything better then the feel of cool water as it hits the dryness of a sticky pallet? What if you are really thirsty! ? Still… no. It kills your AGNI or your digestive fire. Deep within all of us, in our digestive system lies an energy called Agni. It is our fire, our heat. This is the energy that we use to digest food and to extract all of the nutrients from whatever we are eating. Our internal organs are warm for a reason; it acts as an insulator for our body’s energies. To take a glass of ice water (God forbid) and send it shooting down into our system is like throwing a blanket over a flame, it puts out our fire and it takes a long time to get started again. Cold beverages should be avoided in general, anything out of the fridge is a bad idea, UNLESS you have a pita imbalance (very fast digestion and excess heat in the body) in that case an occasional cold beverage would be all right…between meals!

Agni fire...

Not only should we not be drinking cold water, but really we should avoid it at meal time all together. WHY!?

Natwar, our guru at Rishikesh Yog Peeth explained our digestive system and drinking beverages at mealtime like this….Imagine your stomach is a blender. Which it essentially is, a vat of space where all of the food is processed and churned. By adding a ton of water into the blender, it can’t process the food with out it spilling out of the top. The extraction of nutrients from the food becomes very difficult. This simply slows the process down, and slow digestion isn’t fun for anyone.

Our stomach is a blender...

COMMON MISCONCEPTION: When I was talking to my mom about this she said,”But I thought you were supposed to drink a lot of water before your meals so you can lose weight!”. Yes, yes. I know. I have heard this before also. My response would be, sure! If you are trying to lose weight and fill up room in your stomach with water, completely killing your digestive fire and making the digestive process suffer, go for it… but it won’t work and it is not a good idea (the whole blender concept). What I have heard about drinking with meals is this: because a little bit of warm water CAN help with digestion, the choices are as follows.

First note that this is as much as we should be eating…as much food as we can fit into our cupped hands. Like this:

This is how much we should be eating at a meal...

This is how much we should be eating at a meal…

We need to leave SPACE in our stomachs for the digestive fire to work with what we eat. I have heard 2 different methods here. We should have 1/2 the stomach filled with food and 1/2 the stomach empty, AND I have also heard 1/3 water, 1/3 food, and 1/3 empty. Regardless of what you try to follow the bottom line is this, if we are going to drink at meal time, it shouldn’t be very much. And regardless of what we do we shouldn’t eat until we have the sensation of being full. Space is an important ingredient for proper digestion to take place.

I know it sounds drastic to many of us who have been raised on ice water and drinking beverages at meal time.

But what do we have to lose to TRY it and see how we feel?

I have been practicing this in my own life pretty diligently and honestly, I have seen a huge change in my digestive system. It is definitely a combination of different factors but I think there may be some truth to what these teachers have to say. Who knew? The simple of act of loading up on my liquids BETWEEN meals and not drinking cold beverages (the summer breakfast smoothies may have to be my only exception but we still have a while to go) is enough to start a small change. This is all about beginning the process of awareness. Happy New Year! and remember… Put. The. Cold. Water. Down.

Instead enjoy a dainty cup of hot water.

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India. A God Explosion in my brain!?

India.

Anyone who has ever been to India has something to say about it. While preparing for this trip, I’ve heard it all. “The most shocking place I’ve ever been, it will totally blow your mind.” “It’s so colorful. All the senses are overloaded.” “You will love it and hate it.” (I heard this repetitively) “Be Patient” (Also heard repetitively) “Eat probiotics before you go so you won’t get Delhi belly.” “I didn’t get sick at all.” “The infrastructure is terrible and it’s dirty.” “It’s our motherland.” And my favorite came from Sir Dallas. He said, “When you arrive, let God explode into your brain.” I had to let out a laugh. A God EXPLOSION IN MY BRAIN!? Really? Thanks for not setting my expectations too high.

Green trees. Blue sky. Twirly swirly writing.

As we landed in Kerala after a 30-hour, 4 flight journey, from out the window all that could be seen were palm trees. An ocean of them. Gorgeous. Blue skies and green palm trees. The car ride to the Ayurveda school of Kerala was amazing. It seems consistent that the initial drive from the airport to wherever it is we are staying is always my favorite part about visiting a new place. Driving through the streets during rush hour (or perhaps its always rush hour) people chatting by their local food cart or chai tea guy, students walking down the sidewalk in their uniforms. And all the colors! Holy wow the colors… The saris on all the women, the children, the bicycles, the “autos” (similar to Thai tuk tuks) the weaving in and out, and the SOUNDTRACK. It seems that here is the constant sound of India… the jumpy jolly music from out of Bollywood… I also instantly loved all the swirly twirly writing everywhere, like an artistic child doodled all over the place. Incredible India indeed. If my initial impression could be pinned down into a sentence? It’s a bold, vivid place… all of the senses simply pulsate with life.

Beautiful curious child and mom.

A man hard at work.

Now, it is 7 days into our 10-week adventure.  We just finished a weeklong course on Aryuvedic studies. A HUGE field of study encompassing the last 5000 years of Indian philosophies from out of the ancient Vedas. A topic ranging from the theory of creation to all things relating to the medical and spiritual… A lot to cover in 7 days. It was worth a shot and I think it offered us a nice backdrop for the yoga studies to come.

Indian man chopping open coconuts.

Amazing women.

Off to school with precious smiles.

From what I understand, studying at the Kerala School of Aryuvedic Health Care for our first week here provided a gentle entry point. Outside the gates of the school there came the constant sounds of music, traffic, and the varying smells of fresh coconuts and burning trash. The school itself was filled with incredibly friendly staff. As an unaccustomed westerner trying to remember their names proved pretty impossible. I had to write them down. The names are SO different from anything I’ve ever heard. It’s a familiar feeling to me, like when I first arrived in China and was being introduced to Wang Ming Zhou and Li Jie Ayi and Shu Shu Zhu Sheng Fang… Say what!? Here the names are Ambvigha, Sharhanjo, Bvasandhi… plus they are all wearing the same brightly colored smocks! They all “look the same!”. Shame on me. Welcome the western mind once again onto another planet.

All week we were in class studying the ancient wisdom of aryuvedic medicine. The science of life. We have discussed doshas, medicines, therapies, and the history of the sages… we have had hands on practical classes learning how to give back, head,  and full body oil massage using spiced oils. I love how Ross and I were able to partner up in the afternoon and practice what we learned on each other. An unexpected fantastic relationship building exercise. 😉

Oil on the head. Aryuvedic massage 😉

All of us students practicing making plant massage bulbs.

Some of the other highlights included  a trip to the beach where we saw a Bollywood type film being made, the best part of that was seeing all the people gathered to watch… just staring. It was also interesting to note that most of the beach goers were men. A giant beach filled with Indian men. As the women are pretty conservative, none were to be found enjoying the waves or sun. When a naïve foreign beauty was caught emerging from the water it caused quite a scene as well, dozens of interested onlookers just stop and stare to the point you’d think there was a flying saucer or super celebrity. Ross made a few friends while I tried to stay hidden beneath the sun hat and glasses. We stopped at a nice ocean front cafe and enjoyed an absolutely delicious meal… a daily happening here. All vegetarian food and amazing.

People gathered to watch movie being made.

Men men men in the water…

Men men men on the beach.

We studied hard and spent lots of time discussing our doshas and diet habits with the other students. I love the discussions you end up having with like-minded people. One of the other students, a sweet British hippy girl named Kate (with the most amazing dreadlocks I’ve ever seen) and I really got along well… She even gave me my first lesson in Reiki, the art of using Qi through your hands to facilitate the universe in healing through balance. A bit much heeby jeeby for the first week or no?  We received our certificates from the wonderful doctor there and happily left the school on a high.

Graduating class of the month 😉

Ross getting his certificate from our beautiful doctor.

Ross’s certificate.

My certificate.

We took a car to Verkala beach where we will be attending a yoga teacher training for the next four weeks. I will be doing a pre/post natal course, (which I am sooooo excited about!) perhaps followed by some Ashtanga… while Ross takes his 200-yoga teacher training in Hatha yoga studies. We have seen the beach, the town, and met the gang (our teachers and fellow students) and believe we are in for a treat. What an amazing opportunity to learn and grow!

To conclude our first week here, I guess its simple to say that despite all of the pre-India talks a person could ask for before arriving, nothing can actually prepare a person for his or her own India experience. Maybe that’s one of the many things that makes this place is so magical?  All of the possible experiences to be had are so varied and so intense that everyone gets their very own India. I’ve loved the first week.

Is God exploding into our brains yet? Honestly… I don’t know… yet.