The Kona Yoga community is a rich and active one. Yoga studios abound in Kona town, as do avid studio practitioners and independent yogis. Healthy personal practices like yoga, meditation, surfing, and consuming more plants are far more pervasive on the Big Island than in any other part of the country. No wonder Hawaii ranked as the healthiest state in America in 2018!
If you are looking to begin or expand upon your yoga practice, it is important to craft a yoga routine that is beneficial to your unique body and mind. For some, that means attending buddhi yoga once a week. For others, that means a gentle, daily personal practice in the comfort of one’s own home.
In previous blogs, we have explored the different types of yoga and their many benefits and drawbacks. This week, we will discuss the merits of both group and private yoga sessions. We hope today’s post will help you determine which type of practice is best for your individual needs. At Bodhidevi, we offer both group and private yoga lessons. We want to ensure that we can accommodate any and every woman in our beautiful community!
The Benefits of Group Yoga
Joining a group yoga class is an excellent way to forge new friendships and business connections. Thus, if you are a socialite or entrepreneur, making your debut in the Kona Yoga community and joining a group yoga class is an excellent idea.
Of course, social connection is an intrinsically rewarding element of attending a group yoga class. But those social connections can also inadvertently enhance the physical benefits of yoga. Once yoga class becomes a social occasion instead of an exercise obligation, you will find it easier to regularly attend. By extension, you will reap ever greater benefit from the practice!
Even in Kona yoga classes that are catered to specific experience levels, individual expertise will vary. There will always be someone more or less skilled, experienced, strong, or flexible than you in every class. Though intimidating for some, being surrounded by individuals who are more experienced than you can be a great motivator. If you are a competitive individual looking to cultivate an impressive skill set while improving your health, try attending a group session. The drive to meet and surpass the abilities of others will motivate you to maintain a consistent and rigorous practice.
Likewise, serving as an example to others can also serve as a positive motivator. Are you highly skilled and experienced? Attending a group yoga session will allow you to serve as a positive model for less experienced individuals. By extension, you will promote confidence and motivation not only in yourself, but also in other members of the group.
Perhaps you find competition more intimidating and stressful than motivating. Does that mean you should forego Kona yoga and opt for an in-home practice instead?
Not necessarily. One of the best things about group yoga classes is that you can invite your friends to attend with you. Thus, even if you are less inclined to compete or socialize with others, you will still find the comfort and drive to attend the class regularly. In fact, attending a group yoga class is an excellent way to strengthen the bonds of existing friendships. Establishing mutual support for adopting a healthy lifestyle by co-attending yoga is a great way to flourish together.
The Benefits of Private Yoga
Even the most social and adventurous woman may find a private, one-on-one session with an instructor more beneficial than a group Kona yoga session if she has specific goals and needs. Working one-on-one with an instructor affords you the time and space to communicate individually about your objectives.
This is especially critical for individuals with health concerns. It can be uncomfortable to confront a yoga instructor at the beginning of the class with health concerns. Further, it’s awkward to ask for modifications in the middle of a class. Unfortunately, failing to ask for modifications can, in turn, exacerbate an injury. If you have an injury or are suffering from specific types of pain, opt for a private session. Thoroughly discuss the nature of your injury with your instructor. He or she will be able to offer individualized attention and therapeutic solutions to improve your condition. Additionally, a private practice affords continual communication throughout the session. Thus, if pain arises or an injury acts up, you can ask your instructor to modify the practice.
Even if you don’t have a serious medical concern, the ability to obtain individual attention and feedback from an instructor can make a private session worthwhile. For example, if you are training to become a teacher or are interested in taking your skill set to the next level, a private session will allow for personalized attention and feedback to promote advancement.
Taking a group Kona yoga class will allow for some degree of personalization in terms of the type of practice you desire. You can select from an array of different yoga styles and practices, from a relaxing hatha yoga class to a fast-paced, strengthening Vinyasa flow.
A private yoga class, however, allows for a much higher degree of personalization. You can discuss your desired style, pace, and intensity with the instructor prior to your practice. Doing so also allows you to cater each session to how you are feeling on any given day.
Further, working with an instructor one-on-one allows you to determine what extraneous elements you would like to incorporate into your practice. Some individuals enjoy 20 minutes of pranayama at the beginning of every session. Some want to limit Savasana to a brief period, or omit it entirely. Pick and choose what works for you!
You don’t have any control over what Kona yoga sessions are offered when. However, you do have control over when you schedule your private session. It can be tricky to stick to a regular yoga regimen if you have to cram classes into a busy schedule. Plus, it is hard to relax and focus on your breathing if your class is during your lunch break, or if you have to pick up the kids immediately after class. Private sessions allow you to select the days and times that work best for you, in addition to the type of practice that will benefit you most.
Minimizing Mental Chatter
It can be incredibly difficult for some women to fully engage in Kona yoga classes. Some find it impossible not to pay attention to the sounds and movements in the room. Others may find themselves caught in a loop of comparison and anxious mental chatter, wondering whether more fit or experienced individuals are judging them. If you have an anxious or distractible mind, a private yoga session might be just what you need to unwind and really get focused on your practice.
It never hurts to brush up on the basics! Check out our first blog post on doshas, types of yoga, and all of the other essential principles of Ayurveda.
Ayurveda: some readers are intimately familiar with it, and others may have never even heard the word. For some it conjures thoughts of kitchari and meditation. For others it invokes images of certain types of yoga poses. In our introductory blog, we hope to teach you about the core principles of Ayurveda and, by extension, share the ideas that give life and purpose to Bodhidevi.
In simple terms, Ayurveda is a wellness philosophy that originated in early Indian civilization over 5,000 years ago. Perhaps one of the first forms of holistic medicine, Ayurveda prescribes dietary and lifestyle changes in accordance with each individual’s unique body to promote health and balance. The practicing different types of yoga is one of Ayurveda’s primary prescriptions, the philosophy advocates various wellness practices.
But Ayurveda isn’t simply a diet or exercise regimen. It’s a philosophy designed to optimize every facet of the individual, including mind, emotions, and spirit. It encourages spiritual practice and engagement with nature in the interest of restoring our innate intimacy with ourselves and with the planet. When we practice Ayurveda, we become attuned to our most raw, pure, and divine form. When we become acquainted with the beauty of our innate self, we awaken to the interconnectedness of the self with all beings and energetic forces.
Ayurveda honors the sacredness of individuality.
Different individuals possess different physical and mental attributes. As each of our bodies and minds differ, so too do our nutritional, physical, and emotional needs. Ayurveda recognizes and respects each person’s bio-individuality and seeks to cater to the unique needs of each individual. Acknowledging that different people are prone to different diseases, digestive problems, psychological ailments, mental capacities, and energy levels, Ayurveda stipulates that understanding an individual’s unique body and mind absolutely must precede medicinal treatment.
According to Ayurvedic philosophy, we are born with a unique prakriti, or constitution. One’s praktiri consists of one’s unique balance of the three doshas, or energetic life forces. The first dosha, vatta, governs the breath, heart, nerves, consciousness, and happiness. The second, pitta, regulates appetite, digestion, nutrient absorption, intelligence, bravery, and drive. Finally, Kapha manages stability, order, grounding, growth, strength, energy, memory, empathy, water, and fat regulation. Different individuals possess different ratios of the three doshas, and thus have different praktiri.
It is essential to ascertain the nature of one’s praktiri before suggesting treatments or lifestyle changes, such as dietary changes of practicing different types of yoga or meditation. The balance between our doshas at birth is our point of homeostasis, the place in which our body thrives. Each individual possesses different needs in accordance with his or her praktiri. Therefore, according to Ayurveda, understanding your own inherent, optimal balance is the key to determining your medicinal and lifestyle needs.
Ayurveda inspires us to seek balance.
There is nothing inherently wrong with any of the doshas. However, years of unhealthy, stressful living can cause doshic excess, which, in turn, leads to distress and disease. Excessive vata is conducive to anxiety, emotional limitation, constipation, dry skin, poor circulation, insomnia, and malnourishment. Excessive pitta can cause rage, envy, reflux, overheating, diarrhea, headaches, skin conditions, inflammation, and insomnia. Attachment, stubbornness, lethargy, obesity, oversleeping, depression, edema, and sinus infections all indicate too much kapha. In general, if you stray too far from your praktiri, you will experience doshic imbalances that will damage your health.
The objective of Ayurveda is to treat disease and promote health by balancing the doshas and restoring your praktiri. In order to do so, you must balance the gunas—the basic qualities of objects and life forms. The gunas include hot vs. cold, dry vs. oily, dense vs. liquid, soft vs. hard, and heavy versus light. Certain gunas are associated with certain doshas. For example, dryness is associated with vatta. Thus, if you are experiencing excessive Vatta, you want to consume more oily foods to balance your dryness. This notion is based on the Ayurvedic principle that like increases like and opposites balance. Restoring the gunas opposite to those which characterize your excessive dosha therefore establishes doshic balance.
Achieving doshic balance also requires living in accordance with the season. Eating in season not only means eating locally grown, in-seasons foods; it also requires that we balance the gunas of that season. For example: winter is characterized by excessive cold, so we should eat hot foods in the winter to balance that guna.
Ayurveda is a medicinal way of living.
Ayurveda seeks to promote the health of the entire person. Achieving doshic balance is not just a means of healing the body. Rather, Ayurveda understands that doshic balance is linked to mental, spiritual, and emotional health as well. Thus, Ayurveda does not simply treat ailments with food or supplements. Rather, it encourages us to lead a balanced lifestyle in accordance with our doshic make up. For some, that may mean getting more cardiovascular exercise and practicing deep breathing. For others, it may mean getting more sleep or practicing certain types of yoga. The objective of Ayurveda is help the individual discover the lifestyle patterns most conducive to health and happiness.
Oftentimes it is lifestyle choices in the first place that cause doshic imbalance. Restoring doshic balance and achieving svasthya, or the state of equilibrium in which we are most healthy, thus requires lifestyle alterations.
Though some lifestyle changes are relative to the individual, there are a few practices that Ayurveda believes are universally beneficial. Ayurveda unconditionally encourages the consumption of whole, nutrient rich foods. It also recommends regularly practicing certain types of yoga, meditation, and detoxification. It even encourages frequent massage to stimulate the lymphatic system, cleanse, and relieve tension.
Ayurveda is a holistic wellness philosophy that, by definition, seeks to restore every aspect of human health through time-tested natural methods. Ayurvedic healing typically includes prescriptions for dietary and lifestyle changes designed to compliment and restore one’s doshas, or life force energies. Commonly recommended lifestyle changes include eating a cleaner, healthier diet, practicing stress reduction, and, for most Americans, getting more exercise.
Exercise is integral to Ayurvedic healing. Working out increases the flow of bodily fluids like blood and lymph, permitting the excretion of toxic substances, or ama, that can create doshic imbalances and, by extension, a myriad of health complications. Performing certain types of exercises can also strengthen or pacify individual doshas, and is thus vital in attempting to realign off-kilter life force energies.
But, as with all things, too much of a good thing can quickly turn into a bad thing. Our diet obsessed, efficiency driven, stress and labor valorizing culture applauds those who exercise ad nauseam, training for marathons or powerlifting competitions while maintaining strict diets. Many people love the endorphin high they achieve after a hard workout, and even enjoy the sleepy, sore exhaustion that follows. But no amount of proper stress reduction will allow the body to recuperate from the abuse of excessive exercise.
Understanding the right way to exercise is crucial for those on a journey of Ayurvedic healing. This week we will identify how much exercise is beneficial, and how much is too much.
Exercise According to Ayurveda
Ancient Ayurvedic texts laud exercise as a critical component of Ayurvedic healing. Proper exercise enhances the digestive fire, promoting efficient digestion and assimilation. It also increases bodily capacity for load-bearing work, stabilizes the doshas, and reduces excess fat. Ancient Ayurvedic texts maintain that exercise is not only critical to Ayurvedic healing, but also to balance and health in all aspects of life, both physical and mental.
When exercise reaches excessive levels, it no longer possesses a balancing effect. In fact, it can actually cause doshic imbalance and result in poor digestion, exhaustion, irritability, slow metabolism, and weakness. For some, excessive exercise is so hormonally destructive that it can actually cause weight gain! The key to all things, in Ayurvedic healing, is balance. In all areas of our lives, we must concern ourselves with proper maatra, or quantity.
Your sweet-spot maatra of exercise will largely by contingent upon your doshic constitution, body type, age, and health. Pittas benefit from a combination of strength training, cardiovascular exercise, and stress-reduction. Vatas are easily excitable and thus benefit from grounding, stress-relieving practices like yoga or light walking. Kaphas are the hardiest dosha, and they thrive when performing intense cardiovascular exercise. Most doshas benefit from about an hour of exercise each day, though sensitive vatas may require less.
How Much Exercise is Too Much?
It can be difficult to ascertain whether you are doing too much exercise. Oftentimes we feel good when we begin an exercise routine. The flood of endorphins and the reward of quick results can drive the cycle of ever-increasing intensity and duration. If it feels good, it must be good for us too, right? And even if it doesn’t feel good, we have been told that exercise is good for us, so more must be better, right?
Not so fast. A rigorous, unhealthy exercise routine might feel good at first. However, after a period of weeks or months, you are likely to start experiencing serious side effects. Your endocrine health is likely to suffer, resulting in poor metabolism and an inability to lose weight. You might also start to feel “tired and wired” as the adrenals are forced to continually pump out the stress hormone cortisol. If you continue to push through the exhaustion instead of resting, your body will cease to respond to the constant influx of cortisol, leading to weight gain and exhaustion.
Excessive exercise also tends to excite both the pitta and vata doshas. When pitta is aggravated, you may experience hotness, irritability, skin irritation, sensitive digestion, and oily skin. Oftentimes the early symptoms of excessive exercise are the result of aggravated pitta. If you continue to deplete your body, you will aggravate your vata energy as well. Excessive vata can lead to coldness, slow digestion, dry skin, anxiety, and sadness.
There are a few telltale signs that indicate your exercise routine may be excessive. Dry mouth, breathing through the mouth, and sweating on the hands, legs, and nose can all indicate that your body is working too hard. Emotional disturbances or depleted energy after exercise also indicate that you may be working out too much.
Changing Your Exercise Routine
The first step towards optimizing your health through Ayurvedic healing is to schedule an appointment with an Ayurvedic Therapist. The therapist will evaluate your health and lifestyle to determine your doshic balance and make recommendations that will improve your physical and mental health. If you suspect that you may be over exercising, consider scheduling an appointment with us.
If your therapist suggests that you may be overdoing your gym sessions, don’t panic. You don’t have to completely abandon exercise. Try reducing the length or intensity of your typical exercise session. You can also swap out a few sweat sessions for a relaxing yoga or meditation class.
An Ayurvedic therapist can guide you toward the type and amount of exercise that you should be doing. But, ultimately, you are the expert on your own body, and you know your needs and limits. Most westerners have been inundated with diet culture from a young age. We therefore tend to suffer from poor body image and a sharp disconnect with our bodies, having lost the innate bodily intuition of our ancestors. Yoga can go a long way in restoring bodily awareness, intuition, and appreciation. If you are having trouble tuning in with your body and determining the right amount of exercise for you, yoga will serve you well.
As a holistic wellness philosophy, Ayurveda seeks to heal the entirety of the person: spirit, emotion, mind, and body. Imbalances and complications in these four arenas tend to manifest quite differently based on the nature of the complication and the individual constitution of the sufferer. For many of us, stress, poor diet, and general imbalance are evident in our physical appearance. We may appear tired or dull, with brittle hair or a negative expression. But perhaps the most common way in which ill health manifests in our appearance is through skin complications like acne, irritation, eczema, and more. Thankfully, looking into Ayurveda for skin can help you design an overall wellness routine that will improve your skin from the inside out.
Your Dosha and Your Skin
We all possess our own unique balance of the three doshas, or life force energies. According to Ayurveda for skin, the health of your skin is actually one of the primary physical indicators of your doshic constitution.
Vata dominant individuals tend to have skin that is dry, thin, and sensitive. Vatas rarely suffer from enlarged pores and are less prone to irritation, but their dry skin can make for premature aging. Kaphas are quite the opposite, as their oily complexion renders them far less susceptible to wrinkling. However, their thick skin and large pores still leave them vulnerable to acne and eczema. Pitta skin is fair, neither dry nor oily, and quite sensitive. Pittas are more likely to possess “combination skin,” which is susceptible to breakouts when oily and irritation when dry. Pitta-dominant individuals are also heat-sensitive and therefore suffer from heat-related skin conditions, like rashes, sunburn, and breakouts.
Your skin is, in a state of doshic balance, an indicator of your dominant dosha. But it can also be an indicator of imbalance. A predominantly kapha individual with extremely dry skin may be suffering from excessive vata energy. And a predominantly vata individual with oily skin and pimples may indicate imbalanced kapha. Thus, Ayurveda for skin holds that pacifying imbalanced doshas and restoring doshic balance is the ultimate method of healing. Following a diet and lifestyle that compliments your dosha will promote health and vitality in every aspect of your life, thereby improving your complexion.
In seeking to balance your doshas for the explicit purpose of improving your skin, don’t neglect the impact of the season. You will need to take measures to balance pitta in the summer or in equatorial climates. Cold climates and winter seasons require the pacification of the vata dosha.
Ayurvedic philosophy stipulates that one should only apply topically what one would ingest internally. The rationale: the skin is an organ and, like the internal organs, absorbs and assimilates that which it comes into contact with. Thus, Ayurveda for skin recommends discarding any products with harsh chemicals. Chemical additives exacerbate the pitta dosha, generating heat that disrupts the enzymatic behavior of skin cells and results in dry, sensitive skin.
Instead, use natural products on your skin. Coconut oil, unlike other oils, is moisturizing yet cooling and light. It is therefore suitable for dry kapha, hot pitta, and heavy kapha. Sugar, a natural exfoliant, facilitates detoxification and can be blended with herbs and essential oils for additional benefits. Raw milk, like coconut oil, cools inflammation while gently cleansing the skin. Neem and tea tree oils are drying and cooling, which is great for irritated pitta or kapha skin. And aloe vera, whether taken internally or used externally, works wonders for the skin. Taken internally, aloe vera promotes detoxification, whereas external use soothes inflammation and moisturizes.
The Importance of Detoxification
Ayurveda for skin maintains that detoxification is integral to a healthy complexion. In a healthy, balanced body, the digestive system efficiently eliminates ama, or toxic material, from the colon. However, sluggish digestion and poor diet can lead to the accumulation of ama in the digestive tract. When these toxic compounds are assimilated, they must be eliminated through the lymphatic system. But when the lymphatic system, too, is functioning sub-optimally, they are expelled through—you guessed it—your skin. The result? Acne, pimples, and blackheads.
There are several detoxification methods that Ayurvedic medicine embraces. One of the most critical among them is dry brushing. Dry brushing not only polishes the skin, but it also promotes detoxification through intercellular processes, thereby preventing future breakouts. It also boosts circulation, producing a natural, healthy glow. Kapha types can handle tough bristles, whereas sensitive pitta and vata types may require a gentle dry brush.
Ayurvedic massage is another excellent detoxification method. The healing oils used in Ayurvedic massage effectively balance the doshas and nourish the skin externally. But, like dry brushing, they also stimulate internal processes that reduce future breakouts. Specifically, Ayurvedic massage stimulates the lymphatic system, promoting detoxification.
Regular exercise, too, improves lymphatic circulation to promote detoxification. It also prevents the buildup of vata, which can cause dryness and wrinkles. As always, be sure that you are performing exercises that are appropriate for your dosha.
The Role of a Healthy Diet
Diet is an absolutely essential component of Ayurveda for skin. That’s because a healthy diet both minimizes the ingestion of toxic compounds and encourages the elimination of ama.
Of course, which foods will help improve your complexion largely depends upon your dosha. Warm, oily foods will nourish vatas’ dry skin and improve their weak digestion to prevent future breakouts. Kapha and pitta, however, might benefit from fresher, cooling foods.
Generally speaking, consuming easily digestible high fiber vegetables is great for skin health. Carrots, cucumber, daikon, lettuce, fennel, and asparagus tips are particularly good for hydrating and nourishing skin. Nuts and seeds contain anti-inflammatory omega 3’s and ama-eliminating fiber, both of which are essential for good skin. Avoid consuming leftover foods, which often contain harmful bacteria that can cause breakouts. Consume spices like turmeric, coriander, fennel, and cumin, while avoiding irritating ginger, garlic, and red pepper.
Periodic fasts and detox diets can do wonders for the skin. They are especially critical for kapha types, whose innate detoxification systems tend toward weakness. Always be sure that you are only performing fasts and detoxes that are suitable for your dosha.
Stress and Ayurveda for Skin
Research in recent decades has steadily unveiled the insidious effects of chronic stress. Stress can impact every aspect of your health, from physical performance and mental acuity to emotional wellbeing and complexion. That’s because stress impacts both the digestive tract and the adrenal glands, resulting in poor digestion and hormonal imbalances. And both digestion and hormonal health are particularly critical to skin health.
According to Ayurveda for skin, certain types of stress affect the doshas differently. Mental stress disturbs the subdosha of kapha that governs moisture, leading to dry skin and aging. Emotional stress activates pitta subdosha, causing acne and sensitivity. Physical stress can activate the vata dosha, causing dryness. Taking care to minimize the form of stress associated with your specific skin condition will not only improve your complexion. It will also help to balance your doshas more broadly, improving every component of your health. Positive forms of stress reduction include yoga, meditation, exercise, and pranayama.