I was interviewed recently by NPR about hing, or asafoetida. Hing has numerous uses and benefits in Ayurveda, including the ability to pacify vata dosha. It does makes its appearance in the Everyday Ayurveda Cookbook, but as a new taste for a Western pallet, it may take a little kitchen experimenting until one is confident cooking with hing.
It's kind of a new thing. It's about getting a basic foundation for understanding an epic, ancient wisdom-tradition. This amount of study helps one to see the big picture, and slowly build from there. The sister arts, yoga and ayurveda, are so vast, a practice so interconnected, learning about one helps you understand the other, and practicing them together in the daily life is a set-up for life-long success. Be introduced to the classic texts, and know there is a deep root to what you are learning. Know this root will continue growing in you at an appropriate pace.
The word training implies a focused time spent refining a specific activity. A 200-hr ayurveda training implies devoting 200 hours of your life to studying and practicing the tradition of ayurveda.
In a course of this length you will study things like dosha, sub-dosha, Sankhya philosophy, enough Sanskrit to pronounce things correctly, digestion, nutrition, and anatomy of the body according to Ayurvedic terminology. Example: the body has 7 tissue layers, fed by the digestive tract in this order
Therefore, if the reproductive tissue is deficient for some time, the nervous system, and then the bones will suffer. You might begin to understand connections like this in your body from participating in a Fundamentals of Ayurveda training, and you will learn tools for managing early states of imbalance. You will also learn to apply this language to personal yoga practice, and promote balance through pranayama and yoga.
More importantly, you will practice Ayurveda in your own life. You will be required to scrape your tongue, oil your skin, and do some breathing and movement techniques as close to everyday as you can get (what?? Scroll down for videos on scraping and oiling). You will be encouraged to live Ayurveda in your own way throughout the training, and you will be asked to log changes in your body and mind, and be counseled in how to understand these changes.
Example: You may realize that you have a deficiency in a tissue layer, and learn a few recipes for foods that will feed that layer. Then, you will cook it, and eat it, and see if you begin to feel a difference.
Please do not do yourself, or the tradition, the disservice of expecting to practice or teach Ayurveda professionally after 200 hours of experience. The very beginning level of practice, Ayurvedic Health Consultant, requires 650 hours of study, and like yoga, is only appropriate after taking time to allow the tradition to live inside you first. Adding the burden of professional practice before leaving space for true embodiment will create stress. I encourage you to consider a Fundamentals training an investment in your own health and realization. Should you desire further education, 200 hours of training can be applied to affiliate 650 hour programs in the US. The standardizing body for ayurvedic practice in the USA, NAMA is a good place to learn more about the profession.
You can find more info about upcoming programs in Boston here.
There is time to reflect in Mysore, and I’ve been reflecting on the balance of will and softness in Ashtanga yoga. In a practice where we are applying so much effort, where is the receptivity? How does this practice teach effort without tension?
It would seem to come back to the Bhagavad Gita, wherein Yoga is described as action without attachment to the fruits of the action. Sharath recently noted at conference how the element of Ashtanga yoga that brings personal growth is the act of showing up for practice every day. Getting up early and attending to yoga daily builds character. The quality of the asana practice itself is secondary. This is where so many of us can become attached to the action of taking yoga practice. It is a great reminder that showing up is more important than performing asanas, that being willing to try every day without being attached to the outcome is the yoga itself.
The action of showing up can also continue into the practice. The past few years I have often been mired in an attitude of defeat due to the asana practice feeling like it is sliding backwards (oh, you know that feeling). Then there comes a fear of pain and ageing. These stories often overshadow the act of showing up in the practice of asana, for whatever subtle fruits may be growing. There is a self that is listening to the stories of pain and defeat, holding back, and somewhere another self that longs to give freely to the practice. It is not as much about doing as it is about giving. Action as the Gita describes is a duty, and an inescapable karma. To the amount that we approach our lives with contentment and generosity, we will sow more of the same. As always, the asana practice becomes for me a window into the mind and heart, informing not just what happens on the mat, but how I am acting in Life. I have learned when the practice starts to feel like a struggle, its time to take a look at my attitude.
The Gita describes action with a “mind full of faith” as the way to success in yoga. This is where softness lies, and results in effort without tension. In my own journey, it’s when there is pain that faith can be elusive. My practice is to show up daily and be receptive to the pain- do I need rest, do I need to move slow, or do I need to get warm and bend, what do I need to do today? What action is the body requiring? I then have faith in the intuition and follow it through a practice, of some sort. If I put my faith in this, instead of listing to the angry or afraid voice, the one that wants to mindlessly perform some version of the practice without consideration of the present moment, the practice becomes an expression of Faith, softness, and beauty- even while I work.