Hello from Massachusetts! I never could have imagined how palpable the energy at Kripalu truly is. As soon as you arrive, the mist that kisses the mountains of the Berkshires smile below at the rich, dense forest greenery with a beautiful lake at its edges. Kripalu’s surroundings are grand and beautiful, yet austere inside the walls. The simplicity and purity are seen in the decor, food, and the energy of the people occupying this spiritual place.
My Integrative Yoga Therapist Training does not begin until this evening, but I was able to take an “Ayurveda Tools for Renewal” workshop this afternoon. Ayurveda (Ar-you-veydic) medicine is a ancient healing practice from India based on the balance of the 5 elements in your body. The workshop was geared towards general tips to cleanse your senses in a daily practice that leads to more physical, emotional, and energetic balance.
The times of the day and seasons play a big role in what practices are indicated and how the body responds to the environment. The workshop covered some general guidelines during the day based on the natural rhythms of existence.
-2-6am: qualities of lightness and clarity. This time of the day is perfect for spiritual practice such as meditation, prayer, and other contemplative acts. You will actually feel more awake when you get up during this time than if you sleep in later than 6am.
-6-10am: qualities of heaviness and lethargy. This is a great time to exercise, practice yoga, take a walk, etc. Contrary to Western nutrition, Ayurveda holds that it is better to eat a lighter meal because digestion is heavy and slower at this time.
-10am-2pm: qualities of fire and heat. This is a great time to eat the largest meal of the day because your body’s digestion is at its strongest. A quiet, relaxed environment is helpful to ease the heat of this time of day.
-2-6pm: the cycle of qualities recirculates and has the same as 2-6am. This is the time when the nervous system is most activated and is a great time for activities involving thinking and creativity.
-6-10pm: the same qualities of 6-10am pertain to this time. It is a time to wind down the day and again, digestion is slowed and a small dinner is preferred and no food after 8pm is recommended.
-10pm-2am: the same qualities of 10am-2pm pertain to this time. This is a time for the body to detoxify. If you eat food later in the evening, the body’s slow digestion will be preoccupied with digesting the good you ate rather than detoxifying the body.
These recommendations, like any recommendations I will share with you, are never absolute. We are all extremely different in countless numbers of ways and there is no one-size-fits-all advice in any realm. That being said, simply notice if these qualities match your experience and notice if trying some of these recommendations for several weeks makes a difference in how you feel.
Cleansing the Nasal Passages
Some of the Ayurveda techniques for cleansing the senses can seem pretty intense and foreign to a Western mind. However, if you go to any organic market or Whole Foods, you will find many different Ayurveda based practices. Even traditional drug stores carry items such as a Neti Pot to cleanse the nasal passages.
-Neti Pot: translated into English as “nasal irrigation or cleansing”, the Neti pot may seem like one of the most “out-there” Ayurveda recommendations and it is also one of the most beneficial. The Western equivalent are salt solution spray bottles that you squeeze up your nose.
Neti pots help to increase your breathing capacity and should be used if you are experiencing blockages due to a deviated septum, asthma, headaches, lethargy, anxiety, depression, nasal polyps, headaches, and allergies. Of course this is not a cure all, but the increased breathing capacity and energetic cleansing that Neti produces, allows more oxygen to enter the body and brain which therefore helps to alleviate some symptoms of the above conditions. Neti should not be used if you have a sinus infection.
Basically, you have this small pot with a long spout and you fill it with warm water and between a pinch and a tablespoon of non-iodized salt. There are special salts available, but non-iodized sea salts will work fine. DO NOT USE epson salts because this type of salt does not mirror the kind of salt found in the body.
To practice Neti pot, you place the warm water in the pot, place the spout in one nostril, tilt your head so you are looking up at the ceiling, open and breathe through your mouth, and slowly pour the water into one nostril and allow it to drain out the other nostril. As a general rule, if it burns you should use less salt and if it feels like you are swallowing the water you should use more salt. You must play with the temperature of the water and the amount of salt before you find the right combination for your body.
Pour half of the pot in one nostril, then half in the other. Gently blow your nose after the pot is complete to remove any excess water that may be remaining in the nose. It sounds a little intense, but its benefits are numerous and it is deserving of a try. You can find a Neti pot at any health food store, drug store, Whole Foods, or just google search “Neti pot” to find it online.
A less intense way to cleanse the nostrils is called Nasya (nasal lubrication). To practice, place a drop of sesame oil in each nostril, gentle close one nostril after the drops are in and breathe in a short quick breath to get the oil into the throat. Keep your head tilted back for a few seconds so the oil remains in the body. Some oil may come down into the throat, but that is OK. The taste may seem a bit funky at first, but you will begin to enjoy it after a few days.
This practice is great for sinus congestion, dry nose, lethargy, allergies, and sinus issues. You can find sesame oil at any health food store, Whole Foods, or online. Organic is best if you can find it. If you want to combine the two, practice with a Neti pot first, then practice Nasya.
My plan is to engage in both of these practices every day, among other practices to cleanse the eyes, ears, skin and mouth for the full month I am at Kripalu. I stocked up on all of my Ayurveda gear, and will report back later in the month to the changes that I am experiencing. I hope you found this post useful and I look forward to providing some more Wellness tips in the near future!