Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What the hell is a dosha?

Back in the day, before we knew about things like kidney failure and bacteria, the body was thought to be made up of humors. Black bile, yellow bile, blood, and phlegm. Creative. But ultimately based on pretty much nothing but human creativity. Thanks, Hippocrates.
So, with time, medicine started basing itself on things like, you know, facts, and the humoral system went by the wayside.
Except traditional medicine didn’t get the memo. And let’s face it, the humoral system is appealing, thinking of the body as a holistic system in delicate balance. Certainly feels more intuitive than the complex intersection of biology and physics known as modern physiology.
But therein lies the beauty of the humoral system: it organizes the way we think about our bodies. Whether or not this bears out in a lab is besides the point. Traditional medicine and its focus on balance, diet, and the mind-body connection bridges a pretty significant gap in the modern medical model.
Which brings us to doshas. Ayurveda divides the body into three humors, vata (air), pitta (fire), and kapha (earth). Like a simplified Captain Planet. Keeping these doshas in balance is vital to health. They are also used to describe tastes, seasons, and personality traits. Too much of one? Balance it with the opposite.
Also, fair warning, like a new mother, ayurveda seems to have an obsession with bowel movements.
Vata: cold, windy; dryness, constipation, weight loss, insomnia, anxiety, cold-intolerance; thin, light, flexible, easily distracted, energetic, excitable; associated with the colder portions of autumn and early winter
Pitta: hot; rashes, heartburn, indigestion, heat intolerance; medium weight and build, strong sexual drive, short-tempered, argumentative, witty, outspoken; associated with summer and the earlier, warm portions of autumn
Kapha: cold, wet; weight gain, depression, allergies, congestion; stubborn, loyal, patient, strong, likes following a set routine; associated with spring and early summer
Most people are made up of a combination, and are dominant in one or two. Take the fun quiz to find out what your dosha(s) might be here.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Let's Get Ready to Rumble!!

What is UP with "the yoga community's" love of controversy? For a practice that at its heart if supposed to be about non-violence, in word, thought and deed, its pretty amazing how much fighting and backstabbing and complaining happens, at least in the online iteration of its Western form.

The latest is, of course, about whether yoga can hurt you or not. Again. I thought this dead horse had been thoroughly flogged, but of course not! Why give up a pointless argument!!

A blogger on Huffington lashed out at Yoga Dork for targeting "high-profile male yogis," like Bikram Chowdury, who's been trying to sue other people for teaching heated yoga without paying him first.... Where does it end?

There's the 4chan of yoga in-fighting, Elephant Journal, run by  the Dov Charney of the yoga world, the man people LOVE to hate, Waylon Lewis. There was the John Friend debacle, a story that I honestly cannot hear too little about. If there's one topic I have no interest in, its the sex lives of strangers.

There's the ever-present derision on the more commercially successful and most visible purveyors of yoga to the general public, like Yoga Journal (what's with all the skinny white women?!?!1) and lululemon ($98 for yoga pants?!?!1).

On facebook today, by brother's ex who happens to be a yogini, posts a link to a diatribe against skin-tight clothing in yoga class. Everyone wants to have a piece of the yoga-fight-pie!!

I happened to work in that oft-maligned retailer, lululemon, and it was such a breath of fresh air to be in the eye of the negativity storm. For all of the parts of the company that can seem "problematic," I have never worked with a group of people more committed to living a message of openness, acceptance, and positivity. Considering 85% of my co-workers were female, I found this truly astounding; I had never worked in an environment where gossip was expressly banned, where people asked about your weekend and then LISTENED to your response, where everyone was invested in the success and accomplishment of their peers. Every week, rather than going to happy hour, we'd arrange a "class en mass" where we'd all go to SoulCycle or an aerial yoga class and sweat our butts off. Not only was it infinitely healthier, it actually ended up being more fun and bonding us all closer together.

It was a group of people committed to embracing ahimsa, the most important of the yamas, one of those too easily forgotten 8 limbs. It roughly translates to "non-violence," but what it means at its core is live in a world where you make as little negative footprint on it as possible. It charges us with contributing to a more open and positive world than the one we encounter, to reject judgment and negativity.

My experience working around people who took their ahimsa seriously helped me fully embrace yoga and all its eight limbs as I do now. Maybe I'm naive, but I believe that yoga (NOT asana, but yoga, which is a system of philosophy and way of living) really can be a panacea, in that it encourages us to treat everyone with kindness, including ourselves. I encourage these fightin' yogis out there to give it a try.