Are you ready to shift?
In Portland, winter has been long. Pouring. Cold. Damp. And as a manual therapist, I have seen how that affects women's bodies. Reactions to the work are (sometimes) bigger. The shifting feels uncomfortable. But just as your physical structure needs to awaken and remodel, so does your energetic body.
In our culture, there has been a medical misunderstanding that books such as "The Body Keeps the Score" are starting to illuminate. We are not plainly physical. The body--human and animal--is complex and complete. There are no tight restrictions and boundaries where emotions live, firmly tucked away from our hurting shoulders or tight jaw. We are at all times and in all ways physical and emotional creatures. And we are at all times biochemical, energetic reactions stimulated by outside forces, whether that be the physical touch of massage or...well...the weather outside.
Before people had microscopes, they had observations. And the Eastern medicine physicians of the ancient world were watching, observing, and writing, on how to balance ourselves--throughout the seasons of our life and the seasons of the year-- energetically.
You can turn to Ayurveda to understand your reactions, your current state of health and wellness, and how you can improve moving forward.
Ayurveda is a pattern, a predictable way to see the body and understand your reactions to everything. Whether it be bodywork, food, or running frantic errands on a windy day or 100-degree temperatures, your female body is interacting with and reacting to, the outside environment, the seasons, and the stimulus you are mixing with that.
In the NW, winter brought more hail storms than most of us recall seeing. The spring brought more torrential downpours, multiple lightning storms, sudden 90-degree temperatures, and then back again to cooler, chilly days.
And because you are a product of nature, it's OK to feel the same way. Maybe you feel a little pulled, scattered, unfocused, and unsure in your body and mind. The weather affects the human body, as does the harsh shift, the bounce back and forth between the sun we have been praying for, and then the quick return of cold wind. According to Ayurveda, we should be ready to respond and change our actions, shifting with the weather, the seasons, and our overall active busy lives.
And --just for the record--it's OK to acknowledge that you aren't feeling balanced. As someone who has worked in the healing realm for decades, I can tell you first hand, our egos can get as stuck as our aching shoulder. When health & happiness is the goal, it's Ok to say, I feel a rise of unbalance, I feel a tide of anxiety, depression, melancholy, and worry. With those admissions, you then get to say, I feel the need to repair, realign, rethink, and shift.
Just as it is a mistake to identify with disease as "who we are," it is a mistake to think we should always be in a static state of balance. Ayurveda teaches us to ride the wave, recognize the signs, and shift as needed. Creating health & calm is a daily process of renewal.
In future blog posts, I will outline some specific examples by season & certainly, there is more information in the book The Elemental Woman. Here I will outline some basic rules of self-love that you can apply to each season.
1) Self-love as shifting fitness.
Remember, just as it is good to keep a routine, it is good to break a routine. In Ayurveda your Vata --your elemental air & ether- loves consistency. Vata loves being grounded in routine but Vata also loves balance and in Ayurveda, balance is a specific and defined concept of duality--you are rooted in routine and shifting as new stimulus comes your way.
Finding Ayurvedic balance is as much about keeping routine as it is about rearranging routine throughout the seasons of your life and the seasons of the year.
If you are feeling scattered, stay home and ground yourself with breathing and slow stretching on your yoga mat. If you love your cardio fitness class but it's 100 degrees, skip it and go for a walk in the cool morning shade. When the spring days bounce back and forth, close your eyes and ask yourself --not what your ego (formed in this culture) thinks you should do--but what would actually balance the way you feel emotionally & energetically.
Just like our larger society, fitness culture is hyperfocused on how the body looks and not on how women can form deep and intuitive self-love. Self-love allows women to slow down, become quiet and meditative, and then speed back up as their bodies and the seasons shift again. Self-love allows women to gain winter weight with no inner judgment or need to burn calories regardless of the physical and emotional cost. Self-love allows women to understand that if their body hurts, and their muscles are tense and hard, they should stop lifting weights and soften their emotional selves, their physical selves, and their energetic selves. Self-love allows shifting.
Be a woman who recognizes the elemental forces driving the anger, the worry, and the inflammation. Yes, you need emotional and physical medicine and practically speaking remodeling your physical structure can be uncomfortable. You can have a "healing crisis" with heightened physical symptoms and heightened emotional ones. But you are more, there is a deeper driver, deeper reactions, there is a mind-body-spirit system interacting with all the input, including the seasons of the year.
When you switch your fitness to match your energetic and seasonal needs--as Ayurveda teaches you to do--you have a greater chance of optimizing your state of wellness.
2) Self-love as shifting food:
In Ayurveda, we eat for our individual digestive system needs--always.
And those needs can change with the shifting weather and the seasons of the year. There is more to this than I will explain here and I will again plug the book The Elemental Woman for greater details. I will say this, we have become a culture of women who make decisions based on how our body looks rather than how our body feels.
The back-and-forth of the "between seasons," the quick shift from warm to cold, may require you to simplify your food choices and eat plenty of easily digestible well-cooked foods with healthy fats. Or it might mean that you eat more fresh foods on those sunny days, e.g. mixed greens & microgreens for lunch, but return to warmer, softly cooked foods on cooler days.
During the shifting season of spring, you are not thinking of the diseased idea of a "swimsuit body". During the shifting season of fall, you are not already desperate to "keep off winter weight".
You are in the self-love zone of asking, "How can I balance my energy and digestive needs with the energy of the outside world, the weather, & the demands of my busy life."
3) Self-love of everything else.
This is a short blog post and we have touched on just a few ideas on shifting with the seasons. Instead of listing another, I would ask you....are there ways you could flow more with the nature outside your window? Are there ways that you might be fighting the natural flow of the world? Because of the way our culture has been set up, there are blockages. So think, list on paper, how can you create and embody health by doing what is in your control. Even if it seems hard, right now in this moment, how can you create a shift within yourself?
Peace & Love,
*Author Tara Lee Clasen is a manual massage therapist specializing in women's health and pain conditions related to the pelvic floor, neck, jaw & shoulder. She also trained in clinical Ayurveda and has authored a book on Ayurveda called The Elemental Woman.