Five Pillars Yoga

Posts Tagged ‘Ayurveda’

Fall Focus: Top Tips For Finding Balance During Vata Season

Happy Autumnal Equinox! Here at Five Pillars we hold the Intention to move through life in synch with the seasons. Listening to the messages and even advice each has to share with us and going with the flow or counterbalancing where beneficial – letting the pillars of Right Movement, Nutrition, Breathing, and Relaxation support and inform our choices.

According to Ayurveda—an ancient traditional system of medicine in India that’s been called Yoga’s sister science—Fall is Vata season. As the humidity of summer begins to wane and the Northeast experiences the incredible annual display of colorful Fall leaves, you may discover some signs and symptoms that suggest your Vata dosha is aggravated. You can adopt Vata-balancing practices to attain optimal health and feel your best.

But first, what’s a dosha? Three primary energies (aka doshas) based on the elements make up our physical and mental constitutions. These energies are Vata (Air & Space), Pitta (Fire) & Kapha (Earth + Water). Each of us has all of these elements, though one will likely be dominant in our constitutional makeup. If you want to #GoDeeper, try an online quiz.

The cooling weather patterns, Fall winds and shifting daylight hours that have arrived with the equinox often aggravate Vata. After all, the qualities of the Vata dosha are cool, light, dry, moving, and erratic—just like the weather patterns—and a basic tenet of Ayurveda is like increases like. Some common symptoms that occur when the Vata dosha is out of balance are anxiety, dry or chapped skin, indigestion, sudden bouts of fatigue, and light interrupted sleep.

Additional symptoms can occur on the physical or mental dimensions.

Common physical signs of a Vata imbalance:

  • • cold hands and feet
  • • constipation
  • • gas
  • • bloating
  • • aversion to cold and wind
  • • irregular appetite
  • • twitches
  • • spasms
  • • restlessness
  • • low body weight
  • • aversion to loud noises
  • • hypertension
  • • arthritis
  • • weakness
  • • restlessness
  • • irregular menstruation

Common mental signs of a Vata imbalance:

  • • nervousness
  • • fear
  • • panic
  • • racing mind
  • • worry
  • • spacey
  • • scattered
  • • inconsistency

The Five Pillars of Fall Wellness can help bring you back into balance, achieving your optimal state of being.

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Right Intention: Want To Book The Next Plane Ticket Out Of Here? Think Again And Dig Into A Steady Routine

When the Vata winds blow, we all need a little more grounding and stability. Now is the time to dive deeper into your mindfulness practices and stick to routines. It may help to begin by creating healthy patterns of eating and sleeping—try to sleep before 10 p.m. and eat regular meals around the same time each day. Beyond the basics, this is the perfect time to pick up or continue a yoga and meditation practice. Set an intention to be gentle and loving with yourself, and allow for plenty of time to reflect and go within. Your inner clarity will keep your health and wellness on track no matter what life throws your way.

Our recommendations: Take time to set an intention to stay grounded and stable during Vata season. Avoid the temptation to discard your routines and book the next plane ticket out of here. Instead, take a moment to organize your days into a soothing routine full of self-care and balance.

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Right Movement: Take It Easy

Choose a Right Movement practice that is light and easy on your body. Focus on flexibility and balance rather than long distances and speed.

Top movement tips: Walk through the park or take an easy breezy stroll with a friend. Power down your yoga practice and opt for therapeutics or gentle yoga, yoga nidra, tai chi or qi gong. Take some time out to practice pranayama and meditation. Focus on breathing deeply and be gentle with yourself.

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Right Breathing: Alternate Nostril Breathing

Pranayama (aka breathing practice) has incredible balancing effects on the entire body and can ward off unwanted stress & anxiety. Our favorite pranayama for inner balance and harmony during the Fall season is Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, otherwise known as Alternate Nostril Breathing. Nadi Shodhana Pranayama synchronizes the right and left hemispheres of the brain, helping to focus the mind and keep unwanted stress and anxiety at bay, providing the very foundation we need to stay peaceful and responsive no matter what the Vata winds blow into our lives.

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Right Nutrition: True Nourishment For the Fall Season

Fresh, cooling crudites were perfect for the hot summer, but the crisp fall air invites forth a natural desire to nourish ourselves with warming butternut squash soups, more protein, and hearty stews. Freshly cooked veggies are easier for our bodies to digest and assimilate than raw produce. If you are already in the practice of eating fresh, seasonal foods and shopping at the farmer’s market, you may notice the natural seasonal shift toward heartier produce that balances the vata dosha.

Begin to see your vegetables as vessels for healing herbs and spices. Each of the ancient, lasting cuisines around the world incorporate delicious, healing herbs and spices into meals. Oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary make their way into Italian sauces. Turmeric, cumin, ginger, and cayenne spice up Indian fare.

As you know, food is so much more than fuel and nutrients. Many of the aromatic herbs and spices have anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, anti-fungal properties. As we spice up our recipes and savor the incredible flavor of international cuisine, our meals become medicine that support the immune system, keeping seasonal colds and the flu at bay.

Try cooking a healing coconut-milk curry with plenty of spices and seasonal vegetables. For inspiration, view this recipe: South Indian Style Vegetable Curry. For more information about Ayurvedic wisdom, check out this article: Vata Pacifying Diet.

Additional Vata-Pacifying Recommendations:

  • *Eat full-sized, well-portioned meals, but avoid overeating.
  • *Sip on tea and warm liquids throughout the day. Avoid chilled beverages.
  • *Sweet, sour, and salty tastes pacify Vata. Favor warming, oily, and heavy foods such as natural grains (particularly rice and wheat), soups and stews, cooked root vegetables, and sweet fruits (bananas, avocados, coconut, figs, grapefruit, oranges, lemons, melons, papaya, peaches, pineapples, dates, etc.). If you consume animal products, warm milk soothes Vata. Buy organic eggs, chicken, turkey and seafood.
  • *Integrate Vata-pacifying spices: cardamom, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, mustard seed, basil, cilantro, fennel, oregano, sage, tarragon, thyme, and black pepper.
  • *Avoid bitter, pungent and astringent foods. Minimize your intake of beans, aside from mung bean dahl and tofu. Light, dry fruits such as apples and cranberries can aggravate Vata. To avoid indigestion, steer clear from cabbage, sprouts, and raw vegetables in general.

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Right Relaxation: Self-Care

Book your favorite masseuse, invest in acupuncture, or get some reflexology done. These practices boost circulation and promote relaxation. Consider investing in a weekly or monthly self-care routine that includes your favorite treatments.

Want to keep it simple and stay at home?

  • *Give yourself a massage using warming oils such as sesame or almond.
  • *Play relaxing music
  • *Connect friends who make you feel calm and relaxed
  • *Try aromatherapy
  • *Take deep breaths often
  • *Pause in between tasks
  • *Take an Epsom salts bath
If you’d like to discuss how best to attune to the season, we’re here to support you! Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns, or for an individual consultation.



*Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

3 Essential Oils to Beat Summer Heat

As the days heat up, there are some among us who are so eager for air conditioning they’ll duck into a random store or see a movie they don’t even care about, just to cool down. I happen to love the summer heat — give me a skimpy sundress and a balmy (read: sweaty!) rooftop party or long day by the pool in the blazing sun, and I’m in heaven! That said, there are a few essential oils I keep in my purse in case I need to freshen up after a yoga class (en route to said rooftop party).

Essential oils are the pure essence of a particular plant, extracted via distillation, and typically “taken” by deeply inhaling them through the nose, or placing a few drops on particular points on the body. Depending on the plant, they are good for everything from aiding in digestion to soothing a bee sting. Some oils have especially-powerful cooling effects. As in, literally bringing one’s temperature down. So, for the dog days of summer, these three essential oils are my top summer must-haves… pardon the pun.


essential oil and lavender flowers

Fragrant and Cooling Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender — This soft, powdery, floral scent is one of my favorites, perhaps because it is so widely applicable. According to Ayurveda, Lavender decreases heat in the body, and also quells heat in the mind. Inhaling a few drops directly from the bottle or rubbed between your palms will not only cool you down on a hot day, but you can also apply a drop to your temples or forehead for helps alleviating those headaches caused by too much heat. It’s also uplifting, which helps with that sluggish feeling we can sometimes suffer from during heat of summer. Another neat trick for a particularly sweaty day — a few drops dabbed under your arms freshens you up and kills germs at the same time.


Peppermint — Just like a tall glass of iced tea, Peppermint essential oil offers frosty and refreshing relief. Its primary constituent, menthol, provides the powerful cooling effect, whether inhaled or applied to the body. Just opening the bottle and taking a sniff works wonders, but you can also apply a couple drops to the bottom of your feet or a drop to the back of the neck for an icy, tingly sensation (it’s highly potent, so really, just a drop rubbed between the hands and then patted on the back of the neck. And, it should not be used topically on children younger than 7 unless diluted in water). You can choose Spearmint essential oil or Eucalyptus as well, as both contain that integral menthol, and all three are lovely to use for cooling compresses – just add a few drops to water and soak a couple washcloths. They can be used right away or popped in the fridge and pre-chilled and then pressed on your forehead or the back of your neck.


Sandalwood — Sandalwood oil has long been prized in India — where it gets pretty darn hot — for its cooling, calming qualities. Its woody, earthy and ancient scent offers a more savory and subtle alternative to the floral qualities of Lavender, and Sandalwood more gentle to the skin than Peppermint. In Ayurveda it is known to cool Pitta Dosha, or literally quell the flames of the fire element – restoring calm and clear-headedness as heat and frustration arise. In Ayurveda Sandalwood is also said to “stop excessive sweating,” so again, this is one to dab under the arms on the hottest of days. Even just one drop smudged on the forehead/third eye area goes a long way. With Sandalwood, sustainable sourcing is incredibly important, as it gets rarer and rarer in the world. I recommend purchasing from Floracopeia, you’ll be getting the highest quality oil, and also know it’s being sustainably harvested and replanted.


**Essential oils are very powerful and should be used with caution. Always refer to the information and contraindications on the product bottles. They should never be taken internally, and avoid contact with the eyes. You can learn more about safe and effective use of Essential Oils here.

Hydrate The Ayurvedic Way

Want to create a healthy body and glowing skin?

Look no further. Hydrating the Ayurvedic way can help you achieve your optimal wellness.  

By now you’ve probably heard the recommendation to drink eight glasses of water per day. But the reality of hydration is more complex. After all, each of us has a unique constitutional makeup, with diverse needs. We each have different habits that may dehydrate our bodies. Plus, there are quick and easy tips to help your body to absorb water and stay hydrated you won’t want to miss.

Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, looks at the human body as a whole system, affected by seasonality and our environment. Moreover, Ayurveda sees the physical body as both a cause and effect of a person’s energy, state of mind, emotional health, and spirit. 

Ayurvedic practitioners approach health and wellness topics from a holistic perspective. 

According to Ayurvedic science, the physical body and everything that interacts with the body is made up of a unique balance of the five great elements (water, fire, air, earth, and ether or space). Each person’s elemental constitution affects all aspects of their multidimensional being. 

A person’s original constitution is called Prakriti.This is the inherent elemental makeup of a person determined at conception, akin to eye color or height. A person’s Prakriti is described as having a specific balance of three doshas: Vata (Air), Pitta (Fire) and Kapha (Earth). Each of us is made up of each of the doshas, our Prakriti reflects our individual formula, as unique as our fingerprint. 

So how does this work? If you have a Pitta predominant dosha, for example, you have a lot of fire in your body relative to earth and air. You tend to digest and metabolize food quickly. And your body may run hot. Additionally, you may be prone to rashes or acne. With so much heat running through, a “hot” temper and a quick intellect may define aspects of your personality. 

If you are curious about your personal Ayurvedic constitution, check out this online quiz. Plus you can learn more about the doshas and your Prakriti in our Five Pillars’ article, Intro to Ayurveda. And, if you want a professional assessment, consider working with an Ayurvedic practitioner.

So how does your constitution relate to hydration?

Discovering your Ayurvedic dosha can help you to better understand your body’s tendencies. Even without turning to Ayurveda, you probably know if you experience water retention on the one hand or if you tend to become dehydrated easily on the other hand. A person who tends to retain water may need to balance their body with exercise, foods, and drinks that act as healthy diuretics, while the person who tends to be dehydrated may benefit from learning about the body’s water absorption process. The goal of discovering the doshas is creating deeper self-awareness and, in this case, discover a balanced approach to hydration and its impact on your overall health and wellbeing.

When you understand your own constitution and personal tendencies, you can begin to create healthy hydration habits that benefit your body. 

Vata: People with predominant Vata constitutions have a tendency toward dehydration and need plenty of water and tea throughout the day. Since the qualities of Vata are cool, dry and rough, sip warm liquids and add hydrating oils to the skin each morning create balance.

Suggested bevies to pacify Vata? Add some fresh ginger to your water. Sip water with chia seeds to help with absorption. To increase flavor, add sliced strawberries or raspberries.

Pitta: People with predominant Pitta constitutions run hot, tending to sweat and metabolize nutrition quickly, thus losing liquids at a rapid rate. To stay in balance, consume room temperature liquids and cooling foods, especially during the hot Spring and Summer months. Also, when overheating, cool the entire body with dips into water and cold showers.

Suggested bevies to pacify Pitta? Sip on cooling cucumber and watermelon water or juice. Add a few sprigs of mint and lemon to your water to enhance flavor and soothe digestion.

Kapha: People with predominant Kapha constitutions tend to retain water and metabolize nutrition slowly. Qualities of Kapha are cool, smooth, soft, slow, and stable. To increase digestive fire and stay in balance, consume warm liquids and add heating spices such as ginger and a dash of cayenne to create a spice water to sip all day long. When the body retains water, yoga asana, exercise, and saunas can help water to move through your body.

Suggested bevies to pacify Kapha? Enjoy some steaming decaf chai, add ginger, lemon, and a splash of cayenne to your water, and sip on warm tea throughout the day.

ॐ See you on the mat ॐ

*images taken from:

TeaSource Chai Spice Blend | Chai Tea

Spring Self Cleaning – Nice & Easy

As the cold of Winter sluggishly makes way for the energy of Spring, our bodies go through a similar process… Yearning to let go of all we’ve stored for the colder months, our body craves foods and practices that will help us detox and freshen up. Spring Cleaning starts from within!

Bitter greens, like arugula and dandelion, are the first edibles to sprout after the last frost, and it’s exactly these that we should be eating! An example of the genius and perfection of nature that we can use to inform our Right Nutrition. The bitter quality of these greens wrings out the liver and stimulates our digestive system. A far cry from the hearty curries, stews and casseroles that keep us warm December – February (or April this year!?), these young plants alert the body that winter is o-v-e-r! So, put Dandelion Tea and Arugula Salad at the top of your shopping list. Wash, rinse, eat, repeat! Mirroring the warming of the weather, the heating qualities of Ginger also help warm up and melt any stored abundance, while the light cooling qualities of cucumbers and the activating qualities of green tea can help lift us out of hibernation mode.


Some Recipes to Get You Started:

Easy Sauteed Dandelion Greens

~ Arugala’s Greatest Hits, Courtesy of Marth Stewart

~ Spring Detox Smoothie

~ Easy Ayurvedic Cleansing Tea

As for Right Movement, the same principal applies: out with the old, in with the new! Our bodies crave TWISTS at this particular time.Twists give our organs a deep yet gentle massage, waking them up from sluggish functioning. Just like wringing out a wet towel, twisting enables our body to release stored toxins and acts as a general reboot, bringing about optimum functioning for the lighter, brighter season to come.

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 3.29.07 PMTwo very basic but yummy options are Seated Spinal Twist and Reclined Spinal Twist. Getting a bit more advanced, you could opt for Revolved Triangle or Twisted Side Angle. Best not to go into deep twisting too early in the morning, before your body has a chance to get the Prana flowing… but practice a couple of these midday (or even at night as the body goes to sleep and into its rest/rejuvenate cycle) and your body will thank you!

Click Here To Check out Yoga Journal’s Encyclopedia of Twisting Shapes To Get Inspired

Or Try This Energizing, Twisty Sequence At Home


Ayurveda & the Five Pillars for Winter Wellness

It took a while, but winter is finally, and indisputably here. Here at Five Pillars we hold the Intention to move through life in synch with the seasons. Listening to the messages and even advice each has to share with us and going with the flow or counterbalancing where beneficial – letting the pillars of Right Movement, Nutrition, Breathing, and Relaxation support and inform our choices.

Here in New York winter is first and foremost cold. It can be quite drying. Or it can be wet and slushy. It is a season marked by sickness — colds, flus, sore throats and so on. It is a season where nothing grows… the harvest fields of summer and fall now lie fallow. There is scarcity in nature’s offering. Except, perhaps, in the case of snow!

According to Ayurveda, Winter is the Kapha season. A time marked by slowing down, turning in, and some stillness, even with the risk of stagnation. Picture a big, soft, slow-lumbering bear… nourishing himself generously and then retiring to his cave to hibernate the winter away. This bear is in synch with the season!

Bear Medicine

Cold. Dry. Wet. Slow. Still. Possibly Stagnant.
These are the qualities we’re working with.
Luckily, there are several easy and intuitive ways to live in harmony with these qualities.

Drawing from the wisdom of the bear, we can nourish ourselves, slow down, and find some balanced self-reflection and stillness:

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 11.19.46 AMGiven the longer, darker nights, what more natural activity than curling up at home with a good book or your journal, reflecting on the year past and the year to come? This is also an ideal time for Yin or Restorative yoga, which encourages stillness and relaxed awareness. Right Relaxation practices help recalibrate the nervous systems and prepare us to meet the energy of growth and change that comes with Spring.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 11.19.46 AMHowever, while our bear totem might be content to sleep the season away, we can and should maintain active Right Movement. The bone-chilling temperatures certainly might make a run outdoors less appealing, but with a host of indoor exercise options available, we can get the blood pumping, warm ourselves up and stave off stagnation and lethargy. Obviously a flowing yoga practice is ideal, whether gentle or powerful. Utilizing a gym membership gives you access to treadmills, bikes, rowing machines and maybe even a lap pool! And when in a pinch – choose 4 of your favorite upbeat songs and have a private cardio-dance party in your living room. This last option not only works the body but works on dismantling unhealthy ego as well!

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 11.19.46 AMAs we consider Right Nutrition through the lens of the season, it might seem common sense that the winter is not an ideal time for juice cleansing, for example! It’s not that we can’t eat clean, but juices and smoothies just add cold to an already cold environment. Instead, it is a time for warming up and fortifying with hearty soups and stews. It’s also important to keep our digestive fires burning bright, helping to stave off stagnation, which can come from many things including too much stillness or too much heavy food. So by including warming and carminative herbs and spices in our diet (ginger, cumin, cardamom, coriander, orange peel, and many of the culinary herbs like rosemary and basil) we support healthy, active digestion. Add these to any one-pot recipe, savor a cup of flavorful hot chai, or start your day off with some warm ginger water.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 11.19.46 AMBecause this season is fraught with germs we must also fortify our immune systems. The lungs are the gatekeepers for pathogens, they are literally a first line of defense. It is through our respiratory system that many germs can creep into our systems, while healthy lungs keep germs out. You probably won’t be surprised to hear the lungs are an organ associated with Kapha, and they hate the cold! So, given the risk for coldness, dryness or even too much wetness/stagnancy, we must balance out these qualities with heat, movement and respiratory support. Luckily, many of the carminative herbs and spices also fortify our immune systems, and many heart-opening Yin and Restorative yoga postures support lung health.


Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 11.19.46 AMDeepening our Right Breathing practices at this time are especially beneficial — bringing some intentional and powerful pranayama into our daily routines to deepen the breath, strengthen the lungs, expand their capacity and resilience. Diffusing essential oils throughout the home is another way to support respiratory health, as they are anti-microbial and cleansing to the home or office environment. We especially love using Anjali Aromatics’ Breathe Essential Blend which is a distillation of some of the worlds great coniferous trees. We might aptly consider these trees the “lungs of the planet” and so it’s fitting that their essential oils are some our lungs’ greatest allies.


As always, the yogic lifestyle is about balance — a dynamic dance unique to each of us. Winter is a time to balance out the cold with warming practices. A time to embrace stillness but avoid stagnation. A time to support our immunity with breathing practices, diet and herbal support. A time to see the soft darkness of evening as an invitation to turn in, relax and restore. For while the outer landscape might be more barren during this season, the inner landscape (and the indoors with the home fires burning bright!) is full and abundant with opportunity for self-inquiry, wellness, and nourishing self-care. Spring will be coming soon enough, why not thoroughly enjoy the moment and the season that we’re in?


If you’d like to discuss how best to attune to the season, we’re here to support you! Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns, or for an individual consultation.

Four Ayurvedic Practices to Boost Your Immune System

Leaves blanket the ground creating an artful display of fall colors. Hearty root crops and winter squash are abundant at the farmer’s market. According to Ayurvedic wisdom, autumn is the vata season, known for its cool, light, dry, moving, and erratic qualities. There is incredible momentum, movement, and vitality that occurs with when the wild vata winds blow, generating transformation. And yet, we can also find ourselves forced to stop in our tracks as colds and the flu spread through schools and workplaces like wildfire during this time of year. To go forth with steady confidence and healthy bodies, favor a vata pacifying lifestyle which boosts the immune system and brings the body, mind, and spirit into balance. Check out these four tips to be well and stay calm.


One: Begin to see food as medicine.

Incorporate a vata pacifying diet this fall, which consists of foods that are warm, moist, smooth, and nourishing. Fresh, cooling crudites were perfect for the hot summer, but the crisp fall air invites forth a natural desire to nourish ourselves with warming butternut squash soups, more protein, and hearty stews. If you are already in the practice of eating fresh, seasonal foods and shopping at the farmer’s market, you may notice the natural shift toward heartier produce that balances the vata dosha.

Freshly cooked veggies are easier for our bodies to digest and assimilate than raw produce. Minimize stress and support easy digestion by consuming lightly cooked foods that are warming and soothing. Sip ginger tea with meals to aid digestion, or make a healing, anti-inflammatory turmeric-honey tea to support the immune system. Go deeper with this recipe from 101 Cookbooks.

Begin to see your vegetables as vessels for healing herbs and spices. Each of the ancient, lasting cuisines around the world incorporate delicious, healing herbs and spices into meals. Oregano, basil, thyme, and rosemary make their way into Italian sauces. Turmeric, cumin, ginger, and cayenne spice up Indian fare.

Food is so much more than fuel and nutrients. Many of the aromatic herbs and spices have anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, anti-fungal properties. As we spice up our recipes and savor the incredible flavor of international cuisine, our meals become medicine that support the immune system, keeping seasonal colds and the flu at bay.

Try cooking a healing coconut-milk curry with plenty of spices and seasonal vegetables. For inspiration, view this recipe: South Indian Style Vegetable Curry. For more information about Ayurvedic wisdom, check out this article: Vata Pacifying Diet.


Two: Wake up before sunrise and create a morning routine.

Routine balances the vata dosha. The early morning hours before sunrise are the vata time of day, inspiring movement and energy. Practice pranayama, sun salutations, yoga postures, and meditation first thing in the morning to stimulate your body’s cleansing systems and set the tone for your day. Sip room temperature or lukewarm water with lemon first thing to stimulate and balance your digestive tract.

Poses that work on the colon (the bodily seat of vata), intestines, pelvis, lumbar spine, and sacroiliac balance vata by bringing energy back down into the base of the torso. Spinal twists and inversions of all kinds soothe this dosha. Sitting and standing forward bends are choice poses, particularly for insomnia; boat, plank, staff, and plow are also powerful vata-reducers. To support grounding, work with standing poses such as mountain, triangle, warrior, and tree. Avoid back bends, such as bow, cobra, pigeon, and arch, which increase vata, or hold them briefly. If you enjoy vinyasa, do sun salutations S-L-O-W-L-Y. Let child’s pose lead you back to your innate innocence and trust. End your practice with a long Savasana (20–30 minutes); it is really okay to do NOTHING for a while.

Selection taken from Kirupalu’s Yoga and Ayurveda article. 

Three: Give yourself a thorough rubdown.

A self-massage with warming sesame oil may provide the moisturizing nourishment your skin needs to maintain its healthy glow this fall. Plus self-massage boosts the immune system, improves circulation, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, calming the body and mind. Follow the sesame-oil massage with a relaxing bath or shower. For more information on balancing your skin and body, check out Five Pillars’ recent article by Erika: Defeating Fall Dryness.


Four: Practice alternate nostril breathing.

Alternate nostril breathing is very balancing year-round, but particularly supportive during the vata season. Check out this video to go deeper:



Falling Into A Good Habit

Even though there’s a lingering hint of Summer in the weather — and we’re grateful for that — you might have noticed a shift in energy pre- and post-labor day. A revving-up in pace and stress levels around the city. You might not be sure what to wear because the weather is a bit erratic. You might have noticed people around you getting sick.


So while we’re not quite in the crisp-air, leaves-falling, squash-eating, heart of Autumn yet, we’re in the threshold between Summer and Fall and the effects are real. What we do NOW will greatly impact how well we’re able to stay healthy and balanced to fully enjoy the coming season.


I was speaking with a student before class the other day. Like many of us, her Summer had been peppered with travel and an irregular work schedule. While fun, the warmer months had lacked routine, and now she felt herself dragging her heels to get back to her regular work, yoga, and life rhythms. It felt harder than it should to get back in the flow of things, yet she was a bit exhausted from all the fluctuations of Summer. Sound familiar?


It’s interesting the way this paradox can exist — on the one hand we crave the rooted feeling of a balanced routine, and yet it feels more difficult to plant those roots. According to Ayurveda, this paradox not only makes sense, but is completely predictable.


As we segue into Fall we enter the season of Vata Dosha and we begin to feel the qualities of Vata in a more pronounced way. Made up of Air & Space Elements, Vata in the natural world is associated with gusting wind, cooling air temperatures, slowly darkening days, and dry, brittle leaves. Energetically it is a time when anxiety or stress seems to surge — energy is moving towards something. In NYC it feels like back to school/back to reality energy.

Historically the more urgent energy of Fall might have been associated with harvest and preparations for winter. “Hurry Up!” Fall seems to instruct.


Just as we see Vata in the natural and energetic landscapes around us, we might also experience elevated Vata within us: often our skin, hair or nails get dry and brittle at this time of year, our joints might ache. We might feel a little all-over-the-place. We might have great ideas but difficulty actualizing them. We might slip into anxious “monkey mind”… thinking which feels productive but actually saps us of energy leaving us “wired and tired.” It is easy to become depleted and fatigued at this time, which then leaves us with even less energy to be productive or “get back into our routine.” As we get depleted our immunity wanes and it’s much easier to get sick, which of course knocks us even further off our course. It can feel like we’re trapped, going around and around on a carousel. And all we need to do is just step off the ride.


screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-10-08-43-amVata benefits immensely from the anchor of a routine, from the stability and sustenance of roots. This is why, as Vata kicks up at this time of year, it is especially important. And yet it is the dosha furthest away from watery anchors and earthy roots — air and space elements can whip us up into a frenzy, which is why it’s so hard to get back into a routine when we need it most! This is that predictable paradox. And by the way, these predictable paradoxes exist in all the doshas – just wait until we get to Kapha season!!


But, for the time being, even though it might feel tough, begin to invite some routine, some ritual, some roots into your daily life. It’s even harder to establish routine once the gusting Autumn winds have kicked up, and much harder to fortify our immunity once it’s been compromised.  Even one little thing done regularly is enough to begin. Many clients have asked, well what is the best thing I can do… and the answer is usually “whichever thing you will do.” It doesn’t have to be complicated; it just needs to be a commitment to yourself that you keep.

The more you can invite water and earth elements in the better. Here are some ideas:


1. I’m going to say it right out of the gate: Return to and stick with a regular yoga practice. This time we make for ourselves strengthens us, builds immunity, decreases stress, and on and on. When I was speaking with the student we joked about how even for teachers sometimes the hardest part of yoga is just showing up. Well show up and keep showing up because there’s nothing better for grounding Vata than being embodied.

2. Swap your iced coffee for hot, swap cooling mint tea for ginger root tea. Best of all is a real chai made with those warming, aromatic roots and spices.

3. Include Restorative or Yin in your weekly yoga schedule or your at-home practice – these slower, grounding practices help to center us amid the swirl and they nourish the nervous system, which can be especially overworked at this time.

4. If possible see how it feels to swap your spin class for swimming laps, choosing water element over spinning your wheels. Might be an interesting experiment for a few months.

5. Work your core! Build a little heat from the inside out.

6. Begin to eat more root vegetables, even if they’re still in salad form!

7. Add a good multi-vitamin, probiotic and herbal supplement containing echinacea to your nutrition plan. Many people begin to take echinacea only once they’re sick, but this herb is actually most effective in a cummulative/long-term way, not as an acute medicine.

8. Write a To Do list that feels attainable, either set just a few key goals for a day, or write your list to span the whole week so no one day is too overburdened.

9. Explore what a little Dinacharya, or self-care ritual, might be for you. It might be 7 minutes of meditation every morning, or at 4pm. It might be a curfew for your screen time. It might be taking the extra 2 minutes to apply coconut oil or a nourishing moisturizer before bed. Any little gift you can give to yourself every day can become an anchor. 

By understanding and balancing Vata at this time we can work towards maintaining healthy energy and strong immunity so we’re less susceptible to seasonal colds and flus (and, um, pneumonias!) which are all too common this time of year. The time to fortify is now. Set yourself up for a healthy and stable season to come. So consider which practice or practices you can commit to, understanding that committing to the routine is part of the medicine.


Stay tuned for more Ayurvedic inspired seasonal articles over the coming weeks. And check out these related articles to #Go Deep

Ayurvedic Oral Care: Jihwa Prakshalana and Swish

We are well documented fans of Ayurveda at Five Pillars (here’s an intro, if you’re curious) and especially love the ancient science’s approach to oral health.

Two simple practices we’re advocating: Jihwa Prakshalana (a.k.a tongue scraping), and oil pulling. Chances are you’ve heard of both. Oil pulling is a celeb fave (Gwyneth Paltrow approves) and tongue scraping is a practically compulsory part of any cleanse.

So why do them?

Tongue scraping is like popping into your dentist’s office for a quick cleaning. The ancient oral hygiene practice removes bacteria, toxins and dead cells from the surface of the tongue, one of the easiest places in the body for germs to brew.

While we sleep, our digestive system deposits unwanted toxins on the surface of our tongue. If these toxins aren’t flushed out or removed, they get reabsorbed, compromising our immune system and leading to digestive ailments and respiratory woes.

Brushing and flossing will help with the toxin removal, but sometimes these practices just move bacteria around. Better to scrape.

It’s very simple: Using a metal or copper tongue scraper (this one’s great), drag the curved blade down toward the tip of your tongue, rinse the scraper and repeat until the scraper stops picking up residue.

This is best to do in the morning, before you brush your teeth and right after…

Oil pulling, another straightforward practice with natural detoxifying powers.


The idea is to swish (not swallow) up to 3 teaspoons of high quality, unrefined, cold-pressed oil like coconut or sesame for up to 20 minutes first thing every morning. Try swishing in the shower, while you steep your tea or while you make your bed. Don’t try to talk at the same time.

The actual pulling itself can take some getting used to, but working the oil around the mouth helps loosen the body’s overnight bacteria out from the teeth and gums, resulting in brighter teeth, stronger gums, fresher breath and a cleaner smile.

When you’re done, spit the oil out the window or into the trash to avoid a clogged sink. Follow oil pulling with tongue scraping, brushing and then flossing.

Your dentist will be impressed.

Photos: Tongue scraper from; coconuts from

Feeling Hot?

Summer is Pitta season. This, according to Ayurveda, means it’s the time of year when hot temperatures and lack of water in the external world can impact our internal worlds. More specifically, the fiery and watery elements in our makeup are more likely to fall out of balance, leading to digestive discord and skin flare-ups.

Ayurveda what? If you’re new to yoga’s sister science, this post breaks it all down. Much of Five Pillars’ philosophy draws from Ayurvedic principles of balance and integration, so it’s a good read if you’re curious or need a refresher.

Back to Pitta season: Pitta is the dosha, or constitution, associated with transformation and fast action; its predominant elements are fire and water, and its balances and imbalances affect the stomach (digestion), liver (toxin removal) and skin. Each of us has Pitta elements, but they are more predominant in some; the hot and fast season of summer can aggravate or intensify our Pitta qualities, especially for those of us with more Pitta to begin with.


If you’ve ever felt “burned out” or like you’ve been “burning the candle at both ends,” that’s likely a sign you’re using up your internal fire more quickly than you can stoke it. The summer sun can be intoxicating and uplifting, but it can also cause active and fiery personalities to over-schedule, overcommit, overreact or overindulge.

Here’s what a Pitta imbalance can look like: 

  • Acne
  • Skin Rashes
  • High Body Heat
  • Ulcers
  • Heartburn
  • Hyperacidity
  • Increased irritability and impatience
  • Diarrhea (or other GI complaints)
  • Hair loss

I know, sounds awful! But don’t panic. Ayurveda is all about regaining internal balance. In this case, Pitta’s fire just needs to be cooled, grounded and stabilized.


Find balance: 

  • The food you choose is key. Avoid hot and spicy foods and gravitate toward hydrating fruit and vegetables and flavors in the sweet, bitter and astringent families. Cucumbers, avocados, this watermelon smoothie, cilantro, rose water and mangoes are all good.
  • Meditate. A few minutes of seated meditation every morning, in the middle of the day or before bed will help reign in a mind gripped by a “do more” mentality.
  • Take sleep seriously. Rise early (before it gets too hot) without rushing and give yourself a generous thirty minute window to wind down before bed, screen free.
  • As much as possible, spend time by the water. If you can’t escape to the beach, a fountain or a sprinkler will do. Try finishing your shower with a minute-long blast of cold water. When Pitta gets hot, it needs to know it can cool down.
  • Since we’re talking to Pitta types here, you probably still want to get your morning run in (before your yoga class). Get your cardio in as early as you can, and consider switching up your vinyasa classes for Yin.

In general, give yourself space and time to breathe, unwind and cool down this summer, especially if you identify with Pitta’s high-energy qualities. The goal is not to quell your internal fire, but to make sure it stays lit.

Photos: Featured image from deadelmare; dosha charts by Danielle Bertoia; popsicles from Food52;

In Honor of Mother’s Day, Self-Care for Selfless Moms

From praise and tough love to life and dinner, moms are the original givers. But moms, and all others in giving roles (because you don’t have to be a mom to be selfless), often aren’t getting back what they’re putting out. So, in honor of Mother’s Day, take a moment to notice where you’re expending your energy. What are you getting back in return? Just as moms aren’t the only ones capable of selfless giving, all of us have had moments of feeling depleted and out of touch with our own needs.

In Ayurveda the counter to this is dinacharya. the intentional practice of self-love and self-care (reflected on in more depth here). A vital part of right and balanced living, dinacharya feels especially important as we celebrate the givers in our life and as we move into late spring with its seductive pull of long nights and warm days.

Practicing dinacharya doesn’t have to be physical, but, as yogis, taking care of our bodies can feel like an imperative. One of the paradoxes of a yoga practice is that as we open and release through stretching and dynamic breath, we become more aware of places of tightness and holding. Muscle soreness, instead of being a condition we live with, suddenly feels more acute. Coming into alignment means we know when we’re out of alignment; increased awareness of our whole organism means increased sensitivity to its aches and pains.


In Sanskrit the word sneha can mean both “oil” and “love,” and in Ayurveda, Abhyanga is the practicing of anointing and massaging yourself with warm oil. Here’s how:

  • Heat a carrier oil like sesame or almond until it’s warm but not hot to the touch.

Which oil? Choose your oil by dosha. Light and airy Vata types will like a heavier oil like almond, while fiery Pittas would benefit from the cooling properties of coconut oil. Kapha types can try sesame.

Pro tip: Heat the oil by placing the bottle in a bowl of hot, but not boiling, water.

  • Stand undressed in a warm room (your bathroom is ideal), and apply oil to the crown of your head. Move out from the crown in circles, applying firm but gentle pressure to wake up your scalp.

Second pro tip: If you’d rather not get oil everywhere, lay a towel you don’t mind getting oily down in your empty bathtub, climb in and apply the oil from there.

  • Next massage your forehead, temples, cheeks, jaw, and ear lobes (the site of many nerve endings). Use an upward motion. Don’t be afraid of the oil.
  • As you continue moving down the body, pause at the places that might be calling out for more attention — tender knees, tight shoulders, clenched jaw, constricted low back. You know better than anyone where you need a little extra love, so don’t feel like you’re interrupting the flow if you spend more time in one place or come back to it later.
  • Wake up your arms, legs and joints with long sweeping motions in the direction of your heart.
  • Come back to your abdomen and chest. Make broad, clockwise circles to help the oil absorb. Trace your large intestine to stimulate digestion: move up on the right side of your abdomen, across, and then down the left side.
  • End at your feet, spending as many minutes on them as you can.
  • If you can, let the oil absorb for up to 15 minutes. Take a warm bath or shower, letting the oil sink in instead of scrubbing it away. The heat from the water helps the oil permeate the skin and sink deep into the muscles.
  • Afterwards, towel dry gently, keeping the skin as hydrated as possible.

Here’s why:

  • Nourishes and hydrates the entire body
  • Stimulates muscles, tissues and internal organs
  • Lubricates the joints
  • Increases circulation
  • Aids in elimination of toxins by stimulating the lymph node
  • Calms the nerves
  • Results in better sleep
  • Enhances vision
  • Softens and smoothens skin

As with any self-care practice, intention setting and space creation is key (read about creating sacred space here). Set aside time for Abhyanga daily, weekly, or monthly and consider it as important as eating well and exercising. Self-care doesn’t have to be reserved for holidays.


One-Day Cleanse

If the word cleanse has you picturing weird supplements, expensive juices, bone broth or a voluntary enema, take a moment to excise those thoughts from your mind. All clear? Despite its reputation, a cleanse can be, simply, simple. With spring approaching, the outside world is nudging us into awareness of new growth, so now is the perfect time to give your own system a seasonal reboot. Outlined below is a simple one-day cleanse that is easy to achieve yet still delivers some great benefits.

Like any other practice, a cleanse works best if you set an intention: The clearer it is, the more benefits you will receive. Here are a few:

  • To eat joyfully, mindfully and gratefully

  • To give my body a chance to rest and restore

  • To slow down and make space for a day of intentional self-care

First step: Plan ahead. Choose a day for your cleanse at least a week in advance. Give yourself time to look forward to and plan for it. Deciding to fast the day after a boisterous, excessive dinner party may seem like a good idea that morning, but you’ll end up hangry, tired and craving anything by lunchtime. Instead, treat your cleanse day like a hot date: Fall asleep dreaming about all the things you’re going to do (or not do), plan what you’re going to wear, and tell all your friends not to call — you’re going to be busy.

Instead of trying to fit your cleanse into your life, see about reordering your life–just for that day–to accommodate your cleanse.

If you can take a day off of work, do it. Turn on your out-of-office message and turn off your phone. In the week leading up to your cleanse, decide which self-care rituals you’d like to do and gather your supplies. Maybe you’d like to take an Epsom salt bath with one of your favorite essential oils; or take a long walk with the intention of smelling every flower you encounter; or spend an hour journaling, meditating, or drawing — whatever it is that brings you back to center.

Arguably the most important part of advance planning concerns what you’re going to eat. Below is a recipe for a simple, delicious and easy to digest mung bean and rice soup from Puakai Healing‘s Maggie Harrsen and Good Water Farms Brendan Davison. Prepare this recipe a day or two before your cleanse so it’s ready and waiting for you on the day of. Start the morning of your cleanse with a tall glass of room-temperature water with a splash of lemon juice. Keep your pot of mung beans simmering on low on the stove, and enjoy mindful bowls throughout the day.

Here are other rituals to consider:

Start the morning with oil pulling and tongue scrapping. Both part of an Ayurvedic approach to wellness, these practices promote toxin elimination, glowing skin and overall oral health. Swish a teaspoon or so of unrefined coconut oil in your mouth for up to 30 minutes, spit it outside or in your trashcan (so as not to clog the drain), and follow by dragging a tongue scrapper from the base to the tip of your tongue until it feels clean, rinsing the scrapper after each stroke.


Dry skin brushing is another morning practice that will promote detoxification. Our skin is our largest organ, and using a natural fiber brush to stimulate and cleanse it improves circulation, reduces cellulite, tightens skin and strengthens the immune system. Do this first thing, perhaps while swilling coconut oil, before your morning shower while your skin is still dry. Using long strokes, start at the soles of your feet and work your way up the body, stroking toward your heart and moving clockwise around the navel and buttocks. End at your arms and hands.

Mung Bean and Rice Cleanse


1 cup green mung beans (or lentils)

1 cup basmati rice

9 cups spring water

4-6 cups assorted seasonal vegetables (carrot, sweet potato, etc.)

2 yellow onions, chopped

1/3 cup grated ginger root

8 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 tsp. turmeric

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 tsp. garam masala

1 tsp. red chilis, crushed

1 tbsp. sweet basil, dried

sea salt, to taste


Rinse rice and beans. In a large pot, add 9 cups of spring water and bring to a boil. Add rice and beans and cook on a medium flame. Begin to chop vegetables and add to the simmering pot of rice and beans. Begin to chop onions, garlic and ginger. In a separate pan, brown onions, garlic and ginger in 1/2 cup of  olive oil or coconut oil. Add the spices to the oil and then combine this mixture with the mung beans and rice, stir often. Add the herbs. Continue to cook together until creamy and soup-like. Top with a dip of plain yogurt and freshly picked herbs or microgreens.


If this seems more nourishing and loving than some of the more hard-core cleanses you might have heard about or even tried, that’s because it is! The magic of this cleanse is giving the digestive system a break with a simple mono-diet. When we tax the system with hard-to-digest foods like processed foods, animal fats and proteins, starchy foods etc, it doesn’t often get a chance to recalibrate. In as little as one day you can give this over-worked system a restorative day off. Plus, the other detox methods, like dry brushing, are even more effective on a simple diet. Best of all, this is the type of cleanse you could factor into your regular weekly routine…

And, if after all this, you’re still dying to do a coffee enema, here’s a lovely how-to from mindbodygreen.

Big thanks and much love to Puakai Healing and Good Water Farms for the beautiful image and delicious recipe; tongue scraper and dry skin brush are on; burning sage shot found here

Pouring Water From An Empty Pitcher?

Many of us have been taught to place everyone before ourselves. Devotion to family, partner, work, friends, charities… somehow we always can find the time to prioritize these responsibilities, while the first thing to get sacrificed is often our workouts, for example. Or we’re running around so much that we “don’t have time to eat healthy food.” Taking time for ourselves feels “selfish.” We stretch ourselves thinner and thinner, without proper fortification, until eventually we burn out.

“In the event of loss of pressure, oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling. Place the mask over your nose and mouth and breathe normally. Please secure your own mask first before helping others.”

How many times have we heard this? And how many times have we practiced that critical last instruction – taking care of ourselves so that we are able to take care of others. Simply put, we cannot pour water from an empty pitcher. And we cannot help others or contribute to the world without coming from a strong foundation of self-care.

Every now and then I look down at my feet and gasp at how long it’s been since I’ve had a pedicure. It’s not only the fact that I’d rather not have claws where my toes should be, it’s also the ritual of taking a time out to go to the spa, read a book or magazine, unplug and recharge at the same time. I leave with more than a pretty polish job; I enter back into the flow of my life renewed and with more to offer, my pitcher filled by a simple act of self-care.


In Ayurveda the phrase used for self-care is Dinacharya – which translates to daily (dina) routine (charya). Emphasis on “daily.” Not weekly, not monthly, and not only when we burn out. There is a magic to the routine of self-care, it’s something we can count on, and the regularity of it builds that strong foundation from which we can live and give. It’s grounding and centering, and over time also calming to the mind.


Consider how routine it is to brush your teeth. You don’t have to “make time” to do this, it happens pretty automatically. Now consider what else you could add to your morning, afternoon or evening ritual that might be your individual dinacharya


Here are some ideas to get you started…. 

~ Take ten minutes in the morning to meditate or stretch before your day gets started

~ Dry brush your skin before every shower

~ “Check out” at 4pm with a cup of tea and read a chapter of your book

~ Do one beauty ritual each night – moisturize your feet, apply a refreshing face mask, take a long bath, etc.

~ Drink a warm ginger lemon tea first thing in the morning

~ Start and end each day with an affirmation

~ Say grace internally before each meal (even takeout!)


Ultimately self-care is a matter of self-valuing and self-love, which is very very different than “selfish.” So ask yourself how you can value yourself. Ask yourself what areas of your life need support and self-devotion. As yourself what activities you love that you “don’t have time for anymore.” Ask yourself what small rituals you could actually commit to. And then start by adding just one thing and see how it goes.

Let yourself learn to be SELF-ish in all the right ways, because as Oscar Wilde has said “everyone else is already taken.”


The Pleasure of Eating

Modern nutrition and a thriving diet culture has reduced our understanding of food and nourishment to measurements of calories, carbs, fat, or specific ingredients or components of food. This mentality often leads us to limit some aspect of our diet with the hope of feeling energized and reaching/maintaining a healthy weight. Many of the fad diets are restriction-based and suggest that we will finally feel fit and healthy if we simply remove an ingredient or macronutrient from our diets. The problem is that most restriction-based diets don’t work and nutrition fads seem to change each year. And, most importantly, we miss out on what Wendell Berry refers to as “the pleasure of eating.”

A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one’s accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which food comes. The pleasure of eating, then, may be the best available standard of our health. And this pleasure, I think, is pretty fully available to the urban consumer who will make the necessary effort.

We have many incredible leaders in health and nutrition who are responding to fad diets by offering a balanced perspective, recommending farm-fresh, organic food and healthy portion sizes. But even a healthy, balanced approach in the West focuses on macronutrients (protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, minerals, water) and often overemphasizes the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals found in different foods or supplements).

While understanding the basics of nutrition can support a healthy approach to nutrition, ancient cuisine and Aurvedic nutrition helps us to go deeper.

International food cultures remind us fast-paced, “eat lunch at the desk” Americans to slow down, cook, enjoy mealtimes in community, and to relish in the experience of eating. These long-lasting cuisines assume that we will be cooking from raw ingredients opposed to packaged foods, because they emerged before the industrial revolution, which made processed foods readily available. For thousands of years, the only option was fresh and local produce, wild-caught fish/poultry, grass-fed meat, and whole grains. Modern science backs up ancient wisdom, with many well-credentialed dietitians and physicians recommending that we simply slow down and chew our food! Not to mention, it is far more enjoyable to actually taste the flavors in one bite — to savor them in fact — before jumping ahead to the next.  


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Ayurvedic nutrition takes a slightly different angle on the pleasure of eating by suggesting that food is medicine. Ayurvedic nutrition suggests that the flavors (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent) and qualities (heavy, moist, cooling, hot, light, dry) of the food and drink we consume provide us with all of the information we need to maintain balance in our bodies. This article from Eat Taste Heal covers the flavors and qualities of food from an Ayurvedic perspective: The Six Tastes: Our Guidemap to Optimal Nutrition.

As I mentioned in my recent article,
Four Ayurvedic Practices to Boost Your Immune System This Fall, Ayurvedic nutrition also encourages us to see vegetables as vehicles for healing herbs. Although fresh produce boasts a long list of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that supports health and vitality, adding healing spices such as turmeric or ginger provides the additional wellness boost by reducing inflammation, optimizing brain function, and preventing/treating cancer. 

Often the pleasure of eating can originate in the pleasure of creating — putting together ingredients that balance flavor, color and texture, for a mosaic of nutritional delight. If you haven’t already included these superfoods in your culinary palette, the excerpts below might inspire you.


Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a culinary spice that spans cultures – it is a major ingredient in Indian curries, and makes American mustard yellow. But evidence is accumulating that this brightly colored relative of ginger is a promising disease-preventive agent as well, probably due largely to its anti-inflammatory action.

One of the most comprehensive summaries of turmeric benefits studies to date was published by the respected ethnobotanist James A. Duke, Phd., in the October, 2007 issue of Alternative & Complementary Therapies, and summarized in the July, 2008, issue of the American Botanical Council publication HerbClip.

Reviewing some 700 studies, Duke concluded that turmeric appears to outperform many pharmaceuticals in its effects against several chronic, debilitating diseases, and does so with virtually no adverse side effects. 

Selection taken from Dr. Weil’s article on the super-spice turmeric: Three Reasons to Eat Turmeric


As the world’s most widely cultivated spice, ginger may also be the world’s most versatile, evidence-based natural health remedy. Numerous studies have been conducted on the medicinal benefits of this wonder spice for over 100 health conditions. It has a long history of use, and as a testimony to its numerous benefits, it remains a component of more than 50% of all traditional herbal remedies.

In India, Ayurvedic texts consider ginger to be one of the most important herbs available, to the extent of describing it as an entire medicine chest in itself. Ayurvedic practitioners prescribe ginger as a powerful digestive aid since it fuels digestive fire, whets the appetite, and clears the body’s micro-circulatory channels. This helps to improve the assimilation and transportation of nutrients to targeted body tissues. Ginger is also used in Ayurveda as a remedy for joint pain, nausea and motion sickness.

With such staggering benefits, it’s no wonder the spice has been a staple in kitchens and medicine cabinets for over five thousand years. Moreover, it continues to prove to be an effective natural remedy for many modern diseases.

Selection taken from Check out the full article on the health benefits of ginger: 10 Health Benefits of Ginger Root: The Wonder Spice.


Defeating Fall Dryness

Can you feel that?
The qualities of the world around you as we settle into autumn?

You might notice a certain crispness in the air, you might feel the wind blowing through, the dryness of the leaves as they become more brittle and fall to earth. You might also sense a change in the pace of life — as kids go back to school, as we rededicate to work. Things seem to speed up, responsibilities swirl around, and all of a sudden it feels we have a lot of balls in the air.

And you might be wondering: What does all of this have to do with Me?

Well, according to Ayurveda, it has a LOT to do with you.
Check out our Intro To Ayurveda Article for some context*

Autumn is the Vata time of year, and just as these qualities of dryness, cold, increased movement, and wind affect our environment, they can affect our physical and mental wellbeing.

~ Just as the leaves get dry, you may notice your skin thirsting for moisture.
~ Just as the leaves blow in the breeze, you may notice your thoughts     whirlwind.
~ Just as the days start to shorten, you may notice your energy reserves waning and you might become more fatigued.

As you tune in to the natural rhythms around you, you can begin to see how they are mirrored in your own health. And from there you can begin to create balance.

Ayurveda is a lifelong study and practice, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few easy ways you can incorporate this wisdom into your daily routine.

Here are Three Easy Ways to Boost Your Moisture This Season:

1. Heighten your Hydration with Aloe

Of course we need to be drinking water, and yes, perhaps even more now that it’s so dry out. But why not benefit from one of nature’s incredible super-plants as well? Known as the “plant of immortality” by the ancient Egyptians, LIL003_Xlaloe is perhaps best known in the west as a soothing topical ointment for burns. It’s aloe’s soothing, moisturizing and nourishing actions that help regenerate skin, and taken internally the same principals apply. Aloe juice and gel is now widely available for purchase, and goes great in smoothies at home – here are a few delicious recipes. If you’re buying a store-bought aloe juice drink, be sure to check the sugar content – many of the bottled beverages add refined sugars, which are dehydrating… kind of defeats the purpose! Aloe is with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and around 200 active plant compounds, so while it is incredibly hydrating, it also supports good digestion, healthy blood sugar levels, skin health, reduces inflammation, and boosts immunity.

2. Supplement Your Suppleness with Coconut Oil Capsules 

Coconut has been having a moment. And we couldn’t be happier. It’s been lauded for countless health effects, and the oil has a plethora of uses from cooking, to “oil pulling,” to topical moisturizing of skin and hair. And of 522874-Coconut-capscourse coconut water is a delicious and hydrating beverage. Well there’s a new kid on the block, and it’s already a favorite: Coconut Oil Capsules. In New York where time is precious we appreciate when something beneficial can be made convenient, or even down right easy! Coconut oil capsules can be carried with you so you can take them a couple times day, and they’re great for travel. Best of all they moisturize from the inside out.


3. Show Yourself a Little Love with Abhyanga

Abhyanga is the Ayurvedic practice of massaging the body with warm oil. It nourishes the body and lubricates the joints, benefits circulation and of course, softens skin, along with a host of other effects. There are specific techniques for abhyanga, and different oils can be used for different conditions and constitutions. But even the simplest version will have a great impact. Sesame oil is particularly beneficial in the fall, but coconut, almond, even jojoba will do just fine. My favorite way to include Abhyanga in my routine is to warm the oil (the same way you’d warm maple syrup, in a glass in a pot of water on the stove), apply the oil (using long strokes on the limbs and sweet, round circles on the joints), let it sit for about 20 minutes and then take a nice hot shower. The hot water will drive the oil into your system, and then you can go on about your day without being all greasy! If you don’t have time to do your whole body pick the joints that are asking for it. The word for oil in Sanskrit is sneha, which also translates as “love.” And indeed this practice is nothing less!




Intro to Ayurveda

Here at Five Pillars our approach to the total yoga lifestyle is holistic and preventative. We strive to embody our Five Pillars of a healthy lifestyle, and we draw from Traditional Chinese Medicine, Herbalism and other integrative modalities, along with cutting-edge scientific research, nutrition and Western medicine.

As we move into Autumn, you’ll see that much of our Weekly Wisdom content is themed to help keep us healthy and happy in the context of the season. We’ll be looking at recipes that feature fall fruits and vegetables, immunity tips relevant to the weather, movement practices that are especially applicable to these cooler months, and more.


For wisdom about how to take care of ourselves seasonally, we often turn to Yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda.


Ayurveda is India’s 5,000 year-old-healing practice, the art and science of health and wellness. Ayurveda gives us tools that are both powerfully-effective and easy to grasp and implement all at the same time. Using the context of the Five Elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Space), we can understand the energies around us in nature, and how they are mirrored in our own mental and physical wellbeing.

In is simplest application, it is a dance of balance, adding what we need more of, and regulating what we have in excess. For example, if we’re feeling sluggish and stagnant (associated with Earth element) we might go for a brief, brisk walk (and invite some Air and Space). Or if we have heartburn (which could feel quite Fire-y in the belly) we probably wouldn’t look to hot sauce to soothe our stomachs.

Over time we can attune to the sensations of the Five Elements around us and within us, learning to listen to what the body wants, and developing the tools to give it what it needs.


Here are some basics to help you get informed, empowered and inspired!


Each of the Elements is associated with certain qualities, many of which we might already know intuitively:

  • ~ Earth Element is cool and steady, it is heavy, sturdy, slow/consistent. When we think of fertile Earth we think of nourishment and support for things to grow.
  • ~ Water Element is cool and fluid yet heavy. It moisturizes and nourishes. It is cleansing.
  • ~ Fire Element is hot and active, picture the flames dancing. It burns bright and has the power to transform, as in alchemy or cooking. It can be sharp and intense or warming and light.
  • ~ Air Element is cold and dry. It is also mobile and can be erratic like the wind whipping through the trees.
  • ~ Space Element is the most subtle of them all, with the qualities of smooth expansiveness, lightness and possibility.



These Five Elements make up the Three Doshas or consitutions. Each of us possesses all three Doshas in different ratios, and this might change from day to day, so understanding the qualities of the Doshas and Elements helps us to balance out our wellbeing.



Kapha Dosha – Earth and Water Elements

Picture the steady, peaceful pace of an Elephant. The grounded qualities of Kapha can show up in our personalities as reliability, stamina, dedication and as a compassionate, nurturing heart. Of course, if we sink too far into Earth Element we might become slow, lethargic and stagnant… you can picture the typical “couch potato” and it’s not an accident that the vegetable referenced here is a tuber! We might need a little “fire under our you-know-whats” to get us moving, or a breath of fresh air to lighten us up. Inviting movement and deep breathing with a walk or flowing vinyasa, or lightening up the diet with a salad or bright juice can help lift us out of too much Kapha. 


Pitta Dosha – Fire and Water Elements

Pitta Dosha can show up as a warm and even firey personality, quick wittedness, eyes alight with ambition and intellect. The qualities of Pitta help us organize, set goals and achieve. However, if we burn too hot we might present a shouting voice or quick temper… frustration might cause our faces to get red and irritated, and a certain vein to bulge out of our foreheads! We might need to “chill out” and remember to breathe. Cooling pranayama and meditation can quell the flames of Pitta, along with a refreshing glass of iced mint tea. 


Vata Dosha – Air and Space Elements

Vata is creative and flowing, inspiration emerges from the expanses of space, and ideas dance like dandelion seeds on the breeze. Vata encourages spontaneity and movement, but in excess can have us spinning out into “monkey mind.” Anxiety can result and we can often feel restless and untethered, “wired and tired” all at the same time. This can lead us to becoming seriously depleted and fatigued. We balance this out by nourishing ourselves and rooting down, cultivating grounding and peace. A warm bath, a cup of ginger tea, a hearty soup and restorative yoga are great for balancing Vata.


So, as we move into Autumn, the Vata time of year, we’ll be working with balancing out the cool, dry qualities with nourishment, moisture and grounding. You’ll notice these ideas may present in classes at the studio, as we cultivate Earth, Water and Fire to balance the Air and Space within and without.

Stay tuned for our recommendations for yoga poses, recipes, essential oils and other holistic practices to help you a healthful, harmonious Fall!


If you’d like to Go Deep, there is no more esteemed teacher in the U.S. than Dr. Vasant Lad, founder of the Ayurvedic Institute. His website is an incredible resource. Check it out here, or view his Intro To Ayurveda document here.