I did a Facebook Live last Friday with Dr. Kim D'Eramo. Dr. D'Eramo is a physician, bestselling author of The MindBody Toolkit, and founder of the American Institute of Mind-Body Medicine. We chatted about the body's innate ability to heal itself. It's amazing! If you listen to it, your body is constantly telling you what it needs. It can be hard to hear it's signals sometimes. Other times, you can hear it (or, rather feel it through pain, stress, or fatigue), but don't know what to do about it. In this video, Dr. D'Eramo guides you through a brief practice to get in touch with what your body is feeling. She calls the process the ABC technique for:
The idea is this - send love to all the parts of your body that need healing. Partner with your body, instead of fighting with it. Know that your body is your ally, not your enemy. And, know that everything that comes up in life, be it physical or emotional pain, is an invitation to awaken. Lean into it and you may discover something far greater than you ever could have imagined!
Sending you so much love,
*I recently listened to an episode called Mental Chatter on Dr. Errin Weisman's Doctor Me First Podcast. In it, she described modern coaching techniques to deal with negative mental chatter. As I listened, all I could think of was how similar this was to the yoga concept of Pratipaksha Bhavana. This was my inspiration to update my blog from September 2015 and share it with you here today.
“When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (positive) ones should be thought of. This is pratipaksha bhavana.”
-Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, II-33*
Your thoughts are powerful. Your thoughts are linked to your breath and emotions. For example, what happens to your breath when you think of something that makes you feel angry or upset? Generally, your breath quickens and becomes shallow. Your heart races and blood pressure rises. Your stress response kicks in. But, what if you had a technique to intercept this entire process? This technique is pratipaksha bhavana. Pratipaksha bhavana invites you to intercept disturbing thoughts at the outset. Instead of spiraling down a staircase of negative thoughts, introduce positive thoughts as soon as you can. You don't need to push away the negative thoughts. All you do is introduce positive thoughts, and then negative ones slip away on their own.
According to yoga, it's human nature to think negative thoughts. Modern science backs this up with something called "negativity bias." Negativity bias means that your brain keeps negative thoughts at the forefront as a survival mechanism. It's the way your mind thinks it's protecting you. Negativity bias was necessary in the hunter-gatherer days. You wanted to remember where you last saw the lion when you were out hunting, so as to avoid going back to that spot. It was a matter of life and death. These days, however, it's often not life or death thoughts that stay at the forefront of your mind. It may feel like life or death, but it's actually not. It may be rush hour traffic, an arguement with your spouse, or a disagreement at work. And so, you have this tool, pratipaksha bhavana, that you can use to intercept those negative thoughts.
Pratipaksha bhavana requires continuous effort and patience. But, with regular practice, pratipaksha bhavana becomes easier. Your negative thoughts can become a trigger to bring in positive ones. As you practice this, you may realize the role your thoughts play in maintaining your peace of mind. And then, you may find that you want to guard your thoughts with utmost effort. This becomes an act of self-care and love.
It can be helpful to practice pratipaksha bhavana daily. Set aside 5 minutes each day where you sit and observe your thoughts. When you notice a negative thought arise, repeat an affirmation such as "I am peace" or "I am love." Affirmations are great ways to introduce positive thoughts. You can think of one on your own, or use a favorite inspiring quote. It can be helpful to choose a short and simple affirmation. If you practice this for a few minutes daily, then it'll be more readily available to you in times of need.
So, give it a try and leave a comment letting me know any challenges or benefits you find!
*The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is the one of the oldest texts on yoga practice
By Harrison Graves, M.D.
After practicing Western medicine (Allopathy) for 25 years, I became disappointed with many aspects of the culture surrounding it – namely, the lack of emphasis on prevention, and the over-reliance on prescription drugs.
At the time, I wasn’t aware of the system of optimal health from India that is all about prevention. It’s a system that uses natural herbs instead of synthetics to promote well-being, a system that incorporates yoga for healing the body and mind. It’s called Ayurveda, or “the knowledge of life.”
Over the next few years, I discovered the ways in which Ayurveda can be a more effective approach to health, especially when it comes to treating mental unrest like anxiety and stress. Many diseases can be prevented as patients learn how to de-stress and create healthier daily routines. The ultimate goal of Ayurveda is a healthy physical body, a calm (sattvic) mind, and a heart connection with Spirit.
Allopathy vs Ayurveda
Both Ayurveda and Allopathy (traditional Western medicine) have their place in health and healing. “Allo” means opposite, and “pathy” means disease. In allopathy, pharmaceutical drugs are prescribed that have opposite effects to the diseases’ symptoms. Sometimes, allopathy can be life-saving. Examples include the epi-pen (epinephrine injection) for a life-threatening bee sting allergy (anaphylaxis), and antidotes, like Narcan, for opiate overdose.
However, Allopathy has its shortcomings. It often focuses more on treating symptoms more than curing diseases. Anti-depressants like Zoloft are prescribed for depression, and medications like Xanax for anxiety. While these may relieve symptoms, they do not address the root cause of these issues.
Unfortunately, these synthetic drugs also come with long lists of side effects, and can actually negatively affect brain chemistry. Prozac was given a black-box warning by the FDA, the strongest caution given before a drug is yanked from the shelf. Why? Prozac made some suicidal patients worse, especially those in the 18-25-year-old age group.
Dr. Deepak Chopra put it bluntly: “I think it is just the fact that there is a lot of frustration when all you do is prescribe medication, you start to feel like a legalized drug pusher. That doesn’t mean that all prescriptions are useless, but it is true that 80 percent of all drugs prescribed today are of optional or marginal benefit.”
Why Ayurveda? Treat root causes, not symptoms
Ayurvedic medicine is, in many ways, opposite to the Western approach. According to Ayurvedic master Dr. David Frawley, deep-seated anxieties must be pulled out by their roots. Both Ayurveda and Yoga do so with the practices of yogic breath and mantra. These practices are yoga for your mind and key components in self-care.
It’s all about prevention
One answer to “Why Ayurveda” is its emphasis on prevention, or Sva-stha-vrit-ta.
Svasthavritta means “the protocols by which one can remain healthy.”
So much disease (heart attack, stroke, cancer) could be prevented by awareness of these Ayurvedic protocols:
Treat organic fruits and veggies as medicine. You will be prescribed specific foods and healing spices based on your body-mind type, or dosha.
Develop a healthy exercise pattern like Yoga or Tai Chi.
Learn how to de-stress with mantra and pranayama (breath practices).
Learn the principles of Ayurvedic detox. Put no junk food in your body and no junk food in your mind. Try an Ayurvedic cleanse with superfoods like kitchadi.
Connection with Spirit
Another thing I love about Ayurveda is how it addresses our connection to Spirit. Allopathy seems dry in comparison to the holistic healing traditions of the East that are steeped in prayer and meditation.
Connection with Spirit is essential for complete health. Treating the body-mind without addressing Spirit leaves us dry, and often unhappy. Connection with Spirit helps us to realize our place in the Universe beyond time and space.
Of course, walking a spiritual path is a deeply personal decision. Dr. David Frawley tells us that spirituality is a big tent. He wrote that the Divine can be looked upon as a father, a mother, a brother or a friend — or as Nature, a saint, or the one divinity within us all: the higher Self.
It’s in your hands
Take charge of your health today. Don’t wait until something breaks. See an Ayurvedic practitioner and discover your dosha (body-mind type). You will then be prescribed a lifetime of better health: Svasthavritta — Ayurvedic essentials for staying healthy: right food, right exercise, right herbs, right sleep, and right actions.
Don’t forget: many Ayurvedic treatments are also fun. Steam bath therapy sweats away toxins. Shirodhara (bliss oil therapy) can calm the mind and expand awareness. Abhyanga, healing oil massage with medicated oils, can work wonders.
There’s no quick fix
Ayurveda is not about the “quick fix” or taking pills. Ayurveda is about discovering the root causes of disease, then treating it. Root causes may be related to a toxic diet, a dysfunctional relationship, stressful work, or repetitive thoughts. Yoga, Ayurveda, and a contemplative lifestyle, including self-inquiry, are the keys to success.
Choose Ayurveda to stay healthy and prevent illness. Choose Allopathy when it can be of benefit. These two approaches can be complementary, and not mutually exclusive.
*This article originally appeared on https://artoflivingretreatcenter.org/blog/why-ayurveda/ and is re-published with permission