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Yoga for the scattered mind

Dear Yogi Marlon,
I have 10 times the energy of most people I know, and I seem to have an idea--a good idea--a minute!

Yet when I look back over the years, I see less-imaginative people who work less and achieve more. Many have successful careers, homes, committed relationships and more. I do not think I can work any harder. Am I to believe itís not my dharma to be successful in life or am I doing something wrong?
Ariel Sauvignon
Basel, Switzerland

Yogi Marlon
Dear Ariel,

Although I am not privy to your individual dharma, I do sense that the key to your success in life is a matter of focusing your energies. Your first statement about "an idea a minute" indicates clearly the fast-moving, imaginative mental thought pattern of one who is primarily of vata dosha, as is defined by the ayurvedic system of constitutional types.

The excess of vata as an energy is not a problem unique to those primarily of vata constitution, particularly in our fast-paced society. A frenetic stream of fast-moving images and consumption-promoting media combined with the out-of-control ingestion of caffeine and sugar commonly spirals many people of pitta and kapha doshas into a state of deranged vata, as well. Gone unchecked, this excess of nervous energy can negatively pervade the course of oneís life. It is my opinion that a chronically frenetic condition is all too quickly labeled as ADD and perceived as being controllable only through drugs. I believe a scattered mind and its accompanying nervous, physical energy can be diminished or eliminated with much less radical therapies.

Most at risk of excess vata are those who are fundamentally of vata constitution, because their normal state is already quick-minded, fast-moving, and light as opposed to dense. Yet the condition is also problematic for the more cerebral, ambitiously driven pittas, who when at their worst can warp into relentless and tyrannical ďtype AĒ personalities. These are the folks who obsessively go and go and go until one day, they become seriously ill or die. Larger-boned, slower-paced, more docile kaphas are the least likely to generate an excess of vata energy. For them, a little stimulation may be the only way to motivate them to move, exercise or work.
Here is a series of practical solutions that you may adopt into your lifestyle. The more structured and adhering you are to them, the faster you will see results.

General Lifestyle:
  • Form a regular sleeping and waking habit to include 6 or more continual hours of sleep and a consistent waking time.
  • Form regular eating habits consisting of 2-3 meals a day of warm or hot, slow-cooked food, such as stews. Include "comfort foods".
  • Ingest absolutely no stimulants such as caffeine (chocolate, cola, coffee, black tea, green tea), yerba mata, amphetamines, nicotine. MSM supplements are questionable. Avoid MSG altogether.
  • Consume as little sugar as possible; particularly white sugar, corn syrup and high fructose, even honey, which rocket into the bloodstream very quickly. Try stevia, a natural non-glucose sweetener.

  • Environmental:
  • Vata and kapha types especially: Keep warm by dressing warmly and avoiding drafts, fans and wind.
  • In windy conditions, wear a hat.
  • Lessen mind chatter by eliminating clutter. Visually streamline your living and working space
  • .
  • Replace florescent lighting with natural sunlight or incandescent bulbs. The reverberating light of florescent bulbs is bad for everyone, but especially rattling to those of vata constitution

  • [Asana] practice:
  • Engage in a slow-moving asana practice that holds the majority of poses for a minute or more. Fast-moving Ashtanga practice is not recommended, nor is the mental analysis of detail-oriented Iyengar practice.
  • For those of primarily vata constitution or for anyone who experiences excess of vata energy, it is important that your yoga practice utilizes ujjayi and promotes grounding.
  • One very literal, yet very helpful thought is to be mindful of building standing poses upward from feet that are pressed firmly into the ground. Shoulder stand is a highly recommended pose for soothing the nervous system.

  • Pranayama:

  • Practice viloma by inhaling with ujjayi in one long, slow breath and exhaling in 3 sections with holds in between those sections. Viloma conditions the mind to fully complete one successive task before going to the next. The langhana effect of hold after exhale encourages the mind to be placid.
  • Also, form the habit of doing a few moments of ujjayi throughout the day to release accumulating stress.
  • Substances to include:
  • Ayurveda recommends ashwaganda as the best herb to control excess vata.
  • The locally more common chamomile is less potent, but helpful.
  • For insomnia, consult your natural pharmacist. Ask about supplementing with melatonin before bedtime.
  • If a stronger sedative is needed, inquire about using valerian root instead of a pharmaceutical barbiturate, to help establish a restful sleep pattern. Wean yourself off all sleep aids as soon as a good sleep pattern is established.
  • Perform [abhyanga], a daily ayurvedic oil therapy.
  • Burn frankincense infused incense, an age-old tradition for creating an environment conducive to meditation. For this to work effectively you must always use organic, not synthetic.

  • Now that you have read the list, if there is one that you say you "could never do", it is probably the one most intrinsic to your imbalance. For best results, please start there. When you sense your energy has stabilized for letís say a month, you may relax the principles above a bit and carefully reintroduce the things of which you are fond. Be reasonable and know that returning to the principles above intermittently or even permanently may be necessary to create real change and the evidence of it in your life. Remember a little yoga goes a long way. Try the short 25 minute practices on ["Yoga For Absolute Beginners"]. The practices are designed for people who have never done yoga.

    Om Shanti,

    Yogi Marlon

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