Tenacity and Tenderness

Navigating Life Changes from the Hear

By Kellen Brugman for www.mariashriver.com, on November 12, 2012


Last summer I moved to California. I had just finished a two-year yoga and Ayurveda program in Albuquerque. Instead of returning east to Nashville, the town I lived for 9 years, I headed west to Santa Barbara. I had no job, lodging, family, or friends there. Only a tiny door of opportunity at a college and yoga retreat center beckoned me.

It made more sense returning to Nashville, to dear friends, solid yoga teaching connections, and a steady stream of Ayurveda clients. However, my heart’s compass kept pointing west. I saw a welcome mat at that tiny door in Santa Barbara. The opportunity involved doing what I love; sharing yoga and Ayurveda, in a gorgeous town nestled between the Santa Ynez Mountains and Pacific Ocean.

For the fifth time in eleven years, I was considering a major move and life change. Return to Nashville – a place of satisfying knowns, or venture to Santa Barbara – a place of alluring unknowns. I was at a point of dead reckoning.

I learned the strategy of “dead reckoning” in 2000, just after I left the corporate world and moved to Nashville. To escape the sticky southern summers, I retreated to an Adirondack cabin on the Great Sacandaga Lake. I learned to sail on a Rhodes Bantam 14’ wooden sailboat. It was built in the 60’s by my Norwegian Adirondack neighbor who is a crafted boat builder.

In sailing, to dead reckon means plotting a course based on one’s present position and external conditions such as wind and water currents. One also considers prior voyages, tide charts, and wind patterns. Then based on information gathered, the first step of the new course is taken. Although nautical facts are part of the navigational equation, keen intuition is also required.

While plotting the course for my move, I first recalled past moving experiences. One benefitted my corporate marketing career. Another was for love. The most recent move allowed me to deepen my study of yoga and Ayurveda with one of the world’s most respected Ayurvedic teachers. Each move brought adventure, fulfillment, happiness, and abundance into my professional and personal life.

I then evaluated my present position and the current conditions in Santa Barbara. After spending two years in the high dry desert, my body and soul thirsted for water. During a short visit to Santa Barbara during a spring break, I fell in love with the charm of the town’s architecture, warmth of the friendly folks, and the balletic flight of the pelicans along the magical shoreline.

And so I began to dead reckon. In charting and following my new path westward, I relied on my heart’s trusted navigational tools – tenacity and tenderness.

Tenacity means persistent in seeking something desired. When rooted in the heart, tenacity is not harsh or forceful. Rather, it is persevering and patient, even when external conditions appear challenging. Life changes, like sailing, require patience, as the best route to one’s destination is often not the quickest.

I knew from past moves to new cities, the perfect yoga, Ayurveda, and writing opportunities would arise, if I was patient and persistent. Prior experiences showed me where the heart guides, God provides. In sailing, when the boat and sails are aligned just right, movement is effortless. Similarly, by being aligned with the right forces during change, one moves forward to their intended destination with ease.

Complimenting tenacity is tenderness. Besides compassion, tenderness means having a yielding texture. In sailing, to yield is to surrender to conditions you can’t control, like wind and water currents. One tacks to be in the best position, so the natural force of the wind moves the boat along the desired course.

Like sailing, life is not a linear course. Changes in towns, careers, and relationships invite us to tack – to change direction. Any life change is easier when it’s approached from the heart and navigated with tenacity and tenderness.

Yoga’s three basic warrior poses connect me to the traits of tenacity and tenderness. They open the heart center – the home of divine intelligence. The heart is the most reliable compass to navigate any life change.

When I go into Warrior I with arms up and hips forward, I feel strong and confident to move forward. My heart feels tenacious. Transitioning into Warrior II, my arms lower and shoulders soften. I surrender the conditions I can’t control. My heart feels tender, yielding to divine possibilities.

Then I move into Warrior III, also called Hero Balance. I feel the perfect balance of tenacity and tenderness in my body, mind, and spirit. With hands at the heart center, I reaffirm the heart is the truest navigator in life.

I’m thankful my dead reckoning brought me to Santa Barbara. From the moment I arrived, I’ve been embraced and supported. Many doors have opened regarding yoga, Ayurveda, and writing. Welcome mats have appeared at yoga studios, colleges, and blogs.

If you are experiencing a major life change, trust your gifts of tenacity and tenderness to move you forward with clarity, grace, and ease.

Be tenacious. Be yielding.

Be tender. Be wielding.

Bon voyage to exciting adventures and cozy harbors.

Happy Holidays and Healthy Digestion

Festive Digestive Ayurvedic Tips

The holidays are right around the corner. It’s a time of family gatherings, office parties, and if you are traveling, eating on the road.

Everyone enjoys eating sumptuous feasts and traditional family recipes; however, no one likes the digestive issues that flare up during the holidays.

Changes in meal schedules and overeating are two common causes of indigestion. Between Thanksgiving and New Years, due to busy schedules and vacation travels, meal routines often become irregular.

Tempted by delicious and abundant treats, folks tend to over indulge in favorite foods. There is also a tendency to over snack, as holiday open houses and Christmas cocktail hours fill the calendar.

The next thing you know, the pants are a belt loop too tight, making you feel like a overstuffed butterball. Indigestion, burping, heartburn, bloating, and acid reflux roll into town like the Grinch who stole Christmas.

Balanced Digestion is the Main Course to Health

Healthy digestion is key to vitality and immunity. When the digestive system is stressed, metabolism, energy levels, mood swings, and sleep patterns are all disrupted. According to Ayurveda, signs of healthy agni (digestive fire) include: ample energy levels, regular elimination, healthy skin, glowing complexion, fresh breath, toned muscles, strong bones, mental clarity, and a positive and relaxed attitude.

When digestion is off, the body can’t process and assimilate the nutrients from food in a proper way. Also, the waste products of food are not properly eliminated, causing a build-up of toxins (ama) in the G.I. tract. Signs of imbalanced digestion include: lethargy after meals, chronic constipation or diarrhea, skin rashes, dull complexion, foul breath, body odor, mental fogginess, and a negative or anxious attitude.

A balanced digestive fire allows one to fully enjoy the delicious foods and treats of the holidays. It also makes time spent with family and friends much more pleasurable. This year, experience Thanksgiving and the December holidays from a balanced state. Learn how Ayurveda can help make this special season a festive digestive celebration as well.

Ayurveda and Digestion

Ayurveda offers simple ways to balance digestion. The three doshas (vata, pitta, kapha) each play an important role in the digestive process.

Vata dosha governs movement in the digestive and intestinal tract. When movement is regular and rhythmic, appetite, digestion and elimination are regular.

Pitta is the transformational force, in the form of the digestive fire and enzymes. Its qualities of hot, sharp, and oily help kindle the digestive fire at the proper level, where food is transformed into nourishment and waste products are eliminated. Just like a campfire must burn at the proper heat and rate in order to provide energy in the form of light and warmth, so must pitta in the digestive system.

Kapha dosha and its cool, liquid, and stable nature, protects the delicate tissue membrane in the stomach and digestive tract. The smooth and liquid qualities of kapha allow for food to move smoothly through the intestinal tract.

If any of the doshas in the digestive system become stressed due to factors like erratic eating habits, improper food combining, or overeating, digestion issues will occur. If left unattended, chronic digestive issues like ulcers, colitis, IBS, and malabsorption can occur. So, it’s vital to health to know how to maintain balance in each of the doshas as they relate to digestion.

Bringing the Doshas Back on Tract

From a nationwide survey by the National Heartburn Alliance, two out of three people experience stress in the G.I. tract at some point between Thanksgiving and New Years.

Each dosha is affected in a different way, by stress on the digestive system. So, I’ve listed each dosha and how it tends to become upset. Then I’ve offered three simple remedies using a lifestyle meal modification, a food as medicine, and an Ayurvedic herbal remedy.

Vata Remedies

When meal schedules become irregular, vata becomes increased and issues like burping, bloating, and constipation occur.

  1. Eating meals on a regular schedule is the most important factor to maintaining vata’s role in digestion. If you’re going to an after-work party or holiday luncheon, eat your other two meals at a regular time. Favoring healthy foods at those meals will support digestion by conserving your digestive fuel for the party food.
  2. Serve up an Ayurvedic digest-aid hors d’oeuvre a half hour before mealtime. On a teaspoon, put ½ tsp fresh chopped ginger and add the juice of small wedge of lime. Sprinkle a dash of salt over ginger. Drizzle a bit of honey to help the medicine go down. This tasty treat supports balanced digestion and kindles the digestive fire.
  3. To help support digestion and maintain regularity after office parties or road trip meals, drink a cup of organic Vata Tea. The spices in this tea balance and calm digestion. They are easy to tote around with you, ready to use at the drop of a tea bag.

Pitta Remedies

Indulging in one too many holiday libations and eating a lot of oily, sweet, sour, and rich foods causes the digestive fire to burst into intense flames. Also, stress increases stomach acidity. Holiday road trips, last minute shopping, and a houseful of relatives can create extra stress and acids in the stomach. Keep your stomach and liver merry and light this holiday by following these pitta-pacifying tips.

  1. Moderate cocktail consumption. Red wines and dark liquors especially aggravate pitta in the stomach and liver. Favor wine spritzers or cocktails made with clear alcohol and generous amounts of water and fresh lime.
  2. After meals, brew a fennel tea or eat a ½ tsp of fennel seeds. Fennel is cooling and helps with nausea and indigestion, should one overdose on appetizers and gingerbread men.
  3. One of the best reliefs for occasional heartburn and acid indigestion is the Maharishi Ayurveda formula,Aci-Balance. It’s a must-have on the holiday shopping list!

Kapha Remedies

Excess carbs, sweets, meats, and cheese, will stress the digestive fire and create heaviness and lethargy. Metabolism slows down. Too many kapha foods during the holidays can cause one to gain the festive five.

  1. Stuff the stockings, not your stomach. Minimize sweets and heavy foods, especially at night, as 6-10 pm is associated with kapha dosha. After a heavy meal or an appetizer-munching marathon, take a 20 minute walk at a moderate pace. This helps boost metabolism and avoids holiday weight gain.
  2. Tis the season, for seasoning with kapha pacifying spices. They help balance kapha increasing foods. For savory dishes like stuffing, mashed potatoes, and casseroles, use generous amounts of black pepper, cumin, and rosemary. For sweet dishes and desserts, use cinnamon, cardamom, clove, dried ginger, and nutmeg.
  3. There is an Organic Kapha Spice Mix that makes spicing up holiday foods super easy. Order it here under gourmet foods and receive a savings of 10 percent. This flavorful mix can be sprinkled on prepared dishes as well. Tuck a small vial in your purse and have access to a digestive aid at any party.

All Is Calm, All Is Right

This holiday, as you celebrate the season of lights, remember your digestive fire. As you pause to light a Christmas tree, advent wreath, menorah, kwanza candle, or the Yule log, remember to kindle your agni as well. Integrate some Ayurvedic home remedies and give yourself the gift of healthy digestion. It comes with a lifetime guarantee of good health and cheer.