Folks carried notebooks and wore their sun hats and sunny eyes on their way to the back of the farm. It's a grounding journey toward the workshop space because you get a chance to greet the plant life and gently acquaint yourself before joining the others underneath the canopy. Every body had found a place on the mats in the shade so we began with a Tulsi tea meditation. Anjali, the Ayurvedic practitioner and teacher leading this workshop, sat beside three potted Tulsi plants as her beautiful Australian Shepherd pup named Danger chowed on treats at her feet. She invited us to enjoy our tea while engaging our five senses. “How does the Tulsi tea look underneath the canopy?” Anjali prompted. To me, Tulsi has a bright, stimulating scent that intermingled with the sweetness of the summer blooms. We each savored the way Tulsi tastes on our tongues and the way the tea mug felt in our hands. “Can you trace the tea as you swallow it? Does the warmth spread into your center?” A hush swept through the back of the farm. I became settled into my body and into the late morning haze. I was appreciating the community we had gathered that much more.
With Tulsi in our bodies, we were further introduced to her as Holy Basil or the Godmother plant. Its well-known for its myriad medicinal properties and has been revered for thousands of years as a beneficent being that helps soothe, heal, and revive. A few people shared that they felt more awake and alert, and I agreed! It went down very warmly and lit up my awareness. Speaking to its potent history, Anjali noted that in the past Tulsi would be the single thing buried with a deceased loved one. What an impact Tulsi has had on people’s lives. Such respect for herbal medicine is foundational to Ayurveda, and is what brought people to the farm.
Ayurveda is the traditional Hindu system of medicine meaning “life wisdom” in Sanskrit and based on the principle of balance in bodily systems. Ayurveda and Yoga are mutually supportive as they were developed alongside each other. I was also interested to learn that Ayurveda is the health science that the Buddha practiced, and diffused in his lifetime. The basics that we covered only scratched the surface, and stimulated lots of resonance and affirmation in the group.
These are the five elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. And, these are the three doshas, or constitutions that the elements create: ether + space = vata; fire + water = pitta; water + earth = kapha. Each dosha has corresponding qualities that are expressed in the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of our being. All of us have some form of vata, pitta, and kapha within us, yet most of us are dominant in one or two doshas which inform everything from our digestion to our emotions.
Based on the questionnaire Anjali brought us, we were able to identify our doshas and begin understanding how to balance them. Mainly, Anjali elaborated the sorts of foods and habits that tend to imbalance the doshas. For example, pitta dominant folks may be attracted to hot, oily, spicy foods in times of stress. In order to balance this already firey constitution, a cooler plant-based meal is the soothing option. I feel as though Anjali created a supportive setting for us to explore how our constitutions are balanced/imbalanced. Her integrative and trauma-informed perspective of Ayurveda made these practices accessible to our group of mostly women of color.
The middle way philosophy, and the principle of balance and moderation in our daily lives has stuck with me in a firm way. Moderation is a generalizable wisdom that my dad has preached all my life (he is a Libra if that means anything to you) and I have taken to that as guidance when I feel lost or ungrounded. Learning about Ayurveda has sparked an excitement for me to get to know this system more intimately. Anjali’s compassion-based approach made this rich, vast practice not just approachable but totally enticing. I am a believer in all holistic health practices and for the autonomy of everyone to live as their most full selves. And I felt held in the workshop space in the truth that even in our imbalance, we have the tools to come back into alignment with what will serve our unique vessels.
–– Anna Saucedo, Farm Documentarian