My Ayurvedic Journey
When diet is wrong medicine is of no use. When diet is correct medicine is of no need. ~Ayurvedic Proverb
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In August 2007 I made my way to the Chopra Center in Southern California. I knew I needed to do something to change my life and a voice deep inside me kept whispering “Panchakarma.” It was strange to hear Sanskrit whispered in my head but I continued to hear it over and over, so that summer I decided it was time to move forward and do Panchakarma.
I wanted to go to India, but a message given to Stephanie Tarr, our Reiki practitioner, said I could travel to India…but The Chopra Center would be a better choice for me now. So Chopra it was.
Panchakarma means five actions. It is the Ayurvedic practice of deeply cleansing yourself in a physical, emotional and spiritual way. I knew I needed this deep cleanse. Since 2002 I had been planning breathe books, opened in 2004 and worked seven days (and many nights!) a week creating the business. While this brought me great joy, it also took its toll. I was more exhausted than I had ever been.
While I continued practicing yoga and meditation, my weight was creeping up and I actually felt that something sticky was inside me preventing me from receiving nutrition. Preventing me from feeling satisfied. This manifested not only physically, but emotionally as well. I felt blocked, cluttered, crowded, overwhelmed. For me, Panchakarma seemed to be the answer for how to get unblocked. Little did I know that this message was going to change my life.
What is Ayurveda?
This ancient medical system was created in India over 5000 years ago. Much like Chinese medicine, Ayurveda looked to the world surrounding us and found a correlation to each element within us. Space, Air, Fire, Water, Earth. We are created from the same elements as the earth. The great Ayurvedic teachers clearly saw that when we are in harmony with the elements, we are balanced, healthy, happy and productive.
But we are often out of balance, not moving in concert with our surroundings. Ayurveda gently brings us back into harmony by establishing balance in our mind/body constitution. Through food, exercise, meditation, and detoxifying practices, we come back to ourselves and establish perfect health.
Some Sanskrit is necessary to further explain. The five elements are the Maha Bhutas: Akash (space); Vayu (air); Tejas (fire); Jala (water); Prithivi (earth).
We are made up of a combination of these Maha Bhutas. These are called Doshas. Vata Dosha is akash and vayu. Pitta dosha is tejas and jala. Kapha dosha is jala and prithivi. Vata is dry and moves fast. Pitta is fiery and hot; Kapha is earthy and slow.
We are all made up from all three Doshas, but one or two usually predominate at certain times in our life.
We are born in a natural state of balance, which is called prakriti (also seen as prakruti). Prakriti is made up of the emotional, physical and spiritual state of our parents and our surroundings — probably with a bit of Karma thrown in. Pretty much from our first breath, we enter into a state imbalance, which is called our vikruti. Ayurveda helps us find our way back to our prakruti.
The Journey Continues
I had lost my prakruti and was deeply settled into my vikruti. I am Kapha. But I was Kapha out of balance, which showed up most noticeably in my weight. I went to the Chopra Center to create space in my life, physically and emotionally.
My week at the Chopra Center took me so deeply into myself. I discovered how tired I was. How much I needed rest. And I let it be. And I began to let go. The different Panchakarma therapies are designed to release toxins from the body and mind. The first few days are exhausting as your body begins to release. The Ayurvedic sessions encourage you to let go by using several different methods: abhyanga (saturating oil massages); steams; herbal scrubs; sound therapy; sirodhara (warm oil poured onto the forehead in a continuous stream); marma therapy (light touch on specific areas of the body); and basti (herbal enemas).
After a week of treatments and classes I went home in an altered state. I felt a deeply profound shift had occurred and I was going to embrace it.
My body and mind felt pristine. I wanted to continue this process so I turned to my favorite bookstore, breathe books! I had a nice little Ayurvedic section including some great cookbooks. I took home a collection and immersed myself. I took the cookbooks to the Indian Market and bought what I needed to create a kitchen that would help me balance my doshas. I bought my oils and herbal supplements to continue the practices I had learned. I read everything I could find on Ayurveda. My mind was so focused, I couldn’t think of anything else. I began to see the world as doshas. The world began to make sense to me.
My results were rapid and encouraging. In less than three months I dropped close to 30 pounds and my cholesterol fell an astonishing 80 points. (To balance my Kapha dosha, I reduced the amount of dairy, wheat and sugar I ate. I added in many new foods including Indian spices, dals, rice, different fruits and veggies. The diet and daily routine are different for each dosha.)
I was so excited by what I was learning that I needed more information, so I attended another Chopra workshop called Journey Into Healing: An Immersion Into Ayurveda.
In this workshop, Drs. David Simon and Deepak Chopra took me to another level of understanding of Ayurveda. And I loved it. I felt I was remembering a past life. It was like I was being reminded. Like I was coming home to knowledge that was deeply ingrained in me and now was the time to remember it. Now I had the time, the money, the skills and desire to remember. And the opportunity was handed to me.
It was at this workshop in November 2007, that I decided to take the Chopra Center’s Teacher Certification program. This supplied me with an organized path of study in addition to all research and reading I was doing on my own.
Over the next few months I lost another 15 pounds and I watched my body take on this new shape I hardly recognized. At 45 years old, my weight had fallen to where it was when I was 18. Mentally I began to slowly shift into this new phase. I still find my mind is catching up to my body. I think when the two meet, I’ll be able to let go of another 15 pounds or so that I would like to say goodbye to! (I’ll add that now – at the age of 51, the weight and cholesterol levels have remained the same!)
I took a year to complete my course work, and after a week of intense study and practice at the Chopra Center in November 2008, I received my certification. I am so unbelievably proud to part of the Chopra Family as a Certified Chopra Instructor.
Where I Am Now
Besides the weight, I found other things in my life that weren’t serving me began to change. I sought out corners of my house where clutter had accumulated over the years and rid myself of the unwanted things. Old clothes, paperwork, items of no use. Gone. I created breathing space. The prana, or chi, was flowing through me and around me. By creating space inside and out, I was encouraging this healthy flow to nourish me. And into that space I created, my soul partner walked in! My husband-to-be, Larry Bohlen, actually walked into breathe books in December, 2008. We were married in September 2010. (In addition, a foster-puppy came in to breathe books with her foster mom in January 2010, and we adopted her! Ella –full name is Ellananda Shakti Weis-Bohlen – joined the happy household! She’s a Pitta puppy for sure!) And Shadow, our lab-boxer mix has joined the family as well!
Since my initial experience with The Chopra Center I have gone to two other Ayurvedic Clinics for Panchakarma. Life Spa (www.lifespa.com) is located in Boulder and run by John Douillard. The Ayurvedic Institute (AyurvedicInstitute.com) in Albuquerque is the U.S. base for Dr. Vasant Lad. Panchakarma continues to be a profound and different experience each time and each clinic has its own benefits. (If you decide to contact The Chopra Center, please use my name to receive a discount or you can contact me to arrange your program!)
While not everyone is able do it, Panchakarma is ideally done twice a year. For me it jump-started my Ayurvedic practice. But there are things you can do right now, right here to begin your journey.
Cooking nutritious food is the backbone of Ayurveda. I was privileged to take a five-day cooking class with my food guru Amadea Morningstar at Kripalu in April 2008 and a week-long intensive at her home in New Mexico in 2009. I learned many Ayurvedic techniques and some beautiful mantras and chants to use while cooking! I recommend Amadea’s book, “The Ayurvedic Cookbook”, and “Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners” to anyone who wants to create an Ayurvedic lifestyle.
We completed our second Ayurvedic Cooking Weekend Retreat with Amadea Morningstar, in March 2011. Over 40 people have come to a beautiful farm house at Fox Haven Learning Center in Frederick, Maryland to learn the art of Ayurveda.
In April 2012 I attended a week-long Pulse Reading Intensive course at the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico, with Dr. Vasant Lad. Pulse reading is an ancient diagnostic tool that is now part of my tool-kit when I work with clients. The pulse can reveal deep-seated imbalances as well as indicate good health and a strong constitution among other subtler indications of health both physical, mental and emotional.
If you would like to learn more, I teach a five-week course called Perfect Health Through Ayurveda — the signature course of the Chopra Center. In these sessions I offer the knowledge you need to help you on your path to creating balance in your life. Each week focuses on a different aspect of your life: healing nutrition for your dosha; clearing emotions, accessing your inner pharmacy; creating a daily routine; and understanding your universal connections to others and the world around you. Included in each class is meditation, pranayama (breathing exercises), and gentle yoga.
I also offer individual Ayurvedic Consultations in which we take an in-depth look at your lifestyle, nutrition, health and emotional well-being and I make recommendations to you based on your Ayurvedic prakriti (natural born constitution) and vikruti (imbalance) to help you restore balance and harmony and bring you to perfect health! The cost is $300 for three sessions and includes a detailed report with nutritional advice and daily routine tools and techniques. Pre-paid consultations are non-refundable. I see clients Monday through Friday in Reisterstown. You can contact me at email@example.com to learn more or set up a session.
There are many resources to learn about Ayurveda. I’ve listed a few here. Please feel free to contact me for more information and to learn about dates for upcoming classes and workshops.
At the bookstore and at cooking classes, we offer a wide variety of Ayurvedic products including: books; DVDs; ghee, herbs; skin care; nasya oil; neti pots; abhyanga oil; tea; raw organic honey; Ayurvedic toothpaste; tongue scrappers; garshana gloves; Chyvanprash Amalaki jam, and more. We carry brands from Life Spa, Banyan, Dabur and The Himalayan Institute. I’m always searching for new products, which I first incorporate into my life. Once I see the benefits, I pass it on to you.
breathe books, and now Susan’s Kitchen and Breathe Ayurveda have become a sort of Ayurveda-Central. My life has reached a new level of health and happiness because of Ayurveda. One of my missions is to share this with you.
I wish you a wonderful journey into Ayurveda. Please note, that if you would like me to come teach your group about Ayurveda or meditation, please contact me. I’m able to travel anywhere around the world to teach! It’s my Dharma.
Want to schedule a consult? Read more here!
Happiness Through Ayurveda with Susan Weis-Bohlen: Individual Ayurvedic Consultations
Ayurveda is the 5000-year-old Indian Science of Health and Healing. Learn how to heal yourself through food, daily routine, pranayama, meditation and yoga.
Ayurveda says Food is Medicine.
You can change your life by incorporating Ayurvedic life-style tools and techniques into your daily routine. Even small adjustments can have a huge impact! Let me help you find the way. During a private consultation, we determine your dosha (mind/body constitution) through pulse diagnosis and questions and answers. We’ll take a deep look at your current balance and imbalances, see how your lifestyle works for or against you, and talk about what you can do about it! I work with you to create a plan to restore you to full harmony and balance. You’ll learn how to come back to your natural way of being through food choices and nutrition, daily routine, behavior, exercise, meditation, breath work, career choices, family lifestyle and more.
Cost: $300 for three pre-paid sessions. The first session is 1.5 hours, ($150) follow-up sessions are one hour each ($75 is pre-paid, $80 if not). Additional sessions are $80 an hour. Please call 410-979-2096, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your appointment or to learn more! Clients are seen on Monday through Friday in Reisterstown. Phone, Skype and FaceTime appointments are also available. Pre-paid consultations are non-refundable. Private cooking classes can also be arranged.
In addition, I carry a wide range of Ayurvedic products including herbs, oils, body products, toothpaste, skin care, balms, churnas, spice tins, organic spices for cooking, organic ghee, raw honey and teas, and, of course, many books to support your Ayurvedic lifestyle.
Susan Weis-Bohlen is a Certified Instructor of Ayurveda through the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in California. She has also completed an Ayurvedic Pulse Reading Intensive with Dr. Vasant Lad at the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico. Susan studied and works with Ayurvedic cooking and lifestyle teacher Amadea Morningstar. Susan began practicing Ayurveda in 2007 and lost 50 pounds and lowered her cholesterol by 80 points.
Please visit some of my favorite sites for more detailed information on Ayurveda:
(we sell all the Banyan products, so if you see something you like, let us know and we can get if for you)
- Take your Dosha quiz here!
You may also download a PDF of my Ayurvedic Resource Guide
ABOUT THE PERFECT HEALTH THROUGH AYURVEDA CLASS
The following is a class by class description of the five week program. Interwoven into each class is my personal experience with my Ayurvedic journey as well as things I’ve learned from my students and other ayurvedic practitioners and teachers.
Visit this page on the Chopra website to learn more about Perfect Health.
The Perfect Health course offers a five-step exploration of mind-body medicine and Ayurveda. The course is designed for the general public who have had little or no previous understanding of these concepts as well as those who want to deepen their knowledge and learn more about incorporating Ayurveda into their daily routine. Each of the five lessons includes instruction in the practical tools and techniques of mind-body medicine that participants can immediately begin using in their daily lives.
Session One: Susan Weis-Bohlen will introduce you to the foundational principles of Ayurveda, meditation, and yoga as well as the three primary mind-body doshas or personalities: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Through an in-depth questionnaire and analysis, you’ll discover your own dosha type.
Session Two: In this session on “Food as Medicine,” you will learn how to select the most nourishing foods for your mind-body type. Susan will also guide you in Ayurvedic nutritional practices that will help you maintain vibrant health, appropriate weight, and optimized digestion.
Session Three: This session focuses on the tools and practices of rejuvenation and renewal. You’ll learn how to identify and eliminate toxins that accumulate in the mind and body. In addition, you will be guided in gentle rejuvenating practices, holistic techniques to relieve stress and anxiety, a personal daily routine for balance and health, and the secrets of restful sleep.
Session Four: Today you will learn why emotional freedom is the key to our physical, mental, and emotional health. Susan will teach you the practice of conscious communication, which can transform your relationships and help you experience more intimacy and joy in your life.
Session Five: The final session delves into the healing power of the five senses: sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell. You’ll learn how to strengthen the body’s inner pharmacy by using specific tools that use each of the senses to heal, nourish, and balance your mind-body.
What’s your Dosha? http://doshaquiz.chopra.com/
Cost: $495 includes all materials and foods.