Yoga, Ayurveda, and Creativity

Yoga, Ayurveda, and Creativity

Based on the new book Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi ©2012 by Brian Leaf.  Published with permission of New World Library

I’m thinking of new ideas all the time. So much so that sometimes I can get spun out and exhausted. My wife, on the other hand, has a much easier time staying grounded and pacing her energy.  Though she’s not quite as quick with new ideas.

Ayurveda, the 5000-year-old medical system from India, often called the sister science of yoga, has a lot to say about my wife and me. According to Ayurveda, there are different types of people, and these different types have different strengths, challenges, and needs.

Ayurveda identifies three primary tendencies within people, called vata, pitta, and kapha. Vata is the energy of air; pitta is the energy of fire; and kapha is the energy of water and earth.

A person, like me, with a constitution dominant in vata will have airy qualities (creative, quick, possibly anxious). A person with a constitution dominant in pitta will have fiery qualities (intense, focused, possibly overly critical). A person, like my wife, with a constitution dominant in kapha will have earthy qualities (steadfast, grounded, possibly stuck).

A vata person will be well endowed in the creativity department. New ideas and creative solutions flow freely for such a person. Their challenge, like mine, is to stay grounded and not get spun-out and exhausted from too many creative ideas. We have to make sure to see our ideas through and not lose steam half way through a project. By calming our vata, we can be wildly creative but also focused and steadfast.

A pitta person will be incisive and intelligent, often set on a fixed course of action and less open to creativity and new ideas. Surgeons are usually pitta individuals. They are confident, focused, and intense. A pitta person can retain their great focus, but bring in more creativity and tolerance of new ideas by soothing their pitta.

A kapha person, like my wife, usually has terrific endurance and resolve. She easily stays grounded, but creativity does not flow as freely. She may sometimes feel stuck and blocked up. By soothing her kapha and increasing her vata, she can harness her tremendous strength and resolve, while also tapping her latent creativity.

So how can you effect this change in yourself? First you must identify your Ayurvedic constitution. To determine whether vata, pitta, or kapha predominates your constitution, take the following short quiz.

1. Under stress, I become __________.
A. scattered and anxious         B. focused and angry              C. stuck

2. When I’m hungry, I get __________.
A. scattered and anxious         B. angry                                  C. depressed

3. I hate to feel _________.
A. too cold                              B. too hot                                C. too wet

4. My biggest psychological struggles involve __________.
A. anxiety                   B. being judgmental, irritation, anger C. feeling stuck

5. When I have digestive problems, they involve ___________.
A. intestinal gas and bloating  B. heartburn
C. slow digestion, feeling stuck

6. When I get sick, I feel ___________.
A. Worried, fried, constipated.           B. Fevers, skin rashes, diarrhea.        
C. Congested, stagnant, blocked up.

Count the number of As, Bs, and C’s in your answers.
Mostly A’s indicate vata, mostly B’s pitta, and mostly C’s kapha.
Now to bring balance and increased creativity. For your particular predominance (vata, pitta, or kapha), choose three of the six items listed below and follow them for at least a week and see what happens. You’ll probably feel a whole new level of health, vitality, and creativity. Let us know how it goes at

If the six question survey shows a predominance of Vata:

1. Keep warm, and wear soft, comfortable clothing. Make your bed into a soft, comfy haven.

2. Eat mostly cooked foods and use a bit of spice. Eat at a table, in a relaxed setting, not on the go or at your desk.

3. Keep a regular routine, and look over your schedule at the beginning of each day, so your mind can relax and know what’s coming.

4. Practice gentle forms of exercise.

5. Spend quiet time in nature, ideally near a lake or gently flowing stream. Sit under a tree.

6. Avoid or cut back on caffeine, wheat, sugar, and processed foods.

 If the six question survey shows a predominance of Pitta:

1. Keep cool. Get lots of fresh air, but avoid too much direct sun. Take evening walks in the moonlight. The moon is very soothing to pitta.

2. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

3. Avoid very spicy, very salty, and very oily foods.

4. Watch your tendency toward perfectionism, competition, and intensity. Bring in softness and love.

5. Express your feelings in constructive ways. Be gentle on yourself and others.

6. Avoid or cut back on caffeine, wheat, sugar, and processed foods.

 If the six question survey shows a predominance of Kapha:

1. Get lots of vigorous exercise, everyday.

2. Avoid fatty and fried foods. Eat lots of veggies and cook with a bit of spice.

3. Eat less bread.

4. Avoid getting in a rut. Try new things, take challenges, travel.

5. Practice expressing your voice and your feelings and spend some time creating every day. Draw, paint, sculpt, sing, dance, play an instrument, imagine.

6. Avoid or dramatically cut back on wheat, sugar, and processed foods.

Printed with Permission ©2012 by Brian Leaf 

Brian Leaf, M.A. is the author of Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi. He draws upon twenty-one years of intensive study, practice, and teaching of yoga, meditation, and holistic health. Visit him online at

Meet the Yoga Girls.. new paintings!

The Original Yoga Girl
acrylics & mixed media on panel
(c) Deb Chaney 2012 SOLD
This week I thought I'd share my latest little painting series; "Yoga Girl" that all got started while teaching a and demonstrating techiques using thick acrylics and mixed medias at my last Thick, Layered & Encaustic-like Abstract Paintings: How to Build Transparent, Translucent and Opaque layers with Acrylic Mediums

I've been placing these artwork images on facebook over the last few months but I thought it would be nice to showcase them all in one place, here also on my blog. They are also on my website in the Portfolio section entitled Yoga Girl Series:  

So, a bit behind this series and what it means to me... 

After dreaming of it for 10 years I finally signed up and committed to an eight month yoga instructor course. It's with Rizze Yoga Studio here in East Vancouver and led by Lana Marie. Lana teaches quite a number of classes at Open Door Yoga and if you are in the neighbourhood, I highly suggest you experience one of her classes. They are truly the embodiment of somatic style yoga.

Tree Pose Yoga Girl Series
16  x 20" Acrylics & mixed media on panel
(c) Deb Chaney 2012
Original Available

So far this yoga teacher training has been quite a roller coaster and inward journey. Often, when you get into your body somatically a lot of emotions and old stored memories re-surface. It can be quite unfortable and/or even painful to start to feel things we've pushed away for so long so that we did not have to feel them. 

On the upside, the thing about getting moving and sweaty through yoga is that in this process we get the  opportuniy to then process and release a lot of this old stuff and so de-toxificaiton and transformation can occur. Processing emotions is definitly the more challenging part of the journey. However, afterwards you get all the benefits of yoga - which could be a whole blog, if not a book, in itself. To name a few; you feel more joyful, happier, lighter, more flexible, fitter, sleep better, breathe easier, stand up taller, and look better. 
Dancer, Yoga Girl Series
16  x 20" Acrylics & mixed media on panel
(c) Deb Chaney 2012

The fun part and wonderful benefit of this training is connecting with the other beautiful and amazing participants during our intensive weekend sessions. At some point I need to get some pictures of us and some fun and crazy things we've been doing as a group!

Namaste, Yoga Girl Series
16  x 20" Acrylics & mixed media on panel
(c) Deb Chaney 2012
Original Available

 So, to be truly honest, this series of paintings shown here were all created before the yoga teacher training class began. Painting these pieces was my way of  dedicating and getting into to my yoga practice beacause truthfully at the very start of all this ( four months ago now) it was so much easier for me to paint then to make it to a yoga class. So I painted instead of doing yoga. 

Reverse Warrior, Yoga Girl Series
16  x 20" Acrylics & mixed media on panel
(c) Deb Chaney 2012
Original Available

There will be more paintings I'm sure, as there are 6 more in my studio still waiting to be completed. But things have shifted for me and now that I am actually  doing yoga more frequently and embodying the practice much more than at the start, it'll also be interesting to see how the work evolves! Perhaps when the next handful of paintings are completed I'll do another follow up post like this and  we'll see if we can spot any differences!

Dancer in the Snow, Yoga Girl Series
16  x 20" Acrylics & mixed media on panel
(c) Deb Chaney 2012
Original Available

It's funny how people around us see things about us that we don't see because we're in ourselves busy living our lives doing our thing and can't see our own blindspots. This is natural and why it's great to have a few people around that we trust that can point out things we may not have seen. My friend Jeanne Krabbendam, was visiting for tea a few months ago and we were talking about this series of paintings and she commented on there was a separation between the abstract painting and the yoga girls themselves. I realized that at this point in time, my painting and my yoga were two different separate entities. 

My hope and dream with yoga and abstract painting are slowly but surely brought together, unified synergistically within me so I can share these two practices with you in the Illuminate the Artist Within(TM) retreats that are now being offered internationally. 

By the way, if you fall in love with one or more of these Yoga Girl Paintings and aren't able to purchase an original, they are all available as small gift cards ( blank inside), small prints, posters and fridge magnets at To purchase an original you can contact me at or come to my next Open Studio Event during the East End Culture Crawl this November 16, 17 & 18th 2012 at the ARC Live/Work STudios 1701 Powell Street, East Vancouver, BC. If you'd like a reminder for this event, pls subscribe to my free monthly newsletter

Namaste, Deb

One legged Stretch, Yoga Girl Series
16  x 20" Acrylics & mixed media on panel
(c) Deb Chaney 2012
Original Available