If you’ve been a part of the local yoga and wellness community for any length of time there’s one name you’ve definitely heard — Sabine Vera. She has been a mother of sorts to the area’s mindfulness movement, sharing her extensive knowledge of asana (poses) and philosophy with countless practitioners beginning in 1993. 

A massage therapist as well as a yoga instructor, Vera founded Elysian Fields Yoga Center on St. Simons Island, where she taught for twelve years. 

In 2008, she began studying Ayurveda with Jai Dev Singh of the California College of Ayurveda, and K.P. Khalsa of the American Herbalist Guild, Dr. Scott Blossom of Shunyata Yoga, in Berkley California, and Dr. John Duillard, of Lifespa in Boulder, Colorado. Her approach to Ayurvedic cleansing is founded on the works of Dr. Blossom and Dr. Duillard. She believes deeply in a life of alertness and learning.  

What is Ayurveda? What is its origin and how old is it?

Ayurveda is thought of as a sister practice of yoga. Both have their roots in East Indian antiquity, and have remained relevant through the ages. The exact age of Ayurveda is debatable. It’s spoken of as being thousands of years old, but has continuously been verified and refined through success as a source for healing and personal improvement. Plus, modern science is actively rediscovering the truth of this approach, redefining it in culturally familiar context. 

Ayurveda is similar to Chinese medicine in that it uses the five natural elements of earth, air, water, fire, and space (or ether) as a basis for understanding all living tissue and structural responses. It gives us detailed patterning methods to map out each individual person’s strengths and weaknesses so they can choose their ideal dietary direction, their best kind of exercise, and either make adjustments or realize acceptance of what their best home and work life should look like. Ayurvedic assessment is illuminating for everyone and will always offer some kind of combination of adjustment and acceptance, all crowned with the reward of just being you optimized. 

What are the Doshas?

Ayurvedic assessment starts by categorizing what physiological tendencies you were born with and where you fit in among all the varieties that humans come in. These are known as Doshas. They have three basic starting categories: Pitta (fire and air), Kapha (water and earth), and Vata (air and space). No one is just one or the other of these, so the assessment goes on to figure out what combination of those three you are. Then, there are sub-doshas to further refine your understanding. Doshas also define things like the stage of life you’re in and the time of year under consideration. The entire Dosha assessment then progresses to something called Vikriti testing, which is used to understand the nuances of your current condition, and to some degree, how you got there. Then, empowered by detailed knowledge of your uniqueness, you’re ready to move forward with valid ideas for improvement. 

How is an Ayurvedic diet beneficial? 

First of all, Ayurveda understands that digestive health is the absolute basis for all health. It’s the starting point for all restoration and proceeds through informed choices based on your uniqueness. That’s what it’s all about. Once we learn the biological tendencies you were born with and the conditions that have been created within you over time, we can draw parallels and connections, again by using nature’s elements to match you up with foods, methods, and products that are supportive to you. Regarding the current debate over best types of diet —  although Ayurveda does require restraint and a good variety of high quality, fresh foods, as well as eliminating sugary, processed foods, it does not require things like veganism. You learn to know what’s right for you at the right time of your life. Here though, I would make one more point — that as we clarify our bodies and improve our cognitive/emotional strength, it becomes undeniable that we cannot create our best health without active consideration for the benefit of all of life. This life choice can give us deep pleasure and peace of mind that translates directly to digestive health.

How important are cleanses? What does it do for you and how often should you cleanse?

No matter what health disciplines you align with, cleanses are very important. They’re done a minimum of twice a year during spring and fall in order to work within the potency of seasonal transitions. Four times a year is even better. And for more active health concerns, one can cleanse once a month for a shorter period of time. A more accurate descriptor would be cleanse, rebalance, and restore because that’s what actually happens. These cleanses are a non-starvation, mono-diet fast. That means the body is getting just enough protein and nutrients to glide along for anywhere from 5 to 10 days without losing muscle mass. Toxins stored in the liver and body fat are flushed out. Inflammation is reduced. Digestion quiets down and gets much needed rest from its typical daily challenges from things like bad food and bad food combinations, hasty or nervous eating, and stress in general. The food that provides for this in an Ayurvedic cleanse is called Kitchari, a very tasty split lentil, rice, and herb dish that is designed to have a complete nutrient profile while being gentle and healing for the stomach. 

The cleanse I offer starts with three or four days of high- variety, super-healthy, yummy meals. Then a set number of days of Kitchari fasting, finishing with one to three more days of the same type of super-healthy meals you started with. The cleanse protocol also includes herbs for intestinal health, and digestion/metabolic support, plus specific exercise, mind quieting, and body care suggestions. Throughout the process, you’re learning about yourself, as well as new ways to prepare food, how to expand your choices for personal refinement, and where to find support when you need it. After a cleanse is over, digestion is more robust, meaning you not only feel greater comfort, but your body is getting the proper nutrient value from what you eat. You can come away with a greater resolve to follow a smarter dietary lifestyle. And everything that’s good about you is visibly heightened. Your eyes, skin, and hair shine. Your belly and waist are trimmer. Your attitude is great, and you’re proud of yourself for having done it.  

Why is taking care of your body a form of self-love? 

To me, self-love is like waking up. How can we be our best without it? Improvement in bodily health immediately creates clearer emotional and cognitive responses. How does the saying go — “love is a verb?”And I would add that along with love being a verb, it’s also bi-directional. By taking action on behalf of our own well-being, we’re stoking the fires of our capacity to both feel and give love. It’s more of a circle than a straight line, don’t you think? The joy of being your best in order to give your best.