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Oka-Satmya is a Sanskrit term that loosely translates to “that which has become healthy.” Oka-Satmyas are the emotional crutches that may not always be healthy, but after a while our body comes to view them as healthy.
That can be a bit hard to wrap your head around. Healthy but not. Good for you but not? Let me share with you my own personal Oka-Satmya. Cookies. YUM! Even thinking about them evoke a sense of love, compassion, and non-judgement. This is becuase my Grandma was an amazing kind soul, and often showed her love in the form of cookies. No matter your age, the season, or what was going on in the family or in the external world; Grandma’s cookies made everything better. Those cookies were also there for every happy occasion. Her kitchen was a place of safety and joy.
Over the years, cookies started to resemble that safety and joy. They were things that I wanted to consume in moments of happiness and in moments of dejection. Regardless of the emotion, cookies were stable and safe. They didn’t judge, they enhanced the good things, got you through the bad, and why would I ever want to give that up!?
Enter the amazing Vaidya Manohar Palakurthi!
Vaidya Manohar is the Ayurvedic practitioner and professor at Maharishi International University. This esteemed teacher knows how to combine Ayurveda principles with modern day approaches. He quickly understood how important cookies were to me, but also saw that it was time to slowly break the grip of the Oka-Satmya.
A few things to note regarding Oka-Satmyas. They aren’t inherently bad. These are survival strategies that get us through uncomfortable moments in life. Think of these like emotional crutches. Let’s say you sprain an ankle and need crutches. They help you give your ankle some time to recovery, while still allowing you to maintain quality of life. But think about what would happen if your leg healed, and you were still trying to use those crutches? You would burn out the muscles under the arms, and your leg muscles wouldn’t gain the correct muscle tone. Even though the crutches helped weeks earlier, now they aren’t correct tool for your life. That is how several people respond to Oka-Satmyas, they were very helpful as a coping tool during a rough time of life. After a while though, that crutch could actually do more damage, because you are healed up and don’t have a need for it anymore.
That transition can be painful and difficult. It can feel like a part of you is getting ripped away. Like your favorite security blanket is getting donated and no longer at your disposal. This is why you shouldn’t remove the Oka-Satmya immediately. These things take time, love and understanding. Vaidya Manohar saw the need to honor the Oka-Satmya.
Vaidya Manohar saw the need to honor the Oka-Satmya. He came up with a brilliant strategy!
Pranayama is a Sanskrit umbrella term for “breathing exercises”. There are several breathing techniques out there and they are useful in several different contexts. Middle of the afternoon and struggling with a sluggish brain? Try Kapalbhati, this translates to Dragon’s Breath or Breath of Fire. By doing fast rapid diaphragmatic breaths you can wake that sluggish brain right back up. Struggling to stay calm in the middle of a stressful election and COVID-19 filled year? Try Nadi Shodana or alternate nostril breathing. Where you close one nostril off and breath through the other in long and slow breaths and then switch sides. Overheated and dealing with a bunch of Karens? Try Sitali or cooling breath. Roll your tongue, and breath cooled air into the system.
You get the idea, there are tons of great resources out there for different breathing techniques for various needs. But you can bet that I had never heard of Cookie Pranayama before.
Deep breathing fills the senses, the body becomes alive with Prana (life force). Slowly and meditatively breathing in the smell of the cookie; the body has time to relax, the mind unwinds from becoming hyper focused, and the draw of the Oka-Satmya is reduced. Taking time for yourself pulls you out of whatever emotional moment you were having (good or bad) and just lets you enjoy some peace and calm. The body responds to good stress and bad stress in the same way. Taking a few moments of enjoying a favorite calming scent will reduce the need to stuff 5+ cookies in your mouth!
With grace I still have cookies, but if the urge is overwhelmingly strong, I just enjoy some Cookie Pranayama. I get to enjoy the safety, love, and connection to childhood memories without losing myself to the calories. I am slowly weaning off my Cookie highs and am able to get back to just enjoying a cookie. Since its all things in moderation it’s ok that I still have cookies; just not to the amounts I was. And I will be honest, there are times that just smelling the cookies weren’t enough. But in those moments, I am fully sated with one or two cookies. Whereas before I would have eaten the entire tray of cookies and not really tasted any of them.
As we enter into the holiday time frame, cookies and other desserts might be the temptation. Whether it is because you love the holidays and you want to eat your fill to tide you over for the rest of the year. Or whether it is easier to simply stuff a cookie in your mouth so that you don’t have to answer yet another probing slightly inappropriate question from a family member. Cookies, desserts and other Oka-Satmyas may get triggered. Be kind and gentle to yourself, its been a stressful year. If you lean into the temptation, no big deal, just remember there are breathing techniques that can help you out!
How to Perform Cookie Pranayama