Yoga and Ayurveda Go Prime Time

Photo Courtesy of AMC

You can’t have drama without conflict, which means that a world filled with peace, love, and understanding might not make for very exciting television. The characters on most prime-time TV shows typically face more challenges in one season than the rest of us (with luck) will encounter in a lifetime. And they rarely seem to handle it well.

What onscreen heroes and heroines need is just a little more balance—even if their plotlines might suffer for it. While we were waiting on tenterhooks for the spring premieres of our favorite shows (Mad Men returns on Sunday, finally!), we asked a few Kripalu Yoga and Ayurveda experts who also enjoy watching TV once in a while (no, these activities are not mutually exclusive!) to offer health- and happiness-enhancing practices for some very stressed-out small-screen personalities.

You might not be the leader of the free world, or living under an assumed name, or fending off multiple suitors, but if there’s something you relate to in these characters, maybe you’ll want to give these practices a try—because we’re pretty sure they’re not going to anytime soon.

President Fitzgerald Grant on Scandal: Running a country is an edge, to say the least. But when you’re also dealing with guilt, grief, and soul conflicts, and you’re in love with someone other than your wife, it’s a miracle if you can even get out of bed in the morning.

“The inner struggle of satisfying duty in life versus what the soul is aching for creates mental, emotional, and physical imbalance,” says Erin Casperson, Dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda.

Erin recommends that Fitz start his mornings with meditation; give himself sesame-oil foot massages to balance excess vata (air and ether qualities); and do a few minutes of journaling at night to release the emotions and events of the day. Surely he could fit that in between declaring war on West Angola and (spoiler alert!) trying to save his girlfriend, Olivia Pope, from being sold on the underground marketplace.

Cyndi Lee, creator of OM Yoga, suggests that Fitz roll up the rug in the Oval Office and practice a few Sun Salutations with Olivia. “If they’re ever really going to be together and have a healthy relationship, it would be good for them to do some practice together,” she says. Of course, they can’t be in the same room without either fighting or passionately making up, so Sun Salutation would probably be low on their list for quality-time activities.

Emily Thorne on Revenge: The title of this show says it all. Emily’s reason for being is to wreak havoc on the lives of the people responsible for her father’s death and all kinds of other really bad things.

“Spending more time out in nature, by the water, would help soothe and quiet Emily’s vengeful ways,” says Sudha Carolyn Lundeen, a faculty member for the Kripalu Schools of Yoga and Ayurveda. Sudha recommends that Emily do a daily walking meditation by the ocean, quieting her active, plotting mind by focusing on her feet. Luckily, Emily has a gorgeous beach house in the Hamptons, so she could probably work that into her routine, maybe after her daily session of mooning over her father’s photo.

Diet also plays a big part in balancing the doshas, so Emily should eat cooling foods such as cucumbers and watermelon, Sudha says. (Have you ever seen her actually eat anything, or even take a sip of the drinks she carries around at cocktail parties?) As for yoga practice, since Emily is in peak condition (she trained in martial arts with a Japanese master to prepare for her revenge-related activities), she could try giving only 70 or 80 percent effort, in order to “back away from the intensity in every other part of her life,” Sudha says.

Walter White on Breaking Bad: Walter’s story has concluded, but his shadow is a long one, both in the public imagination and in the TV industry itself. We’re all thinking about him again these days with the recent debut of the prequel-of-sorts Better Call Saul, following the adventures of Walter’s crooked lawyer.

Psychologists would have plenty to say about Walter’s journey from mild-mannered chemistry teacher to meth-cooking monster, but yoga teacher Amy Ippoliti believes that one of his biggest issues is his sense of isolation. “Walter seemed so alone in his battles,” Amy says. “If he realized that he’s in it with everybody else, he would trust the people around him to step up and support him.”

Amy recommends that Walter attend yoga class regularly and go on group retreats, including one focused on AcroYoga, in which partners support each other in airborne postures. “His prescription is to do yoga in community and be accountable to others,” she says. Alignment-based vinyasa yoga would be a good fit for Walter, she says, appealing to his scientific nature but also allowing him to experience flow. Imagine the “one who knocks” becoming the one who chants Om. As if.

Don Draper on Mad Men: Don is scarred by his abusive childhood and haunted by his life choices, and his chosen career doesn’t help. All those years of smoking, drinking, cheating, and steak-eating have resulted in a totally imbalanced constitution; according to Ayurveda, he’s constantly stoking his pitta (fire and water qualities), which shows up as anger, frustration, and competitiveness.

“Replacing scotch with coconut water and cigarettes with Nadi Shodhana (Alternate-Nostril Breath) could bring balance to the excess mental pitta being expressed through Don’s interactions,” Erin says. Maybe Megan could start watering down the bottles at home, and Joan could bring him kale and quinoa salad for lunch. (Did kale and quinoa even exist in the ‘60s?)

Mary Crawley on Downton Abbey: Sudha says that the eldest Crawley daughter in this BBC series, now set in the 1920s, has a strong, focused mind (qualities of pitta) balanced by a steadiness and stability typical of kapha (water and earth). (She’s unflappable in a flappers’ world.) But she can also be overly controlling and emotionally cold; witness her callous treatment of one suitor after another.

“She needs more playfulness and more physical activity, something other than croquet, to reconnect her with her body and support her sensuality, ” says Sudha, who recommends outdoor exercise like brisk walks and horseback riding (but no more sidesaddle—too demure). Mary’s grandmother, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, would probably disagree, at least when it comes to Mary’s illicit activities with her aforementioned suitors.

If your life sometimes feels like nighttime drama, you might want to try a private Ayurvedic consultation to get personalized advice on bringing more balance into your days. In the meantime … Ladies and gentlemen, start your DVRs!

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