Interview with Kimmana Nichols, co-founder of ThaiVedic Yoga

Last weekend I attended an introductive workshop with Barbra Noh and Kimmana Nichols about the holistic system of ThaiVedic Yoga. Talking about the five elements and the importance of the Doshas, we learned how to treat lower back pain implementing those concepts.

ThaiVedic Yoga is a concept helping to create a healthier lifestyle where diseases are treated in the root so the body can heal itself. As an holistic therapy it combines yoga, bodywork, Thai massage and Ayurveda.

Luckily I was able to get an interview with Kimmana afterwards where we talked about the holistic system, bodywork and Ayurveda and ended up talking about the influence of the moon and the Samkhya philosophy of Prakruti and Purusha. I hope you enjoy to read it!

To read more about the experience about the workshop itself, please check out my article on German Yoga Aktuell.

ThaiVedic Yoga2

You told us that you met Barbra on a beach in Goa and knew you wanted to work together. When did Sebastian join the team?

Sebastian and I were working together originally before I met Barbra and ThaiVedic Yoga started as ThaiVedic Bodywork. He approached me with the idea of ThaiVedic in the beginning, then Barbra and I joined in to just work together with Ayurveda and Yoga. And then after Barbra and I have been working together in two different retreats we felt like we should bring this into ThaiVedic Bodywork and create ThaiVedic Yoga.

Created in 2012, has the ThaiVedic Yoga system developed?

Actually Sebastian and I started working already in 2011. And yes, it has been continuously developing for sure. So far we have done ThaiVedic Bodywork for I think seven times, no actually nine times already. And then the other parts were piecing together.

You said in the workshop that you´d prefer the word ThaiYoga instead of Thai Massage. What is the difference to Bodywork if any?

Bodywork generally seems to go more into the therapy direction. Most of the time when people say bodywork they are very much going towards the therapy aspect. Sometimes when they say massage they are going more towards relaxation or pleasure based. But really – they could be used interchangeably.

What are next steps and future projects?

There are many future projects that I´m involved in. If I just keep it to ThaiVedic Yoga: we are developing first an 200 hours training which is the holistic yoga therapist bringing together touch and self-healing therapies to guide someone to heal at home and then once we developed the 200 hours we are going to have additional 300 hours of curriculum where were are teaching to do substance therapy, herbal medicine and Panchakarma – the Ayurvedic detox system. We go a lot more into energy- and meridian systems. It will be a full holistic healing system within 500 hours. But that´s just the ThaiVedic Yoga project. That´s what I´m doing with Barbra and Sebastian. There are lots of other things I could go into. From my families´ vitality now retreat centre where we do things in Australia – we lead a cleansing retreat centre there every year – to being Indonesians largest portal for connecting health and healing within Indonesia. It is a website that connects Indonesians together whether it is a health food store or a massage therapist. Indonesia didn’t have anything to bring those people together so my wife, who is Indonesian, and I are quite passionate about educating Indonesians. Only one generation ago they were very much into herbal medicine, food as medicine and they are sort of losing it now. Unless someone steps in and tries to preserves that, it easily could be lost. So we are doing that as well.

Besides the trainings and book recommendations as shown on the homepage ThaiVedic Yoga – how can people inform themselves about your concept? I believe you said there are already some videos on YouTube. Will you publish a book as well?

There are a quite a few ways. We have the different websites where you can see the things we do. ThaiVedic Yoga is one. Ayuravedateachertraining, balancelife, Kimmana, Barbra Noh. As it has already been said, there are the YouTube channels. There is one for where I´m doing things that are more for one-on-one healing, clients who want to learn to heal themselves and regarding ThaiVedic Yoga at the moment most of the videos are bodywork based. Sebastian Bruno being in most of the videos and in the future there will also be videos with yoga sequences. We are also going to create text books that will go with the school. At the moment we have got manuals for each one of the modules so just in the 200 hours course there is a level 1, 2, 3 yoga therapist manual and a level 1, 2, 3 bodywork manual.

And will there be a book for the wider public, something more general and simple?

Most of the things I write are more on a higher level therapist basis and my wife continuously writes things on a simpler basis. For the general public just wanting to learn for themselves I would recommend and and now Instagram (wholistic_balance) also. There my wife is realizing just simple tips that actually one day might be put together into a book for the public.

A workshop just gives a glimpse of all the system, It is too short to pass over all the knowledge. What would you like your students to remember? What´s the main message you wanted to transport?

The most important thing I would say is the Ayurvedic system of the five elements. Just to take a look at life through the eyes of the five elements. So the students see everything with shades of these elements. Because it drops out of the German mind-set if something is good or bad. Nothing is good or bad in Ayurveda when we look through it through the colours of the elements. Everything has a place within the big picture of life. It is just about the time, the season, the place, the individual. When we see life like that, we stop judging things. We stop to create separation thinking ´oh this is bad – I have to move away from it´. We create more connection with everything. It’s a language of seeing the world, where we start to see the connection between us and our environment a lot more. That would be the number one thing.

Ayurveda has this easy language which can be used for many – if not all – aspects of life you taught us during the workshop. I read on your homepage that its considered to be the best healing system in third world countries but still it is not so popular as it should be. What do you think are the reasons for this?

Yes, the world health organization said that it is one of the most useful healing systems within the third world. I would say the number one reason why Ayurveda hasn´t taken off all around the world would be that it is something that takes us to step outside our normal western mind-set of good and bad. We generally like to judge ´oh, this is good or that is bad´ and this sort of simplifies life. If we know what is supposed to be good and what is bad, we don’t need to think anymore. We don’t have to stay in the present moment and think what – right now – would be best. And to do this always takes more time. So if we look how Ayurveda medicine is practiced around the world, the doctor needs time. This is not compatible with the western medicine:. they keep shortening the time for consultation. Like here in Germany as an example, if you are in a hospital the doctor can´t have a long session, he is not legally allowed to. He cannot spend an hour with you, it is against the law. He has to do the session in a smaller period of time and you cannot do Ayurveda with short time. You have to ask questions. You have to be in the present moment. The second reason would be that people themselves have to take responsibilities for their health. And then a lot of people don’t necessarily want to go ´oh, this is what I need to do, I need to change my lifestyle, my diet´. Most people would just say that they prefer to take a pill and continue their lifestyle. It is basically that, time for the therapist and self-commitment.

Though in the end changing your lifestyle would mean saving time as one is healthier and wouldn’t need to go to the doctor so often.

That´s right. And if you follow the practices it will really save you money. Although you might think you would lose happiness by maybe not drinking alcohol for a period. They don’t even say not to drink a glass of wine in Ayurveda, they use alcohol but at the right time. It is used in a certain season; it is not good or bad. People noticed that if they stick to some practices they are even more happier, they are healthier, they got a longer life, more time and more energy.

I agree, it is like what you told us during the classes: the only thing habit people – getting a hundred years old – are sharing that they all go to bed before 10 pm. Some of them are vegans, others eating meat or drinking alcohol. You also told us that diseases could easily be healed or even prevented if known in a certain stage but in western countries illness might only be recognized at a later stage. Living in such an environment, what can people do apart from working on their self-awareness and learning about their individual body´s needs?

In the beginning, the most important thing to create self-awareness is actually to learn from a good teacher. Because if we are a bit numb towards the clues and signs our body shows us, it is very difficult to define that in a short period of time. For me, to show one person how to do it, it takes me an hour and a half. To explain this sign means this for you. And those signs are different for each person. So its spending time with someone who´s experienced and willing to educate you. And this is really important.

But in your daily routine, there is usually not such a person or even if you go to one of the 200 hours’ teacher trainings, I imagine there won´t be enough time.

Exactly. And it must be one-on-one. And finding a practitioner, not only a Ayurvedic practitioner, but a practitioner who is willing to educate. Not even all Ayurvedic practitioners are going to show you how to heal yourself, they are just going to prescribe you an herb. Or say eat this and don’t eat that. But as we start to learn about Ayurveda, the first thing we are looking at are the qualities. The qualities of each one of the Doshas. As an example, if there is dryness, anywhere on the body, its showing that there is Vata aggregated. It is an early sign that is much earlier than insomnia which might be stage three or something. Or the column deforming which might be stage five to six. So there are six stages of diseases and Ayurveda has signs for each one of them.

Changing the topic: as we are having full moon those days – I assume the water element might get influenced by this? Would it have impact on Pita and/or Kaptha types? And if so, would it make them rise or have a more positive, balancing effect?

Yes, the full moon energy is increasing Kapha. The new moon energy is peak of Vata. So it is when it goes to a black moon it is where the Vata peaks. But the transition periods – cause Vata is also about change – is also Vata. As we are rising towards the full moon, this is a growth period and there is also more happening. Wherever we are in the world, when its rising to full moon, more people are gathering together. It is the reason why I picked this date for our workshop. We did this event now as energy is rising. And a rising moon towards the full moon is rising the energy.

And last I would like you to explain a bit further the concept about Prakruti and Vikruti. In case one want to make an online self-test – how would I know that the test relates to Prakruti, my constitution, or Vikruti, my current state of being.

The self-test should be designed to be testing one or the other. Prakruti is our constitution since birth and the test should be designed to have questions relating to the constitution. So if it is not indicated, it is probably that. It is generally Prakruti, you should answer what you have been doing throughout your life, especially during childhood, whereas a Vikruti test will ask you what you have been doing in the last week, what has been happening presently in your life. And the questions should be designed already moving into this direction.

And defining Prakuriti as the body type – our constitution we are born with – it is not clear to me how this relates to the Prakruti the Yoga Sutras describe. There it is set in contrast to Purusha, the true self or Seer (Atman) and Prakruti as everything else. I read that Chopra and Patanjali even might have known each other as their concepts and views are quite similar though I would like to understand better the definition of Prakruti as it doesn’t seem congruent. In Ayurveda Prakruti is understood as the potential (of qualities and roots of diseases) we are born with whereas in the sutras it is defined as anything which can be named, the nature itself.

So the Sanskrit word Prakruti what it means in its simple sense is nature. What is the nature of something? In the sense of what he, Patanjali, is talking about, it means the nature of creation. So once something starts to have a form, it has a nature. It has certain qualities and characteristics.

So in this case it is actually reflecting two different concepts?

Yes, in Ayurveda we are talking about the Dosha Prakruti. So we are talking about the nature of your possible defects. Things that could go out of balance. We are talking about the body in Ayurveda. When we are talking about Prakruti without Dosha we are not talking about defects, we are talking about the nature of creation. If we look at that, it originally comes from Samkhya philosophy. The concepts of Prakruti and Purusha are the top qualities of creation in the Samkhya philosophy, an even older philosophy than Patanjali. Purusha: absolut, formless, eternal, pure, consciousness. Prakurti: the nature of creation. And Prakurit, the nature of creation, splits in three parts. Its nature is Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Concepts I was talking about within the class. So that will split apart and they will join together and create another, I think it is like 25 or 27 different parts. So it is about how does it form into a body. And the body and the five elements and the Doshas have a vast part of this 25 or 27 parts they come down and create a body in the end – and that is the Dosha Prakruti.

Many thanks for your explanation and your time.

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