Nashalla Nyinda: Tibetan & Asian Medicine in Relationship with Western Biomedicine

The newest episode of our university podcast, ‘MindfulU at Naropa University,’ is out on iTunesStitcher,Fireside, and Spotify now! We are excited to announce this week’s episode features Naropa alumna Nashalla Nyinda (BA Interdisciplinary Studies ’02).

Nashalla Nyinda: Tibetan & Asian Medicine in Relationship with Western Biomedicine

“It’s said in Tibetan medicine that you have to have all five elements plus karma in order to be incarnated at all. So, even to obtain the precious human body you have to have all five elements in karma. So, you’re going to choose certain parents and situations. They’re going to give you some genetic factors that are going to influence your inner elements, and then also the diet and the behavior that your mother has during your pregnancy is going to influence it. The outer environment is going to influence it and then very early on in life–your life situations are also going to influence it. So, family systems, psychology, all of that has an impact on the choices we make. So, somebody could be inherently one type of being, and perhaps their family system either didn’t recognize or support that, and they made a choice in order to compensate on a psychological level.”

Full transcript below.

Nashalla Nyinda began to study Tibetan medicine in 1999. Prior to that she worked with herbs and supplements, and was interested in Taoist 5 Element acupuncture, having received this acupuncture style since she was fifteen. What she discovered quickly was that Tibetan medicine was unique, because it offered an individualized approach to help and nourish your intrinsic health. She encourages each person to learn to use basic Tibetan medicine principles and become an active participant in the healing process. This self-care, self-responsibility in the healing journey is vitally important in order for us all to have the skills to maintain health, re-balance your body, and mind and prevent illness.

Full transcript
Nashalla Nyinda “The Relationship between Tibetan Medicine and Western Biomedicine” [MUSIC] Hello. And welcome to Mindful U at Naropa. A podcast presented by Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. I’m your host, David Devine. And it’s a pleasure to welcome you. Joining the best of Eastern and Western educational traditions – Naropa is the birth place of the modern mindfulness movement. [MUSIC] DAVID: Hello, today I’d like to welcome the Nashalla Nyinda to the podcast. Nashalla is an adjunct faculty member teaching in the Department of Contemplative Psychology at Naropa. She also practices and teaches Tibetan Medicine and acupressure. So welcome to the podcast. NASHALLA: Thank you. DAVID: How are you doing today? NASHALLA: I’m good. DAVID: Yay. So, this might be the first time we get to like do a little bit of idea blending of East meets West in a more medical lens, I guess. So, it’s really fun to like just go there. So, just to get started — I’ve noticed you’re a practitioner of many different modalities — can you just let us know what is the difference of practice between those two — like a Tibetan Medicine, acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine — all that stuff? NASHALLA: Sure. Well let me just give like a background of what Tibetan Medicine is — essentially. So if you go all the way back to ancient Greece, really — and you look at the influences of the three humors — you see that starting to influence the Persian Medicines, the Unani Medicines and then as the people came down into India and they brought that and then that sort of became Ayurveda. So, Ayurveda really had these three humors is often how it’s translated, but really what it does is it goes back to those Greek basic elemental understandings of the body. And then you have to start to consider about the whole Silk Road. So, the Silk Road really kind of went all the way to the East. So, all the way to Mongolia, China, Thailand, Vietnam — the whole thing. So, you have an influence of this animistic, Taoist system and they’re very actually similar to a lot of Tibetan high tantric teachings on the elements. And so, you have this influence of the five elements that you see in Chinese medicine — in a classical sense of Chinese medicine — not what’s modern TCM today, but what was you know original — pre 1959 revolution. So, you have that influence and then you have the influence of Ayurveda and you have this whole Silk Road happening, basically right across Tibet in Upper Mongolia all through the lower part of Russia. So, they also had their own animistic shamanistic system, which was more based on the elements. And then in the seventh century Guru Rinpoche or Padmasambhava — was a great Indian pundit, and he came in and introduced Tibetan Buddhism, but prior to that there were actually two physicians — a male and a female. Some say they were brother and sister. Some say they were a couple like a consort situation. Most historical accounts have them as a brother and a sister. And they kind of studied in what’s known as modern day Pakistan now, at a great university under Atisha actually. Then they went into Tibet and they started doing all of their healing work. And what happened was, of course, the king got word, invited them to the palace and then like you do in the second and the third century — DAVID: Become a royal physician or something. NASHALLA: Yeah exactly, he offered his daughter in marriage to the male because that’s what you did back then. So that sort of began the line (lineage). So that was about all the way back into the second and third century. So, you have this animistic shamanistic system with a little bit of influence of these three humors and then you come into the seventh century and through the eighth century and Buddhism is really established. So, it’s essentially like taking Taoism and the Greek three humors, Persian Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, animistic, shamanistic medicine throwing in the blender and then overlaying it with Buddhist psychology. So that’s Tibetan Medicine. So, I primarily practice Tibetan Medicine. And that’s because that’s what I decided to do — to go in depth. But when I was first introduced to it — it didn’t really exist in the U.S. So, I had to kind of piecemeal it together through these other — DAVID: You had to pave the path. NASHALLA: Yeah, I had to kind of find my way there through these other systems until I could finally just move to India and study. DAVID: Wow super cool. So, I hear you talking about Chinese Medicine having five elements, but Tibetan medicine has four? NASHALLA: Five! DAVID: Five. They do have five? NASHALLA: Yes. DAVID: And I know that Tibetan Medicine uses air and ether and the Chinese don’t. NASHALLA: Yeah, we don’t use ether — that’s an Ayurvedic thing. DAVID: Okay. NASHALLA: They use air, but we translate this as rlung (loong). So as much as I can when I teach, I try and stay with the Tibetan terms. So, wind is a better translation than air. So, it’s like if you think about your inner channels, for example, that you’re working with when you’re doing yoga or meditation — you’re working with your inner winds. So that’s the same thing as saying you’re working with your prana. DAVID: Yeah like the inner climates? NASHALLA: Mm hmm. DAVID: Okay so at the moment you are an adjunct faculty member at Naropa, but you only teach in the fall is what you told me. Can you just tell us what exactly do you teach when you teach? NASHALLA: So, I teach Western Anatomy. And that is a required class for the Yoga Studies. And then it’s an optional class for anybody else that wants to take it. And then I teach Nutrition. So, it’s primarily based in Western Nutrition and understanding the biology of our microbiome and our body and how it functions and how we digest it. But I introduce the concepts of Asian Medicine as an individualized approach to nutrition. Because no two bodies are the same. And so, this concept that we see in the West, of everyone should just eat this and be fine or avoid all of this and be fine doesn’t really work if you look at ancient medicine. So, I’m trying to teach my students how to blend those two things together. DAVID: Understanding that the body reacts to different foods differently because of the person you are and what kind of characteristics you have and I feel like that’s essential because do you feel like that is generically idealized in Western Medicine or that people just come in they have a symptom and there’s like this one cure should fix all sort of approach? NASHALLA: I think it’s due to the fact that Western systems are really interested in categorizing. So, it’s not that we’re not. We certainly have way excessive categorization for foods well beyond what Western does. But, if you’re looking at a substance from a Western point of view — you’re looking at the active compounds and what that does on the cellular tissue, but they’re not taking into account the subtle body and the subtle mind and how that works inside each individual person. DAVID: Okay. Can you say more about the subtle body — like what actually — subtle mind, subtle body — what is that in this sort of version of what you’re talking about? NASHALLA: Well, if you want to think about the subtle body it’s — it’s said in Tibetan Medicine that you have to have all five elements plus karma in order to be incarnated at all. So, even to obtain the precious human body, you have to have all five elements and karma. So, based off of your karma sort of driving you — you’re going to choose certain parents and situations. They’re going to give you some genetic factors, which are going to influence your inner elements and then also you’re going to have the diet and the behavior that your mother has during your pregnancy is going to influence it. The outer environment is going to influence it, and then very early on in life — your life situations are also going to influence it. So, family systems, psychology — all of that has an impact on the choices we make. So, somebody could be inherently one type of being and perhaps their family system either didn’t recognize or support that and so they made a choice in order to compensate on a psychological level. And so, they could shift that. So, they may have like, one sort of essence of a few elements that are more dominant, but they might be shutting them down. And when they do that, they’re not able to optimally be functioning on a body, mind, spirit level. So, what we want to do is, we want to identify who are you intrinsically and then how do we support that. And that’s not a question that’s very often asked in Western Medicine. I think they’re starting to, but I think that that’s a foundational approach that you see in all traditional forms of medicine. DAVID: Yeah seems kind of funny to walk into a Western medical physician and they’re asking you how are you feeling today? Like that being a valuable point of interest to diagnose something or just like how are you feeling in your life in this moment. NASHALLA: Exactly, and you know it’s not uncommon for someone to come into my office and say you know, I’m really just feeling like I’m working on my throat chakra and it’s all about my throat chakra. So, that’s a more subtle body experience, and I’m not going to look at you like you have two heads and you’re from like somewhere I’ve never identified before. I’m like yeah, tell me more about that. How do you experience that in your body? What does that look like for you? And then I can explain to them about the channels that influence that and how that’s related to like the decisions they make and the behaviors that will help to enhance the movement of that. And so on, and so forth. DAVID: So subtle body is like very big almost? NASHALLA: Well, there’s 84,000 different channels. DAVID: What? NASHALLA: Yeah. DAVID: Oh boy. So that’s another podcast. Okay, wow. So, before we keep going cause I just have all these like random questions I want to ask you all of a sudden, but can you just tell us about your journey through the medicine and through the school and then how did you find your way to Naropa? NASHALLA: I grew up in Colorado. And so, I kind of always knew about Naropa and then I left in my early 20s and just kind of hung out on the East Coast. I wasn’t really ready to go to college. And I had been receiving classical five element acupuncture in the Worsley tradition since I was 15. DAVID: Wow, ok. NASHALLA: And so that was a big part of my life and I decided that I wanted to study that, so I needed to go have an undergrad first. So, I decided I would go to Naropa. I had this idea that I would go to Naropa and study yoga actually, and because I was really into yoga. I got to Naropa and I took an introduction to Tibetan Medicine course that was taught by a man named Dr. Philip Weber. And he had been studying with someone for about 20 years — 25 years at that time. I thought oh this is kind of weird and Buddhist, but it’s kind of interesting, and you know, so I’ll continue. So, then I took the second semester of it and this doctor came for a visit. And we were all supposed to bring our urine. So, we have a very special urine diagnosis. DAVID: Not your normal class assignment. NASHALLA: Not your normal class assignment — no. So, we all had to bring our urine. And this guy like literally looked at me, and looked at my urine, and looked at me, looked at my urine — didn’t say a word, didn’t smell it, didn’t ask me a question, didn’t read my pulse, didn’t look at my tongue and he nailed it. He was like ‘you don’t sleep well. You eat too much pasta.’ I mean he was like — ‘you’re anxious.’ I mean he just, like completely saw through me by looking at my urine. DAVID: Give me that back. NASHALLA: I was astounded. DAVID: Oh my gosh. NASHALLA: And I was like, I want to know how to do that. So, I didn’t realize at the time how difficult that would be. So, I switched my major to interdisciplinary. And then I did a study abroad in Nepal. And I kind of stayed over there for about six months. And I studied Ayurvedic gynecology and Tibetan medicine. DAVID: Wow. NASHALLA: On the side of my regular Naropa core studies for the abroad time. And then I came back, and I wrote my thesis as an interdisciplinary student. And that was based on the body, mind and spirit and how you have to treat all three of those together or you don’t have a genuine healing. Then I went and I was essentially bringing Tibetan doctors to Colorado and studying with them in an apprenticeship style learning. I received permission to start treating people. But I felt like I didn’t want to be Jack of all trades, master of none. And at that point I had finally sort of become Buddhist, and my Root Guru essentially ordered me to India. And told me. DAVID: Just gotta go all of a sudden. NASHALLA: Yeah. It was one of those, you know, he said ‘now’s the time to go’ and I was like yeah, yeah, yeah you know money and this and that and he was like, ‘no you need to go’ and I was like well — and he leaned forward in his chair and he was like, ‘you go — you go now.’ And he’s not like that. That’s not the nature of my teacher. And so, like every hair stood up on end and I was like oh — DAVID: Maybe I should go. NASHALLA: I have to go. Like it was no question at that point. I just had to go. So, I went. I essentially moved to India. And I was there for two years. I’d met and married my husband, who’s also a Tibetan Doctor. And then when I was expecting my first child, I decided that I wanted to come home because I had lots of cravings for like burritos and stuffed grape leaves. DAVID: There’s no burritos in Tibet. NASHALLA: No. Well, in India — no. DAVID: Not in India? Bummer. All right that’s a thing. NASHALLA: It’s a real thing if you’re pregnant. So, I brought myself back and a school had opened up in the East coast that was doing, at that time, in classroom training. That’s the Shang Shung Institute of Tibetan Medicine. So, I studied there. They gave me a test and let me in halfway through the program because I had studied for seven years at that point. And then I studied another two and a half years with them. I took my final exams with them, which qualified me to go to Tibet itself where I took a series of final exams and a three month internship at the Qinghai Tibetan Medical College in Amdo, Tibet. So, it was a long, like ten year sort of process, but it really kickstarted at Naropa. And I always really wanted to come back to Naropa DAVID: So, you graduated from Naropa? NASHALLA: I did. DAVID: And then you left to go study deeper medicine — came back to the United States? And somehow ended up back. NASHALLA: Yeah. And you know I — I was asked by someone if I was interested in doing the anatomy class and I actually really love anatomy. So, I was like yeah, that would be fun. And so, I started teaching the anatomy, and then the nutrition course came open and I was like, absolutely I want to teach that one. So — DAVID: Mine — I’ll take it. DAVID: Very cool. So, you said something about like going to India and learning gynecology and Aruyvedic medicine at the same time? NASHALLA: Well that was in Nepal. And that was when I was — I went with Naropa on a study abroad. And so, while I was there, I didn’t want to waste any time. So, on this side of my — DAVID: Sounds like you never wasted time. NASHALLA LAUGHS. It’s all over the place. NASHALLA: Well, you know I was one pointed — it was like I wanted to — I wanted to learn. DAVID: I like it. NASHALLA: So, I studied with a woman — Dr. Shrestha — Sarita Shrestha. She was the first woman Ayurvedic doctor in all of Nepal, actually. Yeah, she’s a pretty amazing Bodhisattva. So, I observed her in the Ayurvedic Government Hospital in Kathmandu. When I could, on the side of my studies when I was a study abroad student and then on the other days — like once a week I would go to the Tibetan clinic and I would sit in there and I would learn there. DAVID: Okay, yeah, I was gonna say like how do gynecology and Tibetan Ayurvedic Medicine come together? NASHALLA: Well I mean in Tibetan Medicine there’s an entire discipline of it. I mean there’s a whole chapter called, The Female chapter, and actually if you look at the historical accounts of Tibetan Medicine, the Men Tsee Khang which is most well-known in Tibet was really opened because they saw, the Dalai Lama at the time — really saw — the fifth Dalai Lama, that there was a need and so they opened the Men Tsee Khang in order to serve women, because previously 99.9 percent of the doctors were all monks. And so, they had vows that they couldn’t actually touch women. DAVID: Interesting. NASHALLA: And so, the Dalai Lama saw this as a problem because women have their own unique medical needs. And so, for that reason he said, we have to train women. There have always been Tibetan physicians that are women because there were two lines of training. There was like a lineage based training, which is most of the way that I learned. And that’s no longer sort of recognized, or accepted because they’re trying to sort of standardize it so that the Western Medicine can kind of see the validity in it — in order to do that they have to standardize the curriculum. So, that’s not really recognized as widespread, but it would be like my uncle was a doctor. So, he taught me. Or my father was a doctor — there were no sons, so he taught me. That kind of a thing. So, it kind of always had been passed down and in fact there’s a woman in California who’s — both her parents were doctors. DAVID: Oh, that’s awesome. So, what do you think is the biggest difference between Western and Eastern medicine? Because it sounds like you’re doing Eastern Medicine in the West, but you also know some Western Medicine as well with your studies and your vast knowledge — what do you find is the difference between the two? NASHALLA: I think the primary difference is in perception. So, perception on a really subtle level of who people are, and really trying to get to know that. And that’s on a spiritual level, a physical level, an emotional level. I think that the challenges that Western medical faces is one, it’s time. So, they’re stuck with the limits of coding, and having to have a huge patient load in order to like, satisfy the requirements for insurance and how many people — so it’s a revolving door. DAVID: So, it’s like how much time you actually get to spend with someone? NASHALLA: Mm hmm. DAVID: Okay. NASHALLA: And then also there’s something that happens in Eastern Medicine when — when you have a perception and you open yourself to the gates of perception on subtle levels that automatically requires you to have a place of vulnerability in yourself and have a more open hearted situation. And that can be really devastating when people are terminal and they’re dying or they’re suffering greatly. And so, I think that the system of training in the West from my western doctor friends — they basically train you to be inhuman. I mean the whole internship factor for — DAVID: Yeah, like emotionless. NASHALLA: Yeah. Because you just have to get the job done — you got to cut. You got to like fix it. DAVID: Save, save, save. NASHALLA: Yeah, and it’s really, really hard for the ones you can’t save. And nobody gets out of here alive. So — DAVID: facts. NASHALLA: Yeah. And so, we have to be able to face that. And I think now they’re starting to think about that with, like hospice care. And I know that Naropa contemplative MDiv (Masters of Divinity) program really looks at that more indepthly. And I think that’s super important. DAVID: Becoming a Chaplain and all that. NASHALLA: Yeah. And I also think that Western Medicine is really into facts. And so, sometimes when you have diseases that don’t fit into a category — you know, they don’t know what to do. And so, it’s like an unsecured — insecure groundless place. Well if you’re in the Eastern system you can be in the groundless place, and still be firmly rooted and that’s a totally different concept. It’s an emotional, spiritual, consciousness that allows you to be present and know that the answers may not be really evident and then you have to just go back to the elements — like if you go back to the elements again and again you never leave the elements. The elements don’t change. They’re the same. How they interact in the body might change. The pathology might change, but the elements remain the same. So, if you can become super intimate with the elements, and you can recognize the laws of nature, then you can interact in a different way that Tibetan Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine and Chinese Medicine — shamans can, that Western Medicine can’t because it doesn’t fit into a category of fact. Right, so think about wind, right. So, wind can be like sharp and cutting or it can be smooth and soft. Right? Water can be boiling. It can be frozen solid. So, it’s about knowing the variations on a really subtle level. DAVID: Yeah can you just go ahead and tell us what the five elements actually are? NASHALLA: Sure. It depends on if you’re doing astrological, or you’re doing elemental. So, there’s two systems of thoughts here. I’m not going to go too in-depth, but basically, we have earth and water kind of combined together in Tibetan medicine. So, we call this bakan (pay-can). So, this is just earth and water. It’s heavy, it’s sticky, it’s smooth, it’s stable, it’s cool, it’s cold — you know it sinks. It’s that kind of quality. So, if you’re familiar with Ayurveda that’s kapha, right. DAVID: Yeah. NASHALLA: And then we have fire, which is simply fire, right. We call this mkhrispa (tripa) and the other term for that is pitta, right? – in Ayurveda. And then in our system we have wind, which is rlung (loong), which might be air in another system or vata in Ayurveda, and then you have what you named earlier — ether, we call space — namkha. So namkha — space is omnipresent. So back to that original statement where I said that you have to have all five elements and karmic propensity driving you forward. That space is there to support the other elements. So, that’s why I like if you look from the Buddhist — five Buddhist families — the Buddha family is really that spaciousness. So, it allows the air to move. Space allows fire to development. It allows the ground to exist. DAVID: Because without space — NASHALLA: There is nothing. Yeah, so space is omnipresent. And so, we’re primarily dealing with like a combination of earth and water together — fire mkhrispa (tripa) singly and rlung (loong) or wind or vata. DAVID: So good. I love it. I was told I’m like two parts pitta — I’m very fiery is what I’ve been told by other people. NASHALLA: I mean I’m fiery so I — I don’t mind it. I mean you got to watch out because it’s an edge. You can burn yourself out. You can really overproduce and that sort of thing. And you know sometimes people mistake your sort of inspiration as aggression –like you can be very clear if you’re a fire person. Like this is what needs to happen. DAVID: The clarity kind of cuts through sometimes. NASHALLA: It can cut and so you have to be careful what you’re dealing with and if you’re being skillful about it — you know. I guess that’s important in all things really — being skillful. DAVID: Awesome. So, what are the similarities of a Western and Eastern medicine? What are some of the things that you notice that they’ve adopted and use? NASHALLA: You know it’s really interesting when I was — started teaching the Nutrition course — I found this study and it was talking about within the duodenum, that there are gusto receptors within the duodenum that were newly identified. And so, that essentially means there’s taste buds in the first portion of your small intestine. DAVID: What? NASHALLA: Yes. Now here’s the thing — so Tibetan Medicine has said that continuously since the 8th century. And Western Medicine is now confirming that. So, a lot of these concepts of like, leaky guts, leaky brain, microbiome — all of those things are intrinsically seen within Tibetan Medicine. And then also we have things that are explained for diseases that aren’t necessarily well understood in the West. And so, we have known for centuries in Asia and medicine, for example, that if you can control the breath, then you can alleviate a lot of symptoms of inflammation, anxiety. You can make a lot of changes. So now Western Medicine is starting to see that you can work with the tenth cranial nerve — the vagus nerve ,and you can do diaphragmatic yogic breathing or Tibetan exercise breathing and it changes everything. What I find is that they’re actually — they’re not so different — it’s more like Western science is now confirming what a lot of Eastern Medicine has known. So, you just wait — I’m telling you cardamom is going to be the next turmeric because it’s coming. I know it’s coming. So, it’s like whenever I see these things, we’re like, they’ve now discovered blah, blah — you know and it’s like, yeah, we knew that. We knew that about pomegranate. We knew that about turmeric. We knew that about ginger. So — DAVID: I have that same feeling where Eastern Medicine has known things for centuries, but Western Medicine is now just quantifying it through science — scientifical pursuits and or medical pursuits where they’re actually realizing like wow this actually works. Or this is how it works, but they’re clarifying it. Eastern Medicine is like, yeah, we’ve — that’s was like in our scriptures for like 3000 years now or you know longer. NASHALLA: But it’s fabulous. I think it’s great because it’s helping people who want to have those really accurate tests. So, like what I tell my students, in both my classes on my first day is like look — you’re all here at Naropa because you want to think outside the box. And you want to provide solutions outside of the box. And the world needs you. The world needs you to do that. And that’s why I teach there — because I want to foster that. So, you need students to be able to relate to both containers. So, they have to know the Western Medicine and they have to have these basic biological concepts so that they can speak intelligently to other people to help bridge — you know I see myself a lot as like a bridge. Where I’m helping people to see that it’s not Eastern versus Western, but it’s like a conversation that we can have together, to see how we can best support, because sometimes I’ll see people and I’ll say, absolutely I want you to go to the doctor. I want you to have this test — this test — and this test. And then sometimes I’ll say no, I don’t necessarily agree with that ,can you have your doctor call me. And we’ll have a decision about it — like we’ll talk about it. So, I think it’s about having a really well versed conversation. But to do that requires knowledge in both areas. And they spend so much time learning all the facts. I mean just to go to medical school — I can’t even imagine the effort. I mean I did it in my way, but like in the Western model, and it’s always changing and there’s a lot of repeated information that you have to just regurgitate. And I think that the challenge is then — to try and think in a different way, is really hard, but the people who study with me who are Western trained doctors, or nurses, or you know somebody else in the health care field — once they can start to think on the element level again, then they can start to change that. So, what I’m trying to do at Naropa is I’m trying to say like, think this way, but you also need to connect it. You need — one of the things I like to do is try and teach my undergrad students how to prepare to write an abstract so that they can know how to present something — like to present a paper at a conference. So that we can start having larger conversations you know on a global level really about how we can connect these two and make them work together. DAVID: Yeah, I love that idea of bringing them together so they’re taking the best of one, taking the best of other — because there’s so many different things that the Eastern has that the Western doesn’t. The Western has that the Eastern doesn’t. So, I love that idea of bringing it together and I’m actually curious how many times do you actually talk to a western doctor from a patient that you have and they’re like I never thought of it that way — you really know what’s going on. I didn’t really know what to expect when I talked to you like are, they ever just kind of curious about what is going on with you? NASHALLA: They are. I’d say — you know I’ve been doing this for a couple of decades, and when I first started working — you know you’d say have your doctor call me? And they would never call me. But then sometimes I’ve had situations where the doctor was like, I want to talk to her. And I’m like ok, have them call me. And they actually do. And they want to talk about it and they — they are sort of I think, pleasantly surprised with what I understand and how I can connect it. You know, for example, I had somebody that was having bona fide heart attacks. They had the blood work that showed that they were having cardiac muscle damage, and they didn’t know why. They had no occlusions. They had no hypertension. They had no cholesterol — like no logical reason whatsoever that they should have them. So, they didn’t know what to give. They couldn’t give blood thinners, because she didn’t have cholesterol. They couldn’t give you know — hypertensive medicine because she would have hit the floor, because she was already low blood pressure. So, they didn’t know why. And so back to the subtle body — I was like ok rlung (loong) or wind has entered incorrectly into your heart chambers, and that’s why this is occurring. So, we took it from a dietary and lifestyle approach with some herbs on the side and they got better. And you know, they were having them regularly — like multiple times every few months — like small very tiny ones, but now they don’t. And I remember that the cardiologist was like ‘I want to talk to her’, and I was like ok — how am I going to explain this? But then, when I explained to them like ok, we’re looking at the autonomic nervous system level here. And the autonomic nervous system level has been affected, and so for that reason dysregulation is occurring. So, when I can use that kind of language — which is what I’m trying to teach my students, then they can understand, ok she knows what she’s talking about. They don’t necessarily need to understand why I’m doing what I’m doing, or how I’m doing it, but they know that I’m treating with the correct sort of mechanism of action in mind. So that’s really important. DAVID: Ok, so there seems to be like a reoccurring idea of breath in the body and how that helps regulate our well-being. Can you explain more about that — like how breath is regenerating our self and how important that is? NASHALLA: Wow that’s almost like a whole podcast in itself, but breath from a meditation point of view, right, breath is like — the object of support. The most obvious object of support because it’s there with us all the time. Right? And then from a medical point of view right, we need the oxygen to keep our cells going and to pump our blood. And then from the nervous system point of view the breath can actually change dysregulation within the nervous system. So, we can actually affect inflammation without medication just using the breath. DAVID: I’ve never heard that before. That’s cool. NASHALLA: Absolutely. Yeah, because the vagus nerve — actually, the vagal nerve comes down and it innervates through the whole system. So, the rest and digest that has to happen throughout the intestines and the motility that has to occur is really dependent on the health of the nervous system. And one of the easiest ways to affect that is through breath. And so, when people — ancient people were doing yoga practices, they learned by controlling their breath or moving their breath in certain ways, they could again affect the subtle body and all of those elements. So, you have different breath that can for example heat up your metabolism and help you to like, I I’m sure you’ve heard of the yogis like melt wet cold — you know cloths out in the snow — DAVID: Oh, what is that? NASHALLA: It’s tummo. DAVID: Yeah yeah. So, the — the friction of breath within the body is generating heat. I was really into that as like a mid 20 year old. It’s like what is going on — they’re melting ice. NASHALLA: Yeah, and then likewise you can do things to calm yourself down. So, there’s something called the bar-rlung, (bar-loong) which bar means ‘between’ in Tibetan and rlung (loong) of course is like the movement of the wind, or the breath. So, when you hold that particular breath in a certain way, it slows down your whole cardio tone. So, the more — there are some systems of thought, that you have so many heartbeats and then you’re done. Or so many breaths in your life and then you’re done. So, if you can slow that down and you can slow things down then you can really affect your lifespan. And then from like a cosmological point of view, right, we say that there’s wind in our central channel — in our life-force channel. So, I’m sure most people have seen like a picture of the chakras. In Tibetan system, most of the time we have only five. The Ayurvedic system has seven. So, there’s a little difference there, and it depends on what tantra you’re reading really. But when we move the breath, we can affect that channel too. So, there’s some really basic — like the nine purification breathing practices I teach a lot, because that clears the main channel and the two side branch channels. So those are the first kind of three, and then it goes out to those 84,000. Right? So, you can really affect holding the winds apart. So, one part has to be held up at the head and the other part — four fingers below the navel. Right? And that’s in the secret chakra — in the secret place. And so, it’s thought that as we’re getting ready to die that they (the winds) come down and when they meet the heart, which is where the mind is that that’s when we leave — that’s when our consciousness exits. So, if you can strengthen — and there’s different ways that you can strengthen that channel, and that breath, so that it’s very vibrant. Breath is one, and nutrition is another. So, meditation practices, breathing practices and basic nutrition practices are all ways to increase lifespan. So that’s another reason that I think it’s really important to connect all of these basic things to — like medicine. DAVID: They’re basic, but they’re not necessarily the first things we go to sometimes. Like I don’t know for — I don’t know if we’re taught basic nutrition of how turmeric and cardamom and ginger and garlic and all these very amazing herbs can help us on a daily level, and just integrate it into our practice — into our life, into our everyday diet — what we do and what we eat and even the breath. How often are we told like the breath is life? You know we know this, but every breath we take are we realizing like I only got 200 more until I’m gone. NASHALLA: You have more than 200 — don’t worry. DAVID: I mean hopefully. NASHALLA: Yeah. DAVID: Has anyone done any studies on that? Of like what is an average number of breaths that a person may have in their life. NASHALLA: I can’t remember the number. DAVID: A couple million or something? NASHALLA: No, it’s — can’t remember. There is an exact number. DAVID: Really? NASHALLA: In the Tibetan system there’s an exact number. And I’m fairly certain you would find that in Ayurvedic too. I just can’t remember — DAVID: I never heard that. That just like sparked my brain. I was just like, oh my gosh, like you’re probably totally right and how many breaths do we all have left? NASHALLA: Well, I mean it’s, you know, for example I have a 3 year old and you know she’s at that stage where sometimes she reverts to a non-verbal pile of crying. And you know, I tell her ok, and I put my hand on her belly, and I’m like breath into your belly. Breathe out your feeling. Breathe in, and I see you’re upset. Breathe out. You know, so it’s like, I think it can be taught. And I think that more and more people are — are learning about the regulation of the nervous system and linking it to breath. And there’s certainly a lot of studies about that. And I think that it’s also very possible that we teach people about these basics, like cooking spices, and it’s becoming more well-known. And my kids know all the time — like you eat this for this, and this for that. So, I mean they’re just in the kitchen with me all the time, like learning it, or making medicine with me and they’re like — oh isn’t that like just a spice? And I’m like yeah, it’s also a medicine. So — DAVID: Yeah, because most medicines are — they come from a spice or an herb. NASHALLA: Exactly. DAVID: But then they’re like — they add a bunch of other stuff that might produce this or invoke this in the body or — NASHALLA: Exactly, and one of the things I do in my nutrition course is I actually assign everybody one herb, one spice, and one food. And then they have to research it. And like, what it does on a scientific point of view. And then they have to give a presentation to everyone. So that everyone benefits from, you know, 25 people giving times three — rather than me just espousing what it does. It actually teaches them to like, learn how to research — what does research actually look like. And then how do you document that? How do you, like make it officially scientific literature? DAVID: I love that. NASHALLA: And then also like, what they discover is they’re like — wow I had no idea that it did this! And it’s like, yeah — and it’s in your kitchen cabinet. DAVID: Yep. How often does an herb or some sort of food medicinal medicine need to be combined with something else to be potent in the body, compared to like — just take a capsule of straight turmeric compared to oh, to get the micro nutrients out of this you need to cut it and leave it in the heat and then cook it. NASHALLA: Mm hmm. DAVID: Or how often does that happen with food? NASHALLA: That’s one difference between Western Medicine and Ancient Medicine is that I think traditional — even Western herbalism understands a synergistic effect. So, we might know that turmeric has active compounds that are really good for anti-inflammation. However, what happens when you just remove those compounds — or like, if we look at white willow bark, right? For example, and then that (white willow) was turned into aspirin. So, is white willow bark — also having other compounds in it that make it equally effective? So cinnamon is another example. People know that cinnamon can actually lower blood sugar for people who are sort of pre-diabetic or diabetic. So, you know that — you have to monitor insulin levels if you’re taking higher levels of cinnamon. It can change your A1C over time. So, if you just take those compounds, what are you perhaps missing on a synergistic effect for everything else? And I think there was — I saw an article that just came out a couple of weeks ago maybe — that they just identified like, two thousand new microbes in the gut. So, you’re just — you’ve got to wonder, like, what are those other compounds doing that we don’t know about? And are they actually making things more effective? So one of the things that Ancient Medicine does is saying — that something happens when you take this quality of the earth — and the water is this heavy — it has like 17 percent, but then you need more fire, so you’re going to take this herb, which has like 30 percent fire. I mean it’s like that precise in Tibetan Medicine when you’re compounding medicine. And so, it’s really different. So, I think that you know for me, food is medicine and there’s four methods of treatment in Tibetan Medicine. There’s diet, behavior, medicine, and accessory therapy. So like acupuncture, vapor baths, hot springs, me-bum which is cupping — DAVID: And sweating. NASHALLA: Many things. All sorts of stuff. And so, diet and behavior are fundamental. They’re like standing on your own. If you go to a doctor and you’re like, I don’t know — I just get bloated. I have this. I have that — and they’re like — here’s this medicine — that only can go so far. You’re essentially standing on one leg. DAVID: And you’re still eating the stuff that’s probably — NASHALLA: Causing the problem. DAVID: Yep. NASHALLA: So, nobody gets out of my office or my classes — DAVID: Like what do you mean? NASHALLA: Yeah, what are you eating? And let’s like — you know (look), and it goes one of two ways. Like when I give them the list of what they should or shouldn’t eat — either they’re like ‘oh my god I’m eating all the wrong things’ or ‘oh my God — like everything you’re telling me to avoid — pretty much like 75 percent of it — I already don’t like or don’t feel good when I eat.’ So, then there’s like, this intrinsic knowing. So, the other thing is about teaching people to know themselves — like on a really intimate level — like you said, ‘oh I’m told I’m fire’ and it’s like — well embrace that. So, we — we look at things from their root poison — from the Buddhist point of view. Like the root poison of fire is aggression. Right? But it can also be like transcended — into a wisdom of discriminating awareness. So, it doesn’t have — we don’t have to avoid this idea of like anger’s bad. You know it’s like — no actually it’s clarifying — it’s like openness to the wisdom state. DAVID: It cuts through. NASHALLA: Mm hmm. DAVID: If you do it right. NASHALLA: So, if you apply the right diet and behavior, then what you’re getting is the more wisdom states. So essentially, I consider myself a guide and I’m saying — this is who you are fundamentally. You live in this season. You have this climate. You have this — be careful in the winter of this. Look out for this in the summer, and thinking in a nutritional term of saying, you can eat this in the summer, and not the winter. And it’s unheard of in the West. You know but it’s — it’s fundamental in the East. DAVID: But they sell it at Whole Foods all year. NASHALLA: Yeah. My raw green fruit smoothie for breakfast — and I’m like NO! DAVID: Well I’ve — I’ve actually been told that smoothies aren’t good because you’re blending it all together and you’re not getting the actual nutrition out of the food you’re eating. NASHALLA: Well there’s two stages to digestion. There’s like, the mechanical in your mouth — DAVID: You’re dousing your agni. You’re dousing your internal fires. NASHALLA: Most of the time, that is true. Your digestive fire when you take a smoothie first thing in the morning — you’re making it like, with a banana, which is heavy and cold and sweet, right? And you’re throwing in some protein powder which may or may not be well absorbed, and you’ve got like, frozen berries and it’s cold. And you know your stomach is like a cauldron. Are you going to cook something, and then like throw it all in the pot — and then turn on the heat? Or are you going to like sauté it with your ghee, and put in your spices, and then do all of your vegetables and then like, do it that way? So, your stomach is like that. So, when you get up and you drink ice cold water, or they bring you your cold salad before your meal — you’re essentially killing your digestive fire. And so, we now know with Western Medicine that that’s affecting the microbiome, and the digestive enzymes can’t function. So, it’s yeah — so it’s — it’s really about, like retraining — it’s like — I don’t necessarily take my smoothies away from certain people. Like if you’re fire — you can have a smoothie but have it at noon, when the fire energy is the strongest — at room temperature. DAVID: And, I actually put cayenne pepper and cinnamon and I was told ok fine you can drink your smoothie if you add that. NASHALLA: And ginger maybe, and some pomegranate maybe. DAVID: I do Ginger as well. Ok. NASHALLA: Yeah, and some cardamom, maybe. DAVID: There’s so many different things you can add in there, but it’s a really interesting perspective to have to not, like, just mix all your food together and just blend it up and it’s just this stuck together drink that you’re drinking and it’s everything all at once. And it’s kind of cold and it kind of kills your fires on the inside, so you can’t digest it. So, you think you’re not hungry, but your body is saying I’m hungry but it’s — your fire is done. NASHALLA: Yeah, and like Chinese Medicine has five tastes. And Ayurveda and Tibetan Medicine has six. So, like, there’s a difference there. And also, the taste factors — like you can have something like brussel sprouts — are really great. They’re really nutritious — they have lots of great qualities for them, but if you have a cold digestion — not going to be so good, because bitter as a taste increases cold. Right? So, the people that are eating brussel sprouts thinking they’re really good for them and they’re like, I just don’t feel good I’m bloated. DAVID: It’s like a promoter. NASHALLA: So, you have to look, and see — am I hot? Am I cold — what’s my digestion doing? How does that relate with my inner elements? Like, how can I support the best me possible with my diet and behavior? And then you don’t need the doctor. I mean — the best doctors are not needed. We’re like see ya — call me if you have a cold. DAVID: You’re empowering people to make good decisions from their diet, from their health, from their like, even emotions. You know being on like a holistic approach to healing and not just like, take this medicine and you’ll be fine and it’s like ,whoa maybe that medicine actually contradicts the diet I already currently have. NASHALLA: Mm hmm. DAVID: So, I love this approach. It just has — who are you? You know it has this investigation, instead of like a — what’s going on. NASHALLA: Yeah. And yet at the same time we have to have a basic background of like, anatomy and physiology. Of understanding like, this is going to be how motility of stool works. This is how A gets to B. You know, this is how your blood takes the red blood cells and divides them and recycles them in the spleen. So, all of those things are also kind of really profoundly important to know. And then, when you overlay that with understanding who you are as an individual — you can find the optimal place. DAVID: Yes. NASHALLA: So — DAVID: It’s just so good to speak with you. That is our time. But before we go — is there anything you would like to say of how people can reach you? How people can find more information of what you speak about and just shout out a website or whatever that you got. NASHALLA: Well, I have two websites. I have a blog where I write stuff — when I have time. DAVID: Do you have time? NASHALLA: Not so much. I teach all over the country so — and a lot of them are online. So, people can kind of go online. The best way to sort of follow me, and what I’m doing, and the most updated is the Facebook world. So Tibetan Medicine and Holistic Healing. Or my name — Nashalla G Nyinda. So, I’m super Google-able — is that a word? DAVID: I like that. NASHALLA: But I also have a blog — it’s Boulder Tibetan Medicine dot com. And then we have the clinic website is holistic-health dot org. So… if you’re local, I do teach meditation at the Thrangu — Rocky Mountain Thrangu Center. And then I’m also very frequently teaching up at SMC (Shambhala Mountain Center). And you know kind of all over. But really, most of my teachings are posted through Facebook. That’s the most sort of updated, because I have help with someone doing that. DAVID: Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge, your passion — and you just sound like you have such a unique direction of medicine and just medicinal knowledge. And it was just really fun to speak with you and just hear about all this, and I have this like weird kind of passion growing in myself about it. And you’ve like sort of ignited it a little bit more and it just seems really empowering to understand that food and breath and emotions and situations and things that you surround yourself with is health. Everything resorts back to that. And you just kind of like, knocked that in a little bit harder for me and — NASHALLA: Good! DAVID: It feels empowering. It really does. NASHALLA: Yeah, and you know I think in terms of Naropa — is a really unique place because it provides people the opportunity to really sit in that space and discover who they are. And then learn to be nonjudgmental about it — which is key. And so, I think it’s a great place to go and learn about ourselves. DAVID: Yes, awesome. Well thank you so much for sharing with me. NASHALLA: Yeah, thanks for having me. DAVID: So, I’d like to thank my guest again Nashalla Nyinda who is an adjunct faculty member teaching in the Department of Contemplative Psychology at Naropa and she also practices and teaches Tibetan Medicine and acupressure. So, thanks again. NASHALLA: Thanks. [MUSIC] On behalf of the Naropa community thank you for listening to Mindful U. The official podcast of Naropa University. Check us out at or follow us on social media for more updates. [MUSIC]


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Naropa Campuses Closed on Friday, March 15, 2024

Due to adverse weather conditions, all Naropa campuses will be closed Friday, March 15, 2024.  All classes that require a physical presence on campus will be canceled. All online and low-residency programs are to meet as scheduled.

Based on the current weather forecast, the Healing with the Ancestors Talk & Breeze of Simplicity program scheduled for Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday will be held as planned.

Staff that do not work remotely or are scheduled to work on campus, can work remotely. Staff that routinely work remotely are expected to continue to do so.

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Regardless of Naropa University’s decision, if you ever believe the weather conditions are unsafe, please contact your supervisor and professors.  Naropa University trusts you to make thoughtful and wise decisions based on the conditions and situation in which you find yourself in.