LIFE AS A MALA BEAD

     You may wonder what this article has to do with regarding a "health tidbit" that I typically write about but as you continue to read further you will see the point and how this is aligned with the intention of being a health tidbit. This was inspired by recent numerous conversations with my patients around the idea of "spiritual practices." This is a timely discussion and worthwhile pondering during this time of year as holidays are occurring, and time seems to speed up with some much going on. 

     The ancient yogis knew that as time progressed and we evolved that there would be many more distractions that could potentially cause us to lose ourselves even more so. They encouraged the idea of spiritual practices through yoga, that also involved the various aspects of breathing techniques and meditation, along with the asanas (physical exercises), and then some (too much to mention.)  In fact, some of the yogic literature suggests that there are infinite techniques in order to correspond with the varying degrees of human experiences. 

     One of the main points essential to the "purpose" of spiritual practices is to help us to connect ourselves through a focal point that represents/reflects/aligns us with some sense of divinity (sacredness, or what have you). When we get lost between the vacillation of the pendulum involving the past in future we are taken away from the present moment. The basic intention of spiritual practices is to help us become more anchored in the present moment. The more we connect the spiritual practices through continuity and regularity the higher the likelihood we decrease the sense of feeling lost in life or to life and that we could remember who/what we are when we slow down to what is present in the now.  What is useful to know is that religions can serve us as a means to feel connected to something that shows/reminds/reflects/encourages us of something this is "bigger as or than ourselves."

     Essentially, all the major traditions of the world share this philosophy that there is some sort of apex that spiritual practices are designed around, whether we are reading from one holy scripture or another, meditating in a cave or a forest or on a plane or in bed. Wherever we are.

     The understanding is that the continuous practice acts to help us be here now. There is a term in yoga called "Abhyasa Yoga," which is defined as the yoga of continuous practice. Eventually,  as the practice(s) advance, what tends to happen is that life starts to unfold in a way that shows us that each moment is unique and connects to the next moment but in reality, simultaneously, there is only one moment which is now. Time disappears as we know it. There is both a nothingness and fullness, at the same time. These spiritual techniques serve to remind us of the moment, over and over and over again. Inevitably, connecting every experience to a sense of oneness and the simplicity that life is happening. This is how we can see the analogy as a mala bead creating a mala. 

     You may ask "what is a Mala bead?" A mala bead is one of the beads that appear to be strung together as either a necklace or a bracelet. It is commonly seen in Hindu and Buddhist traditions. You could even go as far as saying that the Catholic rosary beads individually are beads like mala beads. Each mala bead is strung together creating a mala. Each rosary bead is strung together connecting as a rosary.  When Buddhists or Hindus use a mala, typically they are chanting a mantra with each passing of the bead. Similarly, a Catholic says a prayer at a specific bead. With the rosary, there is usually a space between a grouping of beads and a single bead but with the mala there is no grouping, simply one whole strung necklace/bracelet of beads. The purpose of using the bead is to focus on the sense of one-bead-at-a-time with a specific intention, called a prayer/mantra/invocation to the divine presence (or whatever.) 

     Moments add up to a day. Many days add up to year. Time passes and suddenly time melts together and years aren't clear anymore. Similarly, one bead, then the next and the next, add up to a whole mala, and suddenly you're engrossed in the presence of time dissolving and your connection to something bigger feels more present. The overall analogy here is that life is like a mala bead/a prayer bead that connects to a sense of oneness. Each moment connects to create a sense of a "oneness of life." The bead is designed as a tool to help us to be present and go one-by-one, to be present in the now, one-moment-to-the-next. Not getting lost in the idea of future or past. Simply experiencing each moment as a connection to a whole. If you are reading, then just read. If you are crying, then just cry. Don't try to fix or alter it. If you're just having a conversation with a good friend, then just be with the conversation. If you're just eating, or just pooping, or just showering, or just walking in the woods, then just be with that in that moment. It may seem that the "just" is just minimal but it is in the mundane that we can have profound experiences if we allow ourselves to be with it.  Whatever you are doing/feeling in the moment be as fully present with it, even if it is uncomfortable. Do you're best, because fundamentally we are all doing our best and we can't push anything faster than it will happen even if we think we can or are. 

     As we approach this holiday season, and beyond, the lesson to take here is that spiritual practices support us in being more present by making us aware of how sacred the moment is. Spiritual practices can help us to find more of ourselves by limiting our distractions to extraneous things that keep us from ourselves. The techniques eventually melt/merge together as the moment reminds us of how its been here all along, and as we continue to take this journey in these vehicles known as the body, each moment seems to become the never ending mala. The practices themselves are no longer being practiced, as the idea of "doing anything" dissolves away and what is left is the sense of being..."Be-In" the moment of now. We go from a doing to a being, which exists free of time in a timeless state and yet so much can be experienced. 

     The gift to take away from this article as a "health/mental health" tidbit is that as things seem to get revved up with life, being in each moment to the best of our ability is important in order to not get lost in the chaos that ensues when we are chasing situations and scenarios around.  In each moment. Treasure it, like one mala bead at a time. Honor the prayer of the breath in the moment, of whatever is present. Accept fully and as much as possible exactly that which is occurring right now, in each instance of now, regardless of what it is or looks like.  Resistance to what is actually happening right now is what perpetuates our sense of suffering. We can all benefit from this "practice of continuous practice." Magic is in the mundane. Slow down. The gifts are revealed however small or large they may appear. Just don't look for them because again that's "doing" something, which prevents us from truly experiencing them because we get in our own way as we seek.                                                                                         

     Showing up and being present with whatever and whoever is a great gift to offer ourselves and others. Slowing down helps us to minimize stress, which can create health issues and spiral out of control.

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

UP, DOWN, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN: THIS SEASON

The wheels are turning and like a rollercoaster, we are beginning to head to the top where we plunge on a momentum that speedily takes us into the upcoming months filled with festivities.

This is the Vata type of year (early Fall to the beginning of winter).  Qualities of dry, cold, light, and mobile. These are the exact factors that can cause Vata to elevate in all of us. We get busy with meetings and holidays. We see increased strain, sensitivity,  sleep disturbances, digestive disturbances such as gas, bloating, mild-chronic constipation, anxiety, dry skin (internally and externally), allergies (due to dryness and issues with digestion), and SAD which affects mostly Vata/Kapha types more than Pitta, because Pitta is about fire, metabolism, and circulation and therefore not normally prone to SAD but if Pitta is too pushy it can cause depletion of hormones which regulate mood.

Here are some simple Tidbits:

1) Oil up!

          a) Sinus passages with Nasya or simple ghee, daily, nightly.

          b) A drop of ghee or sesame oil (warmed slightly) in each ear before bed.

          c) Oil pulling each morning before breakfast and after brushing. 2tbs. of sesame oil (Vata/Kapha) or Coconut (Pitta)

           d) A drop of ghee in each eye (slightly warmed) before bed.

           e) Self-massage with constitutionally appropriate oil, before the shower. Banyan has a simple formula. 

          f) Warm baths regularly and even before bed to help calm the nervous system and support sleep. Add epsom salt (2 cups) with lavender oil (30 drops) essential oil. 

           g) Here's a simple recipe to cut the edge of stress/anxiety/dryness/sleep: 

 

2)    Simple food for thought...thoughts:

                   a) Forget what you heard! Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. Lunch is!

                   b) Chew more, eat less. Less food is better than more food in one sitting.

                   c) If you're not hungry for breakfast....DON'T eat! Have tea or a light soup/broth.

                  d) Minimize/avoid snacking so that the body's metabolism can burn fat instead of store it! Drink tea instead.

                   e) If you are having cravings, question whether they are due to an inadequate meal at lunch. Or, if you stayed up late. Or, if you're lacking something from your overall diet. Or, if you aren't properly hydrated. 

3) Issues with bowel movements? Evaluating any of the below categories will start leading you in the better direction, even before herbs/supplements.

                   a) Do you have enough fiber in the diet? Or too much, if you're Kapha?

                   b) Do you have enough oils in your diet? 

                   c) Are you hydrating enough?

4) MOOD CHANGES? With less sunlight exposure and other biochemical reasons, SAD takes its toll on many this time of year.

                   a) Vitamin D supplement. Average 5000-8000 IU daily.

                   b) Color therapy, with red/gold/yellow, green, and orange.

                   c) How is the liver? If it's  working under stress then converting Vitamin D leftover from the summer can be challenging. If the liver is boggy/stagnant, then there will be mood-related issues.                     

Here are some past  articles that are a must read:

DIGESTION AND PREVENTING DISEASE

CATCH DRYNESS BEFORE IT CATCHES YOU

CATCH A COLD BEFORE IT CATCHES YOU

FEELING ANXIOUS

SEASONAL DEPRESSION (SAD)

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

REGULARITY IS A CRITICAL KEY TO HEALTH

Ayurveda is not only a healthcare system, a sick-care system, but also a preventative system. It shows us that Vata, Pitta, and Kapha predominant individuals are prone towards certain conditions. For instance, Vata (which governs the nervous system) predominant individuals are prone to the below-mentioned symptoms but also to anything that involves the nervous system. Pitta (which governs the endocrine and digestive system) predominant individuals are prone to inflammatory based conditions, and Kapha (which governs the immune system) predominant individuals are prone to lethargy, depression (melancholic type), heaviness, sluggish digestion, weight gain, water retention, and even conditions such as asthma and diabetes. With this all being said, it is understood under the axiom "like increases like and opposites cure" in Ayurveda that whatever the predominance of a particular dosha (biological humor; Vata/Pitta/Kapha) that individual will see an increase in symptoms during its appropriate season (even time of day, and phase of life.) Seasonally, Vata, begins in fall to early winter; Kapha, in late winter to early spring, and Pitta, in late spring to the end of summer. 

Currently, it is Vata season and the time of year when the elements of air and space begin to infuse the atmosphere. Qualities such as cold, dry, and light fill our surroundings, and those individuals who have a predominance of these qualities are more likely to experience it than others. 

Symptoms such as gas, bloating, dry orifices, increased constipation, dry skin, cold extremities, sleep disturbances extending as far as insomnia, and increased anxiety seem to show up the most during the upcoming months. This is why Ayurveda emphasizes the use of internal and external oleation, such as ghee, coconut oil, flax oil, and sesame; the increase of warm foods, such as soups, stews, milk decoctions, teas; spices such as ginger, cinnamon, cumin, oregano, basil. black pepper, mustard seeds, turmeric, clove, and dry garlic can help increase heat in the blood. 

Ayurveda also speaks highly of regularity and routines. This time of year can prove to be challenging with the onset of upcoming festivities into the new year. The momentum picks up and so much is happening that it is common for many individuals to fall ill during the holidays and after. The wear and tear, the crash and burn can only last for so long, until the candle burns from both ends and a condition develops that renders individuals debilitated, leaving them to re-evaluate how they got there and how to prevent it again. 

The body is a historical system that relies upon regularity for its health! In order to maintain balanced health, while "life is happening", I have come to share that creating 5 Touchstones throughout the day can help keep regularity while during "life's happenings." 

Touchstone #1 - WAKING UP around the same time each day, most of the week (most being 4-5 days.)

Touchstone #2 - Having BREAKFAST, whatever that is for your constitution, around the same time each day, most of the week (4-5 days.)

Touchstone #3 - Having LUNCH, around the same time each day, most of the week (4-5 days.)

Touchstone #4 - Having DINNER, around the same time each day, most of the week (4-5 days.)

Touchstone #5 - Head to SLEEP, around the same time each day, most of the week (4-5 days.)

The seasons happen around the same time each year. The sun and moon circle around the same rhythm. The sun rises and sets around the same time each day (even taking into consideration daylight savings adjustments), with the sun peaking around noon each day. Why wouldn't it be the case that by aligning with the natural cycles that the body can reorganize itself and make sense of the chaos that can cause health issues? Check HERE for the story of disease formation, for more food for thought. 

The rest of life can happen, weaving in and out of these above listed pivotal points. It is important to have at least a little time (half hour or more) of me time; a time that is sacred just to be with yourself and minimal external distractions, so you can develop a deeper relationship with yourself and know yourself from the inside out. View this article HERE for daily rituals in depth, and see what you can take from it and start incorporating it into regular practice. I have seen many instances in my personal practice and within my patients that symptoms have minimized or even resolved simply by regulating, regimenting, and routinely following a day to day cycle. You couldn't imagine how the simplicity of such adjustments can make a huge impact on someone's health, but it is usually those little gestures that have the greatest influence. No? Try it and see. You're worth the investment. It may take a little time. Find the best flow for you and keep it up for a few months. It at least takes one month to notice some sort of change. If you'd like to read more about what to do for Vata season (this time of year) check HERE

Therefore, as we progress into the upcoming months where you may be more challenged, take a step back and see what you can put in place to create an anchor each day, not to lose yourself to ill-health but to reclaim your joy within it.

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

 

END OF SUMMER : BEGINNING OF FALL

Summer is coming to a close over the next few weeks. There was a lot of fun to be had these past few months and now we transition into a different season with activities that invite us more inward. It's a powerful time of year to have an awareness that we have been losing some sunlight with each day that passes as we come closer to the heart of winter, where things become more silent.

As we enter into September, take note what nature is doing. The fruits of the season are shifting to apples, pomegranates, pears, pumpkins, squashes, and some remaining dark greens. Grains are fully available such as wheat since it is a warming and heartier grain to sustain through the upcoming months. This is all to prepare the body by eliminating any excess heat from the summer and begin to build up the digestive fire for a colder climate to come. 

It is all about the little things that we can do to prevent disease, as it is all about the little things that can contribute towards the formation of disease. We have the power to choose, for the most part, which way the pendulum swings. 

Here are some simple actions to take to support the transitioning:

1) If you haven't already, starting with self-oiling practices (called self-abhyanga in Ayurveda). Sesame oil (more for Vata), Sunflower (more for Pitta), and Safflower or a light coating of sesame (more for Kapha.) Remember to warm the oil and apply it before showering.

2) Nasya oil is the administration of an oil or medicated oil into the sinus passages to ensure that dryness does not occur and wreak havoc.

3) Ensure that you are staying hydrated with electrolyte boosting beverages. NOT COLD OR ICY. Warming teas (for Vata/Kapha) such as Tulsi, Cinnamon, Ginger, Ajwan and mint, chamomile, chrysanthemum (more for Pitta.) Hibiscus/Rose tea is tri-doshic. 

4) Getting to bed earlier than what the summer has invited. Meaning that during the summer it is easier to stay up later because of the enthusiasm associated with the season but as nature goes into hibernation, so should we follow.  Bed by or before 11pm is ideal.

5) Awaken around 7 or earlier and get a move on. Get the blood flowing and lymphatic system stimulated. 

6) Exercise is important for so many reasons and exercising in the morning is the best time of day to exercise, according to Ayurvedic Medicine. If any exercise is done at night, it should be less stimulating and vigorous followed by a calming/cooling/soothing/gentle practice such as bathing in epsom salt with lavender, rose and even sandalwood esential oil drops added. This is to ensure that the excess pressure created by stimulating activities is reduced in the nervous system in order to support optimal rest.

7) Be mindful of eating three meals a day, generally. Follow the Guidelines for Healthy Eating to support better practices around digestion. 

8) Gauge whether you had enough Vitamin D intake during the summer. You can suggest to your primary care physician to test for Vitamin D levels. Note that they should be above 50 to be considered a hormone and a vitamin in the system. Studies have shown that less than that and numbers lower than 30 or even 20 can indicate some imbalanced activity within immunity and mood. Supplementation may be essential. Additionally, adding Vitamin A, B, C, D, and E all help from various perspectives the state of mind, immunity, and digestion. 

9) Eating seasonally is an ideal way to maintain health. First, know your constitution. Then know where/how far you are imbalanced and see how to match it up with the season. Think warm, soothing, oily, nourishing, building foods/beverages, as we transition with the foods/beverages that help to eliminate any excess heat from the summer. 

10) Food for thought:  In Ayurveda, we look at three primary aspects to health and maintenance thereof. First, Agni, which is the quality of the digestive fire. Next, Ama, which is the state of toxin in the body. Finally, Ojas, which is the state of immunity. Essentially, we want to RESTORE AGNI, REMOVE AMA, AND REBUILD OJAS. 

11) As one thing ends, another always begins. Similarly, as summer ends fall begins. Take time to slow down and "smell the roses." Notice what is present for you in this moment. Time speeds up when we let the mind get the best of us. Anchor in the moment by taking note of what is exactly showing up in the moment. Resisting the reality of what is real in this moment is what can cause more anguish and sorrow. Use the breath to anchor the mind to the body and follow the breath in the body to notice what feels contracted, versus expanded. What feels constricted, versus open? Accepting the reality of what is, can be challenging but what is more challenging is when we resist what is...right now. Slow down! So much is happening and when we try to forecast the future or hold onto the past we miss out what's happening now.

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

 

 

SUPPLY and DEMAND

What goes in must come out. What comes out says a lot about what comes in. We expect a lot from our bodies but do we give it the right foundation to provide us with what we need. Does the body get adequate nutrients? In Ayurveda, we say "we are what we digest" not "we are what we eat." So often do I hear from my patients the high expectations and demands from their bodies to continue to the lifestyle they are leading but don't understand why they are burning out (Pitta), fizzling out (Vata), or even not able to get the motivation to get things moving (Kapha.)

They come in with a go-go-go/on the go or lethargic background but after assessing them and finding how they are their own cause for not getting what they'd like from themselves. Ayurveda says that it is through diet and lifestyle that we can either maintain health or create disease. Lifestyle dictates the path for many and the more momentum the lifestyle has, the more of a vortex I've seen my patients get pulled into. Lifestyle has become so busy that the idea of sitting still and chewing at meals without distractions seems like such a foreign language. In today's hustle and bustle, I understand how this is possible. Technology has made things much easier and much busier that many have become enslaved by such things. 

Let's add to this that we (the western culture) continue to be inundated with so much information about what we should do to take care of ourselves that things get lost in translation. For instance, breakfast is the biggest meal of the day supposedly, lot's of protein is needed for everyone, exercise is good (whether daytime or nighttime), drinking water to stay hydrated (not realizing that more often than not iced water is included in this somehow, and many other examples. Yet, we don't  have a full context that can explain the do's and don't's that apply to us as individuals. Rather, things are applied in a general context and people are herded into a group, versus understand by their unique nature. This is a huge piece that is lacking and prevents the efficiency of health as being optimal.

Ayurveda has this to offer. It is a complete system of holistic healthcare that views the individuals based on certain patterns aligned with nature and has been proven to be the most effective for thousands and thousands of years. I spend a lot of time with patients correcting little things through the diet and lifestyle and have found nothing but amazing results, one step at a time and over time that it's beautiful. It is the most sustainable practice aligned with individual needs and nature that it becomes poetic once a groove is achieved. Initially, it can be tricky because it's like reprogramming and upgrading a program that is outdated. For instance, when someone in their 50's and 60's says that they "don't do oils in their cooking because they remember learning that oils were bad," to only learn through proper education and personal experience what a difference this can make. It's profound!

SUPPLY and DEMAND...

Give the body what it needs when it needs it. Simply, if someone leads a sedentary lifestyle then the indicated protein requirement as listed by the FDA is incorrect for these people. If someone is highly active, then maybe slowing down some but matching the demand of output to what they eat. Sometimes they "don't have time to eat" and either eat fast, on the go or skip meals, then this is even more harmful as the body needs time to take in food and then time to process the food. Eating smaller meals with protein can be helpful, especially since in these individuals their digestion will be inhibited.

Ayurveda discusses in great detail that once the digestive system goes out of balance the rest of the body has a domino effect towards ill health. Usually, the cause of this is the lifestyle but the main cause is the mind and its senses being drawn here and there, going more and more out of control. This is why in Ayurveda when we work with our patients we are addressing both mind and body, this is a journey for sure and definitely challenging for some more than others. Again, reprogramming. If we expect a lot of our body, our body expects us to cater to it. The more time we take to attend to it the body will return with amazing benefits. 

Here are some amazing articles I have written to consider:

Summary of Disease

Your Body is Your Guide

Digestion and Preventing Disease

It's up to each of us to make time for ourselves for the proper self-care that we deserve. By investing in ourselves we are guaranteed to support health and longevity. 

Some quick "food for thought":

1) Slow down. Don't let life drag you by its momentum. Remember that the momentum can be dictated by us and how we choose to engage. Some things are out of our control at times but setting an intention to start by doing the little thing's is a first step in the right direction.

2) Be as consistent as possible with these intentions. Pick one. Stick with it for some time. Then add another. Stick to this and repeat. Slow and steady wins the race. 

3) Don't over do it to compensate for the time's nothing is happening. Little by little. 

4) Patience, diligence!

5) If you're working hard (whatever it is that the body and mind are revved up with), then let the diet meet the demand. Let the rest/sleep also help to integrate and counter this. 

7) Don't expect or put so much pressure on yourself. Remember, the body is a reflection of what we're doing to it/for it and not. It will guide us if we pay close enough attention. Sometimes we need a bigger meal, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we need extra rest, sometimes we don't. 

8) Less attention to the mind and more to the body. The mind will endlessly distract us and find everything enticing through the senses, this doesn't mean to chase everything around. In fact, it's this changing that creates more ripples of confusion and invites in disease.

9) Let our digestion be our guide.  Any digestive disturbances, such as gas, bloating, indigestion, burning indigestion, mild constipation, sluggishness, is an indication that something is off and that pathology is beginning. Refer to the above-mentioned article on digestion. 

10) Let our energy levels be our guide. This is contingent upon so many circumstances but it is safe to say that there is some imbalance in digestion and sleep quality that will create pathology. Low energy can also be related emotional stress (conscious and subconscious.)

11) Make time for ourselves or our selves will demand time of us, as it caves in due to some illness trying to grab our attention. Ayurveda says that that disharmonious actions create the environment for disease formation and harmonious actions support immunity. If we don't make time for ourselves, when we become ill we blame the illness for happening which is ultimately the body and we wrong it meanwhile the body simply conveys through symptoms that something is out of balance and the symptoms progress enough until the really grab our attention and cause us to sit still, somehow. Making time for ourselves allows us to slow down and notice when things are accumulating and becoming out of balance so we can catch it before it progresses. 

 

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

STAYING COOL WHILE PLAYING IN THE SUN

This is the time of year where many individuals are excited about being outside and playing under the sun. From increased travel, vacations, retreats, to just the local outdoor activities. It's a great time of year because the sun is shining longer and brighter. So why not?

This is where it gets tricky. We want to soak in as much as possible because the experience with nature is opposite of winter where we are more often "stuck inside", and the nights are longer. The winter tends to provoke a sense of sadness and depression. The summer tends to be stimulating for all. Ayurveda says that the different "constitutions/doshas/bodily humors" and/or "types" will vary within their own experience. Dry heat tends to be enjoyed by Kapha (Spring types) more. Moist heat tends to be enjoyed by Vata (Fall/Winter types) more. Pitta (Summer types) can go either way. They either love the heat because they enjoy the overstimulation of it, or they dislike it and find misery in the heat. Each of these prodromal/precursory indicators suggests something about a potential imbalance that may be present. It depends. 

The heat can be drying, depletive. While it can be enjoyed right now, what happens today during this time of year is always setting the stage for what is to come as the upcoming season's approach. The body is a historical system. It records and stores much of what happens inwardly and outwardly. If an individual relishes in the heat excessively, especially depending on their constitution, they are setting themselves up for a health crisis later in the year. Examples like this are exactly what make Ayurveda a holistic system of medicine that is the most versed in prevention. 

A little bit goes a long way, especially with the sun. A lot of sun, can cause great harm to health. One physiological phenomenon that occurs this time of year is that the digestive system shifts to being centrifugal. What that means and how that looks is that the blood flow that naturally is focused on the abdomen and digestive organs become more dispersed this time of year as heat is expansive/dispersive in qualities, and the body attempts to cool itself down. The desire to eat may decrease for some as a result of this. The feeling to eat heavy and hot meals becomes almost an avoided task. This is why nature produces fruits and vegetables that cook in the sun during the day, fresh for picking, cooling and easier to eat. Minimal kitchen exposure required.  It is too hot to spend a few hours over a stove. It is easier to grill outside if any cooking should happen. 

In the winter this is opposite. The digestive system shifts back to being centripetal, which means that the heat is more centralized in the abdominal cavity in order to support digestion and overall health, and warmth. it's like returning from summer vacation and as fall approaches, the windows become shut, the heat in the home turns on, and the inhabitants are kept warm at the core. The digestive fire is like the furnace of a home. When it's cold outside, heat is turned up. When it's warm outside, the heat is turned down. 

This is all food for thought of course, according to Ayurveda. So, what is to be done today (this season) about achieving balance so that tomorrow (fall/winter) doesn't bear a burden as much?

1) AVOID THE PEAK SUN TIME, as this has a drying and depleting action. This is one of the reason why after spending a day at the beach most people are exhausted.

2) STAY PROPERLY HYDRATED: Drying of the skin, between chlorinated water/salt water and sun exposure not only tremendously increases risk for cancer, but many other skin conditions/health conditions. Stay hydrated by moisturizing the skin, which natural moisturizers such as olive oil and coconut oil. (not that over the counter synthetic stuff.) Stay hydrated by boosting electrolytes.

3) ICE, as tempting as it might seem this time of year more than any time of year, avoid intake of ice. ICE may seem to have a cooling aspect to it but this is FALSE. What actually happens it that rather than draw the heat out and cool, it pushes the heat deeper keeping it trapped in the core. Warm/room temp beverages are best as this invites the heat out of the body and supports the bodies natural thermoregulation. Ice is actually astringent and therefore drying. If you really tune in, you can feel how it drys out the back and roof of the mouth. If you know your anatomy, picture what organs reside behine the mouth and imagine how ice affects these organs..DIRECTLY. Not so good, right? Check HERE for more on ICE/COLD

4) KEEP YOUR HEAD COVERED when out in the sun. The heat of the sun loves to heat up the head, causing the organs of the head to overheat and therefore, causing the whole body to overheat. Talk about being "hot headed."

5) REST AS NEEDED. For some, as mentioned before, heat can have a depletive quality. Rest and especially proper night time sleep (between the hours of 10 and 6-ish) are ideal for restoring harmony and cooling the body. I know it's exciting to be out later at night but whether it is summer or winter or any other time of year, late night staying up causing a domino effect of health issues, which indirectly adds to the aging process. If need be, take a short power nap in the afternoon, say 15-25 minutes (max). This acts as a coolant and reset. There's a reason why many cultures like in France, Italy, and Mexico that they take a siesta during lunch time. 

6) ALCOHOL actually increases heat in the body, even if it comes in a cool form. Just thought you should know. 

7) AVOID DYNAMICALLY INTENSE ACTIVITIES/EXERCISES during the peak sun time. This actually causes more harm than good over the long run of things. Activities such as intense workouts, intense yoga practices, intense cardio practices (like running and cross-fit), and so on. I know, I'm sorry to break your heart if this is what you love to do but in the long run, this is about preventative care. Sweating profusely is highly damaging and depletive. It takes much longer than you think to restore the health and integrity of the body after so much of these activities are conducted.  Additionally, this goes for any time of year, exercising at night (unless a very passive practice before bed) is contraindicated. There is no better quality of sleep than the sleep acquired from a full nights rest. Period! That feeling of goodness after you have worked out hard is actually a basic indication of adreno-fatigue. That's not a good sign. Working out in the earlier part of the day actually sets you up for proper rest at night, which again supports optimal health on so many levels. 

8) SLOW DOWN THROUGH BELLY BREATHING. It is understood that the faster something goes the more heat it can create. The slower, the cooler something can be. Similarly, faster paced breathes engage the sympathetic nervous system which has a heightening and stimulating effect. Slowing down actually invites the parasympathetic nervous system response in the body which then can have a cooling effect. Deep belly breathing has a cooling, soothing effect. It also balances the abdominal organs governing digestion. Deep belly breathing pulls the mind down into a more grounded state, causing it to be calmer and centralized. Click HERE for the technique. 

9) SLOW DOWN in general! This will cool things down and allow the presence of life to be more revealing in the moment. Futuristic thoughts can provoke anxiety. Thoughts fixated on the past can be an anchor provoking depression. Slowing down to now is where everything is at.

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

 

YOUR BODY IS YOUR GUIDE

Ayurveda (the"science of life/longevity") is the most ancient system of complete holistic healthcare. It is rooted in the five elements, consisting of earth, water, fire, air, and ether/space. "As is above, so is below." From the top down, we see the must subtle descending into a grosser form, starting with ether/space and making its way down to a dense plane of existence being earth. Conversely, we ascend from an earthly plane back into the ethers, going from earth to ether/space. The wisdom of the elements in inherent in everything within the cosmos to the cosmos itself. This intelligence is the fabric of what we are made of and how we can function in the world. By understanding our relationship as the elements to the elements that surround us we can find our way into health, and discover why we may have ill health. 

So often do we look out there for answers to what is happening inside of us. It's great to have teachers reflect for us what it is that we may not be seeing for ourselves when in reality they are simply showing us what is there but we don't usually take the time to slow down and notice. 

Our body has its own inherent wisdom, intelligence, and abilities to communicate with us what is going on. It's actually quite simple, when we feel truly good then we must be doing something right. When we feel not so good, then we must be doing something that isn't that good for us. You see, the body communicates through symptoms, or the lack thereof. Not only that but on a more subtle level we can hear/feel an inner "guidance" that tells us in its own way which way to go or to stay. In other words, there is what some may call "intuition" and when we can experience this as a subtle whisper beneath the chaotic nature of the turbulent mind we can navigate our way through this time-space continuum.  

Ayurveda knows that when we experience imbalances it is because somehow we are acting disharmoniously.  Harmonious actions produce better health and disharmonious actions produce ill-health. When we take time to listen to the symptoms we can see how we can adjust our lifestyles in order to reduce or reverse symptoms. Ayurveda teaches us to pay attention to little things like gas, bloating, burping, sluggish digestion, nausea, burning indigestion, constipation, and colds. These are fundamental indications that something is out of balance with our relationship to diet and lifestyle. It is with the understanding of how we live through our diet and lifestyle that we can either discover health or create disease. Additionally, it is with realigning ourselves with nature, and with supporting our diet and lifestyles that any disease can be managed optimally, sometimes even to the point or total reversal. It all just depends.

As we enter into the next phase of the year, being summer, we can take note of whether the heat (dry/wet (humid), depending on climate/location) has a negative effect (for some more than others). If, as you transition into the hotter months, there are symptoms such as burning indigestion, diarrhea, fever, inflammation, acne, anger, and/or other heat producing/heat related symptoms, then this is a strong indication that you may have primarily a Pitta imbalance. Pitta being that combination of Fire with a little water in its configuration.)

When Vata, the combination of air and ether/space elements, is predominant, then symptoms become more intense as fall and early winter months take over. This tends to show up with symptoms such as dryness, constipation, even sleep issues (insomnia), or other neurologically related symptoms.  

Finally, if there is an increase in lethargy, heaviness, sluggishness, depression (melancholic), slow metabolism, or any other symptoms related to watery/earthy qualities, then this is an indication of Kapha present in the physiology. Kapha is the combination of water and earth elements. 

Primarily, Vata expresses with dryness; Pitta expresses with heat, and Kapha with heaviness. When we look at the previously mentioned symptoms such as gas, bloating, belching, this falls into the category of Vata related imbalances. In looking at burning indigestion, we note this as relating to Pitta. When we look at sluggish digestion, this relates to Kapha. Constipation can be caused by any of the three, Vata, Pitta, or Kapha (known as Sannipattika). Vata constipation could be dryness related in the colon. Pitta constipation can be heat, causing dryness in the colon. Otherwise, diarrhea is associated with Pitta as a response to the body's attempt to remove something that isn't ideal for the body or an indication of some provocation of inflammation. Kapha constipation tends to be due to excess mucus preventing peristaltic action. Colds can be a result of Sannipattika, or all three, depending on the causes of stress; again, relating to either dryness, heat or mucus accumulation.

This body of ours asks for our attention. Usually, the signs start out in subtle ways and when they get ignored they progress until they are screaming at us and the body isn't able to cope any longer. At this point is when western medicine provides us with a "diagnosis". Ayurveda seeks to prevent the elevation and progression of a disease by taking note of what the simple and subtle symptoms are and preventing them by "reversing the nidana" or reversing the etiology (cause). Which means that we have to become more aware of cause and effect. With the choices we make around diet and lifestyle, what comes into our minds, through the senses and what comes into our body through the senses, will determine what comes out. What comes out of the body, examples such as sleep issues, digestive issues, mental issues, are a result of what has gone into the body. 

Are we able to take the time to notice such things? The body isn't able to directly say "please don't eat that pizza with this cold because I'll stay sicker longer and get more mucousy" or "please don't stay up late because I'll have cravings for sugar and caffeine to give me energy (when I know I can do it naturally if only I got some adequate rest)." The body just shows us through symptoms relating to cause and effect, and when we can connect the dots we can see that the body has been communicating with us long enough, and to steer clear. Yet, when we are able to take heed and slow down to notice, for example, that soft tickle at the back of the throat or the dryness in the sinus, even that tickle in the ear(s), we will notice how this is the beginning of the cold that we don't want to get that may put us out for a few days. If we drink that warm veggie/chicken soup, get extra rest, take herbs/vitamins, and slow down with our demands, we can curve the direction in our favor and avoid the cold.

Otherwise, the opposite happens and then we complain about how "I don't have time for getting sick." Meanwhile, the body says "if I made more time to take care of myself and didn't sacrifice my health for my lifestyle, then I wouldn't have to get sick." Of course, I'm referring to general imbalances, as there are exogenous (external) factors that increase the chance of disease based on exposure, but even here Ayurveda still says that if we are strong enough in our body and our immunity is high, then the likelihood of incurring any illness is significantly reduced  if not completely eliminated. The latter is an ideal of course.

Anyways, the point of this article is to notice cause and effect. Take notice of what is present within the body and compare it to what is going in and what is coming out. Look at the life/lifestyle and examine the diet. Do you see any correlation? Prevention is key to maintaining health. Knowing how to live in accordance with nature and from our hearts/emotions/bodies, as guidance systems towards health and happiness. A bit of attention and self-care can go a long way. Ayurveda teaches us to be the master of our health. It takes time and patience, compassion, and slowing down to "smell the roses." Slow down because you're worth the time and effort. Remember, health is wealth. What's the point of seeking wealth when health is thrown under the bus? 

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.

What is your body/heart telling you? What is your life telling you? See any correlation between what your life and lifestyle look like and what the quality of your health is?

SEASONAL ALLERGIES GIVING YOU THE DRIPS?

This is the time of year where so many individuals are suffering from allergies as nature comes to bloom and releases pollen so that we can enjoy the fruits of summer. Ayurveda calls this the season of Kapha, which relates to Spring, and when nature gets excited to repopulate the fields and flourish us with her abundant beauty through a vast array of colors people are aggravated on an internal level as they are congested, drippy, sneezy and lethargy. Why does this happen?

First, Ayurveda states that Kapha dosha (the elements of water and earth) are aggravated this time of year by the sun as it grows in the atmosphere daily. What this means is that when winter and late winter expresses with cold, dry and heavy qualities, the atmosphere becomes suspended in time and space. The thawing, due to the sun increasing in the sky each day, causes this thawing to melt and this is when the lymphatic system becomes overwhelmed and is meant to detox. Nature supports this through diet as is  seen in the animals gnawing on baby vegetation in order to cleanse their own lymphatic ducts.

Similarly, humans undergo such a process. The issue is that humans tend to have a mind of their own and least likely support the natural detoxification that happens this time of year and therefore things tend to get backed up in the digestive system. The body is amazing in that it is a historical system and that its health depends on consistency of patterns, daily patterns/seasonal patterns in order to truly thrive. When the seasons are honored and aligned with your own constitutional makeup, you are more likely to achieve balance in our health. Ayurveda says that it is because many individuals aren't harmonious with diet and lifestyle that disease is more likely to form.

According to Ayurveda, a disease primarily starts in the digestive system and it is in the digestive system that we can implement a "cure" which transforms disharmonious actions into harmonious health. Slowing down down and listening closely to what the digestive systems is communicating, but so often it is the case that time to do so isn't taken until something happens, like feeling ill or coming down with some form of a disease.

Therefore, subtle signs such as bloating, gas, distention, mild constipation, burning indigestion and/or sluggish digestion are key indicators that something is beginning to brew. By monitoring the "little things" we can prevent the bigger things from occurring. This is the amazing offering that Ayurveda shares with us that is called "preventative care." Ayurveda goes so far as to saying that when we incur a cold, this is the first sign that shows us we are living disharmoniously within the diet and lifestyle, that has weakened immunity and creates susceptibility to the exogenous (external) causes of diseases.

In order to self-regulate and address pathogenesis or prevent pathology formation, Ayurveda has three primary ways of attending to maintaining and/or returning back to balance. 

1. REGULATE AGNI. Agni translates to fire, particularly Jatharagni which is the digestive fire (the enzymatic activities of digestion). This involves ensuring that the digestive system is the strongest.

2. REMOVE AMA. AMA (not the American Medical Association), refers to toxicity that occurs in the body, channels, and mind, developed from improperly processed or uncooked food/emotions. Ama creates blockages and can become a sticky, heavy substance like sludge or anything that obstructs the natural productivity of tissues, organs and cells.

3. REBUILD OJAS. Ojas is the actual state of immunity that results as a byproduct of proper digestion. When Ojas is strong and balanced within the body and mind,  disease is kept at bay. 

When Agni is low, Ama is high. When Ama is high, Ojas is low. When the desire of Ojas is to be high and strong,  support to agni is required in order to remove Ama so that the body can regain its immunity. It's not always that simple because the monkey mind lives through the five senses (taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound) which engage in the world and constantly distract us. The body inherently is designed to know what to do to take care of itself at all times, regardless of disease. When we don't slow down the and really listen to it OR we hear it, because it is understood that something is out of balance when the body produces symptoms (since this is the body's primary way of communicating with us), and it is ignored when the mind wants to do it anyways. This is the division of body and mind and is what is called Prajnaparadha, or "failure of the intelligence." HERE is an informative article on disease in general. Ayurveda teaches us to return to the body and honor its age-old wisdom.

In the case with Seasonal Allergies, as with pathologies in general, it is important to examine what is the quality of the diet and lifestyle is that supports health or discourages it.

Here are some things to consider in the management of seasonal allergies:

1) Avoid heavy, cold, unprocessed and overly processed foods. For instance, breads, pastas (unless quinoa, to some degree), and fermented foods/beverages like bread, alcohol and cheese. These are the types of food that contribute to ama when someone is prone towards allergies or wants to prevent them.

2) Avoid cold/ice/frozen anything as this impairs the capacity of the digestive system from functioning optimally. It's like having a campfire going and suddenly dousing it out with cold water. Just don't do it! By shutting down the digestive system, anything that is put into it becomes unprocessed and inevitably causes blockages since the liver is stressed, along with the other organs of digestion. This makes its way to the lymphatic system, which we have a lot of drainage points in the head and upper respiratory system, that shuts down and becomes blocked.

3) Proper lubrication of the mucous membranes is essential. The body possesses approximately 12 pounds of skin. This skin covers the internal and the external environment of the body. Dryness of the body and its membranous locations is one of the primary culprits that invites in disease formation. Commonly, dryness eventually brings in either inflammation and/or excess mucus production. Similarly, inflammation can provoke a mucigenous response where the body's defense against dryness and/or inflammation sometimes is to produce mucous for self-preservation.  Check HERE for more details on dryness. Ayurveda strongly emphasizes practices such as:

            a) Nasya- which is lubrication of the sinus passages with oils like ghee and sesame.

            b) Abhyanga - which is external application of oil in self-massage.

            c) Karna Purna - application of oil, such as sesame, in the ear canal.

            d) Gandusha - what is typically called "oil pulling" or "oil swooshing", with 2-3tbs. of sesame

            e) Netra - which is the application of ghee or a medicated ghee (clarified butter) in the eyes

            f) Basti - medicated oil enema, as needed and as supervised by a qualified practitioner.

When we feel a tickle in the throat or a scratchiness in the roof of the mouth, gandusha is great for removing this. When we feel like the eyes are dry, we can apply a drop or two of ghee at night before bed or go for a Netra Basti treatment which is an eye treatment where the eyes are swimming in warm ghee. (Feels amazing and rejuvenating!) When the ears feel itchy, we apply the oil. When the skin feels dry, we apply oil. When the digestive system is dry, the colon is one of the places where dryness can disturb absorption. Therefore, the basti mentioned above helps to lubricate this end of the body. Generally, oil helps to soften and lubricate the skin. It also serves to feed the microbes that live there, helping them to strengthen. Our first line of defense against the outside world and pathogens is the skin. Also, regular application of warm oil helps to increase longevity by decreasing the aging process. We can think of it this way. As we age, things tend to get dried up and break more easily. When keep things properly lubricated we can slow down this process...A LOT! We can see how this actually works when we observe children who are balls of mucus making machines and rebound quickly because of the youth. Additionally, there is more water present in their systems since the aren't that far from when they were swimming in the mothers' womb and lubricated, moistened for nine months. It's this level of hydration and lubrication that maintains a youthful appearance.

We also know that stress has a cold and drying effect. By warming up the inner and outer environment and by moistening them with oils and hydration (including electrolyte beverages, small amounts of diluted juices, and water) we can prolong aging and at least age with grace.

4) To help with dryness of the eyes, Rose water drops or spritz's throughout the day can be helpful. Just make sure you don't have any pre-existing health conditions that this practice may be a contraindication for.

5) Drinking warm/hotter beverages helps to keep the digestive system moving, clean, and balanced. We can't dissolve fat with cold water, we only add to it. Adding hot water to fat, dissolves it. Simple! Additionally, keeping proper hydration is a crucial component to supporting the body. Drink around 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water. Water boosted with electrolytes, like natural versions of gatorade can be quite helpful in hydrating the cells adequately and strengthening blood plasma and overall immunity.

6) Staying up late and sleeping in late, creates more inflammation and decreases lymphatic filtration. Staying up late and waking up early, increases dryness and effects the nervous system negatively. Going to bed early (around 10) and up early harmonizes the body and all its systems. We weren't meant to be nocturnal! (no matter how much we justify it)  Simply staying up late compromises every system, the digestive system, the lymphatic system, the nervous system and the immune system. 

7) Spices that contain the tastes of bitter, pungent, astringent, and minimal salt, such as turmeric, cumin, ajwan, mustard seeds, oregano, cardamom, cinnamon, thyme, basil, coriander, ginger, fennel, garlic and rosemary, help to regulate digestion. These tastes, bitter, pungent, astringent are good to work with this time of year. Just be mindful to not over dry as these spices have a tendency towards being drying but they can be balanced depending on how you use them and how you cook with them.

8) Nasal irrigation, which involves the famous Neti Pot, is excellent for seasonal allergies. When there is too much mucus present, which tends to be the body's means of reacting to inflammation/dryness, the neti pot helps to flush out the sinus and increases oxygenation in the brain and cells. Be mindful not to over neti as this in and of itself can have a drying effect on the sinus. Mainly perform this when you are aware there is a lot of congestion/mucus build up or that you have been exposed to environmental pollutants. This treatment is refreshing. Always follow it up with a little  oil lubrication to ensure immunity of the nasal passages. Note: follow proper instructions around neti, where adequate water temperature, adequate amounts of non-iodized sea salt (1/8 tsp.), and adequate quality of water being that it is filtered or distilled, is applied. Otherwise, the experience can be painful. Too much salt or too little salt produces burning. The head not tilted correctly will cause some of the drainage to go into the throat and the quality of water can also cause some burning. So, no tap water! Lastly, the best neti consists of using a ceramic pot. Metal is ok. Plastic isn't. Syringes and sprays are not correct either. I'm sorry/not sorry, to say.

          Note: The relationship of Neti and Nasya is a profound and beautiful one! It is a balanced approach strongly encouraged in the management of seasonal allergies. Combined with diet and lifestyle, it becomes amazingly supportive.

9) When it is difficult to perform the neti because one or both nostrils, or that the sinus cavities are very blocked, apply a warm eucalyptus compress for a few minutes. This should open it up so that you can do neti. Otherwise, take the neti into the shower and let the hot steam of the shower open up the sinus' first and then you can do the neti. 

10) Follow Guidelines for Health Eating. This will also help support the digestive system in being optimal.

11) Vitamins such as A, B, C, D, and E support immunity and manage stress levels in the body. We know that stress dries out the system and makes it susceptible to pathogens of all sorts. 

12) Exercise is ESSENTIAL! There's no way around it! Raising the heart rate through cardiovascular activities that are balancing, can regulate all the systems and the body/mind as a whole. Lymphatic stimulate is linked to the cardiovascular system as it requires a pumping mechanism to support functionality. Exercise is also a crucial practice that supports not only the heart but the body as a whole to move nutrients and toxins to their adequate locations. Exercise supports the blood sugar and insulin relationship. Exercise can help to detox the body, where the body uses sweat, urine and feces to release more efficiently whatever doesn't serve the body any longer. Exercise also helps to put you in your body which will aid you in listening to it more, since it desires your attention. Why wait for something to hurt before we pay the body any attention? Draining the body of its toxins prevents it from sticking around and becoming ama.

When attending to any imbalance, the cause is never just one reason. When attending to finding health and balance again, the remedy is never just one. It's a collective approach, and this is why it is called the W-Holistic approach. There are no quick fixes when it comes to "figuring" it out.

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.

DIGESTION AND PREVENTING DISEASE/DISEASE MANAGEMENT

In Ayurveda, we have an understanding that digestion is the foundation in which health develops from and where diseases mainly begin from. Digestion itself has a physical component where the actual experience of taking in food gets converted into usable forms of nutrition and cellular information, and it has a mental component that is dependent upon the state of mind involving the information coming in through the five primary senses (eyes, ears, nose, mouth and touch), as well as the emotional aspect of our relationship to the world. Both of these create a somato-emotional relationship responsible for either our well-being or our potential towards ill health.

Ayurveda has what is called Samprapti, which translates to the "six stages of disease." Otherwise known as pathology. These six stages consist of Accumulation, Aggravation, Overflow, Relocation, Manifestation, and Diversification. Accumulation and Aggravation present with prodromal (precursory/preliminary) symptoms that tend to go unnoticed, such as dry stools, gas, and a decreased ability or mild manifestation of constipation (relating to a Vata disturbance), burning indigestion (relating to Pitta disturbance), and sluggish digestion (relating to Kapha disturbance.) When any of these symptoms present themselves it is clear that there is a digestive disturbance that can slowly progress and produce more intense symptoms where these disturbances leave the digestive system and enter into the circulatory system (Overflow) and eventually making their way into a new home (Relocation-Manifestation-Diversification).

It is strongly and repetitively emphasized in Ayurvedic Medicine that healthcare begins by managing our health, disease and overall digestion in the first two phases of Accumulation/Aggravation. This is where diet and lifestyle come into play because it is understood that diet and lifestyle are what can create the foundation for health or illness. When we notice any digestive disturbance, which isn't always the case because they tend to start out as mild symptoms that get either ignored or unnoticed, it is imperative that we slow down and attend to these symptoms in order to prevent their further influence in our health. These subtle digestive disturbances are indications that the digestive system has been compromised and requires some attention. More often than not, the reason for these disturbances is because of an emotional stir-up and/or neglecting to follow harmonious practices in our lifestyle, which includes healthy eating habits.

Luckily, Ayurveda has noted "15 General Guidelines for Healthy Eating" and have been clearly pointed out in the first text of California College of Ayurveda. These 15 guidelines are:  

1) Food should be taken in the proper place. Meaning, that the environment that one eats in affects digestion. For maximum digestion, the environment should be calm, peaceful and pleasant. 

2) Eat food prepared by loving hands in a loving way. Food prepared for by loving hands is always more beneficial to the body than food prepared without awareness of the sacred.

3) Say grace before meals. Grace is an opportunity for meditation, chanting or saying a blessing before taking food.

4) Food should be eaten without distraction. According to Charak Samhita, the original texts of Ayurvedic Medicine founded by the first medical doctor known as Charak, "One should not talk or laugh or be unmindful while taking food. One taking food while talking, laughing or with distracted mind, subjects himself to the same trouble as the one eating too hurriedly. So one should not talk, laugh, or be unmindful while taking food." When the mind is distracted, food is not chewed properly and emotions that disturb digestion enter the mind.

5) Food should be taken with a proper frame of mind. When consuming food, the mind should be peaceful. If a person is anxious, angry, disturbed, or impatient, it is best to either skip the meal or meditate first. 

6) Food should be chewed until it is an even consistency. According to Charak Samhita, "One should not take food too hurriedly. If it is taken to hurriedly it enters into the wrong passage, it gets depressed and it does not enter the stomach properly. In this situation, one can never determine the taste of food articles or detect foreign objected mixed with them." Digestion begins in the mouth.

7) Food should be warm. Warm food is digested more easily than cold food. Cold food weakens digestion, is digested slowly and more likely to produce toxins.

8) Food should be taken that is oily or moist. Oily and moist foods are more nourishing than dry foods. Dry foods are difficult to digest and to eliminate. Still, food that is too oily is also hard to digest, as it is very heavy. Hence, all food should be moist and somewhat oily. 

9) Food should not have opposite potencies. This is the essence of Ayurvedic food combining. Food should not h ave opposte actions. Hot and cold foods taken together will be neither purifying nor tonifying. In addition, some specific combinations will be very difficult to digest, will vitiate the doshas (biological humors) and produce ama (toxins.)

10) Only a small amount of liquid should be taken with meals. When too much liquid is taken with food, the liquid reduces the strength of agni (digestive fire.) It is like putting water on fire. Hence, when too much liquid is taken, the doshas become vitiated and ama forms. While too much liquid is not good, so too, food is hard to digest if it is very dry. Hence, dry meals require about 1/2 cup of water. Moist meals, such as soup, do not require any additional water. If additional liquid is taken before or after a meal, a person should wait at least 1/2 hour on either side of the meal.

11) One should avoid cold drinks. Cold drinks weakens agni. Liquid taken with a meals should not come from the refrigerator. Drinks should be at room temperature or a little warm and in the proper quantity. 

12) Food should be taken with self-confidence. When taking food, it is important for a person to feel good about what they are consuming. Self-confidence motivates the internal forces of nature to support good digestion. A lack of self-confidence increases anxiety and interferes with digestion. 

13) Eat until you are 75 percent full. This is perhaps the most difficult challenge people have. Overeating suppresses the agni, increases the kapha dosha and increases ama. Scientists have stated that the surest way to extend life is eat at less. When the proper amount of food has been taken, a person no longer feels hungry. A person feels satisfied, not full. The body and mind should feel light and awake following a meal. 

14) Take some time to rest after meals. It is common for people to complete a meal and immediately get up and go back to being productive. Productivity or strong emotions immediately following a meal will interfere with digestion, vitiate the doshas and increase ama. It is best to rest for some time. Ideally one hour. This allows the first stage of digestion to be completed. During this time, a mild walk is proper or the reading of a peaceful book. Strong exercise and emotional excitement should be avoided. As many will find one hour difficult, any amount of time is better than no time. At the very least, a person should close their eyes and take several slow breaths before rising from the table. Taking rest doesn't mean falling asleep, although, it is common in some cultures to have a siesta but actually falling asleep versus light relaxation is contraindicated and impairs digestion. 

15) Allow three hours between meals for food to digest. Three hours is the minimum time it takes to completely digest food. Hence, the previous meal should be digested before the next meal is taken. If food is taken too soon, Ayurveda teaches that ahara rasa (undigested food) will mix with the new food. The result is stated to vitiate the doshas and cause disease. The appetite should not become strong until the previous food is digested. Hence, if the desire to eat again comes quickly after a previous meal, one should ask oneself whether the desire is genuine hunger or whether it is simply sensory desire arising from some other source such as emotional dissatisfaction or anxiety. 

 Whether for disease prevention (healthcare) or disease management (sick-care), Ayurveda addresses both at the basic level of working with diet and lifestyle. In both cases, diet and lifestyle is where it all starts. What you put into your body, including sensory interaction, determines what comes out of the body. What is your digestion telling you?

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

WHAT'S UP WITH THE WEATHER?: AND HOW TO STAY HEALTHY

I don't know about you, but here on the East Coast we are having such inconsistent weather patterns and I'm seeing so many people falling ill. It can be challenging to navigate general seasonal changes and transitions but when we have multiple types of weather within one season that absolutely doesn't fit the normal pattern, people have a difficult time with keeping up.

I feel there is a collective eagerness to just have winter over with so that we can have more steady climate of warmth and moist (rains/humidity etc.) This climate has been going from hot to cold to dry to moist and everything in between and so quickly. We went from 60 degrees to 70 degrees to 47 degrees within three days. Knowing that things are fluctuating as much as they are, causes intense stress on our digestion and state of mind. In Ayurveda, the key to health and the main root of most diseases begins in the digestive system and in the mind. Therefore, this is where we address things at the simplest and subtlest levels.  In Ayurveda, we note that there are is a six step process or pathology to disease. You can read more about it HERE. It is clear that when we can catch the initial digestive disturbances that we can prevent further ailments from developing. These are the little symptoms that tend to go unnoticed. For instance and primarily, the main subtle digestive disturbance for Vata predominant imbalances is gas and mild constipation; for Pitta, we have burning indigestion and for Kapha predominant imbalances we have sluggish digestion. This is the phase known as Accumulation/Aggravation (Sanchaya/Prakopa), and where we can address diet and lifestyle without the usage of herbs/medications (usually.)

Currently, with the weather patterns being as they are, it is IMPORTANT to take note of how dryness and coldness are still present. Even when we have a 70 degree day, the night air and the subtle quality of the air is still slightly cool, which varies in comparison to the 70 degree day we have in May. This quality of air is important to be aware of because this is what slips into the nervous system and digestive system, wreaking havoc. In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) this is called "wind" and in Ayurveda it is called a Vata disturbance or vitiation. The dryness can enter into the digestive system and slowly dry up the pre-existing membranes where ever natural mucus shows up in the body. This mucus is healthy Kapha and this form of kapha also shows up in the plasma of cells, known as Rasa, which requires utmost hydration and fortification through dietary intake, and adequate lymphatic stimulation. You can learn more about catching the dryness before it catches you by reading this article. HERE

As eager as many people are to wear shorts on 70 days and bundle up again, just as quickly the next day, this all adds up to systemic stress. In order to not overheat and still feel comfortable, I recommend wearing comfortable and lighter clothing on warmer days but keep the extremities, especially the neck, protected and covered.  

Below are some simple recommendations that have helped many of my patients, and can help you:

1) Be truly mindful that the official mark of spring is around the corner and it was still February when it was February and we are now entering into March. By being mindful we can keep in mind that it's not summer yet and to not go extreme from shorts to sweats, but to find a happy medium by wearing light cotton clothing that still protects the surface of the skin and keep the back of the neck protected because this is one of the ways "wind" enters into the nervous system. Both Ayurveda and TCM point out that there are two entrance ways, located around C1-C2 (cervical discs) that allow for the wind to enter.

2) Stay hydrated, not as much with plain old water but more with water that has been infused by a light juice and pinch of salt, making it a natural "gatorade" that supports hydration of the cells through osmosis and encouragement of the sodium-potassium pumps. This strengthens the cells' outermost layer. This "gatorade" which is an electrolyte booster can be made simply with some 1/4 lime juice, 2 tbs. maple syrup, 2 cups filtered water, and pinch of sea salt.

3) Properly oleating the body with ingestion of oils such as Flax Seed, GHEE (number 1), and coconut oil. Olive oil is okay.

4) External application of oil through massage or what Ayurveda calls "Self-Abhyanga." Banyan has a great and balancing formulated oil called "Daily Massage Oil." See this LINK. Type in Daily Massage Oil. 

5) In alignment with the above, it is important to oleate the exposed mucous membranes, such as the mouth, the eyes, the ears and the nose. For the nose, we use a medicated oil or a basic oil such as ghee or sesame and apply it with a dropper, a finger or the tip of a Q-tip. For the eyes, we can spritz the eyes with pure rose water and/or add a drop of ghee in each eye before bed. For the ears, we can add a drop of ghee or sesame oil before bed. For the mouth, we can ingest oils through cooking and/or do what is called Gandusha (Oil Pulling) with 2tbs. of sesame oil. Keeping these orifices moist is imperative to our health. The elements can externally affect and afflict these areas, and what we take in (or don't take in) through diet, can affect the quality of our skin, internally and externally.

6) Ensure that foods are still warm and not too heavy, and not too light (like basic cold salads.) It's too soon for the latter, though we are encroaching upon sprouting season and baby greens, along with seasonal fruits that begin this time of year which include blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries.

7) Teas like pure Tulsi, Turmeric and Ginger; even combined, make a powerful brew to keep away the immune blues. 

8) Drinking teas means AVOIDING anything cold and icey. Cold and ice actually create dryness due to its astringent nature which pulls water versus fortifies it. Read my article on ICE for more details. Ice isn't nice but it is cool.

9) Vitamins such as A,  B complex, C and D are great for regulating immune system functioning, working as adaptogens to counter stress and bring balance to the body and mind.

10) Herbs such as Tulsi, Turmeric, Ashwagandha, Ginger, Guduchi, Ginseng, Licorice and Astragalus. One of my favorite herbal formulas that really goes deep and quick is Immune Support from Banyan Botanicals. This formula is great for when there is even just a tickle in the throat, scratchy or the overall feeling like something is coming on, in terms of some basic imbalance like a cold/cough/flu. 

11) Remember, it's not summer yet and thinking these independently hot days in the middle of spring is a sure sign of predictability, think again. The unpredictability should raise awareness to be more mindful of being in the present moment and making better choices in the grander scheme of things. Meaning that it is still March is March and a hot day doesn't make it July. In knowing that there is instability and we must find some sort of common ground in each day in order to ensure health remains level and least stressed but the fluctuations of climate. If we meet the extremity with extremity, we are sure to meet turbulence in our health.

12) "The body is a historical system and depends on consistency for its health maintenance." - Mary Thompson. Food for thought.

 

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

 

STORY OF DISEASE: An Ayurvedic Understanding

There's a fascinating story I've heard that describes the "Summary of The Process of Disease Formation," according to Ayurvedic Medicine. First, disease begins when we forget our true nature. This is known as the "Primordial Cause" of disease. We forget how we as spirit are spiritualizing through the human experience. According to Marisa Laursen, a professor at the California College of Ayurveda, "the mind is a place of purity and clarity. The thought comes along and disturbs the mind. Thought is part of ego and the chatter becomes the smoke screen that disturbs us from the true self." The ego creates stories and draws upon attachments to the past and projections of the future, constantly shape-shifting and vacillating between the two; preventing us from being absolutely absorbed in the present moment because it fears its cessation. There is a sacred text called the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the first line of the yoga sutras states "yoga chitta vritti nirodha", which means that "Yoga (union/merging) involves the cessation of the disturbances of the mind." There are 195 sutras or verses and of the 195 versus the 194 verses show us how to accomplish verse number one. 

The process and movement of time, which is known as "Parinama" or that which relates to things that change, is the next cause and contributing factor. There are two aspects to time. One relates to Linear time, which is out of our control because this involves the cycles of the earth revolving around the sun and the changes of season. The second form of time consists of Biological time, which, though is in our control, it is dynamic. This is because the pacing of biological time changes with response to our motion and as motion increases, the rate of biological time increases. With this, the body either ages faster when we are moving faster and more slowly when we slow down. A busy mind causes us to perceive time as moving quickly and a mind that is still and more anchored in the present moment, time slows down. When the mind moves quickly, the body will reflect this and as the mind moves slower, the body will reflect this too.

Once we experience a busy and chaotic/distracted mind, we come to the next step where disease develops. This experience is called "Prajnaparadha" or "crimes against wisdom/failure of intelligence". What happens here is that on some deep level we know what is right for us but we allow our minds to convince us otherwise and we make opposite choices. Our intellect is constantly being used to make decisions and it prefers to choose between pleasure and harmony. This is where the ego feeds off the senses and uses the senses to support its own happiness somehow as it pursues outer pleasures to satisfy itself and perpetuate its own existence through separation/division. Dr. Marc Halpern, President and Founder of the California College of Ayurveda, says "While the ego and the senses speak loudly within the great hall of the mind, the soul speaks in whispers." When we allow our inner wisdom to be ignored, it's because we have given our power away to our senses and this leads to the next place where the five senses, the eyes, ears, mouth, the skin, and smell dictate our interaction with the world.

This is called "Asatmendryartha Samyoga" or "unwholesome conjunction of the senses with their objects of their affection." Dr. Marc Halpern further explains: "When people take into their body that which does not match their constitution, they are considered misusing their senses. In addition to taking in what is not harmonious, a person may also take in too much or too little of what is energetically harmonious for that person. This too will cause disease."

What is amazing is that of all the healthcare systems in the world, only Ayurveda has come up with an adequate and full definition of what is health. Other systems, like Allopathy, define health as the "absence of disease" but Ayurveda says this "Sama Dosha Sama Agnis ca Sama Dhatu Mala kriya Prasannatmendriya Manah Svasta itiabhidyate" which means "balanced constitution(Vata/Pitta/Kapha), balanced digestion, balanced tissues, balanced waste products (urine, feces, sweat), balanced senses (eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin), balanced mind (sattva, rajas,tamas), and alignment with spirit is what healthy is." Any disturbance or abnormality in any of these is an indication of disease. 

Additionally, Ayurveda has broken down disease pathology into six stages, known as "Samprapti." Each of the stages can be understood as such: Accumulation, Aggravation, Overflow, Relocation, Manifestation and Diversification. There is an image that helps to grasp these concepts more easily. Let's say we have a tree and the roots are the doshas (tendencies towards imbalances based on constitutional determinants, of Vata, Pitta and Kapha) and these roots are below the surface. What is above the surface is the trunk of the tree and this represents Overflow, where the blood and plasma exist as part of the circulatory system. As the tree progresses upward, the branches form and this is known as the Relocation Phase. From the branch, we have a bud and this budding is the Manifestation of the disease. After it starts to bloom and this blooming is the full-fledged experience of the disease, known as Diversification. According to Ayurvedic prevention and management of disease there is a natural cycle that happens throughout the year and with each season. As one season is present, that is the Aggravated Phase and the season that just left has now been Alleviated but while we are in the Aggravated Phase the next season is already Accumulating.

As each Dosha (biological constitution, that is prone to decay) undergoes this experience of time/season change, the natural Alleviation of particular symptoms occurs. IF or WHEN, for some reason or another, this cycle is interrupted and Alleviation is prevented, we enter into Overflow and this is when a disease is really progressing. In other words, it is during the Accumulation and Aggravation phases that this is the beginning of a disturbance that begins in the digestive system. Commonly ignored, may appear subtle or overt, disturbances would be: sluggish digestion (weak/low digestive fire = Manda Agni), gas/dry stools (variable digestion = Vishama Agni), and/or burning indigestion (sharp digestion = Tikshna Agni). Low digestion relates to Kapha. Variable digestion relates to Vata and sharp digestion relates to Pitta. Balanced digestion is called Sama Agni where there are no digestive disturbances. It is during the Accumulation and Aggravation phases that we can catch a disease from further progressing but we are usually too busy and less sensitive to notice and we keep pushing ahead until other symptoms develop and scream for out attention. It is at these stages that, according to Ayurveda, that we can simply balance our diet and lifestyle, making better choices that we can prevent diseases from increasing. When the symptoms have progressed and they enter into the circulatory system then we have to intervene with herbs/medications and other therapies. Regardless of what stage a disease is at, diet and lifestyle must be adjusted in order to secure the optimization of health. Herbs/medications alone are not meant to do the job completely as we are whole beings and not just treating parts of a body/mind. This is the holistic approach and effort. Even when herbs are administered, diet and lifestyle provisions are made to ensure success or at least make some improvements. 

Prognosis is about the likelihood of improvement and/or correction of a condition. Disease, depending on what stage of development it is at can always be managed. There are diseases that are Easy to cure, Difficult to cure, Incurable but not terminal and Terminal.  Disease starts out as "dis-ease" and picks up momentum until it has completely manifested itself as disease and by returning ease through our diet and lifestyles we can encourage disease to return back to ease. Importantly, this ease also involves supporting the well-being of a person through their state of mind. I've said for many years now, that it's about the little things that build up to the big things.

There are of course extenuating circumstances that are to be factored into all this, circumstances such as external factors like accidents and other outside variations of trauma that can influence health and disease pathology. Karma falls into this and it is important to remember that karma is not about blame or judgment but about balance. Karma is not about punishment or reward, it is about balance. In Ayurveda and Yoga, we know that karma is a result of selfish acts and by being selfless we can release ourselves from the cumulative effects and experiences of karma. This is a discussion that requires further exploration at another time and escapes the main purpose of this present article which is meant to give a general understanding and summary of the cause of disease. This current article is meant to share a perspective and expand our lens on the possibilities that surround dis-ease leading to disease. Simply, we can always either prevent or manage.

In summary, take note of what your senses are doing. Take control of them. They are like the five horses without a charioteer and once the charioteer takes hold, the horses can be guided. Similarly, our innermost and highest version of ourselves is the charioteer and when we take hold of the five senses we can get a better handle on our lives. Ayurveda has in place a five sense therapy protocol designed to support this process and journey. With regard to other stressors, by reducing the stress we experience as the mind stresses because of past and future projections and attachments, we can feel more in touch with what is happening to day and embrace the grace of the moment that invites us to be intimate with it. Practices such as, yoga, Ayurveda, meditation, Tai Chi, and other holistic modalities are meant to support us in remembering who we are and what we have come here for. When we remember who we are by escaping the illusions and story-telling of the mind rooted in the attachment to past and future events, we will find our interactions with the world coming from a more wholesome place and the choices we make will be more in alignment with what is true in our hearts and not what we think is true in our minds.

Click HERE to read this article on daily practices honoring a ritual of time and that supports us into wholeness. 

CATCH DRYNESS BEFORE IT CATCHES YOU!

It couldn't wait until February!

It is with great urgency and passion that I write this current article to help prevent any further health distress this time of year. Since my last article and since right after the holiday's, I've seen many people and treated many patients with colds, virus', digestive issues such as gas and constipation, and other upper respiratory ailments. These are all conditions that can be prevented if we know where and how to catch it from starting. Frankly, it's quite simple! The main culprit is dryness. Dry membranes and orifices; ranging from dry eyes, dry ears, dry noses, dry mouths, dry skin, dryness of the vagina and dryness of the rectal opening. According to Ayurveda, when dryness is experienced in these areas it is a result of the air element imbalance, otherwise known as Vata Dosha vitiation. 

Vata season starts in late fall and goes until early winter. As we transition from this season to Kapha season, which is late winter and beginning of spring, the common quality is cold. Coldness has an astringent quality. The astringent quality possesses inherent elements of the air and earth. In that, this air can have a drying quality. Cold and dry qualities can cause water to be pulled out of the atmosphere. Cold and moist, which are common qualities of Kapha season and the aspect of coldness in the later winter months, causes the air molecules to be trapped and grounded until heat enters into the atmosphere to release us from cold and heaviness through the moisture. It is with the cold qualities that we have to really pay attention to and how it affects the mucous membranes of the above-mentioned locations. 

In the Accumulation and Aggravation phase of pathology, which is the first and second phase of the Six Stages of Disease Pathology, when Vata is vitiated we will generally complain of dry/hard stools and/or even constipation, along with gas/flatulence. As it enters into the stage of Overflow, the third phase of pathology involving the circulatory system, a generalized systemic dryness occurs. Vata has first entered into the digestive system and made its way into the circulatory system. Dryness continues and essentially and inevitably, the membranes of the body and cells experience dryness. Ayurveda tells us that when we are facing cold and dry qualities, that the antidote is warm and moist. Ayurveda also tells us that though we must be protective of our mucous membranes that are exposed to the outside, such as in the nose, mouth, eyes, ears and skin, we must also understand that the digestive system is where we have to maintain the proper moisture. Therefore, Demulcents and Carminatives (digestive stimulants also called Dipanas in Ayurveda) are categories of herbs that help to reinstate the homeostasis of the mucous membranes.  Ayurveda states that when we catch the qualities of Vata, which are dry, cold, light, subtle and mobile, in the first and second phase of pathology, we can reverse the development of related conditions through remedies simply targeting diet and lifestyle. It's not until the pathology has entered into the third, fourth, fifth and sixth stages that we will require specific herbs and other therapies. Therefore, catching an imbalance in the first and second phases is key to reversing it before it spirals deeper. 

Here are some quick and immediate considerations as far as diet and lifestyle:

1) STAY AWAY from anything cold, raw and frozen! (In general, but especially this time of year.)

2) STAY AWAY from ICE! Coincidentally, as an Ayurvedic Practitioner, it is my "job" to observe my surroundings and I'm constantly observing people in their actions and witnessing cause and effect. For example, recently a friend of mine on Facebook posted that he was at Dunkin Donuts waiting for his Iced Coffee and it was freezing outside but that he was freezing. I asked him if he was going to feel warmer by drinking an iced coffee on a cold/icy day. He didn't respond. People..it's a no brainer! If it's cold outside, don't put any cold into the body! Period! Click here for the article on ICE.

3) Foods that are warming, generally through a spicy (pungent) nature and not too heavy, this time of year is ideal. Soups are amazing and even better for dinner for many reasons. Spices such as cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, fresh or dry ginger, basil, fenugreek, turmeric, black pepper, chili flakes/powder and cayenne. Remember that spices such as these can increase warmth but it is important to have demulcents and oils in the diet to maintain the heat in the body more effectively, otherwise the nature of pungent spices can also invite dryness because the pungent tastes consists of air and fire elements. Sweet and Savory (combination of sweet and salty), in moderation, helps to moisten the tissues and that is because the sweet tastes consists of earth and water elements, and the taste of salt, consists of water and fire. This is why some salt should be added to all foods because it is the salty taste that interacts with the tongue by stimulating particular taste buds and that it helps the tongue to recognize the other flavors in any particular food. Sweet is also evidently highly noticeable.

4) Lubricate the eyes, ears, mouth, nose and skin. Ayurveda has numerous practices that are highly effective in addressing this. A simple drop of oil, like ghee, here and there goes a long way. Add a drop of ghee in the eyes. Sesame, a drop or two, in the ears. Sesame oil for oil pulling/gargling. A drop of ghee or sesame for the each nostril. As for the overall skin of the body, see #6 below. Making sure that the nose, eyes and mouth are at least moist before bed is very important. Throughout the day, I have some of my patients bringing with them a small bottle of oil to moisten the nose. 

5) Hydrate with teas like licorice and Tulsi, or Cinnamon and Turmeric with a few drops of coconut oil or ghee. Remember, demulcents! Demulcents such as licorice, slippery elm, marshmallow, gokshura, shatavari, cinnamon and flaxseed. You can throw in chia seeds too! Additionally, small amounts of room temperature juice or "natural gatorades", for the purposes of replenishing and maintaining the balance of electrolytes, helps to strengthen and moisten the plasma (Rasa Dhatu) cells of the body when then contributes towards the health of mucous membranes throughout the body. 

6) OIL and FOMENTATION: Warm oil massages are an essential key to healthcare and immunity boosting, in Ayurveda. Kapha predominant types only require a very light coat of oil, Pitta a medium coat and Vata can benefit from more oil; always warm though (never cold or room temperature oils). Then, fomentation is imperative. Dry heat is better for Kapha and moist heat is better for Vata. Pitta predominant individuals only need to be exposed to heat for a few minutes. Vata's shouldn't over sweat because this can further dry them out. Excess heat can also effect Pitta predominant individuals in this way. Additionally, ensure that your daily diet has healthy oils including ghee and coconut oil. As food is cooked, this is the heat element that guides the oils into the body and helps to lubricate not only the digestive tract but also the joints and tissues in the brain known as the CSP (CerebroSpinalFluid.)

7) Cover your head, ears and neck; the neck especially when traveling about. According to both Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, there are two specific points in the back of the head where the wind can enter very easily. When this happens, the wind enters into the nervous system and begins its process to wreak havoc throughout the nervous system. 

8) Proper rest! Meaning, get to bed no later than 11 and up earlier, not long after sunrise, ensures that the digestive system is working more optimally. Proper rest also supports immunity. Immunity primarily depends on the digestive system. Staying up late is a type of stress recognized by Ayurvedic medicine that creates imbalances in the digestive system, immune system and nervous system which are interdependent; with the primary focus being the digestive system. According to Ayurveda, many diseases have their roots in the digestive system and Ayurveda says that all diseases can be addressed through the digestive system. Optimal sleep happens at night, not the day time. The qualities of day sleep aren't as rejuvenative as it they are at night time. Sleep helps the nervous system, during a parasympathetic process, of lubricating the entire body, starting with the digestive system and then nervous system.

9) For other recommendations around supporting physical and mental health this time of year, check out the recent articles since September through this link.

Remember, once dryness gets in, it's tricky to get out, so Ayurveda says prevent it from coming in and from going deeper which can cause problems in other parts of the body and mind, and affect overall health. 

If you'd like further assistance with improving your quality of health, feel free to contact VISHNU for an appointment.

 

 DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

 

 

POST-HOLIDAY'S BLUES? AND HOW TO KEEP IT MOVING

Winter can be challenging to some people more than others.  In Ayurveda, we generally can divide the winter season into two phases. The first phase, begins in early fall and to early winter. This is considered Vata season (generally October to January); its primary qualities are cold, light, dry, rough and subtle. Therefore, Ayurveda remedies these attributes with warming/heating, heavy, moistening and soft qualities. The second phase, begins in late winter to spring where snow starts to thaw out, which is Kapha season. The typical Kapha qualities of cold, heavy, moist and smooth with warming/heating, lightening, drying qualities and rough attributes.  And, just to complete the basic understanding of the seasons, we can briefly mention Pitta, consists of the qualities of Hot, moist, light and sharp; which mainly exists in the season of summer, starting around June and ending around September. 

In Ayurveda, we know that Kapha actually becomes aggravated when the sun starts to thaw out the snow. It's not so much during the accumulation and aggravation phase of Kapha season that aggravates Kapha. For instance, the snow keeps adding and compacting itself under the influence of cold and moisture, with dryness in between as things freeze from the air influence. Kapha keeps getting bigger and bigger. It can become eventually stagnant and simply stop moving. The way this manifests in the body is that it there is a blockage that occurs. Weight increases, sluggishness increases and a lack of motivation increase. It's with the addition of heat that causes Kapha to liquefy and melt, causing the drippiness that so often occurs during the spring time. Yet, it is this Kapha that is liquefying that requires even more support to keep it moving efficiently, even for Kapha types.

As we start to feel heavier this time of year, it's important to keep things moving by adding heat not only in our homes but through your digestive homes. Otherwise, we are left feeling sluggish which then contributes us to have lymphatic congestion, lethargy and an overall sense of heaviness. For Pitta predominant types, which is the general manifestation of fire in the physiology, this heaviness isn't as much of an issue. To the Pitta person, the sun is generally shining consistently and each day. Though, as a Pitta predominant person myself, I can say that after prolonged cloudiness I am affected somewhat and more inclined to either push hard to motivate myself or surrender and do some hibernating. Anything for too long, can cause each of the three types imbalances. It's with awareness being the first step to change that we can influence our health. For instance, understanding the ebb and flow of the seasons and the qualities they manifest, compared to our constitutional configuration of the elements is a good preventative way to making changes that will align us with optimal health. Another example, is knowing that there is a general flow and progression that happens after summer is over when the autumn climate enters into the atmosphere and the momentum towards the holiday season picks up. This momentum usually ends in a climax and once we have reached the peak of the holiday season, where gifts and foods are shared, it happens to be somewhere in late December to beginning of January that many people feel the drop after the holiday excitement and rush. Emotions can be amplified, magnified and stimulated during the holiday season when the heart strings are tugged upon.  Once the running around has come to a halt, adrenaline, cortisol are now reduced and in some cases exhausted. Let's add in that during this time of festivities we are challenged on various levels that compromise sleep, exercise and eating patterns.

These previous examples are some ways to keep in mind as we undergo the yearly cycles. Within this reflection on this time of year, we can come to our own conclusions to where we are at and determine the best protocol to help regain or remain in good health. We know that such stress of the holidays can challenge our immunity, that combined with the poor sleep patterns, eating habits and fluctuations in exercise (if any) can cause the body to be compromised and this is why it is common for many people to suffer the consequence and have symptoms such as colds, flu's, other respiratory infections, depression, anxiety, constipation, congestion, lethargy, and fatigue. Monitoring the atmospheric qualities as the vacillate from dry to moist with the common quality of cold makes the whole situation trickier. Homeostasis is essential to maintain health. The body is a historical system and requires consistency of daily routines to maintain health. 

So here are some recommendations to help with transitioning into January as we move through winter.

1) Check out this recipe. This soup will help to stimulate digestion, keep the lymphatic system moving, the mind clearer and inspired and the body lighter. 

2) The article I wrote last month regarding Seasonal Affective Disorder has a list of great recommendations that are still helpful here and this month through the month of April. Check it out here

3) There are six tastes in Ayurveda. There are three tastes that decrease Kapha which are Bitter, Pungent and Astringent. Whereas, the three tastes that increase Kapha are sweet, salty and sour. When Kapha has increased, we want to decrease it. If there appears to the following symptoms of congestion, excess mucus, increased weight, lymphatic sluggishness, mucus in stools, slow(er) digestion, lethargy, melancholy and an overall sense of heaviness, then it's safe to say that Kapha has vitiated. It's more common for Kapha predominant individuals to experience this more easily and feel more aggravated by these symptoms during this time of year.  

4) Favor light and airy, over dense and heavy foods. Favor warm over cold foods. Favor drying foods over moistening. (Unless you have Vata in your constitution.)

5) This breathing technique is great for Kapha. It is called Solar Breathing

6) Digestive enzymes/stimulants are great this time of year. One of my favorite recommendations for sluggish digestion is a formula called Trikatu, what Banyan Botanicals calls "Kapha Digest." Other spices such as cayenne, dry ginger, dry garlic, oregano, chili powder, red pepper flakes, Thai Spices and Cajun Spices are great because they stimulate appetite and digestion.

7) A sluggish liver can also cause sluggishness in the whole body.  Herbs like Kutki, Guggul, Chitrak, Black Pepper, Turmeric, Cinnamon and Ginger are great for moving things as well. These herbs can be purchased through this link of Banyan Botanicals. Here's a tea called "Warm You Up", that is great to add to your daily regimen.

8) As always, increasing cardio activity is essential to get it all going, including digestion, circulation, lymphatics and respiration. Increasing oxygen in the cells has a stimulating effect in general. Make yourself go for a hike. Go up and down your stairs with a purpose, or simply make the purpose to go up and down the stairs as an activity. Just move it. Go exercise.

9) Get to bed by 10/11 and up by 6, 7 the latest. Sleep regulates metabolism. When we stay up late we increase cravings for sweets, carbs and caffeine later in the day.

10) General meal rules: Breakfast by 8, is a light breakfast (if any and if you're hungry). Lunch is the MAIN meal and between 10 and 2. Dinner is a light meal. It is supplemental and I usually tell my patients that dinner should be half the portion of lunch, no later than 7. The later the meal, the less it is digested and the more it accumulates in your body becoming unused food and stored in your fat cells. The body is meant to be burning the right amount of fat, which happens mainly through diet and exercise. Avoid snacking. This is a powerful piece information because by avoiding snacking you force the body to burn fat as fuel, the way it was designed to. Snacking only prevents this process. If you're craving something, it's usually due to lack of proper sleep or a balanced diet, more specifically lunch. Additionally, cravings can also indicate a lack of adequate hydration. So drink more hot liquids and juices for electrolytes.

11) Food for thought. Cravings can also be attributed to emotional factors that require your attention. Check it all out before you indulge in sweets. We tend to substitute the lack of internal sweetness with external supplementation, as we are always trying to capture the sweetness of life. 

12) Keeping a healthy level of hydration is important for the cells and for metabolism as well. It is usually said that drinking half your body weight in ounces of water is great. Though, if you already have too much water in your body then diuretics are essential to balance the water system of the body which also regulates sugar metabolism. Hot water is ideal for Kapha and Vata types. Pitta should be on the cooler side but not cold and definitely NO ICE for any of the constitutions. Ice, according to Dr. Marc Halpern "Ice/chilled water, creates a rapid superficial coldness which causes the excess heat in the body to be trapped in the core of the body and causes more heat. It is considered a stress in Ayurveda." You can read more about ice here

13) I discussed at the beginning of this article the basic manifestations of each season and relative qualities. Similarly, these are the qualities that express themselves in the body and mind, which Ayurveda takes great pride in assessing with regards to individual constitutions. This is why in Ayurveda we know that learning about your constitution is a critical component to understanding the prevention of imbalances and the return from imbalances to a healthier state. Therefore, a consultation with a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner is a great investment for a happier now and a healthier future. 

 DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

ICING OUT THE COLD STUFF

We add it to beverages. We use it to chill food. We apply it topically and we use it in food, like smoothies. The question is, is ice the best for our health?

In traditional Chinese medicine, ice is considered a “poison” when ingested. Ayurveda says the same. Why would these age-old medical systems say something against what so many of us have found great pleasure in? I mean, we use ice in smoothies, cocktails, chilled water with our meals and other similar instances. Why would ice be looked down upon?

According to Ayurveda, ice/chill/cold substances possess the quality of astringent and causes vasoconstriction, or narrowing of the blood vessels. When we ingest ice, it enters into the cavern of the mouth, which has a direct relationship to important organs in the brain, such as the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. It also works with hormones, immunity and mood regulation being that the primary organs of the endocrine system are pituitary, thalamus, hypothalamus, thyroid and eventually adrenals. This cold substance contributes to a dysregulation of these systems because the body recognizes this extreme temperature drop as a stress. The body temperature is affected, and the body has to work harder to compensate for this temperature difference.

This stress to the body and the reoccurrence of the incidence of ice has a cumulative effect. Ayurveda states that the quality of an individual’s health is contingent upon the strength and quality of digestion. Ayurveda categorizes digestion according to balanced, weak, sharp/high and/or variable. Balanced digestion is self-evident and implies that the body is mainly balanced in health. When there is stress, this can have various effects on digestion, dictating the health of not only the body but also the mind. If the body doesn’t obtain the crucial nutrients it needs, we suffer.

Ingesting ice can negatively affect our quality of health. Imagine you have a burner with the flame on any level and you add a piece or two of ice. What happens? The fire goes out. When we ingest ice, we weaken or even douse our digestive fire. Ayurveda, along with other recent Western studies, has linked health issues such as diabetes, obesity (because anything cold can cause fat deposits to increase), mucous, depression, anxiety, respiratory infections, allergies, and other digestive issues to the effects of ice.

In Ayurveda, it is said that the nectar of life is hot water and the poison of life is cold water. For example, cleaning pipes out is more effective with hot water versus cold. Through Ayurvedic practices, when we want to stimulate metabolism and promote weight loss through optimal digestion, we take in hot water. Cold water has the opposite effect and lowers metabolism, causing digestion to weaken and weight to increase eventually and quicker for some than others based on constitution and season.

The other main cause of health issues, according to Ayurveda is, what is called Prajnaparadha, which translates to “crimes against wisdom.” In other words, it’s knowing what is right for us but choosing something different. Bringing anything cold into the body can affect our naturally maintained warm inner environment, so a second thought may give us the opportunity to make a different choice.

Next time you’re at the restaurant, ask for warm or hot water instead of the chilled ice water. Try smoothies without ice or at room temperature. As for cocktails, ask for less ice; though there is still ice, at least there is less of it. Ideally, it would be great not to have ice but practically speaking it's not really that possible. Drinking less would be a better solution. Who needs all that sugar and fermentation anyways?

Save the cold for application to a wound, fever or burn — since this is how ice works best.

SEASONAL DEPRESSION: HOLIDAY SEASON GETTING YOU DOWN?

(A general Ayurvedic perspective and insight on seasonal depression.)

Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as SAD (the irony), is a type of depression that occurs as we transition seasons, specifically going from Summer into Fall and then Winter. This mainly has a direct correlation to the reduction in sun exposure which also influences the production of our Vitamin D levels that is processed in our bodies, through the liver and affects mood; along with immunity. Serotonin levels may also drop, which is usually associated with lack of sunlight.

According to Ayurveda, SAD is called "Chittavsada" and it is during the transition of every season that a window exists where our physical and mental health are affected. This is because as one season leaves us, the other is slowly accumulating, creating a challenge to remain balanced as the climate is transitioning. Approximately, the months of January, May and September are these windows. This is also dependent upon geography, as the sun's rays do not touch the Earth equally. With regard to SAD, we experience less daylight and more darkness, leading us to the darkest day of the year which is the Winter Solstice, typically December 21. Gradually, we begin to have an increase in daylight but the effects of this seasonal depression linger well into January and February which are influenced by the qualities of cold, heavy and moist, known as the Kapha time of year in Ayurveda.

Genetic predispositions are exactly that. A predisposition means we have a propensity to certain conditions based on genetics but as modern geneticists and epigeneticists are researching, we find that the expression of certain genes turning on and off is determined by a slew of factors. It's like a "rubix cube" and the proper alignment of circumstances will determine what develops or remains dormant. How profound!

Ayurveda generally addresses depression based on constitutional determinants and with regards to SAD, some individuals are more influenced than others based on inherent sensitivities. For instance, "Airy Types", otherwise known as Vata Predominant types and "Earthy/Water Types", otherwise known as Kapha Predominant types, are more prone towards depression than "Firey Types/Type-A" personalities. Not to say that Firey Types may not express SAD but it is slightly different and not as long lasting usually. Additionally, genetics (which contributes towards and individuals constitutional configuration) is important too, but it's not all about genetics.  The decrease in sunlight can be perceived in the mind as depressing. Simultaneously, it is safe to say that there is a neurophysiological response to the reduction in natural light. Other key factors such as diet, exercise, sleep and mental practices play a role in how we are affected by environmental changes and whether or not certain genes are expressed or dormant.  Let's also add in that this time of year, more than any other, invites in emotional "stir-ups" because holidays bring to the surface latent emotions or at least amplifies feelings. Family and loved ones tend to have this influence. There is a general confluence of reasons why SAD appears but it is important to also consider that the root cause can differ individually, which supports the understanding Ayurveda shares by stating that there is "no one size fits all" when it comes to disease formation of any kind. 

Some highlighted reasons for SAD:

*lack of sunlight

*drop in serotonin

*melatonin disruption

*drop in Vitamin D

*genetics

*constitutional influence ((Vata (Air), Pitta (Fire), Kapha(water))

*holidays can also trigger sadness because of nostalgia

Some symptoms may include:

*weight gain

*irritability

*an unshakable sense of melancholy, general sadness, and lethargy

*oversleeping

*appetite changes and cravings for sweet or other types of heavy emotionally driven nurturing foods

*loss of appetite or increase

Recommendations:

In my practice, these are some successful recommendations that I have implemented and suggested to my patients. PREPARATION is a form of prevention and knowing that you suffer from SAD, before it starts to become aggravated during the cold month season, is the first opportunity to make a change. Additionally, it is important to note that although these recommendations may be easier said than done, having a healthcare provider support you in implementing these suggestions can be helpful. Furthermore, progress starts with taking one step at a time, sometimes even baby steps. But if you're ready for a change because you're tired of letting the blues get you down anymore and prevent you from really living life, then starting with one or two of these suggestions can be helpful and then take it from there. Ask your inner guidance, outer guidance and whatever guidance to help support the change. There's  nothing wrong with you or being depressed. There's nothing "wrong" with any of it. Simply be with what is. See the recommendations below and private message me if you have any questions. Seek out an expert that can help, whether healthcare, holistic healthcare and/or therapist. 

1) AWARENESS is essential. Knowing that this is something that happens to you is the first step to doing something about it through its recognition.

2) SLEEP CYCLE is always important year round. We have to remember that during this time of year, for millennia, we were grounding in hibernation but it was more recently with the introduction of electricity that we were able to exceed the natural rhythms of the body that have been set for us since the beginning of human-kind, known as the "Circadian Rhythm." In honoring the natural tendency to fall asleep the body knows how to take care of itself. Now-a-days we push our limits and stay up late causing a whole physiological domino effect of health related issues because we are going against what is natural attributed to our modern and generally busy lifestyles. That old axiom, "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a human healthy, wealthy and wise." See my article on SLEEP for more details.

3) DIET is always key to our health and when you are eating the right foods, you are feeling right in your body (or at least better.) Heavy foods are good during the fall months because they can ground you as the cold air picks up but depending on your digestion and the quality of foods ingested you could end up on the heavier side of the scale with lymphatic congestion which slows things down. In science, we know that the brain possesses lymphatic ducts to keep toxins moving and clearing, so when these channels become obstructed the brain and mind are affected. (Mind is connected to everything!) So, when there is this type of depression, warm, lighter and simpler foods with pungent and bitter spices are helpful. Spices like Turmeric, Basil, Oregano, Mustard Seeds, Cumin Seeds, Ginger (fresh and dry) and a pinch of cayenne here and there. 

4) EXERCISE is essential year round, as it keeps the blood circulating and lymphatic system moving. Inviting a good sweat a few times a week is a good start. Overdoing the exercise and sweating can also have negative consequences, ending up in depletion, versus accumulation. Ayurveda also strongly recommends any vigorous exercises to be done in the morning before 10, ideally. In general, if time isn't always on your side, then exercising when you can is better than not exercising at all. My general recommendation has included morning Sun Salutations, say 3-6-9-12 rounds, building up gradually, to jump start the day.  What a great way too! (Especially on gloomy days.) View HERE for instructions.

5) BREATHING becomes short and shallow, almost feeling stagnant which is what depression can feel like which is a stagnation within life itself. Therefore, I have my patients incorporating a yogic breath technique called Kapalabhati, known as "rapid diaphragmatic breath" and a few rounds of this in the morning either before a morning yoga practice to get the juices flowing or after, with a few rounds of Sun Salutations in between. I generally suggest 3 rounds of 27 or 54 depending on how much control you have over your diaphragm. Build up gradually though or you can cause more harm. See HERE for instructions.  

6) VITAMIN D is important, so taking anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 IU is recommended. To determine what your levels are, you can ask your primary care physician to run the specifi test. According to Ayurveda and older data, for the levels to be adequate as a hormone and a vitamin they must be above 50. Newer standards indicate less than 30 but it's not understood why there was a change in this. Suffice it to say, optimal levels are above 50.I prefer having patients take an isotonic form of this but check with your local grocer (Whole Foods, local food co-op or online resources) as to the quality of whichever one you prefer. Just not your GNC or CVS version. One resource for it is HERE.

7) ESSENTIAL OILS can have an uplifting and motivating effect on your mind and body. Oils like Rosemary, Rose, Tangerine, Tulsi, Cinnamon, Jatamamsi, Frankincense, Sandalwood and Violet. See HERE for a list of resources.

8) NOSE THERAPY (Nasya Chikitsa) is a profound treatment that Ayurveda offers. This involves the use of oil application to the sinus'. One of my favorite formulas is Super Nasya. 2-3 drops in the morning and optionally throughout the day can be helpful in stimulating the brain. Ayurveda knows that the application of oil to the sinus' is a direct route to administering herbal care to the brain. This particular formula has a cleansing but uplifting effect. Check it out HERE

          A)Neti Pot is a yogic technique consisting of nasal irrigation. By irrigating the sinus', you're able to increase oxygenation to the brain and stimulate the lymphatic  movement of the cranium. I prefer the traditional means of applying this therapy through a ceramic pot. If you don't already have one, you can purchase one HERE

9) HERBS hold and energy from nature that the cells respond too on so many levels. It's amazing how the plant kingdom supports us. Herbs such as Turmeric, Brahmi, Gotu Kola, Ginkgo, Ashwagandha, Tulsi, Ginger (fresh and dry), Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus and Pippali. You can purchase these herbs through Banyan Botanicals or Mountain Rose Herbs.

10) LIGHT THERAPY, otherwise called 'Rupa Chikitsa" in Ayurveda, is a great way to support the body and mind in physiologically stimulating neurochemicals that promote an increase in lightness and contentment in the body while the sun is setting earlier and while the depression is pressing you. You a can see a sample of the treatment in the images in HERE. You can also perform a supplemental practice at home by creating your own light lamp and positioning it accordingly in a darkened room. Plus, this gives you an opportunity to be creative in your healing process by having fun and being inspired which can take you out of the depression somewhat. Some colors you can use, green, gold or yellow. 

11) MEDITATION is an experience that allows you to be present with what is. Meditation is a key that helps you to know yourself more. As you discover the stillness amidst the chaos of the monkey mind, there is a place of calm, ease, peace, love, trust and bliss that is available to you abundantly. In the case of SAD, you can use meditation (there are numerous variations) as a tool to uncover what it is that may be causing the sad-ness and then you can go from SAD to happy. How to? Click HERE for a simple but powerful practice. Here are some pointers to contemplate.

          A- Meditation can be scary at times because sometimes, more often than not, the mind can be witnessed in having endless thoughts which can distract a potential meditator or even discourage them from going deeper. Even within this experience, the meditator can achieve a certain relationship by softening into the thoughts and finding a place where the thoughts aren't as intense or a place where the thoughts are having less of an insistent pull on the meditator. As one of my earliest meditation teachers put it,"Meditation is an uninterrupted flow of awareness on one object of consciousness." Exploring the inner terrain affords an understanding that provides us with a gift of knowing ourselves more intimately. During the experience of meditation, we can follow a path of self-inquiry and learn what is true and what is in alignment for the highest good. By setting up a space that invites meditation to happen, because in essence meditation is not something you do but create a space for it, you can get clearer on resolving internal conflicts and imbalances that have developed due to various reasons. There may be a deep component that the subconscious is attempting to grab your attention for and this is a gift. Often times, what happens when we attempt to meditate at first we notice the busyness of the mind and many people would rather not because they can feel like they're going crazy. This is where the work can really begin. First, eliminate the outside distractions and allow the silence of the outer space to take over as you're left with observing the chaoticness of the mind.  In and of itself, this can be a task but a task worth endeavoring with great results waiting. To turn off the busy-ness of the outside world and to allow yourself to be with what is...is profound. Just be patient, diligent and intentional. Try not to be judgmental or harsh. Simply be with what you notice. It's like watching a movie. Are you in the movie or are you able to be aware of the fact that your only participation is to sit and watch.

          B- As you meditate and start to cultivate a relationship with yourself on these inner levels, ask yourself "what is true about this sadness/depression?", "how is it serving you?", "what does it have to teach you?", "what would it like you to know about yourself?","what is it that you need for yourself in this moment?" This is an inner dialogue. Ask the question, and let it go. There's no need to figure anything out. It will come for you quicker if you don't go looking for it. The more you soften and surrender into it, the more clarity you will have. Through this clarity, you'll have some relief from the heaviness but only by going into it, not avoiding it. That's the gift. 

          C- Another important aspect pertaining to meditation is that since meditation teaches us to accept what is and to be present, we can take the SAD opportunity to dive deeper within consiousness and to see the darkness, the SADness and the depression for what it is. The darkness pertaining to even the lack of sunlight. Within this experience we can also "tell ourselves" that with darkness comes light and with light comes darkness and it is the acceptance of this wholeness that we can possibly find more ease, versus reject, resent and resist the darkness. The REALity is that it is darker this time of year, with or without the neurochemical correspondence to this phenomena. The REALity is that this darkness will not last long. It is all in a constant flow. What goes up must come down. Happiness brings sadness. Love holds the space for hate. This perception of darkness is an interpretation of the dualistic mind. When we accept wholeness, we align more with Oneness. Accepting allows for a sweeter surrender, versus the bitterness and despair of rejecting or resisting. It is normally where we resist what is true that we can create more suffering for ourselves and by accepting the current state of conditions, which is the reality of now, we can ease into it when we allow ourselves to sink deeper and trust the process more.  This perspective can be applied elsewhere and to other circumstances.  Within this reflection, notice what it reveals, instead of fighting it. See if there is a difference and how you feel.

12) GET OUTSIDE even though it is cold! It's true that hibernating is part of our nature but as humans are out and about due to work, school and other related duties, it is quintessential that you motivate yourselves even more so in order to prevent heaviness in the body and mind from prevailing. Take a hike. Go for a walk in the nearest park or woods. Make an adventure happen. Just be careful of ice. Trekking through the snow is a good way to increase cardiovascular activities and keep the blood moving and warmer. If you're elderly, then stay in and stay safe and cozy. There are gentle yoga exercises you can practice or you could go to a local gym. It all depends. Just meet with your health care provider for ideas. It is also beautiful to get outside because you can directly experience the gift the season has to bring as mother nature changes her facade. It's all a blessing. On sunny days, even when the sun doesn't last long in the sky, you can still feel the light warmth. The senses will respond and recharge. The sun is so important for life. Sun is the expression of life. It is also a representation of love because pure love is like the sun. It is present, shining, warming and sharing without ever asking or expecting anything in return. It just is!

13) MASSAGE is a profound influence on health for so many reasons. Getting massaged on a regular basis helps to move the blood and lymphatic systems. Not to mention that getting massaged involves getting to interact with someone else that can help you not to feel as lonely, at least in that moment. Click HERE for a list of massage services that I offer. Maybe even check HERE for this months specials. In Ayurveda, the word for oleation is Snehana. Snehana also means love. 

14) LOVED ONES exercise. Find yourself in good company. Share some hot cocoa. Share some stories. Share some silliness. Share some laughter and playfulness, regardless of age. Love warms us from the inside out. If you have a limited circle of family or friends, then do some volunteer or connect with some groups that share similar interests and build this sort of relationship. Isolation is a cold feeling and that can add to depression, as well as anxiety.

15) HOLIDAYS can bring up the past or cause you to think about the future but the reality is what is happening right now in this very moment of time. Holding on to the past causes depression and projecting into the future creates an avenue where worry is not far behind. When you are able to accept the present moment, you receive the present of presence. When you are able to accept the current circumstance(s), you are now standing in reality because what is real is what is right now. What you can do now is what we can do now.

Holidays tend to sadden some people when this can be the time of year to experience the love that the holidays can bring as loved ones share special moments together. Some of this has to do with mindset and how this time of year is approached and perceived. Take time to pace yourself. Don't let the holidays drag you around. Simply allow yourself to be in a more relaxed state by taking the time to take care of yourself and stepping back versus being pulled forward. The greatest gift you can give is the gift of love and love starts with loving yourself first. This means self-care is fundamental, first and foremost. Then, you can share it and not feel depleted, resentful and annoyed with the holidays. I've heard people say, "I can't wait until the holidays are over." Rather than saying that, when you really take care of yourself, you can end up voicing "the holidays are here and I enjoy the intimacy and peace they bring." What's the point of celebrating if you're going to be stressed about it? There's a way that you can experience pleasure and still get things done, day by day and honoring yourself. Honoring yourself invites others to honor themselves.

16) SPRING CLEANING in the winter. You heard me! Get a move on! Get to it! What better opportunity to clean house than during the winter when we are forced to be inside due to the elements. Go through your closets. Re-arrange furniture. Get rid of what you haven't used in a long time or will no longer use. Do you need it? No. Then get rid of it. Buy new things. Purchase flowers to adorn your home. Organize! Organize! Organize! What better way to move the energy in the house and your inner temple. Your home is a living breathing entity. The energy you put into your home is the energy you bask in and the energy that returns back to you. What is the quality of the energy in your home? Your home is a reflection of your inner landscape. Doing this will not only lighten the weight in your home but it will motivate you and free up your mind. There's always something to do around the home. You'll feel better, lighter and experience success which will help you to feel more accomplished. 

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

CATCH A COLD FIRST..before it catches you!

Over the past month I have noticed how many individuals have already come down with the cold and other ailments like virus infections and upper respiratory infections. It has been amazing to see this, especially with the brief change in weather where it was extremely hot for a few days and then dropped down to average fall temperatures. Colds and these other ailments are signs that we have been immuno-compromised somehow and it is up to us to notice what factors contribute towards these health issues. 

Catching a cold usually happens when our digestive systems are compromised. Our digestion creates the foundation for a strong immune system. When the digestive system is stressed by temperature, state of mind (stress), and different types of foods/beverages, we experience a drop in our immunity. The elements are upon us during the fall months and this means that the qualities of cold and dry take over the atmosphere. Additionally, as we have come inward and are spending more time inside again we are raising the thermostat of the home and this is increasing dry and warm qualities. It is the dryness that we have to catch before it catches us. This dryness either begins in the nose or the throat area. Because of this, it is essential that we maintain moisture as much as possible. This moisture supports the healthy function of our skin and therefore, our overall immunity. 

Below is a list of quick tidbit suggestions to help with strengthening our immunity and reducing the negative effects of dryness:

1) Eat warm foods only.

2) Increase daily use of oils by cooking with them, such as ghee, coconut oil flaxseed oil and even fish oils (taken internally). Increasing nuts, can be helpful (less for Kapha types.)

3) Avoid raw, cold, ice and frozen foods/beverages.

4) Use a cool air humidifier in the bedroom, at least. (avoid humidifiers in fully carpeted rooms.)

5) Increase hydration with warm water, add lemon or lime or even honey. Additionally, teas such as chamomile, licorice, Dashamula, tulsi, ginger and chai tea (with or without the milk) and add honey.

6) Add or increase Vitamin C to your daily regimen. 

7)Add or increase Vitamin D to your daily regimen.

8) Add or increase Vitamin B-complex.

9) Get plenty of rest. This means getting to bed around 10 and up by 6/7.

10) Soups this time are great!

11) If there's a scratchy throat feeling, a turmeric (1 tsp.) and sea salt (1/8 tsp.) in 12 oz of warm water and gargle will help. You could also add 1/2 tsp. of licorice powder.

12) For the sinus', I recommend using a medicated oil (through Banyan Botanicals or Ayurvedic Institute links on my website under "Herbs and Supplies") or simply melting ghee in a sterilized dropper bottle and applying a couple drops of ghee in the morning and at night before bed. You can also carry a bottle around with you and anytime you feel dryness in your sinus you can add a drop of this nasya. Note, that if you are using the ghee nasya, that you should heat up some water and put this in a small mug and let the bottle sit so the ghee can melt.

13) Slippery Elm Lozenges can also help soothe the throat.

14) Gargling with 2 tbs. of warm sesame oil after brushing, for 10-15 minutes every morning can help with immunity.

15) Regular/daily application of warm oil, as in self-massage or what is called "Self-Abhyanga" in Ayurveda, with (sesame/almond, more for Vata; sunflower/almond, more for Pitta) can support immunity. This warm massage is best before a shower, minimally removing the excess oil with a small amount of natural soap (if any) and a wash cloth.

16) Dress warm and make sure that your neck is covered!

17) Minimize stress overall. Stress has a drying and cold quality, which affects our digestion. Practices like Yin Yoga and slower moving yoga, along with breathing practices such as "Alternate Nostril Breathing" can help with managing stress. 

18) Minimize your exposure to technologies because staring at screens can have a drying effect with its stressful depleting effects on the nervous system. 

19) A drop of warm sesame oil in each ear before bed can also support the microbial lining in the ears. You could also add a drop of warm ghee to each eye before bed to support eye health and keep them moist.

20) Herbs like licorice, guduchi, ashwagandha, amalaki, echinacea, ginger and turmeric can help boost immunity. Herb formulas such as Chywanprash can strengthen immunity and support the nervous system. Banyan Botanicals has a great formula called Immune Support which is very helpful and takes the edge out of the body should it feel susceptible to colds and virus' but also as a supplement if you're feeling ill. (Check with a qualified practitioner to get more specific with these herbs and to make sure they're the best one for you.)

21) Exercise is important because it not only maintains vitality of the body but because of the increase of oxygenation and stimulation of blood flow you also affect the lymphatic system, which is not only important for detoxification but also immunity. Sweating helps to remove toxins that are dormant in fat cells and when we sweat, through exercise, we liquefy the toxins from the fat cells that then return into the digestive tract for elimination through urine, feces and sweat. Sweating also helps to maintain moisture in the skin. Too much sweating is depleting, therefore Vata types should minimize sweating because they  become depleted faster and cause other health related issues.  The right amount of exercise helps keep immunity up and toxins down. (die

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

FEELING ANXIOUS YET?

The leaves are turning colors. We spent a few months out and about playing under the sun and outwardly traveling about. Since after Labor Day, we have been slowly making our way back home and inward. Students returning to school. Parents preparing the house to begin a new school year. Adults in general returning back from vacationing and starting a "new work year." The air is becoming brisk and light. The sun is retreating and the darkness of night increasing at an earlier time again. We have officially entered into Autumn and this is the time of year where the qualities of cold, dry, light and mobile increase in the atmosphere...but it doesn't stop there. Since we are a part of nature, we are easily influenced by the season. It is during this time of year that some of us are likely to experience symptoms such as anxiety. A prelude to the development of such a state can be seen from the perspective of Ayurveda which states that dryness and the influence of cold, light and mobile qualities are a contributing factor.  Ayurveda is a science about cause and effect. As practitioners, we attempt to avoid bigger issues from developing by being aware of the fact that it is the little things that accumulate (starting from a point of possible past mild state) and that further develop into something that significantly grabs our attention. Typically, this is the "diagnosis" stage. Ayurveda attempts to prevent the bigger things from happening by noticing what little things build up. In the case of anxiety, we see that the mentioned qualities are a precursor for the development of anxiety. Anxiety tends to be accompanied by restlessness, insomnia, panic, fearful thoughts and nervousness. Of course, Ayurveda suggests that not everything is always clear cut and that there can be other factors such as genetics and trauma that can contribute towards Anxiety, but it is beyond the scope of this current article. At this point, we are simply looking at the qualities of anxiety and its relevance to not only constitution but also its expression during this season. Prevention and awareness are keys to supporting body-mind-spirit, according to Ayurveda.

As fall progresses into winter an increased dryness in our sinus passages can be noticed. The sinus' get dry and we have reactive mucus which can lead to colds and other upper respiratory infections.  Other cavities of the body like the intestines can experience imbalances due to these qualities, thereby, producing symptoms such as constipation and even sleep related disturbances. When we have dryness in our colon, we have difficulty passing stools. We know that there is a direct connection between the state of the colon and our minds. The old adage that "most of life's most important decisions are made on the toilet." The skin is the largest organ of immunity and it is an absorptive organ. There are thousands of tiny micro-bacteria that live on the skin and maintain its integrity, protecting us from the environment. It is important to take care of the skin and by taking care of our skin, it takes care of us as a powerful pillar of health. Ayurveda says "you should be able to eat whatever you put on your skin." In essence, since the skin (consisting of approximately 12 pounds of our body weight) is an absorptive organ that whatever substances we put on our skin the skin will absorb so it is important to take note of how natural these products are. Substances that aren't natural to the body makes its way to through the body and to the liver where the liver has to process toxic chemicals and can cause negative effects on the mind as these free radicals roam throughout the body. This can directly/indirectly have an effect on how sensitive we are to the environment and depending on a person's constitution the predisposition of anxiety can increase. For instance, Vata (consisting of the elements air and space/ether) predominant types are already more inclined to experience anxiety. Pitta (consisting of heat and some water) types are not as easily swayed in the direction of anxiety and Kapha (consisting of water and earth elements) predominant types are least likely. Though, all three doshas (biological humors) can experience anxiety, it depends on specific circumstances. What is undeniable is that the qualities of the current season will have an effect on us. The main quality of cold definitely affects Vata and Kapha because both share the quality of cold and Pitta is more of a hot/fire nature and therefore, the cold simply alleviates the heat. As for the anxiety itself is an emotion that possesses the qualities of cold, dry, light and mobile.  Vata governs the nervous system and Vatas primary qualities are cold, dry, light and mobile. Vata Season which is Fall/Early Winter, according to Ayurveda, is when these qualities are predominant. See the connection?

WHAT INCREASES ANXIETY?

1. FOOD AND FOOD HABITS. Eating food that is opposite to the qualities of the season can create or contribute towards anxiety, especially if we are in Vata Season. Nature supports us each day and throughout each season. Nature says that it will produce foods that are opposite in qualities to the season because it operates according to the notion that "like increases like and opposites cure." During the winter months when the qualities of cold, dry, light and mobile increase Nature says that it will give us ground vegetables and warming foods such as grains. We come inward and cook on a stove, heat up the fireplace and turn on the heat to balance the cold element. And the act of coming inward and "hibernating" is natures way of encouraging us to stay still. Eating cold, light salads during the cold/.light/dry season will only increase such qualities in our bodies. Vata predominant types tend to already have poor circulation and feel cold faster than Pitta predominant types. Kapha types may or may not be cold depending on their circulation. Sometimes the extra insulation keeps in their own heat and other times it just like cold snow. Eating on the go...fast foods...skipping meals...and eating while distracted (like looking at smart phones) all contribute towards a negative effect not only on the digestive system but also on the nervous system, because such movement is broken again down according to qualities and movement can be drying, light and cold. Through proper metabolism, the nervous system largely depends on what is happening in the digestive system. 

2. POOR SLEEP.  Meaning that the amount of sleep and the time we go to bed has a grave influence on our nervous system. Less sleep increases anxiety. The brain and nervous system require an average of 7-8 hours of adequate, deep rest to truly reset itself.  Going to bed late, past 11/12 and after, and either waking up early still or waking up later can increase the chances of anxiety. More so if there is less sleep. Going to bed later than 11 increases the propensity of inflammation in the body which eventually can break down the myelin sheet and increases sensitivity of the axon and decrease in the natural lubrication surrounding the nerve tissue (axon/dendrites.) The inflammation increases because as melatonin is at its peak around 10pm the liver engages in activities to scan and clean the body up from the days activities and prepare it for the next day. Sacrificing sleep shouldn't really be an option since sleep is an important function for our overall well being. It is restorative to the mind, senses and entire nervous system. Day sleep can never really be a replacement or substitute for night sleep. Different elements are present and therefore have a different effect on the overall body. Prolonged exposure to poor sleep can cause a cascade of health issues from anxiety, insomnia, constipation, blood sugar imbalances and eventually other long-term neurological disorders. Though, there are some jobs that require being up at night and this is understandable. Ayurveda, in this case, says do your best to balance sleep and take some supplements like Ashwaganda, Guduchi, Brahmi and Amalaki to aid with reducing the stress on the nervous system; along with Vitamin B Complex, Magnesium and Vitamin D. Note that viewing any screen right before bed will  have a negative effect on the nervous system and pull you in, keeping you up versus reading a book that will produce a more calming sedative effect (unless you're reading about politics.)

3. TECHNOLOGIES and excess exposure. Being exposed to technologies such as cell phones, laptops and tablets on a regular basis and for prolonged periods of time has a negative effect on the nervous system. As mentioned before, "like increases like and opposites cure", the qualities of technologies are stimulating and yet after long periods of time can produce lethargy of the senses. In Ayurveda we call this the Rajasic (chaotic)/Tamasic (lethargic) effect. We can see this when we stay up late on the computer. There is a electromagnetic polarity emitted by these technologies that mimic the natural electromagnetic currents emitted from the body. This polarity attracts each other and can derange us by pulling us in like a magnet. In extreme cases it becomes an addiction. It's easy to stay up late on the computer or viewing any screen because we are falsely energized but there is a pay off and we feel it when our sleep is disrupted and we tend to wake up foggy. Hence, the rajasic/tamasic effect. Personally, I've witnessed this from personal experience where being up late and on my Iphone how my nervous system felt super charged and made it difficult to fall asleep because my mind was stimulated. Yet, when I finally fell asleep and woke up the next morning I didn't feel rested. Additionally, I've seen this with partners where they are excessively bound to the computer and while sleeping with them I would wake up to notice them having involuntary twitches and jolts during the night. The body and mind are settling from such high stimulating frequencies and these twitches are an example of how the frequencies are being accumulated in the nerve tissue and the system is trying to discharge it to create homeostasis. Prolonged exposure can cause a cascade of health issues from anxiety, insomnia, constipation, blood sugar imbalances and eventually other long-term neurological disorders. 

4. LACK OF ADEQUATE EXERCISE. The body needs to move. Too much movement can cause issues in the nerve tissue and too little movement can also effect the nervous system. Some of this depends on constitution. For instance, it is the Vata predominate type that is more inclined to movement because of the air element and therefore it is natural that the Vata person would justify moving and multi-tasking a lot. The true balance is a cultivation of this movement with being still and grounded. The Kapha person, prone to stagnation because these types aren't as easily inclined to be active, like a boulder needing to be pushed, can also have anxiety because Prana (life force) is designed to flow throughout the body and any blockage can stimulate a from of anxiety. For the Pitta type, they naturally are motivated and focused on activities but it is the steadfastness of such a characteristic of the Pitta type that in excess can cause the tissues to burn up eventually depleting the body. Exercise that is stimulating at night time is contraindicated for several reasons, one reason being that exercise regimens are intended to stimulate the Autonomic Nervous Systems pathway of Sympathetic Activity where adrenaline and cortisol are provoked. This has an energizing and motivating experience, which is what we don't really want when we are attempting to get the body ready for slumber, that requires more of the Parasympathetic Activity of the nervous system. Simply, if we are engaging in such activities during the time when melatonin (the sleep chemical) is actively in the blood stream in the earlier to later evening, we are replacing it with more cortisol and adrenaline. Some may justify by saying that they sleep well after exercising at night because of the exercise but when we thoroughly examine the physiology and chemistry of this it, on the surface, makes sense to be tired after a good work out BUT this isn't because the body is feeling adequately utilized during exercises it IS because it is being depleted in the long run. Exercising earlier in the day has a different effect and is more in alignment with the natural flow of our circadian rhythm. Make sense?

5. LOSING THE SUN. As we enter into autumn and into winter we have longer nights and shorter days. The sun is inspiring and expansive in its own way with its own qualities but the darkness of night is also etheric and expansive and shows us more of the unknown. The sun shines and we are familiar with what we see more easily which lends itself to being known but the night possesses the qualities of unknown and we can get lost, per say. This causes anxiety. The mere fact that we transition from long days and shorter nights to longer nights and shorter days can cause anxiety. This leads to the tendencies of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) where either anxiety or depression or both are present. I'll be writing a separate article on this, so stay tuned for the details of that. Vitamin D is a key vitamin that helps to bring the sun inside our bodies. It's called the sunshine vitamin and has a balancing effect on our nervous systems and enhancing immunity. 

6. LACK OF TOUCH. Touch possesses the qualities of warming, grounding and nurturing. This balances the nervous system and there are various studies showing the importance of contact, cuddling, affection and bodywork/massage. Lack of touch has been shown to cause an increase in anxiety and un-groundedness. The nervous system becomes hypervigilant. 

7. RECREATIONAL DRUGS. Using alcohol, though generally classified as a depressant, the excess use of alcohol can negatively impact the nervous system because the high acidic content of alcohol through its fermentation process involving sugar and yeast can deteriorate nerve tissue over time. Addiction forms from an imbalance in the mind and nervous system. Use of other drugs can burn us up and burn us out. All systems of the body are affected by additions in general. Current medical science is justifying the use of medical marijuana to address anxiety and other ailments. This is still a work in progress and Ayurveda says that marijuana should be used with caution and that there are healthier ways to take in cannabis that will have less of an effect on the nervous system. This is up to a qualified Ayurveda practitioner to determine; not to mention that Ayurvedic Practitioners are not legally permitted to prescribe cannabis. Recommendations can be made though, for those clients that already are in possession of cannabis. State by state regulations must also be honored. 

8. MIND. Mind is where everything seems to pass through and get interpreted by. The mind can create stories and fixate on the future, which isn't now, and this can cause anxiety. This also has an effect on our breath because Ayurvedic Psychology suggests that where the mind goes, the breath goes and vice versa. Therefore, in yogic breathing practices we control the breath and by doing so we eventually can change patterns of our thinking.  Our nervous system, when activated by anxiety, engages the Sympathetic Nervous System physiological responses because anxiety has an hypervigilant, upward/outward, dispersive, shallow and rapid experience in the body. Similarly, the mind focusing on the past can get caught up in depression when it revisits the past and holds on. These thoughts are anchors and pull us down. There are valuable gifts to explore with each emotion if we allow ourselves to "go there" and through the journey they have to sh ow us. When the experience of depression takes hold of us, the breath is affected and expresses itself as a stagnation. The cells aren't really breathing deeply, fully and completely. To remedy these opposite states, specific breathing practices are implemented where the breath is designed to create and opposite quality. For depression, we want to practice a breath that is deep, full, heating, uplifting and motivating; highly oxygenating the cells and mind. For anxiety, we would like the opposite to occur by grounding, warming, pacing, slowing down and ease in the breath to anchor the mind; like a kite with a weight attached. When we cultivate our awareness of the mind through practices of meditation, we can learn to be more present and we reduce the vacillation of the mind that swings like a pendulum from the past to the future, past to the future, past to future repeatedly. Being in the present moment causes NOW to be all that exists and this can be frightening to the mind. Being present in the moment causes the future and past to not exist and if the mind doesn't exist it experiences its own death. The mind will do whatever is possible not to go there with it. Yet, the nature of who we are and the essence of us does not know time and is omniPRESENT.

9. RUN, RUN, RUNNING...around, multi-tasking and always on the go with minimal consistent patterns in our lives can cause a lot of wear and tear. This eventually makes its way to our nervous system and everything else runs off kilter. Daily practices/rituals that are rooted in consistent patterns helps to reduce anxiety. See my previous article on "The Self and Sacred Rituals: Dinacharya" for more details around this. 

HOW TO BALANCE ANXIETY

Ayurveda says "like increases like and opposites cure." Therefore, it is evident that to balance Vata we use Ayurvedic recommendations that apply the opposite qualities.  In the case of general anxiety, the quality of cold, is nurtured by warmth. The quality of light, is supported by heavy. The quality of dry is remedied by moist and the quality of mobile is reminded of static.

So this is what we can do. Here are some basic recommendations:

1. Be mindful and consistent with sleep.

2. Find a time and exercise regimen that best meets the needs of your constitution.

3. Minimize exposure to recreational drugs.

4. Be mindful of your practices around technologies and take breaks in between. Ideally, all systems should be shut down by 10 (11 the latest.)

5. Eat seasonally and per your constitution; foods being Vata reducing.

6. Apply warm sesame or almond oil to your feet before putting your socks on in the morning.

7. Wear heavier footwear during the fall and winter months.

8. Apply a drop or two of warm sesame oil to each ear and close the ear with a cotton ball before bed.

9. Get a warm oil massage regularly.

10. Stay hydrated and with warm liquids (not necessarily coffee). Hydration supports cells, tissues and digestion.

11. Cuddle. Cuddle. Cuddle! Affection, body contact, love and care have a natural effect on grounding the nervous system. 

12. Get cozy. Stay warm.  Be more still and follow the season inward. Going against nature can also cause anxiety on a deeper level of the heart. Doing what's not ideal, when we know what is right for us can cause a dissonance and this dissonance can add to anxiety because we aren't feeling right in our heart about such things.

13. Practice deep, slow, easy and consistent breathing exercises. 

14. Meditation is great but depends on how you meditate. Sometimes meditation, especially in the beginning, can cause anxiety because being still and with the screaming awareness of the many crazy thoughts that we are left with can cause anxiety. 

15. Slow down and take care of yourself. When we don't, we can get anxious.

16. Check out my previous article on DAILY RITUALS

17. Check out my article on SEPTEMBER TRANSITION for more ideas on self-care practices.

18. There are other remedies to help with managing anxiety such as herbs and vitamins. See a qualified practitioner to support you with this.

19. Vata reducing yoga practices are very good for balancing any Vata related imbalances such as anxiety. 

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

 

SEPTEMBER IS THE WINDOW FROM SUMMER TO FALL

As summer comes to a close, we usually feel that the ending of summer break is after Labor Day when people return from the beach and children and adults return to school officially. Yet according to Ayurveda we can notice a change occurring within the season where we have some hot days and have some days that are getting dry and cool. The sun has begun to set earlier and earlier and we are entering into the phase of the year where cold and dry increases, along with a decrease of sunlight causing us to enter into nighttime earlier.

During this beginning phase as we transition, September is a sort of "window" where summer qualities decrease and fall qualities increase. Dryness is key to address because both cold and heat can impose dryness and in doing so our health is affected. Sinus' and other orifices such as the eyes, mouth, ears and even rectal area/vaginal area may begin to feel a sense of dryness. This is the first place where our immune system can become compromised because all our orifices naturally have a protective mucous lining. It is important for us to protect this lining in order to maintain health throughout not only the season but year round. 

Here are some simple suggestions to help at this point.

1) Apply regularly a nasal oil to keep the sinus cavities lubricated. (you can check out Life Spa or Banyan Botanicals or a practitioner to make up your own special bottle)  This is called Nasya.

2) Regularly apply a light coat of warm oil to the skin before showering and gently rinse off with a little soap, leaving a light coat on. This is called self-abhyanga.

3) You can add a drop or two of warm almond oil to each ear before bed.

4) You can do oil pulling with 2tbs. of Almond or Coconut or even sesame oil. This is called Gandusha.

5) Increase hydration, with room temperature water and as the weather increases in coolness you increase the temperature of the water to more hot.

6) Begin to transition with the season by watching what fruits and vegetables are locally available. The microbiome of your intestinal lining depends on following the seasonal changes. When we don't, we increase the chances of imbalances developing in the body.

7) Start to add in more warm foods as the weather cools down. Reducing raw greens and begin to increase cooking them, especially at night.

8) As the light decreases and night increases, notice the body getting tired a little earlier. Follow this as the body's wisdom knows best. It's normal for us to slowly prepare for winter hibernation. Though, some constitutional considerations are important to address. 

9) Continue to enjoy the weather and being outdoors but mentally prepare the body to start slowing down. Otherwise, we are all apt to increasing Vata (elevated air qualities in our nervous system) that will not only affect digestion but our immunity and our nervous system.

10) Increase Vitamin C. Maintain Vitamin D and add Vitamin B-Complex to a daily regimen.

11) Fish oils to the diet are good. Average is 800-1500 IU daily, depending on age.

These are some of the little things to consider that will prepare us all for transition and help keep our health high. For a more specified protocol to support your health, please see a qualified practitioner or contact me for an appointment. 

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

 

COOLING MEDITATION EXPERIENCE

 

This is definitely the time of year where the mind can be very busy and overheated, especially for Type A personality types.  We may have had too much exposure to the sun and its rays upon our heads, emotional stir-ups, over doing it at work or even just feeling anger and/or irritability coming up because the heat and humidity tend to do that. The latter indicators show us that there is some sort of disruption in our nervous system. It is important to get a hold of our mind and nervous system by focusing our mind and body on a breathing technique called Chandra Bheda which is a "lunar" cooling practice. An irritated mind causes irritation in the body, having a cascade of health effects especially sleep issues. Over activity of the mind can cause the body to feel hotter than it is and even increase the heat of the body overall through stressing the heart causing circulation to become increased. Heat has a dispersive quality and through this we feel the heat escaping, coming up and out, over and over, without us feeling much alleviation from this process. This following technique will help settle the mind and cool the heat down some. Check it out! Let me know what you think.

CHANDRA BHEDA

1-Sit with your spine straight. (whether on a chair or on the ground in a comfortable cross-legged position.

2-Close your eyes and focus your gaze inwardly towards the heart center.

3- Take your left hand and connect both your index finger and your thumb gently together, face down. 

4- With the right hand, create a hook with your fingers. People do it all sorts of ways but generally, the idea is that the thumb will be positioned on the right nostril (lightly) and the ring  finger (or index finger) is lightly touching the left nostril.

5- Pinching the right nostril shut, inhale through the left.

6- Exhale through the right nostril.

7- REPEAT...Inhale through the left, exhale through the right.

8- Slow, deep and easy breathing.

9- Do this for about 10-15 minutes. At least each night before bed. You can also do it in the morning to start the day and later in the day. Most importantly it is to be done at night so that the nervous system has a better chance at calming, soothing and engaging the parasympathetic nervous system so that you can have a good nights rest. Good sleep, between 11 and 7 or 10 and 6 pm, supports and anti-inflammatory process for the body. See my previous articles regarding good sleep and the recent article on how to keep the heat of summer down.

 

 

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

 

KEEPING COOL...SIMPLY

It's summer time, that time of year when the sun is shining down upon us with its radiance and heat. Depending on geographic location, we are either exposed to a dry heat or a wet heat. Light heat only increases dryness and lightness. Wet heat (humidity) can have an oppressive feeling to it. Regardless, the common element is heat. This is also the time of year where we can take in much Vitamin D (which boosts our immunity) along with other vitamins and minerals from an abundance of foods and sensory stimuli. Too much sun can cause harm, especially if we aren't protected with sun protection. Here are some Ayurvedic recommendations to help pacify the heat.

Here's some quick food for thought:

1) Stay hydrated. Drink cool (not cold) mint tea or basil tea. You can also indulge in coconut water, adding a pinch of cumin powder or corriander powder and pinch of sea salt. Limeade is amazing, especially homemade. Also, simple filtered water (not bottled in plastic) is always ideal. You and add a splash of lime or lemon. Avoid sodas, since this also causes dehydration in the long run, not to mention the other adverse reactions to the body's health.

2) Minimize intake of caffeine products such as coffee which can increase heat in the body and cause dehydration of the cells. 

3) Minimize alcohol intake as this can cause the body to deplete itself of water and cause other harm.

4) Use sun protection like sunscreen, maybe over the counter or natural coconut oil (but be careful and don't stay too long in the sun regardless)

5) Get to bed no later than 11. (See #6 for more details on sleep)

6) Avoid exercising at night time. After 2pm melatonin (one of the sleep chemicals) begins to enter into the blood stream and it peaks around 10 pm. This automatically implies that as the day progresses into night, it is natural to begin to feel sleepy after 8:00. This has been something set in stone with our circadian rhythm since the dawn of man/woman, and when we exercise we are actually going against a natural flow of rest which will catch up to us, sooner or later. Going against melatonin means increasing cortisol, adrenaline, and testosterone which are heating chemicals and engage the sympathetic nervous system. We want to be engaged during the day time, hence, sympathetic response. Night time invites our parasympathetic system which has a cooling down effect. It is essential for our body and mind to have its time to cool down so that the overall system can reorganize itself, replenish  from digesting the days' impressions and intake of information/food and rejuvenate as it recharges.

7) Minimize or avoid political discussions, especially before bed or during direct sun exposure.

8) Minimize red meat and pork intake, as this can also cause heaviness and increase heat in the body.

9) THINK GREEN. Green vegetables possess chlorophyll and this has a natural cooling effect on the blood. The blood of the plant is alkalizing for the blood of the human and can reduce heat and inflammation. Thank the plants as you take them into your body.

10) Get out into nature. Connect with the elements. Take in all five elements, being earth, water, fire, air and ether/space. So, go for a hike into the woods. Or/and, if you go to the beach, minimize exposure to the peak time since this is way too much heat on the body and depletion can happen, not to mention sun damage and over stimulation of the nervous system. This is one of the reasons why we may feel drained. Nature gives us prana (chi/energy/life-force) but too much heat can deplete our prana which can lead to a cascade of health complications and at least increase the aging process.

11) Carry a bottle of Rose Water and spray it as needed to feel an instant cool. 

12) Indulge in fruits that are watery like cantaloupe, watermelon and pineapple. These sort of fruits contain water and sugar which helps to replenish and cool the body. Remember, if you suffer from health complications such as diabetes, too much sugar can affect insulin. If you have edema, watery fruits can increase water weight in the body. It is important to consult with a healthcare consultant (holistic/integrated/allopathic) with concerns.

13) Sweating is a good way for the body to regulate temperature. For certain constitutions, sweating is essential. Vata predominant individuals should avoid sweating too much as this can cause further depletion. Pitta predominant individuals do not require much effort to sweat and should be mindful of water intake versus output because depletion can occur. With Kapha predominant individuals, can afford to sweat as this thermoregulates but also detoxifies. 

14) Walks at night after dinner and meditating on the moon is a great practice for the nervous system and mind.

15) Avoid direct sunlight for long periods of time.

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only and not considered medical advice. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and/or primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions.