RIDING THE WAVE OF SEASONAL TRANSITION

Here we have it. Summer is over and fall has just begun. The summer has given way to autumn and nature is helping us to wind down from the summer heat and encourages us to begin our way inward as the outer temperatures change. We are going from a warm climate to a cool, and soon to be cold climate. The windows or air conditioning systems are shutting, and the heating systems of the home will turn on. Summer clothes shift to warmer garments and layers. We go from feeling hot to cooler/cold.

The fall brings us the qualities of cold, dry, and light. The air gets thinner and colder. Dryness starts to occur as the fall foliage changes and trees become bare. Nature goes into hibernation, and the animals are starting to save food for the winter months ahead.

DIGESTION and THE BODY

It is normal this time of year to notice an increase in food cravings. This is the time of year, menu wise, that we focus on increasing protein and fats. The lining of our entire digestive system acclimates to the climate change as the microbes shed its current layer and form a layer that is prepared to handle the summer harvest and wintery foods such as apples, pears, figs, dates, pumpkins, potatoes, sweet potatoes, kale, and other ground veggies. Digestion itself has a centripetal force about it. During the summer months as heat is prevalent in the atmosphere, the body adjusts itself so it doesn’t overheat by focusing the blood away from the summer, centrifugally, which is the direction of center towards extremities. Whereas, in the colder months the force is now centripetally where the blood is more centered around digestion and the core of the body maintains homeostasis during the winter months to keep us warmer and to digest and store foods accordingly. The body is amazing at self-regulating itself!

MIND

This is where it can get trickier. The increase in cravings for foods and certain foods that are savory and fatty can become more obvious this time of year as the body wants to store but there is also the mental component that the mind seeks to balance itself by grounding itself in ways through these foods as well. The nervous system, which is governed by VATA according to Ayurveda, is affected more this time of year since Vata becomes vitiated in its own season. It is not uncommon that people, especially of Vata Dosha or with a Vata imbalance, that they have an increase in anxiety, insomnia, dryness, and constipation.

Let’s also mention that summer ends when people return from summer vacation, and children go back to school. There is a lot of rushing around to get supplies, meetings, classes, work, etc. and then the holiday’s start to roll in which means an increase in activities inwardly (versus summer which involves more outer activities of a different quality and nature) and holiday parties, holiday’s in general. A momentum begins right as summer begins its transition and this momentum picks up speed until around the first or second week of January, where at this point, after all the holiday’s, spending, eating, drinking, meetings, and parties that many people are exhausted, depleted, lethargic, even depressed (due to the rush coming to a halt after all the months of festivities, people looking at bank accounts to see how much was spent during the holidays’, and even less sun exposure which causes SAD “Seasonal Affective Disorder” for some individuals that are that sensitive), and people simply crash and become ill. This isn’t coincidental because we are at that point transitioning into the next phase known as late winter/early spring which is governed by Kapha.

BODY AND MIND

Body and mind can work together or separate. The goal of Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, and Holistic Medicine overall is to help regain the balance between the body, mind, and spirit. It is mainly when all three are out of balance that people generally incur imbalances. By aligning with nature which includes cycles of the day that involve the natural 24 hour cycle of dawn (sunrise), peak sun time (at lunch), and dusk (sunset), and by connecting with the cycles of the year as per the seasons and seasonal transitions, then people can remain more on steady water with health.

It is when people sleep when they should be awake, or when people skip meals when they should be eating, or when people stay awake when they should be eating, or when people are eating cold and raw foods during cold months when warm foods and beverages should be taken, and countless instances such as these that increases the chances of disease manifesting. The body is our guide and when people are in balance….we will know it by how great we feel. When people are out of balance, the body tells this story as well through symptoms. The body communicates through symptoms and it is our job to pay attention to however big or small the symptoms are BUT more often than not, the mind creates a distraction or is easily distracted and takes the attention away from the body. Don’t worry though, the symptoms of the body will only continue to get bigger until it grabs our attention enough as it is screaming for help. That’s the short of it. That’s the simplicity of this unique system we all possess. Amazing is the intelligence of the body! The mind is very intelligent for sure but it makes a better servant than master.

In my practice, I work with many many patients on all of this, and then some. I discuss with my patients, from day one, about proper diet and lifestyle changes/adjustments that have a major impact on everyone ranging from simple health issues to complex health issues. I get to have the chance to witness over and over and over how profound Ayurveda is with its wisdom and then I have the passion to share these tools with countless others in order to help so many people find balance in their bodies and in their lives. In working with my patients we don’t only address the body and symptoms but we also work together on the mind-stuff that can be symptomatic and problematic. This journey starts even before I offer suggestions on herbs and the various treatment sessions.

HERE ARE SOME GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS TO CONSIDER:

1) CONSTITUTION: Learn what your constitution is and how far you have deviated from that natural level of homeostasis that your body was born with. This can occur through a lengthy consultation. This becomes the personal road map to your health and is a vital tool that you can carry with you day to day to become more in charge of your health and well-being. Knowing whether you are Vata, Pitta, or Kapha and its several configurations will tell you more or less how to navigate each season, time of day, and period of your life personally.

2) MINDFULNESS: A) Once you’re aware of your constitutional needs you can make choices that best support you. B) Take a pause and look at where you are in this moment. Notice if historically you tend to be that person that gets sick this time of year or just after December/January. Ask yourself what you have done to become ill in the past around this time of year and see if there are other choices you can make that involve doing something differently so that you have a different outcome. I know some people still say “I’m going to die from something anyways so why bother?” My response has always been, “yes, that is true, but we don’t necessarily have to fall apart getting there.” Health, for the most part is a choice. Even if there is some circumstances that created ill health, there can be some choices made to reduce the discomfort around such experiences. We are going to die for sure but we can go out slowly, one way or another. The health of this body also depends on mind, and with the right mind we can make better choices to take care of ourselves the best we can and reduce afflictions.

3) SLOW DOWN! SLOW DOWN! SLOW DOWN! What’s the rush anyways? When we don’t take the time to slow down, whether when we are chewing food or really being with what is right now, we not only get indigestion but we also get an upset mind, which then spills over into the body and this creates a vicious cycle. Not to mention that if people aren’t taking care of ourselves as we should, especially by heeding the warning signs of the body and whatever symptoms may be produced or producing, the body will will and eventually cause us to not only slow down but eventually stop, maybe not death just yet (though sometimes illness can make us feel that way) but definitely having us bedridden for days or weeks. Ironically enough, some people in this situation curse and yell at the body say it’s an “inconvenience” to get sick or to get sick right now, but the reality is that the body has been tell them all along to slow down and take care of the little things so that they don’t develop into bigger things. When the time is taken to attend to the little things, the body will bounce back quicker because it was acknowledged and cared for. Why create what can seem like an enemy relationship with the body when we have the opportunity to have a loving relationship instead?

HERE ARE SOME PREVIOUS ARTICLES WRITTEN TO HELP WITH WHAT ELSE CAN BE DONE:

Feeling Anxious? Read THIS article on Anxiety.

Would you like better health? Read THIS article on Digestion and Disease.

Wanting to get more into rhythm with nature? Read THIS article on Ritucharya.

Wanting to get more into rhythm with the daily cycle? Read THIS article on Dinacharya.

Concerns around Colds, Flus, and Viruses? Read THIS article on catching a cold.

Seasonal Allergies? Read THIS article on Seasonal Allergies.

Concerns around Dryness? Read THIS article on catching dryness.

Concerns around sleep? Read THIS article on sleep.

Want to learn more about how your body is your guide? Read THIS article on it.

Want to know more about balance? Read THIS article.

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

HIV AND HIV RELATED INFLAMMATION ARTICLE (PART 2)

I am proud to share the second part of this article that was originally written as a 42 page paper for the California College of Ayurveda. This topic touches me deeply and personally on many levels. See part one below.

This article was reformed into the current article and is posted with permission from the Ayurveda Journal of Health.

Reference:

Ayurveda Journal of Health

Summer 2018

Volume 16, Issue 2 ISSN 2372-1804

***Beginning on page 19

ARTICLE ON HIV

THE SELF AND SACRED RITUALS (Part 2): RITUCHARYA (Seasonal Practices)

In part 1, I discussed Dinacharya (See link HERE) which involves daily practices according to Ayurveda that helps us to remain in balance. It is also important to note that this understanding of the importance of the daily rhythms coincides with the current science around Circadian Rhythm. By aligning with this natural rhythm there is an increased level of success regarding well-being and balance. Ayurveda and Yoga both emphasize the importance of being connected to nature for health and well-being. The practices around Dinacharya (daily practices/rituals) and Ritucharya (seasonal practices) is a sacred practice because it reminds us of and aligns us with the nature on many levels. Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine both state that it is generally the result of being out of touch with nature that disease has an opportunity to express itself and by reconnecting with this we can regain a significant amount of our health, if not potentially fully restore it or at least come close. 

Ritucharya is defined in Ayurveda as “Seasonal Practices”. What does this mean? We know that there is a general rhythm, regardless of where we live, that seasons/times of the year change.  When we pay close attention, we can see how one season gives way to the next. Winter transitions into spring, spring transitions into summer, and summer transitions into fall. It’s a natural cycle. In Ayurveda, we are aware of what I like to call “windows” where there is a small period just before the full onset of a given season that thing’s get a little unstable as the season transitions from the previous one to the next one. There are “three windows.” 

In observing the current season of summer and as it is slowly transitioning into fall, September is a “window” whereas the summer is ending, and the heat starts to lighten up, the cool breezes of autumn slowly start to creep in. The qualities of dry and cool start to infuse into the atmosphere. This tends to be the time of year when people get sick because they are still acting as though it is summer rather than prepare for the next season. It is important to treat each day uniquely as the season transitions because by not doing so a stress occurs and the body is compromised. Common ailments are allergies, colds, flu, and similar conditions. Anxiety is common and increases for some during these upcoming months.

As Fall enters into the winter months, the next window consists of the period around the month of January where the qualities in the atmosphere are heavier, denser, and colder. This is another time of year where individuals are getting sick/sicker with the common conditions like asthma and upper respiratory infections. Seasonal Affective Disorder also plays a role for some during this time of year due to the lack of sunlight and Vitamin D deficiencies. Anxiety may still be present for some and/or it may become depression of sorts around this time of year.

The following window occurs around the month of May where the qualities in the atmosphere consist of warming up and lightening up, as we transition back into the summer months that bring either dry heat or humidity.  Allergies are common, colds, flu's, other types of viruses, and even rashes or other inflammatory conditions may increase for some during this period and as we continue into summer.

This is a breakdown of how a season appears according to Ayurveda:

Vata Season → Fall/Early Winter

Qualities = dry, cold, light

 

Pitta Season → Summer

Qualities = hot, moist, light or heavy (depending on geography)

 

Kapha Season → Late Winter/Spring

Qualities = Heavy, cold, moist

It is important to note as part of being harmonious with nature that the lining of the digestive system, that is amazingly rich with numerous microbes, sheds its lining and prepares for the next season. Indigestion can typically occur when we eat foods and take in beverages that are not aligned with the harmony of digestion/constitution. According to Ayurveda, it is understood that disease manifestation generally begins with digestive disturbances.  It is understood in Ayurveda that there are four many types/qualities that define and describe digestion/metabolism/digestive fire (jathar agni). 

These four are Sama Agni (Balanced Digestion, Vishama Agni (Variable Digestion), Tikshna Agni (Sharp Digestion), and Manda Agni (Sluggish Digestion). Balanced Agni is when there are minimal to no digestive symptoms. Variable Digestion involves an imbalance of digestion that typically consists of gas, bloating, distention, mild to moderate constipation. Sometimes the person with this appetite wants to eat, forgets to eat, doesn't eat much, eats a lot, eats on the go,  eats inconsistently and at inconsistent times (aligned with Dinacharya practices).  This category of digestion is associated with Vata Digestion. Imagine cooking on a low flame, with the fan blowing. What happens? Food is not cooked properly. 

Pitta Digestion is that of Tikshna, which is sharp. Sharp means that the fire is very high and metabolism is basically too much and breaks down food faster than the body can process.  Imagine cooking on a really high flame. What happens? Food gets burned. Kapha Digestion is Sluggish. Imagine cooking on a really really low flame, a large pot of stew. It takes forever to cook and is much heavier in quality. 

To follow Ritucharya Practices, here are some things that can be done.

WHAT TO DO?

1) PRACTICAL On hot days, still, dress and eat accordingly. What does that mean? Generally, lighter and shorter, cooler clothing, along with juicier and cooler foods. On cooler days, dress and eat accordingly. This means generally dressing warmer and eating warmer foods. 

2) DIGESTION: Know what your constitutional tendencies are and how they correlate with the seasons.  Does your digestion feel a little better, as a Vata type, in the summer? Worse in the fall/winter/spring? Does your digestion feel better, as a Pitta type, in the fall/winter/spring? Does your digestion, as a Kapha type, feel worse in late winter/spring and better in the summer? There's no coincidence. The elements know themselves and it is typically the opposite qualities that bring harmony to a digestive system out of balance. By watching this relationship with food and seasons you can get a pretty good idea of what your digestion is like and what it needs in order to feel better. If you're willing to listen, that's a different story.

3) SUN, MOON, AND SEASONS: Remember the sacredness of the changing seasons in general. It is truly a treasure to be living in a human body and experiencing life and our connection as part of it. The seasons, the rise and fall of the sun ((solar cycles that include the yearly calendar and the sun going from shining longer in the sky to less in the sky (such as equinoxes), as well as sunrise and sunset), and, the moon (lunar) cycles. Meditation on such concepts, taking time to reflect and really notice what is changing and what remains can be a powerful practice that helps us to  connect with nature and balance our well-being. 

4) HERBS: Here are some herbs that are great for balancing changes/stresses and can be generally beneficial when transitioning from seasons.  Adaptogenic, circulatory stimulants, immune tonics, even nerve tonics.  It is also important to note that checking with an Ayurvedic practitioner can make sure which ones are best based on your constitution.  These herbs are Ashwagandha, Ginger, Cinnamon, Turmeric, Guduchi, Amalaki, Triphala, and Brahmi/Gotu Kola. Some vitamins such as Vitamin D with K3 and Vitamin B Complex can be helpful. In fact, Vitamins A, B, C, D are great! but definitely Vitamin D and B Complex.

5) SEASONAL COOKING: To add to point # 1 above, Eastern traditions such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, emphasize eating according to the seasons. Within this, Ayurveda adds that we should eat according to not only the season but also with the understanding of what our individual constitutions and quality of digestion in mind, as mentioned in #2 and the above note discussing the four types of digestion.  Knowing this in and of itself is a profound hallmark contribution of Ayurvedic medicine in understanding not only disease management but healthcare and disease prevention.

6) OIL THERAPY: Ayurveda takes pride in understanding how important the skin is for health and immunity. Certain practices involve massages and application of oil to various points on the body are conducive to health. See this LINK for more details. 

 

DISCLAIMER: This information is meant for educational purposes only. Any changes in lifestyle should be reviewed with a qualified practitioner and primary care physician if you are currently under their care for specific conditions. 

 

 

MASSAGE AND LOVING YOURSELF, GETTING LOVED!

I was recently inspired by a couple of my patients to write more about massage, it's importance and my personal relationship with it.

You see, within the past couple weeks, one of my patients who was in his mid 80's started to come and see me a year ago.  He would thoroughly enjoy his sessions and felt great benefits on many levels.  I admired this patient because he was a very gentle soul, with a kind heart, a brilliant smile, and loving touch when he would shake my hand hello and goodbye. It was truly an honor to work with him. Unfortunately, he suddenly died, unexpectedly. This brought me great sadness for many reasons. Upon meeting his family at the funeral proceedings a couple of his children (one being a current patient of mine, and dear friend) came to me and said "he really loved coming to see me. He looked forward to his sessions."  This touched me deeply to know that seeing this amazing man every couple of weeks for a year would have such lovely things to share around it with his family. I was humbled by this.

A week after his funeral, his daughter-in-law spoke of my giving him massages and how happy he felt from receiving them. She then stated how important it is to get a massage and how so many people go without that contact, that connection, that full-body loving touch. I agreed. I relate as my body is designed in a way that contact is extra important for me and my nervous system but not just any contact, loving contact. Full attention. Few and far between are these experiences. I offer this through all the hands-on sessions I conduct daily. It's an asset I bring to my practice.

For me, massage has been a part of my life for a very long time. How long? Honestly, this is the truth. I have been massaging since I was 5 years old. How so? My stepfather introduced me to massage and would have me practice on him as he would work on me. This continued into my teens and I was massaging my mom's and brother's friends regularly. Then, I was in undergrad and as part of exchanges for rides and dinners, I would massage my friends. One of my dearest and closest friends encouraged me after completing my bachelors to get a quick certificate somewhere so that I can legitimately do the massages. So that's what I did. I started a shiatsu school and continued to build on that for many years to come.  Read more about me through my bio HERE. 

In all my years of doing massage, it has and continues to bring me great pleasure. It is another way for me to connect with individuals. My hands love the feeling of the oils meeting the body and exploring the terrane of a being who is open to receiving. There are so many benefits to touch and it surprises me when I still hear of an individual who has never had a massage.  The kings and queens of old times (and probably still until this day) recognized the benefits of regular massage.  

Massage is more than just about luxury. Is really taking care of yourself considered a luxury or is it a necessity (that brings great pleasure and benefits)?When individuals tell me that they can't afford it I ask them "is there really a price too good health?"  From my experience, massaging regularly (self-massage and receiving sessions) can increase health and longevity. The aging process slows down since oils are therapeutic, especially when designed for the individuals' constitution and warmed up, and the manipulation of the body's tissues supports digestion and lymphatic health. Not to mention the benefits on the nervous system by encouraging the body to relax.  Getting a massage helps to ground us in our bodies. It helps to connect the body and mind, and by relaxing, we get into the heart of the matter by coming into ourselves more fully. Massage is a profound practice!

I highly recommend that everyone gets at least 1-2 massages a month, if not weekly.  I have touched hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of bodies. It brings me great pleasure to do so and to hold a presence for anything to unfold as you are supported with loving care, and non-judgment.  It isn't uncommon to have deep releases such as tears, fear, and laughter as part of the session as this is the body releasing whatever exists in the tissues and nervous system, causing you to feel lighter and more balanced, more connected, and more at home within your own body. Why not? This is your home, your temple, untill the last breath. Why not enjoy what's in it? Your body will thank you!

Taken from a recent article I wrote HERE (called Optimizing Health Through a Tripod of Health Support: Yoga, Personal Training, and Massage)

MASSAGE

Massage is an interesting and important asset to the practices of yoga and personal training. Yoga and personal training sessions involve a certain level of proactive engagement for the most part. In that, when moving through the exercises of yoga (except for moments of savasana, the relaxation pose) and when engaging in workout techniques there is an actual involvement.  Massage, on the other hand, you're simply laying on a table, breathing, and focusing on letting go and surrendering while someone is working with the body. This in and of itself is an important act because it encourages a level of relaxation and integration that is provided by another individual, as well as a different type of molding to the body. While on a massage table, the lymphatic system can be encouraged in a different way. The muscles after firing can come into a calm and quieter state. The parasympathetic system is strongly supported when an individual can surrender and let go.  "Working out the kinks" is usually easier when on a massage due to a hands-on approach. This increases overall functionality and efficiency of the body. 

There are many types of massages ranging from subtle to deep techniques; such as Swedish, intuitive, shiatsu, Thai, rolfing, and deep tissue.  Finding a massage therapist that you can connect with and that has a holistic approach and/or works well with holistic approaches can best meet you and support the desired outcomes. 

Lastly, If you are reading this article and are one of those people who has never had a massage, please contact me for an appointment and mention that you haven't. I'll discount your first session to the same special for the Birthday Rate.  See HERE.  Once you get started you'll wonder how you hadn't done this before and how you can continue to do so. This is why I'm happy and grateful to be here now, and many years to come!

 

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

HEALTHY SKIN: FOOD FOR THOUGHT

In Ayurveda, it is understood that health depends on the quality of health within digestion. Digestion has two aspects to it which include the body (the physical part of digestion itself) and mind (being that the mind is processing/transforming/absorbing/integrating information.) What we put into our bodies via the mouth is equally as important as what we expose our mind to. The building up of the body occurs with proper nutrients. The strengthening of the mind depends on practices that help to bring balance to it as much as possible.  Ayurveda has much written on this and can be explored at a later time.  Suffice it to say, the health of the skin has many contributing factors. We could also include in this the understanding that genetics plays a role. Ayurveda would go as far as asking "what foods did the parents ingest?"  Additionally, it is understood in Ayurveda that even though there may be a genetic predisposition towards some condition, what is it in a person's diet and lifestyle that would contribute towards increasing the likelihood of that condition manifesting based on a gene expression? Just because there's a tendency it doesn't mean it actually always has to develop. What allows it to? That's what Ayurveda has us think about.  Also, it is accepted in Ayurveda that even if all efforts have been made to prevent something from developing that if something still persists or exists, then this is part of the individual's inner work to find balance with and accept as part of their human journey. Yoga and Ayurveda can certainly help with all this. 

I remember many years ago a patient came to me for Ayurvedic Facial treatments because she noticed that she had many wrinkles and wanted me to help her to get rid of them. She mentioned that she recently started smoking (after the age of 50) due to her divorce from a marriage that ended after almost 25  years.  She said "I know you're going to tell me to stop smoking but I'm not willing to. I just want you to help me with the wrinkles." I told her we would do her best and that there was no point in me telling her that smoking wasn't a good idea because she already knew that. What I wanted to do was to support her in understanding the root cause that drove her to smoke and to redirect her stress in a different way, as we worked on the skin issue she came in with We started with her diet, which is where any kind of healthcare should be addressed. 

Skin is a very meticulously complex system like much of the body. It is the largest organ of the body. This includes the lining of the digestive tract starting in the mouth and ending in the rectum, transitioning to the outside of what we see. It has an average weight of around 12 pounds.  It is also an organ of immunity, breathable, and an organ of absorption.  The health of the skin will determine the overall health of an individual.  Beauty comes from the inside and makes its way outside. This makes sense considering that the body and its organs, tissues, and cells are made up of what we put into our body.  If we want to understand the health of an individual, we can see what foods exist in the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator. Similarly, when we want to understand the health of an individual we assess what they are putting into their bodies. 

Tvak Sara loosely translates to "healthy skin" in Ayurveda. What is the general definition of healthy skin according to Ayurveda? Ayurveda says "Excellence of Rasa Dhatu. The excellence of skin can be characterized by unctuous/oily, softness/smooth, clarity of complexion, glow, and fine deeply rooted lustrous hair."  It is important to note that the word Rasa has several meanings and in Ayurveda one of them refers to the skin because it relates to plasma formation which is a vital nutrient of the body in which other cells and tissues require for health. 

According to Ayurveda, we can classify skin types based on general constitutional considerations like this:

Vata skin tends to be dry, cracking, cold, rough, flaky, scaly, thin, and with small lesions. Complexion tends to be dull or dusty.

Pitta skin tends to be moist, prone to red rashes, hot, red, inflamed, smooth, and moderately thick. Complexion tends to be rosy or ruddy.

Kapha skin tends to be moist, prone to pustular lesions, cold, smooth, mainly thick. Complexion tends to be pale. 

For the purposes of this article, here are some considerations to have in place to best support the health of the skin:

1) PROPER HYDRATION. Not just water but also electrolyte boosting beverages that are like natural "gatorade's." Proper hydration also includes knowing how much fluid intake based on your constitution, as well as understanding factors that involve whether you're working out and sweating a lot, or not. Whether you're in the heat a lot, or not.  Overly hydrating with water can have a depletive quality as well, as this puts stress and strain on the kidneys and cells overall. 

2) PROPER NUTRITION What does the food look like? Is it full and bountiful? Are you getting the adequate protein, carbs, veggies, fiber, and oils? Are you eating on the go or sitting with your food? Are you distracted while eating? Overeating? Undereating? Eating healthier foods or eating fast foods? Are the foods highly processed? Whole? 

3) PROPER EXERCISE. Supports oxygenation and strength to the skin and all connective tissue. Of course, over-exercising can also cause stress and strain on the body which will have negative consequences on the skin. Overly sweating can also cause harm internally and therefore external what we see, as a result of dehydration and depletion.  There is a perfect balance and your body will tell you in many ways.

4) PROPER REST/SLEEP. This is a rejuvenative process for the body and stress reduction. Sleeping is a natural anti-inflammatory process (usually and ideally.) Staying up late at night increases inflammation and increases aging, due to the various levels of stress. Daytime sleep lacks the adequate and full qualities of sleep that nighttime sleep can offer.  Simply following our internal clocks, known as the circadian rhythm, can be our guide. Trust it! It's been around for millennia and since the dawn of "human." Check this article HERE for more sleep information

5) ALCOHOL consumption and excess consumption can be an accelerant in aging.  It is depletive and consumptive overall, like adding fuel to a fire that causes the breakdown of tissues.  The body tries to remove alcohol as fast as it can from the body through sweating and urination.  This tends to be why we pee a lot when drinking, usually. The body views alcohol as a type of poison, especially in excess.  Due to this, the body ages faster over time. Therefore, avoid or really minimize alcohol intake. Properly hydrate the body when alcohol is being consumed but remember that too much fluid intake of any kind will also wreak havoc in the body. Alcohol is acidic and affects the pH levels of the body which not only puts stress on the liver and kidneys but the whole body.  There is no judgment of drinking but Ayurveda would ask the question "what is the root of the drinking?" and "what is it about drinking that acts as a supplement and support for something else going on in the deeper terrain of being human and consciousness?"

6) SMOKING, in general, but specifically cigarettes we know also increases aging as well as this prevents the strengthening of tissues, as well as compromising the oxygen resources in the body.  The elasticity of the skin is lost over time and based on the amount of smoking.  Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor and reduces blood flow and oxygen to the skin which means the skin lacks nutrients for strengthening and building.  The lungs support oxygenation of the blood which feeds all cells in the body and compromising such a vital part of existence causes severe harm. There's no way around it. There is no judgment around the smoking but a question Ayurveda asks is "what is the smoking a supplementation for?" and "what is at the root that causes an individual to smoke?" Smoking is a learned behavior. It is not one that comes naturally. 

7) Oils and Oil therapy is highly recognized in Ayurveda as being a major asset to supporting immunity, vitality, peace of mind, and healthy skin.  Ayurveda suggests the proper intake of oils via ingestion and via topical application. Oils should always be applied warm, and based on constitutional necessities. Remember, the skin IS an organ of absorption and anything, I mean ANYTHING, we put on the skin is getting absorbed. There is a saying in Ayurveda that "If you're not able to eat it, then why would you put it on your skin."  Technically, any oil is good but the best oil is the oil used as per the constitution. For the purposes of understanding internal oil suggestions consist of: Fish Oils, Flax Seed Oil, Ghee, Coconut Oil. External topical oils that are really good include Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Sesame, Coconut, Olive, and Almond.  Within this category of oil therapy we can add how amazing and vital it is for the body to get massaged regularly.  This has so many benefits, including how it helps the skin to be healthier, but also involves contact itself. A loving touch can help the skin and overall mind and body to feel amazing!

8) HYGIENE/SKIN PRODUCTS that aren't natural should be minimized or avoided completely.  I'm sorry to say but this is for your own good. The typical products such as deodorants, hair sprays, colognes/perfumes, laundry detergents/softeners,  powders like talcum, and any other products that are meant to treat the skin, should be considered harmful if it's not natural. The body is made of nature, natural elements and minerals. When we apply substances that aren't pure and natural we are force-feeding the body to eat junk which has an overall negative influence on health and vitality, causing stress and inviting harmful conditions in many ways.  How do we deal with this? See point #7 above.  If you're one of those individuals that says "using natural products doesn't feel the same" or "doesn't work" or "doesn't work the same"...then Ayurveda says see point #1-7 for understanding.  It is very difficult to treat the external parts of the body when the internal balance hasn't been established.  It's like putting on a new fresh coat of paint on a wall that's peeling or a wall that the sheetrock is slowly crumbling. It just can't be done, but people try. Nature always wins in the end, so why not give it more of a chance and look at the internal landscape so that the outer architecture can be amazing?!

9) AVOID SUN during peak times as the sun can be damaging and cause the skin to breakdown. We know that many forms of skin cancers develop as a result of consistent and direct sun exposure, especially when the proper measures aren't taken such as using appropriate sunscreens (which tend not to be natural in the source but helpful with regard to protecting the skin probably better than natural sunscreens.)  Collagen breaks down. Damage occurs at the junction of the epidermis and dermis resulting in an inability of the cells and microstructures to receive proper nutrients.  Also, too much UV-B radiation affects DNA causing mutations that lead to cancer. It is also important to note that there are several skin types that range from pale to olive skin to dark and darker skin.  This also plays a role in protection from the sun due to melanin (skin pigmentation) and the lighter the skin the more prone to skin damage and other issues with aging skin, such as wrinkles. 

10) SUPPLEMENTS can be helpful as well, but again, this is optimized when diet and lifestyle are being supportive. Supplements like Vitamin A, B, B-complex, C, D, E, Magnesium, Zinc, and Iron help on many levels and contribute to the whole package of well-being. If you're not sure of your levels in the blood, there are lab tests to examine this and determine what vitamins and minerals may be lacking. Or, the alternative is to slowly introduce one of these and spend an extensive time with individual ones and determine what you're feeling like. No one knows you better than you when you tune in and trust the inner physician and inner wisdom. The body knows best!

11) COFFEE can also be harmful, in excess.  The western dosage of coffee has exceeded the normal quantity that the body can actually handle healthily. A good example of coffee consumption is by observing traditional European countries.  They don't have 8-12-16-20-30 ounces in one sitting.  These amounts are highly toxic for the body. If there is pre-existing inflammation, coffee will only magnify this. If there isn't pre-existing inflammation, then the excess consumption of coffee will create inflammation. Coffee is acidic and reduces the pH in the body and has a rippling effect overall on health.  Ayurveda would ask "why is this much coffee needed?"  We would determine where the imbalance is and what coffee is doing as a supplement for this.  What is lacking? Not enough energy? No time to eat? (because coffee is an appetite suppressant.) Is it used to stay up late? Is there an emotional comfort around it? Is it just the taste and smell?  A little bit goes a long way. Ayurveda would also suggest coffee based on an individuals' constitution.  For instance, Pitta predominant individuals would benefit from less coffee for sure. Pitts predominant individuals are heated naturally and coffee is heating due to its acidic nature. Vata predominant individuals should generally stay away (especially if they have anxiety) since they are naturally stimulated and coffee is a natural stimulant. Kapha predominant types would benefit from some, but not too much as this negatively affects the fat/adipose tissue, as well as sugars/glucose/insulin relationship.  European dosage, which consists of infrequent small cups is best, if consumed at all. 

12) TO STRESS OR NOT TO STRESS! It is already is known that stress is considered the number one killer. Stress affects everything, body, mind, and spirit. This has to do with mind.  As mind is agitated, so shall digestion be.  As mentioned before, when digestion is compromised, then what happens internally will express itself externally. Yoga, massage, meditation are all great tools to de-stress. Seeing a therapist or counselor/couch of sorts as well.  Connecting with nature, either camping, hiking, or simply being outdoors and around less technologies, less people, and more with critters, plants, trees, lakes, mountains, and the beauty of sunrises, sunsets and everything in between can all be helpful methods of supporting de-stressing by decompressing and discharging these highly sensitive and highly charged up nervous systems.

Ayurveda is not a system of "spot treatments", "spa treatments", or "quickies/quick fixes" around getting optimal health.  It is a system of holistic medicine that requires investment and discipline to a certain degree. Sometimes simple antidotes can be successful but that is simply a moment of grace.  Usually, the right foundation has to be established in order to obtain the desired results that are expected of the body and mind. 

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

 

HIV AND HIV RELATED INFLAMMATION ARTICLE (PART 1)

I am proud to share this article that was originally written as a 42 page paper for the California College of Ayurveda.  This topic touches me deeply and personally on many levels. 

This article was reformed into the current article and is posted with permission from the Ayurveda Journal of Health.

Reference:

Ayurveda Journal of Health

Spring 2018

Volume 16, Issue 2 ISSN 2372-1804

ARTICLE ON HIV

 

OPTIMIZING HEALTH THROUGH A TRIPOD OF HEALTH SUPPORT: YOGA, PERSONAL TRAINING, AND MASSAGE

I remember many years ago, the first time since I was in undergraduate, I set foot in a gym to work with a personal trainer and have had over a decade of experience with yoga. I walked in and told the trainer what my goals were which were to simply build some muscle and gain more tone. I told him that he shouldn't work my body like he does other clients due to the efficiency my body has access to due to my yoga and Ayurvedic practices. He looked at me with inquisitiveness and some disbelief. This trainer began his protocol with me and within a couple sessions, he had noticed how quickly my body was responding to the exercises he was suggesting. He was surprised and asked me how I was able to do all this. I reminded him of my strong foundation in yoga and Ayurveda.  Yoga provided tools needed with breath, body, and mind. Ayurveda created a context of understanding my constitution and the best diet aligned with the physical exercises for both the yogic aspect of my practice as well as the personal training exercises. 

This has been an article in the making for some time but recently I have felt inspired to complete it and put it out there. Over the years, I have worked with many individuals that have been personal trainers and/or seeing personal trainers. With this experience I have been able to support them with their optimal goals of health and fitness, maximizing the potential, and increasing the effectiveness of their intentions, exponentially.  I have had the honor of supporting individuals in gaining amazing results with simple considerations and some "tweaking" here and there as a means of refinement.  Trainers that I have worked with had their diets cleaned up. I initially noticed significant deficits in this department that have shown up as specific symptoms such as digestive symptoms, sleep issues, bad breath, inflammation, and overall nervous system and mind agitations/afflictions as a result of the general regimens supported. Patients I have seen would carry out this pattern as well. 

I truly love the intention of increasing awareness about health and yoga and Ayurveda has been highly valuable and unique, providing a profound approach to health and well being.

This "Tri-Pod of Health Support" concept and practice has been my own creation based on my numerous experiences.  The Tri-Pod consists primarily of Yoga, Personal Training, and Massage.  Since my yoga training is strongly interwoven with Ayurveda, based on classical training, the components of Diet and Sleep automatically fall into the Tri-Pod by nature. Ayurveda is a vast complete holistic science and art of living.  Furthermore, Ayurveda brings with it a whole body of knowledge and experience that takes everything to a whole other level of consciousness and effectiveness, by far and more than any other system available. 

YOGA

Most people are familiar with yoga but the yoga I am referring to is more of the traditional uses of the asana's (physical practices) that aren't rooted in outward intensity or goal-driven practices such as obtaining abs; let alone the yoga that reflects gymnastic/olympic/athletic type of protocols. Yoga as a serene practice for increasing and/or heightening a persons inner and outer experiences with the body, mind, and spirit. Yoga in the form I am referring to involves a different quality that invites us to really get to know ourselves and cultivate our inner wisdom. The many asanas of yoga are designed to access different parts of our body that no other physically driven practice has been devised.  Yoga is a complete practice, especially when it is connected with Ayurveda, in many ways that grant us an ability to maximize our performance when combined with other regimens and traditions. I encourage it to be a firm foundation for other practices to combine with it. 

Within yoga, there are various forms.  Generally, Ayurveda would categorize practices according to an individuals' constitution. For instance,  Vata and Pitta predominant types benefit best from Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin, and Restorative. Kapha predominant types are best served by Kundalini, Ashtanga, Anusara, and Hot Yoga.  It can be more specific than this based on individual needs and desires but still integrated with the principles of Ayurveda in order to optimize the approach to balance and well-being.  When we get more into the idea of intensity type of practices than there are various degrees of how this can be interpreted. For instance, a Pitta predominant individual may resist a balancing practice that isn't as intense because of the like intensity. This intensity for them could further imbalance them. Additionally,  a calming practice could seem to be challenging since these individuals enjoy the intensity and the opposite quality can seem less so, but it is ironic to consider the understanding that an intense person would be challenged by slowing down. Hence, why Ayurveda would say this is better. This is a different interpretation to "personal training."

PERSONAL TRAINING

Personal training offers many benefits that are different in ways to yoga.  Personal training helps with increasing mobility, building muscle, strengthening cardio function through vigorous exercises, tones muscle and burns fat, and addresses metabolism in its own way. Within the model of personal training there tends to be a diet/nutrition component as well that is typically rooted in FDA approved standards and general modern scientific and time-tested contributions. Individuals that tend to follow personal training sessions also have a generally good outlook on themselves and life. They may have higher self-esteem and confidence as a result of seeing how their body changes with some diet and exercise programs. Within the model of personal training, there isn't the understanding of individual constitutional needs as indicated in Ayurveda but an overall assessment is done with the individual to match the needs of the individual and the determining qualities that a practitioner of this model would be driven by that sculpt the overall path for the individual to follow. 

MASSAGE

Massage is an interesting and important asset to the practices of yoga and personal training. Yoga and personal training sessions involve a certain level of proactive engagement for the most part. In that, when moving through the exercises of yoga (except for moments of savasana, the relaxation pose) and when engaging in workout techniques there is an actual involvement.  Massage, on the other hand, you're simply laying on a table, breathing, and focusing on letting go and surrendering while someone is working with the body. This in and of itself is an important act because it encourages a level of relaxation and integration that is provided by another individual, as well as a different type of molding to the body. While on a massage table, the lymphatic system can be encouraged in a different way. The muscles after firing can come into a calm and quieter state. The parasympathetic system is strongly supported when an individual can surrender and let go.  "Working out the kinks" is usually easier when on a massage due to a hands-on approach. This increases overall functionality and efficiency of the body. 

There are many types of massages ranging from subtle to deep techniques; such as swedish, intuitive, shiatsu, thai, rolfing, and deep tissue.  Finding a massage therapist that you can connect with and that has a holistic approach and/or works well with holistic approaches can best meet you and support the desired outcomes. 

DIET/NUTRITION

Yoga has Ayurveda for diet. Yoga by itself is traditionally emphatic of being vegetarian. Yoga with Ayurveda says that this may not be true for everyone and that individual needs are met based on the understanding of an individuals constitution according to the three Doshas (biological humors) called Vata, Pitta, Kapha. Configurations of these doshas vary and in addressing them an individual can develop an ideal plan that fits their uniqueness. Diet is an important contribution of Ayurveda because of this, and within the context of diet, metabolism can be properly supported. In Ayurveda, when the proper diet is in place then there is no need for medicine. Ayurveda has it figured out! There is no one size fits all approach because of the awareness around Vata, Pitta, Kapha. There is a common saying that "you are what you eat" but in Ayurveda it is corrected to "you are what you digest." Ayurveda isn't focused on caloric intake, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats/lipids. It is focused on seasonal eating, eating per your constitution which also takes into account metabolism.  Metabolism is about transformation.  It is the dividing factor between Anabolism and Catabolism. Anabolism involves the building up of something and Catabolism is about breaking down. Transformation, which is Metabolism, can be guided to either the direction of building or reducing of tissue.  Hence, why any type of physical (and even mental activities) can be converted for one thing or another. 

So much of Ayurveda goes into the breakdown of diet and nutrition. Ayurveda does not focus on calories, fats/lipids, protein, and carbohydrates.  There is so much more to diet than these simple categories can account for. First is foremost, in Ayurveda, we look at who is coming in to see is.  We determine their constitutional configurations of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.  We assess what is predominant and this will lead us practitioners to understanding the basic foundation of an individual's metabolic constitution. This is the platform we spring from in order to move forward and create a holistic approach and protocol to increase balance.  Vata predominant individuals tend to have a variable appetite.  Pitta predominant individuals have a strong steady and reliable appetite. Kapha predominant types have a sluggish appetite.  

Within the model of personal training, the idea and intention are to somehow meet individuals where they are at and have them meet a certain standard that is equal across the board, more or less.  This, according to Ayurveda, has the tendency to miss the understanding who the person is and what they are individually capable of. In Ayurveda, we believe that there isn't a set standard or one-size-fits-all approach.  Additionally, in attempting to do so, other imbalances can more likely occur later on down the road. 

The usage of protein powders and synthetic fillers to give the individual that extra boost or push in their body is actually contraindicated in the natural performance of the body.  When the metabolism isn't truly seen for what it is in the individual, when this piece is missing from their overall assessment and protocol, then imbalances are more likely to occur. I have worked with many personal trainers that have symptoms that are based in unclean digestion. Unclean digestion can come from poor sleep habits, poor eating habits/regimens, and the quality of food/nutritional support is actually at a deficit. I have worked with trainers that may look great on the outside but their insides are rotting. Their breath would smell foul,  indicative  tongue coating, there was an increased level of inflammation and acidity, sleep disturbances, restless mind, digestive symptoms such as constipation or loose stools, even a slight to moderate discoloration in their skin.  These are all symptoms of significant imbalance and as Ayurvedic practitioners, we seek to prevent and undo such symptoms because we know that the long-term effects of such things can spiral into other health issues.

Simply regimenting the meals according to proper times of days that have already been created by nature, and by following the natural flow of the day itself and aligning with the circadian rhythm can also invite an optimal foundation for health.  For instance,  here are some basic points to consider and guidelines to follow in order to better serve overall health with the intention of deepening into balanced practices:

1) Breakfast is not the main meal of the day. Breakfast is about "breaking a fast." This fast has occurred as a result of the natural 24-hour cycle of the day where the last meal was around 7 pm the night before.  Those following hours that lead up to rest, include rest, and exist around waking time, are the natural breaks in a day to help encourage metabolism. You see, when we first awaken, the body detoxes the remaining residue that the body didn't need from the previous day. On another level, this is a way the body encourages letting go of the past, becomes more present, and paves the way for the future. When we first wake up in the morning, ideally, we poop, we pee, we spit up things like mucous, we cleanse the body through baths/showers, and we begin a whole new day.  Breakfast is light in order to support this process, if at all. Vata predominant types can/should eat a small balanced meal. Pitta predominant individuals can eat a heartier meal. Kapha predominant types can either skip breakfast (having tea, broth, or a very light type of meal.) The  best time for breakfast is by 8 am (plus or minus.) The digestive enzymes are weak in the morning after a night of processing yesterday's stuff and rest. 

2) Lunch is the main meal of the day and the most important. It has been too often the case that individuals have told me that they skip lunch, or that they have a smoothie or power bar to supplement lunch, or even do yoga or exercise during lunch time. This is counter-intuitive to the body and very harmful in fact. Lunch is the main meal of the day.  Digestive enzymes are at its peak at this time and if we override this natural process of the day and replace it with any activity that is other than a meal, then we have created a huge window for imbalances to lead to disease.  The window for lunch is between 10 and 2, ideally noon (ish.) Smoothies with protein powder do not count as meals. Nor do power bars or any other power drink.  This is not correct information for the body to receive. The cells tell the story over time of such neglect. Smoothies in the case of personal training could be okay in between meals when necessary but that is based on a case by case basis.

3) Dinner is a lighter meal. Ideally, no later than 7 pm. Should dinner be later, then it should also be lighter in order not to interfere with metabolism that occurs from the last meal of the day to the first meal of the next day, which brings us back to breakfast.  I've told many patients to consider dinner as a mini lunchtime. The digestive enzymes are not as strong as lunch, usually, but are stronger than breakfast time enzymes, and therefore, the volume at mealtime should be half of whatever lunch was.  Additionally, the later the meal, the lighter it should be.

4) Liver time is to be loved.  The liver becomes very active at night time around 10 pm, which is why it is ideal to be in bed around this time in order not to impede upon its job which is to clean up the day for us and get us ready for the next one.  Dr. John Douillard, a colleague, and teacher of mine shared a story about the liver saying that the liver at night is like the night time janitor that is designed to clean up the office building after a long and busy day, but when business meetings are still happening the janitor will either come back later or not at all and the building will not be cleaned up for the next day. Similarly, staying up at night into the later hours has been shown to affect metabolism by decreasing it, and in increasing inflammation to say the least. Additionally, this has also been found to affect the quality and duration of sleep, which will be discussed in the next section.  Late night eating isn't ideal. Eating heavy meals isn't ideal. Check out this article HERE to learn more about how a daily structure can be created to optimize performance of mind and body, and prevent imbalances from developing. 

5) Fasting occurs naturally during the daytime, three times a day. Breakfast as previously mentioned is an example of the natural fasting time that happens between the last meal of the day and the first meal of the next day, while we are sleeping and the liver is metabolizing. The next fasting period is between breakfast and lunch, and generally consists of a time span of 4 hours. Then, the next fasting period occurs between lunch and dinner, which ranges anywhere from 4-5 hours from lunch.  During these periods the body may signal that it is "hungry" and in Ayurveda we observe this and question with these three questions: did I have a complete and balanced previous meal? (yes or no) Am I adequately hydrated? (yes or no)  If I'm not sure of the difference, then drink a mug of warm water. If the feeling of hunger disappears, then it was thirst. You see, the same mechanism in the brain that determines hunger determines thirst.  If the feeling of hunger remains, then the previous meal wasn't balanced. Did I have good sleep last night? (yes or no)  Good sleep supports optimal digestion. Poor sleep negatively affects digestion, causing hormonal imbalances, cravings for sweets or any substance that "boosts" energy. Additionally, poor lunch meals can also affect hormones, increase cravings, and affect sleep. HERE is a article I wrote recently regarding dieting/fasting/detoxing. 

In giving in to the cravings, the body's fasting period is thwarted.  The laziness of waiting some time for the body's' natural processes to kick in can cause long-term harm. If we wait 20 minutes for the feeling of hunger to go away, the body will kick in to metabolize and convert the necessary supplies into usable forms of fuel.  The body actually wants to do this. It tends to store what it needs from our nutrient intake for later to be used as needed. This is how the body is self-regulating and amazingly efficient. The body has an amazing intelligence if we give it a chance and learn to listen to it better. 

6) Exercise and diet must be balanced. Exercise of any kind is imbalanced without an adequate diet. Similarly, diet alone can not fully balance the body when exercise is missing. They are mutually inclusive and necessary for our overall well being. There's not getting around it or avoiding it, if we are honest with ourselves. The current state of the typical westernized lifestyle is lazy. More eating happens, while more sedentary practices grow. This is not correct. The body is meant to be engaged on many levels.

7) Frozen beverages such as smoothies with ice are counter-intuitive. Once the ice is added to any beverage then we have now weakened digestion. It's like putting a wet blanket on a fire. Digestion is a fiery process and putting anything cold in the body creates an enormous amount of stress for the body, compromising health on so many levels. Just have the smoothie without the ice and it will make a huge difference.  Check out this article HERE regarding ice and cold foods and beverages. 

8) About smoothies, there is an understanding in Ayurveda that there should be more vegetables to fruit. Too much fruit can cause issues with blood sugar, even though exercise helps with metabolizing sugar. Why add any un-needed stress to the body and support its performance by helping it to work less hard.  For instance, to make 16 ounces of carrot juice, it takes (depending on the size of the carrots) a whole bag of carrots, but you wouldn't eat a whole bag of carrots in one sitting (usually), so why would you expect the body to take it in juice form. It's too much. We live in a culture of too much. Less is better than more.  Additionally, it is also important to remember that generally when smoothies are made they have either frozen fruits/vegetables and/or ice added. This is highly contraindicated and creates a serious metabolic dysfunction.  Ice is usually added as a filler but causes so much harm. Why would you want to put all that work into such a good workout and yoga practice but then add ice to a smoothie and undo a lot of that work on a digestive and cellular level?

9) Protein Powders are normally synthesized. On a fundamental and basic level of cellular intelligence and nutrition, the body really doesn't recognize most of the store-bought GNC protein mixes formulated in laboratories. It doesn't actually make sense to the body when we listen to it, versus force the issue and "force feed" the body to do something that it knows isn't ideal for it. There are natural protein powders that are manufactured that are healthier for the body. Even simply adding nuts to a smoothie can add protein naturally.  The body will express the difference and in the long run thank you in so many ways, one being great health inside and out. 

10) Portions are important during meal times. We get more nutrients absorbed into the body if we simply chewed more of our food, versus shovel and swallow.  By following better practices for eating,  the yoga practitioner and personal trainer, and personally trained individual will find amazing results with even less effort. Check out these guidelines for healthy eating HERE.

11) Incompatibility of foods is another important contribution of Ayurveda. Ayurveda has a great deal to share how foods are compatible with one another. For instance, cheese and sauce do not go together. Or, most fruits and yogurt do not work well together. It is a common idea that we must have fruits in our diet and think to take it with something like yogurt in the form of a smoothie but on a microcellular level, this can cause inflammation to develop and or increase due to the inherent qualities of fruit versus dairy. For the purposes of this article, I am referring to the incompatibility of meals and smoothies. On many occasions, I have seen clients of personal trainers and even personal trainers themselves indulging in the intake of having a smoothie with a meal. This is incorrect according to dietary guidelines and healthy eating practices of Ayurveda. First, because often is the case that smoothies are with ice and as we learned earlier that ice should not go in the body. Ice is mainly added as a thickening agent for smoothies otherwise smoothies would be more expensive.  Secondly, the damp cool/cold qualities of a smoothie combined with say an omelet or a sandwich (for that extra protein) is incorrect because, again, it's like putting a wet blanket on a fire and overwhelms digestion. One meal at a time. Meals themselves should be balanced, consisting of various ratios of proteins to grains to legumes to veggies. Too much is too much!

12) Supply and Demand is something essential to consider  with regard to observing progress and great health.  What is the food versus physical demand? Are you eating more and working out less? Are you working out more and eating less? Are you eating less and working out less? Are you eating and not working out? Are you working out and not eating healthily? What does the body need and what are we getting out of it?  Is the body getting less than what it needs in nutrition while physically active? If so, where is the nutrition coming from if it's not coming from food. More often than not, the body will take from itself what it isn't getting externally? We can determine the quality of healthy, inside and out, by how we treat ourselves. How we treat ourselves is rooted in how well are we able to truly listen to ourselves. This isn't about what we think but really from what we feel. We can use the mind to navigate us to those experiences that can support us if we listen quietly and closely.  What symptoms are present? This can tell us a lot.   HERE is an article about supply and demand, and how your body is your guide HERE. 

13) In this order, yoga can start the day to open up and warm up the body. Next can be the practices at the gym. Lastly, massage wraps it all up and integrates it. Diet is in between, and sleep pulls the entire day together.

SLEEP

Everyone needs it and there isn't anyone that doesn't, but it's not as simple as just going to bed anytime.  It's actually very specific.  Sleep is essential and getting to bed around 10 pm (no later than 11) will provide great balance to the body. The later someone stays up, the more the natural rhythms of the body are thrown off and the more this affects tomorrow by disrupting metabolism, increasing hormonal issues, cravings, and even affecting the next nights' rest. Sleep is a profound reset for the mind and body.  It's the place that we get to turn inward and let go of yesterday as we surrender into the unknown. Sleep brings us balance when it is adequate. Daytime sleep does not possess the same qualities of nighttime rest. There is no substitution for it.  HERE is a simple article I wrote on sleep some time ago.  

Therefore, with the level of importance that sleep possesses, it is contraindicated to work out at night. You see, the body begins to increase levels of melatonin around 2 pm and it peaks/surges in the body around 10 pm just as the liver becomes active. This is one of the main reasons why it is important to be in bed around 10 so that the natural sleep chemicals and processes are minimally disturbed. The liver increases its duties around sleep time.  We come inward to turn off for the day, while certain systems turn on to reorganize, recuperate, and realign for the next day. In the old days, before electricity was harnessed, there was a natural settling down for the day around the time of sunset.  Studies have shown that when people travel into nature and go hiking and camping, that the body naturally resets itself and becomes more harmonized. Stress levels come down as health and happiness increases. 

With the right exercise, in the right place during our daily routines, we can actually have better sleep.  It takes energy to fall asleep.  Ideally, according to Ayurveda, the best time to have a good work out is in the morning. The most efficient time of day to build muscle is before 10 am. 

Vigorous exercises and stimulating activities, that include intense yoga practices, late night yoga practices, non-calming/non-restorative yoga practices, and gym based/fitness based practices, at night time cause the body to go into the sympathetic response (flight or fight). Whereas, winding down for the day supports a parasympathetic response (unwind and harmonize.)  Many times, I've had friends say they do their workout at night and feel really good. I ask about sleep and they say that's good after a night workout BUT when I point out that they are straining the adrenals and causing depletion over long-term and connect it to why they feel deeply relaxed or an induced tiredness, they rethink it (usually) because they then learn that the tiredness is from fatigue and not a genuine usage of the body and honoring of its natural rhythms.  The quality of sleep is different when depletion has replaced the natural cycles of melatonin, serotonin, and cortisol responses to stress. 

It is important to note that if sleep has been inadequate then it is contraindicated to do any form of exercise, including yoga and any vigorous activities, but massage is good.  It is a priority to make sure rest is sufficient before any exercising regimen. Doing otherwise would cause more harm to the body than good.  Just get some rest firs! The body will be more productive and your health will be a sign of thank you in return.

In conclusion, integrating principles and practices of Ayurveda can optimize health in so many ways. By having a "Tripod of Health Support" consisting of yoga/Ayurveda, personal training, and massage, a complete integrated and holistic approach can be put in place to best support your life and keep things running amazingly for years to come. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you!

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

 

MORE ON SEASONAL ALLERGIES: FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Here we are again! It's that time of year and many individuals have been, are, and will be suffering from seasonal allergies.

You see, seasonal allergies are deeply rooted and not very simple of an issue to be addressed. According to Ayurveda, allergies generally are a condition of poor digestion, poor diet, poor lifestyle. Even with the understanding that there may be a genetic predisposition to allergies Ayurveda says that it is generally through diet and lifestyle that determines whether a gene is expressed or not. Similarly, a modern scientific approach to this concept is through Epigenetics. What are allergies? This is one way that Ayurveda defines them: the body's response to a substance(s) ("allergens") that are perceived as harmful and the body reacts to it by producing "antibodies." This is the "allergic reaction." Symptoms are then produced.

Often, it can vary how the body responds based on an individual's inherent constitution and whether there is already pre-existing toxicity in the body. If our digestion (Agni) is balanced, our toxins (Ama) are low or not present, and our immunity (Ojas) is healthy and strong, then health issues are least likely to occur. 

It is mainly through diet and lifestyle that we can become more susceptible to all sorts of conditions. In fact, this is another example of how we are a product of what we eat. Food can be either medicinal or poisonous depending on how it is taken, for who, and the when. Lifestyle is a whole other beast in and of itself. The irony is that if we have a stable diet, which should be the concrete part of our lifestyle that we don't sacrifice, then the lifestyle will have fewer consequences to experience. But when the diet is off in addition to the lifestyle, then it is no surprise that conditions arise as they do!

Lifestyle has a momentum that is based on the investment we have put into it. Lifestyle can be a part of how we live this human precious experience or it can be that dynamic of our human experience that shortchanges our health, even robbing us of it.  So often is the case that we don't have the time or make the time to take care of ourselves and then when we get hit with something we blame the something that happens versus take responsibility for the choices we make around not taking better care of ourselves. We are all doing the best that we can but one thing that Ayurveda teaches us is to use our health as a guide to determining our overall well-being and how it aligns with lifestyle. There is no blaming, only the opportunity to take a look at how we are feeling right now and how we would like to feel. Then assessing how it is that we can achieve a state of being better. What are we willing to sacrifice? Our health or aspects of our lifestyle that aren't serving us? It's not always easy to sit on this pivoting point but a good reminder is that we are good enough and deserving to feel amazing. Somewhere deep within is this desire. Therefore, it is up to us to make the choices and stick with them as much as possible. Right?

As far as seasonal allergies are concerned, this falls into the category of respiratory/upper respiratory ailments. Food sensitivities/allergies and other types of allergies are still influenced by the quality of digestion, as well as genetic factors, and stress. Ayurveda looks at the state of mind and digestion as being key components to understanding the nature of such conditions. Here's a link to another ARTICLE I wrote in the past about seasonal allergies. 

Here are some other key points to consider with regard to seasonal allergies:

1) DRYNESS is a factor and this begins as early as the beginning of winter when we are closed up indoors with heaters that are drying and humidifiers (hopefully cooler ones, versus warmer ones) are providing moisture in the atmosphere. This affects the mucous membranes of the entire body. In and out. The longer the exposure, the deeper the roots into pathology and when we emerge into the warmer air we see this deep dryness surfacing and attracting more of itself. Pollen is drying and can suck up the moisture in our sinus and on our skin.

2) COLD/FROZEN/ICE beverages are also actually astringent. For instance, after drinking a cocktail with ice (especially) the mucous membranes of the mouth are dryer. This leads to the tickle that is often felt in the back of the mouth, or even in the ears where we get that sort of itchy sensation. Cold/frozen/Ice anything also affects digestion but putting a damper on things and significantly reducing if not halting enzymatic activity causing food to be malabsorbed and turned into toxins. The liver is also affected. Immunity is affected. The respiratory tract is affected being that is it lined with millions of cells that are moist. COLD and DRY is what gives way to getting colds, cases of flu, viruses, and then some!

3) HEAVY diets can also suppress digestion and increase the likelihood of toxins. The lymphatic system gets backed up and like a house with the drainage systems being inundated the house itself suffers.

4) ALCOHOL consumption, especially as mentioned above regarding cold/ice/frozen, has a negative effect on health and immunity due to its fermentation and excess sugar combination. This alone increases, if not creates, an inflammatory process.

5) SMOKING..yes I had to write this, and not so much because of cigarette smokers that I know (even though it is common they suffer from seasonal allergies) but my pot smoker friends. Whether cigarettes or pot smoking, even vaping, this compromises the entire respiratory tract for too many reasons to list here but it's self-evident. Smoking anything dries up mucous membranes. Mucous membranes are there for many reasons such as protecting the tissues of the body, lubricating, thermoregulating, immune-regulating, so on and so forth.  Additionally, even the fact that smoke is heating as it is being taken into the mouth, throat, lungs, causes an increase in inflammation as well as dryness.

6) HYDRATION is important but doesn't happen with cold beverages and it doesn't completely occur with plain water. Plain water is a great anti-inflammatory and purifies the cells of the body but to fully hydrate some natural salt should be available. Water goes where salt goes. Salt takes water in and out of the cells and helps to hydrate the cells more effectively. Therefore, drinks that are like natural (I emphasize natural) gatorades and lemonades/limeades, even pure juice (1/4) to water (3/4) with 1/2 tsp. of sea salt is a better way to hydrate.

7) OIL everywhere. Oil is a fluid. The body is made up mostly of liquid but not all this liquid is actually water. Cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, interstitial fluid, cellular fluid, digestive fluids, blood-related fluids like blood itself and plasma, and lymphatic fluids, to name a few. Oil has an affinity with all these tissues and connects with phospholipid layers. Therefore, having proper oils in the diet such as ghee, coconut, flax, and olive are great sources. Some foods have natural fats such as butter, and some animal protein based foods. Additionally, supplements such as Fish Oils can be amazing in the right quantity and regular basis. Amazingly, Ayurveda applies oils in the ears, eyes, nose, mouth, on the skin, and even in the rectum for medicinal purposes. Check out the above link for more details.

8) EXERCISE gets things moving and this includes strengthening immunity. Overdoing exercise or doing the types of exercises that aren't aligned with an individuals constitution can also have a negative effect on health and cause immune and digestive compromise (though, both are interconnected.) According to Ayurveda, exercising in the morning and earlier part of the day is optimal.  The later the exercise, especially when it's contrary to the body's wisdom, such as after 8/9/10+ at night, this will increase inflammation, depletion, and hormonal imbalance in the long run.  Yet, proper exercise helps to regulate the whole body and strengthen immunity. 

9) ANXIETY has a drying effect. I have never heard anyone say "I feel warm and fuzzy while I'm anxious." Anxiety can also increase if there is dryness in the body. Then we are left with "what came first?" Anxiety is light in nature. It is ungrounded of an emotion. This can deplete the tissues. 

10) ANGER, due to its heating nature, can also be drying and overall consuming, causing the body to turn against itself if it isn't expressed properly. This suppressed heat is like the rubbing of two sticks to create heat as per the friction. Similarly, this inner pressure can cause dryness and increase inflammation.

11) MUCOUS is not necessarily the enemy!  The body has a lot of natural sources of this. Usually, a post nasal drip is the body's response to the root cause which is the dryness. It is the body's natural way to remedy the dryness. If you address the dryness, the mucous will balance itself. Here we can examine even the quality of the mucus. If the mucus is clear and lighter, this is more of a Vata type of mucus. If the mucus is thicker and yellow/green, this relates to Pitta and indication of infection. (Especially if there is blood in the mucus)  If the mucus is thicker and more white, this is Kapha type of mucus. Assessing the mucous can be a beneficial way of getting to the root of imbalance and remedies for health. Furthermore, when inflammation is being created or provoked, the body's natural response is to produce mucus to resolve it and attempt to regain homeostasis. If the root of inflammation is addressed, the mucus will balance itself out in the long run. 

12) SLEEP is a natural anti-inflammatory when we are asleep at the right time which involves being in bed around 10 (optimally.)  The later we stay up, the likelihood of increased inflammation since we are stressing the liver and nervous system. This also affects immunity. It compromises our diet/appetites, increasing cravings for things such as coffee, sweets, treats, and general comfort foods.  The body is compensatory and is always looking to maintain homeostasis which includes even looking outside of itself when it can't find within itself the resources it needs or the resources within that it can not for some reason access. Sleep reorganizes the body. According to Ayurveda, Vata's benefit from around 8-9 hours sleep (but not always easy for the Vata predominant types to access it. ) Pitta's benefit from around 7, and Kapha's around 6 hours. It's easy for Kapha predominantly types to sleep more. Pitta's can benefit from 7-8 and this helps them to feel calmer, and cooler (but not if they're up until midnight or later)  Daytime sleep has nowhere near the quality or benefits of nighttime sleep. So make sure that the rest is taken into account as a priority. 

13) GENERAL REMEDIES include being mindful of and avoiding the root cause or causes that create the opportunity for such conditions to arise.  Balancing DIET, Balancing SLEEP, Balancing EXERCISE, HERBS (such as Ashwagandha, Licorice, Guduchi, Haritaki, Amalaki, Triphala, Turmeric, Ginger, Manjistha, Goldenseal, and Echinacea.) Vitamins such as D, B-Complex, C, can be helpful in immune strengthening. Minerals such as zinc, iron, and magnesium are helpful overall. Even cultivating sexual/creative energy can be helpful in the long-run to the balance of an immune system and nervous system regulation.

Health is in the palm of our hands and at the tips of our fingers. If we make the choices that support it, then the body and mind will support us back with the feeling of well-being. When we deviate from ourselves, when we allow ourselves to let our "lifestyles" to take us away we are on some level even responsible for this through the choices we make or don't make, we will experiences this as a rippling effect into consequences or benefits. The body is an amzing indicator of whether we are in balance or imbalanced. Listening to it, taking time for it, loving it can ensure less health issues.

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.

"SPRING CLEANING" AND THE 5 SENSES

    What does Spring Cleaning really mean? Doesn't it feel natural that this is the time of year that we would feel inspired to "Spring Clean"?

     There's no coincidence! This is the time of year that nature starts to rebirth itself into a new chapter. It's the beginning of the year to come, and we start off with remembering that winter is the time to come inward, reflect, and be dormant as an internal energy and intention is cultivated. Then, spring rolls around and life begins to sprout. The atmosphere starts to change again from a cold dry to a cold wet, to a thawing out as the sun increases its light upon us with each day.

     The little critters of nature make their way about and a sense of renewal is happening. This is the time of year that a natural and inherent wisdom reminds us to detox, to let go of what was and to embrace what is here now, and what has yet to come. 

     Nature is whispering in our ears what it means to live according to the seasons and that by doing so we can remain ahead of the disease game (not that it's actually a game.) We spring clean so that we can get the circulation going so that the blood can get moving. Foods such as beets, celery, cilantro, limes, chlorella, carrots, and sprouts of all kinds help to stimulate not only the liver but also lymphatic functions. It is this time of year that we are in a window where the food has been scarce (typically back in the day) and we start to see new life sprouting to start the process of eating cleaner and lighter. This is after a heavy winter that nature encourages us to lighten up. 

     But, this isn't the only place that we are reminded to "lighten up." Some of us tend to spring clean our homes/offices, this time of year especially. There's no coincidence with what happens internally and in our minds, and with our external environments. Our homes are a reflection of our inner dwelling. The next closest experience to being inside of ourselves is being inside of our homes.  I remember learning in holistic school years ago two important thoughts for consideration and application: 1) We can tell the quality of a persons' healthy (usually) by what the person has in their kitchen cabinets. 2) We can usually tell how a person thinks and lives in their minds/hearts by what their home looks like. 

       There is something very powerful to be said when we understand cleanliness and organization and how this reflects us and upon us. There is also something to be said when we open up our kitchen cabinets and see what stares back at us, in the sense that good, wholesome and natural foods, versus packaged, cartons, canned, and even what medicines (spices and herbs versus aspirin, Pepto-Bismol, Nyquil, and other over the counter and/or pharmaceuticals.) I remember learning that the kitchen is the first pharmacy, but that's another article I'll write in the future.  It is possible to have a balance with fresh and not so fresh but come to my cooking classes and you'll learn about this, or wait until I write an article on it. 

     It is this time of year that the carpets get shaken, the windows will start opening, the birds will be seemingly chirping louder and more. Dusting will happen. Sweeping, mopping, vacuuming to the level of a deeper cleanse (which is the house's version of a detox.) I remember growing up that my mother would also change the furniture around. It was kind of exciting and provided a different perspective, sort of a new way of looking at things.  We would be listening to Italian opera with the doors and windows open. The smell of cleansers, the sound of the washing machine washing the winter bedspreads and curtains, as the new ones for spring were placed in position. 

     Nowadays, as I cleanse my home, I use all natural cleansing agents. The sheets and comforter are replaced per season.  Incense infuses the air, as chanting/mantras fill the atmosphere. (Though, this is done regularly, but you get the point.)  A sense of freshness and cleanliness resides here.  When anyone visits the first thing they usually say is "your place feels so calm" and/or "your place feels so light and clean."  I take pride in this for sure. As I shower regularly, I also detox as needed, and my home, car, and office reflect that. That's just me though. 

     In both Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are sciences that govern placement and directions (North, South, East, West, and directions in between.)  In Ayurveda, the science is known as Vastu and in TCM it is known as Feng Shui.  Both systems are considered to be helpful in understanding the "personality" of any space that is occupied by us. Did you know that? Our personal spaces do in fact have personalities. Some that may align with us and others that may not be supportive.  In both Vastu and Feng Shui, there are some guidelines in regards to cleaning up and discarding your space, "does it serve a purpose?", "is it used", "is it benefiting you?", or "do you need it?"  Based on your honest answers these guidelines can help you to make decisions in how to let go of things.  Personally, I've always supported the notion of Zen as much as possible and when it has been practical.  A minimalistic approach creates a sense of lightness, especially when the attachment is as heavy anymore.  This applies inwardly and outwardly. (Food for thought.)  Oprah would talk about organizing and cleanliness. She would say "compartmentalize, compartmentalize, compartmentalize" meaning that things of like nature belong together and that this was a great way to keep order. 

     Ayurveda speaks a lot about the "5 Senses" and the 'healing" thereof. The 5 senses are smell, taste, sight, sound, and touch. Each of the 5 senses corresponds to the 5 elements, which are Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space.  The relationship of the elements to the senses is Earth = Smell, Water = Taste, Fire = Sight, Air = Touch, and Space = Sound.  For our spirit, the 5 senses are the primary ways we interact with the world.  They are the means in which something as subtle as spirit can play as humans, having a human experience. It is understood in Ayurveda that by supporting the health and well-being of the senses we can support our overall health and well-being. Additionally, Ayurveda suggests that the easiest way to do this is by spending time in nature as much as possible.  I would add that bringing nature into our homes is just as equally as important being that generally, we spend much time there than anywhere else, usually. 

     With regard to the 5 elements and the Doshas, the relationship is as such: Vata = air and space, Pitta = fire, and water (a little bit), and Kapha = water and earth.  Vata predominant types tend to be erratic, ungrounded, unstructured, and mobile. This is the nature of the wind. It is unpredictable and benefits from being grounded more, with and through some structure. Pitta predominant types tend to be structured, controlled, and focused. The nature of fire is to be warm, sharp, and piercing, and benefits from being softer, more fluid, and patient.  Kapha predominant types tends to be stagnant/sedentary, grounded, heavy, and hard to motivate, and benefits from being pushed (being strongly encouraged), overall increased movement and stimulation of all sorts.  

     HERE ARE SOME THINGS TO ENCOURAGE OVERALL SPRING CLEANING THAT SUPPORT THE 5 SENSES AND 5 ELEMENTS:

1) TOUCH AND WHAT'S INSIDE: It is a good time of year to go through closets, draws, and any other space where things may be stagnant and to thoroughly discard anything that isn't serving any longer.  This applies to things in the kitchen cabinets and closet(s), along with the shelves in the refrigerator; creating the opportunity to invite new things in as the old things go out. Moving things around and/or out can be very positive and uplifting stimulating certain brain chemicals that promote optimal health. Additionally, the quality of products that you put on your skin such as natural fabrics, natural oils for perfume, natural soaps for cleansing, natural shampoos, natural deodorants, and any natural hygiene products all affect the sense of touch and will have an benefit depending on quality. In Ayurveda, we say "if you wouldn't eat it, why would you put it on your skin?" Substances that touch the skin, that are positive and uplifting stimulates certain brain chemicals that promote optimal health. 

2) SMELL:  Light some incense. Get some candles (more natural in smell but not with all those fake  chemicals that smell like spring.) I know it can be a little costly but breathing in such toxins may cost you more in the long run, so spending a little now saves you spending more later. Isn't your health worth it? Alternately, you can also purchase aromatherapy oil burners or diffusers that release lovely scents in the air.  Scents that are positive and uplifting stimulates certain brain chemicals that promote optimal health. 

3) SOUND AND WHAT WE HEAR:  Play some happy, light, "sacred" music to help cleanse the spirit of the home.  Remember that the sounds that we infuse in our homes will hover over us like a cloud. What sounds come out of your mouth? What sounds fill your home? Are they more positive than negative? Sounds that are positive and uplifting stimulate certain brain chemicals that promote optimal health.  

4) SIGHT AND WHAT WE SEE: What do you see? How about buying some plants, or more plants. How about adding some freshly cut flowers or flowers that you can plant outdoors later? Not to mention that some flowers may emit a certain aroma and this adds to the scent category.  Things you see that are positive and uplifting stimulates certain brain chemicals that promote optimal health. 

5) TASTE AND WHAT WE TASTE: What you put in your mouth can either be considered medicine or a poison. What are you eating? What are you drinking? What is the quality of both? What's in your refrigerator. Is the food fresh or old? Are you planning a detox? Things you eat, that are healthy, positive and uplifting stimulates certain brain chemicals that promote optimal health. If you'd like to know more about detoxing the physical and mental body, check out this article HERE.

 

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. 

A BALANCED YOGA PRACTICE: AN AYURVEDIC PERSPECTIVE

My first yoga teacher gathered us at the end of class and asked us questions, one of them being to guess how old she was? We thought she was in her mid-50's and she said she was 87. We were in awe. She exuded this glow and this presence that was palatable.  Every time we would meet with her she had this constant presence.  A few years ago I researched into her whereabouts and when I contacted my old undergrad campus to inquire about her I was told that she had retired a few years ago and died within the past couple years.  She kept teaching until she was 103. Amazing! She lifted the bar, of what had inspired me to pursue yoga, to a whole other level.

I am passionately driven to write this article based on the many patients I have seen in my practice, and the individuals I have seen outside of it, that are yoga teachers but imbalanced.

You would think that this wouldn't be the case but unfortunately, yoga has gone far and wide in this culture and there has been a dilution of the practice.  I have worked with many teachers who have been burning themselves out, suffering from digestive issues, rupturing or causing bulging discs, sleep issues, join issues, skin issues, mental unrest, and other ailments. I would ask myself "how can this be?"  

Just because you might be flexy-bendy, or have tighter abs and gluts as you're doing yoga doesn't mean that you're actually balanced internally. If anything, such physical transformations, though not guaranteed for everyone, are sometimes the by-products of the practice but not the designed goal.  The yoga practice was originally a way to become intimate with ourselves, not create a more competitive model, nor comparative one.

I remember doing one of my clinical's in India many years ago and the other Ayurvedic doctors were laughing at how yoga has made its way to the west and that it has been causing an increase in yoga-related diseases and imbalances.  I also learned that in recent times, a new chapter has been added to the materia medica of Ayurveda that addresses such diseases. Never has this been an issue before. So, how amazing is it that after thousands of years that such a holistic medical practice has existed and now there is a new chapter to address something that wasn't an issue before?

Yoga practices were designed to support the health of the body so that an individual can develop a sense of connection between body-mind-spirit.  In tandem, Ayurveda assisted the side of yoga with diet, per and individuals constitution, along with understanding what the best asana, pranayama, meditation practices, for each individual. Originally, yoga and Ayurveda were not systems rooted in the mentality of one size fits all. Additionally, Ayurveda made sure of this. Ayurveda has been making its way west for the past 30 plus years, after yoga, but in India, they were born together and mainly practiced together.  This provided the ultimate holistic approach and protocol to healthcare, disease prevention, disease management, and overall balance.

When I was learning the integration of Ayurveda and yoga, it was repeated over and over again that yoga practiced without Ayurveda is only half a science, and Ayurveda practiced without yoga is half a science.  I don't know any Ayurvedic practitioners that aren't versed in yoga but I know many yoga teachers not versed in Ayurveda. 

That being said, it would make sense that these yoga teachers that I mentioned above are imbalanced. They tend to teach 20-30 classes of yoga a week. How? Where does the shakti (energy) come from? Yet, digestion is disrupted, and sleep is disturbed, at least. 

There is depletion. Ayurveda qualifies the energetic properties of yoga asanas and pranayama practices according to Prana, Tejas, and Ojas.  Prana is the principle that governs the energy, life-force, air, chi, and inspiration. Tejas is the principle of illumination, fire, and clarity. Ojas is the principle that governs overall vitality, immunity, strength, earth, and groundedness.  The overall intention of a balanced practice is to cultivate all three evenly but too often it is the case that yoga practitioners, not just teachers but also students, that they have High Prana, High Tejas, and Low ojas. Without ojas, there's no point to the practice. High prana suggests too much air which is drying, stimulating, and depleting. High Tejas suggests too much fire, which is drying, stimulating, and depleting. Low Ojas suggests ungrounded, low immunity, and lower quality tissues and cellular quality due to stress.

Without being grounded there's no point in thinking integration when someone is burning up their life-force and increasing too much heat. How do we know when this is happening? Simple, these yoga practitioners are tearing tendons, stressing, straining, and injuring cartilage. They are having insomnia. They have imbalanced digestion. They have dry skin, and lackluster.  These are all signs of depletion.  I had one yoga teacher that was around the age of 25 and he taught 25 classes a week, was driving around a lot to go from studio to studio, had burning indigestion and was staying up late. He said he loved to teach. I wondered where he was actually getting the energy from since these symptoms were all signs of an imbalanced lifestyle. How can a yoga teacher/practitioner be inspiring and depleted at the same time? I remember telling him that traditionally when a mantra was being passed along it could only be passed along when the energy existed behind it. From there, the energy would sustain and have the ultimate healing properties. Similarly, I said, that teaching yoga is like this mantra practice. We can only give what we have. We can't fake it, though many do or try to.  Therefore, how can a yoga teacher pass along such sacred and profound tools of inspiration and transformation when the place that it's coming from, the well is dry? 

I've had many yoga practitioners/students come to see me and tell me that breathing practices weren't emphasized during the actual practice of the asanas or that there wasn't any actual rhyme or reason for how the breath was connected to the overall practice, let alone have it follow a yoga practice to lead one to meditation.  Classical yoga practices such as the design from Patanjali, suggested the Ashtanga Eight Limbs/Model. Ashtanga in the sense of the traditional practice and not the modern-day spin-off or dilution or even style that exists commonly today. Ashtanga (Ash-tan-ga) means eight and the Ashtanga practice consists of the Eight-fold pathway to yoga. Yoga itself means union, merging, oneness. Yoga is the Science of Self-realization. Ayurveda is the Science of Longevity. The eightfold pathway consists of the Yamas (five points of ethical behavior and how we conduct ourselves), Niyamas (five points of self-discipline molding our morality and behavior), Asana (means to sit but is generally stood as the physical exercises associated to yoga), Pranayama (breathing practices), Pratyahara (drawing in of the senses), Dharana (focusing on one point/concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (awakening/enlightenment/absorption). Here's a LINK to read these for more details. Additionally, here's a simple beginners BOOK to learn more about the tradition and integration of these profound teachings. 

Yoga teachers that don't understand or aren't interested in practicing per the design of their constitution (according to Ayurveda) are causing harm to their body's and potentially their minds. Yoga teachers that are teaching students without the understanding of this model of constitutional design are causing harm. How do we know? Because when we take a closer look at the students, we can see it. Now, it is important to mention that there is a natural inherent intelligence or wisdom that when we can pay close attention to it it will guide us in choosing what seems best. I've had patients come in and say that they tried a particular yoga but didn't feel good from it or that something didn't seem right, and when I explained the dynamics according to Ayurveda they were like "ah! makes sense." These aha moments are far and few in between. There are also some yoga teachers that are "tapped" in and are "intuitive" and grounded enough in the practice of yoga that are able to inspire and help deepen individuals in an amazing yoga practice. What I would say here is that that's great, but why not go deeper by knowing the foods that are best for their constitutional design? This is lacking still. So many yoga teachers are suggesting cleanses and detoxes but not really understanding who should do it, based on their constitutional design, or the when part. Check out THIS article for more details about diet and detoxification. 

Lastly, it is an honor to mention that there is a recently new category of healthcare, aside from the AD (Ayurvedic Doctor) field that is developing in the USA, as per NAMA, the National Ayurveda Medical Association. This new arena which has also been created and defined by NAMA is known as the AYT, Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist.  It is the next step from YT, known as the Yoga therapist, created by the IAYT, the International Association of Yoga Therapists. The YT uses a combination of the yogic practices and techniques along with western criteria and management of health issues.  The AYT uses not only the yogic techniques and practices but also a larger portion of Ayurveda, not as advanced as the AD or BAMS (Bachelors of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery, classically trained doctors of Ayurveda) to make the practice truly a holistic protocol for healthcare, sick care, and prevention. More details can be read HERE on AYT.  

Here is a brief summary of categories that are currently present in the USA:

1. AYURVEDIC YOGA THERAPIST: newly developed; has working knowledge of Ayurveda with its application through the usage of Yoga therapy, which involves the usage of asana practices and other yogic techniques, in support of the holistic approach to health and well-being. The AYT has the most advanced training and perspective in support of a total holistic regimen. This field is uncovered by insurance at this time. These practitioners do not diagnose but can work with diagnoses where applicable.

2. YOGA THERAPIST: has been up and coming in recent years; that involves the usage of asana, general dietary considerations rooted in minimal (compared to AYT and AD) Ayurvedic practices, and its application to individuals who have been given a western diagnosis. This field is uncovered by insurance at this time. YT has a more holistic approach to the management of physical and mental imbalances. They can not diagnose but can work with diagnoses where applicable.

3. PHYSICAL THERAPIST: has been around for a few decades and is in alignment with the western and allopathic approach to physical well-being and recovery from physical ailments. The PT practice is covered by insurance. It doesn’t have a holistic approach but there are PT’s that study holistic approaches and integrates them into their own practices. They can use billing codes to determine what somato-dysfunctions are present but directly are not qualified for any other medical diagnosis.

It is important to note that PT’s are also capable of “treating disease”, whereas the AD, AYT, and YT are not qualified. Though, the AD, AYT, and YT have their own qualifications of assessment based on the Ayurvedic/Yogic model.

In conclusion, the intention of this article isn't to make anyone feel bad or create any sort of judgment. The intention is to increase awareness. I understand everyone is doing the best that they can and there is always room for improvement. It is important to look at your yoga teacher and to look at yourself and question whether you are experiencing the long-term benefits that yoga has to offer or are you noticing an increase in symptoms. Are you doing yoga as part of the fad movement or are you doing it because you're seeking to go deeper and tap into a part of life that is calling to you? 

 

 

DIET AND DETOXIFICATION

     This is the time of year that the idea of detoxing, resetting, and dieting are slowly creeping in. It actually makes sense because this seems to be a very dense time of year and there is an inherent wisdom that recognizes this and attempts to balance itself by changing the diet. 

     Naturally, in olden times, food was generally more scarce and basic foods and vegetation were relied upon. Incidentally, this supported the inherent design for detoxing the body and begin its journey to lightening up through digestion. In Ayurveda, this particular time of year is known as the Kapha phase/season. The qualities of Kapha are primarily Heavy, then cold and moist. This creates a heaviness and sluggishness in the digestion. Even the little deer know that and try to support its own lymphatic system by chewing on bark and and possible baby sprout/green formation. Nature is wise!

     These next few months involves the very process of rebirthing and awakening, as the sun continues to increase its light upon us with each day that passes, delivering us to summer time.

     In Ayurveda, when we think of Detox, we ask "what are we trying to do?" and "what will it take to get the body ready for it and to optimize its overall performance?" (giving us the desired outcome of feeling less toxic). There is something very important to consider here. It is great to support this internal wisdom to detox but we tend to have many justifications and definitions of what that looks like. There are also so many types of diets. Ayurveda teaches us to detox as part of the season and takes into account the reality of what our constitutional design is (Vata, Pitta, Kapha.) The adjustment of detoxification happens specifically and accordingly.

     First, in Ayurveda, we know that Vata predominant types or those with "Vata Vitiation" have a variable digestive system/metabolism. Pitta predominant types or those with Pitta Vitiation have a very strong and steady digestive/metabolic system. Kapha predominant types or Kapha Vitiated types have a slow and sluggish digestive/metabolic system.

     The detoxification happens based on this principle of Agni (digestion/metabolism) and determination of Ama (toxicity), along with what the state of Ojas (immunity/strength) of the individual. It is contraindicated, unless properly supervised, for an individual to detox if they are weakened in energy and immunity and vitality. Palliative procedures are put in place in order to strengthen the individual before detoxification is actually considered. These palliative protocols are called Shamana Chikitsa in Ayurveda.

     Next, when the individual is deemed ready to undergo detoxification, this can range from light to intense. Light is usually recommended when someone isn't able to really fully take off from the daily typical responsibilities. Intense is when someone can take off from usual responsibilities and dedicate the time and discipline to detox. A little bit over time can go a long way, just take longer. An intense detoxification can happen within a months time and produce a more immediate result, that unravels with time.

     The common error that happens with detoxing/dieting is that individuals say they are detoxing and remove certain aspects of food/beverages from the diet and optimize with what supports the detox but then after they are all "cleaned out" the return to eating what they were before hand. This can have a damaging effect on the body. The ideal situation is to detox and then slowly ease in foods that match the state of digestion, minimizing the foods that may not be ideal, but not to fully return to eating the same stuff that cause the toxins to develop in the first place. 

     In today's day and age, it can be challenging to do so especially with the western patterns of duties and stressors.  I remember one of my first teachers giving an example of detoxing. He said "imagine having a glass full of muddy water and you take a grain of sand and pour it in, but you don't notice it. Slowly, you begin to pour in clean water and watch the mud slowly turn clear, and then add the grain of sand. Now you can see the grain of sand. The glass of water is more sensitive now."  Similarly, detoxing the body removes the toxins and when we re-expose the same toxins right back in the body is more sensitive to this.  

     Additionally, as mentioned previously, the diet/detox can range from light to intense depending on the individual's capacity to do so, time availability, level of discipline, and practicality overall, along with the ultimate intention and goal of doing so. What is essential to note here is that the digestive system requires a specific quality and type of attention to really feel supported. It requires focus and simplicity. There is an innate intelligence of the digestive system to do its job if we all the space for it. If someone is working an intense job schedule, for instance, and they are doing an intense detox, the fruits will be short-lived and/or not fully achieved because the body has to produce energy to support the outer experiences and engagements versus focus on its duty to detox. In other words, stress will inhibit the metabolism and prevent it from being fully effective. In these instances, it is best to simply do a palliative/light diet by removing basic offenders instead of doing intense protocols like "liver flushes", "enemas," or "kidney flushes." The flushes would be more harmful to the body if the body isn't properly supported. There's no quick fix! There's no magic diet or pill to take the toxins all away. Slow and steady wins the race, and produces better outcomes. 

     This is all meant for consideration as the idea of wanting to move forward with any sense of detoxing/dieting proceeds.  It is great to consider wanting to do a detox/diet because the body and mind has somehow communicated this need. Listen to it and give it what it deserves. Giving the body the attention it needs will not only help you feel better in your body but will also add a sense of stability and happiness in your mind because the toxins aren't clouding your perspective as these free radicals float around clogging the mind.

     Fat burning is an essential component to any good detox. It is typically in the fat that toxins are stored in. For instance, when eating store bought milk or using milk from dispensaries such as Starbucks or other coffee shops that aren't using organic, it is understood in modern science that the hormones and pesticides gather in the fat of the milk. Similarly, toxins are stored by the body in the fat of the body. With any good detox, we want to ensure that the body is returned to its former glory which involves it being a "fat burning machine." How do we do this? In day to day living, we honor the times of day that are designed to burn fat. When are these times? In between meals is the answer. What does that look like? The answer is between breakfast and lunch, between lunch and dinner and between dinner and breakfast.  This means no snacking. This means that the last meal of the day is the last meal and should be before 7pm (ideally.) 

     The liver becomes active after 10pm and if we are still awake into the late night hours we are actually borrowing energy from the liver to stay away and inhibiting its capacity to actually detox the body and brings things to order as it organizes what happened during the day, preparing us for the next day.  This delivers us to breakfast and when we break down the word break fast this is "break(ing)" a "fast."  The morning is when we remove the toxins from yesterday by urinating it out (which is why the urine is usually darkest in the morning) and we poop (ideally before breakfast and within the first half hour of waking.) We rinse our mouths, noses, shower/bathe, and we are cleaned up from the inside out from yesterday to begin anew. When this process of the natural fasting is disrupted we prevent the toxins from being adequately being discarded from the body. This is just the reality and how nature created it. There's not tricking it. The body knows best and what to do when get out of its way. 

     When we stop the snacking in between meals we allow the body to use its own resources to metabolize accordingly. When we have that craving for something to eat we are simply dis-empowering the body in doing what it was meant to and we pacify it by catering to our mental needs. Sure, there is sometimes a genuine need the body expresses through cravings but we have to look at the root of the cravings to determine what are they really saying. Typically, cravings come from an emotional/mental/stress need, a need of the body itself from inadequate meals, and poor sleep patterns. Additionally, if we are craving something, we have to ask if we are properly hydrated. The same mechanism in the brain that determines hunger also determines thirst so making sure that hydration is substantial is a key component. If you're not sure, have a cup of hot water when you have that craving. If the desire for food is there, then you're body wants a food substance. If not, then the craving goes away.  

     Instead of giving in to the craving, try not to create them by disrupting sleep, and missing or having inappropriate meals. Let the body have that craving, then wait 20 minutes (with or without having the hot water or a cup of tea) and the craving will most likely go away which means the internal process of metabolism has been turned on and now the body is going into fat burning mode. When we cater to the craving we are simply being lazy and somehow fear that discomfort feeling associated with craving and eat something instead which prevents the body from fat burning and ensure that it is fat storing. 

     A general good practice with or without the intention of dieting/detoxing, is sipping (not guzzling) hot water throughout the day. Why is this good? Imagine trying to wash a dirty dish that has grease on it. Does the grease come off with hot water or cold water? Right, you guessed it. Hot water helps it to dissolve. Similarly, hot water in the body ensures that we are fat burning and helping to breakdown foods. Tea and hot water have a similar effect as long as the water is hot, but drinkable. 

    Next what should a general detox look like? It is safe to say that certain things should be removed, or eliminated and this is a basic guideline, whether it is for the intention of a light detox/diet or intense one.  Here are some guidelines: (note that the first four have been outlined by Dr. Suhas from his book the Hot Belly Diet.)

1. Cut refined flours, processed carbohydrates, and some starches. These can tax the system. We want to minimize stress on the body and support its intention to digest. 

2. Cut out foods that are manufactured and called "fat-free", "sugar free", or "light." These are so processed that even though they seem healthier, they are more stressful on the body to metabolize on a microcellular level. Filler foods, are just processed in a way to appeal to the tongue but not really add joy to the later parts of digestion and overall well-being.

3. Avoid red meat, and other heavier meats, along with full-fat dairy.  All this is heavy and harder for digestion.

4. Remove white sugar and artificial sweeteners, including those such as Truvia and Splenda. You can use pure raw honey and Stevia instead.  The fake sugars are exactly that because they are so processed and designed to trick the body, but there's really no tricking the body.

5. Remove alcohol and marijuna. Both are stressors on the body and both prevent the full process of metabolism. Know that marijuana is a great herb for those of you that engage, but it affects the nervous system and metabolism. Both digestion and the mind will find it offensive, contrary to common belief.

6. Make sure the food is pure, wholesome. Minimally processed. Not from a box or can. Not from take out. As much as possible. Home cooked! Not microwaved (as much as possible and ideally.)

7. Eat only until you can sense that you feel slightly full. Anything more than that will suppress digestion and start fat storage versus fat burning. Check out this article on Guidelines for Healthy Eating HERE. By simply even checking out these guidelines you will benefit in the long run.

8. Avoid heavy foods and processed sugars. This includes breads, pastas, noodles, baked goods, chips, cookies, muffins, pizza dough, cakes, donuts, cheese, sodas (even "diet/zero calorie"), fried foods, ice creams (any kind,) energy bars, power bars, fruit bars, snack bars. 

9. Avoid cold, ice, and frozen anything. This will shut down the digestive fire and eliminate the power of metabolism. It is contraindicated in general but especially during the revamping process of optimizing metabolic performance. It seems silly to add something so cold to a system that is designed to be hot.  Check out this article HERE for more information on ice and cold.

10. Greens. Greens. Greens! Increase  your veggies. An average of 1-2 cup per serving. This time of year the veggies should be more on the cooked side.  This is good for vitamin/mineral intake, as well as fiber. Beets, Daikon Radish, Celery, Carrots, Parsley, and Cilantro are especially good veggies to introduce as they support lymph drainage, kidney function, and some of them support chelating your liver so that heavy metals can clear from the body better.

11.  Spice it up! In Ayurveda, everything should have some sort of spice as this is like adding kindling to a fire. Cumin, Mustard seeds, Coriander, Turmeric, Oregano, Salt (moderate), Cinnamon, Ajwan seeds, Fenugreek, Ginger, and Black Pepper are some examples of spices that should be included regularly into foods to support digestion, not to mention that the are also considered herbs and have medicinal properties. 

12. Food for Thought! The digestive system does better with a simpler diet. This is one of the reasons why a mono-diet is supportive of detoxification and resetting digestion.  Think of it this way. When the body knows what is coming, when the digestive system has an idea of what meal is in store at the next meal time, the body is preparing the enzymes for metabolism of this meal. For instance, in the morning you say to yourself "I'd like to have rice, beans, veggies, and some other protein for lunch, and you have an idea of how you're making it or where you're buying it from. As soon as you have this thought, your body is slowly gearing up the juices for it. BUT, say you had this in mind and then a co-worker says at lunch time "let's go eat something else," the body was already prepared for the other meal but in changing it now the body has to play catch up which increases the likelihood of malabsorption. This last minute change in mind has now causing a stress. Simpler diets are more effective because the body is better prepared to digest. 

     Since we now have a general understanding and format for the "diet", this will automatically support detoxification without even having to think about purging and flushes.  But, this isn't enough! Exercise is a key component to supporting lymphatic movement. Exercise where we can raise the heart rate for good cardiovascular practices gets the metabolism going and juices flowing in the body. It will maximize your efforts with diet because diet alone can not undo diabetes and being overweight, not to mention how it affects the mind positively when the oxygen increases in the system and moves the fluids in the brain for brain health. Similarly, exercising alone without the proper diet wouldn't fully benefit the body and mind.

     To go deeper, a yoga class and meditative practices can optimize performance overall and create a whole holistic feel.  The mind and heart are intimately connected. A happy mind is a happy heart. A happy heart is a calmer mind. When this is experienced, the body can feel supported and aligned. Balanced and integrated. 

     Lastly, Ayurveda has an understanding of how important it is to following a regimented overall routine. This creates a foundation for health because the health of the body/mind is dependent upon consistency. The body is a historical system and thrives on consistency. There are some key elements that are the touchstones of the day designed already by nature that if we follow them then we are ensured that health will be better supported, before and after conditions have developed. Life can happen in between these key times of day and when there is enough of a consistent pattern that the body can trust then when life actually happens and things come up the body will be least encumbered and rebound quicker when the regimen is resumed. Check this article HERE on what they daily ritual can look like. 

     Following even these suggestions will create a simple reset for you and your menu. Considering these mentioned tidbits will help set the stage for your intention of dieting/detoxing without going to far or deep or even having to enroll in any major program. Just applying the above concepts, walking the talk, you will start to notice weight loss and increased energy. Yet, if you want to go deeper it is encouraged that you seek out a professional versed in dieting/detoxing that can guide and support you. 

     Other diets tend to leave you hanging, stressed, or even returning full force to what you were doing before the diet which means the body wasn't really met in a way that completely supported it so much so that the body now compensates extremely. This is the point that people say "the diet didn't work for me" or "I put more weight on."  Individuals feel disappointed, sad, even depressed with themselves which wasn't the point of the diet to begin with. With Ayurveda there is more of a natural alchemy and individuals end up happier in the long run. For instance, if you wanted to go deeper, Ayurveda has a whole protocol for dieting and detoxification where there are mainly three phases that promote the most optimal results based on your intentions and constitutional design. Phase one generally involves what's mentioned above which includes removing offenders to metabolism. Phase two involves the actual detoxification protocol around using the body's natural systems/organs to remove toxins through the digestive system. Herbs, spices, and other therapies such as oil and steam therapies are included here.  Phase three is the slow integration of regular foods that honors the inherent power of metabolism so that it can perform in a way that you can enjoy with the least amount of digestive disturbance. This latter process is profound because it really encourages mindfulness around food that can help you to feel happy while you're doing it because you've gone through the first couple phases and become very intimate with knowing yourself. 

     Ayurveda is not a diet but a way of consciously living as it is aligned with nature and its natural rhythms. You can't go wrong but you can feel right simply by making the right adjustments. It's an amazing journey.

 

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. 

COLD, COLD, GO AWAY!

It's that time of the year again when it seems like a lot more people are getting sick with colds, other upper respiratory ailments, and various versions of stomach bugs; with all this seemingly having a lingering effect.

To Ayurveda, this makes sense and particularly why this time of year seems to provoke such complaints. Ayurveda has the understanding around the why it happens and what to do about it either to prevent it from occurring or managing it quickly, compared to allopathic medicine. 

Last year I wrote an article for exactly this time of year and it couldn't be any more perfect for understanding this in depth. Check out the link HERE

That being said, here are some simple practices to strengthen immunity on both sides of the fence, whether you're sick or want to prevent getting anything. 

1) HYDRATE! Stay properly hydrated. Drink half your body weight in ounces of water BUT make sure 1/2 of that is actually warm water and the other 1/2 is some electrolyte boosting beverage such as a limeade, a lemonade, a little juice in water with a pinch of salt, a packet of Emergen-C, or even just coconut water. Make sure it's all above room temperature this time of year.

2) WARMTH! Warmth increases metabolism and cold decreases it significantly. Following up on the previous recommendation, AVOID ice and cold beverages. This has an astringent quality and dries out the mucous membranes in the mouth and sinus' which is primarily where the root of these seasonally related health issues evolve from. A compromised digestive system and compromised mucous membranes can wreak havoc on the body and immunity.  Read HERE for more details on how cold affects the body negatively when internalized. 

3) LUBRICATE! Yes, the skin which is the largest organ in the body and weighs an average of 12 pounds alone, covers the outside of the body, the mouth to the rectum (the inside), and a lot of in between in various forms. Keep it all running smoothly by properly lubricating. How? Internal oleation. How? Simply ingesting/cooking with oils daily. An average of 4 tbs., maybe a little less for Kapha predominant types. GHEE is #1! Coconut oil is next and great! Olive oil and Flaxseed Oil too.  See HERE for an idea on oleating externally.  (If you're not able to come in for a session, then administer a self oil massage (Self-Abhyanga) and then take a hot shower.) Follow the idea from the link for your model.

4) NASYA! Which is the nasal administration of a medication or even simple oil can significantly help with keeping the nostrils and sinus passages from drying and cracking which is highly problematic, especially this time of year.  Click HERE and look at some of these companies that sell or next time you see me ask me to make you a personal bottle of nasya.

5) FOOD! We are entering into the thick of winter. It takes more energy to increase metabolism and therefore it is imperative that we are mindful of our digestive capacities. Don't overeat as this will shut down the digestive system and after a week or two, if not sooner, you'll notice yourself catching not only what may be floating around but also creating your own inner state of disease.  Check HERE for an article on digestion and disease prevention. 

6) EXERCISE! As always, exercise is crucial, year round but especially this time of year when winter demands our hibernating. The problem that occurs is that unlike bears that store up food before the sleep, we store up on food by eating a lot and sleeping a lot, this is counter productive and counter intuitive which will add to hardship in the digestive system and slow down the lymphatic systems which is responsible for removing toxins from the body and from being optimal in its function with immunity.  It takes more effort to get out of the house when it's extremely cold and icy out. Not to mention the safety issues when there is ice, and extreme cold. So, join a gym and get to it when you can. When you can't, turn on youtube and look up yoga practices or other cardio/aerobic activities while you're home and do this for your health management. A good diet alone isn't good enough when there isn't adequate exercise in place. This is really what gets the juices flowing and metabolism running optimally. No and's, if's or but's! Stay active. Rest in between. Try not to be too sedentary and if you are then you must eat less. Supply should be low when demand is low! Read HERE for more details on supply and demand for the body. 

7) REST! Speaking of...adequate rest supports proper immunity and efficient metabolism. Following the natural cycles of the day that have been in place since the beginning of humankind (and before) encourages health on so many levels. Loss of sleep can cause detrimental consequences to health. Irregular sleep patterns or staying up late an also add to other mental and biological issues.  It's all connected! Read HERE for more on sleep. 

Here's another article to help with other ideas. Click HERE.

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? 

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?

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.

 

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.