Monthly Archives: September 2008

Take a walk

Take a brisk walk every day to enjoy one of the best exercises for the body! Not only for the reasons we already know (gets heart rate up, helps break a sweat, lowers blood pressure, etc), but it also strengthens the large intestines and helps with constipation :)

Also in Ayurveda, it is taught that exercise should be just to the point of breaking a sweat on our forehead, nose and armpits. Then stop. Is that the best news you’ve heard all day?!

Alternate Nostril Breathing

(photo courtesy of Eric Lon)

Alternate nostril breathing or Nadi Shodhanam is what I like to call “instant calm.” Our nose is the quickest passage to our mind, so the prana reaches our brain immediately and gives a calming effect.

There are two channels that go through our nose. One is female and it’s cooling. The other is male and it’s heating. So by practicing the pranayama of nadi shodhanam, we are balancing male and female, warm and cool energies, to bring the body back to center.

I was told by one of our great teachers that if you practice this 10 minutes a day, disease cannot set in! Give it a try.

Benefits include:
Instant calm
Mental grounding
Stress relief
Anger management
Clearing of channels to enhance energy flow
Clarity of mind

How to do it: Sit upright, chest open, back straight, feet on ground or cross legged if sitting on the ground. Mouths closed. Press right thumb on right nostril and give a deep exhale out left nostril. Now, inhale left. Before the exhale, switch and press ring finger to left nostril. Exhale through right side. Inhale and then switch before the exhale. Do this 10x on each side.

Vata Season

Didja know that each dosha has a season? Sure, yep. They do. Fall (and early winter) is vata season and it just blew in on the 21st of September. The air is a little more crisp in the morning and we bring out the sweaters and coats we had stowed in the back of the closet. We might crave warm “comfort foods” like oatmeal, chili, soups or mac n’ cheese. Somehow ice cream doesn’t “hit the spot” any more. Because it’s chilly! And windy! And dry…leaves are dryin’ up and blowin’ away. We might also find that our hands start to become dry and we need to apply lotion. This all makes sense because this is our body’s way of balancing us as nature evolves from the heat of summer to the cool of fall. Changes in the season are potential for our doshas to go out of balance. We can’t control nature, but we can maintain balance by changing our life-style to suit the changing seasons.

So, cool. Now that we know that there is a reason for all this preparedness for fall, what else can we do to keep ourselves balanced? Vata gets imbalanced with too much dry, rough, cool and windy qualities in your body and/or environment, so the key for vata balance is to keep moist, warm and “stick to the routine.”  Sticking to the routine is especially difficult because vatas like to change their mind all the time. Vatas need to stick to their routine about diet, about work habits, about exercise and sleep to maintain a sound mind and focus.

Here are a few tips for bringing vata balance into your daily routine for fall:

Oil massage. In the morning before you shower, use some sesame oil or any thick oil and give yourself an oil massage. Let it sit for 10-20 minutes and shower it off.
Steam bath or shower. Brings warmth and moisture to the body
Warm, moist foods. Stick to cooked vegetables (no raw) and root veggies (pumpkin, beets, carrot) rice, soups, and stews. And don’t forget to add ghee! Foods should have a decent amount of sauce and can be mildly spicy. Skip the salads, dry/stale sandwiches or snacks, cold foods.
Warm drinks. Teas, warm apple cider, warm milk with ghee (before bed! omg, you will sleep like a baby). Stay away from cold or icy drinks.
Stick to the routine. Create a routine that is close to nature’s clock” and the most important thing is to stick to it! Religiously.
Exercise. The best exercise for vata is yoga or walking. Running or biking would increase the “cold and windy” qualities in us. Not great.

When we use the knowledge and tools we are given, we are leagues ahead when it comes to our health care. And it’s not rocket science, nor is it expensive, it just takes some willingness for us to become responsible for ourselves. Yeehaw!

Vata Balancing Tea

This vata balancing tea is great for aiding digestion and to help ground the body and mind. Pacifying vata is important especially during vata season because vata is the quickest dosha to go out of balance.

4 cups of water
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 pods of cardamom
1 tbsp of sucanat or rice syrup (optional)

Heat water in a pot. Crush fennel and coriander seeds and cardamom pods slightly. Add to the water and boil for 3 minutes. If you use the sucanat or rice syrup, add and boil for 2 more minutes. Strain and serve.
*You can use brown sugar to sweeten afterwards if you don’t add the sucanat or rice syrup

Dr. Apte: Ayurveda Eye On Obesity

Dr. Apte, director of Kerala Ayurveda Academy, writes on how Ayurveda can help balance us to beat the biggest health epidemic of our time.
Ayurveda Eye On Obesity

Chest Congestion Tea

You know when you feel a chest cold coming on. Tightness in the chest (you can feel there is mucus milling around down in there), phlegm-ey coughs, and any sinus junk is a sure sign that there is a kapha imbalance.

For those pleasantries, I recommend this ginger and tumeric tea.* Make a lot of this chest congestion tea and sip it on and off throughout the day.

1 glass of warm water
1 tbsp honey
1/8 tsp fresh grated ginger or 1/4 tsp dry ground ginger (use dry for pittas)
1/4 tumeric
1/2 lime

*I was a brand new student when Dr. Apte gave me this tea recipe. I loved ginger and thought there was no harm in adding more. Wrong!! I added strips of fresh ginger to my cup and aggravated my pitta so much that I woke up in the middle of the night with hives and an eye the size of a golf ball. Beauty. Inflammation is a sign of pitta aggravation and so are skin disorders. Oops. Learn from my mistake

Tumeric for Zits

*** Tumeric turns things yellow. Hands, Towels, Tea Cups, Skin, etc., Be mindful.***

Yesterday I had a hearty zit on my upper lip. Very hearty. And it was angry. Not only that but it was like the 3rd one because I kept squishing them and then they would reappear about 1/8″to the left. TMI?

Anywho, on this 3rd one I decided to take Ayurvedic action and I used tumeric on it. I made a simple paste with water and used a Q-tip to apply directly to the offending zit. I let it sit there until it dried. Tumeric immediately took the pain and redness away and brought all the junk to the surface. Today, there is barely anything left. Yessss. Tumeric for zits! Sweeeet, Ayurveda comes through again.

In this case, tumeric worked because it is an anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain killer), and it’s great for skin disorders. It improves complexion, heals wounds and bruises. It also has astringent and bitter qualities. That’s why it drew up the junk inside and then dried up the zit so quickly.

Just make sure to wash it off well so that you don’t replace your little red spot with a little yellow one.

The Best Ayurvedic Appetizer

The Best Ayurvedic Appetizer!

Any clue as to what it might be? I have a magic Ayurvedic potion to share! Well, it’s not really a potion, but it is pretty awesome.

To keep agni strong, a little something called Indian lemonade is great to make before meals. It’s not quite lemonade as us Americans know it. It is much smaller in quantity and it is used as a medicine to aid in digestion.

The ginger and salt are heating to the body which “stokes” our internal fire (agni). That way, when we put food in our stomach, it will be digested thoroughly and give proper nutrition to the tissues. It’s like a metabolic boost! In addition it cleanses our tongue so we properly taste the food. Taste is extremely important because we eat less when we are satiated.

Below is a recipe for this Indian Lemonade. It’s the best ayurvedic appetizer to prepare your body for digestion and you won’t even be full before your dinner arrives ;)

Ginger and Lemon. Indian Lemonade

Indian Lemonade

Make it into a paste and store in a small container in the fridge. Before lunch and dinner, eat about as much as your pinky finger nail. Share some with your feasting comrades. If you are high pitta, eat less.

Freshly squeezed lemon juice (1/2 lemon)
Freshly grated ginger 1″ piece
Rock salt 1/4 tsp
*for pitta constitutions, can add some sugar

Yogurt in Ayurveda

Yogurt in Ayurveda? Not really so much. I receive some hefty resistance when I ask people to eliminate yogurt as part of their diet. So lemme explain!

There is a lot of advertising about yogurt and acidophilus as healthy bacteria/probiotics, good for the “waistline,” etc., but truth be told, yogurt is a channel clogger. It is exactly like jumping into a very cold pool of mud, where you can’t move and can’t get out. Your body is made of flowing, warm, thin fluids, subtle veins, arteries, and blobby warm, soft organs. Yogurt is cold, gooey, heavy, and thick and it will coat whatever is in its way. Yogurt’s clogging qualities can cause health problems (especially in kapha, because it has the same qualities as kapha) like chest congestion, sinus problems, allergies, and edema (swelling). If you already have these problems, lay off the yogurt and see if you feel better.

If you are a yogurt lover, here are some tips:

• Don’t eat it in the morning when agni is at its lowest – you’ll put out your tiny fire with the cold goo.
• Have it at lunch (infrequently) when agni is strongest. You can add honey or rock sugar.
• Never combine yogurt and fruit. I know, I know…the parfaits, Pinkberry and Jamba Juice. They’re yummy, but I would not promote them. Sorry.

The good news is that you can turn yogurt into buttermilk or lassi and our agnis LOVE it. Buttermilk is a channel opener and a great digestive. The difference is in the heat and friction that is added when you churn yogurt into buttermilk. It changes the substance completely. You can sip it during a meal and/or end a meal with buttermilk.

A simple recipe for buttermilk:

2-3 parts water (kapha use 3 parts so that it’s more liquid. vata & pitta 2 parts)
1 part yogurt
Optional: add honey or rock sugar
Churn or whisk the mixture for 2-3 minutes until it’s room temp

Tip: Ixnay the Ice Water

Hey! If you hop into the shower but don’t realize the water is still cold, isn’t it an intense shock!?

Drinking ice cold water is the same. It’s a shock to our warm and cozy 98.6 degree system and it closes the channels. Let’s do our bodies a favor and spare them the shock and extra work of having to warm up icy water. Drink room temp water instead.

Vatas with Anxiety

Has anyone else ever felt nailed to the floor by anxiety? Vatas with anxiety can feel almost like they can’t move. At least for me that’s true. I always tell people when they feel anxious or stuck is “Do something, just do anything. Even if it’s small. It will move you forward and things will become clear.”

I am a classic example of a vata-pitta and I have increased vata which is causing me anxiety. From that, I feel a bit “stuck.” Almost like scared stiff. This isn’t the most brilliant post ever written, but what’s important is that I’m doing something. Anything.

Here’s the deal. I just moved to L.A. from San Francisco and I had moved all my stuff into my boyfriend’s living room for about 2 weeks. I don’t have a lot of stuff but boxes were almost to the ceiling. I was anxious to move (vata typical) and could not concentrate (vata typical) on anything creative or productive. And I had zero space to do yoga (dah! panic) and I don’t like crowded yoga studios. So I sat in the sun with my dog, tried to update my resume, and whined (vata typical) about “stuff” being everywhere. Also, my boyfriend likes to have the radio all day. Especially talk (which makes me want to jump off a bridge but I don’t have bridges around any more). Constant noise is not good for vata.

Ok, back to it. I moved to L.A. this week. My vata is still increased from all the physical moving/movement, lots of change and uncertainty. I don’t have a jobby-job yet and I am wondering what that will be exactly. I am also anxious about sharing space with someone…I like my space.

SO! I had to put my Ayurveda tools to work. The trick is to remember we have them! I knew that air and space were increased in my physical and mental being, so it was time for some grounding, calming and slowing down. Yesterday, my boyfriend happened to put on the classical music station (whoa! happy happy) and my insides immediately calmed down. Last night, I did yoga for the first time in about 2 and a half weeks. I forgot how grounding that is! And I was BREATHING! My goodness, I don’t think I have thought about breath in over 2 weeks either. Don’t forget to breathe, people!! It is our vital connection to our mind. I have to tell myself this over and over so that I remember cause I can twizzle myself a hefty internal knot if I don’t. Oooo yeah, I also found my favorite incense sticks, which smelled good and calmed my mind.

So! I am happy to say that I followed my own advice and it worked. I used yoga, breath, music and incense to help bring me back to center (remember the 5 senses). Because of this big transition, I have to be very mindful of keeping routine and practicing this daily.

If you get stuck in a pocket of anxiety, remember your tools. And remember that you don’t have to do anything monumental, just do something.

Tip: To help you “go” in the a.m.

If you’re one of those people who wakes up and poops first thing in the morning, fantastic! That’s a sign of good health. That means that your apana vayu (the down and outward energy responsible for elimination) is functioning perfectly.

If you don’t, I offer some advice to help you along:

• Drink 1-2 glasses of room temp water immediately after waking up
• Even better: Get a copper vessel. Clean it well with lemon before using. Put water in the vessel overnight and then drink the water in the morning. *Also helps to reduce blood pressure.

Nature vs. Convenience

In our very smart world, we are discovering how we can defy nature to make it more convenient for us. You know, like those contact lenses that you can wear all day, all night while sleeping, and not change them for a month. Then just pop in a new pair and we’re off and running for another month. That way we don’t have to be bothered for 45 seconds each night to take them out! Nifty.

Or how about that crafty pill that allows women to get their periods only four times a year? Jeez, afterall it’s just not a “pleasant” thing to have monthly so if we can have it less than that, isn’t that a great thing?

Ayurveda (and I) would say, “Heck no! You are insulting nature!” Our bodies are given all its parts and functions for a reason. When we put synthetic materials into our bodies for a matter of convenience, we are suppressing (sometimes even reversing!) the natural urges and processes of the body. This is so damaging to our health because we not only go against nature, but we also introduce a foreign, synthetic substance to the system. This can shock the system, cause infections and even worse cause the body to rely soley on the substance until the body part stops functioning. Scary!!

For me, I have had hypothyroidism since I was a teen. I am on levothyroxin and I take a pill daily. I have not checked yet to see if I can still correct the problem naturally (yoga poses, herbs, etc.,) or if my body is completely reliant on the pill. Eventually my thyroid will say, “I have no job anymore, so I’ll just stop working.”

Now, I’m not saying don’t wear contacts or enjoy modern conveniences. I am trying to open our eyes to the understanding that just because something is new and more convenient does not necessarily mean it’s still healthy. We know this. Look at fast food. Lovely. On the flip side, how many times have we skipped a meal even though we were starving because we didn’t have time to stop and eat?

Let us start to be mindful of what might be “taking it too far” with modern conveniences. Our bodies deserver our time, our love and our honor. Substituting nature for a “quick fix” is a sure fire way to insult and cause more imbalances in the body. So as much as we can, let’s go with nature. Pluck out the contacts and maybe wear the glasses a day or two. And if you are blessed to have a period every month, then by golly let it be so – and be thankful.

Let’s take the time to nurture our body inside and out so we can remain little beings harmoniously in flux with nature.

The Five Senses

The five senses! We hear. We see. We touch. We smell. We taste.

When I hear Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker (reminds me of the Disney movie Fantasia I saw when I was about eight) it makes me want to cry, I feel like I can fly and I get goosebumps. I guarantee you have songs that remind you of both tiny and monumental moments in your life…and it affects you in one way or another. I also guarantee there are songs that make you cry for “no reason.” Now, think about looking at a computer screen vs. looking over a moonlit lake with millions of stars above. If you had a choice, which would you look at? Now think about how you feel when you walked into your grandma’s house and it was filled with the scent of baking cookies, fresh bread or flowers from the garden. Ok. Now think about how good a massage feels. I know, hey?! We pay good money (from strangers no less) to have the luxury of relaxation and human touch. Recently, a dear friend of mine had a meal in New York that was SO amazing she cried at the dinner table. Her husband laughed with endearment.

Those are just some examples of how we receive all information through the five senses. Our emotions are stimulated while information is absorbed, stored and released. So it is only natural that in Ayurvedic healing that we tap into those same five senses. When you are a bit out of sorts, the key is to remember that through the five senses is how we heal. We have all the tools we need to heal ourselves, but along with the tools, we need the knowledge. I will help you with knowledge if you are willing to use your tools.

We use our ears, eyes, skin, nose and mouth to get the nutrients we need for our mind and body. When we know how to use our senses and give our bodies specific nourishment and balance according to our dosha(s) and the nature around us, we promote balance and harmony within (and without!). This is just an intro (part 1). I will break this into bits so it’s easier to digest. For now, just be mindful about what you are ingesting and projecting and how it affects you.

Holler with questions and stay tuned for Part 2.