Monthly Archives: June 2012

Mind, Body and Spirits

Alright, you guys. I’m going to tell you something, but only because I think you can handle it.  And I would rather you hear it from me, than hear it from one of your friends who doesn’t have the correct information. I will tell you on one condition and that is,  you have to promise not to abuse it. If I give you an inch, don’t take a mile. Don’t get all willy nilly excited and tell thousands of your friends, “MonicaB said *hiccup* I could!”

Do you promise? Pinkie swear? Ok then, here we go. In today’s Ayurvedic lesson, we need to talk about, alcohol. Mind, body and spirits!

In Ayurveda, there is something called draksha. Draksha is medicated wine used for a variety of remedies including blood, liver, skin, and digestion problems to name a few. As we know, alcohol is absorbed very quickly into the blood stream. So, doesn’t it make wonderful sense that Ayurveda would put herbs into the wine, which are then carried directly to the blood and dispersed where the herbs are most needed? How smart is that! The wine serves as a vehicle to carry (called anupana) the herbs where they get administered quickly into the body and can then begin to work at correcting the imbalance.

Now, I’m not going to tell you how to make medicated wines and I’m not even going to advise them for you because like anything else, this in Ayurveda, this will depend on the person you are and the problem you have. But I bring this up because like all food and drink, it can be nectar or it can be poison depending on who’s taking it. Like everything else in the big, giant universe, alcohol too is made of just 5 things (you know them: space, air, fire, water, earth) and depending on who you are, it will have different effects on you.

Overall alcohol is something to be avoided in a vedic and yogic lifestyle because it clouds the mind and judgements, it can put us on an emotional rollercoaster, and increase digestive fire too much therefore giving us a false sense of hunger (college 15, anyone?). It also is very dehydrating, causing constipation or diarrhea, can cause poor sleep or interrupted sleep, heartburn, and severe anger or irritability (pittas). But here’s what. Many many people enjoy alcoholic beverages, so I might as well give you some guidelines about consuming it. Cause yer gonna do it anyway. I know you.

WINE: Wine can be used for increasing digestive fire! Yay! Best news you’ve heard all day? So, kapha types especially in spring, will benefit from a glass of dry red or white wine before a meal to strengthen agni (digestive fire) or after a meal to enhance digestion. But any dosha could benefit from this as well. We will likely crave full-bodied red wines in the fall and winter when vata could use some heaviness and heat. Cool, crispy white wines we can enjoy when it’s hot, which increases fire too but without over heating us.

BEER: A cool beer in summer or when its warm outside is beneficial for increasing agni without overheating us because it has low alcohol content and lots of water in it. Notice I said “A cool beer” not, “A six pack of beer.”

THE HARD STUFF: I would just advise against booze altogether. I mean, life is to be celebrated and it won’t hurt you once in a great while but, overall vatas can’t handle it, pittas get angry, and kaphas will get over-hungry and dull minded. Definitely avoid hard alcohol in summer because it’s the most concentrated and most heating. You’re sure to get heartburn if you have that margarita on the rocks with salt, when it’s hot out.

Um, any questions?!


How Long Should I Take Herbs?

I have a question to ask: how long should I take herbs for a dosha imbalance? I went to an ayurvedic doctor and was found to be a vata-pitta (prakriti) with a vata vikriti. I experience the vata imbalance more often than the pitta imbalance. The doctor gave me herbs but really didn’t tell me when/if to stop taking them. I went with a specific health issue I wanted to correct, and that was corrected, so I stopped the herbs. My health is okay, but I can tell the vata is out of whack again (digestive issues, anxiety, can’t concentrate). Should I start the herbs again and just keep taking them? What if my pitta becomes unbalanced? Should I stop the herbs and get new ones for a pitta imbalance?
Awesome question about herbs!! The duration of taking herbs will depend on how long you’ve had the problem and what else you are doing to correct/maintain balance. Something like amalaki honestly can be taken daily and forever – kind of like a daily vitamin! But amalaki is an exception to the rule. Herbs not only fix the symptoms but correct the root cause because they are absorbed and digested deep into the tissues. They change/improve the structure of our tissues and help channels flow in the proper manner. So once the herbies go into the body, they help correct the imbalance and you should not need to take most herbs forever. Taking herbs will depend on how long you’ve had the problem – the longer you’ve had it, the longer you’ll likely need to take the herbs. That said, they are not meant to be taken for a lifetime (amalaki excluded). However! Most herb mixes have spices in them (i.e., black pepper, ginger, hing, tumeric, cloves, cinnamon, corriander, and the list goes on) which can be used in our foods for a consistent balance.
What IS meant to be taken for a lifetime are new dietary and lifestyle habits. That said, let me answer the other part of your question. Vata imbalance is tricky…we ALWAYS have to manage vata especially if you are a vata person. Why? Because vata goes out of whack the fastest (and it comes back to balance the fastest too) and because we live in a very vata imbalancing world! Everyone seems to have a bit of vata elevation (vikruti) whether it’s their constitution (prakruti) or not. Your vata will likely swing out before your pitta does – because it’s a faster dosha (energy of movement, remember!). But, good thinking because we are now in pitta season (if it’s summer where you live) and we can overheat. Pitta imbalances to look out for include, itchy/red eyes, itchy/red skin, red zits, rashes, heartburn, acid reflux, sour stomach, irritability, and loose poop. As long as you don’t have any pitta issues creeping in, you’re doing great. This is where knowing yourself and your body really comes into play. The goal of Ayurveda is to know yourself SO well that you can tell immediately when you feel “off.” That subtle feeling of “off” is what will save you from ever having a serious imbalance or health problem :) XOXO!

Light on Carbs, Heavy in Body

I got this awesome question and wanted to share it with all of you. Guys, what is the foundation of Ayurveda? One size does not fit all. Yepper. Here is an example of someone who is trying to lose weight by reducing/eliminating carbs. Rather than feeling uplifted, they feel heavy and dragged down. They are not abnormal or doing anything wrong…they just have a unique make up that doesn’t fit the South Beach diet mold :)

Test shows I’m a Pitta (Pitta/Kapha), but my body feels like Kapha. I have been on a low carb diet (south beach) and my belly size has been reduced, I am not feeling bloated as I normally do. The problem is that my body feels so heavy. My movements feels slow and I lack vital energy. What should I eat to reduce the Kapha feeling? I need lots of sleep and I rarely sweat , I prefer warm climate and all these things matches Kapha. But in my mind I feel like Pitta, being competitive, like to be in control, sharp, direct. So there is a mismatch with what my mind would like to do and what my body wants.

It might be that your agni (digestive fire) is low. Carbs are the easiest thing for the body to digest so too many proteins and raw veggies, etc., requires a very very strong agni in order to digest properly. You might have kapha digestion but are eating like a pitta, which will make you feel heavy. Kapha digestion has a tendency to be slow/weak so my guess is that the foods haven’t been digested all the way and the old food is hanging around inside clogging channels and weighing you down. Try checking your tongue. If it’s got a white coating on it, you have some ama (toxins) and need to rid that first. Once your tongue is pink, you should start feeling lighter and more clear-headed again.

Also, it sounds like you have a kapha body/digestion and a pitta mind/emotions. Totally normal to have a combination like that! Many of us have two dominant doshas. So in your case, you would eat a kapha-balancing diet, keeping foods warm, light and nicely spiced so you are satisfied with less quantity. Kaphas don’t need a lot of carbs, so you are not wrong in your approach. However, favor steamed/warm veggies and light carbs (like rice noodles, basmati rice, quinoa, couscous) as opposed to lots of meat and raw veggies. Remember, vegetarian diet or one with very little meat is considered best for kapha. Having lentils and legumes for proteins is best because they are light and much easier to digest.

Stick with it and keep learning about yourself. You will discover so much along the way and as long as you are receptive and open to tweaking your habits, you will find what works for you! Namasté!!

Simply Satisfied

Hey! Did you know our stomachs are stretchy? Of course you did. And did you know that when we eat, we shouldn’t eat to the point of feeling full? Indeed it’s true! Know why? Cause when you eat until you feel full, that means that your stomach is stretching. And when your stomach stretches out, it will require more food to fill the space. If we keep eating this way {getting full, stretching stomach, getting full, stretching stomach} it’s easy to see how we can gain weight and end up with low energy and a cloudy mind. All the food stuffs have not only stretched the stomach, but agni will have a tough time digesting all of it and that’s a good way to get ama.

So rather than eating to maximum fullness, it’s important to eat to the point of satisfaction instead. An example is a really good piece of chocolate (pittas and kaphas represent! I know you love your chocolates!) you might buy from a special candy counter. Just one piece of that chocolate is all you need and you are satisfied. On the flip side, you could eat a bag of M&Ms and still might not feel like you had your chocolate fix. Catch my drift? Make sure your food well spiced, and balancing for your dosha(s) and the seasons and you’ll feel satisfied without being overfull.

If you do eat to the point of being overfull, simply take the next day to eat light and/or fast. Always bring your mind’s attention to your fullness so that you can begin to learn how much food makes you feel best. So! What are some of your favorite foods that leave you simply satisfied? I’ll go first – dates! Dates satisfy my sweet tooth and I only need about 2 of them. Your turn! xo.