Category Archives: Physical Imbalances
“You should drink 8 glasses of water a day”
“Drink a glass of water before your meal for weight loss because you won’t eat as much”
“Divide your body weight by half, change that to ounces, and that’s how much water you should drink a day”
Any of these sound familiar? These are just three examples of information we are given about drinking water. AND, I’m going to say, don’t listen to them. Listen to YOU. We are all different bodied, minded, beautiful people and we all have different needs. Ayurveda has a totally different take on drinking water and as always, it has to do with who YOU are. It also has to do with nature’s clock and how strong one’s agni (digestive fire) is.
Think about it. A kapha person is made of water & earth. Kaphas don’t like to move, so they rarely sweat (thus keeping water inside). Kapha people also have low digestive fire and tend toward weight gain. And what does water do to fire? Yep, puts it out. SO! If a kapha person followed the second statement above in a quest to reduce their weight and drank a glass of water before each meal, their agni is instantly squelched and so is their ability to digests the meal properly. They just put out their metabolic fire. And they probably created ama. SEE how these blanket statement water rules can go wrong!?
Another example, pitta people are hotter (sweat, metabolism, stress) than a vata or kapha. Therefore, pittas are more thirsty because their fire is constantly burning and they need water to cool down and replenish. For them, more water helps them balance. SO! I’ll help set the record straight and I’m sorry if I confuse you. Please read with an open heart and an open mind. I want you to be healthy and I’m here to make life easy and happy!! xoxo.
RULES FOR DRINKING WATER
• No ice! Ice shocks the system, hampers digestion, and closes channels. Pittas can have cool water, but no ice.
• Sip small amount of warm water or tea with a meal. Have water 1 hour after the meal. Sipping a little warm water will help the food soften and prepare for digestion. But, if you drink cold water before, during or after a meal, your digestive fire will get put out. It’s the fastest way to weight gain, lethargy, indigestion, and ama (toxins). In Ayurveda, drinking water right after a meal is considered a poison.
• Drink when you are thirsty. Not because you are trying to match a magic number or because you think you have to keep your water bottle full. If you are a sweaty athlete, you will require more. If you work behind a desk (ahem!) you won’t need as much because you are not exerting heat or water.
• Have a glass of room temp water first thing in the morning. Awesome to flush the system from it’s night time processing. Good for the bowels, liver, kidneys.
• Know your agni. If you have strong metabolism, you will burn up water in your body faster, which will require more water. If your digestion is sluggish and you are prone to weight gain (kapha) or bloating (vata), sip warm water and don’t guzzle agua with your meals.
• Vatas need the most water (dry dry dry), pittas need moderate water and will likely slug water all day, kaphas need less water.
Sure! I’ve got some thoughts (and apparently the desire to draw a little liver). There are some simple spices you can use and even some fun concoctions if you want to get a little fancy.
1. Tumeric is a good one – they come in capsules or you can use in cooking.
2. CCF Tea (Cumin, Corriander, Fennel – all seeds). Take 1 tsp of each and boil in a pot of water for 5 min. Strain the seeds and drink. You can drink warm or room temp. Sip all day! It’s way tastier than it sounds ;)
3. You can make a hot infusion of Corriander seeds (1 tsp) and Cumin seeds (1/2 tsp). Boil water. Crush the seeds. Dump the seeds into the water and let it sit over night. In the morning, strain the seeds and drink the water first thing in the morning. This will cleanse the kidneys, urinary tract and liver.
The liver and blood is governed by pitta. If pitta has run amuck and it’s affecting the liver, that means it will also affect the blood, the skin, and possibly the eyes (all pitta parts). This is how Ayurveda encompasses the entire being because the problem is not just in one area. And therefore, we don’t fix just the area, we treat the person. Three cheers!!
Using spices to heal is a great start, but you will need to include lifestyle changes also. Reducing stress, regular exercise, getting good sleep (bed by 10!), eating fresh foods, reducing salty, spicy, fermented foods, all will help lower pitta and will therefore keep your little liver healthy! Oh, and don’t forget to breathe. So hummmm. xo!
Hey! One of you inquired about a spice mix to help reduce cholesterol. Indeed I have one! I got this one from Maharishi Ayurveda and there is a ton of great information on cholesterol on their site. If you want the short version, I’ll sum it up.
Basically cholesterol is a kapha imbalance. Remembering that kapha is lubrication and structure (it sticks and holds things together), in the case of cholesterol, kapha has created an increased “collection” of cholesterol. Cholesterol is NOT bad, in fact we need a certain amount of it. But when we have too much, it’s a cloggy problem.
Cholesterol reflects too much meda dhatu (fat tissue), which is also caused by a kapha increase. Why does kapha increase in the first place? Could be several reasons (mental, emotional, stress factors), but the main reason is likely low agni (digestive fire). Malfunctioning agni is responsible for 90% of all disease, which means if we don’t digest our food properly, we’ll eventually get some kind of imbalance. The key is to digest, assimilate, and eliminate foods properly (golden rule!) and you won’t get sick.
It’s also important to follow a kapha balancing diet and lifestyle if you have high cholesterol. Split lentils, mung dahl, garbanzo beans (hummus!) are good. All veggies are a big YES! Greens like kale, spinach, collard greens. All would be great sauteéd in a little ghee and add the spice mix below. Fruits like apples, pears, prunes and figs are also helpful for cholesterol because they help clean the bowels. Proper pooping is very important because it is directly connected to healthy agni. So pay attention :)
Avoid salts, cheeses, red meats, heavy breads, potatoes, goopy oil foods, fried foods, and yogurt. And as always, the fresher the food, the better.
Also, don’t forget about exercise! Kaphas don’t like to move much, but it’s exactly what they need. They need to get their sweat on at least 20-30 minutes daily. For kaphas who are lazy, try kapalbhati pranayam :)
Below is a recipe of spices that all have kapha reducing qualities. Together they will heat, dry and move the cholesterol out. Sprinkle on toast in the morning with a tiny bit of ghee. You can sauteé with cooked veggies and stir frys or sprinkle on rice or pasta (rice and pastas should be the smallest portion on the plate for kapha, veggies should be more).
Cholesterol Reducing Spice Mixture
You can make a nice sized batch and keep in a lidded jar. Enjoy and share with loved ones!!
3 parts ground turmeric
6 parts ground cumin
6 parts ground coriander
6 parts ground fennel
2 parts ground fenugreek
1 part dried powdered ginger
1 part ground black pepper
Show of hands, who is stressed? Yep, many of us are. Women especially, tend to tackle a lot at once and then wonder how they are going to get it all done. Instead of invigoration, this can result in negative emotions like stress, anxiety, panic, and a sense of ungroundedness. Sort of defeats the purpose of living the good life and loving the work, right?!
We learn tools to manage our time and finances, but what about our psyche? The mind is what rules our entire being, so shouldn’t we have a tool to help us bring peace and clarity when stressed?
My friends, there is a simple tool to use that we often overlook. It is, breath. Good old fashioned lips-closed, nose-open, breath. Ayurveda says there are two channels in the nose (one in each nostril) which are the quickest pathways to the mind. Just ten deep, slow breaths through the nose will instantly calm you. The negative emotions will vanish and you are able focus on the task at hand.
It works flawlessly because the two channels have alternate energies. The left side is male energy, which is hot and it relates to the sun. The right side is female energy, which is cool and it relates to the moon. Focused breathing equalizes the opposite qualities and when practiced, the entire body balances out physically, emotionally, and mentally. Slow breaths tell the mind we are okay and at peace. When we breathe like a bunny (fast and irregular), our mind thinks there is a crisis, which sends panic signals to the rest of the body. This is how physical imbalances can happen over time and why stress has become the number one killer. No bueno.
So let’s keep the peace and remember to breathe You will stay focused, happy, and most importantly, healthy!!
Taking a Breather
Here are some different pranayama you can try:
• My favorite is So Hum!! You can practice in the morning or at bedtime for 5-10 minutes. You can also keep this in your toolbox of health tips and use as needed i.e., long commute, standing in the coffee line, when you get a stressful email.
• Nadi Shodhanam
Cooling Pranayama (for pitta types or anger, when you feel like you could breathe fire…do these)
• Sheetkali: Clench teeth and inhale through the teeth. Feel the cool! Exhale through the nose.
• Sheetali (this one is fun!): Roll your tongue and inhale through the tongue. Also very cooling! Exhale through the nose.
Hey! Since starting my thyroid challenge, I’ve notice a change. There are a ton of zits near my throat! I’m totally breaking out! Rats. I’ve never gotten zits there in my life. I wonder if it’s the thyroid toxins oozing out? Seems kinda odd that it’s all around that area doesn’t it? Look! And it’s sooo gross and I’m kinda sad :(
But it’s also kind of interesting. My body seems like it’s doin’ it’s thang with the help of the yoga poses. I’ve actually received suggestions about herbs and other things to try for the hypothyroidism, but I really want to try JUST yoga to see if it works. To me, that would just be so awesome. So I’m goin’ bare bones with this. Plus! The yoga teacher in India said that if you do the poses for one month, your thyroid will be fixed. I’m testing the theory to a tee.
Ok, that’s all for now! Next step will be reducing the meds in a few more weeks…keep you posted! xo
Here’s what’s goin on. I’ve had hypothyroidism since I was about 15 (well, that’s when they caught it). I am 34 now, so I’ve been on thyroid meds for…math…19 years. The bad thing is that if I stay on these meds too long, there is a chance that my thyroid will get lazier and lazier and eventually stop working. It works like any ole’ machine and if you don’t use it, it will rust and forget how to work. Same same with our bodies.
So! I’ve decided to do something about this. When I was in India this past Jan/Feb, I had a yoga class every day. And he gave us some poses to help cure thyroid. The yogi said that if you do these poses every day for one month, you will not have any more thyroid problems. I was also told in India that driving to the next town would take 3 hours when it really took 6, so I was a bit leery of his promise.
However! I’m going to try it. Essentially the thyroid needs to be trained on how to work again so slowly with these poses the thyroid (chugga chugga) can get functioning to it’s full capacity again. The two poses below, shoulder stand and fish pose, compress and expand the thyroid gland. In a sense, it’s doing a bit of massaging to the area. Through this, it should stimulate proper functioning! it’s a slow process, but here is my plan.
• Every day I need to do shoulder stand (saravangasana) holding for about 5 minutes and can do up to 10. More details on shoulder stand
• And every day I need to do fish pose (matyasana) and hold for 3-5 breaths, repeating 3-5 times. More details on fish pose
• After doing these poses DAILY for 30 days, my doctor-doctor (Western MD who is open to eastern healing) will reduce my levothyroxin dosage by .25 micrograms. Hopefully this will leave a little wiggle room for the thyroid to begin working – it suddenly has a job to do again!!
• Then I’ll get my blood checked and see if hormone levels are normal with the lower dosage. If so, it works!! And I will continue to do so until I’m off meds.
So that’s the plan, Stan. Again, I don’t suggest that anyone try this. If I do it and it works, I’ll let you know. Then you need to get an MD on board to help you. I’ll keep you posted on my crusade to heal America through my own experiments! After all, the rule is that you have to heal yourself before you can heal others. Cross my heart. xo.
Yeah! I’ve got my coworker hooked on lassi. She discovered it because she had the flu a couple weeks ago and we helped repair her digestion with lassi. Like magic!
Lassi is a yogurt drink made especially to enhance digestion. Please note that while made from yogurt, lassi is not yogurt. In fact, they have completely opposite qualities. Yogurt as we know, is a channel clogger. I know you might not believe me, you might even be mad at me for saying that, but according to Ayurveda it’s the truth. The marketing people at yogurt companies might sell us stories about probiotics and acidopholopohous or whatever it is, but I stand by my belief that yogurt clogs.
If you have any problems with allergies, slow metabolism, cloudy mind, lethargy, tendency toward being cold, sinus problems and/or chest congestion, try stopping the yogurt. Just try it for a week and see how you feel. You can always go back to yogurt if you want but my guess is that you will feel better. Ok, I digress.
BUT! We’re not talking about yogurt, we are talking about lassi (I wish I could put a pink tutu on that word because I love it so much. hmm…idea for a graphic! Love it when that happens)!! Beautiful, channel opening lassi!! Lassi is made from yogurt, but it’s properties are changed by adding water, herbs and spices and then churning it. Churning adds heat which changes the yogurt from cold, gloppy, goo-glue into a fluid substance that is channel opening and great for aiding digestion. It’s easy to accumulate ama with yogurt, but lassi doesn’t clog so you stay ama free. It’s also great for indigestion and hyper acidity as it’s cooling. Great for pitta types who like yogurt – yogurt imbalances and lassi balances (like a ballerina!).
A very magic secret about lassi is that it’s THEE cure for hemorhoids! Have one after dinner or for a snack daily and your hemorhoids will go away. Not kidding.
I think you will find that lassi’s are quite delish and there are many recipes for them (just google). Below is my recipe that I use (pitta-vata type). Sometimes I even skip dinner and just have a lassi because it makes a nice light meal to aid digesting food from the day.
Monica B’s Lassi Recipe
1 part plain, full fat yogurt – 1/3 cup is good to start
2 (vata, pitta) or 3 (kapha) parts water
ginger powder, cardamom, honey, all to taste
Use a whisk or hand blender and CHURN!! For about 2 minutes. It will get liquidy and a little frothy. Pour into a cup and you can sprinkle extra cardamom on the top if you want. MM!
I try and spread the good word on Ayurveda authentically, yet as American-friendly as possible. It’s funny though because people will come to me and say, “I’m congested! What should I do?” And I might say, “Are you eating yogurt? It’s a no-good channel clogger which can increase sinus congestion and mucus goo in your chest. ” They might say, “But yogurt is so GOOD for you with all the probiotics and everything…” And then I say, “Yeah, who told you that? That’s what ‘they’ say but they are not Ayurvedic and Ayurveda is different.”
Then very quickly they get confused as to why something in Ayurveda can completely contradict what we have been told or sold (yeah don’t forget about marketing, you guys! It makes companies a lot of money…) in the western world. But that’s just the point. If someone is asking Ayurvedic advice, it’s going to differ that what their MD has told them or from what they see on tv…because it’s different!! Ayurveda takes time and definitely requires a willingness to try something new. If our old habits (and prescriptions) had worked, we wouldn’t be on the search to try something else.
So my dear friends, if you seek something different, expect something different. The philosophies of Ayurveda vs. Western medicine are very different and therefore so are the treatments. I’m not saying one is good or bad because both have their place. But please keep them in different buckets because they don’t overlap much. Below I’ve created a little chart on how they differ and I hope this helps.
And for the record! Ghee is NOT butter. Buttermilk (churned yogurt or lassi) is NOT yogurt. Their properties differ making them almost opposites and in Ayurveda the first is healthier than the latter (for most folks). Please o’ please just believe me. xoxoxo.
Rats. After escaping India with out ONE digestion problem and despite knowing general tips on how to avoid the flu, I got it this weekend. The Flu. I got it at 3:30 am on Saturday and thought it was food poisoning, but then came the aches and a slight fever. I’ve never had food poisoning but was pretty sure it didn’t come with aches and fever. Then I found out that two coworkers had it too. Double rats.
In Ayurveda we say that when the body is trying to rid something either thru-est thine butt or thru-est thine mouth (IF ya know what I mean) we have to let it take its course. Here’s why. If we stop something like diarrhea, the body can’t get rid the problem, so it’s never good to take a diarrhea stopper. However! If there is a point where the diarrhea turns to water, then we have to stop it because then the person is just losing fluids. Make sense?
Allow me to be gross for a minute (if I haven’t already). I assumed the same was true for throwing up. And I got to the point where it was SO painful and there was nothing left but water and bile, so I knew I had to stop it. <<gross part done!>>
SO! Here is what I did! I managed to slooowly creep downstairs to make myself a lassi. You know it? Lassi is a digestive buttermilk (hang on, I’ll explain) drink made with spices depending on the person. Lassi opens all the channels, aids digestion, coats the stomach, calms pitta (bile!) and vata, and for some reason my intuition told me to make one. Here’s how I made it:
1/3 c plain full fat yogurt
1/2 tsp ginger (helps all digestive problems)
1/4 cardamom (calms vata & pitta)
brown sugar to taste
Combine in a bowl and then churn for 2 minutes! You can either use a whisk or put it in a blender. Or if you have one of those wooden mallot things that you can spin (I found mine in India), you can use that. This will add the heat element to the yogurt and water and make it frothy. The heat element is what changes the properties in the yogurt. Yogurt by itself is a channel blocker, but lassi is a channel opener!!
The resuls?! I didn’t throw up any more! It was instantly cooling, soothing and my cramps stopped. My stomach felt a million times better. That said, the rest of me still felt like garbage but at least the trips to the bathroom had stopped. After that I just tried to sleep and I took one ibuprofen (yes I did! I am human and I was in pain!) to stop the aches. When I’m more advanced in my studies maybe I’ll come up with something that stops aches, but for now I’ll just be happy that lassi works!! The good news is that this nasty lil flu only lasts 24 hours, so if you get it rest, rest, rest. Be well my friends.
Hey! For sinus problems and congestion, put a few drops of eucalyptus oil on a paper towel and sniiiffff! You can also put the drops on the floor of your shower in the morning for instant steam therapy.
Happy New Year! And Happy NEW Decade! So, have you come up with a resolution yet? I always go back and forth on whether or not I like resolutions. I feel like we should be mindful of our health every day all year long, so why only focus only at the beginning of each year? Then again we have to start somewhere, right? We are constantly evolving and if the resolution is simple enough to adopt as a life-long habit, then I say do it!
As we know Ayurveda has an individualized focus, recognizing each one of us as a special combination of space, air, fire, water, and earth. However, there are some basic rules that apply to everyone too. In my lectures and in my healing practice, it is usually the most simple things that I tell people to hold on to.
Below I have listed my top 10, most helpful and most easy changes. Choose ONE (just one, only one, no matter how badly you want to do three) and try it for a week or a month. See how you feel. The reason why I say choose one is because often my clients want to change five or six different things and they end up failing because they can’t stick to them. Pick ONE and do it well. If you get ONE down pat and it becomes a habit, add another. This is how we slowly make changes and adopt new healthy habits. Perfect health does not come overnight (nor does ill-health, fyi!), but if we work at it slowly, we will make HUGE strides. I promise!
And if you try one, let me know how it goes. I would love to hear your success stories. Go get em!! Rah!
Monica’s Top 10 for 2010
1. Do not resist your urges | Resisting urges reverses our natural flow. Don’t hold your pee, a sneeze or your hurt feelings. Let it out!
2. Eat a light dinner | Lose weight, wake up energized, reduce toxins, think clearer
3. Bed by 10:00pm | Don’t wait for your 2nd wind, it’s against nature’s clock
4. Write a gratitude list once a day
5. Omit ice water | hampers digestion, counterintuitive for good circulation, shocks the body
6. Wait to feel real hunger before eating | Sip herbal or ginger tea if you are not sure
7. Stoke your agni! | malfunctioning agni is responsible for 90% of all disease
8. Walk 20-30 minutes a day | Without fail, just put on your shoes and do it
9. So Hum meditation for 5 minutes a day
10. Do Kapalbhati 5-10 minutes in the morning before breakfast | good for weight loss, energizing start to your day, mental clarity, spirit clarity, creativity, and it’s a cardio work out!
DUDE! I’m on my fourth week of jury duty and its taking its toll on me. It is absolutely emotionally draining. Despite eating proper foods and following nature’s clock, my tongue is coated white in the back. I’ve had two migraines since Thursday and my eyes feel like they are being pulled back into my head when I look around. I feel an overall sense of heaviness, cloudiness, and I don’t want to do a darn thing. There is also constant pressure on the sides of my head.
My friends, this is a perfect example of how I have collected some emotional ama. Ayurveda says that our mind governs our bodies. Even when we eat the right things, if our minds are full of worry or stress we will not be able to digest our food properly. Our mind is the control center and when it says, “Hey, stop! We have emotional issues!,” our agni (digestive fire) will obey and slow down. And remember, without a strong agni (digestive fire), ama rears its ugly head.
In a nutshell, when we’re all wigged out we can’t digest food because our body/mind has changed focus. It’s no longer concerned about food, instead it’s concerned about our crumbling emotional/mental state. The best example I can think of is, going through a rough break-up. We might feel a little sick and it might be hard to feel like eating. That is the signal from the mind that the body cannot tolerate food.
Ok, show of hands: Who loses their appetite when they are emotionally stressed? Who overeats when emotionally stressed? It can go either way. We might stop eating because we don’t have an appetite (our body’s way of telling us don’t eat). Or, we may overeat in seek of comfort and grounding. Bottom line, let’s listen to what our bodies are saying. If we are not hungry, don’t eat. The sign of healthy digestion is hunger. Waiting for true hunger is a KEY factor in staying healthy.
So what to do in times of emotional stress?
• Eat light and easy to digest foods like soups
• Limit sugars, caffeine and alcohol – these may seem like a help at the time, but they are only a hinder
• Get energies out through exercise or a good sweat
• Breathe! Big and slow, from the lower belly.
• Meditation. Either so hum or alternate nostril breathing
• MOST of all, release your emotions! Do not resist your urges to speak your mind! If you release the junk in your mind, it will stay in there and pollute your entire being.
I had a major release today during deliberation with tons of tears and a candid spewing of my viewpoints. I cried for another 30 minutes while others handed me kleenex and continued discussion. I still feel heavy in my head, but at least I spoke my mind. I don’t know how long this will weigh on my mind, but I am continuing meditation and hoping I can let it all go soon. xo!
Cool story. Two Christmases ago, I was a brand new Ayurvedic student and reading my studies on the plane ride to Milwaukee. My friendly neighbor inquired and I told him all about Ayurveda. He was really intrigued and I wish I’d known more at the time because I would have been able to help him with some of his problems. But! To my great surprise, he found me on LinkedIn the other day and asked if I remembered him. How cool! He also mentioned that he’s having trouble sleeping. Not so cool. But at least I can help him now!
And hey, anyone else have sleeping problemos? There can be a number of reasons for insomnia in Ayurveda but mainly there are two types:
a) Not being able to fall asleep. A pitta problem largely because of stress and too much thinking/strategy
b) Waking up in the middle of the night. A vata problem largely because of anxiety and racing mind
I have some ideas to help keep your sleep on track!
LIFESTYLE TIPS | Overall management
• Check the clock. If we go to bed after 10:30/11, the energy of pitta can keep us awake. Pitta’s job is to transform (thoughts, emotions, food) information from the day. If we stay awake into pitta time, we often get a “second wind” and feel like cleaning the garage. This means that we’ve stayed up too long. Thoughts, emotions, and ideas from the day flood our minds and it’s tough to make it stop. Pitta will do its job whether we are awake or sleeping, so best to zonk out before then.
• Stick to the daily routine. Definitely review the daily routine and times of the doshas. Your day ends with sleep so if everything else is in line, your sleep will fall in line as well.
• Don’t eat too much too late. Not good for many reasons, but heart burn or indigestion is uncomfortable and can keep us awake.
• Practice daily pranayama. Do So Hum or Nadi Shodhanam daily! You don’t have to do this for crazy amounts of time. Start with 5 min. It’s so easy and SO effective! Great for calming the nerves (vata) and the mind (pitta).
• No caffeine after Noon. Limiting caffeine in general is best, but if you have coffee, keep it to the morning hours only.
• Exercise regularly. A 30 minute (minimum) walk daily is perfect for exercise. Or yoga! Or any activity that makes you sweat a little and gives you energy afterwards.
IN A PINCH | If you find yourself tossing and turning
• Drink a small amount of warm milk. Bonus to add a sprinkle of cardamom. Warm milk will soothe pitta and vata. Good for heart burn too!
• Massage your adhipati marma. Ugh, Adhi-what? The adhipati marma is an energy point (marma) on the top of our head – it’s the soft spot on babies. Find it by placing four fingers across the forehead. Take your other hand and stack another four fingers on top of those. The point is “8 fingers” away from the eyebrows, on top of the head. Massage clockwise with the middle finger 1-5 minutes.
• Massage your kirkatika marma. Easier this time. It’s the point where your neck meets your spine at the back of the head. There is like a hole there – sort of an indentation. Massage clockwise with middle finger 1-5 minutes.
• Lay on your right side and so hum. On the inhale, “soooooo,” and exhale, “hummmmm.” Say this to yourself.
Happy Sleepings my friends. Enjoy your new ZZZZZZZZs.
As we already know, Ayurveda is not based on quick fixes. Sure there are herbs to assist the healing process, but long term changes have everything to do with diet and lifestyle management. To some of us, that may sound like a lot of work, but if we take it in small doses it’s totally doable.
They key is to embrace the small changes. Ayurveda is extremely logical. The most difficult part is teaching our minds to make those small changes. Often, we figure if it’s not a monumental change (grapefruit cayenne pepper cleanse or 1 hour in the gym a day) that it won’t make a difference. That’s a total misconception. If we pay attention to even just one thing and stick with it, we will notice improvements. It’s the consistency that is key.
Surprisingly I find it the biggest challenge to counsel clients on the simple things. I wonder if they think it’s so simple that it can’t possibly work? For example, I always stress the importance of a pranayama and meditation. Rarely do folks incorporate that change. I mean after all, we’re just sitting there or breathing there. It’s not like any major changes will happen unless we do something drastic, right? Wrong-o.
Some of the most dynamic progress is made by the smallest changes! Let’s learn to embrace the subtleties of life (I also need a lesson in this!). Ayurveda does not take away our pleasures. Although if we “treat” ourselves to a couple glasses of wine or ice cream on a daily basis, we will notice problems. Wine and ice cream are not foods, they are “treats” and we should use them as such (jumping off the soapbox). My point is that we can keep the foods we like, but reduce the amount. We will be satisfied with less and not have to give up our favorite foods.
I challenge you to pick one of the items below and do them for a week. They are not drastic or painful. Just give ONE a try. I don’t want you to do them all because that is setting you up to fail. Do one, do it consistently and see how you feel.
Slowly we make the changes. We are not in a rush, we have our whole lives to practice.
• Make lunch the largest meal of the day
• Do So Hum meditation before bed for 10 minutes (lay on your right side)
• Eat a small breakfast (vata & pitta = one serving oatmeal, kapha= toast with cinnamon & a little ghee)
• Go to bed by 10pm
• Take a brisk walk every day for 30 minutes
• Wake up 15 min before sunrise (ok that might be a little painful for some)
Hey! We’re in it! In the thick of the holiday season with plenty of socializing, shopping, baking, traveling, rushing, maybe even stressing. While you’re in the mood to give to others, let’s not forget to give to ourselves too! We are only as good for others as we are for ourselves. Nourishing ourselves first will give us the energy, positivity and that hostess-of-the-mostess “holiday glow.” Your self-love will shine through to your guests and family members and in turn, they will feel more love too. It all starts with ourselves :)
Since it’s vata season, a warm oil massage is about the best gift we can receive for our bodies and minds. Maybe try to set aside some time and cash to give yourself a worthwhile break. Spas may have special holiday deals now or you could check with a massage school if your budget is tight. OR! Better yet, put massage on your holiday wish list! Suggest that a few family members to go in together to purchase a nice massage gift certificate for you. There is no better feeling than knowing you have a massage gift certificate waiting for you!
Obviously a massage feels good, but there are great health benefits too:
- Tones and strengthens all tissues in the body
- Improves digestion
- Improves circulation, therefore increasing longevity
- Reduces stress
- Eases anxiety (the sense of touch soothes vata)
- Eases tension headaches
- Nourishes, softens and moisturizes the skin
- Releases toxins
- Relives muscle tension and stiffness, improving flexibility
- Strengthens the immune system
And if this list isn’t enough, then just go because it feels good!! You will be happier to give to others once you have given yourself some nourishment and peace of mind first. I promise!
Still on the kick with my favorite book, Absolute Beauty by Pratima Raichur. Our skin is a direct reflection about what’s happening on our insides. She talks about how we cannot hope to have nice skin if we don’t change our eating habits because on a cellular level, our bodies are composed of the food we eat. So, eating processed, stale, and life-less foods, will create aged and lifeless skin.
For example, what does your skin look like after having too much to drink the night before…NOT pretty!! Oh come on, you’ve seen it. Puffy eyes, extra dry skin…Now imagine what that does over time. And since the skin is a reflection of our insides, IMAGINE what it does to our internal bods! I will be blunt. If your diet consists of regular consumption of coffees, sodas, alcohol, fast foods, fried foods, refined sugars, you are not on the right track (I don’t mean to be rude), because these things are not “food!” These won’t affect you too terribly when taken on a very occasional basis, but there are many people who have these as staples in their diet. And I’m here to say that…it’s not really ok.
(if you are mad, you can write and yell at me…but I’m trying to heal people here)
On the other hand, foods that are high in prana (life energy) like veggies, fruits, grains, milk, ghee, and healthy fats will give your skin a glow! You will notice that fine lines go away, the nice fats keep your skin supple, and there will be a radiance about your skin. I bet a million dollars that you will FEEL better too – and your mind will be more clear.
When skin is happy, we know our insides are happy. Our skin is one of the BEST tools we have to use to see what’s happening inside. That and, poop.
Hey! A friend of mine recently asked me how to stay healthy during flu season. The first thing that came to mind was ojas!
What the heck is ojas? Ojas (OH-jus) is the essential energy of our vitality, immunity, strength, luster and health. Ojas is the pure essence of all bodily tissues which means that after all the tissues in the body have gone through their digestive processes, ojas is what is left. It’s our immunity and in addition, it is responsible for reproduction and creation. We only have a tiny bit, a few drops, and it lives in the heart. People with good ojas rarely get sick and people with low or low quality ojas will get sick often.
Hooray! Well, what enhances ojas!?
• Ghee is the best ojas enhancer!! Use it in your food or drink with warm milk.
• Milk is also good for ojas (tip: after sex, have a small glass of milk to replenish ojas)
• Get good quality sleep
• Proper diet according to who YOU are
• Stress management through Pranayama* nadi shodhanam, kapalbhati, and/or so hum.
*Important!! It is said in Ayurvedic texts that if we do 10 minutes of pranayama a day, disease cannot set in Period! Sounds too simple to work, doesn’t it? Well, how many people are sick? Lots. And how many do you think are doing daily pranayama? I would guess…none. Dude, just try it! You can’t say it doesn’t work if you don’t try it. Make time daily and you will not get sick!!! (jumping off my soapbox…)
Ok what depletes ojas!?
• Improper diet including: alcohol, caffeine, carbonated bevy’s, fast food, stale food, super cold or raw foods
• Anything in excess including work, stress, worry/anxiety, sex, and exercise.
• Lack of sleep or poor quality sleep
One more thing to add. Mind over matter. If you THINK you are going to get sick, you probably will. Keep your mind clear and think healthy. When doing pranayama inhale pure life and healing energy. On the exhale release toxins, negative energy and negative thoughts. Let it all go. Pure mind equals a pure body.
Use the tips above to help keep yourself flu free this winter! And as usual, wash your hands a lot, don’t lick shopping carts, and don’t let people cough on you. Stay healthy!!
Oooo. Didja feel the breeze? Let’s give a round of applause for vata’s first appearance in 2009 (vatas really like applause)!!
<Pause so vatas can bow>
OK! Today marks the first day of fall and that means that vata moves in to govern nature for the next few months. While pitta was around for summer, we ate fresh fruits, veggies and salads. Vata however is much cooler and dryer and we must adjust accordingly! Because vata energy is dry and cold, things like salads (dry and cold) won’t balance us in this season, rather things like root vegetables, soups, and warm foods will suit us much better.
Vata is made of air + space and it’s the energy of movement. In addition, the qualities of vata are dry, cold, rough, mobile, light and subtle. A dried up leaf blowing around, upside down and flippy in the wind is a perfect example of vata.
During fall and early winter, the vata dosha has a tendency to increase in all of us because what is most inherent in nature, is also most inherent in us. So above all things, we need to pay close attention to the nature that surrounds us. We cannot keep the same habits all year round. Eating watermelon in Wisconsin during Christmas is not only tastes like junk, but it’s imbalancing. It’s cold and wet just like nature at that time, which will increase those qualities in our bodies and could give us a cold (hellooooo). In addition it’s not in season which means that it’s not natural. Going against nature is a great way to make us sick.
It’s not hard to go with nature, just LISTEN to what your body is asking for. Comfort foods are great for this time of year because it calms and soothes the windy and cold qualities. Suddenly those goopy stews, hearty soups and breads are just what we need. We don’t feel heavy, we feel nurtured like someone just wrapped our insides in a fleece blanket.
In preparation for vata season, start drinking warmer liquids now. Start laying off the salads now. Begin incorporating more oils now. Start making warm foods for dinner. Swap out the fruit for breakfast and try oatmeal. And there’s more tips too!
In doing these simple things, you will prepare the body (and mind!) for when things get windy and chilly and it won’t be such a shock to the system. Remember to eat foods that are warm, goopy and heavy (but that doesn’t mean eat a whole ton). You will probably use more chapstick, lotion or oil to lubricate dry skin – good! See, we already know how to respond to nature in many ways. Use your logic. Listen to your gut and most of all, use your BUDDHI. You will be better off listening to yourself than anyone else.
And if you get a little lost, then ask me! Cause I probably know some things you don’t :) I’m here to help you figure it all out.
And one last thing. I’d like to thank the Vatas in the room for gracing us with their beautiful, stunning, presence (vatas like drama) as we embark on the winds of change for fall! Hooraaaay!! Bravo!!!
<Pause so vatas can bow>
So, I got a question today about what remedies help hot flashes from menopause. It’s a good question and while I did give some suggestions, there are a couple of very basic things to remember.
FIRST it’s a totally natural process so many times treatment is not needed. Also be mindful about any remedies you are using to soothe discomfort. Just make sure those remedies do not hinder the natural processes. Ayurvedically speaking, during menopause womens’ bodies are moving from pitta life cycle (puberty thru menopause) to vata life cycle (menopause thru golden years). During this time, pitta starts to decline and vata begins to increase. Remembering that pitta is the energy of transformation, pitta is doing a lot of the work to transform the body’s energy. Therefore, excess pitta can be found during hot flashes, irritability, night sweats, anger (all relating to heat). On the vata side of things, there can be insomnia, anxiety, restlessness, forgetfulness, overall dryness, and joint pain (relating to dryness and lightness).
If you read all of that above, you might find that some of that is true for you and others are not. That is because my SECOND point is that YOU are an individual. Each person will deal with menopause differently depending on their individual make-up. Ayurveda will help you get through this transition, but it might not be by the same methods for your sister or girlfriends. Keeping that in mind, it’s always good to see an Ayurvedic Practitioner or so they can advise proper treatment for YOU.
THIRD, even if you see an Ayurvedic Practitioner remember that there is no “quick fix” in Ayurveda. That said, it’s up to you to follow the daily routine and to eat according to the nutritional guidelines. That will keep you most in harmony with nature which will give routine and structure to your body in mind. Structure and routine are important especially when your body is changing like crazy. Something needs to keep the peace!
SO! Here are some Ayurvedic tips to keep your body, mind and soul balancing during menopause:
- Stick to the nutritional guidelines
- Follow the daily routine
- Daily nadi shodhanam (mornings are best, but you can do it anytime!)
- Daily savasana (corpse pose). Lay for 5 minutes on your back, palms up, shoulders away from the ears. Just relax. Sounds too easy, but it does wonders for peace of mind.
- Incorporate ghee into the diet. No joke, ghee is the best. You can put it on rice, cook veggies in it, or melt 1 tsp in hot milk before bed (throws out excess pitta while you sleep)
- To help hot flashes, make CCF tea and drink it throughout the day. Take 1 tsp each of cumin, corriander, and fennel seeds. Boil in a tea pot (or pot) for 5 minutes. Strain and drink as a warm tea or make a large batch and sip through the day at room temp.
- Pomegranate juice with 5-10 drops of lime juice will also help hot flashes.
Just remember, these are basic guidelines and therapies will differ per person. It will be important to really nourish yourself through good diet and routine. If you have more questions, I am happy to answer the best I can. Remember, I’m totally NOT a doctor of any sort so if you are having major issues, see your physician!
Every morning when you wake up, check your tongue. If you have a tongue scraper, scrape it a few times to get the night time slop off of it. After that, look again. If it is pink you are doing great! Our entire digestive system is reflected on the tongue. It’s the quickest way to see what’s happening on our insides! But you have to know what to look for – so I’ll carry on.
If you see a whitish coating, that is a sign of ama, which means there are toxins in the digestive system. We can get ama for a number of reasons, but mainly because we have weak agni. Agni is our digestive fire and there is plenty that we can do during our daily routine to keep agni strong.
There are different degrees of ama. Ama can show up on our tongue simply because we had a big meal the night before and we are not done digesting it yet! Our biggest screw up is when we eat breakfast because we think we should and then we pile more food on the undigested food, creating a big pile of maldigested goo, which creates yet more ama. Bleh. SO! The best thing we can do when we see that our tongue is white is to fast. We have to let our body catch up to the food we put in it and the only way it can do that is if we don’t give it any more food.
I don’t mean a crazy fast for days. I mean, sipping ginger (or herbal, but ginger is best because it aids digestion) tea and not eating until our tongue turns mostly pink again. It could be a full day or even a couple hours, but let your body catch up. If you try it, I think you will find it fun to watch! When you are really hungry, I bet your tongue will be nice and pink. Try it!
Besides a white coating, there are other things we can look for on our tongue. If there is redness, it can indicate that there is too much heat in the body and that maybe our digestion is TOO hot, therefore burning the food before it gets absorbed to become nutrients. If there are cracks on the tongue, that means a vata derrangement which could be dehydration or not enough oils in the diet. If the tongue is shakey, that is a sign of anxiety and/or fear. If there are little teeth marks on the side, it’s a sign of ama in the colon and/or unabsorbed nutrients.
For more tongue diagrams and other fun stuff, there is a book by Dr. Lad called Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing. It’s a good crash course. Or you can send me pictures of your tongue and we can have a field day. Tally ho!