Improve Immunity and Vitality with Ojas—Your Body’s Secret Weapon Against Disease

Last week we discussed how Ayurveda considers good digestion to be central to maintaining health and vitality. We also discussed how poor digestion could lead to a build-up of toxins (called ama) throughout the body.

Today I want to touch on another product of digestion: ama’s opposite: ojas. When our digestion is strong and is capable of thoroughly digesting the food that we eat, a state of balance is created in our entire mind/body system. As digestion improves it creates more of a subtle substance called ojas.

Ojas is the finest product of digestion and brings a healthy glow to the skin. It nourishes the experience of bliss in the mind and body. According to the original texts of Ayurveda, the Charaka Samhita, when the quality of ojas diminishes too much, life itself is threatened. The more ojas we have in our body, the more our health, immunity from disease and sense of well-being increase.

Ojas is also said to stand as the “lamp at the door” between consciousness and matter, connecting them and thus assuring that the sequence of intelligence is expressed properly in the body. Ojas is said to be the most important biochemical substance mediating the influence of consciousness on the body.

All Ayurvedic treatments and recommendations are designed to increase the abundance of ojas and to avoid reducing ojas. both aspects are considered central to restoring health and preventing illness. Foundational for increasing ojas is good digestion and balanced diet.

WHAT INCREASES OJAS, BESIDES GOOD DIGESTION?

Food

There are some foods that directly increase ojas, while others decrease it.Foods that increase ojas (providing that you are properly digesting them) are milk, ghee, and rice.

Food should be fresh and organic.

Preparation and eating of food

Food taken in an atmosphere of warmth, upliftment and congeniality increases ojas.

Behavior

Positivity in feelings, speech and behavior are said to increase ojas. Love, joy, and appreciation produce more ojas and, therefore, better immunity. This ties in well with the current findings in mind/body medicine and may provide a way of understanding such findings.

Panchakarma

Ayurvedic purification therapies remove impurities from the channels of circulation in the body. This is said to improve the cells’ ability to take up and receive ojas, thus helping rejuvenation the body.

WHAT DECREASES OJAS?

Negative emotions

Stress, hurrying, and excessive exercise

Staying up too late

Overexposure to wind and sun

Injury or trauma to the body

Alcoholic beverages

For more information on Panchakarma, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

WWW.THERAJ.COM

Increased Digestive Power Equals Increased Health

While many of us put great thought into choosing healthy foods to eat, consideration of our ability to digest our meals is less common. Ayurveda considers good digestion to be central to our health. The best way to maximize the health-promoting benefits of the food we eat is to increase our digestive power.

How do we know if our digestion is working well?

One of the easiest ways to judge the strength of our digestion is to notice how we feel after eating. If we feel light and comfortable after eating a full meal, the chances are good that we are processing our food well.

If we feel dull, heavy, fatigues or have an uncomfortable feeling in the abdomen, this could mean that our agni, or digestive fire, is weak

Why does Ayurveda consider a strong digestion to be so important?

Our agni, or digestive power, must be strong in order to metabolize our food properly. When agni is strong, the body processes food efficiently, distributes all the necessary nutrients to every cell, and burns off and eliminates waste products without leaving any toxins behind.

If our agni is weak, it doesn’t completely metabolize the food that we take in. The end product of partially digested food is a sticky, noxious residue that Ayurveda calls ama (impurities). When ama is absorbed into our body it blocks the channels of the body, inhibiting the normal functioning of Vata, Pitta and Kapha — the three governing principles of the physiology. One example of ama is the cellular debris that has been observed by Western medicine to build up over time in all our body’s cells. The waste material impairs cellular functions and accelerates aging. It could even be a factor in causing the DNA to make mistakes, an etiological component in most cancers.

Because ama contributes to the early stages of many diseases,Ayurveda considers keeping our agni strong and our digestion healthy to be an essential component of prevention.

If you wake up in the morning with a white coating on your tongue, you need to start attending to your digestion. (And buy a tongue scraper to remove the build-up of toxins on your tongue.)

Other signs that your agni needs attention include bad breath and digestive complaints such as constipation or diarrhea.

Tips for Strengthening Agni

  1. Eat a “ginger pickle” before meals. Slice thin pieces of fresh ginger root, then sprinkle with lemon juice and salt. Eat a few pieces several minutes before your meal.
  2. Sip hot water throughout the day. Avoid cold or (worse) iced beverages.
  3. Get regular exercise. If you feel sleeping during the day, it is better to take a brisk, 30-minute walk rather than indulge in a daytime nap.
  4. Always eat sitting down and remain sitting for 10 minutes after you have finished your meal.

The traditional Ayurveda detoxification treatments, Panchakarma, offered at The Raj help dislodge toxins from the cells and flush out the ama that has been lodges in the system. The recommendations for diet and daily routine given by the Ayurveda experts will help prevent future accumulation of ama.

For more information on Panchakarma, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Ayuveda’s Effortless Approach to Weight Loss: The Original Science of “Chrono-Nutrition”

The holiday season is over and so is the parade of celebrations and get-togethers with their enticing treats. How many New Year’s Resolutions lists have “Weight loss” (or “Improve diet” or “Cut out sugar and carbs”) near the top? Luckily for the diet-inclined, the ancient science of Ayurveda offers some simple tips that can help you lose weight easily and effortlessly.

Foundational to Ayurveda is the understanding of which dosha predominates at different times of the day and night, (and season and time of life) and how to structure activity so that these influences work for us instead of against us. (If you are new to Ayurveda, read our blog Understanding the Doshas.) Apparently modern science is catching up. There is now a whole “new” approach to dieting called “chrono-nutrition”. Basically, the thinking is that controlling eating patterns can have profound effects on weight loss. The “new tips” from chrono-nutrition seem oddly familiar to anyone with any knowledge of Ayurveda.

chrono-nutrition

Tip 1: Eat Less at Night

According to the experts on chrono-nutrition, the energy our body uses to process the food we consume is 50 percent lower during the evening meal. It turns out that about 10 percent of the energy we use every day is directed toward digesting and processing the food we eat. If we eat large amounts of food at night, we use significantly less energy than if we eat the exact same food earlier in the day.

A recent study comparing two groups — both consuming 1400 calories a day — found eating most calories for breakfast rather than at dinner produced greater weight loss and waist circumference reduction.

(In addition, a large carbohydrate load in the evening has been found to create some insulin resistance, which in turn may affect melatonin and cortisol  – and therefore sleep.)

In Ayurvedic terms, Pitta dosha is responsible for transformation, metabolism and digestion. Pitta is at is peak from the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. These are the hours when the most energy is available to transform the food we eat into a form that can be absorbed and utilized by our body. At night, Kapha predominates from 6:00 PM until 10:00 PM. Kapha is slow and heavy and it makes sense that we would be burning less energy while under this influence.

The proper use of the influence of the Kapha time of the day is to prepare us for bed. A light meal at night is recommended so that the body is not working on digestion while it is sleeping. This allows for the ideal use of Pitta dosha at night: to perform self-repair work while we are sleeping so that we can wake up refreshed and renewed.

Tip 2: Maintain a Steady Routine

While chrono-nutritionists admit they do not fully understand the mechanism, they found that maintaining a steady routine also helps with weight loss, even if what you are eating remains exactly the same. They theorize that when your body becomes accustomed to a schedule, your metabolism and hormones work better and digest your food more efficiently at meal times.

According to Ayurveda, maintaining a good routine is a key tool for keeping Vata dosha under control. Vata dosha governs movement throughout the body. It is the first dosha to go out of balance and can wreak havoc with the other doshas. When out of balance, Vata can compromise digestion, much as a strong wind can put out a small fire. Once again (as when we eat late at night) we are left with less energy with which to metabolize our food. When we stop being able to pull the needed nutrients out of our food, a message is sent to our brain that we are starving. This can trigger all kinds of food cravings. These food cravings are often for Kapha-type foods. This is because body automatically seeks balance. Because Kapha has the opposite qualities of Vata, it is natural to want to eat heavier foods to balance the growing instability of Vata.

Tip 3: Go To Bed On Time

The chrono-nutritionists have found that early sleepers have a 25 per cent better response in diets, both psychological and physiological reasons. Again, their understanding of the mechanics behind this fact is limited. They note that studies have found time and again that when we are tired we over-eat and have less control over what we consume. They offer the simple explanation that if you sleep well; you are likely to make better dietary choices the day after, which will result in a more balanced diet. Studies have also shown that if your sleep is disrupted or erratic, the production of cortisol is affected, which in turn affects many bodily functions such as metabolism and the regulation of the immune system.

Ayurveda offers a sophisticated understanding of how living in tune with the laws of nature that structure the world around us results in a healthier, more efficient mind-body system.

Staying on a steady routine, going to bed at 10:00 and getting up, rested and alert, around 6:00 is a way to make sure that you are getting maximum support from all three doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Our body is filled with biological clocks, not just in our brain but also in our in our organs, our joints and our muscles. When we are in tune with these clocks, the body automatically repairs itself at night, allowing us to wake up in the morning refreshed and energized, all systems go. If we have not eaten a heavy meal late in the evening and if we head to bed on time our evening Pitta will be put to work regenerating our muscles, joints, and cells. Our brain will have been cleared of waste products. The 10-hour fast will have reset our metabolic system. If we prime the system with a light but healthy breakfast (cooked apples, oatmeal) we are in balance and set for the day.

Tip 4: Pay Attention When You Eat

According to the chono-nutrition experts, “If you don’t give yourself enough time to eat, you cannot feel enough satisfaction.” Studies have shown that 21 minutes is the optimal time needed for satiety signals to reach your brain. Eating with one’s full attention on your food is proving to be essential for weight management, and several studies have shown that this approach results in greater satiety, improved food experience and better hormonal response.

The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa has always recommends guests practice Self Referral Eating. This means being aware of what you are doing during each meal. This involves sitting down to eat and putting your full attention on your meal (as opposed to watching TV, doing work or reading while you eat.) Chewing your food well is a part of this process: healthy digestion and nutrient absorption begin with proper chewing, which triggers the release of digestive enzymes.

Ayurveda recommends that you remain at the table for at least 10 minutes after you are finished eating, to allow your digestive process a chance to fully kick in. If you allow the act of eating to support your digestion, you’ll find more satisfaction with set meals, fewer urges to snack, and a more efficient digestive system that tends to quickly burn up what you have taken in.

Because of its ancient heritage, it is easy to miss the sophistication of the Ayurveda approach to health and wholeness. And while staying on a good routine, going to bed on time, eating according to the strength of Pitta dosha, and putting our full attention on what we eat may sound basic and run of the mill, these suggestions are grounded in a deep understanding of how our body works. Forget the new fads: put going back to basics on your list of New Year Resolutions and discover how quickly your physiology responds to living in tune with nature’s cycles.

For more information on The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa programs, including programs for weight loss, visit our website:

www.theraj.com

Winter Skin Care: Ayurveda Tips for a Glowing Complexion

This week we are reposting one of our most-read posts… 

woman in spa

If you are familiar with Ayurveda, you are familiar with the concept that everything in life — including our bodies, the food that we eat, and the environment around us — is composed of the three “doshas”; Vata, Pitta and Kapha.  These qualities, or principles of nature, each have their own fundamental traits. Vata, the principle of movement, is the ruling dosha for the late fall and winter seasons. These months are marked by the same qualities that characterize Vata: coldness, dryness, lightness, and movement.

During the winter many notice a tendency toward dryness, constipation, anxiety and insomnia — all Vata imbalances that can take their toll on our skin.  Luckily, through the understanding of Ayurvedic principles, we can take steps to pacify Vata and keep our skin balanced and glowing throughout the winter months.

Washing the Face

At any time of the year it is important to be gentle when washing the face, as it is easy to aggravate vata, which can promote dryness and wrinkles. Favor body-temperature water over hot water. Avoid using soaps with chemical additives. For most skin types, sweet almond oil is a good lubricant to use after washing to help protect the skin. Sweet almond oil is also healthy way to remove make-up before washing. A luxurious option for keeping skin lubricated in the winter is to bathe the face with milk. Whole, organic milk is ideal. The tiny, nutritious molecules of milk can be easily be absorbed by our skin without clogging the pores. Heat the milk to body temperature (not too hot) before applying.

Ten Vata-Reducing Tips to Promote Glowing Skin

  1. Drink plenty of warm, pure water throughout the day to both purify the body and stay well hydrated.
  2. Ideally, enjoy organic, freshly cooked meals, using healthy oils such as olive oil and ghee. Remember, you want to counter the influence of Vata, which is characterized as light, dry and cold. Healthy oils in winter are our friends.
  3. Eat your main meal at noon.
  4. Avoid packaged, frozen, canned and processed foods, which are difficult to digest and often include harmful additives.
  5. Favor Vata-pacifying foods such as avocados, pumpkins, carrots, beets, asparagus, bananas, lemons, mangoes, peaches, quinoa, basmati rice, wheat, almonds, sesame seeds, boiled milk, and ghee. Nuts and seeds provide healthy oils that are good for skin and hair. Eat more foods with sweet, sour, and salty tastes and less of those with bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes.  Don’t forget that Ayurveda recommends having some amounts of all six tastes with every meal. Otherwise the body can develop food cravings. Ayurvedic spice mixes or “churnas” can help you make sure that you get all six tastes.
  6. Avoid dry, raw foods, especially salads and raw vegetables.
  7. Use a humidifier at night, especially if you have forced air heating.
  8. Oil Up! Before your morning bath, give yourself a gentle self-massage with sesame oil. Those who tend toward pitta imbalances may prefer sweet almond oil or olive oil or coconut oil. The oil helps to pull out toxins from the skin and also leaves a protective layer between your skin and the harsh winter environment. Don’t feel like you have to remove the oil with soap. Soap is essentially oil and fat combined with salt. A good scrub with a luffa or body brush after your morning oil massage is really all you need.
  9. Go to bed early and try to get eight hours of sleep. The most effective means of pacifying Vata is to increase rest.
  10. Learn to meditate.  The Raj Ayurveda Health Center recommends the Transcendental Meditation program (TM) to complement their in-residence Ayurvedic treatment packages. An imbalance of Vata can lead to an overactive mind, worry, anxiety and insomnia. Over 350 published research studies on the TM technique have documented a wide range of benefits, including reduced stress and anxiety, improved health and brain function, and increased self-actualization.

For more information on Vata-pacifying skin care products, herbal formulas to improve skin or digestion please contact the herb room at The Raj. Ideally a visit to an Ayurvedic expert in your area will help to more precisely determine which supplements, diet recommendations and life-style tips would benefit your individual mind/body make-up.

Learn more at:

www.theraj.com

Can Ayurveda Panchakarma Treatments Cure Disease?

The Ayurveda approach to disease and disorders focuses on boosting the overall immune system and restoring balance to the physiolgoy. One of the key approaches is through Panchakarma, the traditional purification therapies of Ayurveda. Panchakarma effectively eliminates toxins from the body and helps eliminate imbalances. It is recommended for healthy individuals as well as for those showing symptoms of various disorders.

According to Ayurveda, our physiology is made up of doshas (functional elements), dhatus (structural elements) and malas (waste products). The three doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. (Read our blog on Understanding the Doshas if you are unfamiliar with this concept.) The three doshas are responsible for specific functions in our body and their balance is foundational to our health — whereas a loss of balance is known to contribute to disease and disorders.

The traditional detoxification therapies of Ayurveda, called Panchakarma, are designed to help to bring these doshas back to their natural balance, thus restoring health and vitality.

Healthy Life wooden sign with a beach on background

Three Stages of Panchakarma:

Stage one: During the first phase of Panchakarma, the body and the internal system is prepared for the elimination of toxins. This process is marked by 1) oliation: purifying the body by administering various oils both internally and externally, and 2) sudation: preparing the sweat glands to expel the toxins through sweat.

Oliation begins a week before your actual treatment program and continues through your course of therapies. The home routine is created specifically to support your individual doshic balance and state of health. Most people follow a low-fat diet during this time, while ingesting varying amounts of ghee and/or herbs.

Stage two: Stage two involves the elimination process. This stage is added during your treatment program. Most people who undergo Panchakarma are prescribed “basti” treatments. Basti is an Ayurvedic treatment in which medicated oils and herbal preparations are introduced as an enema in order to flush toxins from the intestinal tract. Bastis offer more healing benefits than simply evacuating the colon. The medicinal effects of herbs given in this manner are able to penetrate the deeper tissues of the physiology, including the bones. Bastis are extremely effective in balancing Vata dosha. Because Vata dosha is the first dosha to go out of balance and tends to create problems with the other doshas, balancing Vata is key to bringing balance to the physiology as a whole.

Stage three: Adopting a healthy routine. Removing toxins is not a magical solution that will keep you healthy for life. During your stay at The Raj, you will be given recommendations for changes in diet and lifestyle that will help you to maintain balance and support a healthy immune system. Understanding the Ayurvedic principles of daily routine and diet according to the seasons and your doshic balance, and understanding how to maintain a strong digestion are all key to keeping your mind/body system at its strongest.

Over the years we have seen guests arrive at The Raj with numerous concerns ranging from high blood pressure to diabetes, MS, migraines, asthma, arthritis and more. And again and again, we receive letters weeks after guests’ departures telling us how their symptoms have improved. Did Panchakarma “cure” these disorders? Not at all. What Panchakarma did was to remove the toxins and imbalances that were blocking the natural ability of the body to heal itself. If you support your immune system, your immune system will support you.

For more information on Panchakarma, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Ayurveda and Colds: How to Avoid Them and What to Do When You Have One?

Our bodies are more susceptible to health problems when the seasons are changing because our body functions differently in each season. When it is hot outside, our agni (or digestive fire) automatically decreases. Thus during the summer months our digestive capacity is diminished. Once the outside temperatures begin to fall, our internal fires naturally start to build and our desire to eat increases. Unfortunately the transition from one season to the next rarely proceeds systematically. Instead we deal with day-to-day temperatures that can fluctuate dramatically. Going from hot to cold to hot to cold, it is easy for our digestive system to become compromised. Too often as we enter the fall season, our desire to eat heavier foods collides with an inability to digest them. When the food we eat is not fully digested, what should be a clear extraction supplying the organs and tissues with high quality nutrition becomes instead a toxic substance that clogs the channels and tissues. Ayurveda refers to this toxin as ama. The accumulation of ama can compromise our immune system and make us more susceptible to colds and flu.

Signs of Ama Accumulation:

  1. A thick coating on the tongue when you wake up in the morning
  2. Constipation and/or digestive issues like gastritis
  3. Bad breath
  4. Feeling of heaviness or fatigue when you wake up
  5. Chronic sinus issues, allergies, chronic colds or bronchitis

One of first organ systems to be affected by ama accumulation is the respiratory system. This build up creates the conditions favorable to phlegm and mucus in the lungs and sinuses. A build up of Kapha can lead to sneezing, cough, and runny nose. According to Ayurveda, the common cold results largely from an imbalance of the Kapha and Vata. Kapha, we have seen, is responsible for the respiratory system and lungs, while Vata is responsible for immune system.

This is why people who are Kapha dominant, and/or in an unbalanced state due to diet or lifestyle errors, are more prone to colds and sinus infections. (Conversely, when Kaphas are healthy and balanced, they can have the strongest immune system. It’s a question of balance.)

Increasing Immunity

Although, technically colds are caused by the rhino virus, we all know people who never catch a cold and others who always do. The ability to withstand exposure to a virus is a function of your immune system. B balancing Kapha and Vata and reducing ama is vital if we want to avoid colds.

Ayurvedic Guidelines to Prevent Colds

  1. Stay Warm: Dress in layers so that you can be prepared for the fluctuations of heat and cold between inside temperatures and outside. Be sure to cover your head and ears when you go outside. The ears are one of the main seats of Vata. Drink warm liquids throughout the day.
  2. Sip hot water throughout the day. This will help the body flush out ama, pacify Vata and help hydrate your mucus membranes.
  3. Warm Foods: Follow the general Ayurvedic advice to drink liquids at room temp or warm/hot. If you drink milk, first bring it to a boil and cook with ginger root, cardamom, or clove in order to balance milk’s natural Kapha quality.
  4. Avoid cold food, avoid most dairy and other sweet, Kapha-promoting foods. Yogurt in the form of lassi is okay at noon, but not at night.
  5. Fruit: Stick to apples, pears and other seasonal or dried fruits like dates. Stewed fruits are excellent at this time of the year. (Or any time of the year!) Again, try adding spices like ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Avoid bananas, as they are quite cooling.
  6. Vegetables: Avoid cold veggies like carrots, cucumber, raw tomato, and salads—these are foods that can dampen Agni, our digestive fire. Favor warming veggies like baked hard squash, and green leafy veggies, lightly cooked.
  7. Soups: Soups are an ideal choice at this time of year. Soups are easy to digest and moisten and lubricate the mucosa in the nose and throat, making it harder for rhinoviruses to penetrate. Throw in lots of warming spices.
  8. Spices: Keep your insides warm with thermogenic spices — cumin is an excellent burner of ama. So are ginger, black pepper, coriander, oregano, thyme, sage, fenugreek, and fennel. If you drink milk, drink it hot simmered with ginger, cardamom, clove, and cinnamon. Turmeric is an excellent spice that builds immunity and reduces ama. So is fresh ginger. Used together, these spices can help combat the heaviness of a rich meal.

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What To Do If You Get a Cold?

  1. Drink ginger tea. It acts as a decongestant and helps stimulate digestion. Ginger can reduce excess Kapha and stimulate circulation, making it an excellent medicine for colds and flus.
  2. Try drinking warm water with fresh squeezed lemon and honey to sooth a sore throat and help with coughing. (Remember, never bake with honey or put honey into water that is too hot to sip.)
  3. Gargle with salt water. Gargling loosens excess mucus and removes bacteria and fungi from the throat. The Mayo Clinic confirms that gargling with salt water can provide temporary relief for sore, itchy throats.
  4. Breath in eucalyptus drops. Bring a pot of water to a boil and remove from its heat source. Take a towel and create a tent over the pot. Put in a drop or two of eucalyptus oil and breath deeply.
  5. Use oil, inside and out! To counterbalance the dryness of Vata give yourself a warm oil massage every morning before your bath or shower. Include a small quality of healthy oils like olive oil or ghee at every meal. Flaxseed oil is high in Omega-3 fatty acidsThe delicate nature of seasonal transitions is exactly the reason that Ayurveda recommends the purification treatments of Ayurveda (Panchakarma or PK) to be taken at the beginning of each season. Panchakarma taken at the end of summer, for example, helps release summer heat, irritation and inflammation. Getting rid of any accumulated ama also helps insure protection against colds, congestions, respitory infectcions and the flu.

For more information on increasing your immune system and removing ama, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site:

http://www.theraj.com

Reducing Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis with Ayurveda

Many health experts, including well-known natural health care advocate Dr. Andrew Weil, have observed that symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) respond well to changes in diet and lifestyle, stress reduction, and mind/body techniques.

multiple-sclerosis-symptoms

Modern medicine describes MS as a slow progression of patches of demyelization of the brain and spinal chord. However, pinpointing what triggers the disease still eludes Western medical experts.

Balancing Vata

According to Ayurveda, Vata dosha is the aspect of biological intelligence that controls all movement in the body, including the overall level of balance and activation of the nervous system. MS is seen as a classic Vata imbalance. Many of the conditions and symptoms of Vata imbalance correspond with symptoms often associated with MS:  insomnia, headaches, pain, anxiety and fear, fatigue, poor digestion, dry or rough skin, constipation and heightened sensitivity.

Traditional Ayurvedic recommendations to help balance Vata can aid in the natural healing process for those with MS.

  1. Favor fresh, organic cooked foods, including lots of cooked vegetables
  2. Drink warm liquids — but avoid caffeinated beverages. Sipping hot water throughout the day is highly recommended
  3. Avoid cold drinks and raw foods.  Add ghee to your meals to counter-balance dryness.
  4. Go to bed early, preferably by 10 pm. Get plenty of rest.
  5. Avoid strenuous exercise. Walking and swimming and yoga are best for those with Vata aggravation.
  6. Avoid processed foods, eat your main meal at noon and eat lighter means at night to improve digestion.

Remove Toxins and Strengthen Immunity

The build up of plaque around affected nerves with accompanying inflammation that is seen in MS is a classic example of impurities building up in tissues and disrupting delicate tissue biochemistry. At The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa, foundational to Ayurveda programs for MS is Panchakarma, a series of Ayurvedic treatments that help remove impurities from the bodily tissues. The program also includes individualized dietary recommendations to pacify Vata and improve digestion, thus helping to reduce the further accumulation of impurities.

Modern medicine postulates that infection by a latent virus may possibly cause MS. As a result, immune function-enhancing therapies are often used to combat the illness. The fundamental goal of Panchakarma treatments are to strengthen the body’s own healing mechanisms by removing toxins and impurities that block the natural flow of intelligence in the body.

Under the guidance of trained Ayurveda experts Panchakarma treatments, the introduction of yoga and meditation, and individualized dietary and lifestyle changes create a natural approach to MS that can offer relief to symptoms of MS as well as support long-term remission.

For more information on Ayurvedic treatment programs for MS at The Raj Ayurveda Health Center and to read testimonials and case studies of those who have participated in this natural approach to MS relief, please visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

http://www.theraj.com

How to Get More Energy from Your Food

Looking for more energy? Perhaps you should consider what fuel you are using to keep your body running. Let’s consider this from an Ayurvedic perspective: are you giving yourself enough prana?

larkspur_food_energy

Understanding Prana

Prana is the principle of energy responsible for giving life to and maintaining the body. Prana is the vital energy present in fresh vegetables and fruits, in the pure air that we breathe and the fresh water that we drink. According to Ayurveda, one of the reasons for eating is to take in prana. Therefore we always want to choose foods that are high in this lively energy.

What does it mean when we ask if a food has prana. We are basically asking, “Is it alive?” Does this food contain vitamins, minerals, enzymes and nutrients that can nourish my body? Or is this food the nutritional equivalent of eating cardboard? The fresher the food, the more nutrients it will provide to nourish your body and the more enzymes will be available to help break down the food in order to fully absorb those nutrients. Eating the freshest foods possible will give us the biggest energy boost.

Avoid Processed Food

Processed foods that can sit on a shelf for years are an obvious example of “dead food”. What Prana or “life force” means should be obvious to anyone who has watched vegetables wilt, lose their color and go bad. Processed food, overly refined flours and sugars, and frozen and canned foods (which are prepared long before the time of consumption) contain less vital qualities to nourish the body. They are also harder to digest. These foods simply can not give us the same level of nutrients as foods brimming with prana, This loss of prana is also why Ayurveda discourages eating leftovers or foods that have been sitting around for too long.

Buy Local

The time between a vegetable being picked and appearing on your plate determines the quality and quantity of prana that you will be receiving from your meal. An intuitive sense of this is one of the numerous forces behind the growth of the “buy local” and “farm to table” movements. Locate the local farmers market near to your home and indentify the sellers there who grow organically. Obviously many climates prohibit buying fresh, local foods all year round, but during the months when they are available, these foods will provide optimal nourishment and energy.

Go Organic

When looking for foods rich in prana and life energy, you’ll want to make sure you consume organic foods. Organic foods have more prana than foods grown with chemical fertilizers and sprayed with pesticides. In addition, taking in these powerful chemicals puts a stress on your physiology and blocks its proper functioning. If your body has to work hard to purify the chemicals every time you eat, you’ll feel fatigued. Because many of the chemicals are fat-soluble, the toxins will build up in your system despite your body’s attempts to eliminate them. While the traditional detoxification treatments of Ayurveda (Panchakarma) have been shown to eliminate fat-soluble toxins from the body tissues, it is best to do one’s best not accumulate them in the first place.

To Cook or Not to Cook?

Raw food advocates point to prana as one reason to not cook foods. Ayurveda recommends lightly cooking most vegetables in order to make them more easy to digest. Unless you have a very strong digestion, you will actually get fewer nutrients from your vegetables if you eat them raw.

(see blog Getting The Most Out of Our Food)

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Pure Water

Drink pure, spring water instead of soda, coffee or tea. Water nourishes the body on a cellular level

We ingest all of life through our five senses: touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell. Good health is dependent on our ability to fully metabolize all aspects of life, assimilating what is nourishing and expelling or eliminating that which is not. Through bad choices or through environmental factors that are beyond our control, we can easily metabolize impurities that create imbalances or ama (toxins)—which can then lead to the formation of chronic disorders.

Ayurveda offers the knowledge of how to live in harmony with nature. Ayurveda also offers healing modalities and regular seasonal routines to help restore balance and vitality when it has become lost. For more information on the healing treatments of Ayurveda, visit The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa website:

http://www.theraj.com

 

Ayurveda Tips for Holiday Eating

In the United States, the Thanksgiving holiday (the last Thursday of November) marks the beginning of six weeks holiday festivities, family feasts and seasonal treats. The ancient Indian health science of Ayurveda offers helpful tips on how to navigate holiday season without gaining weight or over-eating.

Winter cravings

The increasingly colder days of fall bring with them an increase in Vata dosha — the subtle energy in the body that governs movement. When Vata dosha predominates, there is an increase in dry, rough and cool qualities in the body. This dryness can disturb various tissues and organs. Many people notice dry skin and lips during the winter months. Dryness can also occur in the colon or large intestine, leading to constipation. Simultaneously you may find that you develop cravings for heavy, sweet and unctuous foods. This is simply your body’s attempt to balance the increase in Vata by increasing Kapha. Unfortunately, these heavier foods can also lead to poor digestion and to an accumulation of toxins over the winter, which could lead to allergies in the spring.

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Holiday Eating Tips

The following tips can help you navigate the holiday festivities, pacifying Vata dosha while avoiding the weight-gain often brought on by Kapha-increasing foods.

  1. At the start of the holiday season, consult an Ayurvedic expert to see if you have any nutritional deficiencies or imbalances. If these are left untended, you may find yourself at the mercy of cravings and compulsive eating.
  2. When you first arrive at a gathering, request a cup of hot water. This will help to pacify Vata and also help you avoid mindless eating. In addition, people often mistake thirst for hunger. If you are well hydrated, you will feel less compulsion to eat. Drinking plain hot water throughout the day is a simple Ayurvedic secret for improved health.
  3. Always sit down at a table to eat. Don’t eat if you are standing or moving.
  4. Whenever you eat, give eating your full attention. Enjoy your food — even if you are eating something “naughty”. Eating mindlessly does not allow you to properly taste, experience, or digest your food. As a result, even if you are full, you will feel unsatisfied and want to eat more later. Don’t multli-task at meal times.
  5. Learn about the six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter and astringent. Each taste satisfies a different need. Missing one or more of the tastes can result in cravings. Try to have all six tastes at each meal. If this sounds daunting, there are spice combinations (churnas) made specifically for this.
  6. Favor warm, cooked foods. If you want to indulge in heavier foods, do so at mid-day, when your digestive “fire” is stronger. Try to keep evening meals light, favoring soups and cooked vegetables.
  7. Try to take small portions. Ideally you should feel refreshed and energized after eating, not dull. Over-eating compromises digestion. When you overeat, even though you ingest more than you need, your body actually assimilates less. This can result in nutritional deficiencies, perpetuating cravings and the habit of overeating.

Eating with full attention and enjoyment improves digestion. It settles and strengthens your entire system. This can have far-reaching health benefits seemingly unrelated to nutrition.

If you find that you have over-indulged during the holidays, consider enjoying traditional Ayurvedic detoxification treatments, called Panchakarma in January or February. The soothing oils used in the treatments help detoxify body fat and the recommended diet before, during and after treatment is the perfect way to get back into healthy eating habits. Scheduling Panchakarma treatments in January can reset your physiology for the rest of the year and help eliminate the effects of holiday indulgences.

Learn more about Ayurveda treatments for weight loss and detoxification at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

Holiday Travel Tips

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Every year about this time we put up a post on travel tips. This is a time of year when many are beginning to make travel plans, whether it is for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s, or simply planning a January escape from snow and cold weather. Traveling during the late fall and winter has its challenges. When we travel at any time of the year, Vata dosha can get out of balance. But because this is the season when Vata is predominant in our environment, we need to be extra alert about maintaining balance. To stay in peak health while on long car or airplane trips, try these suggestions:

  1. Get plenty of rest. While Ayurveda usually cautions against day-time naps, you can indulge when you are traveling. One of the best ways to balance Vata is through rest. Practice the Transcendental Meditation technique to calm the mind and body. Meditation is a soothing option to watching movies if you are on a long flight.
  2. Try not to rush. Think ahead so that you are not frantically packing at the last minute. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and check in. If you are driving to your destination, don’t speed. Your physiology doesn’t need any extra pressure. Don’t start out your trip feeling frazzled.
  3. Drink plenty of warm fluids—more than you usually drink. One of the qualities of Vata is dryness. Avoid caffeinated drinks, (which will promote additional stimulation, thus aggravating Vata), sodas and alcohol. Bring a thermos Vata Tea in your car or ask your flight attendant for hot water and then add your own tea bag. Avoid cold drinks and cold food.
  4. Avoid eating large quantities of food while you are in the air or traveling in the car. This is especially important when you are crossing time zones. It is better to eat your meal at the normal time after you arrive. If you are driving, bring a thermos of soup to enjoy along the way.
  5. Keep warm. Planes temperatures can be very chilly. Take a shawl with you so that you can protect your shoulders, neck and head if necessary.
  6. Adopt the local time as soon as you arrive. Resist the urge to nap. Reset your clock and then try to get up and go to bed at the same time as you would at home.
  7. Avoid Vata-aggravating foods such as salads, dried fruit and potato chips. Opt for warm, freshly cooked, soothing foods.
  8. Bring along some Ayurvedic massage oil so that you can give yourself an oil massage when you arrive at your destination. The warm oil (you can warm it by floating the bottle in hot water in your sink) and tactile stimulation will go a long way toward soothing Vata dosha. If you don’t have time for a full-body massage, try a quick foot massage. (Be sure to wrap the bottle of oil carefully so that it cannot leak into your luggage. Double bagging is recommended.)
  9. Bring some soothing aroma oils, such as lavender oil, geranium rose or jasmine. This can help settle your physiology along the way, as well as when you arrive at your destination. Plug-in aroma dispensers are great for hotel rooms. A bit of aroma oil on a cotton ball can produce calming effects in planes and automobiles.
  10. Schedule some Ayurveda spa treatments when you return home. Nasya can help with dryness in the nasal and sinus passages and can help address the Vata-aggravating influence of traveling, as well as protecting from airborne allergens and pollutants. Abhyanga (Ayurveda massage), Shirodhara (oil streamed across the forehead) and Swedana (herbalized steam therapy) are helpful treatments to help balance Vata after travel— and throughout the winter.
  11. Panchakarma treatment is the most significant Ayurvedic approach to both pacifying Vata and drawing out and eliminating impurities that have accumulated during your travels. If you indulge in foods you do not usually eat while you are away, the home-preparation diet and detoxification treatments of Panchakarma will get you back on a healthy routine for the rest of the winter.  Not only will this it will help you transition into spring with fewer allergies and colds, it can help you shed any extra pounds you’ve gained during the holidays.

For more information on scheduling Ayurveda massages and treatments, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com