Healthy Holiday Eating with Ayurveda

Thanksgiving tends to open the flood gates to six weeks of family feasts and holiday treats. The ancient Indian health science of Ayurveda offers helpful tips on how to make your way though the holidays 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 the dry, rough and cool qualities in the body.  This dryness can disturb various tissues and organs. Many people notice dry skin and lips. 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 result 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 will help you avoid mindless eating. Additionally, 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.
  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 during the 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 treatment diet is the perfect way to get back into healthy eating habits.

Learn more about Ayurveda treatments for weight gain and detoxification at

http://www.theraj.com

Travel Tips: Staying Balanced and Healthy with Ayurveda

By popular request, we are rerunning our blog on Ayurveda Travel Tips from last year. And we’re adding a few extra tips to help you make your holiday travels more health promoting.

Traveling during the fall and winter holidays has its particular challenges. Traveling at any time of the year tends to disturb Vata dosha. The principle quality of Vata is movement. Plane, train and car travel can excite Vata and cause it to move out of place. Because late fall/early winter is a time when Vata predominates in our environment and physiologies, we need to be extra alert during these months about maintaining balance. Otherwise the qualities of instability, dryness, and roughness increase, leading to constipation, insomnia, anxiety, dry skin, moodiness and fatigue. To stay in the peak of mental and physical health while traveling, try these suggestions:

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Get plenty of rest. Make sure you are well rested before you start your trip. This may mean packing a few days before your trip so you do not stay up too late the night before your departure. Take naps during your travels and practice the Transcendental Meditation technique.Remember, rest is the number one approach for pacifying Vata.

Try not to rush. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and check in. If you are driving, don’t speed. Your physiology doesn’t need any extra pressure. Don’t start out your trip feeling frazzled.

Drink plenty of warm fluids (more than usual). Bring along a thermos of Vata tea in your car or ask your flight attendant for hot water and then add your own tea bag. The oxygen used in your plane cabin can be extremely dehydrating, leading to dry skin, fatigue, constipation, and poor concentration. Start drinking extra water a few days before you travel and continue through your travels. Avoid caffeinated drinks, which are diuretic in nature and will promote dehydration, as well as additional stimulation. Sugary drinks and alcohol should also be avoided.

Avoid cold drinks and cold food. The extra liquid you are drinking should be either room temperature or hot.

Avoid eating large quantities of food while you are in the air or traveling in the car. Don’t eat the airplane food. 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.

Sunlight helps reduce jet lag. If you arrive at your destination during the daylight hours, 20 minutes exposure to sunshine can help reset your body to local time. Adopt the local time as soon as you arrive. This is the day to resist the urge to nap. Set a clock so that you get up at the time you would rise at home.

Avoid Vata-aggravating foods such as salads, dried fruit and potato chips. Opt for warm, soothing foods. Oil is your friend at this time of the year and during your travels. At the same time, try to avoid junk foods, fried foods and heavy meats. Fresh fruit and cooked, easy-to-digest foods will help counter the constipation that often comes with traveling.

Bring along some Ayurvedic sesame 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.) I usually take at least enough oil for a massage the first night and day.

Take Triphala with you. This Ayurvedic herbal remedy supports healthy functioning of the bowels (see blog on Triphala).

Schedule some Ayurveda 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.

Panchakarma treatments are 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

 

Behavioral Rasayanas—Enhancing Immunity, Balance and Happiness Through Our Thoughts and Action

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In Ayurveda, a “rasayana” is anything that makes the body stronger. Although we usually hear the word in reference to herbs and herbal formulas, such as Maharishi Amrit Kalash, an important part of Ayurveda is Achar Rasayana, or behavioral rasayana, which include specific behaviors that rejuvenate the body, increase lifespan and culture bliss and higher states of consciousness.

Behavioral rasayana works because any thought in the mind, or any action we perform, has a powerful effect on the body. Many scientific studies on the mind-body connection have shown that every time we have a thought or feeling, some chemical is produced in the body.

These neurochemicals, as they are called, are extremely powerful For example, one type of neurochemical, called endorphins, are natural pain killers produced by the brain and are at least 50 times more powerful than morphine. It turns out that our own brain is the most powerful pharmaceutical factory in the world.

We just need to know how to use the brain properly, how to produce positive chemicals rather than negative ones. Negative emotions—such as anger, jealousy, frustration, fear, and grief—cause harmful neurochemicals to be produced: chemicals which break down the body’s functioning. Positive thoughts and actions, on the other hand, can be powerful tools for strengthening our physiologies and improving our health.

Ayurveda identifies one biochemical in particular, called ojas, which is enhanced through rasayana of any kind. Ojas is the finest aspect of material creation, the junction point between consciousness and matter. It is as much consciousness as it is physical. Ojas nourishes the body‑—the more ojas, the better your health, immunity, balance, purity and happiness. That is why the entire purpose of the Ayurveda treatment programs offered at The Raj Maharishi Ayurveda Health Spa is to maintain all the physiological structures and functioning in such a way that ojas is constantly generated and maintained at its more efficient level of functioning. An Ayurvedic expert in the technique of Ayurveda Pulse Assessment can identify your level of ojas and give recommendations on how to increase ojas in the body.

The Charaka Samhita, one of the principal texts of Ayurveda, describes ojas as a fluid substance located in the heart. From the heart, ojas circulates throughout the entire body and maintains immunity, strength of muscles, stamina, and a healthy glow to the skin.

Because it is the seat of feeling, the heart can be directly affected by our feelings and emotions. Thus behavioral rasayana, which creates a positive effect on the whole physiology—including the heart—, increases the production of ojas.

Here is a list of traditional Behavioral Rasayanas that help create a harmonizing effect in the physiology and increase the production of ojas. The idea is to keep them lively in the mind, but do not stain to remember or follow them.

BEHAVIORAL RASAYANAS

Transcend on a regular basis.

Speak truthfully but sweetly.

Speak well of others: never spread gossip.

Be free of anger.

Abstain from alcohol and immoderate behavior.

Be nonviolent and calm.

Be charitable to others: help people in need, especially those with no livelihood or those in grief.

Help even those who might have mistreated you.

Keep yourself, your clothing and your environment neat, clean and well groomed.

Be respectful of teachers and elders.

Be loving and compassionate.

Do not disclose enmities. Never disclose insults inflicted upon you.

Keep a regular routine.

Culture a simple state of awareness and simple, guileless behavior.

Keep the company of the wise.

Maintain a positive outlook.

Be self-controlled and follow the precepts of your religious beliefs.

Devote yourself to the knowledge and development of high states of consciousness.

Enjoy the good qualities of others.

Welcome visitors with an open heart.

Do good and be silent. Accept good and sing the givers praise.

Don’t lose balance through wealth.

Greet another first.

Maintain untainted belief in friends

For information on Ayurveda programs and consultations, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

WWW.THERAJ.COM

Self-Referral Eating for Weight Loss and Improved Digestion

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Poor digestion, being overweight, excess gas and bloating are all problems that can be triggered by poor eating habits. At The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa, what is taken into account is not only what you eat but also how you eat.

Self-Referral Eating means being aware of what you are doing during each meal.

Try the following tips:

  1. Research shows that eating too quickly can lead to weight gain. If we eat too quickly, we race so far ahead of the mechanisms in our gut that tell us we are full that we end up overeating. While you are eating, focus on what you are doing and how the food tastes — avoid distractions like reading, watching TV, and engaging in intense discussions.
  2. Try eating in silence for a few days to practice being consciously aware while eating.
  3. Chew your food well. Healthy digestion and nutrient absorption begins with proper chewing. Chewing triggers the release of digestive enzymes that help your body break down food so that it can be converted into energy. Chewing also helps break down your food into smaller particles, which can be more easily digested. Large, undigested particles of food can not be processed by the small intestine. They either travel through undigested or seep through fissures in the intestinal lining (leaky gut syndrome) and enter the bloodstream, triggering food allergies and other intolerances.
  4. Sip warm water during your meal. This helps your food to be more easily processed.
  5. Put down your eating utensils after each bite and focus on chewing.
  6. Don’t wait until you are starving or you may find that your hunger will overtake your commitment to eating with full attention.
  7. Eating is one of the great pleasures of life. Take time to savor the tastes and smells of the food. Inhaling your food without savoring the aroma does not lead to a satisfying experience. Digestion begins in the brain. Before you have even taken your first bite, the body begins to release enzymes needed for digestion. This is why your mouth waters at the smell of food.
  8. Always sit when you eat. Never eat standing up. Make sure that everything you need is on the table before you sit down so that you can remain seated and relaxed throughout your meal.
  9. If you have trouble telling whether you are full or not, stop sometimes during the meal, put your hand on your stomach and ask yourself, “Do I feel full or not?” The goal is to reconnectc your awareness with what is going on in the digestive system.

The Raj offers targeted programs to address colitis, constipation, gastritis and weight loss. Contact The Raj Health Office for more information.

800 864-8714 ext. 9000

WWW.THERAJ.COM

Understanding Ojas

According to Ayurveda, Ojas is the finest material substance in the body—in fact it is as much consciousness as it is matter. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who founded the Transcendental Meditation technique and inspired the revival of Ayurveda in its comprehensive and integrated form, referred to Ojas as a “lamp at the door”—the junction point between consciousness and matter—lighting both inside and outside.

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Because Ojas links consciousness and matter, it serves to integrate the whole mind/body system when it is properly enlivened and maintained. It is Ojas that allows all the contradictory values of physiology and mental functioning to be bound together, acting like a cosmic glue. The more Ojas, the better your health, and the stronger your immunity, balance, and happiness.

Shrotas, Channels and the Gap

The traditional Ayurveda purification treatments, known as Panchakarma, help promote Ojas in the body. When Ojas is produced in the body, it provides a channel for consciousness to flow into matter.  Ojas is the finest physical value of biological intelligence. And that finest physical value needs to flow through the body through proper, unobstructed channels. These channels are known in Ayurveda as “shrotas.”

On the grossest level, the “shrotas” or channels can be seen as blood vessels, lymph circulation channels, capillaries, cellular pores, etc. But if we look more closely, we find that shrota represents the space through which intelligence flows—the gap that allows transformation from one value of matter into another. Shrotas, then, are gaps in the body.

Most people think of a gap as emptiness, a place where nothing exists. But according to Maharishi Ayurveda, all healing mechanisms operate in the gaps.

Musicians tell us that the rests, the silences between the notes, and also the upbeats, the spaces between the main beats, are where music’s life really comes from. “Take care of the gaps, the silences,” said a gifted soprano, “and everything else takes care of itself. The music flows forward naturally.”

It is the same with the creation of anything in the universe. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said the gap is the “lively nothingness” that allows the transformation of one state of matter to another. This includes the transformation of imbalance to balance.

Actually, the whole body can be viewed as nothing other than gap. One of the principle texts of Ayurveda, the Charaka Samhita, says, shroto mayo purushan, which means, “the whole physiology is nothing other than gap.” The entire body is a shrota for the flow of biological intelligence. The body is an innocent channel that reflects the beauty and wisdom of nature’s intelligence.

By purifying the shrotas, nature’s intelligence (physically manifested as Ojas) can flow freely throughout the body. This is why having regular Panchakarma treatments supports the prevention of disease. By keeping the channels of the body clear, Ojas—that lively intelligence that links consciousness and matter—finds no obstacle to its free flow and functioning.

This is the specialty of Panchakarma…linking oil massages with consciousness, heat treatments with the intelligence of nature.

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

www.theraj.com