Reduce Kapha to Enjoy a Healthy, Active Spring

Spring is the ideal time to get in tip-top condition for a healthy and active year. At the beginning of spring we leave the cold, dry Vata season behind and make the transition into the humid, cool Kapha season. At this time many experience feeling tired, heavy and sometimes lethargic. This is the perfect time for Panchakarma treatments.

maxresdefault.jpg

As the environment transitions into spring, a considerable metabolic change begins to take place in the body. When we support the removal of toxins from the body with Panchakarma, it facilitates our body’s natural tendency to “spring clean” with noticeable results. This is very helpful in preventing typical springtime complaints such as allergies, fatigue, asthma and colds.

Healthy Tips for Spring

In order to combat typical springtime complaints such as colds and hay fever, Ayurveda recommends reducing the influence of Kapha at the end of the winter. This process will help see you through to a healthy spring.

Eat hot food: hot in temperature and spicy too

If you are not using a tongue cleaner to remove mucous, bacterial and debris from the tongue, this is the time to begin. Find one that is stainless steel or silver.

Drink hot, stimulating tea. Ginger tea made with fresh ginger is especially recommended.

Favor foods that taste astringent (such as beans and dals), spicy (chili peppers or curry powder, for example) and bitter (spinach and greens)

If you have been a bit sedentary during the cold winter months, now is the time to restart your exercise routine. If you have not been exercising for a while, you can break the inertia by starting with brisk walking, beginning with half an hour.

Get up! It is important during this season try to get up by 6:00, which is when Kapha begins to dominate in the environment. Waking up during the Vata time of the day (before 6:00) gives an extra lightness and vitality to the day.

Get the Most from Your Food

Since digestion tends to grow sluggish during Kapha season, you can perk it up with these tips:

Try eating a slice of ginger before lunch or dinner to help increase your digestive fire. Sprinkle lemon juice and salt on a thin, peeled slice of ginger and eat it about 15 minutes before your meal.

Sit quietly for a few minutes before you start to eat, to give your digestion a headstart. Don’t jump up from your meal when you are finished. Sit and enjoy for at least 10 minutes.

Sore Throat Relief

If you feel a sore throat coming on, try taking 3/4 teaspoon of raw honey mixed with 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric. Take twice a day. The astringent taste of turmeric and honey help to dry up congestion and prevent a sore throat. If the symptoms last for more than two days, however, be sure to check in with your doctor.

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

www.theraj.com

Act Now to Banish Spring Allergies With Ayurveda

4375862210_5054469468.jpg

Although it seems odd to think about spring allergies when the forecast for the next week is snow flurries, mid-February is the ideal time to start taking action.

Our bodies are more susceptible to health problems when the seasons are changing because our body functions differently in each season. For example, our agni (or digestive fire) can fluctuate dramatically during the change from hot to cold or cold to hot. Poor digestion can lead to a build up of ama (or toxins) in the body.

This is why respiratory illnesses and allergies pop up during the autumn and early spring. We especially see this in the early spring. As the weather starts to warm up, any ama that has accumulated in our tissue and circulatory channels during the winter begins to soften and liquefy, flooding the numerous channels of circulation (shrotas) throughout our body and taxing our immune system.

On top of this flood of toxins, our body has to deal with an accumulation of mucus.  From mid-February to May is the Kapha time of the year. As a response to the accumulated drying influence of the cold, dry, windy Vata conditions of late fall and early winter, our bodies start to produce large amounts of lubricating mucus. The sticky liquid can cause congestion in the mucus membranes that line our respiratory and digestive tracts, contributing to allergies and sinus conditions.

This is why late winter/early spring is the optimal time to cleanse mucus and toxins from our body. The classical texts of Ayurveda recommend specific detoxification treatments —called “panchakarma”—during the change of seasons.

Spring is nature’s natural detoxification season. The progression of the cold of winter to the warmth of spring triggers a natural process of releasing the winter’s accumulation of fats and toxins. Going through Ayurveda detoxification treatments at this time provides a boost to what our bodies are trying to do naturally: flushing out toxins and lubricating the channels of circulation. Working hand in hand with our own natural cycle allows for a more thorough and efficient removal of these unhealthy substances.

Signs of Ama

If you have high cholesterol, a coated tongue in the morning, joint pain, constipation, dull skin and eyes, gas, or excess mucus, you are displaying physical symptoms of ama. You may also feel the build up of ama as fatigue, dullness and/or irritability. Panchakarma treatments help remove years of accumulated ama (along with excess Vata, Pitta, and/or Kapha) and also help to return agni to its normal level of functioning.

Enjoying Panchakarma as an in-residence guest allows the body to get a profound rest. Pluses of an in-residence stay being protected from weather conditions, and complete ease in following a prescribed daily routine and diet, allowing you make the most of the rejuvenation experience. If you don’t have the opportunity for a residential stay, however, day treatments are highly recommended. Just be sure to follow the diet that is given to you.

Tips for Kapha Season

There are also adjustments that you can make in your home routine and diet that will help you during this winter to spring transition.

  1. Sip hot water throughout the day
  2. Eat more leafy greens. Favor the Kapha-pacifying tastes of bitter, astringent and pungent.
  3. Favor organic, fresh foods. Avoid processed foods, cold dairy products, and fried and high-fat foods. Remember, light, warm foods counter the cold, heavy qualities of kapha.
  4. Put a little zip in your food: spices like ginger, chili, cloves, and pepper help counter the cold quality of Kapha.
  5. Try not to sleep later than 6:00 in the morning. Sleeping into the Kapha time of the day can increase kapha qualities in body and mind. This means going to bed by 10:00 the night before.

For more information on Panchakarma treatments, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site:

www.theraj.com

Why Aging and Disease Aren’t Synonymous: the Value of Panchakarma in Maintaining Health

Carerimage.jpg

It is a fact that the functioning of the body suffers as impurities and toxins accumulate in the cells and tissues. Such impurities can come from both inside and outside the body. From inside the body come internal metabolic and cellular waste products, such as free-radical-damaged cells and tissues. From outside come external impurities and toxins, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants. In the history of mankind, never before have we been faced with such high levels of toxicity in our environment. A variety of man-made toxins often find their way into the deep tissues of our bodies and can wreak havoc on our immune systems. All these impurities (collectively referred to by Ayurveda as “ama”) block the free flow of our body’s inner intelligence. If left to accumulate, such impurities can lead to degenerative disorders and life-threatening disease. While the body has its own effective self-purifying mechanisms, these prove increasingly inadequate as we age, due to our ever-increasing toxic burden.

Western medicine has, for the most part, focused on putting substances (e.g. pharmaceuticals) into the body rather than taking unhealthful substances out. One of the specialties of the ancient science of Ayurveda is Panchakarma, a group of therapies that work together to purify the body of impurities, and thus avert or reduce the development of disease and aging. Panchakarma treatments are designed to first loosen impurities from bodily tissues, then eliminate them from the body altogether.

All Panchakarma treatments are individualized, depending on the doshic balance and specific imbalances of the person receiving the treatments. The treatments can result in a relief from a wide range of disorders, because the series of procedures free the bodies own self-repair mechanisms and remove blockages that are at the foundation of many symptoms and disorders.

The efficacy of these traditional treatments was shown in a two-month longitudinal study on subjects undergoing five days of Panchakarma treatments at The Raj. Researchers Robert Herron, PhD, and John Fagan, Ph.D. compared to tests taken prior to treatment showing blood levels of the highly toxic PCBs and Beta-HCH. These substances, which are known to attach to the lipid layers that surround our cells, were reduced by 46 and 48 percent respectively. Without this detoxification program, the natural expected drop in PCB and Beta-HCH over a two-month period is only a fraction of one percent. No other method has been scientifically verified to reduce fat-soluble toxins in the human body without causing negative side effects. Normally these fat-soluble substances remain in the body for many years, but Panchakarma allows us a healthy alternative for coping with a toxic world.

Once toxins are loosened from the fatty tissue, they need to be safely eliminated from the bloodstream and the body. Panchakarma treatments include specific steps that take care to properly remove the toxicants from the blood stream without so that they are not reabsorbed or able to create more damage. At the end of each day, after impurities from different parts of the body have been loosened and drawn into the intestinal tracts, a gentle internal cleansing treatment, called a basti, is given. These treatments essentially warm herbalized oil enemas that lubricate, and nourish the colon, as well as induce eliminative action. According to the original Ayurvedic texts, “by basti alone, 50% of illness can be cured.”

Panchakarma can be taken for as few as three consecutive days, and as many as 30. It can be done in-residence, or you can visit an Ayurvedic center for a few hours each day and return to your home afterwards. These treatments are most effective when done regularly each year.

Our bodies are designed to maintain a balanced state in which everything functions properly. Both fasting and these drastic detox regimens can alter this homeostasis, often in a harmful way. Liver glycogen stores can become depleted, alterations can occur in the mineral and electrolyte balance in the blood, muscle and bone tissue can begin to break down, changes can occur in the acid-alkaline balance, and immune function may be impaired. Extreme detox can also overtax adrenals, which means that the body will hold on to the calories we ingest after the fast and store it as fat. In Ayurvedic terms, an extreme fast creates high pitta/low agni. This can start a whole new cycle of imbalances.

While Panchakarma can bring big results, the process itself is gentle and even luxurious. In essence, Panchakarma is an integrated sequence of procedures that, together, dislodge impurities from the cells and then flush them from the body. The doshas are brought into balance and the natural healing mechanisms of the body are “freed” to resume full functioning.

For more information of Panchakarma, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site:

www.theraj.com

Understanding the Doshas: the Basic Building Blocks of Ayurveda

building-blocks-27998_960_720.png

Recently I received an email asking if I would explain more about the doshas, Vata, Pitta and Kapha. In answer to that request, this week’s blog will be a review of these fundamental principles of Ayurveda.

Ayurveda refers to five basic elements that make up all of nature: space, air, fire, water and earth. These five elements combine in different ways to create the building blocks of physical creation, the three doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Vata is a combination of air and space. Pitta is a combination of fire and water. Kapha is a combination of earth and water.

We can think of the three doshas in terms of broad functions: motion, energy production and structure. Vata is the dosha that is expressed in all motion. Pitta is the dosha that is expressed in metabolism, heat production, digestion and energy production. Kapha gives solidity and structure, and balances the fluids.

If we consider our own physiology, we know that we have numerous systems that involve motion: impulses traveling through the nerves, the circulation of the blood, and the progress of food through the digestive tract, for example. Those are the Vata aspects of our body. Our physiology also has its energy components: the metabolic processes, the enzymes (which digest the food and extract energy from it) and the cells’ energy-producing chemical reactions. These are the Pitta aspect of our physiology. And finally we have our solid physical structure: the bones, muscle, fat and flesh: the Kapha aspect.

More specifically, let’s look at a single cell in our body. The cell wall and all the fluids that make up the cell are the Kapha aspect of the cell. The movement of nutrients and information that comes to the cells, sustaining the cell and making it function properly, can be seen as the Vata aspect of the cell. And what the cell does with those nutrients or information, the chemical reactions within the cell, those are the Pitta aspects of the cell.

Obviously, everyone needs all three of these principles in order to sustain life. However the balance of these three, the ratio of Vata, Pitta and Kapha, can differ in each individual. Ayurveda recognizes that not all individuals have the same doshic balance. Just as we know that different types of plants require different ideal growing conditions, in the same way, different body types require different diets and lifestyles to maintain perfect balance and health. The disruption of one’s inherent internal balance plays a basic role in the formation of disease. If one’s natural balance can be maintained, immune strength is maximized and degeneration is minimized.

The three doshas operate throughout nature:

The food that we eat has qualities of Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Ingesting those foods will bring their predominant quality of dosha into our physiology.

There are Vata, Pitta and Kapha times of the day. Every 24 hours we cycle through the influence of the doshas in 4-hour increments. Each time period is dominated by one of the doshas and is influenced by the qualities of that dosha. For example, between 6 and 10 in the morning, Kapha dosha predominates. The qualities of Kapha include heaviness and structure. If you are up, exercising or active during this time, you are making best use of the qualities of that moment. If you sleep into this time period, you may wake up feeling sluggish and heavy and your internal systems will not be as effective throughout the day.

There are Vata, Pitta and Kapha seasons, or times of the year: Summer increases Pitta dosha, dry cold weather increases Vata dosha, and cold, wet weather increases Kapah dosha. Eating hot, spicy foods in summer can boost the already increasing qualities of Pitta and could lead to imbalances such as skin rashes, acid indigestion, or inflammation.

Environments reflect qualities of the doshas. In an ecosystem, Vata is expressed in the wind and motion of water currents. Sunshine and fire are obvious examples of Pitta. Kapha is expressed in the solid structures—rocks, earth and even bodies of water.

Even the times our lives are influenced by doshas. Early childhood is all about structure. Therefore, Kapha needs to be the dominant dosha at that time. Bones are growing, muscles and organs are expanding. This explains why children tend to produce more mucus and why we have the term “baby fat”. But when we reach puberty, there is a marked shift toward a more Pitta dominated functioning. When we reach our 50s, Vata begins to dominate. The body produces less oil, there can be a lessening of flexibility and the bones can become more brittle.

When consulting with any individual, an Ayurvedic expert first determines one’s natural balance and whether one dosha (or combination of doshas) is out of balance.  Recommendations will then be made in order to normalize the imbalance. This imbalance in the doshas, combined with any accumulation of toxins in the body (referred to as Ama), is seen to be the root cause of disorders and disease. By attending to these underlying distributions in the balanced functioning of the physiology, one can produce lasting improvements and strengthen the system as a whole. This approach supports the prevention of recurrences, as well as eliminating current problems. For example, for certain individuals, if Kapha can be balanced, allergies will not return.

Traditional Ayurvedic texts associate each dosha with specific qualities based on the elements that constitute the dosha. Vata is associated with “cold, dryness, speed and lightness.” Pitta is associated with “heat, sharpness, and acidity.” Kapha dosha is associated with “cold, heaviness, oiliness, and slowness.” Ayurveda recommendations are based on the principle that similar factors cause an increase in the dosha and that opposite factors cause its decrease. For a Vata disorder such as lower back pain, one might be recommended to use, among other treatments, warm oil on the back to reduce the cold, dry qualities of Vata. For a Pitta problem such as hyperacidity, one might be told to avoid hot spicy food and to use other Pitta-reducing treatments.

The first question an experience Ayurveda expert asks in not, “What disease do you have?” Rather, the primary question is, “What predominant balance of the doshas is natural for you? And how far away from that nature balance have you gone?” In the same sense, there are few “bad” foods in Ayurveda. It is more a question of how does a particular food affect your balance of doshas and does it help or hinder your goals to maintain vitality and good health.

Panchakarma treatments, the traditional purification and detoxification therapies of Ayurveda, are always prescribed individually. The Ayurveda expert has to take into account the doshas that are out of balance and also the build up and location of impurities in the body. While sesame oil is often the preferred oil for massage (because its penetrating quality carries the herbs deep into the tissues of the body) it also has a heating quality that may aggravate Pitta dosha. In cases where Pitta is out of balance, a more cooling oil may be used. In the same way, certain treatments may be more apt to pacify one particular dosha. The ultimate goal is to remove blockages that disrupt the proper functioning of the body’s own healing mechanisms and to help return the doshas to their natural balance.

At  The Raj Ayurveda Heath Spa, we have seen guests find relief from a variety of different disorders. It is not that Panchakarma treatments “cure” specific disorders, but rather that when the body’s own healing mechanisms are no longer blocked and the doshas are balanced, the physiology becomes free to do what it does best: heal itself.

For more information on consultations and Panchakarma treatments, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site:

www.theraj.com