The Healing Powers of Hot Water

8668868026_cf8376833a_b

Ayurveda considers removing toxins and impurities from the physiology, and preventing their build-up in the tissues, to be a key part of staying healthy. Ayurveda refers to these toxins and impurities as “ama”. Because ama disrupts the delicate biochemistry in the tissues and blocks the channels of circulation and communication within the physiology, it is a contributing factor in many physical disorders. The build-up of ama often starts with poor digestion. A sluggish digestion creates toxins and poor elimination, which allows the toxins to be absorbed into the circulation system and transported throughout the body.

Many of the recommendations given by Ayurveda experts during a consultation address the need for internal cleansing or detoxification. Of those that can be done at home, sipping hot water throughout the day is easy and effective.

Hot water flowing through the digestive tract helps to dissolve impurities and cleanse the digestive and eliminative systems. The result is an improvement in digestion and assimilation of food, improved elimination, and prevention of the formation of ama.

In addition, the hot water is absorbed into the circulatory system and travels throughout the entire body. The extra warmth and fluid aids in opening all the various channels of circulation, dissolving accumulated impurities and washing them from the body.

Many people report that after just a few weeks of sipping hot water throughout the day, digestion and elimination has improved and they feel fresher, lighter and more energetic.

Drinking hot water (water which just cool enough to be sipped comfortably) is especially helpful during vata and kapha season. During the hot summer months, warm or room-temperature water may be preferred, especially for those with pitta body types or with pitta-related disorders.

Ideally, Ayurveda recommends that water be boiled for ten minutes. Boiling the water allows excessive minerals deposits and impurities to precipitate out and increases the water’s lightness and its cleansing influence.

A slice of fresh ginger root, a pinch of turmeric or a few fennel seeds may be added to the boiling water if desired. These herbs can help increase the cleansing influence of the water in your system. Lemon may be added if it is not upsetting to the stomach.

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

www.theraj.com

Panchakarma: Sublimely Effective Ayurveda Detox

The ultimate goal of all Ayurveda modalities is to restore balance to the level of biological intelligence in the body and allow the free flow of communication and circulation. This allows perfect coherence of the body’s innate healing mechanisms.

Ayurveda believes that the functioning of the body breaks down as impurities and toxins (caused by diet and poor digestion, stress, environmental toxins and other factors) accumulate in the cells and tissues. Over time these impurities begin to block various channels of the body (blood vessels, lymph circulation, capillaries, cellular pores, etc), limiting the flow of biological intelligence.

Panchakarma is one of the specialties of Ayurveda. Literally translated as “five actions”, Panchakarma is series of integrated procedures that, together, dislodge impurities from the tissues and cells and flush them from the body. This sequence of massage, heat treatments and internal cleansing helps to balance the doshas and allows for a more normalized flow of nutrients, blood, hormones, etc. Developed thousands of years ago to give long life to the the rulers of India, Panchakarma is the cornerstone of rejuvenation programs at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa.

Panchakarma provides the ultimate mind-body healing experience. It restores the connection of any weak or diseased area of the body with the mechanisms of biological intelligence responsible for healing. Sounds intense? It is surprisingly luxurious and gentle, especially considering the profound results that this ancient detoxification treatment provides.

Studies on the effects of Panchakarma have shown reductions in cholesterol levels and a decreased risk of heart disease. Many doctors recommend PK to their patients as a follow-up to chemotherapy, once the patient has regained his or her strength. (The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa recommends allowing 6 months from the end of one’s chemotherapy treatments or radiation treatments before undergoing any Ayurvedic massages and therapies.) Guests have also reported relief from fatigue, depression, digestive disorders, and stress.

A study published in the Sept./Oct. 2002 issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine showed that a 5-day course of Panchakarma treatment decreased blood levels of fat-soluble toxins (such as DDE, PCBs and dioxins) by 50%. Western medicine offers no means of removing these harmful chemicals, which are associated with hormone disruption and immune system suppression.

Panchakarma treatments can be taken for as few as 3 and as many as 30 consecutive days. Participants always begin with a consultation with an Ayurvedic expert who then creates a customized program based on their individual levels of balance and imbalance.

Panchakarma uses three types of therapies:

1) The first group stimulates the release of toxins from the cells using various types of massage, many of which involve herbalized oil.

2) The second group uses heat to dilate the channels of the body, allowing the impurities that were loosened through oil massage to be drawn into the intestinal tracts.

3) The sequence ends with a gentle internal cleansing treatments consisting of either warm herbalized oil or water-based decoctions.1. Shiro#3

This sequence of treatment occurs every day. As an example, one day may start with an herbalized sesame oil massage followed by an herbalized steam treatment, ending with gentle elimination therapy. Another day may begin with a massage with warm rice and milk packs, followed by Shirodhara, the pouring of warm oil over the forehead, followed by elimination therapy. Treatments will vary from day to day, depending on one’s needs.

Never had detoxing felt so good! Sometimes it is hard to remember that behind the pampering there is a powerful restructuring of the physiology taking place. Even though I’m ready to take on the world after my treatments, it’s better to take it slow for a week or so after you return home, so the body has a chance to integrate all the changes.

For me, my yearly treatment is my opportunity to reset my diet and my daily habits. To make the most of your PK treatments, a low-fat, vegetarian diet is recommended starting one week before, and continuing through treatments. If I’ve gotten into any bad habits during the year (sugar, snacks, late nights on the computer) I emerge from my treatments with a new resolve. And the new state of balance in my physiology naturally helps to support that resolve.

I’ve managed to have Panchakarma treatments once a year for the last 25 years. It is like spring-cleaning for one’s house. I can’t imagine going without.

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

www.theraj.com

 

Ayurveda #1 Health Tip: Digestion, Digestion, Digestion!

Once again, I am writing about digestion. The reason this topic comes up over and over again is because, according to Ayurveda, it is vital to maintaining good health. If you aren’t digesting your food properly, 1) you aren’t getting needed nutrients and 2) you are creating toxins, or ama, as a result of partially digested food.

Lets look at these consequences a bit more closely:

1) Remember that even the best diet will not provide proper nutrition if our digestion is not doing its job. Not getting needed nutrients out of your food can result in a lack of strength, fatigue, slower problem solving ability and muscle response time, hypertension and more.

Poor nutrition can also set off a vicious cycle of poor eating habits. When the body is not getting what it needs to function properly, it gets “cravings”. It is easy for the intellect to mistakenly interpret these cravings and turn to a “quick fix”. Feeling lethargic, many opt for caffeine or sugar or carbohydrates (or a combination of all three.) These foods fail to give the body what it really needs, are difficult to digest and lead to more cravings.

2) Ayurveda believes that most disease and disorders stem from blockages to the free flow in intelligence in the body. When impurities build up in the various channels of the body (blood vessels, lymph circulation, cellular pores, etc),

These areas become cut off from biological intelligence and can become weak or diseased.

Improving Digestion with Ayurveda

So let’s get down to basics. How to restart a sluggish digestion?

Breakfast:

Digestion is no as strong early in the morning, so breakfast should be light and according to hunger. Avoid meat or eggs. Favor cooked cereal, fruit and fresh juice.Korean_abalone_porridge-Jeonbokjuk-02

Remember if you are taking milk not to combine it with anything other than sweet tastes (like cereal). Milk should be boiled. If you are eating fruit, do not have milk, even in coffee.

Lunch:

This should be your main meal of the day because digestion is strongest at mid-day.

Lunch should be a warm, cooked meal containing all six tastes. Ideally you should have at least a half hour for lunch, including 10 to 15 minutes to sit quietly after you are finished eating. This will allow the digestive process to get well under way.

 Dinner:

The later dinner is served, the lighter you should eat. Avoid heavy foods like cheese, yogurt, meats, oils and fried foods. If you like these foods, these should be eaten at lunch when digestion is stronger.

 Other General Principles:

Eat according to your hunger levels. Do not eat if you are not hungry.

Eat in a settled environment. Business lunches, eating in front of the TV and eating while walking or driving (or standing up) can disturb our digestive process.

Sip hot water during the meal. This enlivens digestion and helps the food be better digested and absorbed. Never drink cold beverages (or iced foods) either during the meal or right after a meal.

Chew your food well. Digestion starts in the mouth.

Avoid heated honey. Read your labels carefully and only buy unheated honey. Do not use honey in baking or add to beverages that are too hot to sip comfortably.

Eat freshly prepared foods. Avoid packaged foods and leftovers. Cooked food is easier to digest than raw.

Foods that are especially nourishing (and are quickly converted into ojas) include boiled milk, ghee (clarified butter), ripe fruits, freshly made fruit juices, almonds (pre-soaked in water — be sure to throw out the water), and dates.

Visit an Ayurvedic expert and find out what your body needs. Vata, pitta and kapha types may receive different recommendations on creating a healthy and strong digestive fire. They will also take into consideration any imbalances that you have. If you have a pitta imbalance, for example, you might be encouraged to avoid ginger and other heating spices. Remember that, unlike Western medicine, Ayurveda always looks at the whole. Your digestive problems may simply be one symptom of a larger imbalance.

Next week we’ll look at Panchakarma, the ulitmate approach to restarting digestion, getting rid of years of accumulated ama and restoring balance to the body.

For more information on Ayurveda consultations and Panchakarma treatments, go to The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Ojas and Ama: the Dynamics of Staying Healthy with Ayuveda

Today let’s talk about ojas and ama. According to Ayurveda, ojas is the most subtle and powerful substance in the body. Maharishi Ayurveda takes ojas to another level: the material expression of the self-interacting dynamics of consciousness. It is what allows the nonmaterial intelligence to communicate with the material physiology. In other words, it is the substance that connects the mind and body to consciousness.

Ojas is the finest, the most refined by-product of digestion. It nourishes all body tissues and has a direct influence on the nature and quality of physical, mental and emotional life. It is the subtle substance that maintains life itself. When your physiology produces the optimum quality and quantity of ojas, you feel healthy and blissful. Your mind/body is getting the sustenance it needs to function at optimum levels. Ojas is characterized by health, happiness, lightness, immunity and overall strength in the body.

Ojas’ primary location is the heart, from where it circulates to and pervades the entire body.

The opposite of ojas is ama, the sticky end product of undigested food. Ama lowers immunity as it spreads throughout the physiology and it clogs the channels that carry nourishment to the cells and the channels that remove wastes. It also blocks the micro-channels that are part of the immune system, making us susceptible to infection. Maintaining a healthy digestive fire, or “agni”, is one of the most important principles of Ayurveda. A strong and effective digestion allows us to absorb the nutrients and essential elements needed by our physiology and at the same time effectively burns of waste products. If our agni is weak and our food is not digested properly, toxic residue, or ama, builds up in our tissues and cells.

For this reason, the number one recommendation for maintaining robust health is to put attention on maintaining good digestion. As the season transitions from summer to fall, the influence of Vata increases and the quality of Vata in our own physiology can become imbalanced. Vata is the responsible for all motion-related process in the body, including digestion and elimination. Fall and early winter are especially important times to be alert to our diet and digestion.

Enhancing ojas and removing and preventing the build up of ama are the basis of good health, and it is the goal of all treatments and therapies of Maharishi Ayurveda.

Panchakarma, the traditional detoxification and purification therapies of Ayurveda, are designed to eliminate ama and increase the flow of ojas. The Ayurvedic texts describe this process as “strota shuddi”—”opening the channels of communication”. Panchakarma keeps every part of the body in contact with nature’s innate balancing and healing process.

Regular consolations are also helpful. An Ayurvedic expert can evaluate the levels of ojas and ama in your physiology using the Ayurveda technique of Pulse Assessment. Seasonal transitions are a good time to schedule a consultation and get recommendations to tune up your diet and lifestyle so that you can avoid colds and the flu in the coming season.

Over the next two weeks I’ll look once again into how to maintain good digestion and also review the mechanics of Panchakarma. For more information about Panchakarma or to schedule a consultation, visit website for The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

Fasting and Ayurveda

pea soupOne of the most popular diet plans in the news today involves intermittent fasting. Interest in the approach was sparked by a BBC2 documentary called “Eat, Fast and Live Longer”. Since its initial airing in 2012, books on fasting have popped up on bestseller lists in Europe and the US. The basic idea is that a lower caloric intake leads to a longer and healthier life.

Intrigued by the concept, I started investigating Ayurveda’s view on the wisdom of such an approach. As with most aspects of Ayurveda, the answer depends on who is asking the question, because according to Ayurveda, every individual is unique.

For certain body types, fasting can increase lightness, improve appetite and revitalize digestion. During a fast, the body uses energy that is normally spent processing food to eliminate impurities and repair the system. In this way, fasting helps clear the srotas (channels or pathways of the body) and improve resistance to disease. (These same mechanics are behind the specially designed diet that one receives while going through Panchakarma, the detoxification programs of Ayurveda.)

According to Ayurveda those with Kapha constitutions often benefit from taking a “liquid day” one day a week. This helps increase energy and well being for Kapha types who tend to have heavier builds, slower digestion and weaker appetites. (It is good to note that Ayurveda does not recommend prolonged fasts, even for those with Kapha physiologies.)

Although most people feel better if the skip one evening meal a week, for those with Vata or Pitta constitutions, fasting could actually decrease well-being. Someone with a Vata body type, for example, will tend to be lighter, more easily excitable and quicker. For them fasting might aggravate insomnia, anxiety or other symptoms of Vata imbalance.

Similarly, the strong appetites of Pitta types may cause irritability or other symptoms of Pitta imbalance during a fast. Because even people with Kapha constitutions could have Pitta or Vata imbalances, it is recommended that you consult with an Ayurvedic expert before deciding to follow an intermittent fasting diet.

Can you reduce caloric intake without fasting? Ayurveda has, in fact, always recommended the light intake of food. Traditionally it is said that at each meal one should eat only the amount of food that can fit in your cupped hands. In order to promote ideal digestion, at the end of a meal half your stomach should be filled with solid food, a quarter with liquids and a quarter should be left empty in order to give enough room for the stomach acids and enzymes to do their job. This means leaving the table satisfied, but not full.

According to Ayurveda, over-eating leads to an accumulation of ama. Ama is the debris of partially digested matter. When allowed to accumulate in the body, this turns into a sludge of toxic metabolic waste-products which blocks circulation through the tiny channels of the body and thus becomes a breeding ground for disorders. Ama also interferes with the proper absorption of food and can lead to a constant craving for food, even after you’ve just eaten.

For many people, fasting offers an opportunity to give the digestive system a rest. This helps to revitalize and re-ignite the digestive fire, thereby improving overall health. It also gives a chance for the body’s internal “fire” to burn up existing toxins, or ama. Check with an Ayurvedic expert and find out if this approach is right for your body type. If Vata or Pitta imbalances prohibit fasting, an intermediate plan can be worked out to accomplish a lower calorie approach without aggravating imbalances and creating health problems.

For more information on consultations with an Ayurveda expert, visit the website for The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa:
www.theraj.com

 

( Picture of dahl soup. Source: Google Advance Image Search.
Creative Commons. The image is used under the terms of Googles Creative Commons rules:http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en. This photograph and credit do not constitute an endorsement of this blog or products mentioned.)

Ayurveda and Milk

golden-milk-recipe-secret-of-the-ancient-indian-medicineTo drink milk or not to drink milk? Advocates on either side of the milk debate are adamant in their arguments. Funnily enough, Ayurveda agrees with both sides. According to the ancient Ayurveda text book, the Charika Samhita, the misuse of milk turns the nature of milk from sattvic to tamasic. Sattva is a state of lightness, balance and clarity, and, in terms of food, strengthening and nourishing. Tamas, on the other hand, reflects dullness and confusion. By compromising the essential qualities of milk we can turn a health-supporting food into one that can lead to ill health, congestion and allergies.

Ayurveda experts recommend cows milk, taken in the correct manner, as a satvic and nourishing food. Accordingly, milk provides special and unique nutrition that cannot be derived from any other type of food. When digested properly, milk is able to nourish all the tissues within 24 hours. It also helps to balance the doshas, especially Vata and Pitta. It is also one of the most important foods to promote ojas.

Ojas is said to be the refined substance that the body produces at the most subtle level of proper digestion. Ojas brings strength, strong immunity and contentment to the whole mind/body system.

Ayurveda experts point out that many of the problems associated with digesting milk are in fact linked to the way in which milk is consumed and how it is processed. Cold milk, ice cream and cheese are indeed very heavy and difficult to digest. Following a few simple guidelines will help address many of the problems associated with drinking milk.

If you boil milk before drinking it (even if the milk has already been pasteurized) the milk will not only be lighter and easier to digest but it will also create less congestion. Boiling milk is a must, even if you do not have difficulty digesting milk.

In addition, you can add heating spices (such as ginger, turmeric, clove, cinnamon and cardamom) to milk before boiling it. These spices help to enhance our digestive fires and also help reduce Kapha dosha, lessening the tendency toward congestion. An added benefit is that the milk will act as a carrier for the spices, thus allowing the physiology to gain more benefits from the health-promoting herbs.

Milk should never be mixed or eaten with sour, bitter, salty, astringent, or pungent tastes. This means the traditional American lunch consisting of a glass of cold milk with a sandwich should be avoided. Milk should either be taken separately from meals by at least one half hour or taken only with other sweet tastes (such as breakfast cereal, toast, rice, dates, mangos and almonds.) Be careful not to add sour fruits to your breakfast cereal or to drink fruit juices with your cereal. When combined with incompatible tastes, milk becomes indigestible and causes the build-up of harmful toxins in the body.

Dishes made from cooking milk with fish or meat should also be avoided (such as clam chowder).

Milk (or yogurt or cottage cheese) combined with bananas can be extremely difficult to digest and can lead to congestion and head colds.

Ideally any milk that we drink should be organic, whole and non-homogenized. Non-homogenized because homogenized milk is very difficult to digest and can easily clog the finer channels of circulation. Whole milk because the fats in whole milk build and balance the nervous system and act as carriers to deliver the calcium and fat soluble Vitamins A, D3, E and K directly into the cells.

If you are not able to purchase organic milk, however, it is better to drink skim milk, as many hormones and chemicals are fat-soluble and will be transferred into your physiology via the fat.

Even if you do not notice ill effects of drinking milk, if you have a long habit of drinking cold milk or drinking milk along with foods of other tastes, it is probable that you have a build-up of ama, or toxins, in your tissues. This can lead to joint pain, constipation, dullness, lowered immunity, frequent colds and  imbalances that can lead to chronic disorders.

An ayurvedic expert can determine which type of toxin is in the body and where it is located. This is very important, because any treatment plan will be different depending on the type of toxin and where it has settled. For more information on consultations or for information on the detox therapies of Panchakarma, visit website for The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center:

www.theraj.com

 

( Picture of turmeric/cinnamon milk. Source: Google Advance Image Search.
Creative Commons. The image is used under the terms of Googles Creative Commons rules:http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en. This photograph and credit do not constitute an endorsement of this blog or products mentioned.)

 

The Ayurveda Key to Health: Good Digestion

Doshas are the fun part of Ayurveda. Everyone likes to talk about doshas—or, more to the point, everyone likes finding out about their individual doshic balance. Because this information gives you clues to how you, specifically, interact with the universe around you. Some people do well with coffee, others shouldn’t touch it. Some people get enlivened by running at 6:00 in the morning, others do better with a leisurely walk or a nice swim. Understanding your constitution allows you to make informed choices and gives you a degree of control over your health and happiness.

The topic of good digestion doesn’t have the same charm, even though it is considered foundational to good health. The truth of the matter is that of all the action steps that you can take to stay healthy, maintaining good digestion and avoiding the accumulation of ama are at the top of the list­—above balancing the doshas.

Ideally, all the food we eat should be fully digested so that it can either be absorbed into the body as nutrients or expelled as waste. Unfortunately, due to various influences (e.g. irregular life style, stress, weather, inappropriate food, and bad eating habits) not all the food we eat gets fully digested. When this happens the half-digested or not-fully-metabolized food gets circulated in the body as toxins. Ayurveda has named this kind of toxin “ama”.

Ama is heavy, oily, and sticky and can interfere with the normal functioning of both the body and mind.

Negative impact of ama and a poor digestion

1. Even if we are eating fresh, healthy foods we are not able to get the needed nutrients from our food.

2. Ama clogs the channels of the body’s cells, organs and tissues. In the digestive tract poorly digested food can create a slimy material that lines the bowels, interfering with the absorption and assimilation of nutrients. Ama in the blood vessels can result in the accumulation of lipids and other substances, leading to the formation of plaque and a restriction of the blood flow. Ama in the joints can lead to arthritis. Ama in the cell membranes can hinder the exchange of nutrients. Ama within cells can hinder the action of hormones and other biochemicals.

3. Undigested food particles are looked upon as ‘foreign invaders’ by our immune system, triggering an antibody and histamine response.  This negative immune response in the body’s tissues can lead to serious disorders and disease.

book-15584__180

How do I know if I have ama?

Common signs of ama in the body are:

Thick, white coating on the tongue

Sluggish, bloated and sleepy feelings, after a meal or in the mornings, even though you have slept well

Strong cravings for fast foods or junk foods

Bad breath, skin breakouts, sweat, gas and bad-smelling stools

Dull skin and/or whites of the eyes, or yellow teeth.

Clouded thoughts, lack of focus, or feeling unmotivated in life

Weight gain

Frequent colds, flue, infections

Constipation

How do I reduce ama?

Eat warm, freshly cooked foods that are easy to digest and are suitable for your body time and for the season

Eat slowly. Chew your food well. Put you full focus on your meal (and not on the TV or computer)

Eat your main meal at noon when the digestion fire is at its peak

Maintain a regular routine. Eat at regular times, three times a day. Go to bed on time, rise early in the morning.

Sip hot water throughout the day. Heat helps melt the ama and water helps to flush the ama out of the body.

Use spices such as ginger, cayenne, cardamom, cinnamon and fresh ground pepper as recommended by an Ayurvedic expert

Undertake seasonal panchakarma treatments (the traditional detoxification treatments of Ayurveda.

Panchakarma Treatments

Spring is the ideal time to detoxify our bodies. As the warm weather begins to melt away the snow a similar process takes place in our bodies. The ama that has accumulated all winter begins to melt and enters into our circulatory system. This sudden influx of ama can clog the shrotas, the microcirculatory channels of the body and can cause the body to over-react to pollen and other allergens. Supporting you body’s natural detoxification with Panchakarma treatments can help avoid spring colds, flus and allergies.

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

www.theraj.com