Foods That Protect You From The Sun

For the US and other mid-latitude countries north of the equator, the sun’s rays in the summer months hit the Earth at a steeper angle than in the winter. Because the light is not as spread out (so it hits the earth more directly) the earth —and it’s inhabitants—absorb more of the sun’s energy. As we absorb the increased heat from the sun, the quality of Pitta or heat increases in our own physiology.
The sun gives off three kinds of ultraviolet waves throughout the year: UVA, UVB and UVC. Only the UVA and UVB rays actually hit the earth. While UVA rays are fairly consistent in intensity all year round, the greatest amount of UVB rays hit between 10 AM and 4 PM from April to October. As a result, we are getting a double dose of light rays during the summer. This can contribute to conditions such as premature skin aging, eye damage and skin cancers. UVB rays can also suppress the immune system, reducing our ability to fight off maladies.
Luckily, the perfect organizing power of nature provides summer fruits and vegetables that have a wonderful capacity to protect our skin from UV rays. A medium-size red bell pepper, for example, provides more than 200 percent of the daily value of vitamin C. Researchers have suggested that vitamin C can promote the repair of DNA that has been damaged by UV rays.
HEALING SUMMER FOODS
Red and Orange Vegetables and Fruits
Red fruits and vegetable are rich in lycopene. a natural pigment and carotinoid (antioxidant) responsible for the red color. It turns out that consuming more lycopene can protect your skin from sunburn. A study showed that intake of 2.5 tablespoons of tomato paste daily can reduce the UV rays damage up to 50%. Lycopene also helps rid the body of free radicals.
Beta-carotene — another type of carotenoid found in red and orange produce (like carrots) — has been linked to reduced reactions to sunburns.
Orange and pink citrus fruits contain lavanoid, which has been shown to improve the skin’s ability to protect against UV rays.
Additional healing food
Spinach contains lutein, a carotenoid that protects your skin from UV damage.spinach
Staying out of the mid-day sun, eating meals on time, choosing Pitta-reducing foods, avoiding strenuous activity, keeping well hydrated with room temperature water and other drinks, and eating lots of fresh produce are simple steps you can take to help keep your Pitta pacified during the hot summer months.
Signs of an aggravated Pitta include excess stomach acid, heartburn, skin eruptions, insomnia and irritability. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, a visit with an Ayurveda expert can help to identify foods or habits that are aggravating Pitta and give recommendations to avoid more serious imbalances.
For more information on consultations with Ayurveda experts, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

http://www.theraj.com

 

 

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Supporting Beautiful Hair and Skin — and a Healthy Body — with Daily Ayurveda Oil Massage

I had to laugh when I read about “the new trend for 2014”: conditioning your hair before you shampoo it. Fashion magazines claim that “reverse shampooing” promises to give your hair more volume, recreating the effects of freshly blow-dried hair. I laughed because there is nothing new about the concept. Ayurveda has always recommended that you massage a small amount of oil into your hair and scalp before taking your morning shower.how-to-do-abhyanga-a-self-massage-with-warm-oil-youtube-13925719214ngk8

(One tip: after you have let the oil soak into your scalp for some time, put your shampoo directly on you hair before getting into the shower. This will help remove the oil more effectively. It’s like using spot remover before tossing clothes into the washer.)

And don’t stop with the head! According to Ayurveda, your entire body needs a coat of oil each day. Daily morning oil massage helps the skin perform its important functions efficiently, allowing toxins to be released from the body and nourishment to be absorbed by the tissues. The practice helps increase circulation (especially to the nerve endings) and lubricate the joints, and supports elimination of toxins from the skin.

 Ayurveda massage is traditionally performed in the morning, before your bath or shower, to facilitate the release of toxins that may have accumulated during the previous night.

The skin is the largest organ in the body and is one of the main organs of elimination (along with the colon, lungs, lymph and kidneys). It is also our first line of defense against pollution and environmental toxins. Toxins are expelled through the skin when we sweat. When we can help the skin get rid of toxins more efficiently it takes the stress off our other organs.

You can use plain sesame oil or use oils that are specifically herbalized for specific body types. Pitta types may find the sesame oil a bit too heating and may prefer olive oil, which has a more cooling influence. Whether you chose sesame oil or olive oil for your massage, look for cold-pressed, chemical-free organic oils for the best results.

It is recommended that you “cure” your sesame oil. To “cure” or ripen the sesame oil, heat the oil to 100 degrees Centigrade. Remove from heat once this temperature is reached, cool and store for use as needed. It should be used within 6 months, and not be re-cured. Of course, you should observe safety precautions when curing oil. All oils are highly flammable. Use low heat, and don’t leave the oil on heat unattended. If you drop a small droplet of water into the pan (just one!) you will hear a “crack” when the water heats and rises to the top of the oil. This is an easy way to know when your sesame oil has reached its proper temperature. A word or caution: If you put too much water in the pan, the rising water can create a splash of oil, which can get on the burner and cause a fire. One small drop of water is sufficient.

Why cure your oil? Sesame oil contains antioxidant properties, which are increased with the curing process. This increases the oil’s ability to protect the skin from free radical damage.

How to do an Ayurvedic abhyanga full-body massage

Use comfortably warm massage oil. You can put your container under running hot water for a few minutes to bring it up to body heat.

Apply the warm oil lightly to the entire body, applying even pressure with the whole hand — palm and fingers. Use circular motions over rounded areas such as your head or joints, and straight strokes on straight areas such as your arms and legs.

Apply light pressure on sensitive areas such as the abdomen or the heart.

Use more oil and spend more time where nerve endings are concentrated, such as the soles of the feet and palms of the hands.

After you’re done, relax for 5-15 minutes, letting the oil penetrate into the skin. The longer the oil is on, the deeper it penetrates. During this time you can either rest, or continue with your morning routine, brushing your teeth, etc.

Some people prefer to pat off excess oil with a paper towel before stepping into their bath or shower.

If your schedule doesn’t allow for a daily massage, try and fit it in a few times a week, perhaps on the weekends if your morning schedule is less hectic at that time.

Daily oil massage is part of the ideal daily routine that is suggested to guests of The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center during their consultations. An Ayurveda expert will be able to specify what type of oil will best suit your physiology.

For more information on Ayurveda or to download a free Ayurveda Booklet, visit The Raj:

www.theraj.com

 

 

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Ayurveda: Exercising According to Body Type

One of the benefits of understanding your Ayurveda dosha make-up is the ability to choose an exercise that creates balance and strengthens your physiology.

It turns out that the vast majority of Americans don’t exercise regularly. One reason may be that many people pick a means of exercise that does not suit their body type. This can result in feelings of strain, fatigue or irritability. When we pick an exercise that balances our primary dosha the result can be joyful, exhilarating and invigorating.Yoga-sun-salutes

General Points:

No matter what your body type or predominate dosha, everyone should loosen up and warm up thoroughly before exercise and warm down properly afterwards. This is especially important if you have been somewhat sedentary during the winter. Ease into a healthy exercise routine. Remember to breath through your nose and to avoid mouth breathing. This is will be a good indicator of whether or not you are pushing beyond a healthful workout.

Do not exercise just before or after a meal.

Do not exercise in the hot sun or in extreme wind or cold.

Vata

By nature Vata types have the quality of motion and changeability enlivened in their physiology. They need less exercise than the other body types. They also tend to have more slender frames and less strong joints and cannot take the pounding of heavy, extended exercise. They tend to have less endurance or resilience. Vata types excel at balancing and stretching exercises. Yoga, Pilates, dance, light aerobics, walking at a gentle pace, short hikes, swimming and light bicycling are good for them. Half an hour to an hour of enjoyable exercise per day is usually enough. They must be careful not to over extend their activity.

Pitta

Pitta types have good drive, speed and endurance. They enjoy challenge and sports that bring a sense of accomplishment, such as skiing, hiking and mountain climbing. Water sports, because of their cooling nature, are also good for Pittas. Be careful of sports that are overly competitive as these can cause you to overextend yourself. Group sports like volleyball can fulfill your competitive spirit in a more tempered and social environment. Be alert to avoiding getting overheated or dehydrated.

Kapha

Kapha types have a tendency toward heaviness. As a result they need a significant quantity of exercise. Kaphas also have strong frames and joints and can more readily withstand vigorous and extended exercise. They excel in exercise that requires endurance and mind-body coordination. Running, aerobics, brisk cycling and walking, and rowing are good Kapha exercises. It is also recommended that Kaphas change exercise from day to day instead of repeating the same activity.

Exercise for All Doshas

Yoga and Sun Salutes are exercises that can be practiced by almost anyone, regardless of physical constitution. These exercises enhance the link between intelligence and physiology.

To take a dosha quiz or for information about a consultation with an Ayurveda expert, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center website:

http://theraj.com/allergies/index.php

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Ayurveda: How Food’s Taste and Qualities Affect Balanced Health

Last week we looked at the Ayurveda principle of including all six tastes in every meal in order to assure balanced nutrition — and balanced doshas. This week we will explore the building blocks of both the doshas and the six tastes: the five “mahabhutas” or primordial elements of creation. These elements are earth (prithivi), water (jala), fire (tejas), air (vayu) and space (akasha). These elements combine in different ways to make up the three doshas and the six tastes.

Doshas

Vata is a combination of space (akasha) and air (vayu).

Pitta is a combination of fire (tejas) and, in lesser amounts, water (jala)

Kapha is a combination of earth (prithivi) and water (jala)

Tastes

Sweet is dominated by earth and water (prithivi and jala)

Sour is dominated by earth and fire (prithivi and tejas)

Salty is dominated by water and fire (jala and tejas)

Pungent is dominated by air and fire (vayu and tejas)

Bitter is dominated by air and space (vayu and akasha)

Astringent is dominated by air and earth (vayu and prithivi)

How the Tastes Affect the Doshas

Sweet, sour and salty tastes increase kapha and decrease vata

Pungent, bitter and astringent tastes decrease kapha and increase vata

Pungent, sour and salty tastes increase pitta

Sweet, bitter and astringent tastes decrease pitta.

As an example, we can see how vata, being made of the combination of air and space, would be aggravated by the bitter taste, which is dominated by air and space, as well as by the pungent and astringent tastes, which both contain the element of air. Qualities are increased by similar qualities and reduced by their opposites.

There are also additional pairs of food properties that can affect the balance of our doshas. These pairs are: heavy and light, cold and hot, and oily and dry.

Heavy and Light:

Heavy foods increase kapha and reduce vata

Light foods increase vata and reduce kapha

Cold and Hot

Cold foods increase kapha and vata and reduce pitta

Hot foods increase pitta and reduce vata and kapha

Oily and Dry

Oily foods increase kapha and reduce vata

Dry foods increase vata and reduce kapha

Not only do these qualities affect the doshas, they can also be natural signals regarding the nutritional value of the food. For example, heavier foods are harder to digest than lighter foods. If a person has a low digestive capacity, that person should take care to favor lighter foods. In the same way that a large log can snuff out a fire, too much heavy food can overload even a normal digestive system. This will result in the creation of ama, or impurties in the body. Common heavy foods include meat and oil and fatty foods.

Next week we will look into improving digestion, avoiding ama, and look at the difference between balancing and purifying diets. Ideally an Ayurveda consultation with an expert in pulse assessment will allow you to pinpoint the tastes and qualities of food that are best suited to balance your doshas and to enhance your digestion.

Find more information at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center:

www.theraj.com

Tips for Kapha Season

rose-144122_640As the weather changes from winter to spring (vata season to kapha season) you may notice changes in both your mind and body. Nature is waking up and you too may feel the need to get out, exercise and get started on new projects. You may also find yourself falling ill with a cold or flu.

Here are some tips for kapha season to help you make a healthy, balanced transition from vata season.

1. You should have already been favoring warm, cooked foods during vata season. Continue this trend. Both vata and kapha are characterized by the quality of cold. During kapha season, add a bit more spice to your meals. Chili, curry, turmeric, cayenne, and mustard seed are all helpful spices.

2. Again, as you should have been doing in vata season, drink hot drinks throughout the day. During kapha season you may want to switch to a more stimulating tea — perhaps one with ginger.

3. Substitute honey for sugar. Raw, unheated honey is very effective in reducing kapha. (Caution: never bake with honey. Heated honey creates a toxin that clogs the channels of the body and is difficult to remove.)

4. Favor the grains quinoa and barley instead of rice and wheat.

5. Cut down on simple carbohydrates (sugar, white flour, candy, chocolate, cake, jam, soda and packaged cereals) and favor complex carbohydrates. Foods that contain complex carbohydrates include spinach, yams, broccoli, peas beans, whole grains, zucchini, lentils, and skimmed milk. Complex carbohydrates act as the body’s fuel and contribute significantly to energy production. This is the time of year when it is most important to get moving.

6. Favor foods with astringent, bitter and spicy tastes. A few examples of foods with these tastes are:

Astringent: legumes, beans, lentils, pear, apple, pomegranate, quinoa, tofu

Spicy: chili peppers and curry powder

Bitter: dark leafy greens, turmeric, barley, basil

7. Take steps to enhance your digestion. Digestion tends to be sluggish at this time of the year. A thin slice of ginger topped with a bit of fresh lemon juice taken 15 minutes before a meal will insure that your digestive enzymes are primed to make the most of your food. After you are finished eating, sit quietly for a few minutes to allow your digestion to continue its job undisturbed.

8. Be consistent with your morning oil massage. This is the season when then body naturally begins to detoxify. The skin is one of the main organs of purification in the body. Not only are toxins eliminated from the body via the skin, our skin is also our first barrier to environmental toxins. An oil massage each morning before your bath or shower helps support this natural self-cleansing mechanism.

9. This is the optimum time of the year to schedule panchakarma treatments (the traditional rejuvenation treatment of Ayurveda) for a more powerful boost to your body’s natural purification process.

For more information on rejuvenation treatments or to schedule an Ayurveda consultation visit:

www.theraj.com

 

 

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The Health and Happiness Connection

Can having loving thoughts, being kind or just feeling happy make your body healthier? Both the ancient texts of Ayurveda and modern research say yes!

The original texts of Ayurveda, dated over 5000 years ago, recognized the importance of behavior for mental and physical well being with a branch called Achar Rasayana. Achar refers to behavior and Rasayana means that which promotes life.

Behavioral Rasayana is based on the principal that just as your words and actions produce an effect in your environment, so they also have a direct effect on your mind, body, intellect and emotions. This is because your entire mind-body system, your behavior and your environment are integrated and function together as one whole.

Modern researchers have found that negative emotions such as fear and anger can create such stressful reactions that they break down the body’s immune system and eventually make it sick. Research from the Department of Health and Social Behavior, Harvard School of Public Health in 2000 concluded, “growing evidence indicates that negative emotions may influence the development of coronary heart disease.”

On the other hand, positive thoughts and actions produce positive health results. A number of studies show that happy, well-adjusted people have fewer severe illnesses and live longer.

Science now knows that every time you have a thought or a feeling, every cell in your body creates chemicals called neuropeptides, which directly affect all your physical systems and organs.

Charika Samhita, the primary text of Ayurveda, specifies certain behavioral rasayanas that help one to progress and create better health and an ideal quality of life.

Here is a list of some traditional Behavioral Rasayanas from the Charika Samhita

Speak truthfully, but sweetly

Speak well of others

Enjoy the good qualities of others

Maintain untainted belief in friends

Be loving and compassionate

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

Abstain from immoderate behavior and alcohol

Be calm and nonviolent

Keep yourself, your clothing and your environment clean and orderly

Be charitable to others: pass on food, money, and knowledge

Be respectful to elders and teachers

Be loving and compassionate

Keep a regular routine

Keep the company of the wise

Worship God according to your religion

Practice the Transcendental Meditation program on a regular basis

Be devoted to knowledge and the development of consciousness

Learn more by visiting

www.theraj.com

Ayurveda Weight Loss Tips

Most people who lose weight gain it back within a few years – with many regaining even more than they lost. What they do not know is that there are a number of factors that may be triggering the weight-gain that are beyond their ability to control.

Mind/Body Types

According to Ayurveda, different mind/body types have different body shapes and sizes that are natural  — and healthful – for that particular physiology. The goal of Ayurveda is simply to maintain or restore one’s natural balance. As one restores balance, weight will naturally shift back to what is normal for that particular physiology.

Of utmost importance in maintaining balance is keeping the channels of circulation in the body clear.  One specialty of Ayurveda is Panchkarma. These specialized Ayurveda detoxification treatments help “chisel away” impurities and toxins that have been slowly building up in the body over years.

Diet and Digestion

Crucial to maintaining balanced health is good digestion. Suppressing the appetite means suppressing the digestive “fire”. As a result, food does not get digested or metabolized property. When the body is not nourished properly it begins to send messages to the brain that it is starving. The dieter gets cravings that cannot be ignored. This can lead to binge eating, creating further imbalances and weight gain.

Five Weight Loss Tips

Ayurveda recommends five actions steps that are helpful for everyone – no matter what your body type. These tips are easy to implement and can bring about great changes in your over-all health and wellness.

1. Eat a light evening meal favoring easy-to-digest foods (fresh vegetables, soups, grains such as barley and couscous). According to Ayurveda, digestion is weaker in the evening.  Also, going to sleep just a few hours after eating slows digestion, metabolism and circulation. This leads to poor digestion and the accumulation of toxins, fat  and promotes excess weight gain.

2. Eat the largest meal of the day at lunch favoring a wide variety of warm, cooked, organic food. Digestion is strongest at noon and we have many active hours to metabolize the food before we sleep.

3. Drink warm or hot water frequently during the day. This helps flush the digestion tract of accumulated toxins.

4. Avoid eating heavy foods such as red meat, leftovers, packaged foods and deep-fried food. These are hard to digest or lack energy-giving freshness. “Eat fresh food, freshly prepared” sums up the essence of Ayurvedic food guidelines.

5. Move!  Exercise improves digestion, metabolism, elimination, body tone and strength and bone density.  It helps us normalize weight gain. Try to take time every day to get out and walk. It is good to walk 15 minutes or so after eating. Eating after the evening meal is especially encouraged.

The basis of successful weight-loss is a deep understanding of the most fundamental causes of weight gain: imbalance of the doshas, poor digestion and accumulated toxins. Ayurveda offers a time-tested approach that ensures that a comfortable, healthy weight can be both established and maintained.

For more information on Ayurvedic weight-loss programs, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health spa:

www.theraj.com

Ayurveda Approach to Holiday Eating

Thanksgiving opens 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.

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 while you are doing something else 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 The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

http://www.theraj.com