Staying Flexible And Pain Free as We Age

I’ve noticed that many friends over the age of 60 have switched their modes of exercise to less aggressive or intensive sports. Most of them were prompted by whispers from sore elbows and knees and/or aching muscles. This growing stiffness reflects in increase in Vata dosha that inevitably accompanies age.

According to Ayurveda, there are three stages of life. The first stage is Kapha-predominant. Childhood is all about growing and increasing structure. The second stage is Pitta-predominant. This stage begins at puberty and continues until we are around 50. The third stage is Vata-predominant and continues through the rest of our life. Many times what we consider signs of normal aging are actually the results of a growing imbalance of Vata: stiffness, memory loss, insomnia. By putting extra attention on keeping Vata in balance, as we grow older, we can often eliminate these symptoms.

Vata also increases when the weather is cold and dry. This is why many people experience more pulled muscles and joint problems in the winter, as well as during their later years.

As Vata increases, an imbalance in Vata can make the joints drier and more stiff. When Vata moves from its proper location is can start to dry out Kapha dosha, cutting down on Kapha’s natural lubricating abilities. To counter this tendency, daily oil massage can be extremely effective. Using warmed sesame oil (or olive or coconut oil for those with lots of Pitta); massage the joints in a circular motion each morning before your bath. If you are already experiencing joint pain, follow your massage by applying three to five minutes of moist heat to the joint.

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In addition, regular stretching of the joints and muscles through yoga and sun salutations helps keep the body limber. No matter what form of exercise you prefer, adding regular yoga exercises to your routine will help you enjoy your favorite sport for years to come. Yoga is unique in that it can strengthen and lengthen the muscles. Most forms of exercise that strengthen muscles also tend to shorten them. Shorter muscles tend to become stiffer due to the increase in collagen. Yoga, however, lengthens the muscles while they are being strengthened, and can prevent the increase of collagen.

Avoid straining when you exercise. Yoga (and any other form of exercise) should always be comfortable. Feel the stretch, but ease up if there is discomfort.

If you have significant joint problems, be sure to get medical attention. Joint problems commonly reflect ama in the system. Specific recommendations regarding diet, herbs, Ayurvedic topical preparations and Panchakarma can be made by an Ayurvedic expert.

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

www.theraj.com

Exercising in Vata Season

As the temperature outside drops and chilly winds begin to blow, Vata increases in our environment and in our physiologies. If you are a Vata-type or tend to have Vata imbalances, the transition into fall and winter may mean rethinking your exercise routine.

No matter what the season, understanding your Ayurveda body type is important when it comes to choosing a physical activity that supports health and balance as well as providing strength and fitness. But this is especially important in the fall. Because the main quality of Vata is movement, Vata dosha tends to move out balance very easily. It is simply its nature. Unfortunately, Vata imbalances can affect the other doshas as well, creating secondary imbalances in Pitta and Kapha. Keeping Vata in balance is one of the best preventative steps that you can take to stay healthy all winter long.

Understanding Your Physiology

Those with Vata-type physiologies tend to have little endurance, doing well with quick, short bursts. While they may love fast and vigorous activity, they can tire quickly and too much activity can throw them out of balance.

Pitta types are more agile, with a medium muscled frame. While they have less endurance than Kapha-types, Pittas do well with most exercises in moderation

Kapha types tend to be heavier, slower. They excel in endurance and have strong, steady energy.

Vata-Pacifying Exercise for Fall

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While high impact sports like jogging or aerobics classes are generally fine for Pitta- and Kapha-types, Vata types do better with lower-impact sports. If you are heading inside for exercise, stationary bikes, cross-country ski machines or elliptical machines are better than treadmills. They provide an aerobic workout with a minimum of impact on the body, and they work not only the lower body but the upper body as well.

Strength training is also a good choice, as long as you do not strain. Better to do more repetitions at a lighter weight and slowly build up strength.

Yoga is an ideal exercise for those with Vata imbalances. Yoga positions should be done slowly and without strain.

If you are continuing to enjoy exercising outside, be sure to wear a hat, headband or ear muffs to protect your head and ears against the cold and winds. Brisk walking is a better choice than jogging.

In general, use comfort, balance and rest as your criteria for healthy exercise.

Ideal Times to Exercise

The ideal time for exercise is during Kapha time, after sunrise in the morning and until 10:00 am.

You can also try evening exercise between 6 and 10:00 pm, but be alert to how that may affect your sleep. Remember, it is good for Vatas to have some warm food in the evening so that they do not become hungry during the night. Therefore, you’ll want to have time in the evening to eat a relaxed meal and digest your food for some time before heading to bed. Don’t let exercising in the evening rush this evening routine. Sleep is the most important element in pacifying Vata; so a good evening should routine trump everything else.

If you are not sure what your body type is, consider scheduling a consultation with an Ayurveda expert.

www.theraj.com

Ayurveda Exercise Recommendations for Winter and Spring

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These days there is no disputing the fact that exercise plays an important role in supporting both our physical and mental health. Exercise increases circulation and helps remove toxins and impurities (called “ama”) that have accumulated in the physiology. These deposits are a major factor in the breakdown of the resistance of the body.

Exercise is a key procedure for helping the body’s natural internal cleansing process. Exercise also helps increase mind-body coordination. According to Ayurveda, disease and disorders occur when the body loses contact with the underlying intelligence responsible for its maintenance and repair. Exercise involves the coordinated activity of body and mind and is a valuable aid in maintaining and enlivening the connection between the physiology and its underlying biological intelligence.

Ayurveda recommends exercising to 50% of capacity. Fifty percent capacity can be recognized when strain begins to appear in the body. You can tell if you are straining when breathing through the nose is no longer easy,  when sweat begins to appear on the forehead or nose, and when it becomes difficult to maintain proper form and focus during exercise.

Exercise should energize the physiology, leaving it feeling exhilarated and ready for work. Exercise should never exhaust the physiology, requiring extra rest for it to repair itself. When you reach a point of strain, don’t try to “push through”. Your body is letting you know that it is time to stop. Over-exercising turns on the body’s “fight or flight” systems, depleting the body’s reserves—exactly the opposite of the goal of exercise.

This caution is especially important for Vata types and for most body types during the Vata time of the year. Vata types have the quality of motion and changeability highly enlivened in their physiology. They need less exercise than the other major body types. They generally have more slender frames and less strong joints, and cannot take the pounding of heavy, extended exercise.

Exercising excessively during the cold, dry, windy days of Vata season will increase Vata in all body types. This can make one more susceptible to colds and flues. On the other hand, the harsh, cold temperatures of winter can discourage exercise and lead to months of sedentary habits. A complete lack of exercise—often accompanies by poor eating habits—can lead to an accumulation of toxins and to weight gain. While this may provide a feeling of comfort during winter, the price is paid in the spring when the release of built-up of toxins in the body can lead to allergies, spring colds, and asthma.

Committing to a regular, moderate and blissful exercise routine in the winter will help maintain balanced health throughout both the winter and spring seasons. Once the wet, Kapha days of spring arrive, you can begin to increase your exercise routine, especially if you are Kapha by nature. Kapha types have an inherent tendency toward heaviness, and as a result need significant quantities of exercise. Because Kapha types have strong frames and joints, they can more easily withstand vigorous and extended exercise.

The transition of winter to spring is a good time to check in with an Ayurveda expert to see how your body has maintained balance over the winter. If there is an accumulation of toxins, this is the time to take measures to adjust your diet and purify the physiology in order to avoid spring allergies and other disorders. For more information, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site: www.theraj.com

Ayurveda Tips for Exercising in the Fall and Winter

nordic-skiingDuring the fall and early winter vata increases in our environment and within our own physiologies. Pacifying vata during this time is important for all body types because vata dosha can significantly affect both kapha and pitta doshas. Because one of the qualities of vata is movement, vata can move out of position, or out of balance, very quickly. Vata is usually the first dosha to become imbalanced. Vata imbalances are the most common causes of chronic disorders. If you are vata by nature or are prone to vata disturbances such insomnia, constipation, dry skin, and excess worry or anxiety, this is the season to be extra alert to activities, foods and other influences that increase vata.

Exercise is important and so is a winter exercise plan. Exercise affects bone density, muscle mass, aerobic capacity, strength and other key biomarkers of aging. According to the Charaka Samhita, the oldest, most complete and authoritative writing on Ayurveda, “From physical exercise, one gets lightness, a capacity for work, firmness, tolerance of difficulties, elimination of impurities, and stimulation of digestion.” It is important for all of us to stay active during the winter months.

Strenuous exercise, however, can increase the principle of vata in the body. While exercise such as jogging is generally fine for pitta and kapha types, vata types may suffer from the impact of such rigorous sports. A brisk walk is a better option. Cycling, cross-country or elliptical machines probably provide the best inside exercise. They give a good aerobic workout without harmful impact, and they work both the upper and lower body.

Combine cardio exercises with stretching exercises such as Yoga and Pilates, which are grounding and help develop strength and balance. Remember, qualities of vata include the words “irregular”, “moving”, “quick”, and “changeable”. Jumpy and erratic exercises, such as aerobic workouts, will increase these qualities in your physiology.

Avoid strain. Exercise should be joyful and make you feel energized. If you are feeling grumpy or tired after exercise, you need to ease up on the intensity.

The ideal time to exercise is after sunrise in the morning, when kapha dosha is lively.

If you do decide to exercise outside during the colder months, be sure to cover your head and ears and to stay protected from the wind and cold.

When you hydrate while exercising, always opt for warm or hot water. Carry a small thermos with you so that you do not have to drink cold water.

During this time of the year, healthy oils are your friends. Ghee, butter and olive oil help counter the drying effects of vata. Nuts are wonderful vata-pacifiers. Enjoy warm, heavy soups and stews. Avoid dry foods such as rice-cakes and cold cereals. Cooking oatmeal with apples and raisins is a wonderful and nourishing way to start the day.

The transitions from season to season put an extra strain on the body. This is the ideal time to visit an Ayurveda expert and get input regarding what your body needs to maintain balance and how best to address symptoms of imbalance.

The quality of vata which allows it to move easily out of position also allows it to move easily back into position. For this reason it is much better to address vata imbalances in their infancy, before they have gone on to influence pitta and kapha doshas—doshas whose imbalances are more difficult to correct.

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

www.theraj.com

 

 

 

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Are Night Owls Lazy Owls While Early Birds Stay in Shape?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAccording to a new study from the Academy of Sleep Medicine, night owls tend to be more sedentary and feel that they have a harder time maintaining an exercise schedule.

“We found that even among healthy, active individuals, sleep timing and circadian preference are related to activity patterns and attitudes toward physical activity,” said lead researcher Kelly Glazer Baron, associate professor of neurology and director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Feinberg School of Medicine.

“Waking up late and being an evening person were related to more time spent sitting (particularly on weekends) and with difficulty making time to exercise… Even among those who were able to exercise, waking up late made it perceived as more difficult.”

To anyone who knows about Ayurveda, this makes total sense. From an Ayurveda perspective, sleeping into the Kapha time of the day allows the heavy, slow, lethargic qualities of kapha to influence our mind/body system. Let’s examine the mechanics of this phenomenon.Alarm_Clocks_20101107a

According to Ayurveda there are three time periods in every twelve hours: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The Vata dominated period is from 2 until 6, the Kapha from 6 to 10, and the Pitta from 10 to 2. The cycle repeats itself in the next twelve hours, so that there are two Vata times, two Kapha times, and two Pitta times each day, one during the daytime and one during the nighttime.

Quickly reviewing the qualities of the doshas:

Vata dosha is a combination of air and space. Vata’s qualities are light, mobile, dry, cold, erratic and subtle.

The Pitta dosha is comprised of fire and water. Pitta’s qualities are hot, sharp, light, and intense.

The Kapha dosha is comprised of earth and water. Kapha is heavy, steady, dull, stable, soft, and static.

We know that the doshas exist not only within our bodies but throughout all the world around us. Our bodies experience increased balance and ease of functioning when we follow a daily routine that is in tune with the natural rhythms of the day.

To stay in sync with the cycles of nature, we should go to bed before 10:00 so that we take advantage of the slow, stable and heavy quality of Kapha time, which is ideal for falling asleep. Following the same reasoning, we want to rise before or near to 6:00 am, taking advantage of the light, energetic quality of Vata time. If we extend our sleep into Kapha time, we bring that heavy, dull quality of Kapha into our waking hours. Sleeping as late as 8:00 or 9:00 am can make us feel sluggish —and it makes sense that exercise would be perceived as uninviting.

As we discussed in last week’s blog, increasing the influence of Kapha, especially during the spring and summer, can lead to an accumulation of ama throughout the body. If you are find that you have gotten into bad habits in terms of bedtimes and rising times, and notice any increasingly sedentary habits, it’s time to take steps to reset your daily routine before serious imbalances develop.

For tips on resetting your sleep schedule, visit our February post, Time to Wake Up.

For information on consulting an Ayurveda expert or information on the balancing and detoxifying treatments of Ayurveda, visit The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center.

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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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The Ayurveda Approach to Healthy Exercise

couple-exercising-togetherSpring is the time to get up and get moving. Exercising in the proper manner can improve our resistance to disease and make us stronger and more vital. Improper exercise, however, can actually weaken our system.

As we have discussed previously, when the weather warms, the toxins that have been “frozen” in the physiology all winter begin to melt and enter the circulatory system. Exercise plays an important role in increasing circulation and thus helping to remove toxins (referred to in Ayurveda as “ama”). Since ama is a major factor in the breakdown of the disease-resistance of the body, exercise is a key activity for supporting the body’s natural internal cleansing processes.

Exercise also increases mind-body coordination. Disease and disorders occur when the body loses contact with the underlying intelligence responsible for its maintenance and repair. Exercise involves the coordinated activity of body and mind and is helps the physiology stay in lively contact with it’s underlying biological intelligence.

One important point to remember is that Ayurveda recommends exercising to 50% capacity. Fifty percent capacity is usually when strain begins to appear in the body — breathing through the nose is no longer easy, sweat begins to appear on the body and it becomes difficult to maintain proper form and focus during exercise. Going beyond 50% capacity stresses the body and demands energy to be diverted into repairing and rebalancing the effect of straining. This takes away from our efficiency in action in whatever sport we are participating in.

Exercise should energize the physiology, resulting in feelings of exhilaration and vitality. Exercise should not leave us feeling exhausted and needing extra rest.

Ideally one should be able to breath through the nose while exercising. The brain and physiology are balanced by breathing through the nose. If you find yourself having to breath through your mouth, slow you pace until nose breathing becomes possible again. Over time you will be able to extend you the degree of activity that you can take on while breathing through the nose more and more.

Dangers signs in exercise are feeling the heart pounding, panting, sweating heavily and any feeling of weakness or a “rubbery” sensation in the muscles. All these indicators turn on the “fight or flight” response and deplete the body’s reserves. When we exercise we want to strengthen the body, not to weaken it.

Next week we’ll look at the different exercises recommended different body types.

Learn more about the Ayurveda approach to health at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center:

http://theraj.com/ayurveda/ayurvedic-yoga.php

 

 

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Walking For Your Ayurvedic Body Type

According to Maharishi Ayurveda, walking is a healthy exercise for all body types.  In recent years researchers have found the old-fashioned stroll produces amazing results. It can lower your bad cholesterol, increase cardiovascular fitness and stop bone loss.

For maximum benefits, gear your walking to your body’s individual needs. Ideally one should stay within your body’s range of comfort. Listen to what your body tells you. If you feel any strain or discomfort, ease up and get back into your comfort zone.

Most experts today recommend 30 minutes of moderate-level physical activity  5 – 6  days of the week to see health benefits. Brisk walking is considered a type of moderate-level physical activity.

Ayurveda identifies ten body types, made up of different combinations of the three doshas, vata, pitta and kapha.

If you are a mentally active, vata type, be careful not to over-extend yourself.  A 15 – 20 minute walk is ideal. If you are trying to fit in 30 minutes of exercise a day, break it into two sessions so as not to aggravate your vata.

If you are a pitta type you will probably feel bored unless you can look at beautiful scenery along the way — or unless you feel a bit of a challenge. Pitta types need longer, more vigorous stretches of exercise. Try walking for 30 to 45 minutes at a fast pace, even doing race -walking if it is comfortable. But avoid exercising during the hotter hours of the day.

Kapha types need to find hilly terrain or try fast-paced aerobic walking for 45 – 60 minutes.

Both kapha and pitta types can increase aerobic activity by swinging their arms as they walk. But beware of carrying weights, as that can cause ligament damage. If you want to build up your arm muscles, check into weight training.

No matter what your body type, you can gain much more from your walk if you stretch before and after you walk. Yoga exercise or 5 minutes of Surya Namaskara can be beneficial for neuromuscular integration. The more prepared your body is, the more effective your walk will be. It helps to warm up your muscles before making demands on them and the cool-down increases flexibility.

Benefits of Walking

Regular moderate physical exercise has been shown to lower the risk of developing dementia.

Walking has been shown to reduce risks of heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, colon cancer and diabetes.

Walking is a weight-bearing exercise that helps to strengthen muscles and bones, thus decreasing your risk of developing osteoporosis and arthritis.

Walking may help protect against certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer.

Walking increases the number of calories your body uses, which helps to benefit weight loss .

Walking for 30 minutes three to five times per week for 12 weeks reduced symptoms of depression by 47% (as measured with a standard depression questionnaire).

Walking just three times a week for 30 minutes has been shown to significantly increase cardio-respiratory fitness.

A visit to an Ayurvedic expert in your area will help you to more precisely pinpoint your body type and current mind/body balance. To take a mind/body dosha quiz to find out your body type visit the website of The Raj Ayurveda Health Center.

www.theraj.com