Early to Bed — for a Healthy Mind and Body

If you struggle to fall asleep at night, you are not alone. As many as 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia — and that number is growing every year.

According to Ayurveda, insomnia is most commonly caused by a disturbance in Vata dosha. Vata dosha is the principle concerned with movement in the body. When Vata is out of balance, your mind can be racing and your body can be so keyed up at bedtime that you are not able to fall asleep.

People with Vata disorders tend to keep irregular habits, including eating at different times of the day and going to bed at all hours — habits that can cause Vata dosha to become even more imbalanced.

Being out of tune with nature’s daily rhythms may actually be causing insomnia in millions around the world. With the invention of the electric light bulb, it suddenly became possible for many activities to take place after sunset. To re-attune yourself with nature’s rhythms, try going to bed at the same time every night, preferably with a bedtime of 10:00 or earlier.

According to Ayurveda, the many rhythms and cycles of the cosmos (such as the circadian rhythm, caused by the earth rotating on its axis every 24 hours, or the seasonal cycle of the earth revolving around the sun) have a counterpart in the human body.

Modern science is beginning to study this phenomenon. Research shows that many neurological and endocrine functions follow the 24-hour cycle. Our sleep-wakefulness cycle is one of those circadian rhythms. Science now knows that many of the hormones your body needs to repair itself are released while you sleep. Science tells us that between 10 p.m. – 2 a.m. the deepest and most regenerative sleep occurs. Remember that time: you’ll hear about it later.

Ayurveda has identified three “master cycles” that occur in your mind/body system — and in nature around us. You experience them in terms of the three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

Kapha cycle in the evening takes place from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., after work is finished and the sun is setting. You naturally feel more relaxed and drowsy at this time, since your body is preparing to sleep. This is the influence of Kapha dosha, which by nature is slow and heavy.

If you go to bed during this Kapha cycle, before 10:00 p.m., sleep will come more easily and will have more of the slow, stable quality of Kapha dosha.

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Modern research concurs that sleep gets lighter and lighter as dawn approaches. Our deepest slumber (called NREM sleep) occurs within 20 minutes of falling asleep and gets interrupted around 90 minutes later by a five-to-ten minute round of REM-type sleep. For the rest of the night, you alternate between the two types of sleep in 90-minute cycles, with your NREM sleep getting shorter and less deep and the lighter REM cycles getting longer.

Because so many people suffer from an aggravation of Vata, it can be difficult to stop activity and head to bed early. If you go to bed after 10:00 p.m., you are going to bed during the Pitta cycle, between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.  Pitta is the principle that governs transformations. At noon, when we are also in a Pitta cycle, the increased principle of transformation helps us to digest our lunch (which Ayurveda recommends should be our biggest meal of the day). In the evening the transformative properties of Pitta are meant be used to help repair the body while we sleep, so that we awake refreshed and renewed. If we are awake during this time, many experience a spurt of intellectual activity and find that this is the “perfect” time to catch up on work or personal projects. This is a misuse of the Pitta cycle and we are robbing our body of its chance to repair and restore itself. Once the mind becomes active during the Pitta cycle, it is difficult to turn off thoughts. Combined with a Vata imbalance, which can “fan the fires” of Pitta, you could easily find yourself up until the wee hours of the morning — and enjoying a midnight snack to boot.

What happens when we rob ourselves of our nightly self-repair? Science is finding a wide range of negative effects, from being more susceptible to colds and infections to increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s. Deep sleep apparently allows us to deep clean plaque from the brain.

While there are many other aspects of insomnia to consider, the first step anyone who is serious about conquering insomnia should consider is to create a regular schedule which includes being in bed before 10:00 at night.

A visit to an Ayurvedic expert will help you to more precisely pinpoint which imbalances are keeping you from a good night’s sleep.  They can prescribe diet, supplements and lifestyle changes that will support your efforts.

For more information on programs for insomnia, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

http://theraj.com

Ayurveda and Colds: How to Avoid Them and What to Do When You Have One?

Our bodies are more susceptible to health problems when the seasons are changing because our body functions differently in each season. When it is hot outside, our agni (or digestive fire) automatically decreases. Thus during the summer months our digestive capacity is diminished. Once the outside temperatures begin to fall, our internal fires naturally start to build and our desire to eat increases. Unfortunately the transition from one season to the next rarely proceeds systematically. Instead we deal with day-to-day temperatures that can fluctuate dramatically. Going from hot to cold to hot to cold, it is easy for our digestive system to become compromised. Too often as we enter the fall season, our desire to eat heavier foods collides with an inability to digest them. When the food we eat is not fully digested, what should be a clear extraction supplying the organs and tissues with high quality nutrition becomes instead a toxic substance that clogs the channels and tissues. Ayurveda refers to this toxin as ama. The accumulation of ama can compromise our immune system and make us more susceptible to colds and flu.

Signs of Ama Accumulation:

  1. A thick coating on the tongue when you wake up in the morning
  2. Constipation and/or digestive issues like gastritis
  3. Bad breath
  4. Feeling of heaviness or fatigue when you wake up
  5. Chronic sinus issues, allergies, chronic colds or bronchitis

One of first organ systems to be affected by ama accumulation is the respiratory system. This build up creates the conditions favorable to phlegm and mucus in the lungs and sinuses. A build up of Kapha can lead to sneezing, cough, and runny nose. According to Ayurveda, the common cold results largely from an imbalance of the Kapha and Vata. Kapha, we have seen, is responsible for the respiratory system and lungs, while Vata is responsible for immune system.

This is why people who are Kapha dominant, and/or in an unbalanced state due to diet or lifestyle errors, are more prone to colds and sinus infections. (Conversely, when Kaphas are healthy and balanced, they can have the strongest immune system. It’s a question of balance.)

Increasing Immunity

Although, technically colds are caused by the rhino virus, we all know people who never catch a cold and others who always do. The ability to withstand exposure to a virus is a function of your immune system. B balancing Kapha and Vata and reducing ama is vital if we want to avoid colds.

Ayurvedic Guidelines to Prevent Colds

  1. Stay Warm: Dress in layers so that you can be prepared for the fluctuations of heat and cold between inside temperatures and outside. Be sure to cover your head and ears when you go outside. The ears are one of the main seats of Vata. Drink warm liquids throughout the day.
  2. Sip hot water throughout the day. This will help the body flush out ama, pacify Vata and help hydrate your mucus membranes.
  3. Warm Foods: Follow the general Ayurvedic advice to drink liquids at room temp or warm/hot. If you drink milk, first bring it to a boil and cook with ginger root, cardamom, or clove in order to balance milk’s natural Kapha quality.
  4. Avoid cold food, avoid most dairy and other sweet, Kapha-promoting foods. Yogurt in the form of lassi is okay at noon, but not at night.
  5. Fruit: Stick to apples, pears and other seasonal or dried fruits like dates. Stewed fruits are excellent at this time of the year. (Or any time of the year!) Again, try adding spices like ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Avoid bananas, as they are quite cooling.
  6. Vegetables: Avoid cold veggies like carrots, cucumber, raw tomato, and salads—these are foods that can dampen Agni, our digestive fire. Favor warming veggies like baked hard squash, and green leafy veggies, lightly cooked.
  7. Soups: Soups are an ideal choice at this time of year. Soups are easy to digest and moisten and lubricate the mucosa in the nose and throat, making it harder for rhinoviruses to penetrate. Throw in lots of warming spices.
  8. Spices: Keep your insides warm with thermogenic spices — cumin is an excellent burner of ama. So are ginger, black pepper, coriander, oregano, thyme, sage, fenugreek, and fennel. If you drink milk, drink it hot simmered with ginger, cardamom, clove, and cinnamon. Turmeric is an excellent spice that builds immunity and reduces ama. So is fresh ginger. Used together, these spices can help combat the heaviness of a rich meal.

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What To Do If You Get a Cold?

  1. Drink ginger tea. It acts as a decongestant and helps stimulate digestion. Ginger can reduce excess Kapha and stimulate circulation, making it an excellent medicine for colds and flus.
  2. Try drinking warm water with fresh squeezed lemon and honey to sooth a sore throat and help with coughing. (Remember, never bake with honey or put honey into water that is too hot to sip.)
  3. Gargle with salt water. Gargling loosens excess mucus and removes bacteria and fungi from the throat. The Mayo Clinic confirms that gargling with salt water can provide temporary relief for sore, itchy throats.
  4. Breath in eucalyptus drops. Bring a pot of water to a boil and remove from its heat source. Take a towel and create a tent over the pot. Put in a drop or two of eucalyptus oil and breath deeply.
  5. Use oil, inside and out! To counterbalance the dryness of Vata give yourself a warm oil massage every morning before your bath or shower. Include a small quality of healthy oils like olive oil or ghee at every meal. Flaxseed oil is high in Omega-3 fatty acidsThe delicate nature of seasonal transitions is exactly the reason that Ayurveda recommends the purification treatments of Ayurveda (Panchakarma or PK) to be taken at the beginning of each season. Panchakarma taken at the end of summer, for example, helps release summer heat, irritation and inflammation. Getting rid of any accumulated ama also helps insure protection against colds, congestions, respitory infectcions and the flu.

For more information on increasing your immune system and removing ama, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site:

http://www.theraj.com

Can Ayurveda Help Prevent Colds and Flu?

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The Ayurveda approach to protecting oneself from colds and flus involves boosting the overall immune system of the body. One of the key approaches is through Panchakarma, the traditional purification therapies of Ayurveda. Panchakarma effectively eliminates toxins from the body and is recommended both for healthy individuals as well as for those showing symptoms of various disorders.

According to Ayurveda, our physiology is made up of doshas (functional elements), dhatus (structural elements) and malas (waste products). The three doshas are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. These three doshas are responsible for specific functions in our body and their balance is foundational to our health — whereas a loss of balance is known to contribute to disease and disorders.

Panchakarma procedures help to bring these doshas back to their natural balance, thus restoring health and vitality.

Three Stages of Panchakarma:

Stage one: During the first phase of Panchakarma, the body and the internal system is prepared for the elimination of toxins. This process is marked by 1) oliation, which means purifying the body by administering various oils both internally and externally; and 2) sudation, which means preparing the sweat glands to expel the toxins through sweat.

Oliation begins a week before your treatment program with a home routine created specifically to support your individual doshic balance and state of health. Most people follow a low-fat diet during this time, while ingesting varying amounts of ghee and/or herbs.

Throughout your Panchakarma program, you will enjoy a variety of both oil massages and heat treatments. The massages help move the cellular toxins from the tissues and joints and into the intestine. Heat treatments allow the oils to penetrate deeply into the tissues and also encourage the body to sweat out toxins through the skin.

Stage two; Stage two involves the elimination process. Most people who undergo Panchakarma are prescribed “basti” treatments. Basti is an Ayurvedic treatment in which medicated oils and herbal preparations are introduced as an enema in order to flush toxins from the intestinal tract. Bastis offer more healing benefits than simply evacuating the colon. The medicinal effects of herbs given in this manner are able to penetrate the deeper tissues of the physiology, including the bones.

Stage three: Removing toxins is not a magic solution that will keep you healthy for life. During your stay at The Raj, you will be given recommendations for changes in diet and lifestyle that will help maintain balance and support a healthy immune system. Understanding the Ayurvedic principles of daily routine and diet according to the seasons and your doshic balance, and understanding how to maintain a strong digestion are all key to keeping your mind/body system at its strongest.

Over the years we have seen guests arrive at The Raj with numerous concerns ranging from high blood pressure to diabetes, MS, migraines, asthma, arthritis and more. And over and over again, we receive letters weeks after their departure telling us how their symptoms have improved. Did Panchakarma “cure” these disorders? Not at all. What Panchakarma did was to remove toxins and imbalances that were blocking in ability of the body to do what it does best: create health. If you support your immune system, your immune system will support you.

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

www.theraj.com