Three Ayurveda Tips to Detox Environmental Toxins

images-2As we observed last week, whatever we take in through our five senses gets transformed into our own physiology—in essence, we metabolize our environment. Even if we buy only organic food and prepare it freshly each day, it is almost impossible to completely escape toxic exposure from plastics, pesticides and additives to our water and household products. The air we breathe, the rains that falls, often even the furniture we sit on, are all full of harmful chemicals.

Dangerous compounds like insecticides, PCB’s, heavy metals, benzene, dioxin, phthalates, pesticides, DDT metabolites, flame retardants, styrene, xylene and dichlorobenzene have routinely been found in blood and stool samples, not just in the US, but around the world.

Back in 2005, the American Red Cross took samples of fetal cord blood from 10 newborns and found a shocking 287 chemicals inside the samples, including dioxins, phthalates, pesticides, Teflon byproducts, mercury, lead, flame retardants, DDT (a pesticide that was banned in the us over 25 years ago, and many others.

This toxic burden has a high cost in terms of our health: these chemicals can lead to cancer, infertility, weight gain, severe inflammation, accelerated aging, liver damage, and more.

What can we do?

Yearly Panchakarma treatments

A study on the traditional Ayurveda detoxification treatments (Panchakarma) given at The Raj Ayurveda Health Center was published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine in its September/October 2002. It showed that a 5-day program greatly reduced the levels of 14 important lipophilic (fat-soluble) toxic and carcinogenic chemicals in the body, chemicals which would otherwise remain in the body for a very long time.

This study represents a great breakthrough, being the first ever to find significant reductions in these harmful toxins in a short period of time. Lipophilic toxicants can cause hormone disruption, immune system suppression, reproductive disorders, and several types of cancer. While other methods of detoxification can target water-soluble toxicants, no other method of detox offers a timely and viable solution to the removal of these pervasive, disease-causing chemicals.

Daily home oil massage with warm sesame oil or olive oil (depending on your body type) can help modify the build up of chemicals in the system.

Add Turmeric to Your Diet

Turmeric used predominantly in Indian cuisine, has dozens of health benefits, including acting as a powerful, all-natural anti-inflammatory agent. Your liver acts as a natural detoxifier. Turmeric can assist your liver’s enzymes in flushing out toxins from your body.

A poor functioning liver can make your feel lethargic as it is responsible for the elimination of drugs, pesticides, and environmental chemicals from your body.

In addition to helping you maintain a healthy functioning liver, research indicates curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric may help  inflammation. Turmeric has been shown to help relieve pain in those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and who have painful swelling in the knees. Many diseases, such as colon cancer and other types of cancer, are now being traced to inflammation.

Curcumin is fat-soluble. Taking the essential ingredients of turmeric in pill-form does not allow for the full absorbtion of turmeric’s healing properties. The best way to use turmeric is to use it in cooking. Once you heat oil and add turmeric to it, it becomes completely bio-available to you.

Eat Cruciferous Vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables contain a naturally occurring ingredient called 3,3′-Diindolylmethane or DIM for short. DIM is strongly anti-estrogenic, so it helps block xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are environmental toxins that mimic the effect of estrogen in cells, altering hormonal activity and creating estrogen dominant symptoms.

Xenoestrogens can lead to uterine fibroid tumors and fibrocystic breasts, glandular dysfunction, weight gain, inability to shed fat, hair loss and depression, lowered libido and impotency, to name just a few.

DIM not only wards of off bad estrogen, it also acts as an immunostimulant, naturally “boosting” your immune system —and research now indicates it had various potent cancer-fighting properties.GT0309_Grilled-Bok-Choy-Salad_s4x3

Make sure your daily diet includes broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, and cabbage, brussels sprouts, swiss chard, arugula, collard greens, bok choy, kale, or watercress.

DIM is also fat-soluble.  You can enhance the absorption of these health-promoting vegetables by eating them with olive oil, ghee or organic butter.

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

www.theraj.com

 

 

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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

 

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

Summer to Fall Transitions: Avoiding Rashes and Hay Fever With Ayurveda

Minnesota_Fall-GoodbyeThe transition from summer to fall reflects huge changes both in climactic and doshic influences, and can have a significant effect on your health. As the fall season begins, Pitta dosha, which has been accumulating over the summer months, gives way to a rise in Vata dosha. It is not uncommon at this time to see an upsurge of Pitta disorders, particularly skin disorders, allergies, eye problems and digestive disturbances. This is because the influence of Vata, which is moving and changeable by nature, is causing underlying accumulated imbalances to rise to the surface.

Hay fever, which is particularly common during the transition of summer to fall, is basically an imbalance in the immune system (a condition called immune hyperactivity.) It is also a natural mechanism through which the body purifies itself of accumulated impurities related to digestive (Pitta) imbalances.

Remember that the external summer heat causes a decrease in our internal digestive fire. This can give rise to an accumulation of impurities if we do not adjust our diet to accommodate our diminished capacity for digestion.

The transition from summer to fall is an ideal time to go through the classical detoxification and purification treatments of Ayurveda, known as Panchakarma. These therapies strengthen the physiology and remove accumulated impurities.

This is also a good time to avoid foods that are difficult to digest, such as cheese, nonvegetarian foods, processed foods and cold drinks and ice cream.

To pacify the rising influence of Vata, go to bed on time, wake with the rising sun, give yourself a daily oil massage, eat at regular times and be regular with your mediation practice.

For more information on Panchakarma treatments at The Raj, visit:
www.theraj.com

 

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Support Brain and Heart Health With Ayurveda

While most people now understand that cholesterol is not uniformly “bad”, not everyone knows that cholesterol, a fatty acid produced in the liver, is actually essential to many bodily functions. Without cholesterol the body could not build cell membranes or synthesize vitamin D, or hormones.

Western medicine teaches us that cholesterol is available in two forms: high-density cholesterol (HDL) (“good” cholesterol) and low-density cholesterol (LDL) (“bad” cholesterol).

LDL (Bad) Cholesterol

LDL cholesterol is considered the “bad” cholesterol because it contributes to plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries and make them less flexible.

HDL (Good) Cholesterol

HDL cholesterol is considered “good” cholesterol because it helps remove LDL cholesterol from the arteries. It is believed that HDL acts as a scavenger, carrying LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it is broken down and eliminated from the body.

From the Ayurveda perspective, cholesterol is only “bad” when it is out of balance. It is “good” when it is balanced, supporting and lubricating the body’s numerous circulatory channels, known as the shrotas. There are many kinds of shrotas. There are micro-shrotas, which carry nutrients to the cells and waste from the cells. There are larger shrotas, such as the arteries and veins, which carry blood to and from the heart. And there are delicate shrotas that lead to our brain.

For our physiology to be healthy and functioning well, all of these shrotas must be flexible and elastic. When in balance, cholesterol plays an important role in lubricating and maintaining our shrotas.

“Good” cholesterol becomes “bad” cholesterol when we have large amounts of ama in our system. Ama is the sticky waste product of poor digestion, absorption and metabolism. It accumulates as a toxin in the fat tissues. Ama thatis present for a very long time and is not cleansed from the system begins to spread throughout the body, and blocks the important channels of circulation, nourishment and detoxification.

For years, high levels of “good” cholesterol and low levels of “bad” cholesterol has been linked to a healthy heart. In December of 2013, a study was released linking high levels of “good” cholesterol and low levels of “bad” cholesterol to good brain health as well. It was established that high “bad” cholesterol levels were linked to brain deposits that cause Alzheimer’s. A healthy ratio of good vs. bad cholesterol was associated with lower levels of the plaque in the brain. An unhealthy ratio was associated with higher levels of plaque. The findings were independent of age or presence of specific a specific gene that has been linked to some forms of Alzheimer’s.

Natural Ways to Lower Cholesterol: Diet and Purification

Diet

To lower “bad” cholesterol Ayurveda recommends a two-pronged approach: Improve digestion and follow a Kapha-balancing diet to enhance fat metabolism.

A Kapha-pacifying diet favors bitter, astringent and pungent foods. Astringent foods include dried beans such as lentils, split mung dhal, and garbanzo beans. Astringent tastes also include many vegetables, such as the cruciferous family (brussels’ sprouts, food52_06-12-12-5121broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower) and fruits such as apples and pears. Bitter foods include greens such as spinach, chard, kale and mustard greens. The Kapha-pacifying grains include barely, quinoa, amaranth and oats (whole oats, not processed oats.) Avoid sweet tastes, including rice, wheat, pasta, breads, and sweet milk products. Avoid sour foods such as sour fruit (lemons), yogurt, cheese, tomatoes, vinegar, salad dressings, ketchup, mustard and pickles. Oddly enough, while it is recommended to avoid yogurt, digestive lassi, made of yogurt and water, turns out to be good for balancing cholesterol. Avoid sweet lassi and mango lassi and opt for the digestive lassi. Favor warm foods cooked with small amounts of ghee or olive oil.

Purification

Detoxification is a natural body process to reduce ama. Our natural ability to detox, however, can become compromised when our system becomes overloaded from stress, poor diet and environmental toxins. So what can we do to support the body’s natural process of detoxification? Panchakarma, the traditional purification treatments of Ayurveda, help remove ama from deep within the tissue beds. Cleansing and detoxifying the body also helps build up our natural digestive fire, which itself naturally burns ama from the body.

For more information on Panchakarma, the traditional purification and detoxification treatments of Ayurveda, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center:

www.theraj.com

 

 

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How the Health of Your Child May Be More in Your Control Than You Think

This week a news headline caught my eye: “Mother’s Diet Affects Silencing of Her Child’s Genes”. The research, conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, took place in Gambia and showed a clear link between a mother’s diet before she becomes pregnant and the life-long health of her child.

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I’m always excited when I see modern research that underscores knowledge promoted by Ayurveda. For over 20 years The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center has been offering a Pre-Conception Program. This program is recommended to begin eight-weeks before parents try to conceive a child. The program begins with Panchakarma, the traditional Ayurveda detoxification and purification treatments, to remove harmful toxins and promote balance in the physiology of the parents. The parents then follow a specific diet, lifestyle changes and herbal supplements recommended by an Ayurveda expert. By the time the child is conceived, an ideal environment has been created from which to create the child and in which to nurture its development.

To me the idea always seemed driven by common sense as much the data on levels of environmental toxins found in wombs and research on specific vitamins and nutrients that support fertility and child development. (See the blog post “Optimizing Fertility with Ayurveda“). But this new research took things to the level of “epigenetics”.

Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene activity that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence. Without altering the underlying DNA sequence, genes can actually be turned off. These epigenetic changes may last through cell divisions for the duration of the cell’s life, and may also last for multiple generations. The press release from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine explained, “While a child’s genes are inherited directly from their parents, how these genes are expressed is controlled through ‘epigenetic’ modifications to the DNA. One such modification involves tagging gene regions with chemical compounds called methyl groups, which results in silencing the genes. The addition of these compounds requires key nutrients including foliate, vitamins B2, B6 and B12, choline and methionine.”

This means that what we eat and how we live our lives can turn off or turn on the genes we are born with. And it can also turn off the genes that we pass on to our children.

One interesting outcome of the study was that what the mother ate before pregnancy was more important than what was eaten while carrying the child. Researcher Andrew Prentice, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “The key message is that a mother’s nutrition before she becomes pregnant is super-critical…There is a lot going on before the moment of conception.”

He also noted that pre-pregnancy diet has been linked to the chemistry of genes involved in obesity, cancer and the immune system and that these early days could shape a child’s chances of everything from developing diabetes in their 40s and 50s to having a heart attack in old age.

This study only focused on the diet of the mother, prior to conception. Ayurveda recommends that both the mother and the father attend to their diet and to the balance of their physiology before trying to conceive a child. Since 50% of the child’s DNA comes from the father, it seems obvious that that too plays an important role in determining the future health of a child.

For more information on the Pre-Conception Program at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa go to:

http://www.theraj.com

 

 

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Ayurveda Tips for Prostate Health

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Prostate cancer is now the most common cancer among American men. Although the specific cause of prostate cancer is unknown, there is growing evidence of the link between prostate cancer and environmental chemicals.

Recently the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit, non-partisan environmental health research and advocacy organization, named four high-risk substances to watch out for. After we look at these chemicals and how they can be avoided or minimized, we’ll also look at some Ayurveda tips for prostate health.

1. Cadmium in tobacco

People who smoke have twice as much cadmium exposure as those who do not. Studies have associated cadmium with an increased risk of prostate cancer in human epidemiological studies. This adds one more reason to the already extensive list (preventing lung cancer, respiratory and heart disease) of reasons to stop smoking.

2. Pesticides

Studies show that farmers who mix and apply pesticides on their crops have a much higher risk of developing prostate cancer. These same pesticides are also prevalent in our food supply, unless you buy organic food. If your budget makes it difficult to buy organic, at least consider going organic for the 12 fruits and vegetables called “the dirty dozen”. These foods are commonly contaminated with pesticides exceptionally toxic to the nervous system.

The dirty dozen are: apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, chili peppers, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, sweet bell peppers, kale and collard greens, and zucchini and summer squash.

3.PCBs (often found in animal fat)

Even though polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) were banned more than 30 years ago, these industrial chemicals are pervasive in our environment and show up in the blood of most individuals. They have been linked to a number of health concerns, including prostate cancer risk, lower cognitive performance, depression and fatigue.

Since PCBs typically accumulate in animal fatty tissues, especially in fish, choose leaner meats and low-fat or fat-free dairy products.

PCBs build up in our fat tissues and remain there until they naturally decay (which may take up to 20 years). While modern science offers no means of removing PCBs, published studies have shown that Panchakarma, the traditional Ayurveda detoxification treatments, can actually reduce blood levels of PCBs by 50% in just 5 days.

4. Bisphenol A (BPA)

BPA is a chemical found in plastic. According to the EWG, a number of animal studies have shown that even at low exposures, BPA can cause DNA damage and development of precancerous lesions in rats. One study has also shown DNA damage in humans.

Use glass kitchenware instead of plastic. Reuse old glass bottles and glass jars for storing food. If you use plastic containers, buy BPA-free and avoid those with recycling code #7, which may contain BPA.

While it was once thought that BPA cleared the body quickly and completely, new studies show that, like PCBs, BPA may build up in our fat tissues, releasing slowly into the body over time. This is leading to a serious reevaluation of the risk of exposure to BPA.

Ayurvedic Tips for Prostate Health

In addition to scheduling regular Panchakarma treatments to remove fat-soluble toxins that build up in fat tissues, there are a number of Ayurveda recommendations for prostate health.

1. Reduce your intake of animal fat. Choose fresh, organic foods and make sure you get lots of fruits and vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts are anti-androgen and have been proven to fight the production of cancerous cells in the prostate. Asparagus is recommended because it helps support balanced hormones.

2. Be sure that turmeric is included in your daily diet as the presence of curcumin (contained in turmeric) has been proved to arrest the spread of cancerous cells in the prostate. Spices like turmeric, cumin and fennel help purify the body of toxins that can build up and lead to imbalances or infection.

3. Quinoa is an ideal grain because it is rich in zinc. Maintaining proper levels of zinc in the seminal fluid contributes to maintaining a healthy prostate. Zinc is stored in the prostate gland.

4. Get regular exercise and avoid being sedentary for long periods of time. A sedentary lifestyle is thought to be a risk factor of aggressive prostate cancer.

If you are worried about your prostate, talk to an Ayurveda expert who can give individualized recommendations for herbs and dietary and lifestyle changes that would best support your balanced health. You should also have your prostate checked regularly by your regular doctor.

Learn more about the traditional Ayurveda purification and detoxification treatments, Panchakarma at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa and Treatment Center:

www.theraj.com

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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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.

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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

Avoid Allergies and Colds with an Ayurvedic Spring Cleanse

dandelion-111015_640Our bodies are more susceptible to health problems when the seasons are changing because our body functions differently in each season. For example, our agni (or digestive fire) can fluctuate dramatically during the change from hot to cold or cold to hot. Poor digestion can lead to a build up of ama (or toxins) in the body.

This is why respiratory illnesses and allergies are so prevalent in the autumn and early spring. We see this especially in the early spring. As the weather starts to warm up the ama accumulated during the winter starts to melt from our tissues, flooding the tiny channels of circulation (shrotas) and taxing our immune system. Unless our body’s immune system is strong we can become susceptible to bacteria and allergens.

On top of this flood of toxins, the body at this time also has to deal with an accumulation of mucus.  From mid-february to May is the kapha time of the year. During this time wet, heavy, and cold properties begin to dominate the body. The body is responding to the long build-up of vata (from the cold, dry, windy conditions of late fall and early winter) by producing mucus to counter vata’s drying influence.

As the weather switches from cold to warmer termperatures the mucus in the body begins to liquefy. The sticky liquid can cause congestion in the mucus membranes that line our respiratory and digestive tracts, contributing to allergies and sinus conditions.

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

Spring is nature’s natural detoxification season as the progression of the cold of winter to the warmth of spring triggers a natural process of releasing the winter’s accumulation of fats and toxins. Because our body is already engaged in flushing out toxins and lubricating the channels, going through Ayurveda detoxification treatments at this time provides a boost to the process, allowing for a more thorough and efficient removal of these unhealthy substances.

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

Enjoying Panchakarma as an in-residence guest allows the body to get a profound rest. Pluses of an in-residence stay include not having to travel to and from a clinic every day, being protected from weather conditions, and, best of all, complete ease in following a prescribed daily routine and diet, allowing you make the most of the rejuvenation experience. If you don’t have the opportunity for a residential stay, however, day treatments are highly recommended.

Tips for Kapha Season

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

1. Sip hot water throughout the day

2. Eat more leafy greens. Favor the kapha-pacifying tastes of bitter, astringent and pungent.

3. Favor organic, fresh foods. Avoid processed foods, cold dairy products, fried and high-fat foods. Remember, light, warm foods counter the cold, heavy qualities of kapha.

4. Put a little zip in your food: spices like ginger, chili, cloves, and pepper help counter the cold quality of kapha.

5. Do not sleep later than 6:00 in the morning. Sleeping into the kapha time of the day can increase kapha qualities in body and mind.

For more information on Panchakarma treatments, visit The Raj web site @

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

(Photo of Dandelion. Source: Pixabay. The image is used under the terms of Creative Commons: http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en . This photograph and credit do not constitute an endorsement of this blog or products mentioned.)