Exercise to Uphold Health and Beauty

The winter-to-spring transition is a delicate time when it comes to physical activity. While exercise is beneficial in balancing the natural increase of Kapha, the Vata that has accumulated in our physiologies over the long, cold winter can make us prone to joint pain, back pain and muscle spasms. Therefore it is good to pay attention to what your body is telling you. Back off if you feel any twinges or pain. As you increase your exercise, think to balance Vata at the same time. Being regular with your morning oil massage and yoga exercises, and favor warm, nourishing foods that can help pacify Vata while you wake up your Kapha. A visit to an Ayurvedic expert is the ideal way to determine how much Vata has accumulated over the winter and what procedures are best to restore a healthy balance.

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That said, let’s look at the benefits of exercise. Exercise can help us look and feel better on almost every level.

  1. Improves digestion and prevents constipation: According to Ayurveda, poor digestion leads to an accumulation of ama, which is a contributing factor to most diseases and disorders. A study published by the Gastroenterological Society of Australia showed that exercise helps strengthen the walls of the abdomen and the intestinal muscles, allowing for the more efficient breakdown food by effectively moving it through your digestive tract. Even intermittent walking throughout the day can improve the functioning of your digestive tract.
  2. Helps beat anxiety, stress and depression: When we workout, our brain releases powerful, relaxing chemicals like seretonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. These hormones help relieve stress and anxiety. For this reason, exercise is often recommended to those with depression.
  3. Helps reverse aging. Reducing stress also means reducing the production of the stress-related hormone cortisol in the body. Cortisol has been shown to interfere with the production of collagen, the protein that helps keep our skin supple and elastic. Given that exercise boosts the production of collagen, it makes sense that walking, biking and other forms of physical activity can delay the onset of wrinkles and other signs of ageing.

Exercise also helps reverse the ageing process at the cellular level. According to a study conducted published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, exercise helped reverse cell damage due to oxidative stress

  1. Helps improve sleep: A study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine Reviews connected exercise with increased sleep hours. When we sleep our body produces a growth hormone that helps repair and rebuild body tissues.
  2. Gives us glowing skin. When you workout there is increased blood circulation in and around your face, giving your skin a healthy glow.
  3. Promotes healthy hair: Exercise helps increase blood flow to the scalp, keeping hair and its follicles healthy. It also helps circulate oxygenated blood to our hair, which makes it stronger.

If the end of winter brings with it poor sleep, increased joint and muscle pain, constipation, and other symptoms of Vata imbalance, you might want to consider Panchakarma or day spa treatments to help removed deep-seated Vata from the tissues. For more information on available treatments, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Rise and Shine!

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During springtime, when Kapha is becoming lively in our environment, getting up early becomes more important than ever. There is reason why early risers are said to be healthy, wealthy and wise. If you haven’t made the adjustment already, spring is the time to go to bed earlier and get in the habit waking up by 6:00 or 6:30.

  1. You’ll feel more energetic: The principles of Ayurveda recommend getting up an hour before sunrise to synchronize the body cycle with the rhythm of the sun. This time is called Bhrama Muhurta in Ayurveda and is believed to be an auspicious time where significant shifts in energy levels of the body take place. By getting up before the Kapha time of the day exerts its heavy influence (6:00 AM), you’ll feel more energetic throughout the day.
  2. You’ll have time to meditate and exercise If you wake up late your morning begins in a rush to get dressed and leave the house. Key activities that can support your quality of thought and activity through out the day, like mediation and exercise, get put aside. Waking up early in the morning gives you time to meditate, practice yoga and get some exercise, all activities proven to create a foundation of well-being.
  3. You’ll feel happier: While the energetic feeling after an early morning meditation and workout itself may be enough to keep you happy throughout the day, there is increasing evidence that early risers feel positive and more confident in their work, which results in long-term happiness. A study published in the journal “Emotion” noted that those who had their daily routine in sync with the sunrise and sunset pattern experiences more happiness than late risers.
  4. You’ll be more productive: The morning Vata period is one of the most productive times of the day. Your brain has rested well and neuronal connections and pathways have been re-charged during the night. Studies show you can think faster and have more focus during the morning hours. If you follow the rule of ‘early to bed, early to rise,’ you’ll find that much of your important work will get done in the first half of the day.
  5. You’ll get better sleep: Obviously, if you wake up early in the morning and begin your daily activities at an early hour, your body will be primed to go to bed earlier at night. According to Ayurveda, it is ideal to go to bed during the Kapha time of the day. This means closing the eyes before 10:00 PM. Evening Pitta time begins at 10:00 PM. The transformative qualities of Pitta should be used to repair the body from the wear and tear of the day’s activities. If you stay up late, you’ll find that Pitta ends up used for mental stimulation and /or late night snacking. Don’t rob your body of this important period of rejuvenation.
  6. You’ll feel happier: A study published in the Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences showed that people who stayed up late were three times more likely to experience depression as compared to those who went to bed early.

Factors That Affect Our Sleep:

Regular routine: One of the most important strategies for getting a good night’s sleep is getting in sync with our body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day makes us feel much more refreshed than getting the same number of hours but at different times.

Exposure to Light: Melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure, helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Our brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark—making us sleepy—and less when it’s light—making us more alert. This means that spending long days in an office, shielded from natural light, can impact our daytime wakefulness. And lights at night—energy-efficient LED lights and blue light from TV and computer screens—can tell body that it is time to wake up.

Exercise: Research shows that regular exercise leads to better sleep at night and increased alertness during the day. Regular exercise also improves the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea and increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep. Even light exercise—such as walking for just 10 minutes a day—helps to improve sleep quality. It is good to note that exercise is not a quick fix. It can take several months of regular activity before you experience the full sleep-promoting effects.

Eating habits: It’s especially important to watch what you put in your body in the hours leading up to your bedtime. Caffeine can cause sleep problems up to ten to twelve hours after drinking it. If you drink coffee or tea, try enjoying it only in the morning hours.

Eat a light evening meal: Ayurveda recommends a light evening meal. We want the transforming quality of Pitta in the evening to be used for self-repair and not for digestion. In addition, heavy, fatty foods take a lot of work to digest and may keep us up at night.

If you have long-term problems with insomnia and are unable to switch to an early morning routine, you may be suffering from deep-seated Vata and/or Pitta imbalances. Check with an Ayurveda expert experienced in pulse assessment to find out the specific imbalances that are keeping you from a good routine. They will be able to give you individualized recommendations to culture a more healthful sleep cycle. For more information, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

Making Sleep Count

According to Ayurveda, a large percentage of our health can be won or lost in how we live our day-to-day life. It is our patterns of eating, sleeping, exercise and what we do daily to rejuvenate ourselves that can determine whether we stay healthy throughout our lifetime.

Ayurveda recognizes the importance of our relationship with the universe around us: if we live in accord with the laws of nature that structure our environment, we can keep our mind/body system functioning efficiently with the least amount of wear and tear.

One key element in living in tune with our environment is when we go to bed and when we get up in the morning. There is a saying, “The day begins the night before.” Only by going to be early in the evening can the next day’s activity be fully in accord with the rhythms of nature.

When we are in bed by 10 P.M. we gain the deepest level of healing and rejuvenation from our sleep. This is because during the 4 hours before 10 P.M., kapha dosha is increasing in nature. This enlivens the qualities of heaviness and dullness in our mind and body and allows us to fall asleep more quickly and to experience deeper, less interrupted sleep.

sleeping_woman-at-a-hotelAfter 10 P.M., pitta dosha starts to become enlivened. Pitta is involved in metabolic cleaning. The body needs to be inactive at this time so that the physiology can focus its intelligence and energy on metabolic cleansing and rejuvenation. When we stay up past 10 P.M., many people experience a “second wind”. Instead of being directed internally, pitta creates an increase in energy, creativity and, too often, hunger. This accounts for the infamous scourge of midnight snacking. While many busy adults feel that they are grabbing valuable “me” time in the late hours of the night, they are, in fact, robbing themselves of a valuable opportunity to heal and rejuvenate. In the long run, night owls may find themselves with deep-seated imbalances and ill health.

Ayurveda recommends that one wake up before 6 A.M. Since it is ideal not to be startled awake by alarms, the best way to spontaneously get up early—and feel rested— is to go to bed early.

The period before 6 A.M. is the time when all of nature is waking up. At this time vata dosha is most lively in the environment. Starting the day during vata time means our mind will experience more of the qualities of balanced vata throughout the day— increased energy, clarity, intelligence and alertness.

The longer we sleep past 6 A.M. the more we are asleep while kapha is dominating the environment. If we sleep in until 7:30, for example, we are lying dull and dormant for 1 and 1/2 hours of kapha time and we will wake up imbibed with those same qualities.

This simple adjustment in routine can make a huge impact on our health. If you are in need of extra “me” time, better to go to bed on time and wake up an hour earlier in the morning.

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.

WWW.THERAJ.COM

 

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

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

Time to Wake Up!

sunrise-226699_640With the onset of the kapha time of the year (the cold, rainy, and damp days of late winter and early spring) it is important to get in the habit of rising early in the morning. During vata season (late fall through early winter) we can get away with sleeping into the kapha time of the day. Vata has been increasing in our mind/body system and a little kapha influence can be grounding. But when we move into kapha season, hitting the snooze button can create imbalances that could open the door to spring allergies and colds.

Most of us already know the basic  24-hour cycle of vata, pitta and kapha. Every day there are two cycles of change, one from 6.a.m. to 6.p.m. and the other from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.  Within each 12- hour cycle there are three 4-hour periods that are dominated by one of the three doshas; vata, pitta or kapha.

Cycle 1

6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. is kapha time

10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. is pitta time

2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. is vata time

Cycle 2

6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. is kapha time

10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. is pitta time

2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. is vata time

As kapha season progresses you’ll notice that the sun starts to rise earlier and earlier. That makes it important to go to bed earlier at night so that you are falling asleep in the drowsy, heavy time in the evening, before 10:00 p.m.

While the evening kapha cycle is perfect for heading to bed—and falling asleep—the morning kapha cycle is not a good time for sleeping in. If you sleep too long into this time period your mind/body system gets suffused with the dull, slow, heavy qualities of kapha. You’ll find that you feel dull and tired throughout the day. This habit also results in a build-up of impurities (ama), which predisposes you to allergies and congestion. This is influence is magnified during the cold, wet, kapha season.

On the other hand, if you wake up at 6:00 am (or before) you will feel more vata qualities (energy, vitality and alertness) throughout the day.

Begin by adjusting both your bedtime and rising time 15 minutes every week. If you are an extreme night owl, start with going to bed one half-hour earlier. Remember the adage, “the day begins the night before”.

Even if you miss your bedtime target, maintain your new rising time faithfully. Use an alarm clock if necessary.

Continue this plan until you get in the habit of rising at 6 or 6:30. After a few weeks of rising at this early hour you will start becoming attuned to the cycles of nature and may find yourself yawning and thinking fondly of heading to bed at the proper time (during the kapha cycle of the evening). When we can attune our physiologies to nature’s rhythms we will fall asleep more easily, rest more deeply, wake up feeling light and refreshed, and enjoy energy and well being throughout the day.

The classical texts of Ayurveda suggest that the transition from vata season to kapha season is the ideal time to visit an Ayurveda expert or to schedule Panchakarma (Ayurveda detoxification and rejuvenation treatments). For more information visit The Raj website:

http://theraj.com/rajoffers/details.php