Ayurveda is About Choice

The most important contribution to that anyone can make to their overall state of health is their every day lifestyle. Every day we have a choice in our diet and our routine. These choices ultimately create our body, our mind, and our consciousness. The more we understand these choices, the more we support our continued health and happiness.

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Choosing the optimal Ayurvedic diet and routine begins with understanding not only your underlying body “type” but also your current state of balance and imbalance. For instance, given the fast pace of our modern lives, even those with a predominately Kapha constitution may find themselves with a Vata imbalance. To simply choose foods and activities that reduce Kapha would end up exacerbating that imbalance. If you do not have an Ayurvedic expert in your area to help you determine your current state of balance, you can base your choices on an understanding of the basics of the Ayurveda daily routine that apply to everyone, no matter what your body type.

Foundational to following an ideal daily routine is understanding which dosha predominates at the different hours of the day. There are two cycles, in the morning and in the evening:

From 6:00 to 10:00, both morning and evening, Kapha predominates

From 10:00 to 2:00, both morning and evening, Pitta predominates

From 2:00 to 6:00, both morning and evening, Vata predominates.

Ideal Times for Sleeping

There is a saying, “The day starts the night before”. Only by going to bed early can the next day’s activity be fully supported. By going to bed during Kapha time, (before 10:00 P.M. when the evening Pitta period begins), we take advantage of Nature’s natural cycle of healing and rejuvenation. The qualities of Kapha, (heaviness and dullness), allows us to get to sleep most quickly, and to have the deepest, least interrupted sleep.

The Pitta that begins to dominate at 10:00 PM is meant to be directed towards metabolic cleansing. The body needs to be inactive at this time so that it can focus its intelligence and energy on restoring and rejuvenating the body. If we are up and active during this time, we may enjoy an effective spurt of energy but we cheat our bodies on much needed self-repair. Over time this can take a serious toll on our physical and mental health.

Going to bed on time allows us to easily rise at the proper time, before 6:00 A.M. The period before 6 AM is the time when all of Nature is waking up, and a time when Vata is enlivened in the environment. If we start our day in Vata time, our mind will experience more of the qualities of balanced Vata throughout the day: increased energy, clarity, intelligence and alertness.

If we sleep past 6 AM, we sleep into the Kapha time of the day. When a person sleeps until 7:30 AM they have been lying dull and dormant for one and a half hours in Kapha time and they wake experiencing the qualities of Kapha: dullness, heaviness and lethargy.

Understanding and following the ideal times for eating and sleeping means harmonizing our behavior with the rhythms and cycles of the body and the cycles of nature. This is the key to living a health-promoting life. If we live a lifestyle that disrupts our natural biological rhythms, we are sabotaging our own health, breaking down the resistance of the body and contributing to the creation of disease.

Ideal Times for Eating

Breakfast

Digestion is not strong when we first awake, so breakfast should not be a heavy meal. Cooked apples and pears are a perfect way to begin the day. It is best to avoid cheeses, meats and other heavy, hard-to digest foods at breakfast.

Lunch

In the middle of the day the transformational element in nature is at its peak. This activates that same principle, Pitta, in our own bodies. Pitta is responsible for our digestion and metabolism.

For this reason we should eat our largest meal at noon. The ideal time for lunch is between 12:30 and 1:00, as this is the period of highest Pitta and greatest digestive power. Lunch should be a warm, cooked meal, with all six tastes. Take at least 30 minutes, eat in a relaxed setting, and then sit comfortably for 10 to 15 minutes after you finish.

Dinner

In the evening, digestion is less strong. In a few hours we should be sleeping, which further slows the digestive and metabolic processes. Therefore dinner should be a lighter meal. Heavy foods like cheese, ice cream and meat are best avoided at this meal.

It is better to eat earlier in the evening than later. The later you eat, the less food you should consume and the lighter the food should be.

If we have been living a life that is out of tune with nature’s laws, it is never too late to make healthy changes. A consultation with an Ayurvedic expert can pinpoint imbalances that have built up in the physiology, and provide specific recommendations for restoring a healthy balance. The traditional purification and detoxification treatments of Ayurveda, known as Panchakarma treatments, can remove accumulated imbalances and blockages from deep within the tissues.. These treatments offer a giant step forward as a technology to maintain and create a deep level of health.

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

www.theraj.com

Pepper and Turmeric: Enhancing Heart and Brain Health with Ayurvedic Spices

“Bioenhancer” is a term that has become very important to drug and food supplement companies. Bioenhancers are substances that increase the “bioavailability and bioefficacy” of other substances. What is “bioavailablity”? In terms of both pharmicudical and herbal supplements, it means the quantity or fraction of an ingested dose that is actually absorbed by the body. Because of either differing digestive capabilities or because of our body’s cellular membranes that block foreign particles, much of what we take in orally is actually not absorbed by our body. While we can see why this is of concern to drug companies, this concern should extend to our every day life and our ability to extract vital nutrients from our food.

Peririne was the first bioenhancer to be discovered by modern science. It is found naturally  in pepper. Peririne, along with cucumine (found in turmeric), and gingerols (found in ginger) are now being isolated and sold by numerous pharmacutical companies in order to improve the bioefficacy of their products.

This “new” science is in fact age-old wisdom offered by Ayurveda, the 5000 year old health science of India. Spicing has always been a key part of both Ayurvedic cooking and Ayurveda health recommendations. Not only do spices make our meals taste delicious, they help our bodies stay balanced and healthy. Spices help us better absorb nutrients in our food. They have been found to be antioxidants, prevent cancer, lower cholesterol and blood sugar, improve memory, flush out toxins, and enhance digestion During consultations at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa, spices are normally a part of the individualized recommendations given to help restore balanced health.

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Let’s look at these “new” bioenhancers:

Pepper Helps Feed Your Brain

Perinine is found in cracked black pepper. Perinine has been found to help carry nutrition across the blood brain barrier. The blood brain barrier is a layer of tightly packed cells that make up the walls of brain capillaries and prevent substances in the blood from entering the brain. This protects the brain from “foreign substances”, helps maintain a constant environment for the brain and protects the brain from hormones and neurotransmitters in the rest of the body.

Because our brain is made up of almost 60% fat, it needs high quality fats to keep the lining of the brain cells flexible so that memory and other brain messages can easily pass between cells. Getting fat to cross the blood brain barrier can be a challenge. If we are using healthy oils in our diet, adding freshly ground pepper helps us make the most of oils and other nutrients. Bioenhancers increase the absorption of oils and nutrients for our body, as well as our brain, supporting cell growth, protecting our organs and helping manufacture hormones in our body.

Perinine also helps strengthens the functioning of the heart and kidneys. It effective against colon cancer and inflammation and generally enhances immunity. Pepper it is very stimulating to the digestive system. It is also inherently heating and should be used cautiously by those with a Pitta imbalance.

Pepper is most efficient when it is fresh. A pepper grinder and organic pepper corns will allow you to get the most out of this important spice.

Turmeric

Cucumin is found in turmeric, the spice that gives curry its yellow color. Ayurveda considers turmeric a medicinal herb as well as a cooking spice.

Curcumin is said to have powerful anti-oxidizing effects. Because of its chemical structure, curcumin can neutralize free radicals. In addition, it supports and boosts the body’s own antioxidant enzymes. Curcumin, however, is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. To get the most out of turmeric it is recommended that you add freshly ground black pepper to your spice mixture. The piperine in black pepper has been shown to enhance the absorption of curcumin by 2000%.

Curcumin is also anti-inflammatory. Because inflammation and oxidative damage are contributors to many diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, arthritis and various cancers, turmeric is gaining world wide interest in the world of science. It has been noted that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s and certain cancers in India is among the world’s lowest. Turmeric has been shown to have an effect in blocking the growth skin cancer, and inhibiting the spread of breast cancer into the lungs.

Curcumin has recently been shown to strengthen and order cell membranes, making cells more resistant to infection and malignancy. There is new evidence that curcumin can help keep away neurogenerative disease through its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier and act as an antioxidant.

Ginger

Ginger is another spice that Ayurveda recommends for its medicinal properties. The active ingredient in ginger is gingerol, a compound that is thought to relax blood vessels, stimulate blood flow and relieve pain. Traditionally ginger has been used as a remedy for poor circulation, colds, flue, arthritis, heart disease, and poor digestion, as well as nausea and motion sickness. Gingerol is a is also potent anti-inflammatory agent, which means it may be useful in fighting heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and arthritis. Antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anticancer activity have also been reported. Gingerol has been reported to not only reduce pain levels in individuals suffering from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, but also to improve mobility.

Ginger is also heating by nature. If you have Pitta imbalances such as ulcers or heartburn, check first with an Ayurveda expert to see how best to use ginger in cooking.

Purchasing Spices

Turmeric, black pepper and ginger are all sold in the supermarkets in a ground form. While the pre-packaged, ground forms of black pepper and ginger may add flavor to your food, they are mostly deficient in their health benefits.

Ideally black pepper and ginger should be bought in their whole form and then ground or chopped at the time of cooking. To purchase high quality herbs, visit a local organic grocery or spice shop, or order them from a spice retailer online. Always use organic herbs that have their full range of nutrients and are not irradiated or sprayed with pesticide.

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Improve Immunity and Vitality with Ojas—Your Body’s Secret Weapon Against Disease

Last week we discussed how Ayurveda considers good digestion to be central to maintaining health and vitality. We also discussed how poor digestion could lead to a build-up of toxins (called ama) throughout the body.

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Today I want to touch on another product of digestion: ama’s opposite: ojas. When our digestion is strong and is capable of thoroughly digesting the food that we eat, a state of balance is created in our entire mind/body system. As digestion improves it creates more of a subtle substance called ojas.

Ojas is the finest product of digestion and brings a healthy glow to the skin. It nourishes the experience of bliss in the mind and body. According to the original texts of Ayurveda, the Charaka Samhita, when the quality of ojas diminishes too much, life itself is threatened. The more ojas we have in our body, the more our health, immunity from disease and sense of well-being increase.

Ojas is also said to stand as the “lamp at the door” between consciousness and matter, connecting them and thus assuring that the sequence of intelligence is expressed properly in the body. Ojas is said to be the most important biochemical substance mediating the influence of consciousness on the body.

All Ayurvedic treatments and recommendations are designed to increase the abundance of ojas and to avoid reducing ojas. both aspects are considered central to restoring health and preventing illness. Foundational for increasing ojas is good digestion and balanced diet.

WHAT INCREASES OJAS, BESIDES GOOD DIGESTION?

Food

There are some foods that directly increase ojas, while others decrease it.Foods that increase ojas (providing that you are properly digesting them) are milk, ghee, and rice.

Food should be fresh and organic.

Preparation and eating of food

Food taken in an atmosphere of warmth, upliftment and congeniality increases ojas.

Behavior

Positivity in feelings, speech and behavior are said to increase ojas. Love, joy, and appreciation produce more ojas and, therefore, better immunity. This ties in well with the current findings in mind/body medicine and may provide a way of understanding such findings.

Panchakarma

Ayurvedic purification therapies remove impurities from the channels of circulation in the body. This is said to improve the cells’ ability to take up and receive ojas, thus helping rejuvenation the body.

WHAT DECREASES OJAS?

Negative emotions

Stress, hurrying, and excessive exercise

Staying up too late

Overexposure to wind and sun

Injury or trauma to the body

Alcoholic beverages

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

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Winter Skin Care: Ayurveda Tips for a Glowing Complexion

This week we are reposting one of our most-read posts… 

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If you are familiar with Ayurveda, you are familiar with the concept that everything in life — including our bodies, the food that we eat, and the environment around us — is composed of the three “doshas”; Vata, Pitta and Kapha.  These qualities, or principles of nature, each have their own fundamental traits. Vata, the principle of movement, is the ruling dosha for the late fall and winter seasons. These months are marked by the same qualities that characterize Vata: coldness, dryness, lightness, and movement.

During the winter many notice a tendency toward dryness, constipation, anxiety and insomnia — all Vata imbalances that can take their toll on our skin.  Luckily, through the understanding of Ayurvedic principles, we can take steps to pacify Vata and keep our skin balanced and glowing throughout the winter months.

Washing the Face

At any time of the year it is important to be gentle when washing the face, as it is easy to aggravate vata, which can promote dryness and wrinkles. Favor body-temperature water over hot water. Avoid using soaps with chemical additives. For most skin types, sweet almond oil is a good lubricant to use after washing to help protect the skin. Sweet almond oil is also healthy way to remove make-up before washing. A luxurious option for keeping skin lubricated in the winter is to bathe the face with milk. Whole, organic milk is ideal. The tiny, nutritious molecules of milk can be easily be absorbed by our skin without clogging the pores. Heat the milk to body temperature (not too hot) before applying.

Ten Vata-Reducing Tips to Promote Glowing Skin

  1. Drink plenty of warm, pure water throughout the day to both purify the body and stay well hydrated.
  2. Ideally, enjoy organic, freshly cooked meals, using healthy oils such as olive oil and ghee. Remember, you want to counter the influence of Vata, which is characterized as light, dry and cold. Healthy oils in winter are our friends.
  3. Eat your main meal at noon.
  4. Avoid packaged, frozen, canned and processed foods, which are difficult to digest and often include harmful additives.
  5. Favor Vata-pacifying foods such as avocados, pumpkins, carrots, beets, asparagus, bananas, lemons, mangoes, peaches, quinoa, basmati rice, wheat, almonds, sesame seeds, boiled milk, and ghee. Nuts and seeds provide healthy oils that are good for skin and hair. Eat more foods with sweet, sour, and salty tastes and less of those with bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes.  Don’t forget that Ayurveda recommends having some amounts of all six tastes with every meal. Otherwise the body can develop food cravings. Ayurvedic spice mixes or “churnas” can help you make sure that you get all six tastes.
  6. Avoid dry, raw foods, especially salads and raw vegetables.
  7. Use a humidifier at night, especially if you have forced air heating.
  8. Oil Up! Before your morning bath, give yourself a gentle self-massage with sesame oil. Those who tend toward pitta imbalances may prefer sweet almond oil or olive oil or coconut oil. The oil helps to pull out toxins from the skin and also leaves a protective layer between your skin and the harsh winter environment. Don’t feel like you have to remove the oil with soap. Soap is essentially oil and fat combined with salt. A good scrub with a luffa or body brush after your morning oil massage is really all you need.
  9. Go to bed early and try to get eight hours of sleep. The most effective means of pacifying Vata is to increase rest.
  10. Learn to meditate.  The Raj Ayurveda Health Center recommends the Transcendental Meditation program (TM) to complement their in-residence Ayurvedic treatment packages. An imbalance of Vata can lead to an overactive mind, worry, anxiety and insomnia. Over 350 published research studies on the TM technique have documented a wide range of benefits, including reduced stress and anxiety, improved health and brain function, and increased self-actualization.

For more information on Vata-pacifying skin care products, herbal formulas to improve skin or digestion please contact the herb room at The Raj. Ideally a visit to an Ayurvedic expert in your area will help to more precisely determine which supplements, diet recommendations and life-style tips would benefit your individual mind/body make-up.

Learn more at:

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Can Ayurveda Panchakarma Treatments Cure Disease?

The Ayurveda approach to disease and disorders focuses on boosting the overall immune system and restoring balance to the physiolgoy. One of the key approaches is through Panchakarma, the traditional purification therapies of Ayurveda. Panchakarma effectively eliminates toxins from the body and helps eliminate imbalances. It is recommended 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. (Read our blog on Understanding the Doshas if you are unfamiliar with this concept.) The 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.

The traditional detoxification therapies of Ayurveda, called Panchakarma, are designed to help to bring these doshas back to their natural balance, thus restoring health and vitality.

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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: purifying the body by administering various oils both internally and externally, and 2) sudation: preparing the sweat glands to expel the toxins through sweat.

Oliation begins a week before your actual treatment program and continues through your course of therapies. The home routine is 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.

Stage two: Stage two involves the elimination process. This stage is added during your treatment program. 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. Bastis are extremely effective in balancing Vata dosha. Because Vata dosha is the first dosha to go out of balance and tends to create problems with the other doshas, balancing Vata is key to bringing balance to the physiology as a whole.

Stage three: Adopting a healthy routine. Removing toxins is not a magical 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 you to 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 again and again, we receive letters weeks after guests’ departures telling us how their symptoms have improved. Did Panchakarma “cure” these disorders? Not at all. What Panchakarma did was to remove the toxins and imbalances that were blocking the natural ability of the body to heal itself. 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

Reducing Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis with Ayurveda

Many health experts, including well-known natural health care advocate Dr. Andrew Weil, have observed that symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) respond well to changes in diet and lifestyle, stress reduction, and mind/body techniques.

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Modern medicine describes MS as a slow progression of patches of demyelization of the brain and spinal chord. However, pinpointing what triggers the disease still eludes Western medical experts.

Balancing Vata

According to Ayurveda, Vata dosha is the aspect of biological intelligence that controls all movement in the body, including the overall level of balance and activation of the nervous system. MS is seen as a classic Vata imbalance. Many of the conditions and symptoms of Vata imbalance correspond with symptoms often associated with MS:  insomnia, headaches, pain, anxiety and fear, fatigue, poor digestion, dry or rough skin, constipation and heightened sensitivity.

Traditional Ayurvedic recommendations to help balance Vata can aid in the natural healing process for those with MS.

  1. Favor fresh, organic cooked foods, including lots of cooked vegetables
  2. Drink warm liquids — but avoid caffeinated beverages. Sipping hot water throughout the day is highly recommended
  3. Avoid cold drinks and raw foods.  Add ghee to your meals to counter-balance dryness.
  4. Go to bed early, preferably by 10 pm. Get plenty of rest.
  5. Avoid strenuous exercise. Walking and swimming and yoga are best for those with Vata aggravation.
  6. Avoid processed foods, eat your main meal at noon and eat lighter means at night to improve digestion.

Remove Toxins and Strengthen Immunity

The build up of plaque around affected nerves with accompanying inflammation that is seen in MS is a classic example of impurities building up in tissues and disrupting delicate tissue biochemistry. At The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa, foundational to Ayurveda programs for MS is Panchakarma, a series of Ayurvedic treatments that help remove impurities from the bodily tissues. The program also includes individualized dietary recommendations to pacify Vata and improve digestion, thus helping to reduce the further accumulation of impurities.

Modern medicine postulates that infection by a latent virus may possibly cause MS. As a result, immune function-enhancing therapies are often used to combat the illness. The fundamental goal of Panchakarma treatments are to strengthen the body’s own healing mechanisms by removing toxins and impurities that block the natural flow of intelligence in the body.

Under the guidance of trained Ayurveda experts Panchakarma treatments, the introduction of yoga and meditation, and individualized dietary and lifestyle changes create a natural approach to MS that can offer relief to symptoms of MS as well as support long-term remission.

For more information on Ayurvedic treatment programs for MS at The Raj Ayurveda Health Center and to read testimonials and case studies of those who have participated in this natural approach to MS relief, please visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

http://www.theraj.com

How to Get More Energy from Your Food

Looking for more energy? Perhaps you should consider what fuel you are using to keep your body running. Let’s consider this from an Ayurvedic perspective: are you giving yourself enough prana?

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Understanding Prana

Prana is the principle of energy responsible for giving life to and maintaining the body. Prana is the vital energy present in fresh vegetables and fruits, in the pure air that we breathe and the fresh water that we drink. According to Ayurveda, one of the reasons for eating is to take in prana. Therefore we always want to choose foods that are high in this lively energy.

What does it mean when we ask if a food has prana. We are basically asking, “Is it alive?” Does this food contain vitamins, minerals, enzymes and nutrients that can nourish my body? Or is this food the nutritional equivalent of eating cardboard? The fresher the food, the more nutrients it will provide to nourish your body and the more enzymes will be available to help break down the food in order to fully absorb those nutrients. Eating the freshest foods possible will give us the biggest energy boost.

Avoid Processed Food

Processed foods that can sit on a shelf for years are an obvious example of “dead food”. What Prana or “life force” means should be obvious to anyone who has watched vegetables wilt, lose their color and go bad. Processed food, overly refined flours and sugars, and frozen and canned foods (which are prepared long before the time of consumption) contain less vital qualities to nourish the body. They are also harder to digest. These foods simply can not give us the same level of nutrients as foods brimming with prana, This loss of prana is also why Ayurveda discourages eating leftovers or foods that have been sitting around for too long.

Buy Local

The time between a vegetable being picked and appearing on your plate determines the quality and quantity of prana that you will be receiving from your meal. An intuitive sense of this is one of the numerous forces behind the growth of the “buy local” and “farm to table” movements. Locate the local farmers market near to your home and indentify the sellers there who grow organically. Obviously many climates prohibit buying fresh, local foods all year round, but during the months when they are available, these foods will provide optimal nourishment and energy.

Go Organic

When looking for foods rich in prana and life energy, you’ll want to make sure you consume organic foods. Organic foods have more prana than foods grown with chemical fertilizers and sprayed with pesticides. In addition, taking in these powerful chemicals puts a stress on your physiology and blocks its proper functioning. If your body has to work hard to purify the chemicals every time you eat, you’ll feel fatigued. Because many of the chemicals are fat-soluble, the toxins will build up in your system despite your body’s attempts to eliminate them. While the traditional detoxification treatments of Ayurveda (Panchakarma) have been shown to eliminate fat-soluble toxins from the body tissues, it is best to do one’s best not accumulate them in the first place.

To Cook or Not to Cook?

Raw food advocates point to prana as one reason to not cook foods. Ayurveda recommends lightly cooking most vegetables in order to make them more easy to digest. Unless you have a very strong digestion, you will actually get fewer nutrients from your vegetables if you eat them raw.

(see blog Getting The Most Out of Our Food)

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Pure Water

Drink pure, spring water instead of soda, coffee or tea. Water nourishes the body on a cellular level

We ingest all of life through our five senses: touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell. Good health is dependent on our ability to fully metabolize all aspects of life, assimilating what is nourishing and expelling or eliminating that which is not. Through bad choices or through environmental factors that are beyond our control, we can easily metabolize impurities that create imbalances or ama (toxins)—which can then lead to the formation of chronic disorders.

Ayurveda offers the knowledge of how to live in harmony with nature. Ayurveda also offers healing modalities and regular seasonal routines to help restore balance and vitality when it has become lost. For more information on the healing treatments of Ayurveda, visit The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa website:

http://www.theraj.com

 

Holiday Travel Tips

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Every year about this time we put up a post on travel tips. This is a time of year when many are beginning to make travel plans, whether it is for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s, or simply planning a January escape from snow and cold weather. Traveling during the late fall and winter has its challenges. When we travel at any time of the year, Vata dosha can get out of balance. But because this is the season when Vata is predominant in our environment, we need to be extra alert about maintaining balance. To stay in peak health while on long car or airplane trips, try these suggestions:

  1. Get plenty of rest. While Ayurveda usually cautions against day-time naps, you can indulge when you are traveling. One of the best ways to balance Vata is through rest. Practice the Transcendental Meditation technique to calm the mind and body. Meditation is a soothing option to watching movies if you are on a long flight.
  2. Try not to rush. Think ahead so that you are not frantically packing at the last minute. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and check in. If you are driving to your destination, don’t speed. Your physiology doesn’t need any extra pressure. Don’t start out your trip feeling frazzled.
  3. Drink plenty of warm fluids—more than you usually drink. One of the qualities of Vata is dryness. Avoid caffeinated drinks, (which will promote additional stimulation, thus aggravating Vata), sodas and alcohol. Bring a thermos Vata Tea in your car or ask your flight attendant for hot water and then add your own tea bag. Avoid cold drinks and cold food.
  4. Avoid eating large quantities of food while you are in the air or traveling in the car. This is especially important when you are crossing time zones. It is better to eat your meal at the normal time after you arrive. If you are driving, bring a thermos of soup to enjoy along the way.
  5. Keep warm. Planes temperatures can be very chilly. Take a shawl with you so that you can protect your shoulders, neck and head if necessary.
  6. Adopt the local time as soon as you arrive. Resist the urge to nap. Reset your clock and then try to get up and go to bed at the same time as you would at home.
  7. Avoid Vata-aggravating foods such as salads, dried fruit and potato chips. Opt for warm, freshly cooked, soothing foods.
  8. Bring along some Ayurvedic massage oil so that you can give yourself an oil massage when you arrive at your destination. The warm oil (you can warm it by floating the bottle in hot water in your sink) and tactile stimulation will go a long way toward soothing Vata dosha. If you don’t have time for a full-body massage, try a quick foot massage. (Be sure to wrap the bottle of oil carefully so that it cannot leak into your luggage. Double bagging is recommended.)
  9. Bring some soothing aroma oils, such as lavender oil, geranium rose or jasmine. This can help settle your physiology along the way, as well as when you arrive at your destination. Plug-in aroma dispensers are great for hotel rooms. A bit of aroma oil on a cotton ball can produce calming effects in planes and automobiles.
  10. Schedule some Ayurveda spa treatments when you return home. Nasya can help with dryness in the nasal and sinus passages and can help address the Vata-aggravating influence of traveling, as well as protecting from airborne allergens and pollutants. Abhyanga (Ayurveda massage), Shirodhara (oil streamed across the forehead) and Swedana (herbalized steam therapy) are helpful treatments to help balance Vata after travel— and throughout the winter.
  11. Panchakarma treatment is the most significant Ayurvedic approach to both pacifying Vata and drawing out and eliminating impurities that have accumulated during your travels. If you indulge in foods you do not usually eat while you are away, the home-preparation diet and detoxification treatments of Panchakarma will get you back on a healthy routine for the rest of the winter.  Not only will this it will help you transition into spring with fewer allergies and colds, it can help you shed any extra pounds you’ve gained during the holidays.

For more information on scheduling Ayurveda massages and treatments, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa website:

www.theraj.com

 

 

“Early To Bed..” Really Can Make You Healthy, Wealthy and Wise (and Happy!)

According to Ayurveda, our potential for good health depends largely on 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 help determine whether we maintain vibrant health throughout our lifetime.

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

One key to living in tune with nature is the time that we go to bed and 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 we start the next day fully rested, having synchronized our individual rhythms with the circadian rhythms of the earth.

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Modern science is increasingly supporting the idea that sleep is the third pillar of health, along with good diet and exercise. It is a vital factor in increasing our wellbeing. A recent study showed that those who get less than 6 hours of sleep at night are 4 times more likely to catch a cold than those who get 7 or more. Researchers believe that sleep helps the immune system fight off infections. Sleep has been found to play an important part in regulating the levels of T-cells which fight off infection in our bodies.

When we go to bed is as important as how much sleep we get. Ayurveda recommends that we get to bed by 10 P.M. to gain the deepest level of healing and rejuvenation from our sleep. According to Ayurveda, during the four hours before 10 P.M., Kapha dosha is increasing in nature. This increase in Kapha enlivens the qualities of heaviness and dullness in our mind and body. If we head to bed during this time, we will fall asleep more quickly and experience deeper, less interrupted sleep.

After 10 P.M., Pitta dosha starts to become enlivened. The evening Pitta-cycle 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 a person stays up past 10 P.M., there is often the experience of a “second wind”. This is an indication that Pitta dosha is no longer being directed internally for self-repair activities. Instead, the transformational nature of Pitta is flowing in a more manifest way, creating an increase in energy, creativity and, 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 actually robbing their body of its built-in mechanism to recover from the day’s wear and tear. In the long run, night owls may find themselves with deep-seated sleep imbalances and ill health.

Ayurveda recommends waking up before 6 A.M, while the quality of Vata is lively. Because 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 hours before 6 A.M. are hours when all of nature is waking up. This is the time that Vata dosha is predominate in the environment. When we start our day during Vata time it means that our mind and body 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 heavy, dull qualities.

Many people find that they can think faster and concentrate more in the morning. Students who get up early in the morning have been shown to get better grades, which then impacts where they go to college and what jobs they get after school. Apparently morning people are better at anticipating problems and trying to solve them. They have been found to be more proactive.

Other studies have demonstrated that if you wake up early you will feel more positive and confident. Published research linked rising early and synchronizing one’s circadian cycle with the time the sun rises and sets to feeling happier than those who wake up late.

This simple adjustment in bedtime and rising-time in routine can make a huge impact on our health. If you are in need of extra “me” time, it is much better to go to bed by 10:00 PM and wake up an hour earlier in the morning. Early morning may, in fact, be the best time to work effectively during the day. Your brain will be rested and your nervous system will have abundant energy after a good night’s sleep

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

www.theraj.com

Avoiding Back Pain in the Winter

Driving through my neighborhood this week I noticed many people preparing their homes and yards for winter. This alertness to the change of seasons also needs to extend to our own physiologies. As we head into the fall season it is very important to start taking measures to pacify Vata dosha. Vata controls all movement in the body and, not surprisingly, it is the first dosha to move out of balance. Late fall and winter are known as Vata season because they are marked by the same qualities that characterize Vata: cold, dry, and moving. As Vata increases in the environment it increases in our bodies.

back-pain

Vata imbalances include insomnia, aching joints, arthritis, back pain, constipation, high blood pressure and anxiety. All body types are vulnerable to Vata imbalance at this time of the year, but those whose body type is predominantly Vata need to be especially alert to staying in balance. Let’s look specifically at back and joint pain.

The Vata/Kapha Connection

One very common result of Vata imbalance is the sudden onset of back pain. Often it seems to come out of nowhere. You get out of bed in the morning or lean down to tie your shoe and suddenly find yourself immobilized.

In Ayurvedic terms, back pain is often the result of an initial imbalance of Vata dosha that goes on to create a Kapha imbalances. Lower back pain often appears in the fall and winter because this is the season when Vata predominates. This relationship of back pain to Vata also explains why Incidences of back and joint pain increase with age. According to Ayurveda, when we are 60 and over we enter the Vata time of life.  Thus it makes sense that Vata imbalances — and their resulting problems — appear more frequently during Vata season and during the Vata period of life.

In the case of back pain, the build up of Vata interferes with the ability of Kapha dosha to support and lubricate the spine. This increasing dryness further aggravates Vata, creating a vicious cycle leading to back pain, aches and stiffness in the joints, and constipation or difficulties with elimination.

Ama

Ama —toxins and impurities that accumulate in body—is another factor to be considered with back and joint pain. When Vata and Kapha are aggravated they “color” ama with their qualities, creating either a Vata-aggravated ama or a Kapha-aggravated ama. This ama can become lodged in the joints, blocking joint movement and interfering with the production of fluid lubricating the joints. This leads to cracking joints, stiffness, pain, loss of cartilage and overproduced bone growth at the joints resulting in osteoarthritis.

Treatment

Effective preventive treatment for chronic lower back pain should include regular stretching, such as yoga exercises. The traditional detoxification treatments of Ayurveda (Panchakarma) offered at The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa specialize in removing ama and impurities that have accumulated in the joints and tissues.  The treatments also help to balance Vata, allowing Kapha dosha to once again function normally.

Diet

If you are prone to lower back pain, avoid eating Vata-aggravating foods such as dry foods and raw vegetables. Also avoid root foods, which not only aggravate Vata but also have certain properties that can adversely affect joints. To reduce ama, avoid cheese, meat and heavy, fried, or processed foods. Eat your main meal at noon and take a lighter meal in the evening. Drink lots of warm or hot beverages, such as herbal teas (like licorice root and ginger teas) throughout the day. Avoid cold, iced drinks and food. This is the time of year to make sure you include ghee and olive oil in your foods, as the oil helps combat the dryness of the season.

Daily Oil Massage

Pacifying Vata is the key to keeping everything else in balance. A simple home oil massage each morning or evening can help soothe Vata and also help remove ama from the skin tissues.

Relax

Many people find that their back goes out when they are under stress. In a stressful situation the whole body can tighten, tense, and can easily go into muscle spasm, which can push vertebrae out of place. At The Raj, daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique is recommended to reduce stress, thereby reducing incidences of lower back problems.

For more information on Panchakarma treatments or Transcendental Meditation, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site:

www.theraj.com