Keep Balanced in Winter with Ayurveda

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By the beginning of February, those who live in northern climates have reached their peak of Vata aggravation. Months of cold, dry, windy weather results in an increase of those same qualities within our physiology: dryness, coolness, movement and quickness. Once our Vata becomes imbalanced we can start experiencing problems sleeping, aching joints, emotional instability, less mental clarity, dryness of the skin, increased sensitivity to the cold weather and a low frustration level.

With months of cold weather still ahead of us, this is the time to adopt a diet and daily routine that will help settle Vata. One key to balancing Vata is regular routine—eating and going to sleep at the same time, for example. Going to bed early on a regular basis is actually one of the most powerful tools available for balancing Vata.

You may find yourself thinking more about food than you did last summer. When the cold, dry weather of winter begins to aggravate Vata dosha, we naturally crave hotter, more unctuous foods that help counter this effect. An increase in appetite is also the natural result of the cold weather—it tends to cause our digestion fire to increase. As long as you don’t eat more than you can easily digest, large portions at meals can help keep Vata in balance.

One very important point is that the food we eat in the winter should always be warm. Never eat or drink ice-cold food or beverages. Oil is our friend in the winter. Using olive oil and ghee in our meals will help counter the drying effects of Vata.

Along this same line of thinking, daily oil massage with sesame oil is particularly helpful in the winter. The warm, unctuous quality of the oil is the perfect antidote to the cold, dry qualities of Vata. If you are Pitta by nature, you may prefer coconut oil or olive oil, as sesame oil is naturally heating. Ideally you should heat your oil before applying it. Letting your bottle of oil float in hot water for a few minutes will bring the oil to a nice, soothing temperature. Try to keep the oil on for a while before jumping into the shower or bath. 10 minutes letting the oil soak into your skin is ideal.

Vata imbalances often lead to constipation. Remember to drink plenty of warm fluids during the day. Drinking two glasses of warm water when you wake up can help stimulate bowel functioning. Hot water with black salt can also be helpful in this area.

It is easy to find oneself becoming sedentary during the colder months. Be sure that you incorporate Yoga or some kind of gentle stretching exercise into your routine, as well as other comfortable and easy exercise. Don’t strain or over-do in your winter exercise routine. Spring is a much better time for vigorous exercise, as that is the time when Kapha is increasing and we naturally have more strength and stamina.

If you find that diet, lifestyle and self-massage are not helping, it may be that your Vata imbalance has gone deep into the tissues. In this case Panchakarma, the traditional rejuvenation treatments of Ayurveda, are recommended. Panchakarma removes Vata from the tissues by using various herbal decoctions and oil preparations in combination with specialized treatments to treat the root of the Vata imbalance.

For more information on Ayurveda consultations and Panchakarma treatments, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa web site:

www.theraj.com

Managing Stress Affects Health, Memory, and Body Weight

Life is full of ups and downs, and some of them can be stressful. If we are lucky, stress is a short-term event. But often situations occur that keep us stressed for days, weeks, or months. This experience of non-stop stress can cause significant damage to our health, mind and emotions. Understanding the mechanisms of our stress response can help us minimize and control the damage.

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The medical dictionary describes stress as “any physical, emotional, social, economic or other factor that requires a response to change.” The human body is brilliantly designed to react to stress in order to survive. It does so by activating the secretion of the hormone cortisol. This initiates a cascade of physiological responses.

Cortisol is meant to be a “quick fix”. It turns “off” many of our normal physiological mechanisms while it turns “on” many temporary mechanisms. It is the source of the “fight or flight” response. Ideally after an emergency situation has been resolved our metabolic functions go back to normal.  If we are under constant stress, however, the long-term secretion of cortisol can compromise our health and permanently alter our metabolic process.

Some of the documented results of long-term stress include:

Results of Long-Term Stress

1. Weakened immune response leading to heightened vulnerability to infection

2.  Memory loss: excess cortisol can overwhelm the hippocampus and actually cause atrophy. Studies of the elderly have indicated that those with elevated cortisol levels display significant memory loss resulting from hippocampus damage. Luckily the damage incurred is usually reversible.

3. An increase in abdominal fat. Researchers at Yale University found slender women who had high cortisol also had more abdominal fat. Abdominal, or visceral, fat is a key player in a variety of health problems Visceral fat has been linked to metabolic disturbances and increased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. In women, it is also associated with breast cancer and the need for gallbladder surgery.

While we may not be able to eliminate the stress in our lives, we can take measures to give the body the relief from stress that it needs in order to stay healthy.

Stress-Busters

1. Decrease consumption of caffeine and alcohol, both of which impact cortisol levels

2. Go to bed by 10:00. Getting six hours or less over time can significantly increase cortisol levels. It takes a full 7 to 8 hours of sleep to give your body enough time to recover from the day’s stresses.

3. Practice a stress reduction technique.

The Transcendental Meditation technique (TM) has been found to lower cortisol levels. The lowering is greater in those who practice TM regularly. The longer people practice TM, the more pronounced is the effect.

TM was also found to decrease the time it took for the body return to normal functioning following stressful stimuli. This is significant because high cortisol levels can actually create a self-perpetuating loop by disrupting the delicate feedback balance that tells the brain to stop releasing cortisol.

Researchers concluded that the Transcendental Meditation technique gives the body a reprieve from experiencing stress, and as a result, the body care respond more normally to stress stimuli of short duration.

4. Schedule a week of Panchakarma treatments

Multiple studies have shown that massage therapy can lower cortisol levels, increase dopamine and serotonin (our happy, feel-good hormones), and lower excitatory hormones like norepinephrine and epinephrine.

A week of luxurious in-residence treatments can provide a much-needed break from the day-to-day pressures at work and home.

More Stress-Busting Recommendations

  • Get more spinach in your diet.  Spinach has magnesium, which help balance your body’s production of cortisol.
  • Eat more citrus fruits.  Research has shown that citrus fruits like oranges and kiwis have high content of vitamin C, which help slow the production of cortisol.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough healthy omega-3 oils in your diet.  These healthy fats not only inhibit inflammation, but also help lower cortisol levels and reduce stress.
  • Get some Holy Basil in your diet!  This tasty herb is an adaptogen herb, which is a unique class of healing plants that help reduce the production of stress related hormones.
  • Research has shown that zinc helps inhibit the production of cortisol.  Vegetarians can get zinc from cashews, pumpkin seeds, spinach and beans.
  • Good news! Dark chocolate has high levels of anti-oxidants that help decrease inflammation and slow the secretion of cortisol.  Just make sure that it’s at least 70% dark chocolate.

Arming ourselves with an understanding of the stress response and minimizing stress and its impact on our minds and bodies is key to maintaining balanced health. This is why any responsible health program must include stress reduction techniques. Learn more about Panachkarma treatments and learning the Transcendental Meditation technique at The Raj, Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

Is Your Honey Healthy?

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The special healing quality of honey has been acknowledged throughout history. From the Charaka Samhita, the original textbook of Ayurveda, to the Ebers Papyrus of ancient Egypt, to the writings of Hippocrates, honey has been recognized as having significant medicinal properties. Raw honey is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. It contains significant amounts of: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium chlorine, sulfur, and phosphate. Taken in its proper form, honey is one of nature’s most healing substances.

But honey can also have a toxic effect in the physiology. This happens when we eat honey that has been heated far above the normal temperatures of a beehive. Heating past the maximum hive temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit changes honey’s essential composition and degrades its quality. Many of the healthful organic compounds and enzymes in honey are destroyed or inhibited by heat.

The ancient Ayurvedic texts warn that during the heating (including baking or cooking) process, honey becomes hardened and difficult to digest. The toxin created by heated honey causes the shrotas, or fine channels of the physiology, to become clogged, blocking the flow of intelligence in the body. According to Ayurveda, this specific kind of ama is very difficult to remove by simple detox methods, such as sipping hot water, home oil massage or exercising. If you have a history of eating heated honey, you may want to consider Panchakarma treatments (Ayurveda detoxification treatments).

Given this knowledge, it is best to only buy raw honey (honey that is unheated and minimally processed) and to never use honey when cooking meals or baking. Check carefully breads, cereal or other other packaged foods to be sure they do not contain honey. Many health-conscious bakeries and companies now use honey, thinking it is better than sugar. Also, most commercial honey you see in supermarkets is not raw honey. Read your labels carefully to make sure the honey you purchase has not been heated or pasteurized.

If you like to add honey to tea or milk, don’t do so while it is boiling. Wait until your beverage has cooled to a temperature that is comfortable for sipping before adding honey as a sweetener.

A consultation using Ayurveda pulse assessment can help determine if you have problems with ama. For more information visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

Ayurveda: Ancient Wisdom for Modern Disorders

Flyer 3Over the years, many guests at The Raj have asked us where Ayurveda fits in with modern medicine.

Modern modern medicine has made important and impressive advances in its management of certain categories of disease such as infectious, surgical, and endocrine disorders. In some cases, however, the modern medical approach does not deal with the root causes of the illness, but rather attempts to correct ill health on the level of the symptoms.

For example, in treating hypertension, drugs are often used to lower blood pressure. But if drug is removed, the blood pressure often returns to its previously elevated state. This is because the medicine did not remove the root cause of the disorder. Not only can this approach allow the underlying disease process to go unchecked, new disorders may emerge in the form of side effects from the medication.

The Ayurveda approach to health is highly suitable for many disorders of modern times, which are recognized to have their roots in abnormalities of diet, lifestyle, and environmental influences, and stress. Research and clinical findings suggest that Maharishi Ayurveda may be the best first-line approach to the prevention and treatment of many of these common illnesses.

Ayurveda views the body not merely as a sophisticated machine, but as a physical expression of an underlying field of intelligence. Ironically, this ancient perspective is actually more in tune with the unified field theories of quantum physics (describing the most fundamental levels of nature’s functioning) than modern medicine. Maharishi Ayurveda identifies this unified field of all the laws of nature as pure consciousness, and postulates that this field can be experienced by the human nervous system as the simplest form of human awareness.

In contrast to the view of contemporary medicine, Maharishi Ayurveda does not regard consciousness as a product of the nervous system. Rather, it sees consciousness as the basis of, and that which gives rise to the entire physiology.

Because of this perspective, Ayurveda understands that the relationship between man and nature is central to the maintenance and promotion of ideal health. Enlivening health in a person is understood to be a process of enlivening the wisdom and the intelligence of nature inherent in every individual. The skill of the Ayurveda expert lies not in “healing”, but in setting up those conditions that allow nature’s healing to take place most effortlessly.

The therapeutic strategies of Maharishi Ayurveda, such as Panchakarma, the Transcendental Meditation technique, Maharishi Light Therapy with Gems, etc., are understood as strategies that enliven the innate self-repair mechanisms of our bodies.

Maharishi Panchakarma or Rejuvenation Therapies (PK)

Panchakarma treatments involve a sophisticated system of purification and detoxification treatments that help to eliminate and prevent the accumulation of physiological impurities. Different procedures are utilized according to the type of imbalance present. Once the imbalance is removed, the body’s own healing mechanisms can begin to function in their normal manner. The rejuvenation and detoxification treatments in and of themselves do not “cure” the disorder. They simply support and promote the activity of the body’s innate self-repair mechanisms.

The Transcendental Meditation program (TM)

This mental technique allows the active mind to settle down and experience its least excited state, pure consciousness. Extensive research has documents a broad range of beneficial effects of TM on the mind, body, behavior and environment. These include the lowering of hypertension, 48% reduction in death, heart attack and stroke and the reduction of trait anxiety.

Maharishi Light Therapy with Gems (MLG)

When suitable light shines through a gemstones such as diamonds, emeralds, rubies, blue sapphires and yellow sapphires, the molecular characteristics and healing properties of the gems get imprinted in the specific frequencies (spectrum) of the transmitted light, and then transferred to the body—enlivening the body’s innate intelligence and restoring balance and health to the physiology.

For more information on Panchakarma, the TM technique or Maharishi Light Therapy with Gems and other Maharishi Ayurveda approaches to health, visit The Raj Ayurveda Health Spa:

www.theraj.com

 

Ayurveda Travel Tips

images-3This is the time of year when many of us are beginning to make travel plans, whether it is for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s, or simply planning a February 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:

Get plenty of rest. Take naps and practice the Transcendental Meditation technique.

Try not to rush. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and check in. If driving, don’t speed. Your physiology doesn’t need any extra pressure. Don’t start out your trip feeling frazzled.

Drink plenty of warm fluids. Avoid caffeinated drinks, which will promote additional stimulation, sodas and alcohol. Bring along some Vata Tea in a thermos in your car or ask your flight attendant for hot water and then add your own tea bag.

Avoid cold drinks and cold food.

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.

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.

Avoid vata-aggravating foods such as salads, dried fruit and potato chips. Opt for warm, soothing foods.

Bring along some Ayurvedic sesame 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 can not leak into your luggage. Double bagging is recommended.)

Schedule some Ayurveda 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.

Panchakarma treatments are 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

 

 

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Taming Vata with Ayurveda

winter-290903_640As the temperature cools, many people find themselves bothered by vata disorders such as anxiety, tension, insomnia, constipation and aching joints. Vata dosha gets aggravated during cold, dry, windy weather because the nature of vata itself is dry, cold, light and active. To avoid the winter chills and to keep vata in check, try these recommendations:

1. Drink plenty of hot water. Sipping hot water frequently throughout the day will help you accomplish two things: pacify vata and dissolve ama, the sticky waste-product of improper digestion that can clog the channels of your body.

2. Favor hot drinks and meals. Opt for warm, heavy foods. Cold drinks and cold, light foods increase vata. Be sure to avoid ice-cold beverages and foods. Ice cream season is over.

sleep-13. Get more rest than usual. Because the nature of vata is active and restless, one the best ways to balance vata is to get extra sleep. With the sun rising later and setting earlier in the day, there are fewer hours of daylight. This is a signal from Nature to spend more time resting.

Remember that according to Ayurveda you gain a better quality of rest if you fall asleep before 10:00 p.m. and rise before 6:00 a.m. If you need more than eight hours of sleep, try going to bed earlier rather than sleeping in. Sleeping late in the morning can lead to blockages of the shrotas, the channels of the body through which the natural intelligence of the body flows. This can aggravate both vata and kapha and can throw off the biological rhythms of your body.

4. Exercise daily. Exercise increases circulation, improves your appetite and raises your body temperature. If it is too cold to go outside, go to the gym, use indoor equipment or exercise DVDs—or just dance around your house. Be careful not to overdo it, though. You should adjust the amount and intensity of exercise to fit your individual needs. If your level of exercise is such that you can not breath comfortably through your nose, you may be taxing your physiology and actually increasing vata.

5. Keep your head and ears covered when outside. Ears are one of the main seats of vata. Protecting your ears and head from the wind and cold will make being outside in winter a more healthful experience.

6. Do daily abhyanga (Ayurvedic oil massage). Abhyanga is especially soothing for vata dosha because your skin is a primary seat of vata.

7. Start increasing your portions of foods that are sweet, sour and salty, as these pacify vata dosha. Spicy, astringent and bitter foods increase vata.

8. Enjoy Panchakarma (Ayurvedic massage and detoxification therapies). Winter is a good time to schedule a week of treatment at The Raj. While the cold wind blows outside, you can stay warm and cozy, enjoying soothing, warm herbalized oil and relaxing massages. Also, undergoing Panchakarma before the holiday seasons can put in you the right frame of mind to enjoy the holidays without binge eating or straying from a healthful diet and routine.

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

www.theraj.com

 

 

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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

 

Ayurveda #1 Health Tip: Digestion, Digestion, Digestion!

Once again, I am writing about digestion. The reason this topic comes up over and over again is because, according to Ayurveda, it is vital to maintaining good health. If you aren’t digesting your food properly, 1) you aren’t getting needed nutrients and 2) you are creating toxins, or ama, as a result of partially digested food.

Lets look at these consequences a bit more closely:

1) Remember that even the best diet will not provide proper nutrition if our digestion is not doing its job. Not getting needed nutrients out of your food can result in a lack of strength, fatigue, slower problem solving ability and muscle response time, hypertension and more.

Poor nutrition can also set off a vicious cycle of poor eating habits. When the body is not getting what it needs to function properly, it gets “cravings”. It is easy for the intellect to mistakenly interpret these cravings and turn to a “quick fix”. Feeling lethargic, many opt for caffeine or sugar or carbohydrates (or a combination of all three.) These foods fail to give the body what it really needs, are difficult to digest and lead to more cravings.

2) Ayurveda believes that most disease and disorders stem from blockages to the free flow in intelligence in the body. When impurities build up in the various channels of the body (blood vessels, lymph circulation, cellular pores, etc),

These areas become cut off from biological intelligence and can become weak or diseased.

Improving Digestion with Ayurveda

So let’s get down to basics. How to restart a sluggish digestion?

Breakfast:

Digestion is no as strong early in the morning, so breakfast should be light and according to hunger. Avoid meat or eggs. Favor cooked cereal, fruit and fresh juice.Korean_abalone_porridge-Jeonbokjuk-02

Remember if you are taking milk not to combine it with anything other than sweet tastes (like cereal). Milk should be boiled. If you are eating fruit, do not have milk, even in coffee.

Lunch:

This should be your main meal of the day because digestion is strongest at mid-day.

Lunch should be a warm, cooked meal containing all six tastes. Ideally you should have at least a half hour for lunch, including 10 to 15 minutes to sit quietly after you are finished eating. This will allow the digestive process to get well under way.

 Dinner:

The later dinner is served, the lighter you should eat. Avoid heavy foods like cheese, yogurt, meats, oils and fried foods. If you like these foods, these should be eaten at lunch when digestion is stronger.

 Other General Principles:

Eat according to your hunger levels. Do not eat if you are not hungry.

Eat in a settled environment. Business lunches, eating in front of the TV and eating while walking or driving (or standing up) can disturb our digestive process.

Sip hot water during the meal. This enlivens digestion and helps the food be better digested and absorbed. Never drink cold beverages (or iced foods) either during the meal or right after a meal.

Chew your food well. Digestion starts in the mouth.

Avoid heated honey. Read your labels carefully and only buy unheated honey. Do not use honey in baking or add to beverages that are too hot to sip comfortably.

Eat freshly prepared foods. Avoid packaged foods and leftovers. Cooked food is easier to digest than raw.

Foods that are especially nourishing (and are quickly converted into ojas) include boiled milk, ghee (clarified butter), ripe fruits, freshly made fruit juices, almonds (pre-soaked in water — be sure to throw out the water), and dates.

Visit an Ayurvedic expert and find out what your body needs. Vata, pitta and kapha types may receive different recommendations on creating a healthy and strong digestive fire. They will also take into consideration any imbalances that you have. If you have a pitta imbalance, for example, you might be encouraged to avoid ginger and other heating spices. Remember that, unlike Western medicine, Ayurveda always looks at the whole. Your digestive problems may simply be one symptom of a larger imbalance.

Next week we’ll look at Panchakarma, the ulitmate approach to restarting digestion, getting rid of years of accumulated ama and restoring balance to the body.

For more information on Ayurveda consultations and Panchakarma treatments, go to 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