Wellness Articles

Ayurveda and it's practices can be remarkable for your health, wellness, and happiness. This blog is updated with ayurvedic techniques and lifestyle tips. 

Lifestyle, lifestyle, lifestyle

The world’s oldest man just passed away in Japan at the age of 113.  When asked about his longevity at the age of 112 he said one reason was he ate sweets but his daughter said one reason was he led a stress free life. 

 One of my esteemed teachers told us that we could have the best diet, the best food, cooked by the best cooks and see the best Ayurvedic Practitioners but if we were leading a stressful lifestyle and always irrigating our organs with cortisol then we would not be able to digest that food.  Adrenaline and cortisol are there to get us out of dangers and send resources to our extremities (large muscles) to do this and cortisol hangs around for a day or two to make sure the danger is gone.  When we are constantly sending cortisol through our blood stream every time the phone rings or someone cuts us off in traffic then cortisol is not available to do its internal work of also keeping pathogens away, leaving our organs often to fend for themselves.

 Lifestyle is a sensitive topic for most of us until and if that choice is taken away.  We think mostly in our heads in the Western world so our prana is always going up and out.  We might think oh lifestyle, I know I’ll add a few more advanced level yoga classes or take another 5 mile run.  We are not in touch with our bodies; only in touch with how we think our bodies should be  and look like or what the media tells us they should be.  If we are having a problem with our digestion we look to the foods as the cause and maybe add some probiotics into our life.  

 I would bet that most of us do not think, hmm I am not digesting, feeling well, feeling stressed, maybe I should find something, even one thing I can change.  And that change might not be adding something but taking something away.

The practice of Dinacharya (daily routine) is a benefit to ourselves in so many ways. It is a time to nourish our senses that we use in this world as well as a time to set the tone for the day. A time of self care. It is about picking a time for me to tap into the divine.

 This news story of the Japanese daughter saying her father lived to 113 because of a stress free life made me once again be in gratitude for the study of Ayurveda.  It also made me think about our stress hormones.  I was reminded about the building hormones of estrogen and progesterone and the lightening hormones of adrenaline and cortisol along with DHEA.  So many women in today’s world are experiencing osteopenia and osteoporosis in peri menopause as well as at menopause.  It is one of the main reasons many women will come in to talk and while estrogen naturally decreases at menopause their stressful lifestyles are causing a greater lightening and a depletion while their bones are paying the price.  Too much cortisol in the body contributes in no less than 7 ways to bone depletion.

Let me end with that thought for now as we also think about this 113 year old man and allow his daughter’s words to sink in:

 “He led a stress free life”.  

 What changes might be possible in your life to become more stress free?  Not an easy answer for most of us I know.

 My sage advice, start with a dinacharya routine.Baby steps.

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Yoga Ayurveda Flow - The Elements Outside Are Inside Us Too

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Let’s begin at the beginning and let’s while we are at it “think for ourselves”. Who is thinking for you? Simple question, right. But we are a product of our conditioning in life, so we might think I am in charge, of course. But who is that “I” in charge? Is it the Chairman of the Board (CofB) thinking or is it the Chief Officer (CO).

The CO might have a healthy ego but the (CofB) usually doesn’t like to be challenged and can override the CO. If this crazy metaphor sounds a little out there, it is. Why? Because they are both the same product of self and only through consciousness can we let go of this office scenario. Alas, like so much of life, the answer might be simple but the path is not. It is important also to try and not mistake the path for the destination. It takes tapas (discipline), it takes desire, it takes love.

Let’s challenge ourselves. Is your yoga practice about tapas and does the CofB take over saying you should be jumping into handstand by now, or are you letting the CO speak through your prana with love and acceptance at whatever stage you are currently at? Yes, most of us love a challenge and yes we get caught up with pictures and words of alignment but do we stop with awareness to notice the alignment of our mind. Do we stop and discern, do we stop and become mindful of the transitions.

I like to think of it less of finding a balance and more of finding a flow. Why? Because with flow there is prana, there is breath and this allows for alignment in my body, mind and spirit. An alignment in body, mind and spirit that no amount of grasping can ever achieve. A place where we might find ourselves when we learn to look beyond ourselves.

I love to teach yoga and I love to teach Ayurveda but I am always first and foremost a student of both. It is a never-ending stream of knowledge and from this knowledge I can work with many different modalities. One of my favorite things is teaching. It took a long time for me to say that out loud as the CofB was always telling me there was someone better out there. That sea of “out there” kept me on shore for a long time. It was the gift of Ayurveda that brought me out of my shell.

It is so beautiful to teach a class around the theories of this science. The asanas are the same, the pranayamas the same, the meditations the same, but the wisdom of how to use these tools in my toolbox have fine tuned my teaching. Yoga is a path for me and to share this healing with others is a gift for which I acknowledge and I am in gratitude for.

The next time you are on the mat stop and notice the elements that are playing in your practice. Can you look at the picture above and find the qualities of Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth? Can you take what you need of each element and balance it with the elements present in yourself to find the flow with your practice on the mat? Can you breathe through each movement. Can you exhale? Can you find yourself?

Ayurveda and You

EXCELLENCE OF AYURVEDA - C.S.1, V53

“As it is beneficial to mankind in respect of both the worlds (i.e. this life and the life beyond), Ayurveda, the most sacred and honored by those proficient in the Vedas will now be expounded.”

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I know it doesn’t feel like it out there for many of us on the East coast right now but Autumn is in the air. Have you noticed the position of the sun in the sky? Do you have a sense of change in the air when you are out in the environment, out in nature?

Rutucharya - the Sanskrit word ‘rutu’ means seasonal movement of time - charya - means routine or lifestyle. Rutucharya means a seasonal routine or lifestyle to work with dosha and positively influence our cells, organs, systems, doshas and emotional changes in the mind.

We are at the end of the summer season of Pitta and moving into the the autumn/winter season of Vata. In my yoga classes and practice I like to offer Pitta reducing classes at this time of year that help to cool off our systems. Vata will begin to offer the lighter qualities of winter such cold, wind, subtle, and dry. You know that feeling of “static” in the air. These qualities will start to build at the end of summer so now is the perfect time to pay attention by continuing your ‘dinacharya’ (daily routine) and by watching the foods that you eat in order to balance your dosha as the natural qualities of this season (that we have no control over) build. We cannot control the season but we can prepare; just as we do when it is cold outside and put on a sweater. If we do this, we will be better able to balance ourselves when we are full on into the winter season.

Some of the symptoms that you might notice when your Vata is provoked is more constipation and if you have arthritis it might flare up now. In the mind we might notice a lot more rajas (movement, unable to focus) going on.

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So what can we do about all this, right. Here are some suggestions. Try going to bed earlier especially if you are staying up later then you know you should. Begin eating warming, soothing foods like soups and kitchari. Do your daily oil massage with sesame oil and daily nasya (nose oiling) with sesame or vacha oil. Try to add some warming herbal teas to your day such as ginger and cinnamon. Heat up some digestive herbs in ghee such as ginger, cardamom and turmeric and mix into your veggies. Meditate, begin to balance your yoga practice with more grounding, and add some of the suggestions noted above. Here is to a healthy transition in body, mind and spirit.

Breathe and be in the Present, Namaste

Got a lota Vata

It is Winter.  Find the love.

From the end of fall into the winters months we move into the Vata season.  Vata is made up of the light qualities of air and ether.  These substance are also mobile, dry, rough and cold.  Notice for yourself how these qualities in the winter affect your joints, your skin, your nails and hair.  Do you feel ungrounded, are you craving cold and or dry foods and drinks.  All signs of going out of balance in this season.  One of the tenets of Ayurveda is like increases like.  Therefore, to come back into balance we need to apply the opposite qualities of warm, heavy, and stable.  

Bring awareness to your lifestyle and activities .  This would be an excellent time to begin or continue a gentle yoga practice.  Slow down on any excess exercise such as running or cycling as this increases Vata and can send you out of balance.  Are you experiencing constipation, bloating; are you having a hard time focusing. All symptoms of imbalance.

Allow your foods to be cooked and warm, avoid raw foods.  Wonderful time to sit down to a hot bowl of soup with steamed veggies for lunch when your digestion is the strongest.  Don't be afraid to add healthy oils such as ghee as well to nourish your joints and belly.

Take time out of your day to relax and ground, to move inward even for 5 minutes.  Turn off all electronics at least and hour before bed to calm the mind and try to be in bed by 10PM.   Most importantly keep your day, your routine steady.  Vata loves routine to balance, so find your routine and stick to it as best as possible.

Remember, just because it is winter and the day is shorter, that is not a reason to stay inside.  Get outside and experience the beauty of the sun in the winter sky.  

No matter what the season, I strongly advise you to  "keep good company".  Good company supports you while you support them.  Balance.

You Spin Me Right Round Baby (Change of Seasons, Change of Rituals)

Of course the earth is turning or I wouldn't be writing this blog.  We are moving with the earth towards the end of summer and heading into the cooler months of fall on the east coast where I live.   We will begin to see changes in nature as we watch the leaves change into beautiful colors of red, orange and amber.  The  shadows cast by the sun will grow longer and the daylight hours will shorten as the earth turns inward toward rest and the cycles of nature follow the cycles of life.

What a miracle to witness the majesty, the power and at the same time the surrendering of the season in order to welcome in the next season. Can you allow yourself body, mind and spirit to be present for this unfolding? Can you rest your mind and feel the cycles of life in your being?

Our bodies are always speaking to us but especially during transition times like this. In the language of Auryeda we are moving from the dry, light, penetrating, sharp, qualities present in the summer season of Pitta into the Vata season of fall with its qualities of cold, dry, light and mobile.  In Ayurveda we balance qualities by applying opposite qualities as like increases like.  If we already have many of the vata qualities in our constitution and lifestyle such as dry and light these qualities will increase when they meet the dry and light qualities left in our bodies from the summer season of Pitta.  The good news is that with awareness we can start some practices to help ease into this transition, to balance ourselves with the opposite qualities of grounding and stabilizing.  Pay attention to your diet and lifestyle and make any necessary changes now to support this seasonal increase of the doshas.

First be aware of any dryness that may be starting in your body.  Pitta, the season we are leaving, also has the qualities of dryness and lightness.  The end of summer heat can dry you out which will only aggravate the quality of dryness in the Vata season.  Be careful for instance of eating too much watermelon which is a natural diuretic and wonderful in the summer except in excess, which can cause internal dryness instead. This dryness in our bodies can cause bloating and constipation.  It can cause your skin to develop rashes and become itchy.  It can cause a difficulty in your mind with staying focused, and create a feeling of being scattered.  It can even make seasonal allergies worse as the dryness taxes your GI tract and digestion.

First and foremost continue with your dinacharya (daily rituals) and if you haven't started one or have lapsed revisit them now as oiling will help greatly to slow the movement of Vata and assist in alleviating dry skin.  Some of the dinacharya rituals I practice every day are: scraping the tongue upon waking, splashing the face with cool water, neti pot, nasya, drinking two glasses of warm water with lemon before yoga or breakfast, oiling with warm sesame oil.  


Second check with your local farmer's market to see what fruits and veggies are growing now.  I know peaches will be in season in the east as well as apricots and are wonderful in keeping the GI tract moist and moving. Also check out the pears about to ripen shortly.  Follow nature, it knows what it good for us in the region we live in. Veggies such as broccoli and cauliflower are fresh and delicious in the late summer early fall months, as well as my all time favorite fennel.  Play with spices that can aid your digestion such as cumin, coriander, fennel, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom.  Heat up a teaspoon of ghee or your favorite oil and toss in your spices for 30 seconds to release their energies and pour over your favorite veggies.


Third, take walks or exercise in the morning or evening right now so as not to over tax the body by excess sweating, which again can dry out your internal organs.  Practice pranayama, and add in Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing) if this isn't part of your practice already. Take a restorative or gentle yoga class along with any vinyasa or Hatha classes you are presently taking and practice gratitude in your daily mediation.  Add grounding asanas to your daily yoga practice such as Tadasana (mountain pose) or squats; allowing yourself to ground into the stable, solid qualities of the earth beneath your feet even as the earth turns.

 

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Set a reminder for yourself to take a break during your busy work day. to stop for 5 minutes and practice Dirgha pranayama, the three part yogic breath.  Sit up tall, close your eyes and if helpful place one hand on your belly and one hand on your heart and inhale filling the belly, the ribs and the chest; on the exhale release the breath first from the chest, ribs, then belly.  Go easy never forcing the breath but allowing it to fill all 3 parts when ready.  This breath helps to relieve stress by stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system and to bring your focus inside.


Most importantly remember with a smile to enjoy the ride as the earth turns. It truly is glorious like you.

What is Ayurveda

Ayurveda

“When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use.

When diet is right, medicine is of no need.”

Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga and originated over 5,000 years ago in India.  It is the oldest continuously practiced health care system in the world.  Ayurveda draws on the understanding of the natural rhythms of nature and the five elements.  These five elements are in nature and are in each and every one of us.  The elements are ether (space), air, fire, water, and earth.

When we as natural beings who are governed by these laws of nature learn to work with them and their divine consciousness, we can create health and well being in our bodies.  If we choose to ignore these laws then imbalance and “disease” can begin to appear.  These imbalances are the precursor to disharmony and disease in the mind and in the body.  Ayurveda understands our deepest connections with the whole universe and the influences of the energies that make up this universe.

“We are considered a Microcosm of the Macrocosm.”

Each of the five elements has inherent energies that govern their functions.  We are all made up of these energies, but each individual, each person will have slightly different proportions of the individual elements, making everyone unique, making everyone have their own constitutional makeup.

The Ayurvedic approach treats each and every one of us by taking into account unique psychological, emotional and physical conditions.  Any imbalances in the body are then looked at through the system of the elements.  

Ayurvedic medicine concentrates on prevention and understanding one’s own makeup and focuses on how the outer world and environment affect one’s daily life.  

Ayurveda is a system based on natural healing through the strengthening of the body, mind, and spirit, thereby, allowing the body to heal itself to be swastha*  (healthy).  Ayurveda teaches us to attain optimal health through the deeper knowledge and understanding of ourselves and our unique relationship in and to the world we live in.

* Swastha -  a healthy person is someone whose doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha) are all in equilibrium, the digestive fire (agni) is in a balanced state (sama), in addition to the body’s tissues (dhatus) and wastes (malas) also being in balance. The quote also states that the mind (mana) and sensory organs (indriyas) as well as a person’s spirit/soul (atma) must be also in a pleasant state (prasanna). When a person is balanced in all of those areas, he or she is considered healthy by Ayurvedic standards.

The Best Present To Yourself Is Tumeric!

 

Try this amazing anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumor, anti-bacterial and antiviral agent drink.  A mouth full of benefits, a mouth full of deliciousness.  A beautiful drink anytime, but a wonderful way to start your day.    Such an easy recipe to make.

 

Turmeric Drink Recipe

.  1 cup almond, hemp or coconut milk (unsweetened)  I make my own almond milk as the store bought has too many additives.

.  1/2 cup frozen pineapple or mango chunks

.  1 fresh banana

.  1 tablespoon coconut oil

.  1/2 to 1 teaspoon turmeric

.  1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

.  1/2 teaspoon ginger

.  1 teaspoon chia seeds

.  1 teaspoon maca (optional)

 

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth!

Amazing, give yourself this gift for Christmas.  I promise you will use it all year long. 

 

Happy Holidays!

What a Coffee Machine & Ayurveda Have in Common

What does it mean to you to be in alignment.  We speak about this often as the seasons change but what does it really mean to you and how do you address it in your life, what changes do you make or is it just more words on a page.  We are bombarded with blogs, quotes, sayings, social media and more on a daily basis.  So much overload all the time that do we really stop, breathe and feel; or do we say no time, move on.  Have we become machines that bleed and when that happens we stop.  We stop and panic and add more stress to our overstressed, overfilled, overwhelmed lives.  Enough!  To quote the tag line in the movie Network, "I am as mad as hell and I am not going to take this anymore!"

I have this amazing new coffee machine in my home that I love.  I love it because besides making coffee for some household members it also make hot milk for my bedtime "Golden Milk".  But mostly, I absolutely love it because when it is time to "clean the milkpipe" you need to clean the "milkpipe" or the machine stops working.  Catput, nothing, nada happens until you clean the pipe.  No more cappuccinos, no more lattes, nothing.  I want one of those buttons for us.  How beautiful would it be to have this button in your life on a daily basis BEFORE you are about to overload.  Before you think let's do more, another 5 mile run, another trip to the gym, another hour on the computer, another hour of work, something more to feel guilty about, you name your demon and you are not allowed.  The only thing you will be allowed to do is "clean your milk pipe" to recharge, rejuvenate, regenerate.  

You have to spend time doing certain things, like maybe nothing, meditating, breathing, reading a book, taking a walk, you get the idea.  When you have completed this activity for x amount of time,  you can take up again with what is going on in your life.  This activity might take 3 min.  It might just be close the door and focus on your breath.  Sit down and eat your lunch; talk on the phone without multi-tasking, just be present in your life for yourself and then others.

Ayurveda is my love and it has taught me so much.  I learned that just to be free of disease is not the definition of health as many of us in the west have accepted as being healthy. I have learned a new alignment.  I have just begun to dip my toes in this beautiful science but I remember one of the first words and meanings I learned in school and that word was "Swastha".

Swastha

“Samadosha, samagnischa

samadhatumala kriyaha

prasanna atmenindriya manaha

swasthya ityabhidheeyate”

Ayurvedic Definition of Health – Susruta has described the features of a healthy person in the above quote. It follows that the doshas must be in equilibrium, the digestive fire must be in a balanced state and the tissues (dhatus) and malas (wastes) must work in a normal state. The sensory and motor organs and mind, atma must be also in a pleasant state. Such a person is called a healthy person or Swastha.

So I ask you again, what does alignment mean to you? 

 

Namaste

Be Your Breast Friend

I was fortunate enough to assist Dr. Claudia Welch's "Wisdom for Women's Health" workshop at Kripalu in MA this past weekend.  She's an incredible mentor and I urge any of you to learn more about her and her workshops on her website HERE. There were many things to "take away" but the one I would like to share with you today is on massage and breast health.  The breasts in Ayurveda are associated with our rasa and meda dhatus (plasma and fatty tissues) and our lymphatic drainage system.  In order to help prevent stagnation we want to massage our breasts daily.  Banyan Botanicals has a wonderful chart on breast massage and the many benefits it offers (see link below).  I usually recommend applying sesame or castor oil when massaging but please check with your health practitioner first if you have any questions.

As always, if your are pregnant or nursing please consult with your doctor first. Below is a link to more information from Banyan Botanicals click HERE.



Wanna Hear An Ayurvedic Knock Knock Joke? (Oh, and some tips to help slide into the new season with ease)

A good Halloween costume don't you think?

A good Halloween costume don't you think?

Knock, Knock

Who's there

Change of Season

Change of Season Who

Change of Season to Vata that is who

 

As our planet revolves around the sun, we are once more entering the beautiful season of Vata (air & ether) here in the northeast.  The weather will start to cool down as the leaves begin their magnificent descent into all the crimson colors of the season and the days will shorten.

 

We have been here before and we have the tools to enter the season with ease. You can keep your digestive fires high and enjoy all that this season has to offer.   It is is a splendid time to do a one day cleanse to cool off the digestive system from the heat of the summer (Pitta time).  BUT, I do not recommend a cooling juice cleanse as this is usually reserved for those with a Kapha imbalance and can actually lower your digestive fire and increase the element of Vata.  Instead, why not try a kitchari cleanse or a one fast of drinking clear warm broths only. Check out my latest easy to make kitchari recipt HERE.

 

Give yourself a checklist to see how you are doing with your dinacharya (daily rituals). Do you have enough sesame oil on hand?  What about your neti pot and tongue scraper?  Maybe you need to add some Triphala (www.banyanbotanicals.com) as an adaptogenic  to your diet. Triphala is composed of three Indian fruits (Amalaki, Bibhitaki, Haritaki) which are excellent in supporting and tonifying the digestive system.  It is balancing for all three doshas and is usually taken daily. Also, begin to adjust your diet. I start to add root vegetables that now grow in the east.  I also make my apple recipe with ghee and warming spices for breakfast or as a treat (See recipe HERE).  Summer is a time we all tend to take a break whether in school or not, so let's sharpen our pencils and get back on board where we might have slacked off a little.

 

In your yoga practice it is beneficial to start adding some more grounding asanas if you have not already done so.  Standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose) is a great place to start as you ground your feet into the earth and become aware of the bones in your body that support you.  Start including some chair poses to your practice as well.  When you are in your poses see if you can hold them for a longer period of time as you breathe, allowing your bones to sink in and ground gently. Only do so if you can breathe as forcing the pose can cause injury and just create more of a Vata imbalance in your body.

In your pranayama practice work with lengthening your exhales as well as adding Ujjayi breath.

In your meditation, just be a witness to your breath as it enters and exits the nostrils.  Think of slowing down, non attachment, just being the conscious witness.

I like to add the sound of LAM, which is associated with the root chakra to my meditation practice especially at this time of the year.

I invite you to look back at my blogs and recipes on my website for more information.

Remember, if you start to feel jittery, anxious, scattered, constipated, it could be because the elements of air and ether are increasing in your body, but also remember that you have the knowledge and information to bring them back into balance.