How to successfully change your lifestyle with Ayurveda.

Ayurveda give many rules about life-style choices, from diet to exercise, daily routine and disease prevention. Remembering and apply the many roles can be daunting, balancing the doshas, balancing the mind, it can become very complicated, however Ayurveda is about simplifying what is complicated.

I remember when I first tried to create an Ayurvedic plan for my imbalances, there were many areas in needed of a change that I didn’t know where to start, if was overwhelming and off-putting.

It was too complicated.

Trying to change everything in one go can create a lot of stress, high expectancies, struggle, disappointment or even sense of failure. This is not a good state of mind.

One might think that the way to go is to focus on one thing, however this too might not work.

Any change needs some planning and organizing, it needs to be supported to be successful.

For example, if you try to incorporate exercise or even self-massage, squeezing a slot in your already tight schedule, you might find yourself very imbalanced, stressed trying to fit everything in 24 hours.  

Another example is to change your diet into an Ayurvedic diet, but you struggle to find the time to cook or to shop for fresh food. Maybe the cooking takes too long, and you undercook the food or eat in a rush, for example.  While your meal might have Ayurvedic ingredients, however it creates imbalance, stress, indigestion, etc.

Your whole body-mind system needs to work together to have a positive change.

Tips on how be successful:

1)      Choose a starting point and see how you can support that change.

For example, let say that you decide to change your diet. Ask yourself what you need to support this change?

a.       Create a meal plan, organize your shopping list and recipes.

b.       Schedule time to go shopping (or shop online and have the food delivered to you if you don’t have the time to go shopping).

c.       You will also need a slot time to cook that food, or delegate someone to do the cooking for you.

d.       Schedule time to eat slow and in peace (at least whenever possible).

e.       Can you make meal times regular? Maybe some days yes, however some days it’s not possible; how you can adapt the days you can’t eat at the same time?

As you see, you will need to organize your day around your choices and your working schedule. If you are self-employed you must organize your working time so that it doesn’t take over your whole life.

Most important, one needs to be realistic with expectations (you only have 24hrs in a day) and be open towards changes, compromises and adaptation.

2)      Organize your day.

a)       Prioritize what it is essential and need to be part of your schedule (work, kids, etc.)

b)      identify things that have some flexibility.

c)       Delegate when possible, create a support group, including support from family and partner.

d)      Identify things that can be dropped to create space for what is really important, including new things and changes..

3)      Make choices based on what you want to prioritize (from priority list).

4)      Learn to say no.

This is because you need to discriminate between what is important and needed, and what is not. It is not about say no because you are lazy or you can’t be bothered.

5)      Accountability.

You can share your goals with others, to keep you on track. If you struggle keeping track of your appointments, set alarms and reminders. Team up with a friend for encouragement and motivation.

6)      Be prepared for the unexpected, knowing that you will need to make compromises.

Use your “priority list” to identify things that can be dropped to make space to the unexpected. Ask for help when you need it and allow others to help you.

7)      Make time for self-care no matter what.

Meditation, self-care, reflection, building a positive mindset, all have a high priority.

Conclusion:

When you organize your thoughts and routine, you create clarity. It becomes clearer what you need to focus on and what is a time-waster (or unnecessary). 
With clear thoughts what seems to be complicated becomes simplified and clearer. 
When it is clear and simple you will succeed.

Mantra to Lord Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom:

Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha

 Reflective questions:

What is your struggle (notice how this is linked to your Dosha) ?

How you overcome a difficulty, what is your strategy. Can you see it with an ayurvedic eyes, have you intuitively use a strategy that balance your dosha?

What is your experience in applying Ayurveda into your life?

Diets and Ayurveda

 How do we go about with the latest diets and how can we translate them in Ayurvedic terms?

This article wants to be more of a generic approach to diet, nonspecific to any diet. 


There have been many diets promoted over the years. You might recognise some or even have tried them, here some of the most popular:
Alkaline diet, Cabbage soup diet, Dukan Diet, Fruitarianism, Juice fasting, KE diet, Paleolithic diet, South Beach Diet, Superfood diet, Low-carbohydrate diet, Atkins diet, High carb/ low-fat diets, Dr. Dean Ornish: Eat More, Weigh Less, The Good Carbohydrate Revolution, The Pritikin Principle, Liquid diets Slim-Fast, etc.

Do they work, do they fail?

The one and only and easiest diet to follow that will work, it will also improve your health is: avoid processed foods, eat natural food predominantly plants based, associated with exercise and time to relax and good sleep; live in tune with nature and be happy with who you are. 
This diet is uncomplicated, cheap and available to all, yet is the one that many people don’t follow and instead are willing to try ‘new’ miracle diets or pills that will give an instant fix to whatever problem one might have. This without going into discussing the impossible image of the perfect healthy body portrayed by society.

All these ‘Fad’ diets have some validity in their concepts, however, are used in a selective way and can present severe health risks especially when these diets are followed for weeks or months. 


I don’t want to discuss what each diet claim and whether it works or not, what I would like to discuss is how can we translate this diets in the Ayurvedic terms to predict their outcome.

Ayurvedic Diet
In Ayurveda, a balanced diet does not revolve around fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. There is no concept of calories, vitamins, and minerals. 
According to Ayurveda, each person has his own individual constitution (like genetic code), that is a combination of the Doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The food you eat has the power to increase/decrease these elements in the body, hence can potentially nurture and bring balance or act the opposite way, bring unbalance and eventually disease.

Initially, it will be difficult to see things the Ayurvedic way, it takes some time to retrain your mind not to think in terms of calories, fat, carb, etc. 


To make this “translation” easier, notice what food is in this ‘fad’ diet, and what is excluded.

The keto for example, , is high-protein, no-carb diet. How does this translate in Ayurvedic terms?
What are the qualities of carbs, what Dosha increase and which one pacifies? Carbohydrates are heating, sweet (this will pacify Vata), some are particularly drying (good for Kapha). Each carbohydrates will have slightly different qualities, which Ayurveda recognise. Rice for example is tridoshic, however in excess can be too drying and aggravate Vata (causing constipation, etc. Vata disorders. Potatoes aggravate Vata, while Sweet potatoes pacifies Vata, this is just to show how grouping food this way it will not be useful in Ayurveda.

Keto diet promote an increase of fat and protein to lose weight. Fat has oily, sticky qualities that will help balance Vata, however too much will put Kapha and Pitta out of balance.

Proteins are of different types: animal, from nuts, from vegetables, legumes and grains grains (however those are considered carbs in the keto diet), etc.

Just by looking where the proteins come from, there is a great variety and each has it’s own specific characteristics that can either help with health issues or do exactly the opposite.

I am not going to mention the Doshas here, because each one, depending on taste, qualities (dry, oily, heating, heavy, etc.) will have a different effect on the doshas.

How about the duration of a diet, can you do it for a long time, weeks or months?

In a simplistic way, a diet that has strong Vata pacifying characteristic, might actually help in bringing Vata back to balance, however what does it do to the other Doshas? Are you swapping an imbalance for another one?

The thing is, you will not know, until it becomes evident and then you have to work the opposite direction, possibly causing another imbalance.

This is very obvious, when people coming off a strict diet, put the weight back very quickly, or they go from one diet to the next one.

HOw can we predict the effect of a diet?

Any Ayurvedic passionate will have the Ayurvedic list of food combination and food qualities according to the Doshas. This list is just a quick way to get used to see food for their qualities and not in terms of calories, fat, etc.

If you don’t have this list ( and you would like to understand how food influences the Dosha, look at the gunas (qualities).

Think about the Ayurvedic qualities of that food: heating, cold, moist, dry, rough, smooth, etc. The Doshas have qualities too, if food has the same qualities of that Dosha, same qualities will increase and provoque that Dosha. Also notice the taste of that particular food, each taste will have qualities too: sweet has heavy and fluid qualities (earth and water), and will pacify Vata and Pitta, for example.

When you then want to apply the diet to a person, you need to know their Prakruti (individual constitution - genetics and predispositions), and Vikruti (current state of health) to predict how this diet will affect this person.

If the person has a chronic disease, the person is weak, has an illness or taking medications/drugs, if is a young person or pregnant, this becomes way more complicated, that is foolish to even try any of this fad diets, because can put the health of this person (and unborn if pregnant) at serious risk.

Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras says, "...take only those foods which are pure and produce a clear mind. Take them all in moderation." 

To know more about Ayurveda join one of my courses, workshops. II also offer personal consultations.

Women's health - Understanding the balance of monthly cycle

The menstrual cycle is closely connected to the lunar cycles, one should experience approximately a 28-29 days cycle with ovulation around the new moon and release of the ovum for implantation around the full moon, at its peak of energy.

Unless there is a specific condition or medications that can cause disruption to the menstrual cycle (please consult your doctor for any concern), an irregular period can be linked to hormonal changes. This can have many causes and be affected by various factors.

Ayurveda looks at the root cause, hence it is good to look at what Dosha influences the menstrual cycle.

The menstrual flow itself is the elimination of “blood” and it is considered a by-product of the first layer of Ayurvedic tissues, Rasa and the second tissue Rakta.

Blood is composed of two Dosha elements: plasma or Rasa Dhatu (Kapha Dosha) and blood hemoglobin or Rakta dhatu (Pitta Dosha).

Rasa and Rakta can easily be vitiated by doshic imbalance. Paying attention to the flow, pre and post menstruation, qualities (gunas) and symptoms, will give you many clues as to what it is happening.

Each Dosha has a play in the menstrual cycle.

Kapha dominates the first half of the cycle with the thickening of the endometrium, here you might experience kapha qualities of glowing, and being at peace. This phase culminates with ovulation.

Pitta dominates the subsequent phase, bringing more blood to the endometrium in preparation for the potentially fertilized egg and its implantation.

If the egg is not fertilized, Vata acts as a moving force to begin the menstruation.

Here we see how all the Dosha take part in the process and they can contribute to menstrual irregularity.

Each of the Dosha if imbalanced will give different symptoms.

Vata: lower abdomen and back pain, anxiety, fear, nervousness, light flow, etc.

Pitta: burning sensation, irritability, ager, hot, foul smell, heavier flow, etc.

Kapha: dull, discomfort and itching, depression, emotional eating, heavier and longer mucoid flow, etc.

When a Dosha is imbalanced, we consider Dosha balancing diet, routine and lifestyle.

Another thing to consider is nutrition, blockages, stagnation, and hormonal imbalance.

Nutrition is about providing the body with nourishing food and address malnutrition and malabsorption (low Agni, accumulation of Ama, etc).

Reducing toxins and have a correct lifestyle with correct exercise for your type will also reduce and prevent stagnation.

One of the most common causes of irregular menstrual cycles is stress. If stress hormones are high, it will affect the sex hormones and the menstrual cycle.

The first action to a normal menstrual cycle is to bring regularity and daily routine into everyday life. If we don’t assist our body in following its natural cycle, we can’t expect the hormonal rhythm to return to balance.

Where to start with irregular cycles?
• Check with a doctor if concern.
• Take notes about your cycle: duration, symptoms, diet, exercise, sleep, etc. There are many free app to track your cycle if you prefer. 
• Recognize and reduce stressors
• Sleep routine
• A daily routine of self-care
• Daily adequate exercise based on your Dosha.
• Meals at regular times
• Ayurvedic diet (eating compatible food, food for your Dosha, eating correct portions, etc.).
• Hydrate yourself, drink plenty of water.
• Seasonal cleansing and/or panchakarma
• Follow the seasons
• Follow natural rhythm
• Emotional balance, cultivating spiritual practices and meditation.
• Pranayama daily practices.
• Self-massage and massage in general
• Keep good company, surround yourself by people that bring a positive energy, love, and kindness to you and you to them.
• Spend time outside, the exposure to daylight helps synchronize the internal clock with the natural rhythm and regulate hormones. 
• Reduce the use of electronic devices, TV and Social media. 
• Clear your environment from toxins. Some personal and home care products, cosmetics, fragrances –(avoid triclosan or phthalates in particular as disrupt the endocrine system) plastic, pesticides/herbicides, heavy metals, etc. can affect hormonal balance.

Even with a basic knowledge on Ayurveda, one can recognize Dosha imbalances and made a suitable modification. When we act on the imbalances we often see improvement in symptoms, including to an irregular period.

Why Slow Yoga

Traditionally yoga was prescribed by the family Vedic guru (teacher) whose job was to teach the children the ways of a Vedic lifestyle.

This included the practices of yoga, breathing, and meditation, which had much to do with Vedic psychology. The yoga postures were prescribed individually rather than in a sequence like in modern yoga classes offered in studios. Each posture or body mudra had a specific effect to the body and the mind, it was like a meditation in and of itself and was held for a few minutes, progressively increasing the holding time.

These long holds administer benefits that go deeper than simply delivering fitness, a good stretch, or better flexibility. Without the long holds of a posture you miss on the full experience. 

Holding the pose create space for the mind to experience and relax, connect with the sensation of the body that otherwise will go unnoticed, it allow to get deeper in the fascia, where deep memories are stored, releasing the stagnation of energy and blockages, the hold becomes a meditative state where the body and mind are free to release and heal. 

In yoga is about prana, life force and nadis the energy channels in the body, the Chakras. When Prana flow correctly the body-mind system is in balance and free from diseases. Our modern lifestyle really challenge our body, from poor diet, stress, sedentary life, aging, pollution, emotions, etc. the body react by tensing up. The channel within the body becomes blocked (a bit like cholesterol in the veins) and unless this blockages are removed, the life force within the body diminishes which become evident with pains, body becomes rigid, the body systems becomes weaker. 

One of the purposes of yoga asana (poses) is to help break up this blockages. The long holds act directly in releasing stress and tension in the physical body.  Long holds allow the muscles to begin to relax. If you hold a posture for just 15-30 seconds, the tendons (the attachments where the muscles connect to the bone) tighten in resistance to the stretch. If you force the stretch you might damage the tendon.

If the posture is held for sufficient time (generally 10 breaths) the belly of the muscle (where all the blood and potential elasticity is found) will begin to release and lengthen, the result is more permanent elasticity and flexibility. . If you give time, the tendon relax, the muscle relax, the fascia relax. It's a ripple effect that reach your subconscious, your parasympathetic nervous system, your mind. Reducing physical and mental stress reduce inflammation which has been recognised to be the cause of many autoimmune diseases and chronic diseased).

In Yoga this process remove blockages and allow prana to flow freely, your body tissue receive nourishment and the body system functions can return to normal, its the process of healing.

Slow Yoga is not at all a "beginners" yoga, in fact it is quite advance, one has to have an open mind to learn from this process. Traditional yoga is therefore is very powerful healing practice, it offer very powerful returns in its simplicity and at the same time incredibly profound.

The Nadis

There are 72,000 nadis, or subtle energy channels in the body, according to Ayurveda and Yogic philosophy. These subtle channels becomes active only when prana or the breath moves into them, it like the first breath of a new born baby, everything is there but life starts with the first breath. Through the combination of long-hold of yoga postures, focus (still mind, meditation like) and breathing (pranayama),  prana activates the Nadis and moves through the density of the physical body.

According to Ayurveda, through the practices of slow yoga, breathing, meditation and a balanced lifestyle, it is possible to change pattern of illnesses.

When the postures are held briefly, or the breathing and meditation components are lacking in the yoga practice, the full potential of yoga is left unrealized.

Note: Slow Yoga classes are available to book here

End of Summer – beginning of the Vata season, what changes can you make?

End of Summer – beginning of the Vata season, what changes can you make?

August is a critical month to prepare your body for the colder days of autumn/fall. Some of you might already have experienced some summer storms, windy days and cooler temperatures, shorter days. Nature has more yellow color like yellow sunsets, yellow leaves. In Ayurveda, this is the beginning of the Vata season.

The heat of the summer has brought dryness in the body which is one of the Vata characteristics.

During the transaction from Summer to Autumn, from heat to cold, from sweats to chills, it is easy for your body to get out of balance. Especially if you are a Vata person, it is important at this time, to keep Vata under control.

Signs of Vata imbalance are: 
-dryness in the whole body, including constipation,
- gas and bloating
-insomnia
-anxiety
-a scattered mind.

All this can cause a build-up of toxins {Ama}, hence Ayurveda suggests cleansing and detox {Kitchari mono diet} during a change of season

August is time for a Vata pacifying routine (you still need to consider your current imbalance and constitution).

Diet: Vata is pacified by the sweet, sour, and salty tastes and aggravated by the pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes. Favor smooth, warm, oily, moist, grounding and nourishing food over dry, light or rough.
Note that sweet taste is not about sugar is about how a food taste: sweetness in fruit, vegetables, grains, and sweet spices like Fennel, etc.

Eat a Vata balancing diet with fresh local produce which is in season.

Examples: Peaches will give sweet and a little sour (this will stimulate digestion) and are very juicy (moist). They are rich in fibers which helps with elimination.
Tomatoes have similar qualities to Peaches, however, being a nightshade may strain the liver and it should be avoided by Pitta and Vata individuals. 
- Warm breakfast with whole grain cereals and almond milk (or coconut milk) a touch of cinnamon will balance Vata.
- Lunch, when it is still quite hot, you can enjoy some cooling/cold food: 
vegetables such as Yellow squashes, juicy cucumbers, and carrots may be appealing for their rich beta-carotene content and sweet taste. Light grain salads with quinoa served at room temperature are nourishing, fresh, and easy to digest.

In general limit (or avoid) cooling foods including refrigerated and cold drink as well as large quantities of raw fruits and vegetables. Due to the dryness of Vata, astringent taste should be avoided.

About fruits, some (like apples) are best cooked or stewed which makes them sweeter and easier to digest and add warm and moist which are all beneficial to Vata. 
Dry fruits are mostly cooling and astringent (drying), rough {all increase Vata}, unless have been soaked and or cooked {add moist and heat which balance Vata}.
* Remember *: fruits and fruit juices are best enjoyed alone—30 minutes before, and ideally at least 1 hour after, any other food.

Vata balancing diet will have plenty of freshly cooked, whole foods that are soft or mushy in texture, rich in protein and fat, seasoned with a variety of spices, and served either warm or hot. These foods will provide lubrication, nourishment to the tissues, moist and heat while supporting optimal digestion.

Routine is key, eating at the same time each day will strengthen the digestive fire {Agni}.
Abhyanga, self-massage part of your daily routine is very important at this time.
Clothing: wear layers so that you can adjust with the changing temperatures during the day and also keep an extra blanket close by at night to use if needed.

If you take care of your imbalances right from the start of this Vata season, your immune system and general health will be stronger by the time the cold and flu season arrives.

10 Tips to cope with the heat of the summer


Summer is the season of hot weather, which relates to the fire element and Pitta Dosha.

The light, heat, and dryness of this season reflect the color in nature: Intense red, orange, and yellows, not just in the environment, also in our body.

During the summer, Pitta dosha can easily go out of balance. It is important to note that the blood, small intestine, stomach, liver, spleen, and gallbladder, skin (sebaceous gland and sweat) and eyes are some of the main sites of Pitta dosha and they too can become stressed and out of balance.

The heat and the sun can cause the skin to get red, irritated and even burn. People with skin conditions such as eczema will probably experience a worsening of their condition. The eyes too can become dry and irritated.

Your digestion is also affected, you will feel less hungry and more thirsty, especially at lunchtime, the peak of the heat of the day.  

Due to the heat, the capillaries become dilated and filled with blood which release body heat and sweat, as a result, your body cools down. Your heart works really hard in the process of maintaining your body temperature from rising, which takes priority over eating and digestion (this too requires as a lot of blood and fluids). This explains the feeling of nausea or even being sick if you have a heavy meal (this also happens when you are in a "fight or flight" situation or when you are doing sports). While a cold meal is appealing, you might not have enough blood and weak Agni (digestive fire) to digest it.

Tips and remedies for the summer:

  1. stay cool, do not exercise when you are already hot, do not sunbathe when the sun is at its peak (11am-4pm generally).
  2. wear clothing made with naturally breathable fibers with a cooling effect, such as linen and cotton. 
  3. eat light meals, in particular vegetables like dark leafy greens and cooling herbs such as coriander, fennel seeds, and fenugreek. Eat what is in season, snack on fresh seasonal fruit and smoothies (no milk).
  4. drink plenty of water, you could add a drop of lime juice or some mint leaves which have cooling properties. Ayurveda suggests drinking buttermilk, or chaas, during the summer. You can find some recipes here and Ayurvedic recipes for the doshas in my e-book.
  5. Avoid alcohol which will increase heat and stress to the liver (Pitta organ).
  6. Avoid iced drinks especially with your meal as this will weaken your digestive fire even further.
  7. Cool your senses:
    1. Smell:  Apply cooling, sweet, bitter essential oils like natural rose, vetiver (khus), or sandalwood to your neck, palms, and solar plexus and adorn your home with fresh, fragrant flowers. Instead of perfume (most are synthetics) you can try blending some cooling diluted essential oil that will calm Pitta:  Rose, Fennel, and Sandalwood, with smaller amounts of soothing oils such as Ylang Ylang and Frankincense and some uplifting oils such as Lemon or Peppermint. 
    2. Taste: balance excess pitta with bitter, astringent, sweet, and cooling foods (milk and ghee) and herbs including anti-inflammatory herbs like amalaki. Cut down on sour, salty, or spicy foods.
    3. Sight: give your eyes (site of Pitta) a rest from electronic equipment, books, and tv; instead look at colling colors in nature: white, blue, green, silver, and gray. To relieve burning eyes, before bedtime massage coconut oil into the scalp and sole of the feet and place a drop of castor oil in each eye. 
    4. Touch: the skin is already working hard and soaps can irritate and dry the skin further, use only natural cooling soaps such as coconut or sandalwood soaps/body wash. Massage your skin with cooking oils such as coconut oil. Rose water is also very refreshing and is an herb for the liver (Pitta organ).
  8. instead of using suntan lotion which contains large amounts of chemicals, you could opt for natural sunblock by mixing castor oil and neem oil in equal parts and apply to the exposed skin. While it will protect and nurture the skin, you can still get sunburn hence do not stay out in the sun for too long. 
  9. If you do get sunburn mix aloe vera and coconut oil in equal parts and apply onto the irritated skin. Aloe vera is great for sunburn and burns in general.
  10. Finally, practice meditation, cooling pranayama such as Sitali and listen to soft ambient music and devotional songs to calm your heart and soothe your spirit.

Italian Summer Lunch: Stuffed tomatoes.

This italian studded tomatoes are my go to during the summer, not too heavy, tasty and refreshing. Traditionally we use very large tomatoes (what in UK are called beef tomatoes) or you could use small tomatoes to create bite size or finger food ideal for a summer buffet/picnic. 

You will need: Risotto rice, stock,  Parsley, garlic, salt, pepper,  garlic, olive oil.

Method:

Cook risotto rice with some stock or seasoning, until nearly cooked.

While the rice is cooking prepare the tomatoes.

  • Cut neatly the top of the tomatoes, keep the tops.
  • Remove the pulp from the tomatoes, finely chopped it up or place it in food processor to a fine soupy consistency, save it for later.
  • Season the emptied tomatoes with salt.
  • Once the rice is semi-cooked, remove from the heat.
  • Mix the rice with the pulp from the tomatoes, and add the spices, oregano, salt, pepper, olive oil and garlic to taste (you could use onions or spring onions (or wild garlic) instead of garlic).

Other options:

  1. For an Indian flavour instead add ginger,  turmeric, cumin and coriander and you could use coconut oil instead of olive oil.  
  2. For a spanish twist you can add saffron to the rice while cooking; very little or no origano at all if you want to taste the saffron; once finished cooking, when out of the oven, squeeze some lemon or lime juice on top just before serving.
  •  Stuff the tomatoes with the rice mixture and put the tomatoes tops back on.
  • Cook in the oven until the skin of the tomatoes become darker andthe tops and slightly crispy. My mum used to make a mixture of bread crumbs, garlic, and parsley to sprinkle on top before going into the oven, it's just a little detail that makes them so much tastier. 

Once cooked, sprinkle some freshly chopped parsley (coriander for Indian flavour) and serve. They can be served straight from the oven or later at room temperature.

They make a great snack for the beach, lunch at work or a picnic.

 

Heatwave and your heart

At the moment in the UK we are having a heat-wave with temperatures reaching 30C (unusual for the UK).

What happens to us during this times of hot weather?
You will probably feel hot, sweating, tiredness, fatigue, and symptoms can vary from migraines to confusion, heat stroke, ultimately too much heat put your heart under stress.

A medical article from Harvard Health Publishing explains what happens:

Like water flowing downhill, heat naturally moves from warm areas to cooler ones. As long as the air around you is cooler than your body, you radiate heat to the air. But this transfer stops when the air temperature approaches body temperature.

Your body shouldn’t get too hot (or too cold). If your temperature rises too far, the proteins that build your body and run virtually all of its chemical processes can stop working. The human body sheds extra heat in two ways, both of which stress the heart:

Radiation requires rerouting blood flow so more of it goes to the skin. This makes the heart beat faster and pump harder. On a hot day, it may circulate two to four times as much blood each minute as it does on a cool day.

Evaporation. Every molecule of sweat that evaporates from your skin whisks away heat. On a dry day, the evaporation of a teaspoon of sweat could cool your entire bloodstream by 2 degrees F. But as the humidity creeps above 75% or so, there’s so much water vapor in the air that evaporation becomes increasingly difficult.

Evaporation also strains the cardiovascular system. Sweat pulls more than heat from the body—it also pulls out sodium, potassium, and other minerals needed for muscle contractions, nerve transmissions, and water balance. To counter these losses, the body begins secreting hormones that help the body hold onto water and minimize mineral losses.

Their recommendations are:

  • Take it easy and choose cooler times for activities.
  • Cooling down air is the best way to beat the heat. Fans, baths, etc.
  • Drink to your health. 
  • Eat light. Smaller meals, smoothies, salads, and fruits will also give you extra fluids and minerals.

How all of this translate in Ayurvedic terms?

Excess heat very much relates to excess Pitta.

We can experience all the signs of excess Pitta including being more irritable, overly reactive, intense, egotistical or have a hot temper. 


With the excess heat, the heart bits faster to help the body cool down. As the heart beats faster, the tip of your tongue will be red (signs of fire element) and the liver, a Pitta organ, may become fatigued. 
The fact that the heart is beating faster, denotes movement, hence an increase of Vata dosha too.

As we see the recommendations from Harvard's article very much follow what Ayurveda says: opposite qualities bring balance.

Excercise put heart under stress and increases body heat, hence any exercise should be done during the colder hours.

Ayurveda has specific recommendations regarding Pitta balancing exercises/practices that includes cooling pranayama and meditation.

I see people running, cycling, etc when outside temperatures are reaching 28C (or higher), is this type of exercise in this weather conditions healthy or balancing?

Cooling down through your skin (the largest organ in our body) with bath in the sea, lake or river (or bathtub), isn't it wonderful? This brings the element of water which is the element that balance both Pitta and Vata. 

Drinking to your health with water: Wine, sugary and alcoholic drinks increase heat and dehydration.

Eat light: add the elements of cold, wet, moist to balance the heat of Pitta. This is the season for salads, smoothies, fresh seasonal fruit like watermelon (to eat on its own), and even ice cream (which normally is a no, no, in Ayurveda).

Eat a Pitta pacifying diet and follow a Pitta-balancing routine. Add cooling herbs and spices to your meals like coriander, fennel, or mint and lime juice, avocado, and coconut.

The practice of self-massage reduces stress to the heart, however, use oils with cooling properties such as coconut oil or castor oil.

We can see how modern medicine and Ayurveda do say similar things, however, Ayurveda has a more holistic view and can include more specific guidance and practices, including diet, massage, yoga, meditation and pranayama.

A reminder from Yoga: always practice the 8 limbs of yoga of Patanjali, in particular, Ahimsa: do no harm to yourself nor to others. 


The practice of awareness will show you what to do.

Our body has its own intelligence, we need to learn to listen to it.

21 June Summer Solstice: Ritucharya practice

The word solstice comes from the Latin roots sol (Sun), and stitium (to stop or be still). This is the moment when the sun appears to pause in the sky, as its trajectory undergoes a perceived directional shift.
The summer solstice occurs when Earth’s pole is most greatly inclined toward the sun. Hence the Sun appears to be still when the Sun reaches its highest position in the sky in its northernmost position from the equator on the longest path through the sky.

The summer solstice occurs during the summer. (June solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the December solstice in the Southern Hemisphere).
Rituacharya is the ancient Ayurvedic practice {“Ritu” means season; “charya” means regimen or discipline}. 
Ritucharya consists of lifestyle and Ayurvedic diet routine to cope with the bodily and mental impacts caused by seasonal changes.

During the Summer Solstice, there is a gradual shift from Kapha balancing practices to Pitta pacifying cooling and regenerative practices. Being a time of transaction, we need to allow the body to adapt slowly to the change. It is not a switch from Kapha to pitta pacifying, rather a gradual change. 
I have found the analogy of Earth seasonal changes to breath ways to be interesting.

The inhalation of Earth is during the Autumnal Equinox: days becomes of the same length as nights, light and dark (yin and yang) just like the midway point of inhalation when the lungs are half full and half empty. {PURAKA: Inhalation}
At the peak of inhalation, there is a moment of pause, the Winter Solstice. {Kumbhaka: breath retention}, just before starting the exhalation.

As we exhale {Rechaka}, just like with inhalation, there is a halfway point where the lungs are half empty and half full. Similarly, the Spring Equinox is the halfway point when the daylight has increased to become the same length as night time.

At the end of exhalation there is another moment of pause, {Kumbhaka: breath retention}, it’s when the carbon dioxide has been fully expelled, and we are ready to start inhaling again, the start of a new breathing cycle. For Earth, this is the Summer Solstice, the day with the longest daylight and shortest night. The sun appears to stay still at its highest position to then continue its journey and restart the cycle of seasons again.

Verse from the Vijnana Bhairava Sutra, the sweet words that Shiva offered to his bride, Shatki: 
“Exhaling, breath is released and flows out. There is a pulse as it turns to flow in. In that turn, you are empty. Enter that emptiness as the source of all life.”

Next time you practice pranayama, or you have a moment to observe your breath, bring your focus to that moment of emptiness after the exhalation, the directional shift of the breath just before the inhalation.

Experience the emptiness, stop or be still like the sun at the highest point during the solstice. 
Notice how this makes you feel.

Happy Summer Solstice to you all.

How to use Rose petals in Ayurveda

Easy to make rosewater with fresh roses: .

2 cups distilled water

1 cup full of fresh petals (You can use dried petals too).

Heat the water and once it’s hot add the petals. simmer the petals on low heat for about 10 min. Use only the petals. Turn off heat and let it cool for few minutes.  Strained the petal and squeeze out the rest of the water which will makes color more vivid.

Store in airtight container/bottle for up to 2 week in the fridge. .

Ayurveda: Rose water has cooling properties which is great to balance the summer heat {balances Pitta}.

Rose water is particularly used for cooling, moisturizing and toning the skin, improve the glow and complexion of the skin and also improves inner beauty.

Used regularly can prevent skin imbalances. 

Rosewater applied to hair will promote growth, condition and maintain good health of scalp, preventing its irritation and dundruff. The smell of rose will also have an effect in calming the mind. .

Other benefits: roses enhance digestive fire, balance hormones, helps beat stress and depression. It has also being investigated for their anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-hemorrhagic properties.

According to Ayurveda, roses also help in curing amenorrhea, eye inflammation, headache due to aggravated pitta, acne, sore throat and enlarged tonsils.

You can also drink Rose tea made with fresh or dried (organic) petals, add rose petals to salads and baths. .

 

 

Cooking inspiration: Papadum.

Who hasn't been in an Indian restaurant and had Papadum with Mango Chutney as starters? Papadum or Masala Papad as a starter is quite common to see in Indian restaurant's menu, however, this is not a modern recipe, the use and benefits of Masala Papad has been mentioned in some classical books: Bhavaprakasha and Kritaanna varga/44, 45

Papadums can easily be made at home the traditional (Ayurvedic) way.

Ingredients and propriety

Dhoomasi (Fine flour of Black gram): nutritive, energizer, bulk enhancer, aphrodisiac.

Jeeraka(Cumin seeds) Anti flatulent, carminative, anti-inflammatory.

Hingu (asafoetida) carminative, digestive, anti-spasmodic, anti-flatulent.

Lavana (Rock salt) Digestive, appetizer, stimulant.

Sarjika kshara (baking soda): Anti flatulent, digestive, scraping.

 

Method of preparation:

Add water to the Gram flour, then add the remaining ingredients and mix it into a dough.

The dough is then rolled into thin round shapes and let it dry under the sun. The drying can take up to 3 days depending on climate.(alternatively you can dry it in the oven at 100C or 200F for one hour). You can store the dried Papadum in an air tight container, ready to use.

Cooking method: It is best to cook it in a hot pan or overbake, deep fry will reduce its benefits. Cook until they become crispy, not too brown.

You can serve it with some seasonal vegetables, hummus and chutneys.

Ayurveda on healthy eating and weight management.

Ayurveda gives great guidance for eating, when you follow this basic rules, you will find easy to control weight and emotions.

Here listed some of the rules:

- Have meals on a regular schedule. Nature likes cycles and regularity, so does your body. When you eat regularly, your digestive juices will start being produced before the food even comes. This practice will help regulate your digestion, balance your emotions and keep you energized throughout the day!

- Eat the right quantity, just to the point you feel satisfied (not full as this induce overeating): Yoga and Ayurveda agree that you should fill 1/3 of the belly with food, 1/3 with liquid and leave the remaining 1/3 available to allow movement in the digestive process. This, in turn, will keep your digestive fire strong and robust and leave you feeling energized after meals.

The stomach naturally gives a burp when its three quarters 3/4 full. Don’t eat more than you can hold cupped in your two hands.

- Do not eat incompatible food items together: like dairy with fruits (the typical 'healthy breakfast yogurt, cereals, and fruit). 

- Eat warm meals to preserve your digestive power (Agni) and allows your digestive enzymes to work efficiently.

- Eat freshly prepared {with love} quality food, ‘real’ food (not processed), food that has life (Prana) in them. Eat consciously.

- Don't eat fast, take your time to chew instead of just swallowing it. The chewing of the food starts the process of digestion.

- Be present when you eat. Use all your 5 senses. Take time to appreciate the smell of your meal, the look of your plate, the texture of your food, the different flavors, and the sounds that you make when you eat. Eat in a calm and comfortable place, quiet with no distractions (such as TV, internet, etc.).

- Eat only when you are hungry, this should be after your previous meal is completely digested, as sometimes we think we are hungry when in fact we are thirsty or feeding our emotions.

- don’t use food to fix emotions, emotional eating. While it is normal to eat for pleasure, to celebrate a special event, a special occasion as an expression of joy, this shouldn’t become a habit, an addiction.

 

Next time you feel hungry, stop and think.

What are your emotions?

Are you using food to compensate for sadness, tiredness, satisfaction, feeling being unloved, frustration, thirsty, weakness, sweet tooth, to socialize?

Notice when you have an emotional eating craving and separate this from real craving. Is chocolate your go to when you are feeling lonely, unhappy? Are crisps your fix for when you are bored? Does junk food make you feel full? Does the feeling of a full belly compensate for the emptiness in your heart? Do you eat to keep going, because you are tired? Look at the motivation behind your cravings.

When you are unsure, go for a walk or drink a cup of tea or meditate and see how you feel afterword. Also drinking warm water, eat a pinch of black pepper or a slice of ginger will stimulate your heart and circulation. A short self-massage (abhyanga), some self-care or a chat with a friend, usually helps.

There is also real craving that is to balance your Dosha, and one that is driven by a Dosha imbalance.

Knowing your Pakruti and Vikruti will heal you recognize good from bad craving, the one feeding directly into your imbalance. Sometimes an imbalance can make food taste different, for example, the bitter taste is often one that people dislike, to the point of refusing to eat vegetables (most have bitter taste). However once the test return to normal, bitter will taste better and sometimes food cravings disappear simply by using biter taste daily.

The emotional eating can be a difficult habit to break, if this is the case delay responding to the emotional craving and engage in a different activity.

Take time to understand if your hunger is coming from your belly or from your emotions, journal your craving to then find other ways to meet your emotional needs and regain control and a sense of calm without turning to food. It is better to get to the root of the issue than give in to a short-lived relief with food.

We offer Ayurvedic consultation in person and by online-meeting to knwo more about nutrition, diet and emotional balance specific to your situation. 

Getting to understand your Prakrti.

Getting to understand your Prakrti.

 

We say that the Prakrti of a person is determined at the time of conception.

 Many things contribute to the Pakrti.

From a Science view, a new life starts when the sperm meets the ovum. The genetic material in the sperm combines with the genetic material in the egg to create a new cell that starts dividing rapidly to eventually become a fetus, this is the moment of conception.

If we look at the conception from an Ayurvedic point of view, every person has all three doshas (physical humors – vata, pitta, kapha) and trigunas (psychological qualities - Satwa, Rajas, Tamas) in different proportions.

We can intuitively expect the sperm will carry the 5 elements from the father – in different proportion as per father’s Doshas - Pkrti); the ovum (mother egg) will carry the 5 elements in a proportion based on the mother’s Dosha - Pakrti.   

Depending upon the predominance of the five basic elements, three doshas and mental qualities in sperm (Shukra) and ovum (Shonita) at the time of conception, the individual Prakruti is decided.

You could think of this as a genetic combination.

This combination of Parents Pakrti determines the physiological balance and constitution of the individual which is called as Prakruti in Ayurveda.

However, Prakruti is also described to be influenced by maternal factors including the intra-uterine environment, diet and regimen adopted by the mother during pregnancy (Matur Ahara Vihara), time, season and location, and there are also Karmic ties in ones Prakriti.

This basic constitution {Pakrti} which is fixed at the time of fertilization generally remains constant throughout the life of that individual.

Why is it difficult to determine your own Pakrti or even Vikrti?

Have you heard that a Doctor shouldn’t diagnose him/herself? This is very much the same with Ayurveda. |When you try to figure out your own Ayurvedic constitution, some of the questions in the Pakrti test are better answered by an observer that can be more objective (impartial) then our self.

Sometimes something happened early on in life (sometimes even when still in the womb) that has brought an imbalance from very young; hence when you look at your history during the Pakrti test you can’t see a time when you were in balance and it might be difficult to find out your Dosha constitution, Pakrti.

What you can see, however, is your tendency, what is more frequently out of balance (maybe you always get excess mucous - Kapha, often with high temperature – Pitta,  or very dry skin, somewhat dry even when you were little - Vata, etc.) , this will give you an idea of your dominant Dosha in your Pakrti too.

How do you know for sure?

There are other ways to determine your Pakrti (and Vikrti), this is part of the Ayurvedic examination process:


– darshana or direct observation i.e. tongue diagnosis, physical appearance etc,
– sparsana or touch i.e. pulse diagnosis. 
– prasana or questioning which can be verbal or in the form of a written questionnaire.

The Ayurvedic diagnostic tool used by Ayurvedic practitioners has eightfold:

Asta Sthana Rogi Pariksha (Eight- fold examination of the patient)

Nadi Pariksha (Pulse Study)

Mutra Pariksha (Examination of Urine)

Mala Pariksha (Stool Examination)

Jihwa Pariksha (Tongue Examination)

Shabda Pariksha  (listening to bodily and vocal sounds)

Sparsha Pariksha (Skin Examination - touch)

Drig Pariksha (Eye Examination)

akruti (the person’s overall appearance and gait).

This is just to say that the determination of one’s Pakrti, Vikrti, and diagnosis of imbalances and disease is quite a complex subject, hence an Ayurvedic practitioner will have to study many years, just like a doctor in modern medicine does.

In modern medicine, you can make simple judgments, however, for a more complex situation,  will require a doctor.

Think the same way with Ayurveda, while you can simply understand the Doshas, and make simple adjustments to lifestyle, a complex situation (condition, illness) will require a deeper understanding of the Ayurvedic system like an Ayurvedic consultant and practitioner.  

Raffaella is a certified Ayurvedic Nutritionist, Wellbeing consultant. She offers regular workshops and courses as well as consultations

Spring allergies - Ayurvedic remedy

Do you love spring but dread the allergies that overtake your life at this time of the year?

 Ayurvedic approach to allergies offer information on effective allergies remedies that might bring some relive not only in Spring time. 

According to Ayurveda, an allergy is the aggravation of a  Dosha by a particular substance (the allergen). In most cases, allergic reactions are reflective of our Doshic constitutions, for example a kapha predominant constitution will present a kapha type allergy, especially when this dosha is already aggravated. 

Vata-Type Allergies

Vata types of allergies are often experienced in the digestive tract: gas, abdominal pain, intestinal colic, etc. There might also be symptoms of headache, ringing of the ears, joint pain, insomnia, and other typical signs of imbalanced Vata imbalance. Some food that aggravates Vata can also count for aggravation of allergies: beans, some animal proteins, etc. 

When vata is aggravated, it is important to slow down, keep warm, stay hydrated, and have a vata pacifying diet and life-style. To help with Vata imbalance and this type of allergies, drinking ginger, licorice teas with an added drop of ghee can often be helpful.  

Pitta-Type Allergies

Pitta types of allergies are more related to skin problems, such as hives, itching, eczema, dermatitis, etc. You might also experience heartburn, nausea, indigestion, and other symptoms affecting the GI tract. When Pitta is high, you might experience sensitivity to spicy, hot food, sour fruits, fermented foods and nightshade vegetables. A Pitta balancing diet and lifestyle will help counteract this effects of high pitta. Keep cool, eat non-spicy food, avoid overheating and Ayurveda also recommends bloodletting, blood donation. Coriander is a good blood and liver cleanser, you can either add it fresh to your food or drink its juice. Neem oil has cooling proprieties, its application relieves excess pitta. 

 

Kapha-Type Allergies

Kapha allergies are most likely to be experienced during the spring season when plants and trees shed their pollen into the atmosphere. When pollen is inhaled, can irritate the delicate mucous membrane causing an allergic reaction such as hay fever, colds, congestion, sinus infection, and even asthma. Other aggravated Kapha symptoms include water retention, bronchial congestion, caught, sleeping disorder and sluggish digestion. 

One way to minimize the effect of pollens is to lubricate with ghee, the nasal mucous membrane creates a barrier and preventing the direct contact with the allergen. There is also some Kaphagenic food that its best to avoid: milk and dairy, wheat, cucumber, and watermelon.  Drinking lightening and clarifying teas such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, or clove can also help to liquefy, dry, and eliminate excess kapha.

Using local honey as a sweetener helps reduce sensitivity to pollen. Trikatu is often used to pacify Kapha and follow a kapha pacifying diet and lifestyle. Ayurveda recommends a cleanse during springtime to remove excess Kapha accumulated during Winter, this also helps prevent Kapha type allergies. Intermittent fasting can be continued throughout the rest of the spring.

 

Ayurveda back to basis

When talking about Ayurveda rather looking at its concepts of Doshas, Vata, Pitta, Kapha, Agni Dhatu, etc., instead of making it complicated, the best way forward is to look about the simplicity that lies behind it all.

Let's go “Back to Basics” of it all.

So, here are some back to basic principles that you can refer to especially when you find resistance in integrating Ayurvedic principles into your everyday lives.

Ayurveda sees health as a positive attitude of enjoying physical, mental and emotional health. It’s the science of life.

I would like to highlight five fundamental principles:

1)   Awareness. When there is chaos or confusion, the first step is recognizing that this is what it is: chaos, confusion. Awareness is the first step to changes, progress, and development. Realising what it is, leads towards clarity.
 

2)   Get close to nature, to the weather and natural environment you live in. Local native plants and food, including what people might consider weeds which can be used medicinally as food. Sourcing local food is too a way of synchronizing with local seasons, weather and the energies of where you live. 

3)    Skin is the largest organ in our body. Do not put anything on your skin that you are not prepared to put into your mouth. From beauty products to soaps, toothpaste, etc. Foods can be turned into oils, nourishing liquids, creams, pastes etc to help towards physical health and balance.

4)    Ayurveda begins from your kitchen!
We keep talking about food, herbs, oils, etc. because food is medicine and when it is used correctly becomes therapeutic. Turn your kitchen into a space of healing and look at each food as medicine which will aid towards bringing back balance into the body.

5)    Listen to your body. There is always a conversation that goes on between your body and your mind. If you ignore it lead to imbalance. If you are tired, you probably need to sleep. If you are hungry you need food. You might not be hungry but that chocolate cake looks so inviting…..well you can recognise that too. The body knows what it needs, the mind comes along. With awareness of this conversation we can realise what is essential need for health and balance, and what is not (like eating a slice of chocolate cake).  Finding a healthy balance between body and mind is essential.

The roots of Easter - The Vedic Universe.

Happy Easter!

I have done some research about Easter and I have found the Vedic connection which is quite interesting. {Monday post}.

Easter was originally the celebration of Ishtar, the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess. The egg symbol was sacred to the Babylonians.

They believed that a Cosmic Egg fell from the heavens into the Euphrates river, from which the goddess Ishtar ( Venusian goddess) was hatched. For this reason, the egg came to symbolize the spring celebration of Austrõn, Ôstarâ, Ēoster or Eástre, a later Saxon goddess descended from Ishtar.

In Rome, the egg was also part of the sacred ceremonies of the Mysteries of Bacchus, who incidentally is associated with the Green Man carved throughout Rosslyn chapel.

Under the Roman Empire, Christianity adopted the pagan rituals integrating these celebrations. In 325CE the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first full moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox.

The tradition of coloring and hiding Easter eggs actually originated in the fertility rites associated with many Venusian goddesses.Northern Europe, China, and Japan, eggs were colored for their sacred festivals.

The Sanskrit term for the Cosmic Egg is Brahmanda, Brahm meaning “cosmos” and Anda meaning “egg.” In the Vedic Upanishads (appendices to the Vedas), the Hiranyagarbha or “golden fetus” was believed to have floated around in emptiness for a while before breaking in half to form the Dyaus (Heaven) and Prithvi (Earth). In the Hindu scriptures, with Dyauṣ if Father Sky, &and Pṛthivī is Mother Earth.

In Induism, Brahman splits into male (Parashiva) and female (Parasakti) and manifests as the universe. The parashiva has 5 faces:

Sadyojata — west-aspect that propagates manifest Brahman; associated with Vishnu; represents water.

Tatpurusha — east-aspect that reveals; associated with rudra, Rishi, Muni, Jnani, yogi; represents light.

Vamadeva — north-aspect that sustains manifest Brahman; associated with Ishwara; represents air or vital life force.

Isana - Upper- aspect that conceals; associated with all that exists; represents ether(space).

Aghora — south-aspect that rejuvenates manifest Brahman; associated with brahma; represents earth.

Adhomukha — lower-aspect that enjoy manifest Brahman; associated with shanmukha; represents fire.

You can see how the cardinal points relate to the Elements (hence there is a specific direction for the rooms in the house).

Brahm is Cosmo which is deeply studied in Vedic astrology {Jyotish} and is represented in Yantra symbolism.

Sri Yantra {the red colorpicture} is an abstract representation of the Mother (and Father too!) as Cosmos. Every Yantra is a symbolic representation of both a deity as well as the universe, as the mother goddess not only permeates the substance of the universe; she is, literally, the Universe itself. Abstract geometric representations of the universe, which do not represent a deity, are called mandalas, however. Thus every Yantra is a mandala, though not all mandalas are Yantras.

Together, the Cosmic Egg and Venus symbolized renewal and everlasting life at the top of the World Mountain of Meru. 

The video link shows the Vedic tour of the Universe (Jyotisha - Vedic Astrology).

https://youtu.be/88mCIlrfLN4

Cleansing the mind.

This week I would like to talk about cleansing the mind.

Many of us have heard Patanjali’s famous definition of yoga: “yogas chitta vritti nirodhah”, which means “yoga is the removal of the fluctuations of the mind”. Chitta is mind, vrittis are the fluctuations, nirodah is removal.

In Sutra 1.5 (Vryttayah pancatayyah klishta aklishta), Patanjali says that we experience five types of vrittis (fluctuations).

1. Valid Cognition (Pramana)

2. Misconception (Viparyaya)

3. Imagination (Vikalpa)

4. Sleep (Nidra)

5. Memory (Smriti)

Some of these vrittis may be painful (klishta) or non-painful (aklishta).

When one sits in meditation, thoughts emerge, and some will cause a reaction more than other because of how we perceive them. If we let them pass through without attaching meaning or engaging with them, we can let them go without disturbing our meditation. It is not about suppressing them because this too will cause an engagement, a disturb in the mind {Vritti}; it is about letting them raise and learn to let them go. In time the Vrittis lose significance chasing to disturb the meditative mind. It’s like the bubbles in a glass of sparkling water, they rise to the surface and eventually, the bubbles will all go and the water becomes still. When Vrittis lose their power to hold our attention, the mind can rest quietly.

Patanjali tells us that what stops the mind meditating (and clearing the clutter) are the distractions: Ignorance, I-ness, desire, aversion, and attachment. (Yoga Sutras, II, 3).

Both mind and body are a storehouse of past pains, physical and emotional and believes, conditioning, the Samskaras that are deep in the Citta (mind).

It is through the practice of yoga and meditation that we can clean and declutter our minds.

Patanjali says that “through sustained practice and the cultivation of dispassion, these fluctuations of mind can be stilled” (YS 1.12).

If you haven't tried meditation, find a guided meditation online, Yoga Nidra is my favorite practice and Mantra meditation. I have a recorded Yoga Nidra with Sound healing in TBY Videos for my student's home practice.  

 

Spring equinox

This year, the 20th of March is the spring equinox, it is the time when both hemispheres of the Earth are equally illuminated. The Indian calendar divides the year into two: the bright and dark parts. In mid-January they celebrate the beginning of the half-bring part of the year, Makara Sankranti when the Sun enters the constellation of Capricorn.

This is the time when the light increases and decreases darkness until at the time of the equinox, the time when there is the perfect balance between the forces of light and darkness. This is the time Brahma created the world.

Shortly after that is the celebration of Holi. The festival of color, color is just the spectrum and manifestation of light.

This return of the light heralds a time to sow, which is seen in all agrarian cultures in the world across times.

We can celebrate the Vernal Equinox acknowledging the value of life, incorporating the practice of Ahimsa into our daily life. Leave behind old layers of ourselves, things that we have been carrying that don’t allow the potential growth for this season.

Direct the forces of this equinox towards healing. Time to eliminate toxins, make positive changes in lifestyle and eliminate what is harmful, practicing Ahimsa – non-arm to yourself or others; and spiritual sadhana to cleanse the heart and mind, stay in tune and harmonize with nature and focus on internal alignment. Starting a cleanse and allowing the body to adapt and rejuvenate naturally can be of great benefit. Some may resist the changes, set in the old ways even if they don’t serve them, and they will struggle.

Ayurveda tells us that this is the time for cleansing, helping the body eliminate toxins, Ama and prepare it to grow with the season of light and “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Read my previous article on Ayurvedic spring cleansing. 

 

Happy equinox!

Spring Detox Diet

Spring is the return of the light after the darkness of the winter months. Light brings life, this is a time to sow seeds, which is seen in all agrarian cultures in the world across times. When we align with nature, this is also the time for us to grow, shine and being creative. 

In modern days, our bodies have to deal with constant stressors: environmental toxins, from processed foods or even undigested material, including indigested event, though, experiences, unresolved emotions, and psychological stress. This makes difficult to follow the natural rhythm of life. While the body naturally eliminates toxins daily, in the attempt to digest and process all kind of inputs {discriminating, eliminating, using and storing}. some accumulation of undigested, unresolved toxins gets stored in the body, tissues, cells and in the subconscious. Over time the build-up of toxins in the system can compromise our health.

Ayurveda makes us aware of this and recommends practices to give your body the chance to remove this "undigested" and accumulated Toxins.

During spring, we might feel the sign of a Kapha imbalance:

Heaviness, dull feeling, slow thinking

Unmotivated, depression, "stuck feeling"

Water retention, congestion,

Swollen joints

Excess weight

Unusual aches or sudden irritations

Food sensitivities, weak digestion

Allergies, sinus problems

To balance “Kapha” we need to choose a diet that is light and easy to digest with plenty of cooked vegetables and pulses {mung Dhal is recommended}, heating spices to help with digestion, favoring pungent, bitter and astringent tastes. 

Pungent taste: Pepper, chilies, ginger, mustard, garlic, onion. Effects: Balances Kapha dosha, promotes sweating and clears sinus passages.

Bitter taste: green and yellow vegetables, beets. Effects: Balances Kapha and Pitta doshas, detoxify the system.

Astringent taste: tea, cauliflower, pulses, green apples, grape’s skin, pomegranates. Effects: Balances Khapa and Pitta doshas.

The bitter taste is the one particular to favor and if you have some dandelions growing in the garden (it might be too early yet), this is a great detoxifying herb to use in salads, as a cooked vegetable or in teas (the flower).

Those are the recommendation to balance the season, however, in spring it is also recommended a full cleansing to eliminate the accumulated toxins from previous months.

Ayurveda tells us that Spring is the time for cleansing, helping the body eliminate toxins, accumulated"Ama" and prepare yourself to grow with the season of light, time to “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

The practice of cleansing is considered a vital part of an Ayurvedic lifestyle, which has the potential to improve energy, strength, and immunity, as well as clarity in the mind.

There is a simple Ayurvedic cleansing that can be done at home, however, if you have any condition or are pregnant, please consult your doctor before doing any cleansing practices. Even a gentle cleanse is not appropriate for pregnant or breastfeeding women, or anyone who is extremely weak or debilitated. On the other hand, if you are considering becoming pregnant, Ayurveda recommends undertaking a cleanse about three months prior to conception by both partners.

When to start a cleanse.

Plan your cleanse when you have the time to commit to it, during this time you will prepare fresh meals of Kitchari every day (no left-over or processed food) and mild activities, such a gentle Yoga. The cleanse can be of 3-5-7 days, however, you will need few days before to prepare for the cleanse and few days after to return to normal diet and lifestyle.

Before the cleanse

For a few days before the cleanse, start to simplify your diet with lighter meals, mostly vegetarian with plenty of fruits and nuts and no stimulants such as caffeine or processed food, to get the body adjust and ready for the cleanse. {follow Ayurveda food combining recommendations}.

During the cleanse

The cleanse is based on a mono-diet of kitchari (basmati rice cooked with split mung beans and balancing spices). This meal is easy to digest and gives the chance to your digestive system to rest, giving your body the opportunity to eliminate the accumulated toxins. During this period, you can include self-massage, oil pulling for oral hygiene, gentle yoga, and meditation. Also, sauna, warm bath with Epsom salt and sweating assist the process of elimination.

After the cleanse

After the cleanse your body is still eliminating toxins, and your digestive system has got used to the cleansing mono-diet and might react if you introduce complex food all at once. Start bringing new food gradually to not overstimulate your digestive system, 2-3 days should be enough to return to your normal diet. While you re-introduce food, you can notice how your body reacts to it and if it does aggravates your digestion, might in time aggravate your health too. Think about introducing dairy, soy, wheat one at the time to observe your body's reaction. This is probably the best time to make long-term changes to your dietary (bad) habits.

Always commit to what is reasonable for you to succeed, if you feel you cannot commit to a 3-5-7 day cleanse, you can still do one-day a week cleanse, your body will still benefit from it.

After the detox, you are ready to plant new seed.....

 

The OM Sound: what is it, how to practice?

OM, the primordial sound. The vibrational sound that awakens us to a world of possibilities...then you find the breath which leads to the inner essence of your true being.

Om is an ancient Sanskrit “word” that was first felt by rishis as they meditated. It was more about the essence of Om than the chanting of it. 

We have heard it before that OM is the primordial sound, the sound of everything, the seed sound of the universe, the seed of all of creation. Just like an acorn seed has the immense power and beauty of a mighty oak tree. 

This seemingly small word contains all the power of the universe. It is the beginning, middle and the end of it all or the past, present and future (the picture below gives you some of the meaning associated with OM). 

As the Mandukya Upanishad tells us the perfect state of consciousness and all that precedes it, are a part of Om.

“Ooo” sound represents the energy of the universe and the “Mmm” sound represents transformation. 

Chanting OM, you can feel the evolution of the sound. From the sound 'O',  the vibration from the complexity of 'O' sound merge into 'M' as a continuous sound, then there is the humming sound followed by the silence where the sound resonates within our body and unify us with the sound of all things and the universe.

When you chant OM,  you will feel it rising from the bottom to the top as the vibrations activate your upper chakras. 

This should enhance a state of calm and well-being, relaxing your nervous system and preparing you for yoga or meditation.

Everything in the universe is vibrating and the sound Om, vibrates at the same vibrational frequency found throughout everything in nature.  When we chant it, we are symbolically and physically tuning in to that sound and recognizing our connection to everything within the universe.

There is a beautiful practice called; "OM Circle" which is very empowering and during this practice, it is possible to experience the unstruck sound: anahata means "unhurt, unstruck, and unbeaten". Anahata Nad refers to the Vedic concept of unstruck sound (the sound of the celestial realm). Anahata is associated with balance, calmness, and serenity.
I was lucky enough to experience it and it's amazing!

As we all know the word Om is considered as most sacred and powerful utterance across all Dharmic traditions of India. Be it Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, or even Sikhism as Omkar.   

As it is Sanskrit word we need to look into its Sanskrit etymology to understand what Om means.  For this we turn to three different Sanskrit sources of ancient Indian Lore; Aṣṭādhyāyī, avateṣṭilopaśca’ (Uṇādi Sūtra) and Dhātu Pātha.

The Sanskrit word ‘om’ is derived from the verb (root) ‘av’ by the rules ‘uṇadayo bahulam’ (Aṣṭādhyāyī 3.3.1) and ‘avateṣṭilopaśca’ (Uṇādi Sūtra 1.128). 

The derivation is: ava rakṣaṇa-gati-kānti-prīti-tṛptyavagama-praveśa-śravaṇa-svāmyartha-yācana-kriyecchā-dīptyavāptyāliṅgana-hiṃsādāna-bhāga-vṛddhiṣu (DP 1.600) → uṇadayo bahulam (PS 3.3.1) → avateṣṭilopaśca (US 1.128) → av man → ṭilopa → av m → jvaratvaraśrivyavimavāmupadhāyāśca (PS 6.4.20) → ū m → sārvadhātukārdhadhātukayoḥ (7.3.84) → ārdhadhātuka guṇa → o m → om 

The meaning is ‘avati iti om’: the performer of the action denoted by the verb ‘av’ is called ‘om’ in Sanskrit. 

The Pāṇinīya Dhātupāṭha lists the verb ‘av’ as the 600th entry with as many as nineteen meanings: ‘ava-rakṣaṇa-gati-kānti-prīti-tṛptyavagama-praveśa-śravaṇa-svāmyartha-yācana-kriyecchā-dīptyavāptyāliṅgana-hiṃsā-dāna-bhāga-vṛddhiṣu.’ 

In accordance with these nineteen meanings of the verb ‘av’, there are nineteen meanings of the word ‘om’ in Sanskrit as follows:

(1) rakṣaṇa (protection): ‘om’ means the protector; that which protects those who chant it.

(2) gati (motion): ‘om’ means eternally moving, unstoppable.

(3) kānti (charm or beauty): ‘om’ means the divine charmer, beauty. Accordingly, OM means the possessor of divine charm, attracting the minds of all those who meditate on it.

(4) prīti (bliss or favorable disposition): ‘om’ means blissful or favorably disposed. As a result, the word OM means the possessor of bliss or Aanand and that who is favorably disposed towards everybody.

(5) tṛpti (satisfaction): ‘om’ means satisfied or contented.

(6) avagama (knowledge): ‘om’ means the omniscient. As a result, the word OM means the knowledgeable, the knower, the omniscience.

(7) praveśa (entrance): ‘om’ means all-pervading.  As a result, the word OM means that which enters all places and form in the Universe.

(8) śravaṇa (hearing): ‘om’ means the listener, to be understood as the listener of both expressed words and unexpressed emotions.

(9) svāmyartha (rule): ‘om’ means the ruler. As a result, the word OM means ruler of all sound that exists in Dhātu tradition. 

(10) yācana (entreaty): ‘om’ means entreater. As a result, the word OM means it urges us to be on the righteous path.

(11) kriyā (action): ‘om’ means the doer. As a result, the word OM means doer or performer of all actions including Sristi (Creation), sthiti (Preservation), samhara (rejuvenation), Tirobhava (putting in Illusion) and Anugraha (Liberation).

(12) icchā (desire): ‘om’ means the well-wisher, desirous of well being of everybody, as reflected in our motto: Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinaḥ (ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः).

(13) dīpti (radiance): ‘om’ means radiant.  As a result, the word OM means which is brilliant or radiant, the divine aura.

(14) avāpti (attainment): ‘om’ means the supreme attainer. There is nothing out of reach of all this pervading sound.

(15) āliṅgana (embrace): ‘om’ means all-embracing.

(16) hiṃsā (violence): ‘om’ means the destroyer [of vices or Karma], to be understood as the destroyer of our karmās.

(17) ādāna: ‘om’ means the receiver, to be understood as receiver of all our material offerings and our spiritual efforts.

(18) bhāga: ‘om’ means one that divides itself [into many], to be understood as that which is one that divides itself and resides within soul or Atman.

(19) vṛddhi: ‘om’ means the ever-growing, that which grows, ever growing, expanding like the cosmic universe.

So these are the 19 meaning of Sanskrit word OM.

Sanskrit reference compiled by : Nityananda Misra

References:

[1] T. R. Chintamani (ed.) (1933), The Uṇādisūtras with the Vṛtti of Śvetavanavāsin, Madras: University of Madras, pp. 49–50.

[2] Pushpa Dikshit (ed., tr.) (2011), Pāṇinīyadhātupāṭhaḥ Sārthaḥ, Mahādevaśāstrigranthamālā 19, New Delhi: Samskrita Bharati ISBN 978-93-81160-12-1, p. 17.

[3] Pt. Ishwar Chandra (ed., tr.) (2004), Aṣṭādhyāyī of Maharṣi Pāṇini (Volume 1), Delhi: Chaukhambha Sanskrit Pratisthan, p. 351.

[4] Pt. Ishwar Chandra (ed., tr.) (2004), Aṣṭādhyāyī of Maharṣi Pāṇini (Volume 2), Delhi: Chaukhambha Sanskrit Pratisthan, p. 784.

[5] Jagadguru Rāmānandācārya Svāmī Rāmabhadrācārya (2000), Īśāvāsyopaniṣadi Viśiṣṭādvaitaparakam Śrīrāghavakṛpābhāṣyam, Chitrakoot: Śrītulasīpīṭhasevānyāsa, pp. 6–9 (Sanskrit part), 6–11 (Hindi part).