Hoping April Showers and May Flowers are Here to Stay

My daughter, Amy, and her friend, Rose, on a rainy Spring day in NYC

My daughter, Amy, and her friend, Rose, on a rainy Spring day in NYC

Depending on where you live in the world there are certain months that have always been just plain WET. I grew up in Michigan and live in NYC where both climates are pretty similar. We always like to say “April showers bring May flowers” as we endure soggy rainy days (hopefully not too cold) with the promise of bright Spring blossoms just around the corner.

I recently returned from a week in the Arizona desert and wondered if they had a catchy phrase that exemplified April and May in the desert. During a morning hike with near perfect temperatures, a bright blue sky and blooming cacti wherever we looked, I asked our guide, Leslie, if there was such a phrase. She said “Not that I know of, but maybe we can make one up!” So she came up with “Oh, sweet, April! We know what’s coming next  (blistering heat).”

Sonoran Desert, April 2014

Sonoran Desert, April 2014

So, whether you are somewhere rainy and cold, or somewhere hot and dry dreaming of a rainy day, it’s as good a time as ever to ponder one of the five elements that are at the core of Ayurveda – water.

From a perspective of the doshas (the three bodily humors in Ayurveda that make up our constitution), Vata (air and ether) is the only dosha without the water element. Pitta dosha is comprised of fire and water and Kapha dosha is comprised of water and earth.

Kapha Season (late winter-spring) and Pitta Season (late spring-summer) are generally the wettest months for folks like me living in the Northern Hemisphere. Some months, like April, more so than others.

But have you noticed that the seasons aren’t as predictable as they used to be? Droughts are happening in areas where rain has always been, or rain that just won’t stop is leading to floods.

Spring has always been about rebirth and renewal. The plants and animals instinctively know this and we do too, but we seem to be losing that connection. And because we are losing our deep and instinctual connection with Mother Nature, we are wreaking havoc on all living things on our planet.

Last week I stepped out of my comfort zone and attended my first real activist meeting with the global online group Avaaz (means voice in many languages). For the past few years I have been fascinated by (and grateful for) this small but powerful group of activists who have successfully used the power of the Internet to unite the voices of millions around the globe and effect real change.

I’ve signed many petitions and donated money over the years to groups such as Avaaz. I’ve marched in rallies for causes near and dear to me. But I’ve never really become active in a serious way. So when I received a personal invitation to attend a small group meeting at Avaaz’s office in NYC I knew that I had to go.

It seemed that many of the people in the room have been doing this kind of thing for a while. I was quiet, mostly listening to what everyone else had to say. In typical fashion, all of my ideas started flowing the minute I was alone. But I did tell the group that at age 60, this was my first real activist meeting and they all applauded!

It was no coincidence that the topic we ended up focusing on was climate change, which had been weighing on my mind as I was writing my newsletter and thinking about water. In spite of all of the reading I’ve done on this subject and all of the documentaries I’ve watched, I was shocked to hear some of the bleak statistics and especially the rapid time frame in which the changes are occurring.

A great deal of the issue of climate change has to do, of course, with water. It’s a precious element that many of us take for granted.

We often forget that our bodies are comprised of roughly 60% water (varies depending on age and sex), and many of us are chronically dehydrated, leading to more imbalances than I can possibly list here.

Dr. Marc Halpern, the founder and President of the California College of Ayurveda has this to say on his website: “Water is the protector of the body. It provides the body with its most basic nourishment. Water protects against the dissolution of the ether element, the roughness and motion of the air element and the heat of the fire element. The water element soothes all pain and inflammation in the body.”

Water is the element associated with our second, or Sacral chakra (energy center in the body).This chakra represents our creativity, our sexuality, our relationships with others, and even our relationship with finances. Water is incredibly healing to all things related to the second chakra.

A shower, cleansing bath, or if you’re really lucky, the ocean, connects us to the water element in Mother Nature, nurturing and protecting us.

  • Water calms us and takes us back to our beginnings in the womb
  • Water cleanses our body, mind and spirit
  • Water nourishes every cell in our body

Last summer I experienced firsthand how the change in our climate is affecting us. I became quite sick from the intense heat and my body seemed unable to properly regulate its temperature. I struggled to stay hydrated. For the first time, I’m actually uneasy about what kind of summer we will have here in NYC this year.

I’ve been a city girl all of my life but in the past few years have developed such a deep and precious love and respect for Nature that sometimes it overwhelms me. I feel incredibly sad and yes, angry, at the arrogance of the human race and how we are destroying our planet – our home. When I see plastic bottles and bags floating in a river, I struggle to understand just how we became so irresponsible. I try to just do my part – not taking plastic bags, minimizing my own trash by composting, and picking up trash along the way.

My little eight-year-old niece, Jenna, came to visit last week with her family. Jenna and I were looking for fairies in the park :) and I told her that the fairies don’t like litter and that it upsets them that humans are so careless and disrespectful of our planet. Her mother just sent me a message that Jenna’s been picking up trash everywhere since she returned home. Hearing that made my day!

Looking for fairies in the park!

Looking for fairies in the park!

I don’t want my children and my nieces and nephews to live in a world where there are no more April showers to bring May flowers. Or trees to give us shade and oxygen. Oh, don’t even get me started on the trees! Or real food. I know a lot of you are Nature-lovers too and I would love to start a conversation about this topic.  If you’d like to join in, please leave a comment below!

Much love,
Barbara

P.S. Earth Day is April 22nd. What better day to start getting involved in helping to heal our beautiful planet! Here are some great resources for staying informed:

Avaaz
Greenpeace
Environmental Working Group
Food and Water Watch
Organic Consumers Association

Showtime just began airing a new program about climate change called Years of Living Dangerously which I highly recommend. You can watch the first episode which aired last Sunday online HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Ayurveda, Chakras, Change of Seasons, Doshas, General Wellness, Kapha, Nature, Pitta, Resources | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Loving Your Belly

Ganesh

Ganesh, the lovable Hindu deity with his rotund belly

Do you love your belly? Most people I know don’t think too kindly of their belly. Seems like we usually ignore it unless we’re trying to flatten and tighten it up, or when we’re clutching it in pain from digestive discomfort.

I used to have that kind of relationship with my belly until I was introduced to two similar modalities that gave me a whole new outlook on this vastly under-appreciated part of our body.

Here’s a description of both techniques by Dr. Gabrielle Francis, the Herban Alchemist.

Mayan Abdominal Massage

“This is an ancient massage technique practiced by the Curanderas and Healers of the Mayan culture in Belize, Guatemala. and Mexico. The purpose is to massage and reposition the uterus, ovaries, and other abdominal organs through an external and non-invasive treatment. The goal is to restore circulation of blood and nutrients into the regions and to allow the proper elimination of toxins. The Mayan Massage is essential for all issues related to the female reproductive tract and fertility.”

Chi Nei Tsang

“This is a healing modality with ancient Taoist Chinese origins. It literally means the Transformation of the Organ Chi. This is a technique that massages and aligns the energy of the organs and viscera to improve function of the digestion, respiration, circulation and more. It has a strong focus on the emotional charges that remain held in the organs and meridians causing disease and imbalances.”

I receive Mayan abdominal massage regularly from Dr. Francis. The first time she began probing my belly, she discovered that my uterus was quite tipped. No doctor had ever mentioned that fact to me and it explained so much about many of the gynecological  problems I had in the past. With gentle manipulation, she was able to reposition it.

Last year when I was attending a workshop in the desert outside of Tucson with my energy healing group, I experienced my first Chi Nei Tsang session. This was a completely new modality for me and I was open and curious. I had heard that it is a profound way of releasing stuck emotional energy from the body. When the massage therapist began she told me to feel free to ask any questions. For whatever reason, I blurted out “Where’s the spot for grief?” She looked up at me kind of startled and said “I’m on it right now.” I’ve always felt a strong intuitive connection with my body but that was freaky!

After the session I went to meet some good friends for dinner. As I sat there I began to feel as if a wave of sadness and depression had completely clouded over me. I didn’t want to be with my friends or listen to their conversation. I felt heavy, agitated and disconnected from them. I left the table immediately after dinner and went straight to my room. These feelings were with me throughout the evening, but when I awoke the next morning I felt clear, fresh and like the cloud had lifted and something old and sad had been released.

That incident pretty much answered any doubt I might have had about our emotions being connected to our belly. I have had a few more sessions since then, each with their own unique experience.

Let me also mention that these modalities are not just for women. Men can benefit just as greatly from both Mayan abdominal massage and Chi Nei Tsang.

People often refer to their stomach and belly as one and the same. But the stomach is only a small part of the belly. The belly also includes the small intestine, spleen, gallbladder, liver, kidneys, ureters, bladder and large intestine (colon). These vital organs of digestion and elimination are known as the viscera. We pay so little attention to this part of the body and yet digestion takes roughly 60% of our daily energy!

Approximately 90% of our serotonin (the happy hormone) resides in the gut which is now affectionately referred to as our “second brain”.

In addition to our organs of digestion and elimination, our reproductive organs are also housed in our belly. So you can see just how important this part of our body truly is and how beneficial it might be to nurture it.

Speaking of nurturing, our belly is where it all began. From our umbilical cord we received our first nourishment from our mother as well as eliminating waste products. Seems kind of odd that we pay so little attention to it now.

The energy centers of the second and third chakras are both associated with the belly. The second (sexual or sacral) chakra is located below the navel and is associated with our emotional relationship with others and our creativity. The third (solar plexus) chakra is  about our sense of self. For more complete information on the chakras, click HERE  to download a free chakra chart.

While diet and exercise might help you get a flat belly, more often than not there’s an emotional component that needs addressing. A big belly is a warning sign, in fact, that there’s a lot going on with your emotional body. It’s often a sign of high cortisol levels and stress and therefore takes some deeper work than just cutting calories or running a marathon.

After my partner died almost three years ago, I started to put on weight like I had never before in my life. I noticed it particularly in my belly. I hadn’t changed my diet or my exercise routine. I eventually decided that it was “grief weight” and I finally relaxed about it, realizing that my body needed to feel more grounded. For two years it hung around and then it just started to fall away as my grief began to lessen. Of course I had a lot of help from some gifted bodyworkers and energy healers along the way, but for the most part my body/mind/spirit needed to go through this process.

Methods such as Mayan abdominal massage and Chi Nei Tsang are wonderful treatments and highly beneficial, but there is much that we can do for ourselves without needing outside help.

Laying hands on the body where there is pain or discomfort has always been an ancient form of healing. We do it naturally as parents with our children but forget about doing it ourselves. The more you start to tune in to your body and hear its messages, the more you will be able to respond in a self-healing fashion. Laying hands on your belly can help you establish a loving and healing relationship with it. My favorite time to tune into my belly is in the morning before I get out of bed or in the evening prior to sleep.

You can simply rest your hands on your belly or gently move them around in an intuitive fashion. Be sure to incorporate your breath, and the self-healing potential will be all the greater. Gentle, deep breathing in through the nose, and out through the mouth (I like to make a hissing sound on the exhale, like a whistling tea kettle) will aid in the release of stuck toxins – both physical and emotional.

If you would like to deepen the practice to fully reconnect with your belly, I highly recommend the book “Unwinding the Belly: Healing with Gentle Touch” by Allison Post and Stephen Cavaliere.

So, love your belly and I’ll bet it will reward you with better digestion and emotional health. How is your relationship with your belly? I’d love it if you would share your thoughts here!

Much love,
Barbara

P.S. For more information on Mayan abdominal massage click HERE.
For more information on Chi Nei Tsang click HERE.

Posted in Breathing, Colon Health, Constipation, Digestion, Digestive Health, General Wellness, Grief, Self-Care, Stress | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Being Still (Can Be the Hardest Thing of All)

Book of Awakening“Being Alive Takes Time” — Mark Nepo

Each morning I sit with my cup of tea and read the daily entry from “The Book of Awakening” by Mark Nepo. I am in awe each day as his words strike a chord, gently nudging me to reflect on my life. Like Oprah, I have bought many copies of the book to give to friends since discovering it (Not quite the thousands that she has given away!) in hopes that it will touch them in the way it has touched me.

Today’s entry was about devoting enough time to each feeling that comes upon us, rather than charging ahead, leaving it dangling. Mark says:

“I am always surprised at the aftereffect of being moved deeply by something. I can be hurt or disappointed or feel the warmth of being loved or the gentle sway of being temporarily left, and then I’m ready to chew on something else, seldom allowing for the feelings to digest completely. In fact, I’ve come to see that much of my confusion in life comes from giving my attention to the next thing too soon, and then wrapping new experience in the remnants of feeling that are not finished with me.”

Can’t we all relate to this? Even as I sat drinking in his words, I noticed my mind trying to race ahead to thoughts of exercise, showering, breakfast and work. Just as we race from task to task, we race from one feeling to the next. I had to glue myself down and be in the moment rather than jump up and start writing this post.

We live in a culture where thinking and doing and accomplishing are revered. Multitasking is worn like a badge of honor by those who can do it and envied by those who can’t. But not allowing ourselves that necessary moment of reflection, of letting our feelings wash over us and inhabit us, robs us of the very essence of our existence. We need to give proper time and attention to these feelings (the good ones and the bad) so that we can feel them fully, process them and move forward without leaving them unattended, or even worse – buried. We often don’t let ourselves feel the joy or the sorrow as it needs to be felt.

I had the opportunity today to practice this. While washing the dishes my mind wandered to the date and the fact that it would have been my 40th wedding anniversary, had I still been married. I was married for thirty years and have been divorced now for ten, although it certainly doesn’t seem that long. So many emotions started to surface and had I not read Mark’s words this morning, I might have pushed my emotions down and just kept on washing dishes. But I really took them all in – the good and the bad – and let them just be. I allowed the memories to resurface and sit with me for awhile. It can be an act of courage to take on these emotions, some that have wounded us so deeply, but the rewards are immense and after some time I felt so much lighter. I let myself feel.

It almost seems impossible for many of us to sit and reflect with a cup of tea and not have the television on or be staring at a computer screen, or even reading a book, for that matter. But I can say with certainty that in those moments where I allow myself to be fully present, something magical happens. The air becomes still, even the busy sounds of the city in the background become muted and I am in that space where being alone is golden. And it is in that space where you let yourself feel that deep healing can occur.

Of course, better yet would be to drink that cup of tea without reading a book. If you know about the benevolent and cherished Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hahn, then you surely have heard him talk about mindfulness.

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.”

I fall short of these practices each and every day. But I recognize the power that they hold,  and so each day I try to get a little bit closer to achieving the peace that comes with them. One day at a time…

Much love,
Barbara

Posted in General Wellness, Recommended Reading, Self-Care | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Surviving March: Cleansing Your Internal and External World

MarchMarch is a bit of a sorry and dreaded month for those living in areas where late winter is upon us. Soggy, cold, damp and gloomy–sometimes rainy and sometimes snowy–you can feel it in your bones. Oh, and don’t forget the wind. March roars in like a lion as they say, and out like a lamb. It’s such a transitory month.

I daresay not many of us are fond of March-unless perhaps it’s your birth month or you live in a temperate climate. Those of us in the Northeast are often desperate for it to end and it’s the month when many lucky travelers head south for some well-needed sunshine and Vitamin D.

Our hibernating time is coming to a close and some of us are ready to burst forth with stored energy and fresh ideas from the winter. Looking for a silver lining, I’ve decided that this is the perfect month for clearing out both internal and external clutter. Call it pre-spring cleaning. Gloomy March gives us a few weeks to tackle some things that have been crying for attention. Think inner and outer world. Mind/body/spirit AND your clothes closet and relationships!

The more I study Ayurveda and practice its principles, the more in tune I become with the seasons. I think this is the first March in my life where I haven’t dreaded its arrival but rather looked upon it as a valuable month to do some internal and external house cleaning.

Soon the weather will change and tempt us outdoors to play. Our lives will become more active and we can take advantage of this last bit of winter down time to clear out that which is weighing us down – both literally and figuratively. Here are some suggestions to make the most of this dreary month:

Cleansing

Ten years ago I had never heard of the concept of cleansing. For many of us, cleansing meant soaping up our bodies during our daily shower or bath. But over the past several years, the topic of dietary cleansing has become absolutely front and center. Juice cleanses, liver flushing and the Master Cleanse have all become household words. But probably the most ancient and effective method of cleansing and rejuvenation began thousands of years ago with the Ayurvedic practice from India known as panchakarma.

Originally intended for royalty to promote longevity, panchakarma (means five actions) is still widely practiced in India and has gained popularity in the West. Panchakarma is usually done over a two to three week period and should be done under the supervision of an Ayurvedic doctor to insure that the cleanse is safe and effective for your particular constitution. People who have undergone panchakarma will attest that the healing effects are profound.

March/April and September are the months generally chosen for this type of deep cleansing, but it can be done at other times during the year, as well. I highly recommend looking into panchakarma treatment if you are dealing with serious health issues, especially those of a chronic nature.

But because cleansing for most of us is something we need to ease ourselves into, I wanted to focus today on sharing some easy tips that you can do yourself to help clean your system of toxins, give your digestion a rest, and reset your digestive fire.

Begin by eliminating troublesome foods and other substances.

  • Take a week to wean yourself off of foods and other substances you know are your weaknesses, aka addictions – coffee, caffeinated tea, chocolate, soda, junk food, alcohol, recreational drugs/tobacco, etc. A friendly tip – get them out of your house and go slowly – especially with coffee.
  • Eliminate foods that are mucus-forming such as sugar, meat, dairy, wheat and eggs.

BeetsAdd more cleansing foods to your diet. Certain foods are excellent at helping to move congested, sluggish lymph and support the vital organs, especially the liver and gallbladder. The right foods will also help to cleanse our circulatory system which is often limping along after a winter of indulging in sweets and fatty food. Some good choices are:

  • Beets and carrots–cooked or juiced
  • Apples–stewed, raw or juiced
  • Leafy greens (bitter) like dandelion, kale, arugula, collard greens, spinach, etc.
  • Lemons, limes and grapefruits
  • Healthy fats like ghee, virgin coconut oil and cold pressed olive oil
  • Gluten-free whole grains such as quinoa, buckwheat and millet
  • Spices like turmeric, cumin, fennel and coriander

Properly hydrate. One of the main reasons we cleanse is to reset our digestive fire which can become sluggish and weak due to toxic overload and undigested food (called ama in Ayurveda). Truly good health is impossible without a well-functioning digestive system and dehydration is a big reason many of us have weak digestion. Some tips for proper hydration are:

  • Avoid cold liquids. They literally put out the digestive fire.
  • Sip warm/hot water and non-caffeinated herbal teas consistently throughout the day rather than chugging down glassfuls of water. It is a much more efficient way to hydrate and also helps clear toxins from our system. Ideally, sip a bit of hot water each half hour. I set my phone timer to remind me and now it’s a habit.
  • Vata types generally have the most problem staying hydrated, no matter how much water they drink. A pinch of sea salt in warm water can help with this.
  • Read this great article on hydration.
  • Kapha types tend to retain too much water and should be careful not to drink voluminous amounts of water.
  • Drink a glass of warm water with lemon, lime and/or fresh ginger a half hour before your meals to hydrate the stomach and produce enough hydrochloric acid to digest your food.
  • Avoid drinking liquids with meals, except for sipping a bit of herbal tea. And drinking liquids directly after a meal will make digestion even more difficult.

Follow a regular meal routine. Our bodies like routine and our digestive fire depends on regularity.

  • Eat a light breakfast between 7-8 a.m. Vata types need a little more protein. Kaphas can get away with no breakfast or just a little fruit if they’re not hungry.
  • Eat your biggest meal between noon and 1:00 p.m. Our digestive fire is strongest at this time of day.
  • Eat a light dinner around 5:30-6:00 p.m.
  • Avoid snacking after dinner. You will be completing a mini fast each night if you follow this simple suggestion.

Remember, cleansing is not just about what we eat or don’t eat. Here are a few tips for clearing out mind clutter, emotional baggage and our environment:

  • Focus on eliminating negative thoughts and actions.
  • Journal, journal, journal those thoughts! It’s an effective way of moving them out of the body/mind.
  • Get bodywork! This is an excellent time for massage, acupuncture, energy healing, craniosacral, chi nei tsang, etc. Stuck energy needs to get worked out of the body before disease sets in. I love Ayurvedic abhyanga massage which is both detoxifying, calming, and centered around your particular dosha. You can find out which services I offer HERE.
  • Check out The Emotion Code.
  • Clear your surrounding of unnecessary clutter. We all know how good that makes us feel and how much clarity it gives us.
  • Clear your life of unnecessary toxic relationships.
  • Let there be light! If you’re living in a cold gloomy climate right now and can’t hop a plane to Florida, invest in a light box and optimize your Vitamin D3 levels. Oral supplementation is not always effective if your liver is particularly toxic. Here is a transdermal cream form of Vitamin D3 that you might like to try.

A word about the doshas:

Vata is the most sensitive of the doshas and care should be taken not to attempt too intense of a cleanse. Rather than balancing the dosha, a harsh cleanse can easily drive Vata even more out of balance. It is the dosha of depletion and so Vata types should primarily focus on calming, nurturing and rejuvenating the dosha, rather than cleansing. Juice fasts are generally not the best type of cleanse for Vata types because they are cold, light and dry – all unbalancing. See my latest post which explains the concept of the gunas. Vata types like myself are likely raring to go and bursting with fresh ideas after the long challenging Vata Season.

Pitta types usually have the easiest time cleansing, especially in the spring when the weather is still cool. They have lots of internal heat and generally very strong digestive fires. Pitta types are also the ones who do best with green juices because of their cooling nature.

Kapha types are the ones who will need encouragement from their Vata and Pitta loved ones to even consider a cleanse, although they are the ones who benefit the most because of their often sluggish metabolism. March is a very difficult month for Kapha types (please read my article on Kapha Season) and depression is a real problem at this time. They would much rather bury themselves under the covers for a couple of months than get up and get moving. Kapha types generally have both internal and external sluggishness which is especially prevalent at this time.

Of course, most of us are dual-dosha types and should put our emphasis on whichever dosha is dominant during a particular season.

Hang in there!

First and foremost, when doing any type of a cleanse, listen to your own body. Start with baby steps, perhaps just by assessing whether you’re chronically dehydrated or not, or by eliminating the habit of snacking in the evening. If you overdue it, especially your first time around, you may do more harm than good. Consulting with an Ayurvedic practitioner is always a good idea to help you figure out your particular needs based on your constitution. I’m happy to be that person or happy to help you find someone else.

Unfortunately, we live in a toxic world now with a food system that does little to help us stay healthy. It’s up to us as individuals to make smart choices for ourselves and our children.

Ayurveda is all about common sense and feeling into the wisdom of your own body. This is how our ancestors lived and thrived for generations. Ayurveda is not some complicated restrictive system of medicine only for academics. It is our birthright and the knowledge that it brings is part of our ancestral memory. Tap into it and you will be amazed!

Much love,
Barbara

Some great resources to help motivate and support you.

Banyan Botanicals Ayurvedic Cleanse E-Book
Zrii Purify Program Guide
The Easy Way to Stop Smoking By Allen Carr (It really works!)

Are you unsure of your Ayurvedic constitution? Click HERE  to take a simple quiz.

Need a little help getting back in balance? Sign up for a consultation via phone or Skype (or come see me in person in NYC!) Consultations are 20% off when you sign up during the month of March. Contact me HERE and mention coupon code KAPHA SEASON. First time consultations only.

Posted in Ayurveda, Beets, Change of Seasons, Detoxifying, Digestion, Digestive Health, Doshas, General Wellness, Kapha, Kapha, Nutrition, Pitta, Self-Care, Vata, Vata-Pitta, Wise Earth Ayurveda | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Less is More: Ayurveda and the Art of Moderation

herbsI remember many years ago a friend telling me she had started eating two tablespoons of chia seeds each day, an amount that is commonly recommended on many health websites. Chia seeds are very rich in Omega 3 essential fatty acids and have a host of other health benefits.

But according to Ayurveda, my friend is considered very Vata. Vata types tend to be dry overall, inside and outside, and often suffer from constipation. One of the health benefits of chia seeds is helping regulate elimination, but chia seeds soak up water like a sponge and will draw water from the body along the digestive tract (if not soaked beforehand). So, imagine what that does to a person whose colon already tends towards dryness.

On the other hand, someone with a Kapha constitution might not need to worry as much because Kapha types often have an excess of water in their system.

This is a perfect example of why we need to be more in tune with our own body and not just follow the crowd, no matter how health-conscious they are!

And more is not always better, or, as the saying goes, less is more. One of the greatest lessons I learned studying Ayurveda with Maya Tiwari, was to be prudent with the use of herbs. We know how dangerous it is to be taking multiple prescription drugs, but we think nothing of chugging down handfuls of herbal supplements on a daily basis for months, or even years, at a time. Yes, herbs are food, but just like certain foods have contraindications for people, so do herbs, and an easy-does-it approach always works best. Sometimes just a pinch of an herb is more than enough to do the trick.

Ideally, we should only take one or two herbal remedies at a time, and let our body give us signals as to whether or not they are working for us. Three months is a typical amount of time that Ayurvedic practitioners give their patients when recommending herbs. The whole point is to give the body a little jump start back towards balance where it can take over on its own. If nothing else, give your body a mini-rest from supplements/herbs one day a week. And be patient! It can take the body years to find itself in a state of dis-ease and it can take many months to bring it back to good health.

This is a really hard concept for many of us – Vata and Pitta types especially – who tend to pile on new things to try and are impatient for results. A Kapha type, on the other hand, might be more cautious, or inclined not to try anything at all!

I am guilty as charged here. As a Vata-Pitta type, I eagerly take on the role of human guinea pig and will try anything, often getting trapped in a situation where I don’t know what is or what isn’t working because I have too many things going on at once.

Ayurveda is all about balance and one of its most important principles is that of the gunas. The Sanskrit word guna means quality or attribute. (Note: I am not referring here to the three gunas  in Yoga known as Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. That is a conversation for another day.)

The twenty gunas in Ayurveda I have listed below are ten pairs of opposite qualities that apply to everything in Nature, including us. They can be applied to the five elements (air, ether, fire, water and earth) the doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha), our food and environment, and even our emotions. The gunas are as follows:

  • Cold and Hot
  • Heavy and Light
  • Smooth/Slimy and Rough
  • Dull and Sharp/Pungent
  • Dense and Liquid
  • Oily and Dry
  • Static and Mobile
  • Soft and Hard
  • Gross and Subtle
  • Transparent and Opaque

There are actually many more gunas in Ayurveda, but these twenty are the most widely considered.

If you learn nothing else from Ayurveda, reflect upon the gunas. They give us vital clues about the state of our health. By paying close attention to these qualities in how we feel, what we eat, and what environment we’re in, we can target an imbalance and work to change it ourselves.

Here’s an example: Do you eat too many hot, spicy foods? Do you always run hot – in your body and in your emotions? Feel like a pressure cooker sometimes? Chances are your liver is overtaxed and a possible area of weakness in your body. Recognizing this, you can begin to eat more cooling foods, avoid heating foods, stay out of the heat, cool your emotions through meditation, breathing exercises, walking in the moonlight, and even avoiding confrontational situations in the heat of the day.

Does this sound vaguely like I am describing a Pitta-type personality? That is because each dosha has specific gunas which are associated with it.

The gunas of the doshas are:

Vata: cold, dry, light, rough, subtle, mobile, transparent, astringent
Pitta: pungent, hot, slightly oily, liquid, mobile, light, sharp
Kapha: heavy, dull, oily, cold, liquid, smooth/slimy, static, gross, opaque/cloudy

Gunas that are opposite each other will be pacifying to a dosha, while gunas that are close in nature will aggravate the dosha.

The six tastes according to Ayurveda (sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, astringent) also come into play here.

Vata: Bitter, astringent, and pungent tastes will increase Vata and cause an imbalance because they are cooling and drying. Sweet, sour and salty tastes will help pacify Vata and bring it back into balance. Of course I don’t mean candy and potato chips will balance Vata! Sweet, sour and salty healthy foods such as sweet fruits, vegetables and grains, sour pickles and sea salt or seaweed are Vata-pacifying. Worth noting, however, than any food in excess will aggravate Vata dosha. Oh, you have no ideas how much I love potato chips…

Pitta: Pungent, sour and salty tastes will increase Pitta dosha while bitter, sweet and astringent will help pacify Pitta. This is why Pitta types do so well eating a lot of greens (including green juices), which tend to be bitter and astringent.

Kapha: Sour, sweet and salty tastes increase Kapha, while bitter, astringent and pungent decrease Kapha. All spices (except salt), green leafy vegetables and most legumes are some good Kapha food choices.

Remember that less is more and there can always be too much of a good thing. And variety is the spice of life! Don’t get stuck thinking that you have to religiously follow a dosha-specific list to practice Ayurveda.

Just because your constitution is Vata doesn’t mean you can’t ever have popcorn because it’s drying. Eat it occasionally, if you like, with lots of melted ghee or coconut oil on it! :) Or stay away from it when you’re feeling dehydrated and unbalanced. True Ayurveda is being in tune with your body and mind and giving it what it needs to stay healthy. Of course, this will fluctuate from day to day, season to season, year to year. Be flexible and have fun listening to your body. It really can talk to you!

By the way, my friend didn’t need to stop eating chia seeds altogether. Maybe she was digesting them just fine. Maybe she has enough Pitta or Kapha in her constitution that she doesn’t suffer from typical Vata dryness and constipation. Or perhaps she hydrates herself really well.  Maybe she could start out with a 1/2 tsp. of chia seeds and see how her body handles them. Soaking chia seeds in water first is crucial – it allows them to absorb the water before they enter your system so there’s less chance of added dehydration.

The lesson here is to start out slow, using less and pay close attention to how your body is reacting to a new food, herb, or even environment. Let me know how you do!

Much love,
Barbara

Posted in General Wellness | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kapha Season

4x5 original

Indra and Sachi riding the divine elephant Airavata

“Solid as a rock, cool as a glimmering stream in the white moonlight; such is the essence of Kapha. Kapha is the archetypal Mother Earth.”
–Maya Tiwari,  “Ayurveda: A Life of Balance”

If you live anywhere in the world where it’s late winter, then this information will apply to you. And if you’re one of my friends around the globe where fall is in the air then I invite you to read my article “Transitioning into Fall/Vata Season”

Here in the Northeastern US where I live, the transition from Vata Season to Kapha Season has begun. You can feel the sudden change from dry (Vata) to damp (Kapha) the minute you step outside. Wet snow and sleet are coming down outside my window as I write. The season usually begins mid-February and runs until May, when the weather becomes warm and dry.

In either case, Ayurveda believes that the transition between seasons is perilous in terms of our health, and we need to be particularly vigilant as our body adjusts to the changing climate. I say a hearty good riddance to Vata Season! It’s been a very challenging time for me this year.

If you’re new to Ayurveda, I’ll mention that the three doshas (Vata, Pitta, Kapha) are biological forces or energies that are formed by the five elements (air, space, fire, water and earth) and exist in everything on our planet. Each dosha consists of two elements, one which is dominant. Vata is ruled by air and ether, Pitta by fire and water, and Kapha by water and earth.

Each of us is comprised of all three doshas, but in varying degrees. One or two doshas generally dominate our mind/body constitution. The doshas are in a constant state of flux, just like our health is.

Today I am focusing on Kapha dosha as we transition into Kapha Season.

In the Hindu tradition, Airavata is the white multi-headed god of elephants who rose up out of the water when the gods created the ocean. He carries the god Indra, who is lord of the heavens. Kapha is the dosha associated with Airavata, and water is Kapha’s primary element. Earth is secondary.

Just as our mind and body are ruled by the doshas, Ayurveda divides the calendar year and the times of day according to the influence of the doshas.

Kapha Season: Late Winter/Spring
Pitta Season: Late Spring/Summer
Vata Season: Fall/Early Winter

Vata times of day: 2-6 a.m.& p.m.
Kapha times of day: 6-10 a.m. & p.m.
Pitta times of day: 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and 10 p.m.–2 a.m.

There is even a cycle for the doshas during our lifetime.

Kapha time of life: Childhood – birth to age 18
Pitta time of life: 18–age 50
Vata time of life: 50 and beyond

The more we begin to pay attention to the influence of the particular dosha which dominates the day, season, or time of life, the more successful we become at achieving balance.

In the eastern system of the chakras, Kapha is associated with the first chakra (muladhara/root–element of earth) located at the base of the spine/genital region, and the second chakra (swadhisthana/sacral–element of water) located below the navel where the reproductive organs are located.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that Kapha is Mother Earth personified – sturdy, grounded, solid and reliable. And Kapha’s association with the 2nd chakra/water element accounts for the strong sexuality and sensuality which Kapha types embody.

Qualities of Kapha dosha are cool, smooth, oily, soft, slow, steady, dense, heavy. Its tastes are sweet, salty and sour so the tastes that help to balance Kapha are bitter, astringent and pungent.

Kapha is our body mass, structure and fluids, and makes up our muscles, fat and bone. It is seated mainly in the chest, but also in the throat, sinuses, nose, head, mouth, stomach, joints, cytoplasm, plasma, and especially in secretions of the body like mucus.

The mucus of Kapha protects precious tissue in the body but as it accumulates it needs to be expelled or it will lead to disease. Only 10% of diseases are caused by Kapha imbalances (60% by Vata, 30% by Pitta), but stagnation and/or accumulation of mucus in the body is often the culprit.

This is the reason so many of us have colds and stomach bugs at this time of year. Eating a heavy, fat, Vata-pacifying diet throughout the fall and winter can lead to sluggish digestion and result in mucus buildup in the stomach, especially for Kapha types. Often when Kapha season arrives, Kapha people will find themselves needing to vomit. In fact, a treatment in Ayurveda’s panchakarma for Kapha imbalances is known as vamana–therapeutic vomiting.

Lungs and sinuses also become congested and the lymphatic system can become sluggish. Kapha season is a time for cleansing and eating more detoxifying foods. Beets, bitter greens, apples, pomegranates, millet, buckwheat, aduki beans, ghee and most spices are all good choices for Kapha dosha. A more complete list can be found below under Helpful Resources.

Because childhood is the Kapha time of life, it’s the reason children have so many upper respiratory illnesses and are forever producing mucus!

Physical traits of Kapha:

  • Large in stature, with sturdy bones
  • Cool, moist skin
  • Large strong teeth
  • Strong sense of taste and smell
  • Eyes are usually large, warm and almost liquid in appearance
  • Thick, shiny hair
  • Strong clear nails
  • Steady appetite
  • Deep sleeper
  • Strong stamina

Traits of a balanced Kapha:

  • Warm and compassionate
  • Nurturing (Gives the best hugs!)
  • Loving, loyal and kind
  • Excellent partners and parents
  • Strong, sturdy and steady
  • Grounded
  • Even-tempered
  • Hard-working
  • Patient

Traits of an out-of-balance Kapha:

  • Depressed
  • Attached to material world (potential for hoarding) and to others
  • Possessive and greedy
  • Lethargic (too much of the earth element
  • Weight gain
/water retention (too much of the water element)
  • 
Laziness

  • Unforgiving and stuck in the past. Kaphas have memories like elephants!

  • Passivity

  • Unable or unwilling to change
  • 
Health problems such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure

  • Buildup of mucus (spring colds and allergies are common)

What Kapha-types need to do to stay balanced and healthy:

  • Exercise daily
  • Get up and get moving before 6:00 a.m. and don’t take afternoon naps. Sleeping during Kapha times of day (6-10) result in sluggishness and a Kapha-type will lack motivation for the rest of the day. Because the water element is so strong in Kapha types, they need to keep moving or they will stagnate like an obstructed river. With water and earth as the elements, kaphas can feel like they’re ‘stuck in the mud’.
  • De-clutter to lighten their load, physically, mentally and emotionally
  • Sip hot herbal/spiced teas instead of drinking too much water. Avoid cold beverages and foods altogether.
  • Reduce foods that are cold, heavy and oily. Stay away from sweet, sour and salty and instead add foods that are light, dry, warm, pungent, bitter and astringent
  • Reduce mucus-producing foods such as dairy, wheat and oats
  • Avoid heavy meats and fried foods
  • Keep warm and dry, especially during cold, damp Kapha season
  • Follow this Kapha-pacifying daily routine: Up before 6:00 a.m., light breakfast at 8:00 a.m., meditation and morning workout. Healthy lunch (biggest meal of the day) 12:30-1:00 p.m. and a light supper at 6:00 p.m. Bedtime between 10-11 p.m. Kaphas don’t need as much sleep as the other doshas (they tend to sleep too much), but a regular bedtime and restorative sleep is beneficial.
  • Kaphas can fast easier than the other doshas and it will help jumpstart their sluggish metabolism. They should definitely avoid eating past 6:00 p.m., 7:00 at the latest. This will give them a mini fast each evening. The word breakfast means just that–break fast.
  • Add spices to food to spark digestion. Be careful with salt intake and avoid table salt altogether.
  • Raw honey is a good sweetener to reduce Kapha. Buy local raw honey during Kapha season as it can help with springtime allergies. Just don’t overindulge, which is also a Kapha trait.

Kapha types make excellent teachers, healers, chefs, or any profession where nurturing is involved. They are physically hard workers because of their incredible stamina. I doubt that there’s a person reading this article who doesn’t know and love a Kapha-type.

If you have a Kapha in your life and want to support them during this difficult season, encourage them to move (Vatas are good at this!), and motivate, fire them up, and help them organize and clear the clutter from their mental, emotional, and physical world (Pittas are good at this!). It’s the perfect way to show your love for a Kapha and they will return that love with the best warm hug you’ve ever had!

Love,
Barbara

P.S. Are you unsure of your Ayurvedic constitution? Click HERE to take a simple quiz. Need a little help getting back in balance? Sign up for a consultation via phone or Skype (or come see me in person in NYC!). Consultations are 20% off when you sign up during the month of February. Contact me HERE and mention coupon code KAPHA SEASON. First time consultations only.

Resources:

Posted in Ayurveda, Chakras, Change of Seasons, General Wellness, Kapha, Kapha, Self-Care, Spring Cleaning | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Dealing With Life’s Traumas

woman cryingInevitably in our lives we find ourselves dealing with trauma. It might be ours or a friend or loved one’s. I have learned that no one is immune, and no one’s trauma is any more or less important than someone else’s. This is a very crucial lesson we need to learn. Because the danger lies not so much in the act itself, but in our reaction to it and how we process it.

Trauma runs the gamut, of course, from the unthinkable–such as being the victim of a violent crime or witnessing the horrors of war–to hurtful or unwelcome words spoken to us. In our modern world, the trauma is often delivered via text or email. And there’s the trauma that comes along with grief following a death, a divorce, or the loss of a home or a job. They are all valid and equally in need of our attention.

The energy from trauma that isn’t dealt with becomes buried in our body (literally, in our cells) and can later lead to health problems. Many of us are carrying the effects of trauma that we’re not even aware of. The human species has a mechanism for doing this to protect us and help us cope, but there’s a limit to how much the body can handle.

In Dr. Peter Levine’s groundbreaking book “Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma” he writes about the difference between how animals in the wild are wired to deal with trauma versus how humans handle it. A wild animal can shake off the trauma from an attack and almost immediately return to normal, while a traumatized person could be in therapy for decades and still not have recovered from the traumatic event. I wrote a post called “Healing Trauma” about Dr. Levine’s groundbreaking research a couple of years ago, and to this day, benefit from his wisdom whenever something traumatic happens to me.

You can read Chapter One of Dr. Levine’s book HERE. Taking just a few moments to read it will help you if you are dealing with trauma or prepare you for when it appears again in your life or in the life of someone you love.

My energy healing teacher, Deborah King, wrote in her first book “Truth Heals: What You Hide Can Hurt You” about the familial sexual abuse she suffered and how she was able to transform that trauma by speaking her truth and learning how to release emotional blockages that can cause illness. The book also teaches about the emotional and physical connections to each of the seven chakras–important information which can help us determine where in the body we need to focus our attention after a trauma occurs.

Nowhere is the body/mind connection more evident than in the case of trauma. Here are some suggestions for helping to clear trauma out of the body:

  •  Take note where in the body you are feeling attacked. The 3rd (solar plexus) and 4th (heart) chakras are common areas to feel trauma, but every chakra is open to feeling the trauma. Put your attention there (i.e. the heart) and fiercely intend for the trauma to leave your body. You can even grab at it with your hand and throw it up towards the ceiling, picturing it blowing up, disintegrating, or floating away–whatever works for you. Remember, it’s all energy.
  • Shake it out. Just like the wild animals do, you can shake the trauma out of your body. If you feel self-conscious or aren’t alone, go into a bathroom or somewhere private and shake your body until you feel some relief. This really works.
  • Dance. Put on some music and dance it out. This is a great way to clear your energy field, whether you’ve been traumatized or not.
  • If you feel that you’ve been traumatized by having your voice stifled, put some attention on your 5th (throat) chakra and sing or shout or scream it out.
  • Journal about how you are feeling. I cannot overemphasize the importance of this. There is something about the energetic flow from your body to the pen and onto the paper that releases a tremendous amount of stuck energy.
  • Talk it out with someone you trust. Again, you will get rid of a lot of the energy of the trauma by not suppressing it. Let your voice be heard. It will not only help yourself, it will help others as well.
  • Nurture the mind/body connection by practicing yoga, tai chi, qigong, or any other physical practice that will help you move energy out of the body.
  • Bodywork such as massage, cranio sacral, acupuncture, and chi nei tsang is a powerful way to keep positive energy flowing in the body.
  • Energy healing sessions can help to clear, balance and recharge your energy field, helping the trauma to gently exit the body.
  • Trust your intuition. We all have it, we all know what it feels like, and we’ve all ignored it at times. Learn to recognize that little voice or gut feeling and honor it – it just may save you from experiencing trauma in the future.
  • Nurture and love yourself. Don’t fall victim to “I made this happen”. Shame and self-blame are toxic emotions that you don’t want stored in your body.

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is more common than you think and is not just experienced by war veterans. By recognizing the mind/body connection, and implementing the above practices, we can work towards alleviating trauma and move forward in our lives. Some of the greatest teachers I have met were victims of incredibly traumatic events who have learned how to turn that darkness into light, teaching and empowering others along the way.

With love,
Barbara

Resources:

“Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma” By Peter Levine
Other books/audios on healing trauma by Peter Levine (Including sexual trauma and childhood trauma)
“Truth Heals: What You Hide Can Hurt You” By Deborah King

Posted in Chakras, General Wellness, Grief, Stress, Trauma, Trauma | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Staying Hydrated

desertThe amount of water we need to stay hydrated depends greatly on our constitution. Vata types can be chronically dehydrated (whether living in the desert or the North Pole), and often have issues with electrolyte balance as well. This can lead to all kinds of health issues. Often when Vatas drink a lot of water it ends up being urinated out almost immediately, leaving the body just as dehydrated as before. Adding a small pinch of a good quality sea salt with or without some lemon/lime can greatly help with absorption. I can attest that this works.

Here’s another tried and true remedy that is both nourishing and hydrating for the body. It is also great for poor digestion, another common Vata issue. I make it most mornings and drink it throughout the day, especially before and after meals.

4-5 cups of water
2 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. ajwain (can also substitute cardamom)

Bring to a boil, cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain into a thermos and sip throughout the day. You can add one or all of the following: a pinch of salt, lemon, lime, raw honey.

Soups and other herbal teas are another excellent way to help you stay hydrated.

Pitta types are often drawn to icy water because they run so hot. But ice water isn’t good for any dosha. It shocks the system and puts out our digestive fire. Warm water is best.

Kapha types tend to retain water, so the general recommendation for drinking lots and lots of water might not be the best thing for a Kapha type, especially during Kapha Season. Foods that have a diuretic effect, such as parsley and celery, are much more appropriate for Kapha people.

Here is an excellent article on the Ayurvedic approach to staying hydrated from Joyful Belly Ayurveda.

Posted in General Wellness | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Pining For My Books

booksI love to read. I have always loved to read. I used to climb up into our backyard tree or hide in a fort I had constructed with sheets and settle in with a good book. Sometimes I would ride my bike to the park at the end of our street in Detroit and sit inside a group of old shrubs that had grown wild and formed a secret tunnel-like space just for me (or so I thought). There I would read my favorites – Caddie WoodlawnNancy Drew, Little Women, Henry Huggins, and the Little House on the Prairie series.

I have only spotty memories of my early childhood, but I clearly remember our neighborhood library and I can picture the exact shelf I would run to every week and choose a different Madeline book.

When I started Kindergarten I found a copy of The King’s Stilts by Dr. Suess in the school library and it became my constant companion. When I left Emerson Elementary in the second grade, our neighbor, Mrs. Dixon, a teacher at the school, gave me the yellowed cloth copy to keep. I had that book forever until it got lost when I moved to NYC.

When my children were young I got to revisit these treasures all over again, and experience wonderful new ones along with them. Some of my most precious memories are those spent curled up with my kids (and usually a dog or two) reading a good story.

I think that if I could choose just one solitary activity that gives me the greatest pleasure, it would be lying in a hammock with a good book (usually fiction). If that hammock is beside a lake or the ocean, well that’s just icing on the cake.

Lately though, I’ve noticed that the books are piling up while I’m reading less and less. I blame the Internet, or rather my inability to stay off it long enough to get through a big meaty novel. I spend more time at my computer than I know is healthy, and it seems like the time just evaporates and those pleasure-filled hours spent reading become few and far between.

For a while I switched to reading on an e-book device (sounds so cold), but in the end went back to the real thing. I love the feel of the pages, I like to flip back and forth, underline, circle, comment. I know you can do this on an e-book, but it’s just not the same.

And nothing beats the library or a bookstore. Heaven on earth. I have to limit my time in them these days, until I do some catching up on the piles in my own apartment.

I’ve ventured into the world of audio, listening to stories or lectures while walking in the city, riding the train, or sitting by the river. I don’t remember much storytelling going on in our house when I was growing up, and I’m loving experiencing books in a new way. On a recent trip, I downloaded Khaled Hosseini’s And the Mountains Echoed and was mesmerized.

Of course I have shelves and shelves of books on spirituality and holistic health. I could probably open an Ayurveda library. :) And my art books are precious friends that I look to for inspiration. But nothing gives me that reader’s rush like a good piece of fiction.

Around Christmastime I bought myself a book called The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have by Mark Nepo. It’s a gem of a book with a page or two of insight and inspiration dedicated to each day of the year. The book was published fourteen years ago and I have seen it on the bookstore shelf many times. For some reason, this time it leapt out at me, begging to be taken home. Wayne Muller, founder and president of Bread for the Journey and author of How, Then, Shall We Live? has this to say: “Mark Nepo is an astonishing poet and teacher. He generously comforts us while guiding us toward the deep, quiet river of wisdom that saturates each and every day of our lives.”

While I might not be reading stacks of novels these days, I have started this new year by reading each daily entry in The Book of Awakening with my morning tea. Each day these little poetic gems of wisdom get me thinking, inspire me and ignite my own creativity. I want to share one with you here. This one is from the entry on January 8th.

Feeding Your Heart

“No matter how dark,
the hand always knows
the way to the mouth.”
––Idoma Proverb (Nigeria)

“Even when we can’t see, we know how to feed ourselves. Even when the way isn’t clear, the heart still pumps. Even when afraid, the air of everything enters and leaves the lungs. Even when clouds grow thick, the sun still pours its light earthward.

This African proverb reminds us that things are never quite as bad as they seem inside the problem. We have inner reflexes that keep us alive, deep impulses of being and aliveness that work beneath the hardships we are struggling with.

We must remember: the hand cannot eliminate the darkness, only find its way to the mouth. Likewise, our belief in life cannot eliminate our suffering, only find its way to feed our heart.”  ––Mark Nepo

Book of Awakening

Do you love to read? What book has inspired you lately?

Much love,
Barbara

Posted in General Wellness | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A Year of Living the Ayurvedic Way

to happinessHappy 2014! What do you say? Are you ready to give Ayurveda a try in 2014 after reading all the articles I wrote last year? It really did revolutionize my life, so I thought I would throw the idea out there to all of you.

Many healthy tips we hear nowadays have their roots in Ayurveda, dating back thousands of years. So while you might think that scraping the tongue, detoxifying the body or practicing mind/body medicine are newfangled ideas, they are not. They have withstood the test of time. Handed down for ages by word of mouth, the wisdom of Ayurveda was eventually written down in the ancient Hindu texts known as the Vedas. Even Chinese Medicine originated from Ayurveda.

I have compiled ten of Ayurveda’s best principles/practices. Some are simple, some a little more complex. Pick one. Or two. Or as many as you want. The point is, focusing on even one of these valuable gems might be a game changer and put you on a path to a better quality of life. To happiness–as the sidewalk above recently pointed me towards. Remember that Ayurveda is about striving for balance, not perfection. Try not to think of these as New Year’s resolutions that can set you up for failure. That will take all the fun out of it! Just about every day I fall short of living the Ayurvedic life I strive for. But it’s always in my consciousness and I know that I feel so much better when I do practice these principles.

1. Good digestion is key to a healthy mind and body. Our gut is often referred to as our second brain and it is where roughly 95% of our serotonin (the happy hormone!) is produced. Most Ayurvedic practitioners look to digestion first when treating any condition as they believe that poor digestion is the root cause of every illness/disease. Start paying attention to how you feel after you eat. You don’t need to obsess–just be aware. Gas, bloating, burping, acid reflux, foul breath, etc. are all red flags that you are not properly digesting the food you are eating. It could be the type of food, how it was prepared, or the manner in which you are eating (stressed, rushing, etc.) that causes the distress.

2. Keep a regular routine, as much as possible. The body loves routine, especially when it comes to eating and sleeping. It’s the mind that craves excitement and variety–especially for Vata types. Strive for getting out of bed before 7:00 a.m. and in bed between 9:30-10:00 p.m. Eat a light breakfast by 8:00 a.m., lunch around 12:30 p.m. (biggest meal) and a light dinner between 5:30-6:30 p.m. This seems to be one of the biggest challenges for many of us in our busy modern world and yet mastering it can have profound healing effects. I work hard on this every single day. Remember, baby steps are better than no steps at all!

3. Meditate to nurture the mind/body/spirit connection. The best times of day for meditation are during the Vata times of day which are 2:00-6:00 a.m. and 2:00-6:00 p.m. If you find yourself waking in the wee hours of the morning and can’t get back to sleep, try meditating. You will likely fall back into a delicious deep sleep after just twenty minutes of meditation. Click HERE.

4. Scrape your tongue gently from back to front about 10 times after brushing your teeth to remove excess ama (toxins) so that it doesn’t get reabsorbed into the body. I like this simple tongue scraper.

5. Drink a big glass of warm lemon or lime water after brushing your teeth each morning. You can add a little bit of raw honey if you can’t bear the tartness. This will help activate peristalsis in the gastrointestinal tract to get things moving, and will also aid in removing ama from the digestive tract. If you haven’t eaten since dinner at 6:00 p.m. the night before, your body will thank you for an easy twelve hour detox/cleanse!

6. Eat seasonal foods that help balance your particular prakruti (constitution) and cook accordingly to pacify the doshas. Not sure of your constitution? Click HERE. Become familiar with the gunas and how these properties in nature such as dry, cold, heavy, hot, oily, pungent, liquid, etc. influence our digestion–both in mind and body. Learn which foods are easy to digest and those that are difficult to digest.

7. Exercise according to your constitution. Exercise is not one-size-fits-all. You might just as well be exercising too much as well as too little, especially if you have a lot of Vata in your constitution. All Exercise is Not Created Equal.

8. Experiment with spices and herbs–they can be a great aid for digestion, calming the nervous system, stimulating metabolism, and helping with numerous health problems. Remember that everyone’s body is unique with different levels of tolerance. Many Vata types are particularly sensitive and should not overload themselves (which we habitually tend to do), especially with herbs. Start out slowly. Generally speaking, I don’t take an herb for more than three months at a time. You should know by then whether or not it’s working for you. My favorite source for quality organic Ayurvedic herbs is Banyan Botanicals.

9. Begin the practice of daily warm oil self-massage. Called abhyanga in Ayurveda, this simple practice of applying warmed dosha-specific oils on a daily basis can have a profound healing effect on the mind and the body. Two good sources for massage oils are Banyan Botanicals and Pratima Spa. I have yet to find a Vata body oil that smells as divine as Pratima’s! You can also use plain sesame, almond, coconut, olive or sunflower oil. Just be sure that it’s organic and preferably unrefined. Here’s a video to inspire you.

10. Incorporate daily sadhanas (spiritual practices) through the use of food, breath and sound. They will bring you back to your center, connect you to your Source and bring great calm and clarity into your life.

That’s it! I’d love to hear from those of you who decide to take the plunge. Need a little support? I am always available to guide you. If you live in NYC, come visit me at my new location in the offices of the Herban Alchemist, 137 Grand Street, #2 in Soho. Or we can connect by phone or Skype. Call 212-962-4738 to set up an appointment or contact me through my website.

Wishing you all the best in 2014, from my heart to yours!

Much love,
Barbara

Posted in General Wellness | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment