Maintaining your Balance in Autumn

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This time of year, many of us feel out of whack. Fall usually increases the Vata energy in all of us, which in excess can result in anxiety, pain, the urge to travel (which would of course make Vata even stronger), dryness of skin and hair and many other symptoms. We may find it harder to concentrate or focus for any length of time. We may feel compelled to create changes in our lives – when actually steadying the course is just what we need. If you are primarily made up of Vata energy, you will feel this even more keenly than the rest of us!

To keep Vata in balance, there are any number of things we can do.

Food is the best medicine. So eat lots of Vata-balancing foods, which are generally hot, well-cooked and wet. For a complete list of Vata-balancing foods, please see the “Foods to Favor” column under Vata at the Ayurvedic Institute’s website resources at  http://www.ayurveda.com/online_resource/ . Use the Vata – Favor column to make selections that will keep Vata in check.

Basti or enema is also one of the most effective treatments to relieve excess Vata. Generic instructions for self-administering basti are also on the Ayurvedic Institute website online resources at  http://www.ayurveda.com/online_resource/ . Particularly for reducing Vata, you could consider using a part sesame-oil, part herbal decoction with a vata-balancing herb like dashamula.

Also, much of our grandmothers’ seasonal advice is well-aligned with what Ayurveda has to say about reducing Vata. For example, bundle up in cooler weather, drink warm (caffeine free) liquids, and protect your head (especially the ears) from the wind.  

As you may have seen in many of my past blogs, the best way to deal with seasonal change is to get ahead of it. If you eat for your Ayurevdic constitution all year, and do a seasonal cleanse/panchakarma program at each junction of the seasons (see my older blogs), you can avoid/prevent/lessen the imbalances often caused at these times of year.

Prepare for Summer

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Summer is dominated by Pitta dosha – the energy that creates passion and fire and heat.

That can be a welcome influence for many of us who have a predominantly Kapha or Vata nature. Kapha & Vata are made up of cooler energy.

But the famous Ayurvedic principle “like increases like” means that summer can be troublesome for those of us with a primarily Pitta constitution, or for those with a current Pitta imbalance.

Too much Pitta can cause symptoms like irritability in our mood, trouble sleeping or flares of temper. Physically, the increase in Pitta energy during summer can cause rashes and hives. And in the stomach, it can create acid.

So what to do?

As we have been discussing for that last 12 months, doing an Ayurvedic cleanse before each new season is great preparation and prevention. It rids the body of  “ama” or toxins that may have accumulated in the previous season and renews the “dhatus” or tissues for optimum health and well-being.  While it is ideal to do your Ayurvedic seasonal cleanse working with an Ayurvedic physician or advisor, it is possible to do an effective home program.

This following table summarizes the basics of an at-home program at a high level:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To discover your Ayurvedic constitution, please refer to the pdf’s at Ayurvedic Institute websites “Online Resources” section: http://www.ayurveda.com/online_resource/index.html 

For a kitchari recipe you can use: http://www.ayurveda.com/online_resource/kitchari_recipe.html

In addition to a preventive cleanse, Pitta-balancing, cooling foods (like cilantro and mint, most dairy products, almond milk – see the Ayurvedic Institute’s Food Guidelines pdf for a complete list) and cooling activities like meditation, certain asanas (like Moon Salutation), and wearing cool colors (green, blue. purple) and breathable fabrics like cotton and linen will also keep Pitta energy in check. Also, coconut oil applied to the skin is cooling.

For a great summer facial scrub, try a mixture of chickpea flour, sandalwood powder and turmeric. Mix with water to make a paste for younger/oilier complexions, or with coconut oil for older/drier complexions.

 

 

 

Have a cool summer!

Get Ready for Spring

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Winter is kapha accumulation season. Just as the snow and ice melt to water in spring, the accumulated kapha ama (toxins) of winter also start to run. This often manifests as runny nose, colds, flu and allergies. These problems are likely to be worse for those with a kapha imbalance, or those whose primary dosha is kapha.

So what can we do to avoid getting sick?

This is the time of year that we cleanse our systems of ama using the Ayurevdic pancha karma program of diet, herbs & activities.  And after the cleanse?

Normally, Pitta people will enjoy spring – at least until it gets hot! In springtime, Vata people will feel healthy & happy. But those with a Kapha imbalance  or who are primarily kapha may be challenged, are at risk of getting sick and may still need to re-balance. 

So what is kapha-balancing?

– Avoid heavy, oily food

– Minimize sweet, sour and salty foods

– Stay away from meat and dairy (small amounts of ghee are fine)

– If you must have animal foods, eat fish, venison, chicken, turkey & eggs

– Avoid wheat, brown and white rice (basmati is okay), most pasta, bleached flour, white bread

– Avoid dates, melons, cucumber, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, squash 

– Eat more foods that have bitter, pungent & astringent tastes

– Favor legumes, amaranth, barley, corn, millet, buckwheat, rye, quinoa, tapioca, oat bran

– Eat apples, apricots, pears, cherries, dark grapes, raisins & berries

– Favor artichokes, asparagus, beets, carrots, lettuce, leafy greens, radish, spinach & okra

– For flavor, use onions, garlic & small amounts of heating spices

– End meals with lassi (equal parts water & yogurt, shaken with dry ginger)

– Drink a cup of hot water with a teaspoon of raw honey added

– No naps

– Small, light meals

– Vigorous exercise

Ayurevdic Spring Cleanse Workshop is Saturday, February 25th!

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Just a reminder for the cleanse group and anyone else who is interested:

Spring Seasonal Cleanse Workshop will be held on Saturday, February 25th.

– Noon will be a session for anyone who is joining us for the first time. Please contact me through this blog to register

– 1 PM will begin the large group session. This will end at the very latest by 5 PM; probably earlier

If you have particular topics you would like us to cover, please let me know right away so that I can prepare.

Please let me know if you are already registered for the year of cleanses and unable to attend this session.

Questions? Respond to this post with a comment.

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

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Holiday eating can sometimes dull our digestive fire.  Get your New Year started with stronger digestion.

Digestive fire is called “agni”. Here is a recipe for tea to rekindle your agni:

 

Agni Tea Recipe
 
Ingredients

1 quart Water
1 pinch Cayenne
2 handfuls Minced ginger root
2 Tbs. Sucanat or other sweetener
1 to 2 tsp. Rock salt
   
  The first definition of agni is the element of Fire, the second of the five elements in the body. It also denotes the digestive fire which regulates temperature, performs digestion, absorption, and assimilation of ingested food, and transforms food into energy or consciousness.

Agni Tea is a simple beverage that helps to regulate and stimulate your digestive capacity, improving all the functions of digestive agni.

Preparation

Bring all of the above ingredients to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes.

Take the pot off the burner and cool for a few minutes

Add the juice of 1/2 lime. Do not boil the lime juice.

Pour into a thermos and enjoy throughout the day!

Day Five of my 5-Day Cleanse

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Today was the last cleanse day for me. I took my rasayana (rejuvenation) herbs, which I will continue tomorrow, even as I transition to normal eating. Rasayana herbs have a much more potent effect when they are taken after the dhatus (tissues) have been cleansed. There is nothing standing in the way of their benefit to us, as there is when we have accumulated ama (toxins) in our system. I also completed the 1 day of basti (enema) in this version of the cleanse today. As always, this left me feeling grounded and calm.

Overall, I feel very good — energized, clean, fresh, connected, renewed. A 5-day cleanse is definitely something I would consider doing again in the future. While I do miss the longer duration version (I so enjoy the multiple days of steaming and oiling, and the gradual-ness of the 9 -day cleanse we did last season), this time of year it is hard to even find 5 good days for a cleanse…so a 5-day version is practical. I also believe that the shorter cleanse worked well because I did the  9-day version last time — and I have been eating for my constitution and adjusting my lifestyle to the season since the last cleanse.

Our Viroqua Ayurveda cleanse group will all be starting & stopping on different dates this time around. So, hey you guys — please share your experiences. I love that we are all learning from each other!

I wish you abundant health and happiness,

Susan

Day Four of my 5-Day Cleanse

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I had trouble getting to sleep last night. I was not worrying about anything or feeling stress that I know of. I just watched the movie screen on my closed eyelids while I lay in bed. Odd, fanciful pictures appeared — a gorilla smiling at me, beautiful rolling waves, fat lumbering friendly black bears, a market with bolts of luxurious, multi-colored fabrics…I remember something similar happening during my last seasonal cleanse. 

Although I did not sleep much last night with these scenes paying in my head, today I feel energized. In this shorter version of the cleanse, I began my steam after the self-abhyanga (warm oil massage) this morning.

I am still mostly feeling no hunger until it is just time to eat my kitchari, although last night I did feel a bit if hunger around 9:00. It passed.

Today is our seasonal workshop and I am so looking forward to it.

Namaste,    Susan

 

Day Three of my 5-Day Cleanse

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Today I am feeling compassionate and balanced. I am more grounded than before the cleanse began. I think I had a little Vata imbalance as well as some excess Pitta. I feel connected to all life on the planet. I have that sense that “all is well”.

In terms of the pancha karma routine, today I had my first self-abhyanga (warm oil massage). I guess that could have something to do with my “all is well” feeling!

I am noticing that my eyes are brighter. My stomach gurgling seems to have lessened for now. My energy is still good and I am experiencing no hunger in between meals.

I seem to feel the cold more, and I need to wear more layers than ususal to stay warm. Part of this may be because I have lost some weight since the last time I cleansed. It is very important to stay warm – during pancha karma and throughout the winter – to avoid the kapha & vata mischief-makers that can cause problems like colds (now or in the spring), low energy, dry skin, and all sorts of aches & pains. 

Enjoy today,

Susan

Day Two of my 5-Day Cleanse

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Today I am feeling even and settled…even calm. I have the sense that all is right in the universe.

The 5-day cleanse plan today is the same as yesterday. No other additions yet. Just ghee in the AM, kitchari meals with Pitta-balancing herbs afterwards in warm water, Pitta-balancing laxative (amalaki) before bed. 

I still have noticed no hunger, which I take as a sign that 1) the ghee is doing its job to loosen the ama, and the kitchari is doing its job to bring the ama into my digestive tract, and 2) that I am supplementing my ghee with good vegetables for the cleanse and the season (so far, it’s been well-cooked squash and green beans).

I am noticing a feeling of fullness/pressure in my lower abdomen today. This tells me that the ghee &  kitchari are already having an effect. Another sure sign — my stomach is gurgling quite a bit.

I know it’s not the most pleasant topic, but Ayurveda pays a lot of attention to what we excrete. Yesterday, I pooped more than usual. Today, the color of my poop is slightly orange – a sure sign that excess Pitta is being removed.

Namaste,

Susan

Day One of My 5-Day Cleanse

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I began my cleanse today (in advance of my cleanse workshop buddies – you know who you are!) so that I could try out the 5-day version and let others know how it works for me. I hope this will help them decide how many days to cleanse themselves.

Today I began taking my AM ghee, eating kitchari for all 3 meals, taking Pitta-balancing herbs after meals & a Pitta-balancing laxative (amalaki) in the evening. I am following the plan outlined in Dr. Vasant Lad’s article in the Spring 2011 Ayurveda Today journal entitled “Seasonal Home Cleanse: Doing Pancha Karma at Home”.

As I did in my fall cleanse, I am noticing that while I am eating less than usual, I feel incredibly full. I think this is due to the ghee, which is working its magic to help loosen up ama (toxins) in my system. I am one of those unlucky people who cannot tolerate ghee alone (I literally gag) – I need to add it to my kitchari. I am having a tablespoon of ghee in my food at lunch and dinner as well (this is not required, I just like it and it helps my cleansing process). Of course, my fullness could also be the heaviness of the kitchari, essentially a mung dal & basmati brown rice gruel. To my lunch and dinner kitchari, I am adding 6 ounces seasonal vegetables, like winter squash, which is warming & satisfying.

I remember that cleanse days 1-2 last season were rough for me. I felt tired and not-right-with-the world physically & emotionally. So far, I am noticing no reduction in my energy level. I am hoping it’s because 1) I did a full 9-day cleanse last season and 2) I have been intentionally eating to balance my Ayurvedic constitution since the last cleanse, which should mean that I have created less ama to get rid of this time around.

Because of holiday traditions, family gatherings and entertaining, this can be a challenging time of year to cleanse. I have gotten some questions about whether it is okay to wait until January. My answer (as always) is: it is better to do it imperfectly than not it all; some is better than none. So while November & December are the best months for a cleanse going into the winter season, you will definitely benefit from doing it in early January. 

I can’t wait for our workshop gathering Saturday to kick off the cleanse! We will also be learning about the Ayurvedic Daily Routine, Ayurveda & Disease, and Ayurvedic Remedies for Common Illnesses.

Be at peace,

Susan