A place of Harmony Balance and Health

Please see my new webpage www.harmonybalancehealth.com for all my latest articles

Friday, July 30, 2010

Ama - the root of most disease

Ama is a big topic in Ayurveda. It is what makes us sick, what gives us diseases and what we need to eliminate from our bodies. 

Ama is the result of undigested matter that gets lodged in our bodies. Once it starts to accumulate in the body it will not only affect our body but our mind  as well. If it is not removed it will result in any number of symptoms which ultimately if untreated can result in disease. Ayurveda states that all diseases begin as ama. Once undigested matter accumulates in the body the digestive functions become weak and this leads to a weakened immune system. This is why a strong agni is so important as it is the strong fire of our agni that has the ability to digest everything we eat and burn up any ama in our system.  So, if our agni is weak, our fire will not be strong enough for proper digestion and anything we don't fully digest will form ama. Once ama is in our body it travels around until it finds a nice little place to settle and it will grow and grow. Not only will it grow, but it will also travel and spread throughout the body. 

So how do you know if you have ama?  Here are some signs to look out for:
  • Lethargy
  • Waking up tired, even after a good nights sleep
  • Loss of appetite
  • Coating on the tongue
  • Aches and pains
  • Loss of enthusiasm
  • Indigestion 
  • Bad breath
  • Blockages - constipation, sinus etc
  • Little or not sweat
  • Lack of mental clarity
  • Well pretty much any symptom of illness is a sign that your body is not in harmonious balance and that ama has started to form. 

But do not dispair there are things you can do to remove ama and strengthen your agni.  Treatment will depend on your doshas, your doshic imbalances and your bodily limitations, but here are some general things you can try:
  • A light, fresh, whole food diet. The diet would mainly be a kapha reducing diet as ama is heavy, sticky and has the ability to get stuck, just like kapha. So stay away from dairy, nuts, bread, pastries, sugar, red meat, eggs and root vegetables for starters, and have lots of ginger and other heating foods and spices  (be careful if you have excess pitta).
  • Ginger, cinnamon, cardamon, fennel or dandelion root tea
  • An Ayurvedic massage. This type of massage uses hot oil and stimulation of marmas (energy centers) to remove blockages and ama (toxins) from the body
  • Self massage
  • Jogging. My teacher swears by it as a sure fire way to get your digestion working and burn up ama.  Jogging will get your heart moving, heat you up and get you sweating. This will burn the ama and flush it out of the system.  If you don't like the idea of jogging try any sport or physical exercise that will have the same results - increased heart rate and sweat.
  • Tongue scraping
  • Regular eating habits
  • An Ayurvedic consultation

Other things to avoid or reduce:
  • Processed food
  • Heavy, oily, fried food
  • Over-eating
  • Eating late at night
  • Eating quickly
  • Stress
  • Living a sedentary life

So there you have it, a quick introduction to ama. There is a lot more to it so I will be adding more posts on this subject over time.

I hope that you find this interesting and helpful and that you can use this information to live a healthier life. It's not always easy and it's not always fun. But it is how we can look after ourselves and prevent disease so it is definitely worth it if we can. Good luck and let me know how you go or if you have any questions.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Agni - our digestive fire

This is a big, big topic in Ayurveda and one that you will hear me refer to again and again. Agni is described as a fire that burns within us all. It transforms all food and sensations into energy, and absorbs the nutrients in food into our tissues. 

We will start with the most basic concept. Agni is a fire and you need to tend a fire very carefully so that it does not go out. You also need to pay careful attention it it so that it does not get out of control. Too little wood and you will be cold, too much and it will burn the house down! Both undesirable outcomes as I am sure you will agree. 

Our digestion needs just as much care and attention so that our fire burns brightly without burning us dry or over heating us. In the morning our agni is not very strong as we have been sleeping, resting and in a sense fasting all night,  so we need to carefully add enough to the fire to get it burning but not so much that we put it out. Noon is when our agni is at its strongest and therefore should be our biggest meal.  This is the time to put on the logs so to speak. By the end of the day our digestion begins to slow down again and the power of our agni is much lower. We are winding down from the day and making the transition into the evening, a time when we tend to rest and be less active. Our bodies do not need the energy or fuel that they did earlier. This is not the time to throw heavy logs onto the fire! 

A good way to think about it is -
                                                     eat lunch like a king,
                                                     breakfast like a prince and 
                                                     dinner like a pauper.  

Remember our bodies have been around long before electricity and our bodies evolved under the sun. The sun is fire, agni is fire and they are strongly related. If you eat in accordance with the sun then you will be eating as your body intended. Just keep in mind - the higher and stronger the sun is in the day, the stronger your digestion. 

It is food that nourishes our bodies so it is very important how and when we eat. Your individual constitution will also influence your agni. Vatas tend to have the weakest and most variable digestion with pitta's fire element giving them the strongest of all the doshas

Here are some signs that your agni is not healthy:
  • gas, bloating, belching, gurgling etc 
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • cloudy, discoloured urine
  • Smelly poop or not pooping every day.
  • bad breath
  • loss of energy 
  • loss of motivation
  • loss of or reduced appetite
  • loss of luster in eyes and skin
  • white coating on the tongue
So what can you do if you have any of these symptoms?
  • One of the best things you can do is eat according to the sun as explained above. We tend to over eat a lot and our meals are becoming bigger and bigger. We often eat far more than we need or even want. So eating smaller, lighter meals is highly recommended. Remember we only want to keep the fire going, not smother it!
  • Eat with awareness.  Do you find yourself rushing your meals? Do you eat on the run? Do you eat while watching TV, working, surfing the net?  Slow down, stop and enjoy your food. Let you body eat. You are not filling up your car at the petrol station! Enjoy your food. Respect your food and the process of eating.
  • Chew all your food carefully. Chewing stimulates saliva which contains enzymes that help with digestion.
  • Drink some hot water with fresh lemon and ginger before your meal.
  • Don't drink too much with your meals - sipping is OK gulping is not.
  • Overly cold food and drinks.
  • Go for a walk after you eat.
  • Do some yoga, especially poses that work your abdomen such as twists.
  • Exercise, get your body and heart moving.
  • Have cumin, coriander and fennel in your meals or as a tea.
  • Have an Ayurvedic consultation.
  • Listen to your body. Eat when you are hungry and enjoy the experience!
Do a little experiment. If you often wake up heavy and slow try eating a lighter earlier dinner and see how you feel the next day. Often the heaviness we wake up with is due to the heavy meal that our body has been trying to digest all night. 

Play with the other recommendations and see how your body reacts. You will find it will talk to you if you are listening. 

So this is an introduction to agni and it is not complete. There is a lot more to it all than that, but that is a start. I will do an Agni part 2 soon and fill you in on some more interesting and wonderful facts about how we digest all that we eat, see, hear, smell, touch, taste. How our mind digests as well as our digestive organs. It's not all about the stomach. 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Books that you might want to read

I've just added a list of books that I have read or use in my studies and daily life.  Most of them are on my bookshelf. ( I sold all my novels so I could by more reference books. I am a text book junkie what can I say! )

  • Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
  • Australian Yoga Journal
  • Australian Yoga Life
  • Awakening the Buddha Within by Lama Surya Das
  • Awakening to the Sacred by Lama Surya Das
  • Ayurveda and the Mind: The Healing of Consciousness by David Frawley
  • Ayurveda the Science of Self Healing by Dr. Vasant Lad
  • Ayurveda, Nature's Medicine by David Frawley
  • Ayurvedic Cooking for Self Healing by Usha Lad and Dr. Vasant Lad
  • Bringing Yoga to Life by Donna Farhi
  • Dynamic Yoga by Godfrey Devereux
  • Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar
  • Living Your Yoga by Judith Lasater
  • Meditations from the Tantras by Swami Satyananda Saraswati
  • Prakriti by Robert E. Svoboda
  • The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
  • The Ayurvedic Cookbook by Amadea Morningstar
  • The Complete Book of Ayurvedic Home Remedies by Vasant Lad
  • The Essence of the Bhagavad Gita explained by Pramhanasa Yogananda
  • The heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar
  • The Magic of Ayurvedic Aromatherapy by Farida Irani
  • The Wisdom of Yoga by Stephen Cope
  • The Yoga of Herbs by Dr. David Frawley and Dr. Vasant Lad
  • Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff
  • Yoga and Ayurveda by David Frawley
  • Yoga Journal
  • Yoga, Mind, Body and Spirit by Donna Farhi

If you are interested in Ayurveda and yoga or just want to know how to live a more harmonious life then you might find them useful, I certainly have. Some will be in most book shops in the hippy, new age, self help section or with the yoga books but others you will be harder to find. If there is a good spiritual book shop I would give it a go otherwise you will probably have to go to Amazon or some other online book store.
If you do read any or have already read some of them post a comment and let me know what you think. Still no comments just in case you hadn't noticed :(
Happy reading!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My new kapha reduction plan

I have a kapha imbalance.  I am very much vata, small  and thin and many other vata characteristics but I have too much kapha. It just goes to show that you have to pay attention to all the elements even if they are not your dominating doshic elements or they too can go out of balance. So this is my story of how I have come to realise I have a problem with excess kapha.

I have been having a bit of trouble with my left eye. It became swollen a few weeks ago and I was getting a bit worried. I went and had some test done and and the optometrist couldn't find anything wrong so she then suggested I have some blood tests to see if I had any problems with my thyroid or diabetes but all tests came back fine. Neither the doctor or optometrist could find a reason and the doctor said the usual "these things happen , blah blah blah" which basically translates to "I don't have a clue and can't give you a prescription so just accept it and move on".

So it got me thinking. And this thunking got my thinking about another problem I have been having where my breasts get really heavy and sore before my period. And then I started thinking about the elements and how they both these problems seem to be related to kapha in some way. The eye swelling felt like a fluid and fluid is water. While my beasts are the result of dense tissue and dense is heavy which is also kapha.  So I have gone on a kapha reducing diet. I also had a terrible cold when I came to this realisation so felt like the universe was trying to tell my something and that I should really take notice.

At first it was easy, mainly because I had a cold and lots of time off work to follow my new anti kapha plan but now that I have recovered from my cold and am out in the big tempting world it is much more difficult. There are kapha increasing foods everywhere! The reason I have excess kapha is because  I love sweet food so eat a lot of chocolate, cakes, pasteries. I have ever really worried too much about it because my vata has always kept me slim. I do have a pretty good diet but I do over indulge on all things sweet. So I am trying really hard to not eat much sugar and I am also avoiding heavy food, fried foods, take-away and large meals. Fats are also something I need to reduce so I have stopped snacking on nuts, and eat fruit instead and have reduced the amount of avocado I eat.  Life is tough I can tell you! I have already noticed a change and I feel a lot better.

But it's going to be hard to keep it up, I am a vata after all and change is my best friend. I'm just hoping I have enough pitta to keep me on track and away from temptation. So I will keep you updated on how I am going and the changes I am making and any tips or advice on adopting a kapha reducing lifestyle.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A sore throat remedy

Do you ever wake up with a sore throat and swollen glands? I sometimes do in winter and have found the easiest and quickest remedy.

Put some turmeric and salt in hot water and gargle. Swish it round in your mouth too and really try to get it as far back in your throat as you can. Do it several times and then don't eat or drink anything for  at least 5 minutes.

Cleaning your tongue with a tongue scraper will also help as it removes all those nasty toxins that love to hang out there.

Give it a try, it really does work.

* Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory and a natural antiseptic and is used in may ayurvedic remedies.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The best roast veggies in the world!

Ok I know it's a big call but seriously they are!!

And what's even better is they are sooo easy. I took my inspiration from my new indian spice container and new found love of delicious, delicious ghee. I think after the initial tasting me and my boyfriend fell so madly in love with this dish that I made them again the next night and regularly throughout the rest of the winter.

So here's what you need:-
  • ghee (clarified butter) If you don't have it use extra virgin olive oil or whatever oil you like.
  • turmeric
  • allspice
  • cinnamon
  • corriander seeds
  • cummin seeds
  • fennel seeds
  • mustard seeds
  • sweet potatoes
  • pumpkin
  • carrot
  • parsnip
  • fennel
Of course you can use any spices and vegetables you like. It's always best to use what's in season and these are common winter varieties. Ayurveda has taught me to use whole spices as they retain their flavour better but if you have ground spices that's fine. I'm not one for measuring but a pinch or 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of each spice would do the trick. Also, the smaller you cut the veggies that faster they will cook.

And here's what you do:-

Heat you oven to about 180 and cut up your veggies. Put an empty baking tray in the oven for about 5 minutes to get it hot. Take it out and add the spices. Heat for about 3-5 minutes. Take them out and grind them up with a mortar and pestle. If you don't have one a jar in a bowl will work. Add ghee to the tray and heat until melted then add the spices and mix well. If you are using ground spices then just heat ghee and then add the spices. Pop the try back in the oven for a few minutes to heat up the spices. Take out stir well then add the veggies and mix them so they are well coated with ghee and spices then put them in the oven. Check on them while they are cooking and mix them occasionally. When they are tender they are cooked.

* Ghee is a great vehicle for getting the medicinal properties form herbs into your system. it is also great for stimulating your digestion.
However, it is not good if you have high cholesterol so use an alternative.

The doshas- constitutional characteristics

Ayurveda believes that all things are made up of the 5 elements- ether(space), air, fire, water and earth, and that these 5 elements combine to create doshas. We as individuals are then a combination of these doshas and their elements and the amount that each of us has will vary from person to person. Most people will have a dual constitutions with one dosha being dominant and a small number of people will have all three dosha in similar amounts. When you are trying to determine your dosha is is best to not only focus on how you are now but also how you have been most of your life, how you were as a child and how you are when you are most healthy and balanced. Your body frame, eyes, skin etc, things that do not really change are good indicators of your true dosha.

Vata is the dosha of ether and air so vata people will have these characteristics. Their body, mind and lifestyle will be dominated by dry, light, cold, rough, fluctuating and mobile qualities.

As movement is one of the dominant characteristics of air, vata people love be very active and will often have a restless nature. Their energy however is not sustainable and they will run around until they are completely depleted then crash. When their energy is back they will jump up and do it all over again. ( I know cause I am one) They love and crave change and will jump into things but rarely finish them as they have already started something new. This tendency to fly from one thing to another is typical of vatas and therefore they need to ground themselves more then any other. A routine is a great way to do this, but more often then not they will resist something that will bring regularity to their lives. Yoga, meditation, warm baths, anything that will slow down their active minds and bodies is essential to bring balance and stability to busy vatas.

Vata people tend to be thin and either small or tall. And everything about them will be dry and variable - just like air. Their skin will be dry and their joints may crack when they move. They will often have dry hair that will split, contain dandruff and look dull. Often it will be curly or frizzy. Their nails too will be dry, often have ridges and will break easily. They will often have cold hands and feet and their skin will be cool to touch. This coolness makes them love to be out in the sun. They will hate being cold, feel drafts and really, really not like winter. As you can imagine, vatas are most happy basking in the heat of summer.

Their appetite is like everything else, variable. One day they will be starving, the next forget to eat. Fasting however is not good for them as they do not store energy easily, maybe due to the fact they they are always using it! They will usually crave sweet, salty and sours tastes, love oily food and mushy soups. Their digestion is often weak and they tend to suffer from constipation, gas and bloating.

Their active mind does not rest when they are sleeping either and vatas tend to toss and turn and wake during the night. They dream a lot but will often not remember them. When they do remember them they are quite active and intense and may include flying or being chased.

Vatas talk quickly and think quickly. They make friends easily and love to expolore the world. They are good theorist because they are quite happy to take old ideas and make them new. Their inability to follow through with things will however stop them for developing these ideas. They are quick to remember and quick to forget. If they get angry they will explode and then move on. Often they will not remember what all the fuss was about once their focus has shifted onto something new.

Pitta is the dosha of fire and water so pitta will have these characteristic. Their body, mind and lifestyle will be dominated by hot, pungent, sharp, moist and light qualities.

When we think of fire we think of intensity, transformation, power and heat, and pittas can be all of these things. Pittas are great leaders because they are strong, sharp and passionate. Their focused and competitive nature will often be rewarded with positions of power. They love a challenge, enjoy a debate and make good public speakers. But be careful, their speech can be filled with cynicism and sarcasm and will cut you down if they are running a little hot! They have a tendency towards anger, hate and jealousy if they are not careful. Their dreams are often filled with these same emotions, with war and violence being common themes. Regardless of these types of dreams they sleep well unless of course they are too focused on their work. This mixture of fire and water is not all bad however, it also makes them passionate and romantic. Their hot-blooded nature gives them a good appetite for sex and the endurance to maintain their desires.

Their bodies are medium height and build and their frame and height will usually be in proportion. They are the more muscular of the three doshas and enjoy exercise. They need to be careful to keep their competitive nature under control or they will overheat. They can gain and lose weight easily and usually store fat evenly across their bodies. Their skin is delicate and warm and they will often suffer from rashes, pimples and other inflammations. They will often have hot hands and feet and this warm body temperature makes them intolerant to hot weather. If they have white skin it will often have red tones, will freckle, have moles and winkle easily. They blush easily and redden after exercise. Pittas, again if appropriate, will also have red tones in their hair and they are more likely to go bald or grey early.

Pittas have good appetites and love eating. When they are hungry they need to be fed or they will become irritable. Needless to say, they do not do well on a fast. They like sweet, bitter and astringent tastes. They have a strong digestion but can suffer from heartburn. They rarely become constipated and their eliminations are quick, soft and loose.

Pitta people make friends easily, are acutely intelligent and are good at putting plans into action. If you want something done ask a pitta! They have a good memory and will hold onto things for a long time, so don't get them angry as they will not forget or let go of past differences easily.

Kapha is earth and water so kapha people will have characteristics based on these elements. Their body, mind and lifestyle will be dominated by cold, heavy, slow, stable, fluid and oily.

Just as earth implies, Kaphas are the more grounded of the three doshas. This connection to the earth can make them stuck and motivation is one of kaphas biggest problems. They are kind, calm and steady. They like stability and routine and are less inclined to embrace change. They tended to hold onto things and can suffer from attachment, greed and possessiveness. This can be a positive thing too - give them a job to do and they will see it through to the end. They are also very compassionate, calm and forgiving. This more maternal aspect could be associated with their close bond to the Earth and 'Mother Nature'.

Kapha people have a large frame and will often be carrying a bit of extra weight. Most of their weight is stored around their hips and thighs and it is difficult to shift. Kaphas don't need to do much to put on weight but they really need to work on getting it off. They usually have smooth, oily skin and rarely suffer form skin disorders. Their lips are big and full as are their eyes. This is kapha- big and beautiful.

Kaphas have a steady appetite and can often go all day without eating due to their natural ability to store energy. They do well on fasts. It can take a kapha some time to digest their food and they may produce mucus as a result. Kaphas have the strongest endurance of all doshas but this can be affected by neglect and abuse. They need a lot of physical activity but will often do anything to avoid it, they prefer storing their energy rather than using it.

Kaphas are cool and calm and this is how they dream. Their dreams are romantic and can be filled with water. They are heavy sleepers and often over indulge in bed. They would never be described as morning people! Kaphas are totally opposite to vatas with one being light and airy, the other heavy and earthy. They need what the other has in abundance. Want to bring a vata down form the sky then give them a kapha diet and lifestyle. Want a kapha to flutter in the wind? Hand them the the rule book on life according to vatas . Pittas have no opposite but need the coolness kapha and vata share.

So these are the doshas.
These are the 5 elements according to Ayurvedic science.

There is of course now the issue of how to balance them. It might take me a while to get there but her is a good place to start - a list of foods that are best for your dosha.

But basically like attracts like and it you have too much of something then you have to reduce it or eliminate it for a while. There are also the tastes to think about and that post will be delivered as soon as I can.

Oh so much to do and so much to say. Still no comments though, seems the community thing hasn't caught on yet. Wanna start a community? Wanna chat? Like minded people coming together over the waves of the internet.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The sleepy nutmeg

After spending hours staring at a computer screen making my blog yesterday I was so wired that I couldn't sleep. I was lying in bed for ages and then finally got up and decided to give an Ayurvedic remedy that I had read about a try.
I was also feeling a bit chilled from a cold that I have so decided to have a hot shower first.

Then on to the remedy - hot milk with nutmeg.
I only had soy milk as I had changed from cow's milk when I started to get the cold as its lighter and causes less congestion. So I heated some soy milk in a pan with about half a teaspoon of nutmeg. It was an interesting taste, not bad and much better than any medicine that's for sure. So I sat quietly sipped at my nutmeg milk and went to be. I did not lay there long before I fell into a deep deep sleep.

So the next time you have trouble sleeping give it a go and tell me what you think. I will definitely be making it again.

* A precautionary note for pregnant women - nutmeg should not be taken in high doses.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Welcome to Anthea's Ayurveda

Ok I know I am cheating as this is also just a copy of my what is Ayurveda page but there is a reason. I am not being lazy! I believe both are necessary. The first post should be an introduction to Ayurveda and the Ayurveda page is there for future reference when this page is blogging history.
So here goes, my first, post...kinda.

Ayurveda is the ancient art of healing and wellbeing that focuses on living naturally. Todays western approach to medicine and healing is to treat the disease but Ayurveda takes a different approach. Ayurveda does not wait for a disease to appear, it maintains the body on a day to day basis believing that "prevention is better than cure".

It is a traditional approach to life that focus on the whole person, not just the anatomy. Ayurveda believes that we are the by products of how we live and the body type that we were born with. These individual body types have to be kept in balance in order to remain healthy and harmonious. Learning what is right and wrong for your individual body type is the key to the principles and practices of Ayurveda. So, what is good for one may not be good for another.

Ayurveda uses many approaches to healing and balancing the body and a lot of them we already know and practice. A lot of them our parents or grandparents knew about but unfortunately have been lost as we have been trained to take the fast and pharmaceutical approach to wellbeing. This is an approach that we are now realsing comes at a cost. Ayurveda gives us natural alternatives, things like herbal remedies, healthy thoughtful home cooking, connecting with nature, eating with the seasons, connecting with yourself, your family and a community. This is what Ayurveda is all about. And we are starting to go back to these time honoured traditions by taking a more natural approach to life. Just look at the growing organics industry and environmental awareness. Green had never been so cool!

Other Ayurvedic practices that you may be familiar with are yoga and meditation. These are part of Ayurveda's daily routine and should be practiced every day. We're not talking about a yoga class every morning, just a few simple stretches to wake up and connect with your body and mind. Another daily practice is self massage, something that I truly love. Using warm oil to gently massage the entire body before bathing. It is a truly nourishing and grounding experience! Massage has a whole range of other benefits including stress reduction, improved circulation and ellimination of toxins. Meditation is another practice that Ayurveda says we should include in our daily life. It is not easy at first and it requires some dedication and lots of practice. It is not something that can be achieved over night but is well worth the time and patience. Meditation is a way of listening to your endless mind chatter in the hope of quitening it down. It's not about not thinking, it's about trying to give your tired, over worked mind a chance to relax. We sit down when we are tired, we rest our body when we have had a long day but how often do we rest our mind? TV is not resting the mind, I'm sorry but it's just not. Neither is reading or sleeping. Think about those dreams, is the mind really able to rest when it is creating alternate realities?

So there you have it, a very basic introduction to the world of Ayurveda. I could go on and on but that is what the blog is for. So if you follow my blog I will tell you all that I know. The tip of the iceberg really. I have a lot more to learn and will be posting my discoveries and everyday ramblings as I progress along the path of Ayurvedic education.