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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hot Water

Here is a super easy way to clear ama/toxins from your body, build immunity and keep your agni/digestion healthy -
 Drink Hot Water!

Simple but true! 
No need for things to be complicated.
Sip it throughout the day and see what happens.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Autumn changes

Well here we are at the beginning of another season. The weather has started to cool down, the winds are blowing and we need to make adjustments to combat these changes so that we don't get out of balance and sick.

As you can imagine an increase in coolness and wind will increase the vata in all of us, and if you have vata as your dominant dosha you need to even more careful. But don't worry, it's all very easy and it's what we naturally do anyway.

Ayurveda works on the principle that "like attracts like" and the best way to stop an imbalance is to increase the opposite qualities. Vata is ether and air and the qualities of these two elements are light, dry, variable, and cold. (If your not sure what vata is, it's all there in my page on the doshas.) Vata retains its balance by living a life that is full of warmth, regularity, moisture and  goundedness. So lets have a look at how we can add these qualities to our lives over the coming months.

Lets start with food. Pretty much all spices and lots of herbs are warming, with some being downright heating. Garlic, ginger, chilli and pepper will all work well to keep you warm from the inside. And the great thing about herbs and spices is that they are so easy to add to your life. You can put them in boiling water and have them as a tea or put them in just about anything you cook. We also need heavy, grounding foods at this time of year it's easy to make a soup or stew and throw in some herbs to add spice, flavour and medicinal properties to your meal. Indian, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Malaysian are all great examples of world cuisines that know how to use spices. Get some recipes, experiment and enjoy learning how to cook foods that promote health and balance. One of favourite and very simple things to make in the colder months is roast veggies with spices. One of my earliest posts tells you all about them, read, cook, enjoy.
If you would like a printable copy of what foods are good and not so good for vata/autumn follow this link.

Essential oils can create warmth in the home. Cardamon, cedarwood, cinnamon, cloves,dill, eucalyptus, juniperberry, marjoram, nutmeg, orange, patchouli, pettigrain, rosewood, Valerian, vanilla, vetiver are all warming/heating  without being drying. Pop them in an oil burner and breath in the warmth.

Air is mobile, it constantly moves and changes so to reduce and balance this element we need stability. The best way to bring about stability is through regularity and routine.  All throughout the year vatas in particular should be sticking to a routine and this is even more important during Autumn. If you do not already have one then start small and build on it. Change is one of the hardest things to do and maintain as our habitual patterns will continue to keep creeping in but if you stick to it you will do it. I have a whole post on the daily routine have a look and pick something to start with.

Food again is used to add moisture; soups, stews, herbal teas and oils, can be used throughout Autumn to balance the drying qualities of the season. Salads might be great for Summer and for people watching their weight but they are not the best choice for Autumn.

Moisture does not only happen from the inside, oil massages and baths are just as effective. Our skin is the largest organ in our body and it adsorbs moisture. Massages as essential during Autumn to help maintain beautiful moist skin but the benefits go beyond that. Herbs are medicinal so if you have a massage with sesame (also highly medicinal) and add some essential oils your skin will thank you of course, but all your organs, your emotions and your stress levels will also be relieved. Do not underestimate the power of massage! You should be aiming to include a massage as part of your daily routine. I do not mean you need to go see a therapist every day you can give yourself a massage before you go to bed or after you wake up. Even if you just do your feet and head you will be doing wonders for harmonising your system.

Oils to add to your bath and/or massage with are;  Cardamon, cedarwood (avoid if there is an acute kidney infection, during pregnancy), cinnamon (Do not use in bath, if pitta is high or you have a bleeding disorder), cloves (do not use if pitta is high, there is inflammation or hypertension), dill (do not use in bath), eucalyptus (do not use in bath) , juniperberry (avoid if there is an acute kidney infection, during pregnancy), marjoram, nutmeg (do not use in bath, when pregnantor with hight pitta), orange (may irritate sensitive skin in the sun), patcholi, pettigrain (do not use in bath), rosewood , valerian (do not use in bath, avoid large doses) , vanilla (do  not use in bath), vetiver

Heavy, moist foods, regularity and routine, massages and baths all will help to ground you. Asanas such as forward bends, standing poses, pranayama (focused breathing) and meditation are also ways to keep our minds and emotions from flying away.

And of course food, you can always use food to balance the characteristics of the elements. Heavy, warm foods, as mentioned above, and  root vegetables - they are from the ground after all! Porridge for breakfast, stews for lunch and soups for dinner.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fighting colds

I have just gotten over a cold and thought I would share what I did as I think I was able to return to health pretty quickly and without the use of any pharmaceuticals. The key was heating up my system. Colds are a kapha condition, they are cold, damp, heavy. The best way to fight them is with heat and of course rest. I used a lot of ginger and spices, stayed away from dairy and was feeling better in just a few days.

I had a lot of ginger as it is a fantastic herb for fighting colds. I made pumpkin soup with ginger, mustard seeds, fenugreek, cumin, cardamon and black pepper. I also drank a tea of fresh ginger, cardamon and cinnamon. It was really nice and made me feel so nice. I also rugged myself up and sweated it all out.  It worked a treat!

So now that cold season if upon us you might be unfortunate enough to get a cold, but do not fear and do not race to the chemist. Go to your kitchen and use nature to heal and restore yourself to health.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Morning Mantras

Last Wednesday at our monthly Sangha I spoke about the importance of establishing a daily routine and part of the routine I spoke about was starting the day with a mantra. But what exactly do I mean by mantra?

Some people have their own mantras that they say each day. These mantras may have been given to them by their spiritual teacher or guru, or maybe they found them in a book, on the Internet or heard in a song. These mantras when said repeatedly day after day become very powerful and have many positive effects on the person who uses them. These mantras are a wonderful practice, but what if you do not have one? What if you don't feel a connection to Hinduism, it's language and practices, or do not feel like incorporating something so "spiritual" into you day? Well the answer is simple, use a positive affirmation. So instead of waking up and saying "Om Namah Shivaya", or "Om Mani Padme Hum", say "Today is going to be a great day" or "Today I am going to try to focus on the good".

I am calling them morning mantras but you do not have to limit them to the morning. They are intentions for the day, so repeat them throughout the day and see how effective they can be. After a few weeks you will notice your mind becoming more aware and you will start to catch yourself out when you are not being true to your morning wishes. It might help to stick with the same mantra for a week or more as you train your mind to be more positive, gentle and aware. Once you have noticed your morning mantra has become a new way of thinking think of another aspect of your life that needs attention and choose a mantra for that. You may need to go back to some mantras now and then to give yourself a bit of a reminder while others might not need much time at all. It all depends on your thought patters and how deeply certain ideas and habits are ingrained. Some thoughts as you know have a habit or hanging on. Think about how long it took for certain thoughts to form, it will take the same amount of energy and repitition to remove them. But don't worry it can be done, all you need is the right intention and awareness.

To help everyone on their way I have decided to start an ongoing post on morning mantras/affirmations. I will continue to thinking of new ones and hope that you will give me some great suggestions too.

Here is my first list of morning mantras.
  • "Today is going to be a great day"
  • "Today I am going to try to focus on the good"
  • "I will smile more today"
  • "Yesterday is gone, today is here"
  • "I will remember to breathe better"
  • Positive thoughts, positive actions, positive me"
  • "It's good to be alive"
  • I am going to acknowledge all the good things that happen today"
  • "My emotions don't control me"
  • "Eat well"
  • "Find time for silence and stillness"
and for the last mantra a quote from a very great man Ghandi
  •  "Be the change you want to see in the world"

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Balancing Vata when flying

Travelling by air can be very unbalancing for people whose main or secondary dosha is vata. Vata is made of ether and air and has the qualities of these elements, it is mobile, dry and light. In Ayurveda an imbalance is created in the doshas when the elements of that dosha are increased, so when a person with hight vata flies they are taken into the air, moved at high speed, enclosed in a dry air-conditioned environment and put in a situation that often creates anxiety. All these things go against what vata needs for stability. Vata needs grounding.
Luckily there are things that vatas can do before, during and after their flights to make the experience less aggravating. Essential oils, massages, pranayama, meditation, asana and food can all be used to keep this dosha as balanced as possible.  
Massages are fantastically balancing and grounding for all doshas and in particular for vatas who should be booking themselves in for massages or giving themselves self massages on a regular basis. So when you are preparing to fly it is a good idea to give yourself a massage before you get on the plane. Self massages are very easy just warm some sesame oil, add some essential oils and apply to your body. Use long movements along your limbs and circular movements on your joints.  
Essential oils that are grounding include; angelica, cypress, rosewood, sandalwood and vetiver. 
Oils that will bring balance are; geranium, ginger and lavender.
These same fragrances can be used during the flight. Take a washcloth in your carry on luggage and some essential oils. Add some oils and water and inhale from it. If you are lucky you might even be able to get the flight attendant to heat it in the microwave for you. You can lay it on your forehead, neck, wash you face, whatever feels good. 
Once you arrive at your destination take a bath using the same essential oils in the water. Follow that with another massage and take the time to really ground yourself. 
Asana is another way to balance and ground. This is not the time for dynamic yoga, this is the time to go SLOW and breath deeply.  Sitting poses and forward bends are be good to do once you have landed. Go slow, breath deeply and then lay in Shavasana for at lest 15-20 minutes. 
Pranayama is controlled breathing. By bringing awareness to the breath with slow and controlled exercises we are able to bring stability to our mind. Stilling and slowing the   breath stills and quietens the mind. A nice simple breathing exercise is Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing). Sit in a chair or on the floor with your spine long and your chin slightly tucked. Close your right nostril with the thumb of your right hand and breath in through your left nostril for the count of 5, release the right nostril and close the left nostril with the ring finger of your right hand and breath out through the right nostril. Breath in  through the right nostril, release the left nostril and breath out through the left nostril. This is one round. Do 7 more rounds. This will help ground and balance you before, during or after a flight. 
Follow your panayama exercises with some meditation. Meditation is much easier once you have done some pranayama as it helps to settle the mind and brings awareness within. Focus on your breath again and imagine that there are roots coming out of the base of your spine into the ground. Breath in and imagine the roots going deeper into the ground. Each time you breath imagine the roots going deeper and deeper. This a great meditation to bring stability and ground after a flight. 
Food needs to be heavy, moist and warm. Soups, stews, and lots of root vegetables. Eating these foods leading up to and after your flight will help you to feel more centered. Avoid salads, potato chips or anything light. Have a look at the vata food sheet for more details.
Next time you fly give these techniques a try and see if they make a difference. You should notice your flight and the days that follow a lot easier. All these techniques can be used at any time to help ground and balance vata. Happy flying.