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Ayurvedic Food/Nutrition Principles

Ayurvedic Medicine is the mother of all natural medicine.  It is over 5000 years old wisdom that is cognized by enlightened beings who understood how human body works and how life works.  Food has been used to heal, to prevent disease and to promote good health and longevity.  There is no system of medicine that I know of that understands that in an all inclusive way.   Ayurveda provides that bigger umbrella of deeper understanding that we can use to assess all different kinds of food, diets and its nutritional and medicinal effects on our physical and our mental/emotional health.  Ayurveda ‘s nutritional health system is highly sophisticated yet it can be made as simple as possible so we can use this ancient science and wisdom in a practical way without having to understand everything.

 

Simplicity is very important in a world that grows noisier every minute.  That indeed is the ultimate sophistication to use a complex system to simplify it enough for practical use.  We can use some basic concepts to understand the bigger picture of food and nutrition and its effect on the body.

 

1.  Energy

Food conveys life energy or prana to the body.  It is not the same as calories.  Calories can give the body “fuel’ to burn, but not the vitality and luster.  When we eat food that has sufficient calories but is devoid of the energy, we might miscalibrate our feedback system.  When energy is lacking in the food, the body can signal to continue eating even when sufficient calories have already been consumed.  Junk food is a perfect example of this concept.  We always want to reach for more.  It isn’t just because it is stimulating our taste buds, but the energy or the prana in the food is missing so we continue to eat.

2.  Quality

Food conveys its qualities to the body.  Light food will lighten the body and heavy food will make the body feel heavy.   That is simple, right!  Salad vs chocolate cake.  Dry food can dry or dehydrate the body, like popcorn that is why you may feel thirsty.  Cold foods can feel cooling to the body, but repeatedly consuming them will cool the digestion.  Spicy food can inflame the body.

3.  Tastes

Different tastes have different digestive and post digestive effects on the body.  A balanced meal includes 6 different tastes.  These tastes are:  sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter.  Different tastes stimulate the different enzymes to be secreted to digest those tastes.  That allows the digestive system to work in its full capacity and moreover, satisfies the body’s need for all tastes and curve the cravings.  The taste that is over consumed is sweet and under consumed is bitter.  That may be one of the contributing factors for overconsumption of caffeine and alcohol -as they provide the bitter taste.  We can add the bitter greens to get the bitter taste in our meals instead. Different tastes have different effect on the body.  Overconsumption of sweet taste is inflaming.  Bitter taste cools the body.

4. Digestibility

We are what we digest!  One of the pillars of health in Ayurveda is strong digestion and its one of the forte’s of Ayurvedic medicine as it is the seat of health and disease. Ayurvedic medicine has countless ways to power up the digestion, by using herbs, spices, combinations of meals, understanding the timing of the meals, the consciousness of the cook and the quality of the environment where food is being consumed all have an effect on the digestion. Digestion is not just limited to the food we eat, what can we digest the life experiences or do we push them into the subconscious where it effects our habits, health.  Ask yourself how it feels after the consume something, gas, bloating, indigestion,  constipation, sleep, mood etc.  Ayurveda uses spices, herbs as medicine to build strong digestion and to make the food not only aromatic and rich in taste but easy to digest, process and assimilate in the body.

5.  Emotionality

The holistic approach of Ayurveda understands the whole picture.  Every thing affects everything else.  Food effects our emotions, hence the need for sugar when one is feel low and down.  Emotions effect our ability to digest the food and the experiences.  Eating is sacred and a celebration of life.  There is no guilt associated with cooking for oneself and taking the time to eat.  It is a necessarily activity much like sleep.  Food must be enjoyed and it must appeal to all the senses in order for it to convey the maximum health benefits.  If Potato chip or chocolate cake is your thing, have some once in a while and enjoy it without worry or guilt.  The worry factor will turn the food into poison and it is that feeling that compels us to keep eating as we are now trying for that bad feeling to go away but can’t and the cycle turns downward.

You can try this.  Eat spicy food when you are angry and intense, it will make you more angry and intense.  So you want to opt for something little calming, and soothing food.

6.  Consciousness

When there is so much information, we naturally seek for it to be simplified.  So, when we find a food item that is good and agrees with us, consuming it more does not make it better.  Type of food, what tastes to include or exclude, how to eat according to your constitution and imbalance, how to eat according to seasons, all that requires that we become more conscious of the effect of food  on our body, and emotionality and psychology.  Although simplified, the Ayurvedic nutrition is sophisticated and asks that we know when and how to adjust.

 

 

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More on Yoga and Ayurveda

A lot is happening in the world of Yoga and health! If we weren’t convinced before on the benefits of Yoga and why it really should be a part of everyone’s life, we sure are now.  There are countless inspiring stories and examples of how Yoga has helped people totally turn their life around and the benefits are immense and much needed in these times.  Recently, a student shared the New York Times column on Yoga, and it is reinforcing what we already know and experience.  It is nice to read in case you forgot why you practice or were practicing yoga

  1. Yoga may keep your brain young! A weekly routine of yoga and meditation may help to stave off aging-related mental decline, according to a study of older adults with memory problems.
  2. 12 minutes of yoga can improve your bones! Dr. Loren M. Fishman of Columbia University has been gathering evidence for years, hoping to determine whether yoga might be effective therapy for osteoporosis.
  3. Yoga improves your balance! Tai chi, dancing, even brushing your teeth on one leg can work your balance pretty well.
  4. Yoga may prevent inflammation! A class visit, a new book on yoga’s risks and benefits and the prodding of friends prompt a longtime skeptics reconsideration of the ancient and popular practice.
  5. Yoga can relieve back pain! Weekly yoga classes relieve symptoms of low back pain about as well as intense, regular stretching sessions, a new study shows.
Another phenomenon that has awaken everyone is the effect of our life style on our health!  I love how everything comes around in a full circle, if we wait long enough!  Of course, life style effects our health, in fact, our health is a direct result of our life style.  When we think of the word medicine , we think of pills. But we are expanding our definition to a much larger context now.  The real medicine is our life style! Life Style is everything from what goes into our mouth, what we take in through all our senses, how we live with others and our environment, our understanding and connection with nature, how we spend our time, how to keep body/mind/spirit healthy! This is what Ayurvedic medicine is all about!
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Taking confusion out of Nutrition

We live in a world of countless choices and an overflow of information and nutrition is no exception.  Between the plethora of diets and a new miracle food of the week, it is no wonder that we are more confused than ever.   While it is wise to eat organic, non-GMO and unprocessed foods, our ability to digest, absorb, assimilate and eliminate the undigested food is far more important and will give us a deeper insight when making food choices. We are what we digest.  The food combinations, timing of meals, our internal experiences and outer environment are some of the factors that affect our digestion.   Weak digestion is one of the reasons that we can eat the purest and healthiest foods, yet create toxins (AMA in Ayurveda) in the body.

We do not need convincing that there is no magic food or magic pill when it comes to our health and vitality.  We are multi-dimensional beings and the purpose of food is not to just fill an empty space, but to nourish us at many levels. We are unique in our constitution, tendencies and imbalances and the one-size fits all approach to food just does not work. Moreover, seasonal changes, physiological changes, illnesses point to the need to look at the whole picture and gain a deeper understanding of how food can be used as preventative medicine and to speed up the healing process in the case of an illness.

The time-tested 5000 years old wisdom of Ayurvedic Medicine takes the guesswork out of what to eat to create optimum health and how to build strong digestion. It offers a simple yet sophisticated and direct prescriptive path that is specific to our unique constitution and imbalance.

The different constitutions are called doshas and are comprised of the five basic elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth.  The three doshas are Vata (ether + air), Pitta (fire + water) and Kapha (water + earth). While Vata is responsible for movement of food in the body, Pitta is responsible for the digestion, absorption and assimilation.  Kapha is responsible for the mucus lining in the stomach. To keep vata in balance, favor foods that are warm, cooked, oily, heavy, and with sweet taste and avoid foods that are raw, cold and bitter.  To balance Pitta, reduce the amount of heavy animal protein, spicy hot foods and include bitter taste.  To balance kapha, favor foods that are pungent, and light.

Here are some additional guidelines that can give us a better understanding when making food choices:

Food conveys life force (prana) to the body.  Life force is not the same as calories. Calories give the body “fuel” to burn, not necessarily give the body vitality and luster.  When we eat food that has sufficient calories but does not supply the energy the body can signal to continue eating when excess calories have already been consumed.  Examples of this would be eating frozen, old and processed foods.

Food conveys its qualities to the body.  Light food lightens the body. Spicy hot foods in excess can inflame the body.  Cold foods cool the digestion and dry food dries the body.

Insatiable cravings are a symptom of imbalances.  Indulging in the cravings without addressing the underlying imbalances will deplete the body.  By incorporating all the six tastes in our meals, we can balance the body and stop the cravings. The six tastes are sweet, salty, sour, bitter, pungent and astringent.

This column is meant to be a little preview of the bigger picture that we need to understand in making food choices. When we eat what is specific for our unique body, we can create optimum health. An Ayurvedic consultation will reveal your constitution, imbalances and a nutritional plan that is specific to you. Making small and smart changes is the way to everlasting health.

 

 

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Understanding Anxiety

Do you or someone you know experiences anxiety?  Studies show that one in every 3 individuals (kids included) experience anxiety at one point or another in their lives.  More often than not, it is accompanied by panic attacks, depression or other nervous system disorders.  Occasionally experiencing anxiety is not the problem, only when it becomes a way of being.  Many factors contribute to anxiety, but it often results from anticipating or affirming an undesirable future outcome and being locked into that mental space.

What is anxiety?  It is an emotion like anger, disappointment, fear etc. Emotion is energy in motion that has vibrations.  When an emotion lowers our energy, it has low vibration and when it lifts our energy it has high vibration.  Energy can only be transformed; it can’t be destroyed or created.  We can’t talk ourselves out of feeling anxious or any other emotion that zaps our energy.  We can only transform it.  We can either transform it into more anxiety, fatigue, panic attacks or into creativity, life force and exuberance.  This all depends on the state of our internal environment.  When the internal environment is weak, we magnify the symptoms and manifest more disorders.  Our energetic field is the subtle yet the most influential part of our being that dictates what we attract into our lives.  Carrying emotions with low vibrations attracts more of the same into our lives.

We must create an internal environment that can hold high vibrations and high energy, strength and vitality that is much stronger than the stresses outside. This requires conscious effort and practices to create and maintain an internal environment that elevate us to higher sense of self.  Any practice that changes the pranic and molecular environment of the body such as Yoga, pranayama are highly effective in creating the required shift.

The fire is the most important element that is required for transformations.  It is the same fire that helps transforms our food into physical energy. Just the right amount of heat and pressure transforms a carbon molecule into diamond. Too much fire can burn and too little may not be enough to create a shift. The “just right” amount can transform our emotions into devotion, intelligence and wisdom; our anger into passion and radiance; our fears into love and our anxiety into creativity.

We are multifaceted human beings.  No single approach or “one size fits all” approach may be sufficient.  Physiological imbalances contribute or worsen anxiety symptoms.  Being underweight, emaciated, overdoing, eating foods that are too light or airy can perpetuate anxiety.

When our internal energetic environment holds high vibrations and the vitality inside is stronger than the pressures outside, we can organically transform the stress into something greater. The task is not to resolve every problem, the task is to elevate and purify the internal environment where problems take on a whole lot of meaning and we gain a bigger perspective.

We are built to adapt.  Our strength lies in our adaptability and not in us being the strongest and the fittest.   We must adapt to the external stressors by raising the vibrations of our internal environment.

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Step into spring with energy and vitality

Are you ready for spring?  Just the anticipation of spring stirs us into activity; we want to freshen up our homes, clean out the garage and get rid of the old stuff. What about our internal environment?  Imagine stepping into spring feeling lighter, energetic, vital and vibrant? What would it feel like to be in total harmony with nature – sprouting with liveliness and newness, without the winter weight and the “old” structures of the psyche that weigh us down?

 

To stay warm and grounded in the cold and dry winter months, we tend to eat heavier, sweeter and fatty foods and spend more time indoors in low-key activities. Since the major holidays also fall in the winter months, we tend to overeat.  All of this slows down our digestion and metabolism and more than in any other season, we accumulate more toxins in the winter season.   The toxins get stuck and stored in our abundant fat reserves.  Ayurveda refers to the toxins as AMA and it can result from slow digestion, environment and unresolved stress.

When spring approaches and the moisture in nature and in our body returns, it naturally moves into the drier areas of our body to our stored toxins to loosen them up for removal.  If all goes well and we do not continue to create more toxins, we eliminate them.  But for most of us, the level of toxins is too high and we lack sufficient digestive fire (Agni in Ayurveda), we are not successful.  Instead the toxins get loosened up a bit and sluggishly move until they hit a vulnerable spot in the body and get lodged there.  Feeling sluggish and heavy after the cold, dry winter is one of the many symptoms of toxin accumulation in the body.  If unaddressed, these symptoms worsen, multiply and become chronic resulting in aches and pains, stiffness, frequent colds and allergic reaction, swollen glands, weight gain and depression to name a few.

To do a Cleanse is to actively help our body get rid of the accumulated toxins on a timely basis before it gets lodged deep in the tissue and to reset our body’s ability to detox on a regular basis. Remember an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care. That “pound” in our golden years is thousands of dollars spent on health care; yet never really experiencing true health.   If you are only going to do a Cleanse once a year, spring is the best time.

 

Rooted in 5000 years of wisdom, Ayurvedic Cleanse addresses all levels of our being.  It is not a starvation cleanse, but a very systematic and scientific approach to rid the body of accumulated toxins effectively. It is crucial that we prepare the body and eliminate the toxins gradually.  It is equally important that the food intake during the cleanse is light and easy to digest so the body does not accumulate more toxins during the process. It takes a lot of strength and energy to go through the cleansing process, so it is not recommended if someone is emaciated.  And certain medical conditions require that you do a Cleanse that is specifically tailored to you.  I do not recommend ever doing a Cleanse by reading a book from the shelf or from information on line.  It is best that you seek the guidance of an expert when undergoing such process.  A Cleanse can be done with or without Panchkarma.

Ayurveda’s most profound therapy to detox, rebalance and rejuvenate is Panchkarma (PK). It is a group of Ayurvedic therapies designed to purify the body of toxins and thus reverse the development of disease and aging.  This is the deepest way to detox, rebalance and rejuvenate at every level. The therapies are combined according to the individual needs based on the pulse diagnosis and imbalances. Since the PK addresses every level of our existence – physical, mental/emotional, energetic and spiritual, the benefits of the PK are long lasting, resulting in relief from respiratory issues, allergies, headaches, digestive problems, sleep disturbances, acne and skin conditions, arthritis, nervous system disorders i.e. anxiety and depression.

The point of the Cleanse is to let go of the old that no longer serves us.  Think of what no longer serves you.  What mental/emotional and psychological structures have you created that might have been useful in the past but no longer hold their appeal.  Now is the time to create fertile ground on which to build new structures, a new way of existence, a new way of thinking and feeling.  Pondering upon these questions can be the beginning of YOUR spring cleanse.

 

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Why Should I do a periodic Cleanse?

Feeling sluggish and heavy after the cold, dry winter is one of the many  symptoms of toxins (AMA) accumulation in the body, resulting from weak digestive fire(agni), overeating, environmental toxins and unresolved stress.  If unaddressed, these symptoms worsen, multiply and become chronic resulting in aches and pains, stiffness, frequent colds and allergic reaction, swollen glands, weight gain, depression to name a few.

To do  a cleanse is to actively help our body get rid of the accumulated toxins on a timely basis before it gets lodged deep in the tissue and to reset our body’s ability to detox on a regular basis. Remember an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care.  That “pound” in our golden years can translate into thousands of dollars spent on health care, yet never really experiencing true health.
NOW is the time to plant the seeds and set the foundation for your health in the future.

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How Consciousness Heals

Consciousness, Vibrations and Energy – these are the words that are buzzing around and many of us can’t help but be curious.  With Jim Carrey’s presentation in the “Knowledge of Today” – even the skeptics among us are becoming more open to this.

Consciousness is universal energy and life force.  Consciousness is a state of existence that is understood by direct experience and not by intellectualization.   Our journey into the physical body begins with consciousness just like a tree begins with the seed.  However, it transcends the human life as we know it and beyond the earth, in other words, it does not end when our human life ends.  It has no beginning and no end and is beyond the concept of time and space.  It contains the energy, information and intelligence and is the source of all thought, emotion and our liveliness. Healing comes from connecting with this source and disease arises when we disconnect from the source.

Our individual consciousness is part of the unified field of consciousness.  The laws of unified field are the laws of nature and this is the foundation for Ayurvedic Medicine.

The ultimate goal of all Yoga and Ayurveda is the development of consciousness so we can live to our potential and free ourselves of suffering.  This became distorted and lost over the years as Yoga evolved and is now finding its way back to us.

The mind, body and soul – also called the “trinity” rests on this field of consciousness.  There are many levels of consciousness resulting in different vibrations and frequencies. Which level we exist at depends on our own evolution. Every thought carries with it the energy and vibrations. For example, if we are stuck in the emotions and commotions of life, we will continue to attract the same. Meditation and healing practices allow us to raise our vibrations and therefore elevate us to the higher state of existence. In this higher state, we begin to develop a bigger context and look at the bigger picture i.e. we may begin to feel love and compassion towards someone that we could not stand before, or we may be able to express the most difficult of things that we had suppressed for long time with ease, we begin to connect to intuitive messages and may begin to channel info for the higher realm – when we exist in this state of consciousness, we will attract the same in our lives. Coincidentally, in this higher state, we may find resolve to major issues that had us stuck before. We can liken this higher state of existence to the eagle view – the only difference is that it happens effortlessly when we continue to engage in practices that develop our consciousness.

This experience of consciousness is very expansive, whole and liberating and we naturally gravitate towards this experience and begin to infuse it in our lives; aligning our actions and choices to what we have experienced.  This feeling of wholeness permeates through our being.  Psychological stress that also causes blockages in the flow of this energy and intelligence begins to dissipate.  We now set up the ground for healing and health.  What we need to do to heal again becomes clear.  We become open to making changes that were not possible before.  We tune in to what we need and we find ways to get it.  We begin to believe that healing is possible and begin to trust in the bigger picture.  We move towards acceptance, which spares a lot of our energy that was tied up in worry, control and conflict. It is this internal shift that goes a long way helping us with our symptoms and medical diagnosis.

 

There are numerous illnesses that result from disorders of the nervous system and then manifest into various physical symptoms.  Through the meditation, we release the stress from our nervous system. The mental and emotional imprints on the nervous system begin to loosen their grip and channels that were blocked begin to open.   In this way, we are working at the root cause of illness and not just stuck in the limited medical diagnosis.  We are multi-dimensional beings and the only way to restore wholeness is to begin at the source.  Healing happens in our core and not necessarily in the elimination of symptoms.  When we heal from within, the symptoms either disappear or no longer come in the way of our happiness.

In the spiritual path, it is natural to wonder, to question and even to challenge the truth.    Nothing worthwhile happens without inner inquiry and introspection.  To become one with consciousness is not to control the outcome of our actions, it is rather to co-create with that which is larger. It is to harmonize with our higher self and let nature do what is for the highest good. We regain our power when we harmonize with nature. We heal when we reconnect with the consciousness out of which all life arises.  When we become that open, that tuned in to who we truly are, there is no longer an attachment to a desired outcome, instead we feel okay with what ever happens.

 

 

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Ayurveda fills the gap..

Recently, one of my students’ mother went through surgery to remove cancer from her body.  She was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer.  The surgery was successful!  Family is so relieved as she has been given another chance for life.

Saving lives happens all the time in the medical world.  For many, it is no less than a miracle and it is when we are so grateful to have modern medicine, technology and science and the experts in the field to give us another chance at life.

Now consider this:

It was not too long ago when cancer was a rare disease and so were many of the modern day illnesses.   This is when people used food as medicine, harmonized their life styles to the need of the body and to nature i.e. they got up at sunrise and started to wind down at sunset, had tremendous support of family, neighbors and spiritual guidance from their elders.  The medicine and healing was embedded in the lifestyle, not in a prescription from the doctor.   This was Ayurvedic medicine; the principles were not just used in India, they were used in many other countries.

So what happened!  How did it come to be that we have drifted so far away from health and healing.  We have evolved!  Yes!  In technology, in medicine, in everything except our concept of health.  As much as we can do, we can’t change nature, we can’t change how our body works, we can’t trick the body with drugs without serious ramifications.

Increasing life expectancy becomes more useful and valuable when at the same time we can increase the quality of life.  When health and medicine is reduced to a test or a pill, we miss out on experiencing, evolving, expanding, and understanding our own making.   This is where Ayurveda fills the gap, provides us with answers and tools to heal and evolve.   This is where Ayurveda gives us our power back – to be in charge of own health and healing.

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Welcome

To remain stuck in the same old story and emotions is to remain stuck at the level of the symptoms and disease.   This drains our energy, results in fear and frustration and impacts all aspects of our life in a very negative way.  At this point, it is important to realize that we need to make a choice to change. Are you at that point in your life?  If so, I want you to ask yourself these questions:  What have these issues costed me in the past, continue to cost me now and will increasingly cost me in the future if I do not address them?  What are my needs?   What are my challenges? What results do I want?

Now imagine for a moment that you have no major unresolved physical/mental or emotional issues, have a wonderful support system of family and friends, there is harmony and balance in your life and you are able to handle stress easily.  What does that feel like?  Do you feel an expansion in your heart?  Do you feel you can breathe easy?  Have more energy?  Close your eyes and stay with this good feeling and now look at your current situation. Do you feel a shift in your perspective?  Do you feel that perhaps you can think clearly and may be feel encouraged or inspired to make a positive change in your life?

When we elevate ourselves to a higher state, we increase our vibrations.  Our high vibrations act as a magnet and attract the same in our lives.  We gain a new perspective; we can see the broader view, the bigger picture.  We gain more clarity and are able to look at our emotions, dramas exactly as they are and do not identify so strongly with them.  This frees up a lot of our energy to develop our gifts and talents and become an asset to ourselves and to those around us.  We find purpose and meaning in our lives.  We are free to do what we are here to do.  Our life force is no longer being choked; rather it freely pulsates through our entire being. Coincidentally, many of the symptoms begin to disappear, we take charge of our own health, and more importantly, we move beyond the emotions and commotions, and physical ailments. We realize that we are much more than our limited diagnosis and symptoms.  It is this shift in perspective that ultimately heals.

This is what the teachings and practices of Yoga and Ayurveda bring into your life.  These complementary sciences understand that we have an innate desire for happiness, fulfillment and expansion and provide a map on how to achieve it. The teachings contain the intelligence and sophistication on how to transform our anxiety into creativity, our depression into devotion, our anger into radiance.  It guides us on how to find our inner light that can illuminate our path.

It is important to note that the teachings of Yoga are not meant to be separate from teachings of Ayurveda.  Where practice of yoga provides a lab for you to experience the teachings through asana, Ayurveda guides you on how to optimize your health through diet, lifestyle changes, herbal support and much more.  The ultimate goal of all Yoga and Ayurveda is for you to experience a heightened state of vitality, consciousness and liberation from suffering. Yoga may teach you on how to have an optimal alignment of the body, steadiness in the mind when you are on the mat, Ayurveda will ensure and support that you maintain the same balance and alignment when you are not on the mat. In the trials and tribulations of life, we become accustomed to a mediocre way of being.  We take lack of energy, mental anguish and life of struggle as the norm.  We get so wrapped up in this way of thinking that we no longer see what is possible. I urge you to get out of that rut and believe that you can take a flight to a life of joy, harmony and freedom from suffering.

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