Kapha Balancing Regimens

Happy Spring Equinox!

Spring is here and that means new growth both inwardly and outwardly. Hibernated energy begins to fill our body cells as we have the urge to spring clean, plant new seeds, and bring nourishment and life to the surface. The beautiful colors of nature are beginning to brighten our day and the warmth of the sun is melting away the cold. Ayurveda reminds us to create a connection with nature and to live harmoniously with her. Kapha season is here through May, which brings us the qualities of the earth and water elements. Naturally, we are stronger, well-nourished, feel a greater sense of love and the watery emotions and deep feelings fill our thoughts and hearts. We are more fertile and are able to give more.  The days are longer and this is a great time of year to cleanse the spaces we occupy as well as our bodies.

The Kapha Dosha

Kapha, which means “phlegm” is governed by two elements, earth and water and holds the the qualities (guna) of: moist, cold, heavy, dull, sticky, dense, static, smooth, and soft.  Kapha gives us nourishment, stability, support, lubrication and makes up the bulk of our bodily tissues. It is located in the chest, throat, head, stomach, lymph, fat, nose and tongue. Kapha gives us emotional support and governs the watery emotions such as compassion, love, deep feelings, modesty, forgiveness and patience.

Ojas, is the subtle essence of our life force, our immune system and is the purest form of the Kapha Dosha. The Charaka Samhita describes ojas as “that which keeps all the living beings refreshed.”

As we become imbalanced during the Kapha season we may see symptoms such as loss of appetite, congestion, allergies, weight gain, water retention, lethargy, depression and attachment. As we learn to live harmoniously with the seasons of change, it is important to understand that like increases like and that opposites cure each other. So, how do we live harmoniously with the Kapha season?

Spring: Heavy, oily, cloudy, stable, slow           Opposite: Light, dry, clear, mobile, sharp

DIET:

Kapha should only eat when hungry and take in a lighter breakfast and dinner. Drinking digestive teas such as ginger, tulsi, warm lemon water, or CCF tea will be beneficial for supporting digestion.

Kapha is balanced by foods that have the opposite qualities; hot, dry and light as well as pungent, bitter and astringent tastes (rasa). This will stoke or raise the agni, digestive fire and will support natural cleansing.

Foods to favor should be those that are well spiced and pungent such as black pepper, mustard seeds, fenugreek, cloves, anise, ginger, lemon and turmeric. Grains that are drier are beneficial such as rye, corn, buckwheat and my personal favorites, quinoa and barley! Astringent tastes can be easily found in apples, pears, berries and dried fruits such as cherries, raisins and prunes. Lean proteins are important and hold the astringent taste as well such as beans and lentils. Vegetables that are bitter such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, dandelion greens, chard, spinach, kale, arugula, asparagus, and collard greens should be the main serving on the plate.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes:

Cinnamon Breakfast Quinoa         Stewed Spiced Fruits           Sunflower Kale Salad          Tridoshic Dal      Spicy Bean, Barley & Veggie Soup

Foods to avoid are those that are heavy, moist and cold. This would include all dairy, ice-cream, milk, creamer, etc. Sweet and heavy fruits such as melon, bananas, papaya, dates and figs. All sweeteners, except raw honey should be avoided as well as heavy grains such as wheat, dense pastries, etc. Fatty meats should be avoided as well as peanuts, and an excessive amount of salt.

MOVEMENT:

Daily exercise is important for the Kapha dosha, preferably first thing upon risinkapha 2g, during the kapha time of day (6am-10am) which will help keep you more energized and motivated during the day. Exercising outdoors where you can create a connection to the elements that are most comforting is beneficial. Exercise should promote sweating such as a brisk run/walk or sun salutations. If practicing yoga, the poses should be held for one minute longer than you think you can, Kapha’s need to be challenged.  Incorporating weekly saunas can be an added benefit to induce sweating. To prevent feeling heavy and sleepy after meals, excess weight gain and to stimulate the digestive fire, agni,walk after your meals! This could be a simple walk around your office building after lunch or a walk around the block after dinner.

DAILY ROUTINES & AROMAS:

Practice neti, nasal irrigation, daily upon rising to support excess mucous and congestion.

Once the nasal passages have been cleared, a daily practice of pranayama is beneficial for increasing natural energy, it purifies, rejuvenates and invigorates the mind and body. It will help to reduce allergies, congestion, headaches and sluggishness as well as release negative emotions. There are many different types of pranayama techniques. The most beneficial for kapha is Kapalahbhati or “skull-shining breath”. Kapala, which translates to “Skull,” and Bhati, which means “light.” Kapalahbati consists of a series of forceful exhalations followed by passive inhalations. This is best if practiced in the morning.

  1. Sit comfortably in an upright posture with your spine straight, with your heart and chest open. Rest your hands on your abdomen or on your knees, palms facing down. If sitting in a chair, place both feet on the ground.
  2. Take a few deep inhalations and exhalations to connect with your breath and bring your awareness to your lower abdomen.
  3. Inhale deeply through both nostrils, filling your belly with air about ¾ way full.
  4. In a quick motion, contract your lower abdomen,or use your hand to gently press or force and expel all the air from your lungs while drawing your navel in toward your spine. The primary movement is from your diaphragm.
  5. Perform this cycle 10 times, then allow your breathing to return to normal and observe the sensations in your body.
  6. Repeat these cycles of 10 movements, 3 to 4 times.

Contraindication: Do not practice Kapalabhati if you are pregnant, if you have excess pitta dosha, have high blood pressure, acid digestive issues, heart disease, or abdominal pain. You should also stop or slow down if you feel dizzy, light-headed or anxious.

Abhyanga or dry brushing will support lymphatic movement, circulation and will invigorate the body. Light oils should be used such as almond or sunflower and only practiced a few times a week. Aromas that are stimulating and energizing such as lemon, bergamot, cinnamon, patchouli, eucalyptus, and ginger are useful in your abhyanga oil or to simply diffuse throughout your home or office space if sluggishness arises.

Although sleep is important for healing and to rejuvenate the body, those that are predominately kapha should wake up with the sun, avoid napping during the day and snoozing in the morning.

Lastly, lighten your space. One of the ways to keep kapha from accumulating is reducing the amount of clutter in your closets, drawers, pantries and the spaces you work and live in. In fact, this can support a healthy weight! The more you have, the heavier you’ll feel mentally and physically. So, lighten your spaces, less is more!

I hope these will bring keep you light and lifted this spring season! Schedule a spring follow-up visit to keep you balanced and motivated!

 

Shirodhara & Svedana  ~ An Ayurvedic Treatment

Ayurveda is a 5,000 year old science of natural and holistic healing that has its origins in the Vedic culture of India. According to Ayurveda, the center of the forehead, or Third Eye, is the seat of intuition, spirituality and healing.

Shirodhara

This is a simple, yet profound treatment that works specifically on balancing and stabilizing the activity of the mind. Warm, herbal oil is continuously streamed over the Ajna Chakra or Third Eye, taking the participant on a journey deep within.

Benefits Include:

  • Bring balance and harmony to body, mind and spirit
  • Generates a profound state of relaxation in body and mind and relieves stress
  • Rejuvenates and opens up the flow of energy in the body
  • Stabilizes the nervous system and can help to reduce anxiety, tension, deshirodharapression and mental disorders.
  • Eliminates imbalances of the head affecting the neck, eyes, ears, and nose
  • Treats insomnia
  • Turns on the body’s healing mechanisms
  • Nourishes hair, scalp, and strengthens hair follicles to prevent hair loss and premature graying.
  • Replenishes skin oils, regaining natural luster and youthfulness.
  • Softens lines and wrinkles on the face by clearing the mind, dissolving stress and relaxing face muscles.
  • Activates the pituitary and pineal glands, as well as the hypothalamus, which organize and regulate all hormones in the body.
  • Enhances concentration, mental clarity and comprehension.
  • Heightens the senses and helps produce endorphins
  • Stimulates cognitive memories and increases intuition

Svedana

Svedana or Swedana means to “sweat” or “perspire”. This treatment is a process of inducing sweat with an exquisite hot herbal steam treatment that will leave you feeling clear, rejuvenated and deeply moisturized. Medicinal herbs like Lavender, Chamomile, Bay Leaf, Eucalyptus, Rosemary, and Lemongrass help to clear the channels, relax the muscles and nurture the senses.

 Benefits include:

  • Makes Your Skin glow and healthy
  • Relieves body aches
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Helps in reducing weight
  • Drains toxins from deep tissues

Contact us via email or phone to schedule your appointment.

How to Practice & Benefits of Self Massage ~ Abhyanga!

Ayurveda enriches our lives with its natural health benefits and numerous practices of self-care and self-LOVE. To care for yourself by cooking, meditating, keeping a clean home, and exercising is an act of self-love that takes time and effort. The time you take to care for yourself will keep you from prescription drugs, visits to the ER and many health challenges.

One of the most rewarding Sadhana practices Ayurveda has to offer is Abhyanga!

What is Self Abhyanga?

The word for “oiling the body” in Sanskrit, is Snehana, which means “TO LOVE”. Self Abhyanga is a warm herbal oil massage that has amazing benefits:self-massage

  • brings nourishment to the tissues
  • deep relaxation to the muscles
  • calms the nervous system
  • reduces anxiety, anger, and depression
  • promotes a restful sleep
  • increases circulation and reduces cellulite
  • helpful for managing weight
  • moves toxins to the digestive tract for elimination
  • opens chakras or energy channels that are blocked
  • decreases common skin irritates such eczema, psoriasis, dry, flaky, itchy, hot, oily skin. 

What type of herbal oil should I use?

I recommend using a herbal infused oil that is customized for your body type or season that will create the desired action. I sell customized oils, so stop by our clinic and pick up an 8oz bottle.

During the vata season (Late Fall and Winter) use sesame oil which is warmer. During the kapha season (Spring) I recommend using a lighter oil such sunflower. And, during the pitta season (Summer) coconut or sunflower oil is nice. Add essential oils to bring in beneficial aromas that lift your spirit!  

What do I need to do a Self Abhyanga?

  • Personalized oil
  • Pot or warmer to warm oil
  • Dedicated clothing and towel
  • An open heart and awareness
  • Devotional music 

How do I perform a Self Abhyanga?

  • Warm your oil using a small crock pot or pot/stove. You can also place your oil in a sink of hot water.
  • Massage oil in fast vigorous motions over long bones, circular motions over joints, in an upward and down motion on abdomen, and inward/outward motion over breasts.

Kapha: Start from the feet and move upward (*less oil is needed)

Pitta: All motions to the heart and center of the body

Vata: All motions from head downward

  • Try to do your Abhyanga before yoga and meditation in the morning and allow the oil to stay on your body as long as possible.  

* Enjoy this time with your Self!

* Embrace positive thinking while performing your Abhyanga!

* Repeat positive affirmation!

* Smile and love your Self up!

* Embrace the existence of Mother Earth and the Divine within you!

10 Reasons To Go On A Yoga Retreat

I went on my first yoga retreat this past April and it was truly a gift from Divine Mother. I knew immediately that I wanted others in my community to experience this opportunity to let go of old habits, to … Continue reading

Vata Balancing Regimens

This season Mother Nature has shown us what a huge impact she can have on our vikruti (current state of balance). Before the weather dropped to the 30’s, I remember walking down Hood St. toward Cedar Springs Rd. to start my day seeing clients and as I was taking in the colors of the Fall, I was awestricken by a long train of wind carrying leaves. It was beautiful and swift. Right then, I said to myself, “Vata is here and she is going to bring about rapid change”. Sure enough, a few days later the weather turned from the high 60’s to mid 30’s, then to the high 70’s and now low 50’s. This is vata at her best – change and inconsistency!

The magnificent science of Ayurveda proves itself with each seasonal shift. Living an Ayurvedic lifestyle means living with Mother Nature, attuning yourself inwardly to her beauty both destructive and life-giving. The vata dosha is imaginative, on-the-go, and has an active mind. It is also dry, light and cold. Vata moves like the wind and changes direction often. When those with a vata nature lack a consistent schedule it disturbs the body’s internal energy, prana. This leads to anxiety, nervousness, feelings of overwhelm, insomnia, constipation, dry stools, bloating, gas, and dry skin. Vata does best when stable, regular routines help to channel and focus their  large, natural amount of energy, prana. With structure vata’s are able to accomplish a great deal within a very short period of time and can be more productive than any other doshic type.

DIET:

In Ayurveda, seasonal eating is primarily beneficial for prevention. A vata pacifying diet is best during the early Fall which will prevent vata from becoming aggravated in the Winter. If vata is aggravated in the winter, a vata-pacifying food program may prevent overflow or minimize symptoms.

Vata is balanced by foods that have a sweet, sour and salty rasa (taste). Foods should be heavier and nourishing and moderately spiced. This is the season for spices and all spices are good for vata as long as not taken in excess – ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, fenugreek, etc. Food and drinks should be taken in warm, never ice cold, raw or uncooked as this will support a strong agni – digestive fire. For those with more vata in their prakruti/constitution, they do best when they eat more frequently, 5 times a day. Food should be taken in small amounts as to not dampen the agni. Meals should be taken at the same time each day.

Here are some of my favorite winter recipes: Fall Veggie + Quinoa Soup, Winter Chai Tea, Warm Spiced Milk, Stewed Spiced Fruits, Warm Spiced Quinoa Cereal

YOGA:

Yoga should be practiced in a warm environment with slow and calming asanas with a connection and awareness to the earth. Keeping vata grounded to prevent excess mobility is essential. For example, tree pose (Vrksasana) and mountain pose (Tadasana) root your feet into the ground, reducing anxiety and overwhelm. Warrior I and II are also beneficial, helping to ground you while building strength in the thighs, lower back and hips which are main regions of the vata dosha. Since vata is prone to constipation, standing or sitting forward bends that compress the pelvis are healing. 

Fast-paced vinyasas or flow sequences can aggravate vata. Slow movement supports the joints while quick movements increase mobility, creating dryness. To make a vinyasa more vata-pacifying, move deliberately and slowly, extending the length of time that you hold each pose. Moving through transitions between poses, with conscious awareness rather than rushing on to the next pose will help you to remain present.

Finally, vata types benefit from doing a long, deep corpse pose or shavasana – at least 15–20 minutes. Keep a blanket nearby so that after your practice, you can cover the body allowing you to contain the heat from your practice.

SLEEP:

One of the most common signs of a vata imbalance is difficulty falling or staying asleep. To much creative energy, anxiety or worry is surging through the mind and the body becomes restless. Rest is rejuvenating and has heavy and stable qualities that help to balance the light and mobile tendencies of vata. It is important to go to bed and wake up at or about the same time every day. A general rule is that we are in bed by 10:00pm and wake with the sun, sunrise! Establishing proper bedtime routines can be life saving! Avoid t.v., computer, phone, or any stimulating activities an hour prior to bed. Instead, spend the last hour before getting into bed doing one or more of the following: do a warm herbal massage, take a warm bath, meditate, curl up in bed with a warm cup of chamomile tea and a book.

AROMAS:

Vatas do best with oils that are warming and calming, think sweet and spicy! The sweeter the oil the more nourishing and the spicier, the more warming. Blending oils can help you get both qualities vata needs. Sweet oils: sandalwood, jasmine, chamomile, or lavender mixed with Spicy Oils: cinnamon, rosemary, patchouli, or basil can be beneficial. You can put these into a diffuser to create an aromatic environment in your home or room. You can make a room spritzer by adding a few drops of each a spicy and sweet oil to a spray bottle of distilled water. You can add oils to your bath water to get that nice relaxing and warm sensation while bathing.

TOUCH:

Studies show that the sense of touch can bring just as much healing as the food we take into our bodies. A lead researcher, Dr. Tiffany Field from the University of Miami School of Medicine, states that, “touch is the first sense to develop and the last to fade even after sight, hearing, smell and taste have faded with age”.

Benefits of touch:

  • reduces aggression
  • stimulates growth and development in children
  • improves sleep and alertness
  • reduces pain, depression and stress by reducing cortisol levels, a hormone that rises when we are under stress.
  • increases dopamine and serotonin, two brain chemicals that improve mental outlook
  • improves the immune system and increases T-cells that fight cancer and viruses

Ayurveda massage with herbal, warm oils, is called “snehana” which means, “to love”. The daily application of oil to the body builds self-love. Abhyanga (ayurveda massage) daily can be life changing for those with a vata imbalance. The primary qualities of Vata are dry, light, cool, rough, subtle and mobile. These qualities are opposite to those of the warmed, herbal oil. The great teacher Sushruta said, “The deranged vayu [Vata] of the body is restored to its normal condition by the help of Udvartana (oil massage).” Sushruta Vol.2, 24:28.

It is important to consider the type of oil you choose for massage. Vata benefits from warm, heavy, moist oils such as sesame and almond.

Vata Pacifying Abhyanga:

  • It is best to do the abhyanga in a warm place to avoid getting cold. I like to turn the heater on in the bathroom or place a space heater in the room.
  • The oils should be warmed (not hot) prior to application. You can do this by putting a cup of the oil into a squeeze bottle and place it in a warm water bath in a pan on the stove or in the bathroom sink filled with hot water.
  • Sit or stand on a dedicated “oil towel”, an old towel or bath mat that you don’t mind getting a little oily. I like using a bath mat and then I just roll it up after each use.
  • Without being in a hurry, lovingly and patiently massage the oil over your entire body for 10-15 minutes,
    beginning at the extremities and working toward the center of the body. Use long strokes on the
    limbs (long bones) and circular strokes on the joints. Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise,
    circular motions. In the morning, I like to do more fast vigorous motions to stimulate lymph and circulation and in the evening I do it more slowly to promote relaxation.
  • To apply the oil to the crown of your head, put about a quarter size amount of oil into your hand and using the pads of your fingers massage your entire scalp in circular strokes. Sometimes I do a “hair oil bath” about once per month where I drench my hair in the oil and leave it over night in a towel – great for beautiful, shiny, strong hair!
  • Lastly, put a couple drops of warm oil on the tip of your little finger and apply to the opening of the ear canals and to the opening and inside of the nasal passage.

Hope these recommendations bring you warmth and grounding energy this season!

Namaste,
Christina

The Ayurvedic 6 Tastes: SWEET

In Ayurveda, every food is put into one of the 6 taste categories; Sweet, Sour, Salty, Pungent, Astringent, and Bitter. Each taste feeds our mind, body and spirit in its own unique way.  It is said that if a person has all six tastes in a meal, that person will lose their cravings and leave the table satisfied without overeating.

The six tastes are combinations of the five elements of nature. For instance, sweet results from the combination of water and earth. Sour is composed of earth and fire; salty taste is fire and water; bitter taste is air and ether. The pungent taste is fire and air, while the astringent taste is air and earth.

In the US we have three major tastes: sweet, sour and salty. We often have meals that are much too salty. Or we eat too many sweets after the meal, which leaves us unbalanced, and very soon we will be craving one of the tastes that was left out of the meal. Nutritional imbalance is a primary cause of obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.  Balance and proper nourishment coming from nature is the key to overall good health and well-being.

The primary reason that so many individuals experiences excessive sweet cravings is due to the lack of a good source of healthy, nutritious whole grains in their diet. Whole grains provide many benefits:

  • proper digestion6 tastes
  • calming the nervous system
  • encouraging sleep
  • satisfying hunger tastes
  • reduce cravings
  • promotes energy and endurance
  • promotes good elminiation
  • improves memory
  • improves reflexes
  • promotes clear thinking.

Breakfast is an important meal of the day. For many of us, we either skip this meal or we choose to eat foods that are dry, (breakfast bars), light (dry cereal), or cold (cold milk with cereal). All in which increase the qualities of Vata.  Taking in whole, warm grains, like quinoa, steel cut oats, and rice are the best way to start your day. They will sustain your energy throughout the day and boost your metabolism.  Whole grains help your body burn more fat because they take extra effort to break down than processed grains and carbohydrates. Whole foods that are rich in fiber, like rice and oatmeal, are best. Processed carbohydrates like bagels, breads, even processed packaged oatmeal spikes up your blood sugar and stress hormone levels which will leave you crashing later.

Best Grains for Kapha:

  • Amaranth, Basmati Rice Barley, Buckwheat, Corn Flour Products (except corn chips), Couscous, Granola, Millet, Muesli, Oat Bran, Dry Oats, Polenta, Quinoa, Rye, Spelt, Sprouted Wheat, Tapioca, Wheat Bran

Best Grains for Pitta:

  • Amaranth, Barley, Basmati Rice, Couscous, Granola, Oat Bran, Cooked Oats, Pancakes, Pasta, Quinoa, Rice Cakes, Spelt, Sprouted Wheat, Tapioca, Wheat Bran, Wheat

Best Grains for Vata:

  • Amaranth, Basmati Rice, Cooked Oats, Pancakes, Quinoa, Sprouted Wheat, Wheat

Get your energy boost for the rest of the day with these power recipes and skip the calorie-laden convenience foods that leave you hungry before lunch! Any of these can be adapted with the doshic appropriate grains of your choice: stewed fruit with quinoa cereal, yummy oatmeal, rice cereal, warm cinnamon maple quinoa cereal.

Ayurveda Home Remedies – for the kiddos!

Last week one of my very best friends contacted me because her 11 month old son had been diagnosed with Gianotti-Crosti Syndrom (it’s not as bad as it sounds!) and she wanted to know if I could recommend a home remedy. The pediatrician said that this virus was not something that could be treated and that it would go away on its own within 15-60 days. It wasn’t as bothersome to her son as it was to her. If you’re a parent, you know how difficult it is to just “wait it out” and not try to do something to help, right?!

DAY ONE:
ben 2

At the time I had never heard of Gianotti-Crosti Syndrome but after much research I found that it is very common in children as young as 1.5 months. It is a reaction on the skin to a viral infection and is harmless and oral antihistamines can be given for symptomatic relief of itching.

After much research it was very clear to me what I would do if I were treating my own child using Ayurvedic principals. To reduce the Pitta in the rakta dhatu and to balance the excess pitta in the liver. I suggested she reduce all foods that are pungent and that she try a cooling herbal juice or shake for her son consisting of the following herbs: one large bunch of fresh cilantro, cumin, fennel and coriander powder. She added a banana (go mommy!) to this and gave it to him once a day for 3 days. The results are amazing!

This photo shows day one, day two and day three!

IMG_9318

Remarkable difference and this is why I LOVE practicing Ayurveda!  Thanks Jenny for letting me share! Your little sweet Ben is so precious! I love ya’ll dearly! Isn’t he the cutest – you gotta love his hair!