AYURVDA FOR YOUR DOSHA AND FOR THE SEASON
We are now in the transition between the wetness of Winter/Early Spring (Kapha) and the heat of summer (Pitta). Traditionally the time of spring cleaning not only our homes but our body’s internal systems. If a full-on detox sounds too much, another option I’ve been advised by my Ayurvedic consultant, is to take Triphala. One of the most well-known and commonly used herbs in Ayurveda, Triphala which means ‘three fruits’, is a combination of the fruits of three plants, which are dried, ground, and precisely blended to create a beneficial synergistic effect.
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Triphala acts to rejuvenate, according to the classical Ayurvedic text the, Charaka Samhita, taking triphala daily with honey and ghee (triphala rasayana) is said to have the power to “make a person live for one hundred years devoid of old age and diseases,” quite a claim!
From an Ayurvedic perspective, some of Triphala’s therapeutic action comes from the fact that it possesses five of the six tastes* (all but salty) which are seen as necessary for health and well-being. It also balances all three doshas and all the seven tissue layers, making it perfect for all three constitutions of Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.
Triphala’s qualities are light and dry, adding lightness to the mind-body system. It also cleanses all the channels in the body, especially the channels of elimination, thus aiding in daily detoxification.
SOME OF THE CONDITIONS SAID TO BE HELPED BY TRIPHALA
Detoxification – One of the most well-known characteristics of Triphala is its impact on toxicity levels within the body. Research has found that the active ingredients in this blend are able to stimulate the liver and kidneys, helping to clear the body of accumulations of toxins and prevent excess inflammation in various parts of the body. It is an excellent colon cleanser.
Lowers Cholesterol – Containing oleic and linoleic acid in two of the three herbs of the blend, these ‘good’ fats are able to re-balance cholesterol levels and prevent excess deposits of plaque in the arteries.
Immune Boosting – Amla, one of the key ingredients in Triphala, is rich in vitamin C, which can stimulate the immune system.
Diabetes – Triphala is said to improve the body’s insulin sensitivity, however, excess consumption of this herbal mixture may lead to an increase in blood sugar levels, so dose is important.
Weight Loss – Improves fat storage by preventing certain foods from being stored as fats. This can improve the speed of the metabolism and boost passive fat-burning.
Enhances Nutrient Intake – Aside from optimizing digestion and eliminating constipation symptoms, Triphala can also improve the efficiency of nutrient uptake, which will increase feelings of satiety and prevent overeating.
Side Effects of Triphala – Despite the many valuable benefits of Triphala, there are some potential side effects that must be considered. As with all medications and supplements it is advisable to discuss taking Triphala with your medical or health provider.
Potential side effects include:
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Dehydration from excessive bowl movements
- Allergic reactions,
- Insomnia: Drinking the tea only on an empty stomach first thing, helps eliminate this issue.
- Drug Interactions: The effect on enzymes and hormones can sometimes negatively interfere with medication intended for depression, hyperactivity and blood clots.
- Weight Loss: Not recommended for those with eating disorders
* The Six Tastes of Ayurveda – salt, sour, sweet, bitter, astringent, and pungent
Thanks to Organicfacts.net and chopra.com
Barbara Nassar Personal Trainer – North West London
EXPERTISE FROM A SELF-CARE SPECIALIST
WHY SET A GOAL
If you want to succeed you need to set goals and this is no different when it comes to hitting the gym. Without them we lack focus and direction.
So, let’s get down to planning. Get rid of obstacles and focus on ambitions and real goals. To achieve any results, you need time and realistic goals. If you set them too high right from the start it can discourage us when the first failure comes our way.
Plan small steps on the way to your goals to see progress and to not lose confidence or faith in success. Measuring goals is an excellent motivational activity, make notes in diary regularly and record the results. Change ‘I’m going to’ for ‘I will.’ Believe In your dreams (goals) and write them down.
HOW TO ACHIEVE IT
– Make a plan and write down the individual stages of for realisation.
– Specify the steps you need to take to achieve the goals.
– Define activities for the coming year based on good models and habits.
– Get ready for changes.
HOW TO KEEP MOTIVATED
Do not impose too high of a pace at the very beginning. Did you know that the rule ‘step by step’ is very important for two reasons: This approach prevents overtraining and it counteracts discouragement. Think why you want to exercise and what will the benefits of increasing your activity. Will you be in better shape? Will you weigh fewer kilos? Will you improve your blood results? Or maybe you’ll be able to put on trousers that are 2 sizes smaller? There may be many reasons but remember those that are important to YOU are the ones that really work.
If you have been practicing for a long time and you feel like you are losing motivation then remember again what you get from your workouts, what are you striving for and what you want to achieve as a result. Choose your favourite type of exercise, which sport is the best for you? The ones you like you and enjoy.
Remember that “motivation helps to begin habits and helps you persevere.” In order to develop a habit, you need a dose of routine and repetitiveness. You will not learn how to cook just by watching cooking shows, it’s the same with any other activity. That’s why you should set the minimum amount of time you can devote in a week or in a day. If you can manage to do more – great. If not, then try stick to your plan then it will naturally become your habit.
Contact Barbara for tailored personal training in North West London and Bucks email Barbara_pt@aol.co.uk
SANKALPA – SETTING AN INTENTION
WHEN TO USE A SANKALPA
If you’ve attended any of my classes or workshops you’ll sometimes hear me invite you to ‘set an intention’ for your practice. This idea comes from the yogic term Sankalpa. The root of the word ‘san’ means “a connection with the highest truth,” and kalpa, means “vow’. So, ‘Sankalpa’ translates as vowing to connect with highest truth, meaning to resolve/intend to do or achieve something that is heart-felt. This is why we will always take a few moments before setting our intention so we can quiet the mind and ego becoming settled into what our ‘soul’ or inner voice is asking for. A goal can be thought of as an individual’s will, while the Sankalpa is the universal will.
We use Sankalpa whenever we are making a commitment to bringing something into our lives or letting something go. It’s not to be used lightly on a whim or for every little thing we want.
Connecting to our heart’s desire allows for the Sankalpa to be phrased as a positive declaration of intent, such as “joy is my true nature,” rather than the ego-driven “I want to be happy.”
As well as getting quiet and stating a positive declaration the Sankalpa can be sealed with a ‘mudra’. Another yoga Sanskrit term, a Mudra is a PsychoSpiritual gesture usually of the hands, that locks and guides energy back to the brain via the reflex system.
THE SANKALPA MUDRA
Left hand crosses the midline (heart energy center) and rests with palm open (receptive mode) on the right thigh.
The right hand goes over the left with the right palm facing down in a grounding mode.
Bringing the palms to face one another connects both hemispheres of the brain. All aspects of us–body, mind and energy hear the commitment and can work together to make our resolve happen.
HOW TO SET A SANKALPA
- Find a comfortable position
- Take a few deep inhales and exhales
- Let the breath return to normal and begin to get quiet
- Listen for the heart to speak
- Phase your intention in the positive, present and universal
- Check for ego demands
- Adopt the Sankalpa mudra
- Can be used not just before a yoga practice but any activity. Particularly useful before going into a potentially difficult situation of conflict.
TillyLou James, Physiotherapist, Yoga teacher and Inventor of the’ Buttafly’, an ergonomic seat for yoga, meditation and realigning the spine www.thebuttafly.com
TREAT YOUR OWN BAD BACK
We are not very kind to our backs, often spending much of our time doing the same things. Whether this means sitting or standing all day or doing activities involving repetitive movements like bending, twisting or lifting, it tends to be our back that takes the brunt of it.
Spending 5-10 minutes a day lying down with a Standard Buttafly carefully positioned under the pelvis can provide just the right kind of support for the deep muscles of the trunk to relax and facilitate for the spine to release, unravel and lengthen as you literally lie back and unwind.
This can be particularly helpful at the end of a long tiring day but also first thing when the body has been in its habitual sleeping shape during the night.
There is something very specific in the technique that avoids all pressure on the base of the spine and introduces a very gentle inversion, since the position means that the pelvis rests higher than the shoulder girdle.
It can take a bit of practice to get the position just right first time and we encourage everyone to watch our instruction videos on www.thebuttafly.com for the full instructions and helpful hints.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Lying down on our back, especially on a hard surface like the floor, most of us can get a sense of how much of our weight is taken through the triangular bone at the base of the spine – known as the sacrum.
Taking the same position with a Standard Buttafly placed low down under the pelvis effectively “floats” the sacrum – the sacrum and lower back are now off-loaded and free to move gently aided by gravity.
NEW INTERPRETATION – OLD CONCEPTS
Off-loading the spine is something physiotherapists have worked with through the ages and at one time “traction beds” were routine equipment found in clinics and hospitals. Likewise, changing the body’s relationship with gravity is not a new concept and inversion tables and gravity boots (which are used to hang upside down like a bat) have been around for decades.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU LIE ON THE BUTTAFLY?
Start off with 5 minutes – it takes a few minutes to fully relax. Those who complain of niggles from time to time and who know their posture to be poor will likely benefit for 15-20 minutes. It’s ideal to work out for yourself what is the optimum time, working up in 5-minute increments.
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Anyone under treatment is advised to discuss with their medical practitioner. There is no guarantee that the Buttafly will work for you, but hundreds of people have found relief using it for various back issues. The most important factor is that IT MUST BE USED CORRECTLY, and the position MUST feel comfortable.
For further information visit www.thebuttafly.com
PRANAYAMA (BREATHING TECHNIQUE) KAPALBHATI SKULL SHINING BREATH
Now who wouldn’t want a shining skull? This Pranayama (which means to extend the life force) can really invigorate and energise your system. I like to do it first thing in the morning and it’s best practised on an empty stomach. You forcibly use the abdominal muscles to release carbon dioxide from the lungs on the out breath and passively allow extra oxygen into the blood stream on the in breath, energising all the body’s systems. It is one of six Shatkarmas or methods of internal purification from Hatha Yoga. In Sanskrit, Kapal means the skull and Bhati means to shine or illuminate. The practice of Kapalbhati cleans the sinuses and can produce a light feeling in the forehead, hence the name.
It is used in Ayurveda to help with an excess of Kapha Dosha, which is located in the chest, heart, tongue, throat and nose. Formed from the elements of earth and water, excess Kapha can manifest as mucus and congestion, particularly during the winter, which is also Kapha Dosha season.
WHEN TO USE KAPALBHATI
In the morning: an energizing, invigorating wake-up call.
When you’re cold: a warming breath that allows you to build up heat in the body.
Mid-afternoon: to power out of the mid-day slump.
- Cleanses lungs and respiratory system
- Strengthens and tones diaphragm and abdominal muscles
- Releases toxins
- Increases oxygen to cells, purifying blood in the process
- Improves digestion
- Energises and clears mind
- Focuses attention
- Warms body
HOW TO DO KAPALBHATI (with yoga instructor guidance)
- Find a steady upright pose on the floor or chair.
- With an empty stomach take a few rounds of long inhales and exhales.
- Begin the practice – this is a reverse of normal breathing as the emphasis is on the exhale, not the inhale.
- Breathe out pulling back the abs to force the air out of the body.
- Keep the inhale passive and let the lungs fill.
- Take as many exhalations in this way as feels comfortable – there should be no straining. In the beginning this may just be one or two which is fine.
- Take a few normal breaths between rounds and only practise while it is still comfortable. Build up the practice slowly over time.
- All Pranayama practices should be learned under the guidance of a qualified yoga instructor. If you have a medical condition, consult a doctor before taking up the practice.
WHEN NOT TO PRACTISE
Do not practice Kapalabhati if you are pregnant, or if you have high blood pressure, acid gastric issues, heart disease, stroke, epilepsy or abdominal pain. You should also stop or slow down if you feel dizzy or anxious.
With thanks to www.yogicwayoflife.com and www.chobra.com.
AYURVDA FOR YOUR DOSHA AND FOR THE SEASON – HELPING MANAGE CHANGE
Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India has been practiced for over 5000 years. The Sanskrit name translates as ‘Ayu’ meaning ‘life’ and ‘Veda’ as ‘knowing’, so Ayurveda is termed ‘the science of life’. This system sees everything including mankind, as a smaller reflection of the bigger picture that includes all of creation. Therefore, it seeks to treat health with a holistic approach and aims to honour the unique constitution of the individual. Each constitution is a combination of the five elements of ether (space), air, fire, water and earth which form all organic matter (plants and animals) and inorganic matter (minerals). The five elements form the three Doshas (constitutions) of Vata (ether and air), Pitta (fire and a little water), and Kapha (earth and water).
We contain all three Doshas but usually one, sometimes two, and on occasion all three, are dominant. We are born with a unique constitution known as our Prakruti, ‘our nature’. It is when our Prakruti is out of balance that illness has the potential to take hold.
THE DOSHAS OUT OF BALANCE
Vata like its elements of ether and air has the following attributes associated with it – dry, light, cold, rough, subtle, mobile and clear. When there is excess Vata, a few of the symptoms may include dry skin, flatulence, thinness, general or bone pain that is piercing, stabbing or moving. Decreased Vata can show itself in various ways some of which include the need for more sleep, coughs, nausea, tastelessness.
Pitta is made of fire with a little water present, so the fire does not burn itself out. Like describing fire, the words associated with this Dosha are – hot, light, intense, penetrating, pungent, sharp, acidic, oily. When there is excess of this Dosha some of the following ailments may occur – toxicity of the blood, inflammation, infections, and skin problems and digestive disorders.
Kapha is earth and water and its attributes are oily, heavy, cold, soft, slimy, dense, gross and slow. Imbalance can manifest in having excess mucus, being cold, sleeping in the day, overeating and inertia.
HOW TO REBALANCE YOUR DOSHA
An Ayurvedic principal is that ‘like increases like’ and ‘opposites decrease’. So, if your Dosha, for instance is Kapha (cold, soft, dense, slow etc.) then taking daytime sleeps will only increase the Kapha, taking it out of balance, but doing some exercise (the opposite to sleeping) would help bring Kapha back into balance. The following are some tips for each Dosha:
Vata – keep warm, eat warm and spicy foods, minimize raw foods and legumes except mung beans, keep to a routine, create a safe, calm environment.
Pitta – keep cool, avoid steam and heat, avoid excess oils, avoid both fried and stimulating foods, eat diary, get enough fresh air and emphasise fresh fruits and vegetables.
Kapha – exercise daily, have variety in life, stimulate and challenge yourself, low fat diet, hot, light and spicy foods and enough carbs to maintain energy, avoid iced drinks.
THIS SEASON’S DOSHA – KAPHA – FIVE TIPS FOR THRIVING IN WINTER
Typically, Ayurveda having its roots in India works with 6 seasons, however in the UK we work with four. Our four seasons however have overlapping times when there is a more predominant feature or Dosha to the weather. For instance, winter often begins as dry and windy, a continuation of autumn and the Vata Dosha, it then moves to a wetter, damp and cold season, which is Kapha. As ever with Ayurveda and Yoga, awareness is key in assessing what is happening around you and what would be the best course of action. However, below are some tips for a ‘typical’ wet and damp Kapha winter:
- Keep your head and hands warm. The wrists and back of the neck are sensor points that the nervous system uses to regulate metabolism and the distribution of body heat.
- Keep your bedroom cool but not so much that the temperature drops in the night, waking you up. If you feel aches and pains on waking you may have tossed and turned during the night, a possible sign that the room got too cold.
- Take up a new interest in something that makes you feel happy and focused.
- Find ways to laugh and remain positive spend time with friends. If you feel unusually sad in winter and suspect SAD (Seasonal Affective disorder), consult your doctor, who may prescribe more exposure to natural or artificial sunlight.
- Make sure your diet is warm and nourishing at every meal.
RESTORATIVE YOGA AND GONG BATHS – A PERFECT COMBINATION
Alicia Davies of www.earthsongsoundhealing.com and I pioneered the combination of restorative yoga and gong baths. These two practices are natural bedfellows, focusing as they do on slowing down and reconnecting to our innate healing abilities. Many have heard of yoga but not all are familiar with Restorative Yoga. This gentle practice is truly open to everyone. You don’t have to be young, bendy, dynamic, strong or any one of a hundred things, people sometimes feel they need to be, to practice yoga. You just need to be willing and open just like you do with the gong bath.
Restorative yoga does what its name suggests – restores. A session may begin with some gentle simple movements, followed by a few positions sitting or lying down which are held for longer periods of time. Props are provided to give as much support as is needed for total relaxation in the posture. We’re not looking to build strength or to get into really, deep, stretches. We ask the body to open a little and let go of tightness and restriction – often the result of our response to stress and trauma, be that from the body, mind or emotions.
A lot of the time in 21st century life we are increasingly in the ‘fight or flight’ mode, our bodies are flooded with stress hormones and this can show up at the very least as tightness say, in the shoulders right through to serious illness. By practising Restorative Yoga, you gently move the body from ‘fight or flight’ to the relaxed ‘rest and digest’ nervous system, which helps relieve the stress response. Benefits include better sleep, better digestion, more energy and less fatigue.
The combination of opening via the Restorative Yoga and then immersing in the gong bath vibrations really lets people switch on their own healing mechanisms. We are more powerful than we can imagine but with the help of these two profound practices we can begin to take back our own healing power.
You don’t need any special equipment just comfortable clothes, a pair of socks and a desire to let go and drop into your relaxation response.
JANUARY 29TH AT www.yogapoint.co.uk Brixton
Great turn out for our last workshop at the weekend – a sell out! Gong bath added a new dimension to the restorative yoga practice. “Calm, relaxed and recharged,” was a comment from one the participants on the day.
Restorative poses, chanting, pranayama (breathing exercises), energy release and the gongs made up the two-and-a-half-hour deep relaxation intensive. News on the next intensive coming soon…….
Sa ta na ma chant jan workshop
I’ll never forget my first gong bath, a room packed full with people and these amazing vibrations cursing through my body. I’d already been into yoga and meditation but this was a different level. But why do they work so well? Gong baths use sound and their frequencies to allow the mind to move into Alpha and then Theta brainwave states. Alpha states indicate deep relaxation and allows the brain to daydream, use imagination and firing up associative thinking and theta occurs during REM or dream sleep and deep meditation, when the body can begin to heal itself.
The frequencies of the gongs and the brain become as one and this method is great for those who find meditation a challenge, as the gongs literally transport you to deeper levels of consciousness. Sessions are typically under an hour and the effects can be long lasting. Gong maestro Alicia Davis collaborated with me recently on a yoga workshop and has this to say about gongs – “Some of the words people use to describe the effects of receiving a gong bath are – Amazing. Powerful. Relaxing. Rejuvenating. Trance-inducing. Healing. Gong Baths are one of the world’s most ancient modes of healing used for thousands of years. They have the potential to be transformative and help people achieve lasting well-being”. For more info on Alicia visit http://www.earthsongsoundhealing.com/
Do you get confused by the plethora of so-called ‘healthy diets’? I know I do and I work with many of them for my clients.
This is a subject I’ll be returning to frequently as it’s such a minefield, with one man’s poison another’s cure! So for starters a quick top line definition on the six most talked about.
- ALKALINE – The avoidance of relatively acidic foods i.e. those foods with low PH levels, such as grains, diary, meat, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and fungi.
- ANTI-INFLAMMATORY – The inflammatory process is crucial for injury repair but is believed to be the root cause of many illnesses when triggered inappropriately by the body in response to stressors. To counter this process this diet recommends rainbow-coloured fruits and veg, whole and cracked grains, legumes, healthy fats, fish frequently, soy products, mushrooms, other protein sparingly, red wine daily and dark chocolate sparingly and no refined or processed foods.
- CLEAN EATING – a lifestyle approach that includes exercise and unprocessed, whole foods and lean meats, no artificial ingredients, sugars, saturated or trans fats, eating 5-6 small meals which is said to fire up the metabolism.
- LOW GI – Glycemic Index (GI) also referred to as Glycemic Load (GL) is a diet that gives a value of 100 to glucose and then indexes all foods in relation to 100. The lower the number, the less effect on blood sugar, resulting in more stable insulin release, these foods digest and therefore absorb at a slower rate keeping you fuller for longer. However, the values refer to foods on their own and so can change when combined with other foods.
- PAELEO – The caveman pre-agriculture diet , eating only what could be hunted or eaten direct from nature fruits, seeds and veg. So no dairy, grains, legumes or processed foods including sugar.
- RAW – Enzyme rich as food is not heated above 40-48˚C the point at which many nutrients are lost. High fibre makes for quicker colonic transit time, said to lessen the possibility of foods remaining in the gut, fermenting and releasing toxins into the system.