Our series this week focuses on 5 common health issues that trouble people who live in urban environments. The reason we chose to focus on this topic is that we often see a close relationship between hair and skin problems and the underlying “hetu” or cause behind these complaints. We wrote yesterday on Computer vision syndrome, a common problem caused due to over straining of the eyes.
Ayurveda teaches us that only if we tackle a problem from the root cause, we can hope to see it being treated completely. Therefore, when we see a clear causality between high stress and weak hair, for example, it is important to treat both with an emphasis on treating the root cause of weak hair which is mental stress.
Preventive health care:
We often speak about how Ayurveda’s goal is to prevent the formation of disease by following certain guidelines of good living. This is best described by Acharya Charaka in his Sutra Sthana shlokas:
“Swasthasya Swasthya Rakshanam Aaturasya Vikara Prashamanam Cha”
He explains that the goal of medicine (Ayurveda) is to rejuvenate and preserve the health of the healthy and then to alleviate diseases in the ill. This order of first tending to the healthy and then treating the sick, explains why so much of Ayurveda is focussed on health giving regimens rather than disease treatment (although disease treatment is dealt with extensively).
This emphasis on preserving health is why Dincharya and Ritucharya regimes (regimes for daily living and special regimes to follow in specific seasons) come first in all 3 Brihat Trayee texts of Ayurveda (Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita and Ashtanga Hridayam).
We have spoken extensively in previous posts on components of Dincharya: these include waking up at the right time (Brahma Muhurtha), doing suitable Vyayama (exercise), Oral care, Taila abhyanga (self oil massage), Snana with right set of herbs (bath) and also leading a correct and measured life. These are equally important in maintaining health, and if these tenets are followed, we will surely lead a life of harmony and balance.
Besides these principles, the Acharyas also tell us what is to be done with every season, and these form a part of Ritucharya (seasonal tenets of living). As the earth revolves around the sun, depending upon direction of the sun’s movement and changes in the atmosphere, Ayurveda has classified the year into 6 seasons. Each season lasts roughly two months. The time of change of seasons usually throws the body into a series of minor health issues, which can be avoided if we know what is to be done.
Description of Vasanta:
Vasanta is the spring season described in Ayurveda. The official start of Vasanta is marked by the festival of Holi. However, with global warming, we are seeing the movement of seasons slightly shifted; so many parts of India may already be experiencing Vasanta or spring.
Some parts of India may still be experiencing late winter or Shishira.
What happens in Vasanta?
We have seen in an earlier post that the cold (Hemanta and Shishira) experienced during winter, tends to increase our appetite and digestive power as the cold drives Agni inwards from all parts of the body. Hence an important tenet of winter is to eat well and eat slightly difficult to digest, oily, rich foods that can satisfy this high Agni.
At the same time, to balance the buffeting cold winds that affect the outer parts of our body and can drive up Kapha dosha, we are asked to exercise well, sun bathe, do brisk abhyanga and avoid being lazy, sleeping during the day, etc.
In Vasanta, as the climate again starts to become warm, the sun rays melt all the Kapha that has been stored in our body during winter. So we have liquefied excess Kapha moving through our body in Vasanta. This explains why so many of us are prone to spring fever, hay fever, pollen allergies and coughs and colds in this season.
How do we keep our body healthy in Vasanta?
Vamana therapy (a part of Pancha karma) and Nasya therapy (application of nasal drops) are 2 Ayurvedic procedures that can be initiated by Vaidyas during Vasanta to remove aggravated Kapha dosha. For many of us, this may not be required. So the Acharyas have given us many milder suggestions that we can all do to dry out liquefied kapha.
Choosing the right food:
The texts advise us to avoid Guru (heavy), Snigdha (oily), Amla (sour) and Madhura (sweet) foods during this season.
Heavy and sweet foods increase Kapha dosha accumulation in the body. Snigdha and Amla foods aggravate qualities of Pitta, which will further liquefy Kapha causing even more flowing mucous in the body.
This is a good time to add Millets to our diet in small quantities. Millets are Laghu (light) and Rooksha (drying) so their addition can help absorb and dry out liquefied Kapha. Similarly, Yava (barley) is considered a good grain to be eaten during Vasanta. Yava has the property of removing excess watery Mala (toxins) through a diuretic action, so it is useful at this time.
This is also a good time to use spices like Haridra (Turmeric), Sounth (dried Ginger), Clove, Elaichi and Maricha (Black pepper) in the food. Haridra is astringent and drying, and will help absorb excess liquids in the body. Dried Ginger is warm without aggravating Pitta, so can be safely used to spice food. Similarly cloves and cardamom are both warming without aggravating Pitta dosha. Maricha is always recommended in Ayurveda to aid digestion and open up the srotas over red and green Chillies, which are considered teekshna (intense) and Pitta aggravating.
Right amount of physical exercise and activity:
Vasanta is also a good time for physical exercise. We are advised to do it at a slightly lower level than we would have during winter. The main purpose during exercise in Vasanta is to increase heat and provoke sweating in the body, to encourage drying and removal of excess Kapha dosha.
The Acharyas encourage us to spend time in the company of good friends and in Nature. Vasanta is the season where birds abound, and when Nature is lush and green with the profuse flowering of fragrant herbs and flowers. We are advised to picnic in gardens, visit river banks, and enjoy the season in pleasant hill stations.
Drinks to be had:
Ayurveda is never a fan of tea or coffee due to their many disturbing qualities. The texts advise sipping warm drinks in Vasanta to aid expelling of liquid kapha. We can sip plain warm water, or water which has been boiled mildly with dried ginger powder (in cases of aggravated mucous). Do not over drink Ginger water as it can heat up the body if too much is consumed.
You can sip 1 glass of warm ginger water per day, for a few days at a time, to help move aggravated Kapha out of the body.
How to make Dried Ginger water:
Boil one glass of water until the water comes to a rolling boil. Switch off the gas. Add 1 teaspoon of freshly ground dried ginger powder. Allow the herb to steep for 4 – 5 minutes into the water. Strain. Sip through the day.
Modified Taila Abhyanga and Snana:
Taila abhyanga with emphasis on “Mardana” is a good practice in Vasanta. Taila should be chosen which is warming and mala removing and not cooling.
Practice of Mardana or strong pressure filled squeezing or kneading of limbs is recommended during Vasanta, to force liquefied Kapha through the body and out of it, so that it does not cool and form blocks in the body. The limbs should be squeezed in a downward direction and not in an upward direction.
Snana is to be taken with pitta and kapha pacifying, slightly astringent and rooksha herbs. The choice of rooksha herbs is to help dry up excess Kapha. The choice of astringent is to deal with vitiated Pitta.
Application of these astringent herbs on skin and rubbing it well on the skin either dry or as a paste, helps open the minor Srotas and helps in removal of mala through the body. It also enhances circulation and ensures liquefied Kapha does not get solid and block the minor channels.
We have many options at Krya for Snana in Vasanta – we will give you the options below.
Snana options at Krya for Vasantha:
- Krya Women’s Ubtan (best for Snana after Taila Abhyanga) – made with astringent and Kapha reducing grains and herbs like Heritage Black horsegram, Rooksha and skin healing herbs like Vana Haridra, Daru haridra, and Sweet basil and Pitta pacifying, skin improving herbs like Vetiver, Vilwa Leaf, and Khadira.
- Krya Classic Bodywash (suits normal – oily skin on Non Taila Abhyanga days) – made with astringent and Kapha reducing grains and herbs like our herbal skin decoction charged Heritage Whole Mung bean, Rooksha and skin healing herbs like Rosemary, Triphala & Zeodary and Pitta pacifying, skin improving herbs like Manjishta, Mushta & Arjuna.
- Krya Moisture Plus Bodywash (suits normal – dry skin on Non Taila Abhyanga days) – made with astringent and Kapha reducing grains and herbs like Tavakshir and Heritage Whole Mung bean, Rooksha and skin healing herbs like Kushta, Amla & Moringa and Pitta pacifying, skin improving herbs like Durva, Neem flower & Manjishta.
- Krya Sensitive Bodywash for Adults (for skin that is prone to eczema and Psoriasis)
- Krya Men’s Ubtan (best for Snana after Taila Abhyanga) – made with astringent and Kapha reducing grains and herbs like Heritage White horsegram and Pink Masoor bean, Rooksha and skin healing herbs like Cassia Leaf, Brahmi, and Indian Borage and Pitta pacifying, skin improving herbs like Indian sarsaparilla, Guduchi, and Yashtimadhu.
- Krya Men’s Bodywash: (suits normal – oily skin on Non Taila Abhyanga days) – made with astringent and Kapha reducing grains and herbs like our herbal skin decoction charged Heritage Whole Mung bean, Rooksha and skin healing herbs like Cassia Leaf, Lemongrass & Kushta and Pitta pacifying, skin improving herbs like Peppermint, Vetiver & Lodhra.
The emphasis in Ayurveda is always on following a life of balance and moderation, along with carefully chosen , sensible, health giving practices. When we follow this method, we are guaranteed both Ayu and Ayush (long life and health) as per our Acharyas.
Many of the problems we face as we live our busy and chaotic lives in cities is because we are unable to balance the excesses we face. So we end up over using our eyes, over commuting, eating the wrong kind of food, and ignoring what we must be doing in each season.
Skin and hair care are not just superficial subjects. Our skin and hair reflects the inner state of health and well being, so only if we solve our deeper issues, can our external appearance be good.
We hope this post gave you an idea of how you can approach Vasanta and the practices you should be following. If you have any doubts in the above, please do drop a comment or write to us.