Culture, stories, spirituality & ayurveda: celebrating the Divine feminine this Chaitra Navratri with sacred flowers

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Reading Time: 11 minutes

Today marks the start of several auspicious periods according to the Hindu calendar. Today is the Amavasya, or the New Moon day, which is a good time to start new activities. Today is also the day Gudi Padwa and Ugadi are celebrated across different parts of India to herald the New Year.

And today is also the first day of the 9 day Chaitra Navratri, a celebration of the 9 aspects of the divine Feminine. Therefore we thought it would be appropriate to do a short post on some of the sacred flowers in Ayurveda and how they are used in the worship of the divine Feminine.

 

The opportunities that sacred festivals give us:

To us, immersing ourselves in divinity and worship shows us the path to treat ourselves with reverence. When we decide to wake up at a specific time, bathe well and cook in an atmosphere of love and reverence and offer this food as Prasad, we show ourselves higher standards of living. Eventually these rituals become part of our life as we treat our lives with care and reverence, mirroring how we worship our deities every day.

1. everyday reverence

Apart from daily worship, festival times also give us a rare spiritual opportunity. The ancient texts tell us that when we worship at a common time or during a collective festival, the power of collective worship gives us access to a great deal of positive, spiritual and divine energy.

 

Worshipping the divine Feminine in the week:

At Krya, we advise a Tuesday and Friday abhyanga routine for Women. Friday is considered the day the Divine Feminine Energy is strongest in the week. We worship her in different forms like Devi Lakshmi, Devi Saraswathi, Maa Durga, Devi Meenakshi, etc.

2. abhyanga

To receive the divine feminine energy and invite the Goddess into your home, a Friday abhyanga by women is considered extremely auspicious – the benefits of this Abhyanga are twofold.

 

At a physical level, this abhyanga helps cleanse your body extremely thoroughly and activates the major srotas / channels within the skin. This aids release of toxins, and calms down vitiated doshas. Internally it also helps the working of the bones and joints, settles the stomach and leaves your body in a state of tridoshic balance.

On a spiritual level, the Friday abhyanga is said to increase the Sattvic energy in your body. This helps you attract the divine Sattvic energy of the divine Feminine and helps its manifestation in your home, workplace and in every area of your life.

 

 

Navratri: 9 days of worshipping the divine feminine, 4 times every year

Navratri means “9 nights” and is a period during which the Divine Feminine is said to be readily accessible to this world and is willing to grace our home if we invite her. Traditionally, the Navratri period falls 4 times in the Hindu year. Each Navratri falls at the beginning of a specific season as per the Hindu calendar.

The most popular Navratri is Sharad Navratri which is held in the Sharad / autumn season falling in September / October ,post monsoon season. This 9 day festival ends in Vijayadasami or Dusshera.

3.sharad navratri

 

The second Navratri celebrated in India is Chaitra Navratri which begins today. This 9 day worshipping of the divine Feminine ends in Rama Navami, which celebrates the birth of Lord Rama.

4.chaitra navami

 

The third Navratri period is Magh Navratri which is celebrated in winter in January – February. The fifth day of this Navratri festival is celebrated as Vasant Panchami where Goddess Saraswati is revered through music, poetry, different forms of art, and also kite flying.

5. basant panchami

 

The fourth Navratri period is Ashadh Navratri which marks the beginning of Monsoons in India in June – July.

 

Sacred Flowers to worship the Divine Feminine and their properties according to Ayurveda:

The Divine Feminine is revered in religions across the world. She is seen as the source of creativity, and in Hindu philosophy, metaphysical reality is considered a manifestation of the divine Feminine. Creation is considered the divine play of the Goddess and she is considered the fount of beauty, compassion, self realisation, love and protection.

6.divine feminine

We have written before about how Ayurveda and the use of herbs have deep cultural and religious symbolism. The worship of Gods and Goddesses, for example, involves the use of specific herbs that suit the divine energies attributed to these Gods and Goddesses.

Today, at the start of this 9 day Divine Feminine period, we will look at 3 sacred flowers that are used to worship the Divine Goddess and their medicinal properties

 

Sacred flowers in India and their Ayurvedic properties:

Japa (Hibiscus rosa sinensis) for Goddess Parvati:

The Tripurasundari ashtakam is a beautiful 8 stanza shloka to the Goddess Tripura Sundari and was composed by Acharya Adi Sankaracharya. The entire shloka is dedicated to Goddess Tripurasundari, the beauty of the 3 worlds and the consort of the Three Eyed One (Lord Shiva). One of the stanzas says this:

“Vidambhitha japa ruchim vikhacha chandra choodamanim,
Trilochana kudumbhineem tripurasundarim asraye “
In the paragraph above, Adi Sankara mentions that the Goddess likes the fully bloomed Japa flower. The Japa flower finds atleast 2 more mentions in this Shloka, which is of deep significance to students of Ayurveda.

7.japa

In Hindu religion, the Mother Goddess is considered the fount of expressive energy, the womb of the entire world and the Supreme One which gives form to thought. This creative force is represented as a rush of heat and energy which manifests in everything we see around us.

It is therefore no wonder that the divine heat of the Goddess is adorned with the cool red Japa flower, or the Hibiscus flower. The Japa flower is used to reduce and balance the Pitta energy of the Goddess.
8.japa for kalima
Many Mother Goddesses are worshipped with the Japa flower, especially the forms which are considered high in creative energy and the energy of destruction. For example, Goddess Kali in Kalighat Temple of Calcutta (one of the primary shaktipeeths in India) is also adorned with red Japa flower. Similarly, Goddess Tripura Sundari in Tripura, the playful Goddess of creation is also adorned with Japa flower.

Japa in Ayurveda:

Ayurveda considers Japa as a pre-eminent hair herb, and this is because of its pitta balancing property. Just like it is used to cool and balance the Mother Goddesses’ fiery creative energy, it is used in Ayurveda to soothe and cool the head and the scalp which are heated by the workings of the eyes and the brain.

Japa is used extensively in hair formulations as the head is considered one of the seats of Pitta.

In order for optimal working of the brain and the eyes, Ayurveda says that this region has to be kept cool (so you literally and figuratively maintain a cool head). Therefore oils meant for the head are always prepared with cooling and pitta balancing herbs like Japa, Bhringa, Mandukaparni, etc.

Japa in Krya

Japa goes into many of Krya’s Hair Oils, hair washes and hair masks, especially the products meant for pitta type hair. The Krya Classic hair range extensively uses Japa flower. Japa while cooling, is not suitable for use in body wash and oil formulations as it can trigger vata dosha.

9.japa in krya

 

Kamala (The Lotus) – Nelumbo nucifera for Goddess Mahalakshmi:

The lotus is associated with purity and beauty in Hinduism, Buddhism and in Ancient Egypt as well. Egyptian scholars associated the Lotus flower with re-birth as they observed that the flower closed at Night and re-opened its petals with the arrival of the sun.

10.kamala

 

In Hinduism, the Lotus is associated Goddess Lakshmi and her divine consort Maha Vishnu.

Acharya Adi Sankaracharya has composed a beautiful stotra called the Kanakadhara Stotram in praise of Mahalakshmi. Legend has it that Adi Sankaracharya was begging one day for alms. A poor woman who wanted to offer the young sanyasi some food, could find nothing in her home except an amla fruit. In her generosity, she gave this amla fruit to Adi Sankaracharya. Moved by her compassion, Adi Sankaracharya composed the Kanakadhara Stotram requesting Goddess Mahalakshmi to shower wealth on the generous woman.

Legend says that the single amla given generously away to this boy was converted by the Goddess Mahalakshmi into a shower of amlas made of pure gold that rained from the roof of the poor woman’s home.

11.kanakadhara stotra

Such is the generosity and compassion of Goddess Mahalakshmi who is moved when she sees similar qualities of generosity, compassion and sharing of wealth and food. It is said that rather than mantras and rituals, Goddess Mahalakshmi graces a home which is filled with a charitable attitude, soft speech and generous hearts.

Just like a lotus rises from the mud, Goddess Mahalakshmi is said to have risen from the Ocean of Nectar when it was churned by the auras and divas.  She is depicted sitting on a fully blossomed Lotus (Kamala), showering wealth, riches and prosperity with grace and compassion on all her devotees.

12. goddess lakshmi

 

Incidentally, the Amla (Phyllanthus emblica) is the favourite tree of Goddess Mahalakshmi, as is evident even in the Kanakadhara Stotram where she blesses her devotee with golden amlas.

 

Kamala in Ayurveda

Kamala is a revered flower in Ayurveda and is extensively used in pitta and rakta pitta disorders. It is considered nourishing and comforting to the dhatus and is said to relieve illusions, hallucinations, and physical and mental agony brought on by jwara (fevers).

Kamala is indicated in Ayurveda in thirst, burning sensation of the body, certain cardiac ailments, vomiting and unconsciousness. Flowers of the Kamala are considered diuretic, astringent and a cardio tonic.

 

 

Kamala in Krya

When available, Kamala goes into our specialised pitta formulations like the Krya Sensitive skin bodywash. This bodywash powder is used for skin conditions like acute dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis where there is severe itching and inflammation. Both these are indicative of pitta imbalance, so Kamala flower is used in this formulation.

 

Amla in Ayurveda and Krya:

Though not a flower, we have already mentioned how the Amla is associated with both Mahalakshmi and Mahavishnu. The Amla is a revered herb in Ayurveda and is used to balance all 3 doshas.

In Krya, Amla is used across our entire range of our skin and hair care formulations for its pitta pacifying, and rasayana (rejuvenative) and healing properties.

13.amla in krya

 

Palash (Butea monosperma )– for Goddess Saraswati:

Goddess Saraswati is the third facet of the divine Feminine in Hinduism. She is revered as the patron Goddess of learning, knowledge, music and the arts. Goddess Saraswati is known by many powerful synonyms in ancient Hindu Literature.

14.goddess saraswati

She is called “Brahmani” – the goddess with the power of Brahma, i.e. to create. She is also referred to as “Brahmi” which is the Goddess of all sciences. So a company like Krya owes its lineage to Goddess Saraswati. She is referred to as “Bharadi” which is the Goddess of History.

She is also referred to as both “Vani” and “Vachi” – the goddess who is the patron of both music and melodious speech or “vak”. Just like Goddess Mahalakshmi who believes in the flow of wealth through generosity and compassion, Goddess Saraswati indicates to us that true music and art flow from the sweetness of our daily speech.

15.music

 

Goddess Saraswati is also Varneshwari – the goddess of akshara or letters and Kavijihvagravasini – the Goddess who dwells in the tongue of poets.

The mount of Goddess Saraswati is the white Hamsa or the swan. In Hindu mythology, the Hamsa is said to be the bird when offered a mixture of milk and water is able to separate the milk from the mixture and drink it alone. Therefore, with the Hamsa as her vahana, the Goddess Saraswati symbolises the ability to discriminate and choose wisely.

16.hamsa

 

Palash flowers in Ayurveda and popular culture:

Just under a month ago India celebrated Holi. Today, Holi is a festival replete with commercial advertising and synthetic, toxic colours.

17.synthetic holi

 

Traditionally, Holi was an important cultural festival to mark the onset of spring. One of the meanings behind Holi was that the ritual symbolically depicted the dance and playfulness between Krishna and his Gopis.

18.radha holi

In Ayurveda, Holi was a festival that came just before the onset of summer. Summer is usually characterised by pitta based disorders like measles, chickenpox, etc. The traditional Holi gulal therefore used water based extracts of Palash, and other flowers which were designed to cool down excess pitta and keep skin infections at bay.

 

Palash is an important sacred flower in India. It is a favourite of Goddess Saraswati. It is commercially important because of its hardy wood and the resin exuded by the tree called Gum Kino. The flower itself is extremely pitta pacifying and helps prevent and cure pitta based eruptions like measles, prickly heat, chickenpox etc. It is soothing and healing on skin.

19.palash

 

Palash in Krya:

Happily, Krya will be shortly receiving its first shipment of wild harvested, pesticide free Palash flowers, just in time for our scorching summer season.

We plan to use Palash in our Classic and Anti Acne skin care formulations and also sparingly in our Moisture Plus and Sensitive skin formulations. Palash will also go into our hair colour range to see how it works in our reddish – brown series of natural hair colour.

20.coming soon to krya

 

The Sacred in the Everyday:

We hope this post gave you an appreciation of a few of the sacred flowers in Indian and Ayurvedic tradition and how these flowers are used to celebrate and worship different aspects of the Divine Feminine.

We have always seen the Krya Blog as a celebration of Ayurveda, Indian medicinal tradition and a place to discuss how we can safely and effectively care for ourselves and our families without resorting to the use of harmful and polluting synthetics.

Sacred festivals and spiritually charged times like Navratri always help us to re-focus our energies at Krya. we find that these times give us a new appreciation of what we are doing, help us appreciate the wonderful herbs, grains, lentils and flowers that we use even more, seek more divine energy as we make our products and help us re-affirm our commitment to what we are doing.

Often we are bogged down by the demands of our daily life and do not put proper care, attention and reverence into how we care for ourselves. We are tempted to skip our yoga practice, or postpone our abhyanga as we are late for work. Or we decide to open a packet of processed ready to eat noodles and eat this for dinner instead of lovingly cooking a meal for ourselves with real ingredients.

It is our hope that as you read this post, you are inspired to take the long-cut for yourself – and you develop a fresh appreciation for the Dinacharya that you need to do for yourself. Because when we worship the sacred and immerse ourselves into the divine, we carry a small part of that Divinity into us and everything we do.

A happy Chaitra Navratri to you from us at Krya.

 

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Ayurvedic post natal care to strengthen, nourish and care for a new mother and a new born baby. Krya shares a first person account.

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Reading Time: 20 minutes

The Krya blog has been speaking these last few days about different types of vata based disorders. The last few of our posts have been speaking in particular about post partum hair fall and related vata disorders and how the root cause of this can be traced to uncontrolled vata dosha because of a lack of proper post natal care that follows Ayurvedic principles.

As we have discussed earlier, Ayurveda opines that the birth of a child causes an imbalance in the body’s doshas as a large gap is created in the womb that was once occupied by the fetus and her placenta. The process of childbirth which is physically demanding and rigorous excites Vayu. Once Vayu is aroused, it is in its nature to rush in and occupy empty spaces and childbirth gives Vayu a large empty space to occupy.

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Traditional post natal practices therefore centre around nourishing, oil and ghee based warm food and regimens like abhyangas to remove fatigue, provide strength back to the body and reduce the likelihood of vayu rushing in and upsetting the body’s dosha balance.

Our posts on post partum health have led to a lot of enquiries on how mothers should be looked after post child birth for good health. So we are fortunate today to carry a piece written by Seetha Anand Vaidyam on the traditional post natal practices that were followed in her home for both her pregnancies.

Seetha is a holistic educator, remedial therapist and an author (a longer bio follows at the end of her piece). Along with her piece, we have also included textual references to the practices described wherever relevant to clearly establish that these time honored practices flow from Ayurvedic first principles.


Old is Gold,

I was always told,

This advice I followed,

Especially when lo behold!

The most precious being in my hands I hold.”

Seetha Anand Vaidyam

 Good news! You are pregnant!” — My Gynecologist told me. I was 22 years, I had been married for 2 months, I had gone for my check up alone and I was nervous. “What should I do Doctor… In terms of how should I take care, what foods should I be eating…anything I should bear in mind… ? “, I asked her in part shyness, part embarrassment and even fear. I wanted to have children and had planned it, but now that I was pregnant, I was nervous, especially since I was in a new city away from my own relatives.

“Just act as normal as you are. You can do all what you did … just be normal.” my doctor said to me. And I did try. Surely a blanket “be normal” is not the soundest of advice and this is something I re-learned in my research and working with children of different needs in later years.

Pregnancy is the time to begin the nourishment of the baby in-utero. Seldom are first time mothers aware of the extent of influence their lifestyle can have on the baby. Stress, sadness during pregnancy can be especially detrimental. Sadness brings a kind of constriction in the abdominal region for most people, (we use terms like stomach churning feelings etc.) This constriction, tension can damage the tender nerves and muscles of the fetus in-utero. Nothing, nothing but the well being of the baby is paramount in that period and for this the pregnant mother’s wellness of body, mind and soul is imperative.

blog-post-2-pregnancy-special-period Ayurvedic first principles:  from the Putrakamiya chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“Sattvaviseshakarani Punarmathapithrasvadyoganatharvarthnyah:  Shruthyaschabhikshanam

Swopachintah cha karma bhavathi Poorvabhayschethi”

 This can be roughly translated as: “ The factors that influence the mental makeup of a child are the mental traits, purity , behavior of the family, cleanliness and purity of parents, the sounds that the fetus hears, the sounds and vibrations the pregnant women hears, and the karmic effects of the past lives of the fetus”.

 

It is to be noted here that Acharya Vagbhatta says that the collective set of emotions, thoughts, feelings and the sensory stimuli offered by the external environment shapes the mental makeup of your child. In this context , a pregnant woman and her caregiver must evaluate the television she watches, songs she listens to, people she meets and books and newspapers she reads and ask herself if each of these influences are positive and useful for the growing child.

Fast forward … 9 months later I was in another city, my home city and I was now a mother of a new born! This time, both my mother and me nervously asked the doctor, what I should be fed, if we could follow our traditional post natal care at home (especially since my first delivery was a Cesarean section and my mother had no experience of that, she was very confused as to what should be done), if we could give the traditional “orai marundhu” to the new born etc. My obstetrician said something similar to my gynecologist in the other city: “Just give her normal foods, no massages, use simple baby soap for the baby, and just stick to mother’s milk and if the baby is not satisfied top feed!!!” And what was worse, she said, “Don’t come running to me if an infection develops in the baby due to use of traditional oils and powders!”

blog-post-3-harsh-synthetics

Being from and married into a traditional family, the words of the Doctors were ignored with contempt. My mother and mother in law consulted each other and a few other elderly aunts and grandmothers and the plan for my massage and diet and that of my baby were chalked out.

My pregnancies are not something I relish writing about since till date I wish I had taken better care of my babies when they were inside me! I was in a new city, unaware, helpless and overwhelmed by so many things in my new life! But like they say no point in getting negative with regret. The post natal care that my mother lovingly provided me and my babies hopefully made up for most of my earlier shortcomings. I will share details of traditional post natal care based on my own experiences and observations.

Post natal care is extremely elaborate and specific in South India. Even in today’s times of hospital deliveries, many of the customs are followed.

 

The design of the New Mother and new born baby’s Chamber

The room where the new mother and baby are housed, is kept spic and span and fumigated with sambrani over a ‘kumiti’ or iron stove with coals. It is a well lit room but not overly bright or close to noises, the windows were closed by dusk. The room is kept very warm and cozy. The room is protected from strong sensory stimuli such a smell, sound and light.

blog-post-4-fumigation

Ayurvedic first principles:  from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“The chamber that holds the new born baby and recovering Mother should be architecturally beautiful, equipped with all necessary materials, should not have too much wind, and should have only soft wind blowing from the east. The room should be entered only by a few elderly women and physicians and should be free from bedbugs, mice, mosquitoes and other vermin. The room should not be too dark, or too bright. The cradle, bed, and bed sheets should be clean, well washed, unwrinkled, soft and fumigated with rakshoghna drugs.

 

It is important to note again, that Acharya Vagbhatta specifies that the baby’s nursery should have restricted entry with good cleanliness and fumigation using certain drugs. This helps prevent infections as Ayurveda considers that both a new mother and the baby have low immunity and depleted strength. The mention of controlling wind in the nursery is also a point to be noted – this is because Vayu (air) is already considered high in the mother post delivery. So additional Vayu is not to be allowed in as a strong breeze. Ayurveda actually classifies wind as having different properties depending upon the direction from which it blows!

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Clothing

Both the mother and baby are given soft cottons, often used clothes. New clothes for the baby are actually discouraged. Often old cotton dhotis and saris are converted into “jablas” /tie string tops and diapers. The diapers from the first day of the baby made from old saris or dhotis are thrown away and not washed. Later they are rinsed and then soaked in hot water with herbal powders, brushed, washed and dried in the sun. Care is taken not to have them washed by unmarried, young persons who may have an aversion for tending to soiled clothes.

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Even the repulsive feelings that a person may have for the soiled clothes were considered strong enough to harm the tender baby. Such was the extent of sensitivity towards the new born! And of course the new mother was forbidden from wetting her hands or staying near moist areas. She was considered to be in a delicate physical state and vulnerable to colds and infections after the hard task of child birth. If the delivery happened during monsoons, the washed napkins were dried indoors but were further dried on top of sambrani fumes that were covered with a metal rice sieve.

Ayurvedic first principles:  from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“Fumigation of the nursery and the linen and bedding of the mother and child should be done with guggulu and other rakshoghna resins which are mentioned in the prescribed texts. The child and mother should also be adorned with small bundles of herbs like Vacha, and other rakshoghna herbs to ward off the evil eye and deter krimi and germs”.

 blog-post-7-vacha 

Negative energy and the warding off this are addressed with a great deal of care across Ayurvedic texts including the Ashtanga Samgraha. The use of specific herbs, chanting of mantras and specific stotras, prayer, and restricted access to the new Mother and baby helps protect both and helps them conserve their spiritual energy.

 The mother and baby are kept warm, ears of the mother are covered with cotton, and the mother’s waist is bound by a folded sari tightly so that the sagging belly after delivery is held tightly. I went through this procedure after both my deliveries, the first being cesarean while my second was normal delivery. The baby’s head and ears are well covered, feet are protected with socks.blog-post-7-covered-ears

Ayurvedic first principles: the procedure described by Seetha above to cover the ears, feet and bind the stomach of the New mother all flow from the principle of correcting excess Vayu. The ears and feet are the seat of Vata dosha, so it is kept covered in both Mother and Baby to prevent entry of excess Vayu.  The space in the stomach is kept physically restrained in the Mother to restrict the space available for Vayu to rush in and fill the now empty womb.

 

Daily Rhythms of a post natal home

A post natal house functioned like clockwork. Sleep, wake, bath, meal, visitor timings were all strictly followed. It is considered healthy for babies to wake up early. Lactating mothers need as much rest as possible and new born babies sleep long hours and need frequent feeds. Child birth is considered to be a tiring effort sapping the mother of energy and certain essential nutrition.

Therefore apart from the special diet given, the daily rhythms or routines were sacrosanct since they also build up the etheric forces/ life forces of the mother which tend to get weak during the birthing process. The baby is tender and depends immensely on a precise rhythm to build its body clock and bio rhythms. Today modern medicine talks so much about the connection between health and bio rhythms, which traditional wisdom always believed was sacred.

 

Visitors and Outings for the Newborn and Mother

Visiting new borns and new mothers was highly restricted. Only certain inmates of the house entered the room. Relatives and friends from outside were allowed for one day on the 11th day after birth where the child is given a formal bath and placed on a cradle and the naming ceremony is carried out. After the completion of the function, restrictions continue and visitors are not encouraged.

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Ayurvedic first principles: from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“Shoorairayodhibheergupathmadrashyam nagaram paraiha

Yatha shishovarpurathdhwagatho thaovirddhibhigrahaiha”

 

“Just like a city is protected from enemies by brave men with suitable weapons, similarly the body of a child must be protected from different kinds of invaders / evil spirits using appropriate methods”

 

This is the concluding verse in the Balopacaraniya chapter which brings together the point behind all of the prescriptions of newborn and maternal care in Ayurveda. Every single ritual prescribed is done with the view of protecting the health of the child and mother – the care given post child birth to the Mother and in the first year of the child are seen as critical for establishing the lifelong health patterns of the Mother and Child.

After 30 days, a visit is made by the new born and the new mother to a nearby temple. The child is brought outside the room to sit in a place where the evening sunlight falls. By the end of the second month the child is allowed to be placed in the other rooms of the house. The mother is still not very active and is confined to feeding the baby, in some cases bathing and changing diapers, folding clothes. Physically exerting activities are not carried out by the mother.

 

Massage and Bathing Rituals

Nothing is discussed, prepared for and spoken about as much as massage rituals in a post natal household!!! In some houses a masseur is appointed these days, but traditionally the mother or grandmothers who were usually in a fit condition bathed the new mother and the new born baby.

 

Cold pressed Sesame oil or Coconut oil was used for the massage. While the baby received a full body and head oil massage every day after the 11th day of birth, the mother received an oil massage for the body everyday and head oil massage every alternate day. After the 11th day of giving birth. The mother’s body oil was mixed with generous amounts of kasturi manjal and especially rubbed well on the waist, feet, elbows and face.

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This everyday oil massage of the body helped prevent dryness and itchiness that result after delivery. In case of girl babies too turmeric was added to the body oil. Massaging around the navel area for both mothers and babies was regarded important and also on the area on top of the head where there is a slight depression, considered to be the crown / sahasrara chakra.

Ayurvedic first principles: from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

“An abhyanga with a special herb infused oil should be done every day. Medicated oil prepared, with herbs like Bala, Chandana, Kushta, Ashwagandha, Eranda, Tila and other herbs is ideal for massage. “

 There is a special emphasis on muscle and dhatu nourishment and growth and vata reduction given in Ayurveda which percolates the philosophy behind formulating abhyanga oils for babies and new Mothers. As we have discussed before herbs like Bala are extremely useful in balancing excess pitta and vata and are extremely nourishing and helpful in building muscle mass and relieving fatigue and tiredness. Ashwagandha is excellent for skin and also helps with inflammatory conditions that the Mother could face.

 blog-post-10-glowing-skin

 Tila as mentioned as the oil of choice here and this is different from what has been practiced in Seetha’s home. We must be cognizant here of regional differences and modifications in Ayurvedic practices depending upon the geography and climate. Being hot and humid, Ayurvedic practices in Kerala have traditionally adopted coconut oil as the base oil of choice. However, to control the kapha promoting nature of coconut oil, the oil is usually prepared with certain warming herbs and spices to control any kapha based excesses.

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The oil for the baby was prepared at home by my mother. She would grate enormous amounts of coconut and then extract milk from it, this was gently heated till oil emerged from it. ‘Venda Velichennai’ or virgin coconut oil thus got was carefully stored in glass bottles or ceramic ‘baranis’/’jadis’. This oil smelled like ghee and was prepared in a kind of secrecy away from the eyes of all so as to avoid any feelings of greed or lust for the oil. It is amazing how the new born was protected even from negative thoughts and feelings. Such was the reverence for a new life in the olden days. This is now considered as discrimination and blind belief. Thoughts and feelings produce energies and babies are very sensitive to energies.

The entire bath water was heated and then allowed to cool down a wee bit before being used (cold water was never added to make the hot water tolerably warm) And of course in the days of yore, copper boilers or cauldrons were used to heat water over firewood and coal.

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Ayurvedic first principles:

 Acharya Vagbhatta and Acharya Charaka recommend bathing the baby and the mother with water which has been boiled with Jivaniya herbs (restorative and vitalizing herbs). Some of these herbs include Mahameda, Kakoli, etc.

 The purpose of using Jivaniya herbs is to restore Prana to the tissues, promote the longevity and health of all the dhatus and promote deep nourishment.

 

New born mothers and babies thus massaged and bathed glowed with soft and well moisturized skin. Especially mothers and girl babies looked golden due to the application of turmeric. Hair of new born mothers under such care generally became lustrous and thick and abundant. At least for the first three months when she gets maximum personal care pampering!!

Soaps were a strict no no! A Bath powder for babies was made with moong dal/ channa dal while for mothers vasanai podi or ubtans were made at home with various herbs and lentils. Hair wash powders for the mothers were also made at home with Shikakai, karsalanganni, ponnanganni, hibiscus flowers and leaves, lime peels, fenugreek, curry leaves, many other flowers, leaves, seeds, seed pods — which were all cover dried in the sun and powdered. These powders and oils were sent with the new mother when after a period of 3 months she returned to her in laws and husband.

blog-post-13-fragrant-bath

 

After bath babies and mothers were well dried and gently warmed with sambrani fumes. Kajal or kann mai was the only cosmetic item that was allowed. This was applied even to the eyes of boy babies and their forehead marked with a dot/bindi/tilakam. In order that the bindi/ tilakam/ pottu did not smudge, a bit of vibuthi that was again home made with cow dung ash was rubbed slightly over it. Thus there was no need for any chemicals in body care. This not only ensured glowing skin but also made sure that there was adequate probiotic microbial activity in the body which is the foundation of immunity and health.

The fragrance emanating from new born babies and mothers under such a personal care regimen has to be experienced to understand the value of such homemade, pure, chemical free personal care products. My mother’s sister sent me home made kann mai made from castor oil, pachcha kalpooram, nadyaravattai flower extracts. It smelled good and brought a refreshing tingling in the eyes when applied.

Ayurvedic first principles: the use of herb enhanced collyrium

Collyrium / Kajal is an Ayurvedic medicine and is so much more than a regular cosmetic product. It has been designed to protect the eyes which are an important secondary seat of Pitta by reducing excess Pitta. As the eyes are also made up of kapha based fatty substances, the use of herb infused Kajal helps the healthy removal of fat based toxins from the eyes .

 blog-post-14-kajal

 Rasajnana is a famous Ayurvedic extract made from Daruharidra, which is used in Ayurvedic Kajal. Rasanjana when prepared properly helps promote the dislodging of kleshma (fat based toxins) by triggering a watering reaction in the eyes.

Diet

While babies were strictly only fed mother’s milk, they got just a dash of ‘orai marundhu’ which was a mixture of a set of seeds/herbs, gold etc which were rubbed on a stone along with a drop of mother’s milk and applied to the baby’s tongue. Babies were fed in a private area and a serene silence was maintained during the baby’s feeding time.

In case baby is taking very short feeds and falling asleep only to wake again very soon for another feed, the mother is advised to caress the ear lobes gently. I was given this advice too and I found that the baby sucked for longer when I did this!!! Babies were fed with solely mother’s milk for upto 10 months and were fed mother’s milk in addition to other foods even after the first year. Some scriptures and ancient texts indicate that mother’s milk was given till the fall of, milk teeth. With changing times, consciousness changed and priorities changed.

Children lost their dreaminess, unconscious behavior and innocence prematurely. So as a result, it was considered embarrassing to feed children with mother milk once they became conscious. Mother’s milk is loaded with microbes and lauric acid. This helps the growth of beneficial gut bacteria which are the essentials of a strong immunity system in the body.

The first thing a new mother is given to eat is a ‘legyam’ again home made with so many different heat inducing herbs, spices, lemon, ginger, ghee etc. A gooseberry sized ball of this is given in empty stomach. This is a decongestant, anti inflammatory and digestive. The beneficial properties of this is passed to the baby through the mother’s milk.

blog-post-15-leghyam

Babies and mother’s are especially hungry after a laborious bath!! So usually the mother’s were fed while the baby is being bathed so that they are not hungry while feeding the baby. Bathing soon after a meal/feed for anyone was absolutely forbidden.

Ayurvedic first principles: from the Balopacaraniya (care of new born child) chapter of Ashtanga Samgraha of Acharya Vagbhatta

 “A child should not be fed with the breast milk of the women who is hungry, grief stricken, tired, exhausted, angry, whose tissues are diseased, who is pregnant, or who is indulging in unhealthy foods”.

 Ayurveda is very particular about the health of the mother as this science recognizes the deep spiritual, mental, emotional and physical connection between the Mother and her baby. By nurturing the Dauhridini (pregnant woman) from the stage of pregnancy, keeping in her in good spirits and providing her loving emotional and physical care post child birth, Ayurveda ensures the baby too is well looked after and has the chance to develop well.

 blog-post-16-ayurvedic-focus

 Many of us have seen tired, exhausted and depressed or even hungry modern mothers tending to their children’s needs. This is not a healthy practice and you are not supposed to sacrifice your well being for that of your child. Ayurveda recognizes that only if you are nourished and healthy, can you give your child the right environment to be nourished and healthy as well.

Mother’s diet consisted of short frequent meals. Parboiled rice was given preference since it is easier to digest. Tuvar dal and channa dal were avoided since they induce vata or gas. Moong dal was given in limited quantities. Lots of iron rich curry leaves, drumstick leaves, bean varieties, perandai or bone setter thogayal that is rich in calcium, dried sundaikkai or thai brinjal, manathangalikkai which had properties of healing wounds and ulcers were included every day. Gourds were by and large avoided, so were brinjals, potatoes, sweet potatoes etc. In short gas producing foods were avoided. Pepper was the preferred spice and chilies were avoided or minimized.

blog-post-17-vata-aggravating-foods

Betel leaves were given at the end of the meal and even in the evening to aid digestion and bring down acidity.  Ginger was another spice that was used every day. Coolants and cold foods were completely avoided. Ghee was served generously. Water was given in restricted amounts. The use of tamarind was restricted. Peanuts were avoided. Bananas especially the nendram variety was given to satiate odd time hungers. Par boiled rice gruel/ puzhungal arisi kanji with salted narthangai or salted lemon pickle were given. The baby’s stools were an indicator of whether the diet of the mother was suiting the baby. Greenish or whitish yellow stools were considered not healthy and immediately changes were made in the mother’s diet. Curds were not given.

blog-post-18-warmth-giving

The practice of giving white bread, certain types of vegetables, etc might have crept in during the in-between period. What are truly traditional needs to be understood. After the entry of the Britishers in 1600 A.D., many traditional customs were modified. Cropping patterns were altered. Grains traditionally grown were discontinued and certain foreign ones introduced. Therefore even what has been practiced for 400 odd years may not be truly traditional!

 

Ayurvedic first principles – a healthy post partum diet

All the Ayurvedic texts that refer to kaumarabhrityam (gynecology, obstetrics and child care) have given special importance to the pathiyam diet that is given both to the pregnant woman and the recovering Mother.

 The purpose of the diet in each stage is different – in the pregnant woman the diet is meant to be nourishing, full of good fats and cooling. The diet is supposed to nurture the fetus at every stage of the development and not cause any ama or toxic residue in the body.

 The pathiyam post partum diet has a different purpose. The food is meant to nourish all the dhatus of the woman which may be depleted following child birth. It is also supposed to ensure that the breast milk is full of the nutrients required by the growing child. The food is sweet (madhura) and kapha promoting in nature to build the dhatus and nourish the tissues.

 The food is also cooked so that excess pitta and vata is controlled. So the vegetable and cereal selection is quite deliberate.

 blog-post-19-steamed-carrots

The time immediately after delivery is usually an extremely restricted diet. It is high in nourishing liquids like milk cooked with galactologue herbs and ghee. Cleansing mixtures like panchakavya is also used to stimulate digestion, remove ama and toxins form the body as these may pass onto the baby through the breast milk.

 Post the first 15 days / month 1, the recovering Mother is put on a more solid diet. A very careful selection of lentils is given – if the Vaidya feels that vata is high, she may be advised a diet without any lentil except Mung dal and not lentil based vegetables like beans. Hard, difficult to digest lentils like peas, rajma, channa are usually restricted.

 Ghee is key to the pathiyam diet to promote adequate digestion, keep the body in a tridoshic state and reduce vata dosha. Warming spices like Maricha (black pepper), Sunthi (ginger) and Jiraka (Cumin) are also liberally used in the food to expel wind, promote digestion and cleanse the respiratory passages of mucous if present.

 

General atmosphere in a post-natal home

Care was taken to avoid overwhelming sensory stimuli. Noise levels were restricted. Loud noises which would startle a sleeping baby or disturb the deep sleep of a new mother whose sleep depended on her child’s sleep were consciously avoided. Very often grandmothers or elderly members of the house or the new mother would sing lullabies and other specific baby songs.

The entry of too many visitors as mentioned earlier was avoided. In some communities, the inmates of the house where a baby is born would also not go to other houses for a period of 30 days. This was like a quarantine that was observed. The close relatives of the new born could not even attend functions and festival celebrations for a period of 30 days after the birth of the child in their family.

Feeding time of the mother is considered sacrosanct. The mother is advised to be calm while feeding the baby since the babies are tender in every way and would be affected by any physical, emotional or mental disturbances around them.

blog-post-20-feeding-baby

A post natal care household was full of busy activity — preparing bath oils, powders, fresh legyam, meals, fumigation, washing clothes etc. So there was no time for gossip or idleness. Today we hear so much about post natal depression and mood swings. In a traditional home, where so much activity is going on there is so much to observe and participate, to absorb and learn that one does not get the time to become depressed. Moreover the food given is so carefully chosen that it balances hormones and leads to emotional stability.

At the end of 3 months and in much earlier times after 5 months, the new mother left the luxurious pampering in her mother’s house and returned to her in-laws and husband.

Even then till the baby turned one year old, that is till the mother is lactating, she was not allowed to cook or go into the kitchen since the heat from the kitchen fires might interfere in the lactation. Mother’s milk was considered to be ‘oushadam’ or medicine and hence every measure was taken to safeguard it. New mothers were pampered, nourished and their motherhood and the baby’s childhood were cherished.

blog-post-21-one-year

The changing patterns of motherhood

In course of time life became fast paced and therefore roles changed and so have health and fitness. Stamina and stress do not go hand in hand. The elders in the family can no longer perform all the chores required of them during the birth of their grandchildren, mothers are not relaxed enough to lead life on a slow track for a certain period of time. Ambitiousness, restlessness, changed priorities have all resulted in the lack of reverence for the new born and the new mother.

The rise of full time working mothers with limited maternity holidays, emergence of packaged baby feeds, over exposure of children to excessive sensory stimuli prematurely — have all resulted in weakened bodies, minds and souls — of mothers and their babies!!

I hope this article helps in reviving the due reverence for the new born and the new mother. I hope at least some aspects of post natal care can be incorporated if not all.


seetha-anand-vaidyam-krya-blog-author-profileAbout the Author:

Seetha Anand Vaidyam, works through Ananda Foundation for Holistic and Healthy Learning & Living. Ananda, through its 3 wings — Learn to Move & Move to Learn; Plate to Planet and Art of the Hearts — offers hands on workshops, talks and one on one counseling sessions on Early Childhood, Remedial Therapy, Sustainable Living and Holistic Wellness across India and abroad. Seetha has authored ‘ “Good” Food — a guide to right cooking and eating’ which has 2 editions and 1 reprint to its credit. She can be reached at seethaanand@yahoo.com .

 


Krya would like to thank Seetha Anand Vaidyam for her generous, authentic and detailed piece on traditional post natal care today. This very important tradition of nourishing the mother and caring for her mental, emotional and physical well being which used be such an important part of Indian culture is fast disappearing today.

We hope that this post brought home the importance of these practices and you were able to appreciate the deep rooted Ayurvedic first principles behind these practices. Even if you are unable to recreate the exact set of rituals described by Seetha in this post, we hope you are able to incorporate atleast few parts of these rituals in your life or help out another young mother with knowledge about these practices.

 

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An acne program that works – natural, authentic and holistic. Krya tells you how

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Reading Time: 13 minutes

“Hello Team Krya,
Hope you’re well. Sorry for the late reply. The anti acne face wash has been working brilliantly for me. It’s no less than magic. Skin feels AMAZING after it. Regarding my hair, my existing hair feels much stronger now. Regrowth is still taking time. I haven’t been consistent with the abhyanga so far.. Thank you so much “ UN, Mumbai

Here is a bit of background to this email. UN is a young aspiring model who lives in Mumbai and had gotten in touch with us for a skin and hair consultation in August. He was exhibiting the classic signs of high Pitta – acne and hair thinning and was alarmed at the state of his skin and hair, given his profession. He was put on a pitta balancing diet with suggested regimen, lifestyle modifications along with a series of Krya products designed for pitta balance.

His email to us reporting drastic improvement in his skin is extremely encouraging – it means we are on the right track and that his dosha balance has begun improving. If the regimen is fully adopted, we should be able to see much stronger results on his hair as well.

What is acne?

Western science treats acne as a skin disorder where the hair follicles are clogged with dead skin cells and oily secretions from the skin (sebum). Depending upon how often this acne is picked, and the dust and pollution around the sufferer, the skin will have blackheads, whiteheads, be greasy, and may have scarring as well.

what-is-acne

Western cosmetics have also evolved to support this theory: so people are classified by the oil production on their face as those with oily skin, normal skin and dry skin. As the pimples are filled by sebum and dead cells, all external synthetic anti acne cosmetics focus on only 3 goals:

  1. Dry up the oil secretions on the surface so that the pimple is drained using alcohol based toners, and surfactant based washes
  2. Aggressively sanitise the skin so that there is no bacterial contamination of the skin
  3. Use highly astringent substances to give the skin a feeling of being “cool and non greasy”

The problem with cosmetic approaches to acne

Benzoyl peroxide is a common chemical used in anti-acne products. It is a known skin, eye and respiratory irritant. There are also a few concerns about its eco toxicity and its effect on other important organ systems within the body.

Triclosan is another common ingredient used in anti acne products for its anti bacterial effect. There is growing research to suggest that the increased use of Triclosan is giving rise to the growth of superbugs – bacteria resistant to antibiotics. A few studies also indicate that Triclosan could be a thyroid and hormone disruptor.

Oral contraceptives have also been used widely to treat acne. This has been linked to semi permanent and permanent changes in hormone secretion and birth defects if wrongly used in pregnant or lactating women.

synthetic-toners

The use of alcohol extracts in the toners sold for acne prone skin is also extremely troubling – besides being an environmental and respiratory hazard, this substrate is extremely drying and aging on skin. With constant use it upsets the natural sebaceous secretions on the skin, and dries out permanently areas of the skin where sebaceous secretions are fewer causing the early appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Similar effects are seen in the use of salicylic acid based anti acne products – topical application typically results in dry skin and skin darkening especially when used by people with a darker skin type.

What is acne according to Ayurveda?

Ayurveda treats acne as a pitta disorder where pitta dosha is vitiated. This could arise as a result of the person’s prakriti (individual constitution), the climate they live in (tropical climates tend to have a pitta aggravating effect), food eaten (sharp, spicy, salty, sour food tends to aggravate pitta dosha), nature of work (high level of stress, focus, aggression required).

tropical-climate

As the root cause of acne is identified as out of control Pitta dosha, an Ayurvedic company like Krya will attempt to correct this dosha imbalance by changes to the food, changes to the way you conduct your life, additions to your daily regimen, and changes to the products you use.

Pitta dosha deconstructed

In the Pancha mahabutha theory of Ayurveda, Pitta dosha which is made up of Agni (fire) is usually held responsible for the outbreak of acne. The seats of Pitta in the body are the Amasaya (stomach), sveda (sweat), Lasika (watery discharges from soft tissues and membranes like Lymph), Rudhira (blood), rasa (the nutrients absorbed by the body after digestion), Drk (the eyes) and Sparshana (the skin).

properties-of-pitta-dosha

Do make a note of all these diverse organs which are controlled by Pitta, because we will soon see the connection between what you eat, the nutrients you absorb, your eye sight and the state of your skin.

The Ashtanga Hridaya describes the qualities of Pitta dosha thus:

“Pittam sneha teekshano ushna laghu vishram sara dravam”

“The characteristics of Pitta dosha are Sneha (oiliness), Teekshana (sharp and intense), Ushna (Warm or hot), Laghu (light), Vishra (offensive or strong odour), Sara (fast moving) and Drava (liquid like).

Skin and hair characteristics of people with high Pitta dosha

As Pitta is oily and warm, people with high pitta dosha will have oily skin and hair with a feeling of heat. This means they will feel increases in temperature much more. Pitta is the seat of liquid secretions and offensive odours, so people with high Pitta dosha will sweat much more than others and may often have strong or intense body odours.

Pitta is also fast moving so all fast moving skin disorders come under Pitta’s influence: this include redness or itching that spreads on skin like prickly heat, measles, chickenpox and acne.

Pitta dosha affects hair by burning it and thinning it down and burning out its natural colour. So if your pitta dosha is high, you will grey faster, you will start balding faster and your hair will also thin much faster.

symptoms-of-pitta-dosha

The connection between your food and acne

Pitta dosha comprises of 5 types of Pitta which operate in different parts of the body using the intensive metabolic activity of Agni to give the body its vital nutrients. In acne we are concerned with 2 important types of Pitta Dosha.

The Bhrajaka Pitta dosha is located in the skin. This form of Pitta dosha gives skin what we are looking for in all skin products – true lustre and radiance from within.

But here is the key to understanding how Pitta dosha operates. The master key to Pitta dosha is the Pachaka Pitta dosha. The Pachaka Pitta dosha operates in your stomach and its key role is to digest your food and separate the useful part of your food which can be reabsorbed and separate the useless part which gets excreted.

The Pachaka pitta in your stomach, nourishes and kindles the other forms of Pitta including the Bhrajaka pitta which affects your skin.

Food and digestion: the master key to acne and greying

If Pachaka pitta, which handles digestion in your stomach is the key to all pitta dosha we must understand how we can influence Pachaka pitta through our food and our lifestyle.

For people with a predominantly pitta constitution, the Agni in their body is very high and intense. Think of it like a forest fire which rages out of control if left unchecked. So the key to controlling the disorders of high pitta lies in controlling the Pachaka pitta in the stomach.

4 diet changes to control acne:

  1. Reduce the intensity of Pitta by reducing Pitta increasing foods: – eliminate or reduce highly salty, highly spicy and highly sour foods which include:
    1. Red and green chillies

red-chillies

b. Curd

curd-rice

c. Tamarind, Kokum, Tomato, Raw mango

d. Foods that are high in salt – papad, wafers, commercially produced salty snacks, commercial chips

e. Foods that are high in salt – preserves, pickles

pickles

f. Pitta increasing oil seeds – sesame, sesame oil

g. Pitta increasing pulses – Tuvar / arhar dal (Pigeon peas)

h. Pitta increasing sugars – jaggery

  1. Reduce the aggravation of Pitta by feeding it on time
    1. Eat strictly on time at the same time everyday
    2. Eat with the sun – follow the sun cycle so that you eat when digestive power is aided by the sun. If you eat lunch at 2:30 pm for example, you have to rely on your internal Pitta dosha to supply a high amount of digestive fire power. If you eat lunch at noon on the other hand, the sun will help your internal pitta, so energy is not depleted from your body

midday-lunch

c. Do not skip or delay meals – Pitta will rage on, feeding on your soft tissues leading to disorders like ulcers in advanced cases or a feeling of light headedness

  1. Add Desi (native) Cow Ghee
    1. Desi Cow Ghee is the primary Ayurvedic food weapon to control Pitta dosha. It calms down agni in the body and channels it by reducing its intensity but keeping up its strength

desi-cow-ghee

b. Desi Cow Ghee is light and aids digestion so helps the job of Pitta

c. Desi Cow Ghee is also tridoshic – so it acts without weakening the other doshas

  1. Add foods that are cooling and opposite to that of Pitta dosha
    1. A small amount of bitters help calm down Pitta – this is why Ayurvedic solutions for acne use bitters like Neem. Similarly eating a small amount of bitter foods like bitter gourds are very useful in bringing down Pitta

bitters

b. Add cooling foods to the diet: Aged Mung dal, the liberal use of coconut, mucilaginous vegetables like okra, ash gourd, pumpkin, and beetroot, native greens are all useful vegetables to add in Pitta disorders. Ensure the vegetables are pesticide free, fresh and in season.

okra

The way we live our life can itself be aggravating Pitta dosha. So we will see next the regimen changes we advise when Pitta dosha is aggravated.

Regimen changes to make in Pitta disorders:

  1. Regular hair oiling – One of the important seats of Pitta is the Sira (head), and this is the seat which generates Ushna (heat) by the activity of the eyes and the brain. When this Pitta is left uncontrolled, it not only greys hair prematurely, causes thinning and balding, but it also affects vision. Apart from directly affecting the hair and the eyes, excess pitta in this area ultimately affects digestion, Pachaka Pitta and therefore your skin. The hair oil chosen should be formulated with pitta cooling and pitta channelling herbs so that it effectively traps the constant pitta being generated and releases it from the scalp. Please note: that a mineral oil based hair oil SHOULD NOT be used on the head as it increases pitta dosha.

pitta-reducing-hair-oil

  1. Weekly / Bi-weekly Abhyanga – The practice of a regular abhyanga unclogs the srotas of excess oil secretions, and gives the heat generated by the body an effective medium to be trapped and come out. The process of the abhyanga generates heat, helping unclog blocked skin pores and removing dead cells, micro organisms and excess sebum. Oil application may seem contrarian when viewed from the Western lens – if we see the problem of acne as being simply oily skin, then oil application seems unjustified. But if we view acne through the lens of Ayurveda and understand aggravated Pitta as the problem, then an abhyanga is perfect. When done with the right oil and in the right manner, an abhyanga traps excess pitta immediately and effectively and leaves the body in a state of balance. Regular abhyanga practitioners will find that their skin and hair improves in appearance, their digestion improves and their moods become much more balanced. This is the magic of the abhyanga!

abhyanga

 

  1. Practice of meditation to calm down the body and bring down high stress levels – Meditation and pranayama (along with yoga) are extremely useful in controlling the high focus, high stress and high tension brought on by aggravated Pitta. The mind becomes clearer and sharper and is able to work better when given a restful and healthier environment.

meditation

  1. Reduce eye strain: As the eyes are also an important seat of Pitta, we advise reducing eye strain by following a few Ayurvedic methods.
    1. Start your day by rinsing your eyes in clear cold water. You can blink your eyes rapidly in cool water held in your palm.
    2. Gaze into the horizon around sunrise and sunset. The rays of the rising sun at dawn especially are very good for the entire body and the eyes

dawn

c. Gaze into the rays of the moon on Poornima – walking on bare sand or the earth on full moon days after moon rise is extremely beneficial for the body especially to cool aggravated Pitta dosha

full-moon

d. Take a screen break every hour and give your legs and eyes a change – walk over to your friend’s desk or better still, walk around the block post 3 pm to give yourself a break

e. While E-readers are better for the environment, they will strain your eyes much more compared to physical books. Ensure atleast half your reading is on physical books

printed-books

f. Read less in artificial light and at night. Utilise natural, unshielded light (unfiltered through glass panes or windows) much more for work that involves your eyes.

Ayurvedic treatment of Acne and acne scars

We have seen how Ayurveda diagnoses and treats acne, so you should expect a different approach from Krya’s anti acne products as well. We have seen how western cosmetics superficially attack acne. The focus there is on removing excess oil through surfactants and alcohol, controlling sebaceous production and the use of anti bacterial agents to control the spread of bacteria.

We have seen the environmental and personal dangers behind the ingredients used on these products. Apart from these, most acne sufferers find that their skin becomes patchy, dull, unbalanced and loses its radiance with these solutions. Faster aging of skin is also a common complaint with the rapid appearance of wrinkles and fine lines with constant product use.

The most differentiated aspect of a Krya anti acne face wash is that it is one of our most gentle face wash products among a range which is already very gentle. This is very different from how western cosmetics are formulated – a synthetic anti acne face wash will usually be very drying and stripping on skin.

gentle-face-wash

Why does Krya treat acne prone skin extremely gently?

Krya follows the Ayurvedic rule of opposites when treating acne which is a Pitta prone disorder. Pitta is strong, intense, sharp and rapid. We formulate our acne products to be cool, gentle, mild and soft on skin.

So you will find that the Krya anti acne face wash is very soft textured, very gentle on skin, cleanses very mildly and does not provoke any intense or adverse reaction. Among all our products it is the most gentle and healing.

Natural herbs to combat acne and reducing scarring

The Krya anti acne skin products use our special patent-pending production process and herbs recommended by Ayurveda to work on acne prone skin. Manjishta (Indian madder) is one of the herbs we use extensively in Krya’s anti acne products. Manjishta is a gentle, bitter herb that is renowned for enhancing complexion and radiance.

herb-enriched-krya-acne-products

Acharya Charaka describes Manjishta as a Jwarahara (reduces fever) and Acharya Sushruta describes it as a Pittasamaka (balances Pitta). All the Ayurvedic texts have described Manjishta as a herb that enhances complexion and radiance of skin. It is a famous Rakta Shodaka herb (blood purifying herb) in Ayurveda and Siddha. When used in our products, Manjishta improves micro circulation of the skin, cleanses well, draws out toxins and evens out scarring and complexion with regular use.

We use Manjishta in 2 ways in our acne products – Manjishta forms part of our medicated lentil base where we make a special herb decoction for acne into which our lentils and grains are steeped in for a day. In this way, the base lentils and herbs are charged with the medicinal properties of the herbs used in the medicated decoction.

patent-pending

Apart from this, Manjishta is also used separately in the formulation as an ingredient.

Lodhra (Symplocus racemosa) is another famous Ayurvedic skin repair herb that we use in the Krya Anti acne products. Lodhra is astringent, cooling and a tonic Ayurvedic herb. It helps gives firmness to skin, reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines and helps reduce pitta in skin.

Arjuna (Terminalia arjuna) is another renowned Ayurvedic herb used to reduce acne in Krya’s anti acne products. It is widely known as a drug given to improve cardiovascular health without side effects. Arjuna is an astringent Ayurvedic herb and is also classified in the list of “Udarda prashamana” herbs – that are used to treat certain skin disorders and infestations like ring worm. Being cooling in nature, it balances pitta dosha. We use it in Krya’s anti acne products to bring down the inflammatory effect of acne, shrink down pimple volume and cool aggravated pitta. It also helps treat minor skin infections which may arise in recurrent or cystic acne.

arjuna-1

These are just a small sample of the 31 Ayurvedic anti acne herbs used in the Krya Anti acne face mask and the 19 Ayurvedic anti acne herbs used in the Krya anti acne face wash. Details of both of these products can be found on the Krya website.

In addition to our acne products, here are some associated Krya products that will help bring down acne, and balance pitta dosha as described above:

  1. Krya Classic Hair Oil with Amla & Bhringaraj to cool the head, reduce pitta in the eyes and the scalp

classic-hair-oil

  1. Krya Abhyanga Oil with Vacha & Ashwagandha for biweekly Abhyanga to reduce overall body pitta

The final pimple solution from Ayurveda

Through this post, you should be able to understand how the Ayurvedic treatment for acne is unique, different, well rounded and holistic. The difference lies in understanding the root cause of acne unlike western treatments which are merely superficial.

When viewed as a pitta disorder, the solution to acne becomes multifold: the use of high quality, timely food which is right for you, a balancing regimen that brings down dosha imbalance through corrected behaviour and the use of high quality, and natural herb filled products that are formulated based on Ayurvedic first principles.

It is no wonder that our consumer, UN, saw an almost magical cure to his yearlong acne problem. In fact he is also seeing changes in the health of his hair by just working on reducing his Pitta holistically.

We hope you enjoyed reading this post and also hope you were able to appreciate the difference in approach Krya followed when treating hair and skin problems. If you too have battled acne , scarring, stubborn pimples or are alarmed at rapidly greying hair or hair fall, and would like to consult us, do call us on 075500-89090 or write to us.

As we often see and say at Krya, true beauty comes from wellness, and wellness alone.

 

 

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Krya Ayurveda Series – Making friends with Ayurveda

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As a company, we are quite proud to have all our products and principles inspired by the principles of traditional Indian medicine. And it is to the principles of Ayurevda and Siddha we turn to when we formulate products or answer our consumer queries.

We are fortunate in our journey to have the support of respected Ayurvedic vaidyas like Dr.Anupama Santosh and Dr.Santosh of Shrestha Ayurvedic Centre.  We are privileged that such reputed Ayurvedic Vaidyas have found Krya’s products useful for their patients.

For our hair series last month, Dr.Anupama had written a post on her experiences with natural haircare products and why she supports completely natural products like ours. This was received extremely well by our readers, and gave a new perspective to the question of product toxicity and safety.

I have been long thinking of doing a continuing education series on Ayurveda for the benefit of Krya’s consumers and our blog readers. This is imperative as knowledge and belief in Ayurveda is fast falling and there is a rise in unscrupulous elements who are exploiting people’s inherent belief in Ayurveda with sub standard products / advice.

I was very grateful for Dr.Anupama’s quick response in agreeing to do a continuing series on Ayurveda for us. It is my belief that her rich experience, learning and practical wisdom will help many of us understand and appreciate better the tenets of Ayurveda.

Here is the first of Krya’s series on Ayurveda, written by Dr.Anupama Santosh.


 

Ayurveda is a ‘cool way of living’

Ayurveda is a cool way of living. The general perception of Ayurveda is like that of a rigid, self righteous, strict moral science teacher who says ‘no pain, no gain’ and all that. With all the talk and instructions about DOs and DONTs, pathyas, musts and shoulds, bitter medicines, etc., isn’t it true? One may ask. I beg to differ.

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Ayurveda, though received with respect and followed with fearful veneration by the ‘believers’ is often misunderstood and alienated as a hard task master. When embraced gently and lovingly, Ayurveda turns out to be a gentle friend for life, through thick and thin. What do you call someone who tells what you are actually like and what you can do/how you can be, to get the best out of your life? Best friend??

When I first started at the Ayurveda college, I was totally bewildered by the classics. They spoke about elementary stuff. Learning how to brush and clean your tongue (Dinacharya) is not what you expect in your medical college. And I thought ‘what did I get myself into ?’. But, over the years, as I explore with patience and awe, Ayurveda unravels beautifully, not just as a medical science, but as a life science, leading, protecting and supporting as a guiding light in every walk of life.

Ayurveda is probably the only life science which explores every aspect of life of a common man. And the purpose is not to deprive, but to enable us to fulfill the purusharthas- Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. It is not a restrictive path, it is path of understanding and personal enlightenment. Ayurveda celebrates the uniqueness of each individual by identifying the type (Prakriti) and providing guidelines to the well being of every kind.

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Based on this knowledge, I have suggested some small, easy and doable things to my patients and they find the results astonishing. For instance, when patients with Vata predominant prakriti are convinced to include cow’s ghee in their diet, they find it unbelievable to see how their perpetually dry skin looks moisturized naturally.

Some of the regimens mentioned in the classics are so powerful that, even doing 10% of it yields results. For instance, whenever I mention Abhyanga, patients always complain that it is time consuming and impractical. When I push them to try a shorter version of application of oil  on the body just 10 mins before bath and using a suitable hair oil at least twice a week, even if it is for half an hour before washing , they come back impressed with its effect on their skin and hair.

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Ayurveda promotes the understanding of one’s health/ body and mind, and how to nurture it to not just live longer but, live with the best quality of life in harmony with nature. Let’s consider an example; the classics describe the various seasons and the aahara-vihaara (food & lifestyle) suitable or not suitable for that particular season (Rutucharya). (Including details like when to eat Puliyogare and when is the best time to have sex). So, when we look at the whole year, we are almost indulging in everything we like, but at the right time and in the right amount and in the right way. So there is no question of deprivation and Ayurveda is not a prude science. And we get to do everything without falling sick. So, I think I am justified calling Ayurveda ‘ A cool Science’

Ayurvedic medicine, is but a part of this beautiful, all encompassing science of life. Ayurveda promotes a wholesome and happy life. It shows us a path to have fun, enjoy life to the fullest with the gift of good health. Ayurveda gently nudges all of us to understand, love and respect oneself and do the right thing to nourish our body, mind and soul.

Ayurveda is a friend, indeed! Let’s be BFF with Ayurveda!

 

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Dr.Anupama is an Ayurvedic consultant at Shreshtha Ayurvedic Center based in Bangalore. She believes that the Ayurvedic way of living is more relevant today than ever before. Her success in treating infertility cases has earned her immense love and gratitude from her patients. She is also a medical consultant for some Ayurvedic Pharmaceutical companies and advises them on product formulation and development of proprietary Ayurvedic medicines.

 

About Shreshtha Ayrvedic Centre, Bangalore

Shreshtha Ayurvedic Center, founded in 1997, is run by leading Ayurvedic consultants Dr.Santosh and Dr.Anupama. Though the center is located in Koramangala, Bangalore, patients from various parts of the country visit, owing to the genuine Ayurvedic treatment made available here. Apart from the consultation services, the center is equipped with a good pharmacy stocking Kottakkal medicines and organic lifestyle products. A Panchakarma center is also maintained at the center, which offers none of the spa kind of massages ( which is often confused for Panchakarma), but authentic, classical chikitsa with curative effect. To reach out to the growing demand of patients outside Bangalore, Shreshtha Ayurvedic Center started their Online consultation portal and also shipping facilty for prescribed medicines, which has had an overwhelming response. More details on www.ayursambhasha.com and Shreshtha’s facebook page.

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Missing an Olympic medal by a hair’s breadth

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At the Olympic level, winning a medal, especially the gold, boils down to having “the edge”. In the dark ages, the edge came from something as basic as  possessing a pair of professional running shoes with spikes –  Milkha Singh and legions of Asian & African athletes  trained barefoot and barely managed to get a pair of spikes in time for major events like the Olympics. For most part of the 20th century the edge merely came from being born in countries with great infrastructure and possessing trained coaches – who created the edge through better training techniques, nutrition and recovery.

At the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, the Australian swim team shaved off every bit of hair on their bodies just before the races – this turned out to be a smooth move as they completely swept all the medals at those championships. Since then all competitive swimmers shave their bodies and also heads just before the race event. So now this trick is no longer giving the edge, but just represents the bare minimum to be taken seriously at the top level.

But in the 21st century, the playing field is remarkably level, in terms of access to good infrastructure and coaches – so the quest to find the edge is getting tougher and tougher. And athletes and their coaches are getting more creative. At Rio this year, Michael Phelps and the other swimmers were seen with purple/reddish circles on their backs – the result of an ancient Chinese cupping technique to increase blood circulation in certain areas during recovery– this is the extent to which the search for the edge has reached.

What about the basics?

The top sprinters who compete in the explosive short distance events like 100M, 200M and the 400M pay attention to a number of small details to increase their chances of success. Aerodynamics is a critical success factor. For example the current state of the art is to wear form –fitting trunks that ensure the least drag during the race – even as recently as the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Carl Lewis was wearing regular running shorts that flapped a bit. Did it slow him down by a hundredth of a second?

Another detail in the sprinters preparation is wearing their hair really really short, army style. This is a uniform choice among the male sprinters but a number of the top women sprinters choose to have very long hair and still win the medals. Some of the Jamaican women sprinters are so ridiculously talented that the length of their hair is a superfluous detail. And sadly for some others, their extraordinary level of doping is an overriding factor.

1984: A Hair story

At the 1984 LA Olympics, a 20 year old PT Usha was a strong medal hope for India in the 400M hurdles event. She had gained prior experience at this elite level at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, was the top Asian sprinter in her class and in the heats she had even defeated Judi Brown, who was the favorite to win the event.

And yet, sadly for her & all Indians, in the finals she lost out on the bronze medal by 1/100 of a second. To this date this remains the closest that India has come to winning a medal in the track events.

Did PT Usha miss out on very basic detail of appropriate hair style ? Look at the pictures below from that race at LA in 1984.
Krya blog post aug 13th 2016 consolidated picNow with wisdom of hindsight and the anguish of a true fan, I have to ask this, why did    P.T Usha have to run with a full head of hair? Did it not occur to her that carrying some 50 – 100 gm of extra weight over a 400M distance could be significant for her medal chances? In the final analysis, she lost the bronze medal by 1/100 of a second. We still haven’t produced a track athlete of her caliber, male or female, who can get on to the medal podium at the Olympics.

The Olympics at a cross-roads

Olympics before the 1988 Ben Johnson scandal was an innocent time, when the entire focus was on form and preparation of the athletes and the eager anticipation of the new techniques that might emerge at the events, like Dick Fosbury’s breath taking new “flop” .

However since Ben Johnson and then Kristin Otto, a whole avalanche of doping scandals both at the Olympics and outside, has covered the sports in doubt and despair. Even the truest fans are left in serious doubt about the sanctity of the medal winning efforts given the all round, rampant doping convictions. So it is a great relief for the fans when true blue heroes like Michael Phelps come out of retirement and set the games on fire and hopefully Usain Bolt can help us finish the events on a legitimate sporting high.

The ” scandal” in the consumer products industry

At Krya , a lot of the work that we do now is a direct reaction to the malaise in the consumer products industry which bears much similarity to the doping scandals in the sports world. All manner of chemical -laden products are suddenly making tall claims to being “safe” and “natural” by the addition of miniscule amounts of herb extracts.

Worse still, the advertising around these products has gone from taking creative leaps to out right false claims by exploiting loop holes in regulations. A significant portion of the marketing work at Krya is educating consumers on making better and safer choices.

The Krya August Hair Olympics Challenge

The effects of synthetic products on human health, the environment, and our water continues to boggle the mind and brings a state of near panic among companies like ours. Many of the chronic skin and hair conditions we see at Krya, for example, can be directly attributed to the irritating and harmful effects of the synthetic products we use everyday on ourselves and on our families.

However, what gives us hope is this. We have seen remarkable transformative results when the toxins in the form of synthetic products are removed, the diet is cleaned up and health giving natural products are used instead on the body.

This experience inspired the many Krya hair and skin formulations that you see today, because we wanted to give many more people the same transformative benefits we had experienced for ourselves.

To inspire more and more people to make the switch, we are celebrating this August as the Krya Hair Olympics Month.

Do you want stronger, healthier better hair? Throw away your toxin filled synthetic shampoo, conditioner and hair oil and try Krya’s goodness filled haircare products instead. Your hair will thank you for this switch.

Every Krya hair care product for adults carries a special discount only in August 2016

  • 10% off if you buy a single piece of any Krya hair care product for adults
  • 20% off if you buy 2 or more pieces of any Krya hair care product for adults or a Krya hair care system for adults

Explore Krya’s huge range of good-for-you hair care products here.

 

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Mindful manufacturing & maximum nutrition

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I had 2 separate conversations yesterday that were on a topic that We’ve been quite obsessed about in the pre-work leading up the Krya factory. How do we process herbs and grains to ensure that they are easy and convenient to use without sacrificing the nutrients that go into them?

Grain processing for nutrient absorption is an ancient art. Archeological excavations indicate that plant domestication is about 11,000 years old. We first started domesticating vegetables like the bottle gourd, which was used as a vegetable and a container before the evolution of pottery and the art of ceramics. Cereal grains were domesticated around 9000 BC in the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East. Apart from fruit bearing annuals, pulses like peas and grains like wheat were part of this wave of plant domestication.

4. einkorn wheat at the fertile cresecent

 

The domestication of plants and cereals grains led to a great change in our way of life: this paved the way for Man to change from being a nomadic hunter gatherer to a fixed dweller in domesticated groups which slowly evolved to cities and towns. So in a way, the cultivation of cereals and grains created human civilisation itself.

The quern stone is an important landmark in the history of grain processing. Ethnographic evidence indicates that querns were used to grind not only grains for food, but also different kinds of herbs for medicines and cosmetics. Different types of querns existed in the ancient world: saddle querns, beehive querns and rotary querns which we are familiar with in India.

2, syrian quern stone3. egyptian grain grinding

 

The evolution of the water powered mill mechanised the use of the hand quern to some extent. The force of flowing water would generate enough power for the grinding wheel to begin turning. The grinding mechanism was similar to the rotary quern and the grain would be crushed between the rotating wheel and the stationary base of the Water mill. The Barbegal Aqueduct and Mill is a Roman Watermill complex located near the town of Arles in southern France.

 

1. barbegal mill

This mill was strategically located on a Roman aqueduct created to supply drinking water from the Alpilles mountain chain to the town of Arelate (now the town of Arles) on the Rhone River. This aqueduct fed 2 parallel sets of 8 waterwheels to power the attached flourmill. The mills were thought to have been operated almost continuously for 200 years from the 1st century AD and have an estimated capacity of 4.5 tonnes of flour per day – enough to feed the 30,000 inhabitants of Arles.

How fast does it spin? 

One of the ways to analyse the quality of processing is to find out the speed of the grinding mechanism. All rotary based mechanisms where the method involves something rotating around a fixed axis ( a grinding stone in the case of a wet grinder) or even the drum of your washing machine have a measure called RPM (revolutions per minute) to measure the frequency of rotation. The greater the RPM, the greater is the precision and power of the grinding, washing or drilling device.

8. RPM - how fast does it spin

 

A modern ultrasonic dental drill can rotate upto 800,000 RPM. Depending upon the spin cycle you choose in your washing machine the drum can rotate between 500 – 2000 RPM. When cruising at a minimum idle speed, your car engine has an RPM between 750 – 900 RPM. A Formula 1 car’s racing engine is operated at nearly 20,000 RPM. The speed of ancient water mills is estimated to be about 120 RPM.

 

High speed milling machines: devolution?

With the invention of fossil fuel powered electricity, water mills were slowly substituted by electricity powered mills. Milling machines themselves also underwent several technological changes. From the stone based water mills, we moved to roller mills. Roller mills produced a huge technological breakthrough as they were able to separate wheat bran from its endosperm, helping in the introduction of “Maida” or refined wheat flour.

To achieve this super refined flour, slightly wet wheat would be passed through a roller mill. This moisture acts in 2 ways on different parts of the wheat: it softens the endosperm, helping it be ground extremely finely, and it hardens the bran leaving it as a coarse grind. Therefore, you could easily sieve and separate the super refined endosperm from its coarser, much healthier bran and sell super refined flour.

Today’s milling machines are high speed impact pulverisers. Often sold for various purposes from grinding granite and stone for the construction industry to grinding food products like grains and spices, impact pulverisers and hammer mills are sold on 2 counts: speed of food processing (as described through the RPM) and fineness of the material ground.

Krya’s experiments in herb and grain processing and our observations:

We have a line of cleaning products that include a detergent and a dish washing product and a line of personal care products that include a face wash, hair wash and a body wash. Our quest when formulating and manufacturing our products is twofold: are they able to harness all the power of the natural ingredients we use while providing our users with a certain degree of comfort and convenience during use.

The yardstick for determining whether a particular manufacturing process is good or not, really depends on the metrics for measuring a product. Most powdered products are measured on a single metric only: the size reduction of the particles that has been achieved and the evenness of the particle size. Think of any brand of compact powder or even a talcum powder you might use for your child. Apart from the fragrance, perhaps the only way you might measure the quality of your product is the even and smooth feel of the compact on your face or the powder on your child’s skin.Unfortunately this metric of smoothness and evenness has now expanded to cover all powder based products, no matter what they are originally supposed to do.

5. all powders are not the same

Turmeric grinding:

Turmeric, the ubiquitous spice in Indian cooking and medicine is used extensively as is in cooking or as a part of important spice mixes like sambhars powder and rasam powder. Turmeric is a notoriously tough root to grind. Most household mixer grinders cannot get a smooth turmeric powder, so turmeric is usually sent to the neighbourhood flour mill for processing. (Of course the mechanism of the mixer grinder is not suited to grinding at all, as it is designed for a cutting rather than a pounding action). Different kinds of industrial grinders can be used for turmeric grinder.

In very large, high capacity spice grinding operations, an impact mill or a cyclone mill is used to grind turmeric. The RPM of an impact mill starts at 1500 RPM and it can go upto 2800 RPM depending on the purpose of the mill. This kind of mill can dramatically reduce the processing time of grinding hard turmeric roots. This means that greater volumes of turmeric can be ground and processed in this factory.

Ayurvedic medicine processing:

Rasanadi chooranam is an Ayurvedic medicine which is always available at our home. This is an extremely useful preparation to control water accumulation in the sinuses. In Ayurveda, a pinch of Rasanadi chooranam is applied every time you wash your hair at the lymph nodes and certain points on your head. This chooranam helps retain heat in these points and help dry up water before it has a chance to be absorbed internally and reach the sinuses. If you suffer from water accumulation or a feeling of heaviness in your head after washing your hair, in wet weather or if your head sweats a lot, Rasanadi chooranam will make a huge difference to your health and well being.

We tested the physical characteristics and aroma of Rasanadi chooranam bought from 2 different Ayurvedic brands: One came from a government run (presumably lower funded) organisation and the other from a big brand name Ayurvedic company. The Rasanadi chooranam from the government funded Ayurvedic Company was darker in colour and coarser to touch. It was also extremely fragrant and generated a feeling of warmth as soon as it was applied on the head. However the Rasanadi chooranam from the big brand company was much lighter in colour, extremely fine to touch and had little or no aroma. It did not have the immediate warming characteristics of its poorer counterpart.

Both brands have used the same Ayurvedic formulation from the same Ayurvedic text. Both brands use a mixture of conventionally grown / cultivated herbs and forest collected herbs. The major difference lies in the way they have been processed. Clearly the bigger brand has used a more expensive, hi impact, high RPM pulveriser. This pulveriser has, through a combination of high heat, greater number of beating heads and higher energy, achieved fineness of the final product by sacrificing aroma, and some of the products functional characteristics.

Active ingredients and how to release them:

Processing food and natural medicine or cosmetics follow similar principles. The active ingredients in plants are bound up within their cell structure. Our role in creating functional products is to release these active ingredients so that they get to work as soon as you apply, soak or eat them. In grain processing which we spoke about, the active ingredients in the grain like the B vitamins and protein is readily available to the body only when we soak, ferment, or create flour. This very act of creating flour, if done improperly can completely destroy the active ingredients present within the grain.

The active ingredients of soapberry which we depend upon to produce hair magic or laundry magic in the Krya hair wash and Krya detergent is called saponins. These saponins are distributed through the outer shell of the soapberry fruit. To extract these saponins, we need to either soak the fruit in water and extract it as an aqueous extract or powder the shells and make the saponins more bio available so that they are released faster in the presence of water or mechanical action.

6. saponin extraction at krya

 

However saponins, like most active ingredients are sensitive to air, and heat. When processed in a high heat generating milling operation, they get denatured or cooked. These denatured saponins have a lower foaming action and have a completely different aromatic profile when compared to properly processed saponins.

Why process a soapberry at all? Using a whole soapberry is not as effective or convenient as using the powdered soapberry or an aqueous extract. Because it is only through subjecting the whole soapberries to some form of processing, we are able to make the saponins readily available to us.

When is herb or food processing just right? And why you should care

Food or natural products are truly nutritious and provide well being when they have been carefully made, using high quality raw materials and careful processing techniques. High heat and fast processing has 2 negative effects on plant based material: It destroys the volatile, delicate aroma compounds and it denatures vital nutrients like vitamins (some of which are extremely heat sensitive).

For example, thiamine in wheat is one of the first vitamins to be lost in high speed processing. This is especially true in high speed mills where temperatures can reach upto 204 degrees centigrade. In our skin and hair care products, we use several delicate, extremely volatile, aromatic herbs.

Lemongrass for instance, goes into our Kids body wash. Lemongrass is a dry, fibrous grass, and is especially soothing for delicate skin. Its volatile compounds are released by either carefully crushing the grass or through steam distillation to extract its essential oil. When the grass is dried at high temperatures (above 60 deg c) or processed using high speed cutters, the plant loses its vibrant, citrusy top notes. The resulting powder resembles dried hay, and simply adds volume without adding to the therapeutic qualities of our body wash.

9. krya bodywash for kids with lemongrass

 

The Just right level:

Much like Goldilocks and the three bears, there is a “just right” level in all natural product processing. But obviously this varies depends on the kind of product being spoken about.

Here are 3 checks for you to evaluate if your brand of completely natural food, cosmetic or household product has been sourced and processed correctly:

1. Is its colour distinctively lighter compared to the original raw material? The more an ingredient is crushed or processed, or sieved, the lighter it becomes. For example: refine white flour or Maida is super white in colour. This is because the brown coloured bran has been sieved out of the flour, and the endosperm has been moistened and pulverised to a very fine degree.

2. Does it have a characteristic natural aroma? Or does it smell cooked / roasted or burned? Is there any strong, distinctively “un natural” fragrance? If the food or natural cosmetic you’ve bought smells neutral, has no fragrance or has a burned / cooked fragrance, then what you’ve bought has been over processed. Alternatively, if you are buying a brand of natural hair wash and what you smell reminds you of a bubbly lemony synthetic shampoo, then obviously what you’re using is not very natural.

3. Is it extremely even and is the powder of a very high degree of fineness? It should come as no surprise to you that natural ingredients are not identical. No two grains of rice or wheat are alike. No two leaves from the same stalk have identical aromatic compounds of physical characteristics. Similarly, when food or natural products are processed, it is not possible to achieve microscopically identical particle size.

All a manufacturer can do is to sieve the final product to ensure that the particle size achieves a certain minimum or maximum threshold. Within this limit, variations will continue to exist. Complete evenness and near identical particle size can only mean repeated processing and sieving in a high speed mill.

If you are observing this in your flour, then you will be eating nutritionally weak flour. It would make sense to either switch brands or to decide to process your own flour. If you are observing this in your natural hair care or cosmetic product, then your product will not work as well as it could on you. The repeated processing the product has undergone has depleted it of any nutrients that could be absorbed by your skin and hair. Again, switching brands or making your own personal care products would make better sense.

Additional Information:

  • For low heat , carefully processed flour, ask for your organic store’s own brand of flour (to ensure freshness).
  • Krya’s skin and hair care products will be launched commercially in a month’s time. This is why its taking this time.
  • Krya’s all natural cleaning products for the home can be found here.

About the Series:

This article is a part of Krya’s writings on natural products and their sourcing and processing. We are passionate about promoting a truly environmentally sustainable lifestyle and this can be achieved only if we come to rely on using high quality plant based material to clean and care for ourselves and our homes. This follows our earlier series on toxic products in our home and how you could learn to identify and detox your home from the harmful action of more than 100,000 suspect industrial chemicals that surround human life today.

If you would like to explore our toxics series further, here’s what we’ve written before this piece:

  1. An introduction to the series
  2. Common carcinogens implicated in breast cancer found in your home
  3. Is it a conspiracy? A pre-planned genetic supremacy race? Or simply misinformation? Some reasons behind common toxics & why they continue to be used
  4. Are we putting our children at risk by using these products on them? Here are 3 toxins that plague children through the products we use on them.
  5. Do the products we buy contain toxins? How do we decode what goes into them? Here’s Urban Survival 101 telling you what you should look for in food product labels.
  6. Do the cosmetic products we buy contain toxins? How do we decode them? Here’s Urban survival 102 telling you what you should look for in cosmetic labels
  7. Two non toxic cleaner recipes you could try in your home and a Krya factory update
  8. A holistic approach to beauty and health and a fermented Amla drink to make this February for your family

 

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The Tree of Life – the holistic approach to beauty & health

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Reading Time: 10 minutes

At Krya we have different lines of products:  A line of cleaning products for the home like our Detergent and Dishwash, and our soon to be launched floor cleaner, all purpose scrub and toilet cleaner. We also have a range of skin and hair care products which we have been testing in small commercial batches all through last year: our range includes a face wash, a body wash, a body wash for kids and a hair wash. In the near future will launch a line of botanical oils, serums and salves to moisturize and protect your skin and hair.
While these may seem like separate lines of businesses, to us, they form part of an organic holistic mother lode: they are all gentle, plant based products that help clean and care for you in the most natural and non toxic way possible.

Many times the human body is treated as a linear, system-wise, unconnected organism. By treating ourselves by parts, and essentially using the process of separation and division to look after ourselves, we sometimes fail to see the connection behind all the disparate products we use on and around ourselves.

It makes perfect sense to us as a company that advocates an alternate, more natural way of living and provides products to support that life to be in as many categories as possible.

Only with a large number of products can we begin to affect a change and make the impact that we would like to have possible. So for instance, if you suffer from asthma, are prone to sneezing / wheezing attacks, it makes sense for you to examine the impact of added synthetic fragrance not only on the soaps or moisturisers you may use, but also on the household cleaning products you are exposed to like your detergent, floor cleaner or dish cleaner.

4synthetic dishwash

When we started Krya, we thought long and hard about 2 things: the categories we would play in, and the ones we would not participate in.

Food (basic grains, lentils , fresh produce) was a category we decided not to participate in at Krya. This decision emerged out of several reasons: one of the most important being our belief that food, more than any other category of products should be hyper local.

Krya supports good food

Traditional medicine argues that the best health benefits accrue from plants, herbs, vegetables and fruits that grow naturally, easily and abundantly around where you live. This means that if you live in Chennai and have your roots in Tamilnadu like we do, the best cereal for you is probably rice. And within rice, it is probably the native, traditional breed of rice that was available in every season around where your ancestors lived. So instead of looking high and low for that quinoa brand or eating goji berries, it would do us a lot more good to eat traditional rices, or millets  and some Amla / Nellikai.

Mapillai samba rice

( Of course if you are a Bolivian or Peruvian national living in India, you could be excused for that quinoa craving.)

Quinoa - hyperlocal to the andes

Although Krya does not make food products, we fully acknowledge the vital role of good food for our health & well being. No matter how reverentially or carefully we create our skin and hair care products, they will only work as well as your overall health and nutrition permits.

So if you have not been taking care of yourself in this winter season, and have allowed yourself to experience its vata effects, then your skin and hair will feel dry and lifeless. Good nutrition, health, sleep and a positive attitude remain the base for good health. A good, well made product will only build on a strong foundation.

The Amazing Amla

One of the ingredients we use across all our skin and hair care products is the Indian gooseberry, called Amla in Hindi and Nellikai in Tamil. The Hindi name for this amazing India fruit comes from its Sanskrit name “Amlika”.

In Hindu mythology, the churning of the ocean gave us Lord Dhanvantri and the elixir of Life, Amrit. In the clash between the Devas and Asuras over who got to eat the Amrit, drops of it were said to have scattered over our world, giving rise to the Amlika Tree.

The beginning of the Holi Festival in India, is called Amlaka Ekadashi, a day when the Amla tree and its resident deity, Lord Vishnu is worshipped. The Amla tree is ceremoniously watered and bathed, and a ritual offering is done for the tree.

Amla composite

The Amla / Nellikai has been a popular and significant gift across time in India. Even emperor Ashoka was gifted half an Amla fruit by the Buddhist Sangha – a stupa was created to mark the event, called the Amlaka Stupa.

The 2000 year old Vamana Purana, states that one can survive by consuming just the fruit juice of the Amla. Amla is also called “dhatri” or the nurse. It rejuvenates the body cells, tones the tissues, strengthens our internal organs, and is believed to increase prana, and has a sattvic effect on the mind.

Amla is one of the Three great Myrobalans used extensively in Ayurveda, Siddha and in the Tibetan school of medicine. Triphala (3 fruits), a multipurpose Ayurvedic formulation used both externally and internally has many uses ranging from ama (toxin) cleansing to wound healing and regenerative properties. Amla is one of the constituents of Triphala and ranges from forming 1/3rd of Triphala to 80% of the formulation depending on its source.

Chawanprash, an all purpose medicinal jam, or leghyam which is advertised every winter to build immunity and prevent coughs and colds, has many ingredients, but is main ingredient is Amla.

Amla works great: within & without

At our work in Krya, Amla is an extremely important ingredient. It is a Vitamin C storehouse, offering nearly 3000 mg of Vitamin C per 100 gram of dried herb. Studies demonstrate that this Vitamin C is extremely bio available for the human system compared to other synthetic sources.

Amla in Krya

Ayurveda and Siddha consider Amla as a tridoshic herb, a herb that balances all the 3 doshas. In tastes, it is said to satisfy all the 6 rasas or tastes. It rejuvenates the body cells, tones the tissues and strengthens the organs. It is believed to increase the life energy / prana and has a sattvic effect on the mind.

In its internal use, Amla is believed to impart youthful vigour, strengthen the lungs, cures many illnesses including diabetes, and anaemia, and helps activate many of the body’s systems like the circulatory system, digestive system and liver and pancreas functions.

Amla is described as a kayakalpa, or an ingredient that helps keep the body ageless and help extend life.

Obviously, Amla forms an important ingredient for our work at Krya and we use this ingredient quite extensively in our skin and hair formulations. In our face and body wash, it has been used for various reasons right from helping restore the acid mantle of skin abused by long years of using alkaline surfactants, to soothe and repair skin problems and even to firm up and tone skin.

In our hair wash it is used to soothe and repair damaged scalp and hair and help correct cuticle damage and restore the hair’s acid mantle.

Preserving Good Health

January – late February is the Amla season across India. I am of course referring to the indigenous Amla, which fruits once a year and not the hybrid Amla which is available throughout the year.

Our food traditions document many different methods of preserving Amla and enjoying its good nutrition through the year. Much before the advent of commercial jams that are full of E Numbers, synthetic flavours and colours and have incinerated any goodness in the fruit through high heat and chemical preservative techniques, we used to eat Amla murabba and Amla in honey.

Another way to preserve Amla is through the brining technique. While many detailed recipes are available online, the method of preservation remains simple. After washing and drying the Amla (preferably by sun drying for a short time to remove moisture), they are preserved in pure brine, and allowed to soak in the flavour in a glass or porcelain jar. By ensuring that your hands, utensils and ladles are clean in the process, you can preserve Amlas for several years using this technique. The Amlas thus preserved are not only storehouses of nutrition but also bring in the beneficial effects of fermented and cultured vegetables, helping flood your digestive tract with beneficial gut flora.

Ayurveda also lists several liquid decoctions in its medicinal arsenal. Arishtams are boiled herbal decoctions which are fermented for a period between 1 – 3 months using cane jaggery or date palm jaggery in anaerobic fermentation. The liquid thus obtained is called an “Arishtam” and usually has a natural alcohol content of upto 10%. Our family has a daily preventive dose of “Dasamoola Arishtam” every day to build our natural immunity and strength.

Asavas are fermented liquids which are not boiled. The process of making them is similar to an Arishtam (except for not boiling them) and they are usually left to ferment in either their own biological water or added water until they are ready to use.
Amla Asava is an interesting, indigenous, easy to prepare asava that you can try during this Amla season. This Asava can be had by everyone in the family (including children above the age of 2 in small doses) everyday. Regular use is said to build immunity to respiratory diseases and infectious coughs and colds, helps increase appetite and digestive powder and helps flush out ama or toxins from the body.

Amla asava is traditionally made in homes across Kerala during the Amla season. I first got to taste it in my yoga class, courtesy a fellow student whose family traditionally made it every year. The traditional method prescribed in the Sarangadhara Samhita suggests using a clay pot for the asava / Arishtam preparation.

However traditional medicine is extremely particular about the soil from which this clay pot is made, prescribing the use of river soil harvested in a particular season. Further, to prevent any oxygen from contaminating the asava, Ayurveda prescribes the use of ghee from an indigenous variety of cattle to be used inside the pot. This ghee creates a natural air lock preventing the entry of oxygen and unwanted micro organisms into the asava.

As a vegan alternative, the texts allow the use of glass or porcelain instead, which is what I have used. Care should be taken to ensure that your hands, utensils and spoons are clean and dry when making this asava to avoid contaminating the asava.

Each home in Kerala follows its own individual method of making Amla asava. I’ve given below a recipe which uses no water. I’ve followed this recipe to ensure longer shelf life of the asava so that it needs no refrigeration. Other recipes exist which use water to increase the amount of asava that is available.

As always our recipes are a starter. Once you begin making them, we hope that you will be inspired to read and research more on this subject and introduce your own unique variations to the food and medicine you prepare for your family.

Here is the Amla Asava recipe.

Amla Asava:

Ingredients: (Please use organic ingredients as much as possible. I was able to get completely organic ingredients for the entire Asava recipe)

  1. Ripe, unbruised firm Indian gooseberry – 3 Kg
  2. Date palm Jaggery – 2.5 Kg (If this is not available, you may substitute with any aged , dark cane jaggery)
  3. Cardamom peeled – 20 gm
  4. Cloves – 20 gm
  5. Cinnamon sticks – 2 – 4
  6. Black dried raisins – 150 gm
  7. Washed, clean and dried Porcelain / glass jars to hold about 4 Kg of material
  8. Washed and clean thick large squares of cloth (for tying the top of the jar)

 

Method:

Carefully inspect the Amla to ensure there are no bruise marks or black dots on the fruits. Wash in clean cool water, wipe with a clean dry cloth and dry in gentle sun for about an hour to remove all trace of moisture.

Powder the clove, cardamom and cinnamon finely, separately, under low heat, and mix the spice powder together.

Now prepare the asava by scoring 2 / 3 cuts on each Amla fruit and lining them in the porcelain jar. Follow each Amla layer with a smattering of black raisins, some of the spice powder followed by a thick layer of jaggery powder. The jaggery powder should completely cover the Amla, raisin and spice layer like a thick seal.

Continue the process until you exhaust all your material. Ensure that your last layer is the jaggery layer. Seal the porcelain jar with its cover and tie your cloth several times around the lid to ensure it is completely air tight and does not allow any oxygen to go into the jar.
Leave the asava jar in a cool dark place for 40 days. On the 41st day, open the jar and filter out the black asava extract without squeezing the gooseberries. This extract can be stored without refrigeration for upto a year and can be consumed.

When drinking your asava, remember to always drink it diluted by adding an equal quantity of water. For children, 1 teaspoon of asava with 1 teaspoon of water is a safe dosage. For adults, 3 teaspoons of asava + 3 teaspoons of water is a good dosage. It is recommended this asava be eaten the first thing after waking up on an empty stomach atleast 30 minutes before eating breakfast to help absorb nutrition from food better and improve digestion.

Amla asava composite

Good Food: The foundation for great skin & hair

We are putting the foundation for the Krya factory to manufacture our skin and hair care products. At the same time we are always exploring the idea of what constitutes good food , which is the foundation for great skin & hair.

We hope you find some inspiration for treating your body to good food with this article.

Disclaimer: The amla asava is a wonderful, time  honoured product that is very safe to use for most people. However as good corporate practice, we at Krya must mention that this blog article does not constitute medical advice & request you to use your discretion about your particular state of health or consult your doctor, before embarking on its use.

This article is a part of Krya’s series on toxics in household and personal care products. Through this series, we hope to inform, educate and inspire you to look around your home and detox it and yourself from the harmful action of more than 100,000 suspect industrial chemicals that surround human life today. The natural world is full of safe, environmentally sustainable, cruelty free options to care for yourself and your home, and our series will try to present atleast a small part of this exciting world to you. 

If you would like to explore our series further, here’s what we’ve written before this piece:

  1. An introduction to the series
  2. Common carcinogens implicated in breast cancer found in your home
  3. Is it a conspiracy? A pre-planned genetic supremacy race? Or simply misinformation? Some reasons behind common toxics & why they continue to be used
  4. Are we putting our children at risk by using these products on them? Here are 3 toxins that plague children through the products we use on them.
  5. Do the products we buy contain toxins? How do we decode what goes into them? Here’s Urban Survival 101 telling you what you should look for in food product labels.
  6. Do the cosmetic products we buy contain toxins? How do we decode them? Here’s Urban survival 102 telling you what you should look for in cosmetic labels
  7. Two non toxic cleaner recipes you could try in your home and a Krya factory update
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