Ritucharya for Vasanta (Spring) – ayurvedic guidelines to get balanced and stay healthy in spring

Vasanta Ritucharya: ayurvedic seasonal regimen to reduce pollen allergies, spring fever
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Have you begun to sniffle, sneeze and put away your winter jackets? Has the season change caught you unawares? One of the most powerful concepts in Ayurveda medicine is the concept of Ritucharya – seasonal regimens to be followed to naturally balance the changes in your doshas due to the change in climate and season. This post will speak about the Ayurvedic concept of Ritucharya and also look at the Ritucharya recommended in Vasanta (spring) so that you can stay healthy in spring.

Preventive health care and staying healthy across seasons:

Ayurveda’s goal is to prevent the formation of disease by following certain guidelines of good living. This is best described by Acharya Charaka in his Sutra Sthana shlokas:

“Swasthasya Swasthya Rakshanam Aaturasya Vikara Prashamanam Cha”

He explains that the goal of medicine (Ayurveda) is to rejuvenate and preserve the health of the healthy and then to alleviate diseases in the ill. This order of first  tending to the healthy and then  treating the sick is specific to Ayurveda. It explains why so much of Ayurveda is primarily focused on health giving regimens rather than disease treatment .

This emphasis on preserving health is why Dincharya and Ritucharya regimes (regimes for daily living and special regimes to follow in specific seasons) come first in all 3 Brihat Trayee texts of Ayurveda (Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita and Ashtanga Hridayam).

Dinacharya: daily regimens to correct dosha imbalances and stay healthy

The Ayurvedic dinacharya is a very powerful , self healing idea that puts the responsibility for your health back into your hands. As Ayurveda’s aim is to prevent disease and keep you in health , enjoying a long productive life, The self care regimens are the cornerstone of harmony and well being.

The Acharyas split these self care regimens into 2 types: things to be done everyday (Dina-charya) and things to be done in each Season (Ritu-charya).

Dincharya comprises of regimens to be followed daily. Many of these suggested Dinacharyas may seem simplistic and even very difficult to follow. For those accustomed to waking up late, the idea of waking up 90 minutes before sunrise may seem impossible and unnecessary.

However, we can attest to the powerful, subtle and transformative nature of these Daily ayurvedic regimens. Each Dinacharya practice works in a nuanced and different way to calm down aggravated doshas, improves prana shakti and increases Ojas in the body when practiced over a long period.

We will do a more detailed post on Ayurvedic dinacharyas. For the purpose of this post, Dinacharya regimens include waking up at the right time (Brahma Muhurtha), doing correct amount of Vyayama (exercise) for the season & your prakriti, Oral care, Taila abhyanga , Hair Oiling (Keshya abhyanga) , Snana (bath) and leading a life of balance. When these tenets of Dincharya are followed, we are guaranteed a life of harmony and balance.

 

Staying healthy in Spring: Dinacharya is a daily set of practices to stay healthy.

Following the Dinacharya helps the body adjust everyday and bring back aggravated Doshas to balance on a daily basis. Dinacharya takes care of the small stresses, changes in diet, sudden change in plans, excessive travel, etc. It works like a checking mechanism bringing us back to the golden mean.

However, when Seasons change, the accompanying shifts in weather, humidity , etc leads to a larger scale shift in the dosha balance in our body. To bring these shifts under control, we add on Ritucharya practices to our existing Dinacharya practices.

The seasonal health regimens form a part of Ritucharya (seasonal tenets of living). Ayurveda divides the year into 6 seasons. Each season lasts roughly two months. The time of change of seasons usually throws the body into a series of minor health issues – these issues can be simply solved or avoided if we follow Ritucharya practices to stay healthy.

Staying healthy in Spring: What happens to us in Winter?

During winter (Hemanta and Shishira) , the severe cold weather drives Agni inwards from all parts of the body. This strongly increases our digestive capacity and hunger. So Ayurveda advises us to eat well and eat oily, rich foods that can satisfy this high Agni, in Winter.

Staying healthy in Spring: We are advised to eat heavy, rich food in winter to satisfy increased agni in the body.

At the same time, Ayurveda also recommends stronger and more intense Vyayama (exercise), Sun exposure, Regular and Frequent Taila Abhyanga, and to avoid being lazy, sleeping during the day, etc.

Staying healthy in Spring: What happens to us in Spring?

Vasanta is the spring season described in Ayurveda. The official start of Vasanta is marked by the festival of Holi. This can change slightly depending upon distance from the equator,etc.

Staying healthy in Spring: spring starts with Holi

In Vasanta, as the climate again starts to become warm, the sun rays melt all the Kapha that has been stored in our body during winter. The amount of Kapha that is stored in your body varies. It depends upon whether or not we have followed Ritucharya guidelines in Hemanta and Shishira. If instead of regular exercise, regular abhyanga along with a rich, oily and heavy diet, we have simply eaten but not done exercise or abhyanga, we would have accumulated a greater amount of Kapha in Winter.

This high accumulated Kapha melts and starts running in the body in Vasanta as Mucous through our body . This explains why so many of us are prone to spring fever, hay fever, pollen allergies and coughs and colds in this season. Even if you have not accumulated too much excess Kapha, the coming of Spring starts to melt whatever Kapha is stored in your body.

Staying healthy in Spring: Kapha liquifies through the body and flows leading to coughs, colds and seasonal allergies

This liquefied Kapha dosha, if aggravated can douse the digestive Agni. When Agni is weakened, our appetite is poor. We also have a reduce capacity to digest food and poorer nutrient absorption in the body.

This may lead to poor appetite, lack of interest in food, tiredness and fatigue. Therefore , in order to ensure our Agni is not impacted in Vasanta, we need to work on this liquefied Kapha and focus on drying it up.

Ayurvedic seasonal therapies to stay healthy in Spring :

Vamana therapy (a part of Pancha karma – controlled vomitting) and Nasya therapy (controlled application of nasal drops) are 2 Ayurvedic procedures that can be initiated by Vaidyas during Vasanta to remove aggravated Kapha dosha.

This is advised if you have Spring aggravation symptoms like severe mucous accumulation, pollen allergy, extreme lethargy, lack of energy etc, suggesting the presence of large amounts of liquid Kapha in the system.

For many of us, this may not be required. For those with normal kapha aggravation, the Acharyas have given us many milder suggestions that we can all do to dry out liquefied kapha.

Staying healthy in spring: correction routines

Avoid these foods in Vasanta (spring):

Ayurveda advises us to avoid Guru (heavy), Snigdha (oily), Amla (sour) and Madhura (sweet) foods during this season.

Heavy (Guru) and sweet  (Madhura) foods increase Kapha dosha accumulation in the body. Oily (Snigdha) and Sour (Amla) foods aggravate and increase Pitta in the body. When Pitta is stimulated, it will further melt Kapha, adding to the volume of mucous already flowing through the body.

Staying healthy in Spring: Avoid sweet, rich and heavy food that can aggravate Kapha dosha

Add these foods in Vasanta (Spring):

Apart from avoiding Kapha aggravating and Pitta triggering foods, we also need to add certain foods to our diet to help control aggravated Kapha. This is a good time to add Millets to our diet in small quantities. Millets are Laghu (light) and Rooksha (drying) so their addition can help absorb and dry out liquefied Kapha. Similarly, Yava (barley) is considered a good grain to be eaten during Vasanta.

Staying healthy in Spring: Eat drying, slightly astringent food with healing spices

Yava(barley grain) is considered to have a dual taste of both “Kashaya” (astringent) and “madhura”  (sweet) rasa. This balances the intensity of the sweetness of barley, making it  a good grain for Vasanta where we want less sweet substances.

As its guna is cold, it balances Pitta. As Yava has rooksha guna (dry property) and pungent vipaka, it also helps dry up excess Kapha well. Yava is both a mutraghna and bulk forming grain. It helps remove aggravated liquefied kapha both through urine and through feces.

In Vasanta, Yava helps us by its lekhaniya (scraping quality against excess fat), reduces picchila (sticky toxins in the body), and also ignites jataragni which could be diminished due to liquefied Kapha.

Add these spices to your food in Vasanta (Spring):

In Vasanta, it is important to use ushna but not teekshna, deepana (agni kindling), pachana (digestive), kapha drying herbs and spices. Hence the Acharyas suggest using spices like Haridra (Turmeric), Sounth (dried Ginger), Clove, Elaichi and Maricha (Black pepper) in the food.

Haridra is astringent and drying, and will help absorb excess liquids in the body. Dried Ginger is warming without being intensive and aggravating Pitta, so can be safely used to spice food. Similarly cloves and cardamom are both warming without aggravating Pitta dosha.

Staying healthy in Spring: use drying, warming spices to dry up aggravated Kapha

Maricha (black pepper) is recommended in Ayurveda to balance excess Kapha, aid digestion and open up the srotas . Maricha is a better spice choice for most people compared to red and green Chillies which are now commonly used in Indian cooking. Chillies are intensely pitta aggravating due to their teekshna and katu nature. Chillies are best avoided for everyone, but especially if you already have Pitta complaints like hair thinning, premature greying, high blood pressure, acidity, high stress, etc.

Making these minor diet corrections will help remove liquefied kapha, prevent toxin deposition and help us stay healthy in spring.

Staying healthy in spring (Vasanta): Right physical exercise

Vasanta is also a good time for physical exercise. We are advised to do it at a slightly lower level than we would have during winter.

The main purpose during exercise in Vasanta is to moderately (and not sharply) increase heat and provoke sweating in the body, to encourage drying and removal of excess Kapha dosha.

Staying healthy in Spring: Regular physical activity removes aggravated Kapha

There is another reason to recommend lower intensity of exercise. This is because we are currently in Adana Kala as per Ayurveda where the sun’s intensity is going to increase until Varsha season (monsoon ends). Adana kala is considered a time of depleting body energy as per Ayurveda.

So the ojas in the body can also deplete if we over-exercise or over-exert ourselves in any way. In fact in Summer (Greeshma) when the effects of Adana Kala + high agni peak and severely depleting, we are advised to do the least amount of exercise – please remember that we have to continue to do some form of exercise, but these are not the seasons to do high intensity marathon training, or 3 – 4 hour sessions in the Gym.

Staying healthy in spring (Vasanta) – other activities suggested

The Acharyas encourage us to spend time in the company of good friends and in Nature. Vasanta is the season where birds abound, and when Nature is lush and green with the profuse flowering of fragrant herbs and flowers. We are advised to picnic in gardens, visit river banks, and enjoy the season in pleasant hill stations.

Staying healthy in spring: drink the right warming drinks

Ayurveda does not universally advise to drink tea or coffee due to their many disturbing qualities. Also, neither of these drinks are native to the Indian sub continent, so many of us may not be naturally accustomed to their qualities. Coffee can intensely aggravated Pitta and tea can aggravate Vata. Neither quality is appreciated in any season, but particularly so in Vasanta.

Instead, Ayurveda suggests we sip specific, herbal warm drinks in Vasanta to aid expelling of liquid kapha. We can sip plain warm water, or water which has been boiled mildly with dried ginger powder (in cases of large volumes of aggravated mucous).  Do not drink too much Ginger water as it can heat up the body in large amounts.

You can sip 1 glass of warm ginger water per day, for a few days at a time, to help move aggravated Kapha , in case of high aggravation, out of the body.

Staying healthy in Spring: Spices like dried ginger help remove aggravated kapha in spring

A Spring health recipe: How to make Dried Ginger water:

Boil one glass of water until the water comes to a rolling boil. Switch off the gas. Add 1 teaspoon of freshly ground dried ginger powder. Allow the herb to steep for 4 – 5 minutes into the water. Strain. Do NOT sweeten. Sip through the day. Do NOT OD on this.

Staying healthy in spring (Vasanta) : Modified Taila Abhyanga with Mardana:

Taila abhyanga with emphasis on “Mardana” is a good practice in Vasanta. The right taila should be chosen which is warming and mala removing and not cooling. “Mardana” is the strong pressure filled kneading of limbs is recommended during Vasanta.

This Abhyanga modification forces liquefied Kapha through the body and out of it. This ensures that excess Kapha does not cool inside the body and create blockages. The limbs should be squeezed in a downward direction and not in an upward direction. This is an excellent practice to remove fatigue and lethargy caused by aggravated Kapha and helps your maintain health in spring.

Staying healthy in Spring: Taila Abhyanga and Mardana are recommended

 

Staying healthy in spring(Vasanta) – Modified Keshya Abhyanga (hair oiling):

Keshya abhyanga us strongly recommended as a Dincharya practice to cool additional Pitta in the scalp. However, in Vasanta where there is liquefied Kapha flowing through the body, adding a cooling practice without modifications, may intensify sneezing, coughs and colds, etc.

We recommend morning hair oiling in Vasanta, instead of night oiling. This ensures kapha does not aggravate in the body. As an additional precaution, we suggest applying oil that has been warmed well on the scalp with a longer head massage compared to other seasons. This improves absorption and slows down kapha aggravation.

Additionally, ensure that you oil the head in a room without a cold / draughty atmosphere. You may continue to use the Krya hair oil of your choice for Keshya Abhyanga. Please ensure you use Rasnadi choornam diligently after every hairwash.

Stay healthy in spring (Vasanta)  – Modified Snana (bath) with astringent herbs :

Snana is to be taken with pitta and kapha pacifying, slightly astringent and rooksha herbs. The choice of rooksha herbs is to help dry up excess Kapha. The choice of astringent is to deal with vitiated Pitta. This way we can avoid the oily pus filled breakouts, prickly heat and allergic skin conditions that are common in Vasanta.

Application of these astringent herbs on skin as a paste, helps open the minor Srotas and helps in removal of mala through the body. It also enhances circulation and ensures liquefied Kapha does not get solid and block the minor channels.

Staying healthy in Spring: Snana is to be done with astringent, drying herbs

All Krya Ubtans and bodywashes contain a good volume of astringent, Kashaya and slightly rooksha herbs. So you may continue to use your existing Krya Bodywash / Ubtan in this season. We advise a few Snana modifications as given below:

  • Have a bath in warm Water. Use only warm water to make a paste with your Krya bodywash / Ubtan
  • Use large circular motions while applying the bodywash / ubtan. Once you have covered the body, repeat this scrubbing action again all over the body (without adding more product). This intensifies the Srota cleaning and Mala expelling action.
  • Once Snana is complete, quickly dry the body and dress warmly in a non-draughty room which is not cold. Do not delay this as presence of water on skin can again aggravate Kapha.
  • When doing a hair wash, always use Rasnadi choornam. Ensure you inhale the choornam as well.


12. womens ubtan

To conclude:

The emphasis in Ayurveda is always on following a life of balance and moderation, along with carefully chosen , sensible, health giving practices. When we follow this method, we are guaranteed both Ayu and Ayush (long life and health) as per our Acharyas.

Many of the problems we face as we live our busy and chaotic lives in cities is because we are unable to balance the excesses we face. So we end up over using our eyes, over commuting, eating the wrong kind of food, and ignoring what we must be doing in each season.

Following Dinacharya and Ritucharya guidelines is the greatest investment you can make in your health. We hope this post gave you an idea of how you stay healthy in Spring.  If you have any doubts in the above, please do drop a comment or write to us.

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Eating for Good Health – An Ayurvedic Perspective : Part 1

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Reading Time: 11 minutes

I am often asked what Ayurveda prescribes as a healthy diet. I hesitate to write down a fixed diet plan for many reasons: there are many diet fads these days which have become accepted as healthy diets (for example the vegan diet, keto diet, millets diet, etc). Most of this is contrarian to the principles espoused in the texts.

1. universally healthy

The second is that Ayurveda is the ultimate customised medicine. The texts opine that health, regimen and medicine should all be customised to the individual, and what works for one individual is especially unique to him / her. Therefore, what works for you is a customised blend of your food culture, what you are used to your prakriti, and where you live.

2. customised approach
The third is a very interesting reason: Ayurveda recognises the importance of “patterns and habits” in the way we eat, behave and live. The Acharyas tell us that even a great diet. Or a set of behaviours considered universally healthy cannot be suddenly introduced to the system, as the system, which has reached a sense of balance with whatever it is doing, will rebel in shock. So for someone who has persisted on a diet of fried bacon, bread and no vegetables, cannot be suddenly asked to substitute fish for fried bacon and introduced to a whole lot of vegetables. The Acharyas tell us that for the system that has been used to food which we consider unhealthy will react to healthy food (if introduced suddenly) like it would react to poison!

3. gradual is better

Obviously our notion of what is healthy food ad not healthy food will have to vary by region, season and availability of food. So if you live in a dry, hot desert I cannot tell you to eat broccoli all the time, despite the fact that it is considered a nutritional superfood.

 

So rather than speak about specific foods to eat, we focus our posts on how to eat. We saw a post this week on eight Ayurvedic eating techniques, and how chewing food well, eating on time, eating when hungry, etc are timeless principles of healthy living. We saw how even the right foods eaten wrongly can cause distress to the body.

 

Speaking further on foods to eat, here is our 2 part series on Ayurvedic eating for good health. Again, these posts are in the form of eating principles, and cover aspects of eating like ethical diets (vegan / vegetarian), eating timings etc. These are atleast as important as what you eat, so do read on.

 

As with all new information, please read this with an open mind. The science of Ayurveda has evolved over thousands of years and is extremely sophisticated in its understanding of both food and its effect on human beings. Many of the things I have written down may seem contrarian to what we believe in now – but the system has survived and thrived for thousands of years

  1. Timing is everything (in health, food & life)

The time of eating is at least as important as what you eat and depending upon your body’s condition, it is sometimes more important than what you eat.

Every organ system is said to have a particular time to cleanse itself and do necessary repairs. For example, the liver, the seat of pitta in our body, cleanses itself around midnight. Cleansing of organ systems occurs ONLY after digestion is through, nutrients have been extracted and toxins have been removed from the body. So if you are eating dinner at 11 pm, your organ systems will NOT cleanse themselves, and will wait until the next available time slot to do so. Which means your body will feel dull and sluggish the next morning (especially if you are consistently eating late).

This does not mean you can get away with eating junk food like a burger everyday at 7 pm for dinner. Do read point 2.

This is corroborated by many systems of traditional medicine. TCM opines that the window to eat breakfast is between 7 am – 9 am. When you consistently eat breakfast after this window, your chi energy or stomach fire energy gets weak and dampened. This in TCM is said to lead to digestive disorders, high production of gas in the system and an inability to digest foods leading to a high accumulation of toxins.

4.damp agni

 

  1. Ideal food is local, freshly cooked, lightly spiced and eaten warm. No spoiled food should be eaten. And no food should be stored, re-heated and eaten.

Ayurveda frowns upon the wonders of modern food preservation. In fact, the Charaka Samhita specifically says that for good health one should not eat too much of pickles, traditional papads or even traditionally salted and preserved vegetables (like vadagam and vathal).These references are to HOME MADE preserved vegetables, lentils and fruits. So this definitely rules OUT eating preserved, commercially processed foods like biscuits, sauces, etc which have a shelf life of 1 year or more (so most of the time we are eating stuff that has been made at-least 6 months ago in a factory and would contain several harmful chemical preservatives).
5. processed food
Local in Ayurveda means something that not only grows naturally within 100 miles of where you live. It also means eating foods you and your digestive system are accustomed to. So if you have grown up eating rice, rice will suit your system the most. Not quinoa. And not even millets. Any new food must be slowly introduced to your digestive system. (This does not take away from your responsibility of sourcing high quality food. Most of us grew up eating untainted, pesticide-free food – so this naturally means you should source the same now. And not just buy the first available pesticide sprayed pack of rice you find in the supermarket).

6. local food
The point about spoiled food is an interesting nuance and goes to our food culture. For example cheese eating is not a practice that is universal to many parts of India. It is usually common only in cold and hilly regions. In hot and humid regions, fermenting a dairy based food will quickly lead to rot, mildew and fungus. However the same food is very well preserved in a cold, hilly region.

Cheese, especially aged cheese, tends to be very salty, sharp and concentrated. In Ayurveda, this has all the makings of a pitta food group. So it makes sense to eat this food, if it is eaten traditionally, in a cold, hilly region where the atmosphere is low in pitta dosha. The pitta in the food is welcome to stimulate digestion.

7.cheese

However in a hot, humid city like Chennai or Hyderabad, where the atmosphere is full of Pitta, the pitta dosha from the cheese would over stimulate pitta dosha. Which is probably why in practice, it does not form a part of traditional food.

If you live in the city of your childhood, it is probably best to stick to your traditional food practice. If you live in a foreign city, it is still better to stock to your traditional food unless the weather and climate is dramatically different from what you are used to. If you are living in an utterly foreign land, it makes sense to slowly acclimatise and add foods and eating practices local to where you live, while continuing to eat traditionally most of the time.

 

  1. An ideal food for you is something that is digested quickly by you and puts the least amount of stress on your digestive system. This can differ from person to person.

Ayurveda believes the more effort the body has to take in digesting your food, the more energy is diverted away from your organ systems. Also, depending upon your state of health, if your food is difficult to digest, there is a possibility that your body will not complete the job of digestion within the allotted time. The longer your food sits in your body without being processed, the more poisonous it becomes to your body.

8.putrefecation

 

Food that is undigested and sits around in your body becomes “Ama” or undigested waste + toxin. Ama prevents the healthy functioning of your organ systems and leads to faster aging and illness. Ama can accumulate across every organ system, but is linked primarily to an improperly functioning digestive system, brought on by eating improper food.

Now how your digestive system will respond to your food group is completely unique. Some of us can easily digest fried food, and can eat copious quantities of this without losing sleep or productivity. Others are extremely sensitive to certain food groups: a single Chinese meal can set us back by 2 – 3 days when we feel dull and sluggish.

9.digestive ability
These digestion patterns tend to change as we age, and by season. They also change when we are under a high amount of stress. So it is important to listen carefully to your body and develop a sense of what works for you. Limit food experimentation to a window where you can take the consequences, and always plan for “cheat” or “treat” days.

  1. Many foods we think are healthy and should be eaten in copious quantities are considered unhealthy in Ayurveda

Many foods that we now consider healthy and are eating a lot of are considered difficult to digest in Ayurveda or are considered unbalanced as they are very high in one particular dosha: these include raw vegetables (yes salads!), raw sprouts, millets, brown rice or cereals with a high amount of husk on them, fermented foods like idly and dosa, cheese, curd, milkshakes. These must be eaten with the proper preparation and caution and at times when the body is capable of digesting them.

Example 1: Fermented foods like idly and dosa are considered high in pitta as they are sour foods. Eating them every day for breakfast will mean your pitta will increase. It is important to balance them with something like a coconut based dish as coconut is both cooling (and high in kapha) and will balance the pitta in the idly / dosa. (Please note that this does not apply if you spike your coconut chutney with an impossibly high amount of green chillies). Eating a fermented food with another pitta heavy dish like a Sambhar high in tamarind or acidic tomato based chutney will not be balanced.

10.idly

 

In this there is obviously a gradation. Freshly fermented idlis are lower in pitta dosha than 3 day old batter. Batter made at home is obviously superior to something bought from outside, because we can guarantee that no other additives like baking soda have been added. Idlis eaten in cold winter season are better for the body compared to idlis eaten in summer.

 

This is because in winter, the heat of the Idlis through Pitta dosha is opposite to the cold produced by the winter – so the load on the body is less. But an idly eaten is summer is far more stimulating to Pitta dosha.

 

When you are suffering from an intense imbalance of Pitta dosha, eating an idly everyday for breakfast can throw you out of gear and is not advisable.  The key, as always is finding balance.

 

Example 2: Raw foods are considered “lekhaniya” (scraping quality), and depending upon what kind of raw foods we are describing, they may be “rooksha” (dry), rough, and “guru” or difficult to digest.

 

An example of a “guru” raw food is raw beetroot. An example of a “rooksha” and “guru” raw food are raw sprouts. From a western, raw food perspective, eating raw food is considered healthy as we get access to many nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are destroyed when cooking. So eating the raw food as a juice, smoothie or as a salad is considered health boosting.

11.raw
Ayurveda however says that the process of digesting this raw food dampens or weakens Agni, hence this food is not properly digested (especially when consumed in quantities that are much higher than what we are used to). So despite eating healthy foods, we could be increasing the ama in our body as the act of digesting this healthy food has weakened Agni.

 

Seasonal fruits and fruit juices are not necessarily a part of this list. But even here, temperance is advised – you cannot suddenly force the body to eat, digest properly and assimilate a very large quantity of fruit juice of fruit salad. Depending upon your constitution this can aggravate Agni, leading to diarrhoea, or leave you feeling sluggish and listless.

12.fruits
Example 3: Millets are now extremely popular across South India as a healthy replacement to rice. Ayurveda however considers many Millets as dry and difficult to digest, which makes sense as they are traditionally dry land crop. Substituting rice completely with Millets will mean that your vata dosha will increase. This is welcome if you have a health condition like diabetes where kapha dosha is high – so here the vata of the Millets will balance excess Kapha. In fact, millet is prescribed in diabetes for just this reason instead of rice. But if you have no such health conditions and have decided to substitute rice completely with Millets, you will be drying out your body, especially if you do this very suddenly.

13.millets
The benefits of Millets must of course be experienced by you. But this should form a part of your experimentative 10% and must be prepared using the correct format and in doses where your body does not rebel or where other symptoms like aggravated vata dosha develop.

 

Here are some of the ways you can experiment with Millets:

Changing the format of the cereal changes how your body digests it – In millets, flour is easier to digest as you have broken down the cereal physically and are not depending upon your digestive system to do this job. So if you would like to introduce Millets into your diet, perhaps Millet flour is a better first step instead of the millet grains.

13.millet flour
The timing of eating is everything, especially for a difficult to digest food. Noon time, when the sun is at its peak, is considered the time when your digestive system is the strongest. So this is the time your body can handle the rigors of digesting a difficult to digest food. Like millets. OR Quinoa. (After preparing it properly).

14.lunch
This list which I have compiled is by no means complete or a prescription in itself. This merely represents a starting point to think about your diet and your health. As with everything, your body and your health are unique and what works for you is something you will have to evolve with time and experimentation.

Part 2 of this post will tackle more of what Ayurveda says about food. In the meantime, do remember, there are no shortcuts to good health and good looking skin and hair. It is built meal by meal, and choice by choice.


Krya’s range of skin care products for pitta prone, normal to oily skin can be found here. Our skin range for vata prone, normal to dry skin can be found here. Our anti acne skin care products can be found here.   Apart from this, we have a range of products for Sensitive Skin (skin that is eczema, dermatitis & psoriasis prone) and for Sun Tanned skin . We also have a large range of Abhyanga-Snana products. 

9-ubtan

Our products are inspired by Ayurveda. completely natural, toxin free and extremely effective. If you would like help choosing the right Krya product for your skin, please call us (075500-89090) or write to us.


 

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The role of sweat & sebum in healthy skin – the Krya Ayurvedic skincare series

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Reading Time: 8 minutes

Our new series on Ayurvedic skin care and how to look after your skin well this winter will run all this month on Krya. We ran a short poll earlier last week asking for suggestions for this week’s series. Unsurprisingly, 2 topics were very popular: winter skin care and suggestions on improving hair length and volume.

25 years ago, many parts of India would have laughed at the very idea of “winter skin care”, especially cites in the deep South like Chennai, which enjoyed warm, sunny weather through the year. But a combination of reasons has made winter come even to Chennai. Global warming, change in rain and seasonal patterns and most importantly, winter like conditions throughout the year, courtesy the freezing temperatures at work.

If you live in a humid 40 degree Celsius climate and go to work in a cold, dry 16 degree office, your body is going to get confused. And when the weather outside changes from 4 degrees to 25 degrees, and your office is still cranking the temperature to 16 degrees, your skin is certainly going to suffer.

It would come as no surprise to any of you, that the Ayurvedic skin care regimen in winter is surprisingly effective. And it involves the regular use of just 2 products: skin oil and a facial cleaner. For those inclined, a facial mask that is applied occasionally (once a week / once a fortnight), can further improve skin quality.

1. surprisingly effective

For those of us used to reading about a 7 step or a 11 step skin care routine involving many expensive serums and different kinds of products, hearing about how Ayurveda recommends using just a skin oil and a grain based wash may leave us feeling deflated. However, as we have written about before, the recommendations from Ayurveda come from a well researched, extensively documented, tried and tested 5000 year old system – and most of us who use Ayurvedic products know how effective they are.

We start the Ayurvedic skin care series with today’s post on sweat and sebum: read on to find out just why sweat and sebum are such important health and skin markers and why Ayurveda recommends such a simple skin care regimen.

 

Ayurveda on skin:

Western science tells us that skin has 3 layers. Acharya Charaka and Sushruta have magnified this further and tell us that skin has 7 layers, as per Ayurveda. The classical texts tell us that just as cream rises to the surface and covers milk when it is being boiled, so also, the 6 layers of “Tvacha” or “Twak” (human skin, rise from the fertilised zygote and form a layer similar to cream, covering the surface of the body.

2. skin and cream

The skin is our largest excretory and heat exchange organ system (second to the kidneys). Skin also contains a very large number of Srotas (minute openings / pores), through which the body understands external temperature and humidity, and also waste products are passed out.

The skin also plays host to a very large set of micro flora. These organisms act as our first line of defence. When this microflora barrier is strong, the entry of hostile micro organisms is prevented, so we do not fall ill easily, no matter the provocation.

 

The sweating mechanism of skin and the srotas:

Sweat is a combination of discarded water and salts that arise through the normal excretory functions of the body. Just like the kidneys filter out toxins and waste materials through urine, the skin filters out waste materials and salts from the circulatory and lymph systems and eliminates it through the Srotas (minute openings / pores ) found on the surface of skin.

Sweat is an important mechanism to filter out impurities or unwanted materials from the blood and lymph system. It is also a heat exchange mechanism, and helps cool the body through evaporation.

3. sweat

Fro the sweating mechanism to function properly, the srotas of the skin need to be completely clean, unclogged, at the right pH and with the right level of natural oils to do their job.

The Acharyas describe each Srota as a slim, minute tubular structure with a mouth like opening. If the Srota is not oiled and cleansed properly, the structure loses its elasticity and its ability to draw out impurities from the blood and move it to the surface of the skin.

What impairs sweat production in our skin?

Our actions and our lifestyle choices can hamper the production of sweat. In a normal, healthy human being, sweat production is balanced. However, when your dosha balance is impaired, you are eating food that accumulates ama, or your digestive system is out of balance, the body accumulates a high amount of toxins and the sweating mechanism struggles under the weight of this.

So if you are sweating too much or too little, it is a sign of imbalance. The odour of sweat also gives us a sense of the level of toxins in the body. Excessive body odour usually indicates imbalanced pitta or high levels of Ama (toxins) in the body.

4. odour

 

Elasticity of Srotas through oiling

Even if your eating is healthy and your doshas are in a reasonable state of balance, your choice of skin regimen can also affect the health of the srotas. To be able to contract and expand properly in order to push out Ama, Srotas need to be well nourished and retain their elasticity.

If oil application to skin is negligible or non-existent, the srotas struggle to expand and contract properly without losing their structural integrity.

5. dried srotas

Cleanliness of Srotas

Similarly, if the srotas have an accumulation of dead skin and foreign matter, they are unable to properly expel waste material. This is often the case when Skin is cleansed with a synthetic soap or body wash.

The Ayurvedic texts list out the large and small orifices in the body in great detail and also enumerate the mala (impurities) that accumulate as a part of normal wear and tear from the dhatus in these orifices. Moisture of the tongue, eyes, mouth, excretions of the eyes, ears tongue, teeth, axilla, genitals, pimples, greasiness of facial skin, sweda (sweat) , sebum secretions of kesha (hair) are all mala from the dhatus (tissues).

If this mala is not removed periodically, especially in seasons where the mala can increase, the body loses its health and appearance of well being. It is only by thorough cleaning these minute pores, and removing debris and dead cells that could clog these channels, can the body be truly clean.

The Mala or toxins from many organ systems find their way to our Skin. From the skin, they are released outside through the outpouring of Sweda or sweat. Sweda contains Mala from the body in the form of oil, debris, dead cells, vapour or gases and debris of micro flora or the small organisms that live on us. This is generated everyday as we sleep through the normal process of cell and organ system repair and regeneration.

 

To cleanse this Mala from the Skin, the Ayurvedic texts recommend using a specific combination of lentils, grains and specific herbs that suit each kind of prakriti. The action of this cleansing product is extremely subtle – unlike a synthetic soap, the Ayurvedic Snana product opens up the pores of the skin, encouraging the removal of Mala through the srotas of the skin. The most minute pores of the skin are gently encouraged to open up and this opening action helps suck out Mala which adheres to the Ayurvedic ubtan as it cleanses the skin. Finally when the skin is rinsed with water, the entire body is left feeling refreshed, lighter, deep cleansed and ready for the new day.

6. cleanser

Sebum and its use on skin:

When we were growing up, every anti acne commercial talked about “oil on skin” and how, this was the cause of the large, pus filled pimples we got with distressing regularity. So many of us spent our teenage years over washing and using stronger and stronger surfactants on skin in an attempt to dry out this oil.

However, despite what the commercials tell you, sebum has a very important role to play in skin and body health.

Natural sebum performs 2 functions. Because of its thick and sticky texture, it adheres to dirt, bacteria and their foreign micro organisms and prevents them from invading our internal body. By forming these agglomerations, sebum helps these substances get easily removed from our body.

7. sebum on dirt

Sebum also helps maintain the elasticity and pliability of the various layers of skin. It also acts as a bonding layer keeping the layers of skin attached to each other. When it is in the right amount, and is in balance, skin has a smooth, pliant and elastic structure. The skin is also clear and radiant and functions in a healthy and normal manner.

The same sebum is present on our scalp as well. Here it is present in a slightly thicker and more copious amount. Here the sebum helps cool the scalp and also allows the hair to be deep rooted and strong, when present in the correct amount.

 

What impairs the sebum production in our skin?

Internal reasons

Just like we saw with sweat production, the choices we make can impair the production of sebum on our skin and scalp leaving us with either too much or too little sebum for our skin.

When we eat greasy, sweet and clogging food, we encourage both the production of ama and impair the functioning of sebum so too much sebum is produced. This excessive sebum tends to clog the srotas, and can also form pockets of trapped dirt and bacterial organisms on our skin which are called blackheads, whiteheads or acne.

8. greasy food

 

When we eat plenty of drying, crisp food, do not hydrate our bodies adequately and consume foods or drinks that remove biological water from our bodies like tea, coffee and cola, we impact the normal production of sebum. The body is unable to produce the right amount of sebum for our skin’s needs, so we find that our skin is dry in patches, has cracked, has started forming wrinkles and is coarse and dehydrated.

9. dehydrating

 


External reasons

When we frequently wash our skin with the wrong products, we find that our sebum dries out much quicker than our skin can replenish it. This is especially true when we use foaming, surfactant based cleansers on skin. These substances can literally suck our skin dry of sebum and “bubble out oil” from our skin.
10. cleansers

When skin is subjected to such an aggressive cleansing routine, it retaliates by hiking up the sebum levels unevenly through the skin. So you will find that the skin is oily and shiny in patches and in these places, you are likely to have breakouts or acne.

Ironically, when skin is cleansed right, with gentle, non-dehydrating substances, the sebum production balances automatically. You do not need to worry about shiny or patchy looking skin, or breakouts.

 

The Ayurvedic skin care routine: Nourish & cleanse for proper sebum and Sweat production

We are going to, over the course of this month, discuss how you can care for your skin much better using what Ayurveda recommends. We have seen consistently, that when these simple guidelines are adhered to, even the most problematic of skin calms down and looks better. Skin develops good health and its functioning is much improved. The external mechanisms of sweat and sebum work properly. And skin looks naturally radiant and healthy.

So here is a thought we would like to leave you with for today: for your skin to look its best, you must nourish it (with the right skin oil) and cleanse it (with a non foaming, herb and grain based cleanser). This simple routine when followed religiously will help your skin stay in good health.

Krya has a range of skin nourishing facial oils and a wide range of facial and body cleansers that work with skin and not against it.

Explore our skin oils here . 

Explore all our facial skin cleansers and masks here . 

Explore all our body skin cleansers here . 

 

 

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Krya formulation Tuesdays – Krya classic skin oil with Manjishta & Chandana for oily skin

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Reading Time: 10 minutes

I recently received an email from a consumer asking for help to choose the right skin care products for her. She is a 21 year old girl who lives in a very hot and dry climate where temperatures are usually between 37 – 40 deg centigrade. She found that her skin was going dry in summer, so she opted for a reputed brand of moisturizing face wash (synthetic).

At first, her skin responded well and the sense of dryness was gone. Within a few weeks of continuing to use the face wash, this young girl found that her skin started to get much oilier than normal, and whiteheads and blackheads started to crop up.

Here’s where Ayurveda’s subtle nuances on diagnosing exactly which dosha is unbalanced can help us. Regular cosmetic science simply diagnoses dry skin as well, dry skin. So skin is simply subjected to an oilier lotion with a higher number of humectants. As all synthetic creams and lotions are made from a base that is derived from petroleum, we see that the product tends to be comedogenic (pore clogging) and is also not absorbed by the skin.

1.when dry skin isnt really dry skin

So any difference we see is surface, and we are not helping the skin at a deeper level. Also, because of the pore clogging nature of the products themselves, we are interfering with or impairing the normal functioning of the skin underneath.

 

Prakriti (individual constitution): a valuable tool to identify the correct dosha imbalance in skin

Ayurveda classifies our prakriti as the unique mixture of doshas that make up who we are. This is made unique by taking in factors like our age, the season, the climatic conditions where we live, the current stresses we go through, our life stage, etc.

Each of these factors contribute to our prakriti at any point in time. Depending upon where we live, season, age, etc, our natural prakriti may see an increase in specific doshas or a decrease in specific doshas. This can cause an imbalance which can lead to skin, hair or other health issues.

 

Example 1: Life stage and diet affecting prakriti

Take the case of a Vata-Pitta prakriti individual. She is around 30, and has just delivered a baby 2 months ago. She is not following standard pathiyam diet and is instead eating a lot of sour and spicy food. Her hair is greying and is also looking very dry, with brittleness and snapping of the hair when ebbing combed.

 

In Ayurveda, we would analyse her condition thus:

Being a Vata-Pitta prakriti individual, she is already subject to the drying, mobile influence of Vata and heating influence of Pitta. As she is in her 30s, age-wise she is in Pitta dominant stage of her life. As she has just given birth and has not followed proper pathiyam and post partum abhyanga, her Vata dosha will be in excess. As she is now eating Pitta increasing foods, pitta prakriti will also be in excess.

2.post partum greying

 

So we see vata and pitta vitiated condition in hair like premature greying, drying of scalp, and brittleness of hair. If we further question her, we may also see dryness and redness in skin, presence of youvana pidaka (acne on back and skin), aches and pains in the back and hips and IBS or constipation depending upon what is being eaten.

For this lady, we should give pitta and vata pacifying (shramana) measures. Her diet must be corrected, eating timings must be regulated, and vata pacifying measures like Abhyanga should be adopted. Hair oiling must be done with a pitta reducing oil and ghee intake and stomach and back exercises must be done to regulate both doshas and promote strength and vitality in the body.

 

How is skin diagnosed in Ayurveda: an example

Taking the example of the young girl who had written to us about her skin. She is 21, and lives in a hot and dry climate. In this age, pitta is generally dominant. Pitta may have gotten worse by the pitta in the environment because of high temperature.

Skin can go dry in Ayurveda because of 2 reasons: Vata dosha dominant climate so in peak winter, due to cold weather, we see “rooksha” or roughness in the skin.

Skin can also go dry in hot sum. So when we spend a day at the beach, or stay outside in very hot weather, we see that the skin goes dry and parched when the sun removes moisture from the skin. Tanned skin is also dry due to high heat. However, it does not crack like skin does in cold and dry weather. Instead it burns and becomes tight and uncomfortable due to excess pitta.

3. sun aggravated dryness

 

The herbs and anupana used for vata related dryness and pitta related dryness will therefore be completely different. For vata related dryness, we use moisture-rich herbs and seeds like almonds, charoli, and sweet herbs like Yashti (Liquorice) and damage repairing herbs like Ashwagandha.

The herbs and anupana used for pitta related dryness are quite different. We use pitta balancing herbs like Neem, Durva, Sariva, etc. All these herbs suck out excess Pitta and improve the skin pigmentation and darkening brought in by excess pitta. We use circulation and rakta rejuvenating herbs like Manjishta and Daru haridra. We also use rejuvenatory and skin improving herbs and fruits like Brahmi, Mangoes, etc.

4. neem

 

 

Facial care in Ayurveda: cleansing rules

Skin cleansing is done following a rigid set of rules in Ayurveda. Skin is always cleansed with a well thought out combination of herbs, grains and lentils. This ensures that the skin’s pH and barrier function is well maintained. Depending upon the prakriti of the individual and ritukala (season), specific herbs are added to the base.

When cleansed this way, the sebum levels in the skin are never suddenly depleted or added to. Skin remains soft and does not feel parched and tight. Most importantly, the cleansing is strongly functional and removes clogs and toxins from the cells leaving the skin free to continue its normal functioning.

5. gentle ayurevdic clenaisng

Facial skin is always cleansed in cool or luke warm water. The cleansing is done using gentle circulatory movements and is done after yogic exercise or any sort of movement to help flush out toxins from the skin pores.

 

The role of lepas (creams), oils and leave on masks in Ayurveda:

Try as we might we do not see references to leave on skin products in Ayurveda. Certain lepas (creams) are formulated specifically for diseased skin conditions like burns where the skin requires the healing effect of herbs and cannot be left open and unprotected.

Masks or short leave on products are routinely referenced too and used in Ayurveda. Sometimes this could be a part of the bathing routine itself where the ubtan / bathing powder is itself used like a mask. Sometimes, a specially formulated mask is used to transfer the healing and repairing properties of the herbs to skin.

6. lepas and masks

 

The concept of emulsions is very well known in Ayurveda: so many ancient recipes for Ayurvedic creams exist. However, lotions are not a common skin care format in Ayurveda. For skin application, different kinds of oils are routinely used.

 

Many specific facial oils are referred to in Ayurveda: kumkumadi tailam is one such formulation, which has now become extremely well known (we will do a separate post on this later on the Krya blog). This is a very ancient formulation said to have been developed by the Ashwini Kumaras. Kumkumadi tailam is generally used for youvana pidaka (Acne) or skin which has hyper pigmentation, blemishes and darkening due to excess pitta or sun exposure.

7. kumkumadi tailam

Generally even these facial oils are used pre-bath. The texts also allow for application at night on damp skin in very minute quantity. When doing a leave on application of any skin care product, we must take great care to understand the right dosage of the product for our skin. The product must be easily absorbed by the skin and should not persist, and clog its pores.

 

How does very dry skin occur as per Ayurveda:

I often receive emails from consumers stating that their skin is very dry and literally “drinks up” moisturiser. So they are dismayed when I tell them I have no natural substitute to their leave on moisturiser. Being used to routinely applying a leave on moisturiser, our no-moisturiser-on-skin policy is received with dismay.

 

Here are some points where Ayurveda differs when it comes to slathering skin with moisturiser:

  • Skin is supposed to perspire and do heat exchange with the atmosphere keeping the rest of the body cool
  • Sweda (sweat) is an important vehicle to remove excess salts, and toxins which are excreted form the body. The proper production of Sweda supports other excretory organs like the kidneys which can get overloaded if your skin does not do its work
  • Therefore the goal of Ayurvedic skin care is to properly moisturise the skin and all its layers and then cleanse it well so the minor srotas (circulatory channels) are open and functioning well to do their job of heat regulation and cleansing.

8. Sweda

This leads me to the main reason many of us like using a moisturiser: dehydration due to the AC at home / work.

 

Skin dehydration due to high usage of the air conditioner:

If we work in an air conditioned environment, we are subjecting our skin and body to microbes which are constantly being circulated in the stale air, low humidity and temperatures which are not ideal for the body. Living and working in an air conditioned environment sharply increases vata in the body so skin becomes dry, and aches and pains increase. When vata aggravating food is added to this (tea, coffee, crisp, and dry food, junk food), the vata aggravates even more.

10.ac and coffee

In this environment, it is good to eat a meal which is rich in good fats like ghee, avoiding dehydrating drinks like tea and coffee and taking breaks from the ac environment to give your body a break. It is also important to stay hydrated and ensure you drink a minimum amount of clean water (preferably warm) to keep vata from being unbalanced.

 

The use of Ayurvedic facial oils to supplement skin healing, nourishment and moisture retention:

When you eat right, cleanse right, and broadly live right and either avoid the ac or supplement for the AC, you will find that your skin is able to generate enough sebum to protect it.  A weekly Abhyanga is a very important health giving practice that is extremely beneficial to skin and hair health as well. Once this is done, skin requires only small amounts of external moisturisation to aid it during difficult seasons like winter or to overall boost its radiance and lustre.

 

Therefore a popular Krya recommendation is the use of appropriate facial oil, in very small doses to help the skin balance and heal itself. The facial oil is usually applied in very small quantities before a bath and left on for 15 minutes before cleansing, if the skin is very dry to begin with. This helps protect the skin until its health is restored and it is able to help itself.

9. moisture plus skin oil

 

Another very beneficial way to use facial oil is at night. Here we use even smaller quantities of oil, as a little oil goes a very long way o skin. Facial oil is applied 1 hour before sleeping on clean, damp skin. The slight amount of dampness on skin helps take up the oil being applied. Precisely 3 – 4 drops of facial oil are used and very gently and lightly massaged onto damp skin using the ring finger. The oil is left on at night.

—-

The needs of different kinds of skin vary, and skin also needs sometime getting used to a new routine. We advise that you start slowly (application before bath) and then graduate to night time use. When in doubt, use less product and not more.

 

The Krya Classic skin oil with Papaya and Jatamamsi:

We have been working and re-working our formulation with the classic range for some time now. This variant has been in existence at Krya for more than 1.5 years now, and with every successive batch, we have made minor tweaks to the formulation based on our growing body of research and consumer feedback.

 

The Krya Classic skin oil with Manjishta and Chandana has been formulated with 22 nourishing, oil balancing and pitta balancing herbs and fruits like Manjishta, Chandana (Sandal), Lodhra, Brahmi, Neem. We also add complexion enhancing and blemish reducing seasonal fruits like papaya into the oil.

11. Krya classic skin oil resized

The oil also uses sneha (oils) like Neem and Tamanu which classically help balance sebum secretion and are useful for pitta prakriti skin.

 

As we have seen in the example shared above, even Pitta prakriti skin can go dry in certain conditions. This is a dryness which comes with excess heat, so a skin moisturising product that works with skin without disturbing Pitta and adding excess oiliness will suit this skin. Continued use of the product helps work on minor skin blemishes, scars and evens out skin tore and lustre. The anti bacterial nature of many of the herbs and oils used also helps preventing microbial infection and the occurrence of cystic acne with regular use.

 

To sum up:

On Formulation Tuesdays, we generally focus a lot on how we make the formulations we discuss for that day, and our philosophy behind the herbs, oils and manufacturing process followed. As I re-read my post, I notice that the post discusses the concept of Ayurvedic skin care in much greater detail than the formulation itself.

I hope this background was useful to you and you were able to understand, appreciate and resonate with the differences between how Ayurveda cares for your skin (vs. modern cosmetic products). Our ongoing Formulation Tuesday series is designed to improve transparency and give you a greater understanding into how we think about, design and manufacture our products. We believe that greater transparency promotes better choices and helps you make better decisions on what you apply o yourself or use around you in your home.

 

If you have any questions on our products, the philosophy behind our products, or a specific question on skin and hair, please do get in touch with us.
Krya’s skin oils can be explored here:

 

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Herb Thursdays at Krya – the ayurvedic properties & benefits of Bael (Aegle marmelos)

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Today we are going to speak about a herb that is considered an auspicious herb and is used in the worship of Lord Shiva. We are of course talking about Vilwa or Bael, Aegle marmalos, also called the Golden Apple or Bengal Quince. Vilwa is a tree native to India, Nepal and Myanmar. It is also present via naturalisation in countries like Malaysia and Sri Lanka.

1. vilwa

 

Like the south Indian soapberry which is called Sapindus trifoliatus due to its tri fruit arrangement, the Vilwa has trifoliate leaf arrangement with each leaf having 3 distinct leaflets. The Vilwa is a true Indian native, tolerant of a wide range of temperatures and can grow in a wide range of soil pHs and in unusually cold or unusually warm climates.

2. trifoliate leaflet structure

 

Religious, spiritual and cultural significance of Vilwa:

The Vilwa’s trifoliate leaf arrangement is of great significance in Hinduism. On one level the 3 leaflets signify the trinity of Brahmi, Vishnu and Maheshwara. On another level, the trifoliate leaflets also signify the 3 eyes of Shiva and point to an unusually awakened and spiritually charged plant.

3. trimurtis

The Skanda Purana says that the Vilwa tree grew from the sweat of Goddess Parvati, so she is set to reside in her different avatars in various parts of the tree – for example, the branches of Vilwa are said to be Dakshayani, the Vilwa fruit is Goddess Katyayani and Goddess Gauri, its flowers.

Apart from literally embodying the Shaktis, the Vilwa tree is also supposed to be auspicious to Goddess Lakshmi. So culturally, it is considered good form to do a circumambulation of a Vilwa tree for good luck before starting any new venture – especially if the Vilwa tree is the Sthala Vriksha of a temple.

 

The leaves of Vilwa are considered unusually spiritually charged in Hinduism and is said to reverberate with sattvic energy. Many forms of Shiva which are worshipped for health and well being use Vilwa leaf in their spiritual practice.

 

For example: the temple of Lord Marundeeswarara in Chennai is said to be the place where Lord Shiva initiated Acharya Agastya into Siddha medicine. Here the Prasad of Lord Shiva, his sacred Ash (vibuthi) is given to devotees in Vilwa patra (Vilwa leaf) which has been sanctified by placing it on the Shiva linga in the temple. This Vilwa leaf is said to be miraculous in curing disease and promoting well being.

4. marundeeswarar temple

 

The Vilwa tree is so sacred that the Atharva Veda says that it is a great sin to burn and use Vilwa wood for fuel or cooking. Even today some of the Santhal sub tribes worship the Vilwa tree as a totemic deity.

 

Vilwa’s Ayurvedic properties:

Vilwa is an extremely important herb in Ayurveda. Acharya Charaka describes Vilwa as a Shothahara (anti inflammatory), Arshoghna (useful in treatment of haemorrhoids). Vilwa balances both excess Kapha and excess Vata, removes Ama or undigested waste in the body

Vilwa leaf is used in gastritis, lack of appetite and to cure colds and sinusitis.  The leaf is an excellent external poultice for the eyes (when cleaned well0. The leaf is also used internally to cure pitta based complaints like ulcer, hypertension, jaundice, headache and other pitta aggravations.

5.detox

Vilwa fruit is very commonly used in Ayurveda. The unripe fruit is intense, stimulates digestion and balances vata and kapha. It is used in acute diarrhoea and also helps in ulcerative colitis.

The ripe fruit is very heavy to digest and may disturb the doshas if taken without supervision.

 

Vilwa in Krya:

At Krya, we often use certain herbs across all our products for their high sattvic effect and general auspiciousness. For example, Amla is usually added to every single Krya product because of its rasayana nature and also because it is a highly spiritually charged fruit. Similarly Vilwa is another such herb.

6. vilwa at krya

Vilwa goes into Krya’s classic and Anti acne skin formulations for its anti inflammatory, dosha balancing and astringent and cooling effect on skin. The addition of this very valuable herb helps our Classic and Anti Acne range work on imbalanced pitta, cool and soothe the skin, help in toxin elimination in the skin and also help shrink size of the acne on skin.Besides its very obvious health benefits, Vilwa, we believe, helps charge our products with high spiritual energy.

7.krya classic with vilwa

So there you have it: that’s a brief glimpse into the properties of Aegle marmelos /  Vilwa / Bael which goes many of Krya’s skin care products meant for pitta prakriti skin. As we have said before, Ayurvedic herbs are potent and strong, and must always be tailor made using the right anupana to suit your constitution. Do not attempt to self medicate. If you feel Vilwa could help you, please meet an Ayurvedic Vaidya who can diagnose your condition and prescribe Vilwa in the right dose and right format for you.

We do herb related posts at Krya to give you a glimpse into just how potent, powerful and good for us the plants used in Ayurveda are. We hope you found this post inspiring and useful. Do leave your thoughts and comments on this post below. If you would like us to write about a specific herb next Thursday, do leave that in your comments as well.

 

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Want to learn more about Ayurveda? Start with these 3 books [Book Review]

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Reading Time: 7 minutes

The Origins of Ayurveda

Ayurveda, the science of life, is of divine origin. The practice of Ayurveda as a holistic system of medicine is old as the Hindu religion itself and as old as the Indian civilization. In fact there was never a time in India, when Ayurveda was NOT there as a part of everyday life. Ayurveda therefore is based on first principles, that are accepted as fundamental truths and their application restores good health and promotes long life. Even after thousands of years, Ayurveda has survived and continues to thrive, which is Darwinian proof of Ayurveda’s importance to our life today.

In contrast , modern medicine (allopathy) relies on the effects of different drugs on the mere suppression of externally observable symptoms of diseases. Allopathy does not have any clearly defined first principles on what constitutes good health or the fundamental workings of the human body and mind. In fact the entire allopathic fraternity is completely silent on the vast, dizzying array of toxic side-effects of drugs and chemicals used in treatments. The fundamental quest in allopathy is the quick suppression of symptoms of disease using drugs and other chemicals – however this quest does not address the root cause of disease or the formulation of safe medicines without any side-effects whatsoever.

In Ayurveda, the fundamental quest is on the achievement of Ayu (long life) + Ayush (good health).

The Ayurvedic Canon

The Entire practice of Ayurveda today flows from 3 principal textbooks, which are the foundation of Ayurveda, known as the Brihat Trayi ( the Great Three), namely

  1. Charaka Samhita
  2. Sushruta Samhita
  3. Ashtanga Hrdaya

 

Of these 3 principal works, the Charaka Samhita and the Sushruta Samhita are the older works, respectively attributed to Acharyas Charaka and Sushruta , who lived around 3000 years ago. The most important point to note here is that these two works are “Samhita” , which is a compendium of the entire practice of Ayurveda at that point  in time. These Samhita are not the thoughts and ideas of their individual  authors; they are in fact a compilation of the collective evolution of thousands of years of evolution of Ayurveda, transformed from what was perhaps a purely oral learning tradition into the written form. The Charaka Samhita narrates that Ayurveda was originally in the divine realm created by Brahma and handed over to Indra and the devas and then to the Rishis like sage Atreya. It was sage Atreya made Ayurveda accessible to the earthly realm through his disciples. Of these disciples, Agnivesa is the most prominent and the Charaka Samhita is actually a compilation of the teachings of Sage Atreya as compiled by Agnivesa.

 

The Sushruta Samhita is the other ancient compendium of Ayurveda. It has a special significance as is the only work with chapters on Salya –Tantra ,which is Ayurvedic Surgery and Sushruta is acknowledeged as the “Father of Surgery”. This Samhita traces its lineage to Indra, who taught it to Dhanvantari who then passed on the teachings to Sushruta, the son of Viswamitra.

 

The Ashtanga Hrdaya was written several centuries after the two ancient Samhitas by Acharya Vagbhatta. It is so named as it addresses all eight ( ashtanga) branches of Ayurveda and unifies the two schools of Ayurveda of Caraka and Sushruta. This work attained such prominence that it now occupies a pre-eminent place in the Ayurvedic Canon as part of the Brihat Trayi.

 

The Caraka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita and Ashtanga Hridaya were written in Sanskrit and the editions of these works printed today usually contain a commentary in English, written by Ayurvedic Doctors.

 

In later years, around the 10th century, three important works, known as the Laghu Trayi ( the Lesser Three) were written , which attempted to simplify the essence of the Brihat Trayi for  Ayurvedic Doctors , without comprising on the application of the fundamental principles. These Laghu Trayi , named eponymously are

  1. Madhava Nidhana
  2. Sarangadhara Samhita
  3. Bhavaprakasha

 

The Ideal Ayurvedic Vaidya (Doctor)

Given the nature of Ayurveda, it is evident that a good Ayurvedic doctor must have mastery over Sanskrit and botany, possess a strong intellect to absorb the teachings of the Guru and compassion to effectively apply them for the well-being of his patients.

Caraka Samhita defines the ideal medical student as

“He should be of a mild disposition, noble by nature, never mean in his acts, free from pride, strong memory, liberal mind, devoted to truth, likes solitude, of thoughtful disposition, free from anger, of excellent character, compassionate, one fond of study, devoted to both theory and practice, who seeks the good of all creatures.”

—Caraka Samhita 3.VIII.6

 

So what does this mean for us today?

As a seeker of good health, it is important to be aware of the history and lineage of Ayurveda and its core principles in order to appreciate its application in our daily life.

Obviously, these classical texts of the Ayurvedic Canon, the Brihat Trayi and Laghu Trayi are not light reading material and are meant for the use of Ayurvedic Vaidyas. But Ayurveda is not merely about the treatment of diseases, it also defines the principles of good health that can be followed by us on a daily basis, to prevent disease and enjoy Ayush. These rules for healthy living are broadly classified as “Dinacarya” ( Daily Routines) , “ Ritucharya” ( Seasonal Routines) and Ahara Vidhi Vidhana ( Proper Nutrition)

Much as the Laghu Trayi attempted to distil the essence of the Brihat Trayi for Ayurvedic Practioners, hundreds of introductory books on Ayurveda are available today for laypeople. Our purpose in reviewing these books is not for the reader to self-diagnose himself and by-pass consultations with a good Ayurvedic doctor. These primers on Ayurveda should serve two purposes

  1. Help the reader appreciate the benefits of Ayurveda and develop an attitude of reverence.
  2. Provide guidance on good habits, derived from the first principles, which can be safely and easily implemented. Of course each Ayurvedic expert will have different interpretations of the principles based on their lineage, geographical origin and even the medicinal plants available to them.

Acharya Vagbhatta has said that 85% of diseases can be cured without a doctor and only 15% of diseases need a doctor. This important statement should be interpreted in the proper context. This statement was made at a time when Ayurveda was the only medicine and not an alternative option. Therefore each family had a continuous oral tradition of applying Ayurvedic principles to heal everyday problems and diseases, had access to the basic set of herbs required to prepare medicines at home.

This was also a time when the 4 pillars of Ayurvedic treatment, i.e “Ahara Vihara Achara Vichara” were also implicitly accepted as basis for treatment as opposed to seeking a quick-fix pill or surgery without any change to food habits or lifestyle. The 4 pillar of Ayurvedic treatment are:

Ahara : Correct Nutrition

Vihara : Correct activities

Achara : Correct lifestyle

Vichara : Correct thoughts

This is certainly not the case today in India and a complete revival of Ayurveda and use of medicinal plants over a few generations before we can re-create a society where families can handle 85% of common diseases through Ayurveda.

 

So here are 3 books that will introduce you to Ayurveda in a gentle yet profound way

  1. Jeevani : Ayurveda for Women by Dr PLT Girija

Dr PLT Girija is one of the leading Ayurvedic Doctors in India and is the founder of Sanjeevani Ayurveda Foundation, Chennai. Dr Girija is on a mission to restore Ayurveda to its pre-eminent position in India , where Ayurveda is the first and automatic choice of treatment for all diseases.

As the title of the book suggests, the focus in on Women’s health, where the concepts are explained in great detail in 16 chapters. Case studies from the practice at Sanjeevani Ayurveda Foundation makes this an in-valuable source of information.

jeevani

The title of the book however does not do justice to the wealth of information available in the additional chapters in the book which serve to give a complete perspective. These chapters cover basics of Ayurvedic nutrition, Dinacarya, Ritucharya, Simple home remedies and an Ayurvedic first-aid kit.

This well produced hard-back book, written in 2013, makes for compelling reading and easy application.

 

  1. Living Easy with Ayurveda by Dr JV Hebbar

Dr JV Hebbar is the leading Indian Ayurvedic blogger and is the force behind the health and lifestyle blog www.easyaurveda.com. His blog is possibly the most extensive and authentic Ayurvedic online resource . In recent times, a community of other Ayurvedic doctors have also started contributing to the blog , significantly expanding the value of the blog. The most important feature of this blog is its absolute reliance on the first principles as defined in the Brihat Trayi texts. Every article contains the original Sanskrit verse with translation, which gives authenticity and authority to the articles.

Dr Hebbar’s book, Living Easy with Ayurveda (available in e-book and print) is literally the easiest yet authentic introduction to Ayurveda. This comprehensive book is written in a very light, blog –like style, richly illustrated with personal examples from Dr Hebbar. The striking feature of the book is the emphasis on the immediate application of Ayurvedic principles in every facet of life without sacrificing technical rigor, for example, ideas for suitable clothing by dosha type (!)

living easy with ayurveda

  1. Everyday Ayurveda by Dr Bhaswati Bhattacharya

This well written, well produced book fulfills an important need in this space – it is written by an Indian origin person who was raised, educated and now practises in the West. Dr Bhaswati has deep roots and reverence for the Indian systems of knowledge and now applies them in a Western milieu which makes for a truly unique perspective. This book is note-worthy for the numerous personal examples used to illustrate Ayurveda in everyday life and emphasizes Dinacharya as the foundation for good health.

everyday ayurveda

The Ayurvedic Dincharyas: a system designed to prevent diseases and give you Ayu & Ayush

We wrote this blog post on request from our readers and consumers who were intrigued by what they read on Ayurveda in the Krya blog, and sought easy to understand simple Ayurvedic books to begin their self enquiry. We hope this post has given you 3 great books that you can read to begin your self study.

 

We’d like to leave you with something that Acharya Sushruta said:

” The right physician focuses on investing effort to ensure his patient never falls ill and diseases are prevented by following the 4 tenets of right living, i.e. “Ahara” (food), Vihara (activities), Achara (lifestyle) and Vichara (thoughts). “

This is a great way to think about your health as well. We hope this post has inspired you to look at different facets of your life and understand for yourself where the pressure points and invest some time behind understanding how you too can lead a more healthy life.

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How to do an Abhyanga (a self Ayurvedic Oil massage) the right way : Krya explains how you should do a weekly abhyanga for dosha balance and well being

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

Our last few posts on Abhyanga had had people asking us the all important question: “Exactly how should I do an abhyanga for good health?”.

Our post today focuses on this all important question. We write about the right abhyanga massage technique that should be followed, and what parts of the body must be focused on during the abhyanga massage. The abhyanga techniques we are writing about are applicable to teenagers, adult men and women for good health. We will have later posts dedicated to abhyanga especially for infants and babies, post partum women and the elderly.

 1.abhyanga

 

The importance of the Abhyanga for good health:

We have shared many reasons why an abhyanga is considered an essential “Dinacharya” – a practice to be done every single day for god health. Most of us are not able to find the time to do an Abhyanga every day, so the scriptures have suggested a bi-weekly Abhyanga as well, on specific days for men and women.

Abhyangam aacharet nityam sa jaraa shramavaataha 

Drushti prasaada pushti aayu susvapna twak daardhyakrut

Translated as:
Abhyanga should be done by everyone, everyday, especially old aged and tired people. It improves eye sight, nourishes muscles, and improves age (life expectancy) and skin complexion. – Ashtanga Samgraha Sutrasthana
.

 

The Abhyanga is done by massaging your entire body, and if possible your head, with a good quality, well chosen herbal oil after you wake up. We recommend using separate oils for the head and body with different set of herbs for best effect. The massage is done in a brisk and energetic manner, with the objective being of waking up the body, stimulating heat and allowing the herbal oil to penetrate, and then after 15 minutes, washing of the oil with a suitable natural, grain and herb based ubtan.

(We will see the specific steps in a few paragraphs below.)

 

General Health benefits of doing an abhyanga:

Here are some of the health benefits of a weekly / bi-weekly regular Abhyanga which accrue because the practice helps control excess vata and pitta dosha. Please note the use of the word “Accrue” – just like one swallow does not make a summer, one single abhyanga will not give you transformative health (although you will feed mighty good after even a single abhyanga). For true lasting, benefits you need to practice the Abhyanga week after week for atleast 2 – 3 months.

  1. Reduction in muscle fatigue, tiredness, and daily exhaustion
  2. Reduction in insomnia, inability to sleep

2.better sleep

  1. Improvement in digestive ability – reduced wind, reduced feeling of constipation, reduced feeling of incomplete bowel movements
  2. Better mental sharpness and clarity – you can go on longer without feeling tired, fatigued or irritable
  3. Better skin and hair health due to reduction in excess vata dosha – skin health improves almost immediately; hair health improves after a month of regular abhyangas (depending on extent of vata imbalance)

3.better skin better hair

 

The importance of choosing the right products for your Abhyanga:

Ayurveda tells us that when the abhyanga oil is prepared with the right herbs and applied warm with vigorous motion, the herbs in the oil, the temperature of the oil , and the heat generated by the massage help open up the minute pores / srotas in the skin. There is suction like effect as we continue to massage with the herbal oil. The texts tell us that the pitta in the skin helps absorb the properties of the oil, and vayu (air) transports these materials through the srotas into the seven layers of skin into the blood stream.

 7-krya-bhyanga-oil

This absorption effect is applicable not just when we do an abhyanga. It is also seen when we put lepas on our skin like a herbal ubtan, bath powder or any other cream, ointment and lotion.

Ayurveda tells us that skin has 7 layers, so continued massage of the oil in our skin for atleast 5 minutes in each area, carries the medicated oil through the srotas upto the level of the blood in the body and gets absorbed in the blood stream. Once absorbed the medicated oil goes to work in the area where it has been applied, balancing the doshas and removing excess pitta/ vata / kapha dosha.

4.herb transport

This is why it is so important to choose a completely natural set of products for use on the skin, as the property of the skin is to transport whatever is applied on it as nutrients into the bloodstream. Imagine the effect on our body of rubbing and applying synthetics like SLS, SLeS, Petroleum derivatives, and toxics like parabens, etc!

5.avoid toxins

It is also important to note that choosing the right abhyanga oil, can improve the health benefits of your abhyanga manifold.

 

Step by step description of how to do the abhyanga:

  1. Put a ¼ cup of Abhyanga oil in a small wide mouthed cup / vessel. Place this cup on a hot pan or in a small pan of boiling water for 5 minutes, until the Abhyanga oil in your cup is warm. We do not heat Ayurvedic oils directly so that we can retain their nutrient properties
  2. The Abhyanga oil should be comfortably and pleasantly warm – not too hot, and definitely not cold or cool.
  3. Sit or stand on an old towel in a closed room for your abhyanga. Ensure the room is free from draughts, the air conditioner is switched off, and the fan is either switched off or at a very low speed.

6.abhyanga room

  1. Massage oil generously and attentively on your body. We advise that the oil quantity should be such that your hands glide smoothly without any drag on your body.

7.generous qty of oil

 

  1. Each area should be massaged well for atleast 5 minutes using easy, smooth and firm movements. This way a full body abhyanga should take you atleast 20 minutes.
  2. Start with the extremeties: you can start with your head, neck, shoulders and arms, or your toes, ankles, calves and feet. Finish the extremities and move into the centre of your body for your chest, back and stomach.
  3. Ensure you massage your head, hair and scalp with a suitable herb hair oil. This oil too is best warmed gently in a water bath as described for the body abhyanga oil, and then applied.
  4. The general rule of thumb in an abhyanga is to use long up-down strokes on the limbs and circular strokes on the joints. A continuous pulling stroke is used for fingers and toes. Circular strokes are usually done only clock-wise.

 

Special abhyanga techniques for certain body parts:

Legs:

  • Pay special attention to the feet in the Abhyanga.
  • Use a generous quantity of oil and massage the soles of the feet and work on the toes and small bones.

8. Massage for legs

 

Chest:

  • Use open and upward strokes for the chest area

 

Abdomen:

  • Ensure abdomen is relaxed before massaging it.
  • Pay special attention to the nabhi (navel) as it is capable of sending nourishment to the veins and arteries in the body (which originate from here)
  • Use firm downward strokes of the front and back area of the lower abdomen to stimulate proper movement of Apana vayu

 

Arm:

  • Pay special attention to the head of the shoulder and use circular clockwise movements in the abhyanga. Then focus on the front and back of the shoulder blades.
  • Interlock the fingers; work on the palm and all the fingers, especially if you use smart phones and computers frequently.
  • Pay special attention to the wrist and forearm as well, as they often carry vata from repetitive movements like typing, etc.
  • Deeply knead the palm and fingers to release excess vata

9.Massage for arms

 

Massage for the ears:

  • Apply a drop of oil on your ring or little finger and gently massage the oil into the outer ear canal using clockwise circular strokes
  • Massage using circular strokes behind the ear and allow the ear to remove any stiffness and vata accumulation

10. ear massage

 

When NOT to do an abhyanga: some pointers

An abhyanga should not be done by the following groups of people or at the following times:

  1. Pregnant women (An abhyanga tends to release ama from the body, so this is not recommended during pregnancy so as to ensure the growing foetus is not unnecessarily exposed to Ama )
  2. Menstruating women (An abhyanga tends to release ama from the body, so this is not recommended when the body is already tired with the menstrual process)
  3. If you are running a temperature, have a digestive disorder or are acutely ill
  4. If you are extremely tired, have had high sun exposure or a very heavy and depleting exercise practice (for example: immediately after running a marathon)
  5. Immediately after a meal
  6. Do not do an abhyanga over broken skin,
  7. Do not do an abhyanga over swollen painful areas or masses in the body
  8. Do not do an abhyanga if you have acute physical discomfort
  9. Do not do an abhyanga is you have been fasting or except to do some mentally or physically draining activity after the abhyanga

11.when not to do an abhyanga

 

Post Abhyanga care:

It is important to remember that the Abhyanga is a dosha balancing, health giving practice. If your vata dosha or pitta dosha is aggravated, the Abhyanga is going to physically bring down this dosha excess. So the abhyanga can cause some amount of temporary strain on the body during the process of restoring the body to its state of health.
So it is important not to strain your body further on the day of Abhyanga.

 

Ensure you do NOT do the following:

  1. Do not go into the hot sun
    2. Do not eat very spicy or very sour meals
    3. Do not over eat
    4. Do not eat difficult to digest food
    5. Do not eat any large and heavy meal
    6. Do not go for a long drive
    7. Do not do any form of extreme exercise
    8. Do not stay up late
    9. Do not over use your gadgets
    10. Do not eat sweet, mucous producing food
    11. Do NOT take an afternoon nap on Abhyanga day

Do NOT take an afternoon nap on the day of the Abhyanga even if you are severely tempted – one of the organs of releasing excess Pitta dosha is the eyes. Through tears and vapour, the eyes will release excess Pitta dosha through the day – if you close them and go to sleep in the day, this excess Pitta will stay within your body and could damage your body.

 

Here is what you should DO on abhyanga day:

  1. Drink adequate amount of water as and when you get thirsty
  2. Use the toilet as often as the need strikes you – do not suppress your toxin release. All teh ama and excess doshas in your body will be flushed out through sweda (sweat), mutra (urine) and mala (faeces).
  3. Eat on time and eat easy to digest freshly cooked food
  4. Remain calm and seek tranquillity and harmony today
  5. Lead a day of moderation and balance

 

End notes:
We hope this Abhyanga guide has armed with you with information to successfully incorporate the abhyanga into your life. As we have mentioned, the Abhyanga is a valuable tool to bring the body back to a state of balance and we have used it successfully in many seemingly unconnected disorders ranging from dry and flaky skin to post partum hair fall.

 

If you have any queries on how you can incorporate this Dinacharya into your life, please email us.

 

Krya products recommended for you and your family’s abhyanga:

For adults:

Krya Men’s Abhyanga system which consists of

  1. Krya Abhyanga Oil with Vacha & Ashwagandha
  2. Krya Men’s Abhyanga bath powder with Vetiver & Van Tulsi

MEn's abhyanga system

For Babies (age: 0 – 1 years):

 

For Kids & Toddlers (age – 1 +):

  1. Krya traditional baby massage oil with Bala & Ashwagandha
  2. Krya Fragrant Kids Ubtan with Gotu Kola & Cassia Flower

12-kids-ubtan

Please note: If you , your family members or your child has skin prone to eczema, dermatitis or psoriasis, please write to us for other product options.

 

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