We had written yesterday about the pada abhyanga and how this dinacharya can go a long way in calming excess vata down. The proper balance of the doshas as per your individual constitution helps you maintain a sound mind and good health.
In our continuing education series on Ayurveda, you will find that we pay a lot of attention to the Vata dosha in your body. The proper functioning of the vata dosha hepls the functioning of all sense organs including the largest one in our body, the Sparsanendriya / our skin.
The fundamental quality of Rajas (cohesion) which ensure our hair grows deep rooted and strong is also governed by Vata dosha. So any discussion on skin and hair in ayurveda needs a deep rooted discussion on Vata dosha. We also focus on Vata dosha, as Krya focuses its work on city dwellers. City and city dwelling leans towards excess vata as the excitement, energy and constant stimulation of the city excites our vata dosha. It is therefore no surprise that more than 50% of dis-eases experienced by city dwellers has its roots in unbalanced vata.
We are happy to present today’s blog post by Dr.Anupama Santosh on how unbalanced vata affects skin and hair. We hope you find her post as insightful and practical as we did – we also hope that this post (and this series) inspires you to take a good look at your body and health and make the changes necessary to maintain its health and well being.
I often hear this at my practice at Shreshtha Ayurvedic Centre: “Doctor,
- I really take care of my hair. But still I have hair fall. I don’t understand this.
- I eat lot of nuts and salads. But I still have dull skin and hair.
- I exercise regularly and follow a great lifestyle; still I do not seem to feel healthy and energetic.
- I oil my hair regularly, but I still have hair fall
- I thought my hair fall is due to the water and I started using drinking water to wash my hair. But still my hair is thinning and becoming dry and rough
- I make sure to moisturize my skin, but it still looks aged and lined.
My one answer to all these concerns is this: Hair and skin care is not skin-deep. It is much more than that. Your hair and skin is actually the mirror of your overall health.
For example, hair is considered as a byproduct/end product of the metabolism of the Asthi dhathu (the skeletal system). This means that only when the metabolism of various other systems of your body is working to their optimum, you can have good hair and skin. Only when there is abundant water in the river, the cascading waterfall looks beautiful, spectacular and full of vitality. To address a weak and poor waterfall, you have to address its root cause: the lack of water in the river.
Most often, a consultation for hair fall takes the longest time than any other, because the root of the issue is mostly deep within. Healthy hair does not grow on an unhealthy body. The health and luster of your hair and skin is an indicator of overall tissue health. The goal of great hair and skin can be achieved only when we start working from inward to outward. So, it is absolutely important to look deep in to other areas of life, which are seemingly not connected to hair and skin care. If we address these issues, some of which are a part of our constitution and some which are developed due to lifestyle unsuitable for us, we are automatically close to great hair and skin.
Is your state of health unbalanced, or in need of correction?
Answer a simple “yes” or no” to the following questions:
Say yes if this is the way you have felt consistently over a long period of time (I have always been/felt like this) OR if you have been feeling this way recently ( I never had/felt this before, but it is happening more often now)
Mind and moods:
- I think and worry excessively
- I think of the same thing over and over again
- I feel a sense of nervousness, anxiety, panic and fear often
- I am full of enthusiasm while starting something, which exhausts very quickly. Working in spurts and bursts than consistently
- I am very active, sometimes restless, but I have low stamina
- I am easily exhausted and irritable
Joints & tendons
- My neck and other joints feel stiff, often
- I often develop twitches and tics in the eyes and lips
- I experience sudden spasms and pain in the muscles
- My bones hurt and I can hear a creaking sound in the joints
- My skin has darkened
- My skin feels dry and rough patchy skin
- My skin is dry or chapped
- I am seeing skin wrinkles showing up prematurely
- My skin is dry and lustreless
- I have dark circles under the eyes and general darkening of complexion
- My sleep is light and often interrupted
Appetite and Digestion
- I have constipation, gas, bloating, dry, hard stools
- I have low body weight or varying body weight
- My appetite and digestion is irregular/variable: I feel extremely hungry on one day and loss of appetite on another
Nails and Hair
- My nails are hard, brittle, rough and cracked
- My hair is dry, rough and coarse and tangles easily
- My eyes become dull very quickly
Climate , environment and reaction to it:
- I dislike the cold and the wind
- I am unable to tolerate loud noises
- I love the heat and feel ‘active’ after getting sun
- React quickly to climatic change
- My periods are irregular
- I experience scanty blood flow in my periods
Teeth and gums
- I often have teeth and gum problems
- My teeth are sensitive to cold
- Excessive use of gadgets for work or entertainment
- Long commutes, late nights, eating out often
If your answer is yes for most of the above, some of the following changes may help you towards better health and well being for your body and mind.
Prescribed dietary modifications :
- Food should be well cooked and warm
- Food should be consumed on time
- Cooked food is better than raw. Too much raw food like cold salads, should be avoided especially in the morning and evening
- Choose fruits which are naturally sweet and sour like banana, avocado, melons, mangoes, coconut, oranges, plums, cherries, grapes, lemons, figs, dates etc.,
- Though fruits are good for you, a fruit-only diet is not suitable
- Natural sour foods like lemon and oranges are suitable, but avoid sour curd, vinegar, pickles and overly fermented food like old dosa/idli batter/ alcohol. Sweet wines in small quantities are better for you than beer or hard liquor.
- Spices like fresh ginger, cumin, ajwain, cinnamon, clove, black pepper, garlic are useful. Avoid green chillies.
- Over eating or heavy foods will quickly lead to digestive problems
- Though salt is good for you, use it in cooked food moderately, do not consume fried salty foods
- Vegetables like green beans, okra, radish, turnip, sweet potatoes, onion
- Whole grains like rice, wheat are suitable more than oats and millets. The grains should be well cooked with butter/ghee/oil.
- Bread and processed food like noodles, canned food and food items made with maida/all purpose flour are not suitable. Drying foods like biscuits, chips, khakra, popcorn, crackers should be avoided.
- Dairy products are suitable, but not in cold form. Warm milk can be consumed with cinnamon, nutmeg or turmeric and unrefined sugar
- Moong dal is better than Tuvar dal, Rajma and Chana. When other dals are used, cook with turmeric, cumin, pepper, hing or coriander
- Almond is the best nut for you. Soak them overnight and remove the skin and eat in the morning. Pumpkin seeds are good too. All other nuts should be consumed moderately.
- Fats and oils should be a part of your regular diet. Choose the oil which you are habituated to, as your family diet, than choosing new oils like olive oil. (They may be a healthy option in themselves, but your body may not be able to digest). Take cow’s ghee with rice, wheat and pulses. Moderate use of oil and ghee in all forms except deep fried is beneficial to you.
- Well cooked chicken, goat meat, fresh fish and eggs are suitable
- Frozen items like ice cream should be consumed rarely
- Choose nourishing drinks and warm drinks over aerated drinks
- Stimulant drinks like coffee, tea are not suitable and should be taken rarely and always with milk.
- Avoid multitasking, bring in more routine and consistency
- Spend time to organize your day at home and work
- Choose warmth over cold wherever and whenever possible
- Choose calmness and serene over loud and harsh. (Eg. While listening to music)
- Room temperature is better than AC environment
- Develop a habit of applying oil on head and body at least twice a week, if not more. Seasame oil based oils are best suited for you.
- Learn relaxation techniques and meditate regularly even if it is for 5 mins.
- Remember to replenish your energy with at least 7-8 hours of sleep
- Bring in discipline in food, exercise, sleep and work
- Smoking is best avoided
- Avoid frequent changes in work, routine, place and timings. Favour stability vs excitement.
- Avoid rigorous and excessive exercise. Choose light, slow but regular exercise like short strolls, yogic stretches, and learn breathing techniques
- An afternoon nap of 10-15 minutes will help you avoid exhaustion
- Take deep breaths in between tasks and avoid rush
- Accept and begin to love the complexion, colour, texture, nature of your hair and skin. Take loving care of it rather than build anxiety trying to change it with curlers, straighteners, hair dryers, chemical peeling, and bleaching. Indulge rarely and replenish and nourish without fail. Healthy and nourished skin and hair will always glow.
- Avoid chemical shampoos, perpetual use of hair gels, hair dyes and hair sprays.
- Make your house and work place soothing with gentle, soothing music, colours, art and fragrant smells
- Avoid excessive partying, late nights and if you indulge, compensate with soothing and relaxing activities
- A gentle pace with less hurry and more awareness is the recipe
Last, but not the least, in spite of our knowledge of good and bad, we will indulge sometimes (this is called pragnaparadha in Ayurveda). Have a good time, but do not feel guilty and depressed. Quickly take remedial measures
As some of you may have guessed, we mostly discussed about Vata related symptoms, constitution, food and lifestyle today. Vata is the driving force of the other doshas and is mostly responsible for all aspects of health and disease. So, by balancing Vata through some small, but powerful changes, we have taken a big step towards a healthy mind and body. Great hair and skin is a given in a healthy body.
A note of caution: These are general suggestions to suit people with the above mentioned symptoms. Adopt these guidelines suitably after contemplation. You know your body better than anyone. If needed, take the help of your Ayurvedic doctor to customize the most suitable diet and lifestyle for you to enjoy a healthy mind and body. Your Vaidya may also suggest some herbs to balance the doshas. Be rest assured, that your hair and skin care regimen begins here.
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.
This is a part of Krya’s 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.
More articles in the Krya Ayurveda series:
- The Science behind hair oiling for healthy hair and basic health
- Making friends with Ayurveda – a guest post by Dr.Anupama Santosh, Shrestha Ayurveda
- The search for safety in the products we use on ourselves
- Ayurvedic Skin care in hot and humid India
- The connection between your feet and your hair – pada abhyanga for health