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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Is your hairfall stress related? Krya shares some insights from Ayurveda that can help

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“Hi, Is there any product that can help my hair? I am 23 years old. I have a stressful job and my hair is greying very rapidly”.

“Hi Team Krya. I am a B school graduate and I am just 25. I have a travelling stressful Sales job, and I have been losing hair at an alarming rate. For the last year, everytime someone meets me, this is all they talk about (how quickly I seem to be losing hair). Can Krya’s products help me?”

“Hi Preethi, I was extremely overweight until a year ago. Over the last year, I started a very good exercise programme with good quality foods and managed to lose about 15 kg. I eat very well and good quality fruits and vegetables. Inspire of this, my skin is now looking dull, sallow and aged. Can you help”?

 

In our last blog post on Stress, we spoke about how stress can affect hair growth and hair fall. For human beings, stress takes about 180 days to show up on hair, so when we receive complaints of sudden, inexplicable hairfall, we try and trace events that occurred about 3 – 4 months back to understand the cause.

Stress appears to excessively stimulate our androgenic hormones, perhaps to help with our flight or fight response. While the physical pathway of how stress works continues to be unravelled, its net result on hair and skin is quite certain. In times of stress, your hair’s Anagen phase abruptly shifts to Catagen phase. In normal hair, atleast 85% of hair is supposed to be in Anagen phase at any point of time, and only 1% transitions to Catagen phase.

1. stress and hairfall

 

This ratio is altered in times of stress, as a large proportion of Anagen phase hair shifts abruptly to the Catagen phase. This causes a sudden loss of much larger amounts of hair. We also saw the currently accepted stress scale the Holmes Rahe scale. This scale lists 43 events that have been researched to cause stress, and surprisingly, this list includes even happy events like pregnancy, a job promotion as events that are likely to cause stress.

 

The Mind body connection that is acknowledged and celebrated by Ayurveda and Siddha

Ayurveda and Siddha, our two forms of traditional medicine have always consistently acknowledged the role of the mind and its connection to the body. It is this mind body connection that gives you Ayu and Ayush: and a healthy body along with a healthy mind and a long life has always been the goal of traditional medicine systems.

2.mind-body connection

 

The Sutrasthana section of the Charaka Samhita recognises 3 origins of disease:

  1. Innate
  2. External (exogenous)
  3. Psychic

Innate diseases are that which arise from combinations of the doshas in the body. Externally caused diseases are those caused by Bhuta (micro organisms, bacteria, and bad energy), poisoned air, poisons (visha), accidents, trauma, etc. Psychic illnesses are categorised as those caused by unfulfilment of deeply held desires and when faced with undesirable circumstances.

 

3 types of therapy that are practiced in Ayurveda: Spiritual therapy, Rational therapy and Psychological therapy. In many illnesses as the mind and body are interlinked, the physician prescribes a combination therapy which involves some elements of Spiritual therapy or Psychological therapy along with the rational therapy. We will see some examples of this below.

 

How each dosha plays a role in physical and mental well being

Pitta dosha

Every dosha in Ayurveda is linked not just to a physical set of attributes but also to a set of mental attributes.

Pitta dosha is the dosha related to Agni in the body. It brings about digestion, helps the body assimilate and absorb nutrients, helps form blood, and gives vision, and colour and lustre to the complexion. So when pitta dosha is strong and not in excess, it brings about the qualities of leadership, focus, clarity, and prowess and an ability to get things done.

3.pitta dosha

 

But when this dosha becomes vitiated it brings about an inability to see the bigger picture, a tendency to lose your temper, dominate the people around you and get your way, no matter what. Similarly when this dosha is greatly reduced, it brings about confusion, fear, an inability to focus and bring things to fruition, besides giving you poor or impaired digestion.

 

Vata dosha

When vata dosha is strong and not in excess, it holds up the systems and organs , initiates all upward and downward movements in the body, employs all sense organs, causes the formation of all the dhatus in the body, promotes speech, etc.

A strong vayu dosha is the source of exhilaration, courage, creativity, movement and physical lightness and well being. When strong, vayu improves strength, complexion, and valour, normal development of the musculoskeletal structure, improvement of knowledge and maximum expanse of life span.

4. vata dosha

 

When vayu is vitiated in the body it affects strength, complexion, happiness and even the life span. Aggravated vayu agitates the mind, affects the sense organs, and produces fear, grief, confusion, anxiety and even delirium. Perhaps because of this all pervasive nature of vayu and its deep seated effects when it goes out of order, Vayu is variously called “PrajaPati”, Aditi, Vishwakarma and even Yama in Ayurveda. Vayu is both the producer and the indestructible. Vayu brings both happiness and misery and brings positivity and an all pervasive negativity as well.

 

Kapha dosha

Kapha dosha is the dosha of Prithvi (earth) and Jal (water). It is the dosha that builds the dhatus, muscles and allows growth of the body. When strong and not in excess or depleted Kapha dosha provides fertility, strength, firmness, patience, good humour and enthusiasm for life.

An un-vitiated kapha dosha promotes detached attachment towards material objects, promotes generosity, loyalty, commitment, and the ability to form deep nurturing relationships.

5. kapha dosha

 

When kapha is in excess, it shows as excess weight, an ability to accumulate mucous quickly, a greater love for earthy pleasures like food, material objects, a high attachment to objects, a tendency to relax and sleep much more, indolence, etc. When kapha is reduced, there is inability to put on healthy weight, reduced fertility, a feeling of instability and an inability to stay grounded, etc.

 

Balance and peace: the key to leading a life of health and well being

We have seen the inherent strengths and qualities each dosha gives us. Many times we are asked what the ideal combination of doshas is. Or what is a good proportion of doshas to have? And this is very obviously, a difficult one to answer.

 

Ayurveda understands and respects our individuality: and every one prakriti is unique. It is made up not just of the combination of doshas that we receive when we are conceived, but also the environment with which we are brought up, the food we eat, the experiences we receive and of course our response to all of this.

 

Ayurveda also tells us to seek our own balance within the framework of our life, and how we seek to find this balance is also unique. A Vaidya will always give each of her patients a unique programme that recognises the individual’s unique prakriti.

6. path to balance

The central framework behind this approach in Ayurveda is the belief that each one’s balance is achieved differently. For a spiritually inclined person, their balance may come with chanting certain mantras, and praying to their Ishta devata along with certain changes in their diet. For a person who is much more rationally inclined, their treatment may come from diet and lifestyle changes alone.

There is no one formula or combination to achieve balance. Ayurveda teaches each of us to find our very own recipe for balance.

 

How the body affects the mind and vice versa: Ayurvedic insights into pregnancy

The connection between the mind and the body is extremely well explored in Ayurveda’s treatment of pregnancy. From the 4th month onwards with the formation of the foetal heart, Ayurveda believes that the foetus is able to communicate its deep seated desires to its mother.

 

This is why, Ayurveda calls the Pregnant woman the “Dauhridini”, the woman with the 2 hearts. Many of the pregnant women’s cravings for certain kinds of foods are explained in Ayurveda as the desires of the foetus. At this stage, Ayurveda says the foetus carries some of its unfulfilled desires and dreams sometimes from its previous births, so it is imperative for the family of the pregnant women to treat her food cravings with care.

7. dauhridini

 

Not allowing the foetus to fulfil its wishes leads to deep seated psychological harm, so Ayurveda insists that the Dauhridini’s peculiar  cravings or wishes be fulfilled with unconditional love, support and tact.

 

How the body affects the mind and vice versa: Ayurvedic insights into the post partum state

Post partum depression is recognised as a reality today for most mothers. This is a subject that is not openly acknowledged or treated or even spoken about. It will come as a surprise to no one that Ayurveda spoke about this and devised an elaborate post partum care programme to help improve not just the mother baby bond and also the father baby bond.

 

Recognising that post partum depression can come due to severe vata derangement post birth, most Ayurvedic practices centre around bringing vata back to balance. The new mother’s meal timings and sleep timings are strictly regulated and external and internal oleation is strongly practiced to bring vata dosha back to normal.

8.post partum care

 

In addition to regulating vata through diet and regimen, Ayurveda also uses spiritual and psychological therapy to help with vata imbalance. The nursery is ritually purified and special homams or ritualised prayers are held post delivery. At the beginning of vata periods like late evenings, the nursery is fumigated and strong devotional music is either sung or played outside the nursery door. Vata carrying winds are warded off and the nursery is kept warm to bring down vata influences.

Here we see an example of how mental well being is attended to by addressing the physical body and the surroundings.

 

How the mind affects the body: Ayurvedic insights for students and calming mental stress

We were at a specially organised organic event last week, and I met a consumer who wanted me to help with her daughter’s recent hairfall issue. She was studying for her board exams and had been attending a series of coaching classes for the last year to help her pass her engineering examinations. This meant that her sleep and eating timings were erratic. This also meant that she was under a high amount of mental stress and strain surrounding her exams and her future.

 

Believe it or not, Ayurveda addresses the problems of students as well! (Even if we believe that CAT, NEET and IIT entrance examinations are a modern student’s problem, I am sure an ancient student also had to pass oral or written examinations to be allowed to study with the Guru of their choice). Ayurveda recognises that nutrient assimilation is especially poor in times of stress. When this is compounded with erratic sleep, then no matter how healthy your diet is, your body will not be able to utilise the nutrients in your food.

 

This is why Ayurveda augments external application products for children and teenagers with certain types of herbs. For example, the Krya Kids hair oil utilises nervine herbs like Brahmi (Bacopa monnerii). Not only is Brahmi a great aid to memory, it also helps calm and soothe down overwrought nerves and aids good sleep. This is especially useful when you are dealing with a stressed out teenager which has been burning the midnight oil and is too wound up to sleep properly.

 

In the case of the exam stressed teenager, the reason for her hair fall was the mental stress she was facing. So she was advised to use hair oil with Brahmi which would help soothe the stress and also advised to increase her intake of cow ghee. Cow ghee is very useful in periods of mental stress when the brain has to work very hard. The brain comprises almost purely of fat, so Ayurveda uses another good quality, pure fat like ghee to support the brain during periods of strain. In addition, we also recommended pada abhyanga (foot massage) atleast thrice a week to calm down vata and aid sleep and rest.

 

So here we see how working on the physical body through external application and food helps work on the mind and calm it down.

 

How the Dinacharya prescribed in Ayurveda work on our mind and body:

Many dinacharyas given in Ayurveda also combine 2 – 3 types of therapies and this is why they work in such an eerily wholesome manner. We have, for instance, been hearing from a lot of consumers who have been doing an Abhyanga. While it was suggested by us as a general practice to balance doshas and pacify aggravated vata, we found, unexpectedly that it seemed to somehow improve the functioning of the thyroid gland.

 

The functioning of the thyroid gland can be broken up into 3 parts: improvement of metabolism, maintenance and upkeep of breath and cardiovascular system and upkeep of normal developmental activities. At the right level, the thyroid gland also helps maintain normal sleep, rest and sexual activities.

 

So by their action the thyroid hormones help assimilation of nutrients, help move it around to where it is needed, increase oxygen consumption in the body, maintain heart rate, help growth in children, brain development. Most importantly, the literature says that when the thyroid hormones are in excess, there is said to be an increased generation of thoughts but a sharply decreased focus.

 

Going by the working of the thyroid glands, it makes sense to look at it as an organ of vata dosha. So when over stimulated it gives typical vata aggravation symptoms like weight loss, an inability to shut down, excessive and hyperactive thoughts, delirium, an inability to stay calm, etc. When it is in low quantities, all the normal workings of vata dosha are affected: so the strength and lightness of the body, the mobility, the creativity and the exhilaration and courage given by vata dosha are all in short supply.

9.abhyanga

Given this, it makes sense that an Abhyanga twice a week seems to work so well to balance the workings of the thyroid gland. Warm oil is the counter to vayu and it helps keep vayu in check and present at healthy levels by stimulating and balancing all the 3 doshas.

 

Why is an abhyanga a self massage and NOT an assisted massage in Ayurveda?

Many people often ask us if we mean an assisted massage when we use the term “Abhyanga”. A massage given to us at a spa or by someone we love does seem much more relaxing than something we do for ourselves. However, the central idea of an abhyanga in Ayurveda is a self massage. It is assisted only in the case of babies and small children and the infirm and the old who lack the strength to give themselves an Abhyanga.

 

The obvious reason behind this is that the Abhyanga helps generate heat and when done vigorously by you are a form of exercise in itself. This gives the body the heat and the circulation required to help the oil penetrate, manage excess vayu and cool down excess pitta and stimulate excess kapha.  It also helps you understand the proper functioning of your body. You gain a greater appreciation of the workings of your body, are able to understand its subtle signals much better and start to understand its signals and signs of overwork much better.

 

An even more subtle reason is that the 5 sense organs are ruled by Vayu. And the sensation of touch is very enjoyable and strengthening to Vayu in the body. Self love and self belief are an essential part of health and well being. So it is no wonder that Ayurveda forces you to touch your entire body, lovingly massage it with oil, listen to its complaints and protests and give your mind and body a sense of union.

 

Many of us grow up, especially in the adolescent years feeling a sense of outrage and irritation towards our physical bodies. Our heads carry an idealised picture of beauty and physical appearance that our bodies struggle to respond to. The dosha which promotes union in the body is Vata dosha. So Vayu by its mobility and ability to travel across subtle and gross spaces and unite the functions in the body helps promote this sense of union between your head, heart and body.

10. touch

The Acharyas tell us that this Union gives us a firm sense of self. It helps us chart our path and move forward with courage and conviction. It is wonderful to me that we can approach such a mystical thing as this union through a simple everyday practice of the Self Abhyanga.

 

We are not a collection of organ systems!

Through this post we wanted to illustrate and highlight just how deep and complex the workings of the human body are. We are not simply a collection of organ systems that can be “repaired” with mechanical adjustments. Ayurveda teaches us that when we approach our body as a whole and treat it with attention, care and sensitivity, we are able to achieve much better, deeper and longer lasting results. Ayurveda also teaches us how to access our mind by the workings of our body and how to harness our mind by directing and controlling our breath.

 

It is also our experience that when we start doing the dinacharyas prescribed in Ayurveda like the Abhyanga or the Gandusha, our practice is rewarded by deeper insights into how our body functions. We learn what disturbs it, how we respond in periods of stress and from these insights we begin to understand how to look after our body and our mind and how to achieve that state of union we all desire.  Our fundamental belief in Krya is that external well being and beauty springs from a well spring of health and balance. Simple external application or the use of superficial products cannot help you achieve what you are looking for. But a deeper exploration of health and a willingness to make fundamental changes can get you to your goal much faster.

 

Through our work and the products we offer, we hope to help you move towards that well spring and experience health, balance and joy and well being for yourself.

 

Do you suspect that your hairfall is being caused by mental stress?

Talk to us (075500-89090) . OR send us an email and we will do our best to help.

Here are some products that can help:

  • Krya harmony hair oil with Brahmi & Vetiver
    1. Recommended if you have high mental stress, or have trouble switching your brain off and going to sleep
    2. Helps in healthy hair growth and reduces hairfall brought on by mental stress and anxiety

12.harmony hair oil

5. womens abhyanga system

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How we used Ayurveda and Krya’s products to treat a steroid induced chemical burn on skin – an account from Krya

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Reading Time: 8 minutes

What we just received in our inbox today:

“Dear Team Krya

I’ve enclosed pictures of what my skin looks like now in natural light.

I am currently using the moisture plus face wash everyday and after sun face mask once a week for my face. And the damage repair oil for my hair every 2-3 days. And few other body ubtans from you .They are all working well for my skin /hair.

 Had spoken to you earlier about my skin condition earlier. I am trying to follow the diet recommended by you.

 My skin is much much better than before after using your face wash. Skin texture is smoother even toned and pigmentation has almost vanished. My only concern now is it appears deflated, not the usual plump skin I had before using steroid whitening cream. I am only 27yrs old. Do let me know if you can make any special healing mask for me that could improve the condition. Would be really grateful.

Your products are the only ones that have actually made a difference to my skin and are affordable rather than the expensive vit c serums /skin repair lotions suggested by dermatologists that only made my skin worse . 

Thank you for your help . “ RM, Mumbai

 

A short background:

April 13 2016:

“ Hello Team Krya,

I had been using a skin whitening cream from a skin centre in Mumbai which seemed to contain steroids since 2 yrs. My skin did get fair but quality just seemed to worsen day by day and I immediately stopped using it as it made my skin extremely thin, rough, sensitive to sun and eczema prone. 

 

It’s been 3 1/2 months I have stopped using it. My skin is slowly healing but still highly sensitive, patchy and dark around eyes and mouth. I have visited a skin dermatologist who put me on creams (pacroma)/vitamin tablets further .she has asked me to stay away from scrubs/ abrasive cleansers  . I am not using them anymore as I want to heal my skin naturally and not abuse my skin further. 

 

Do let me know if your products will help me in healing naturally .I am only looking to get my original.skin back . Also, are your face washes gentle enough for my skin type? Any skincare regime you can recommend.” RM, Mumbai

 

 Initial recommendation from Krya:

Based on RM’s reaction, we looked at her reaction like a chemical burn and treated it like localised, vitiated pitta. The texts tells us that when Pitta is high, skin displays reddish reactions, is sensitive to the Sun (which is high in Agni) and develops swift, agni induced reactions like reddish rashes, acne, itching, redness, etc.

 

We put her on a diet with a reduction in pitta aggravating foods like red and green chillies, and tamarind. We added cow ghee to her diet. We also suggested native cooling and nourishing foods like ash gourd, coconut and coconut water, pumpkins to her diet.

6.spicy food

Additionally, we put her on our after sun face products and suggested she use plain cold pressed coconut oil / kokum butter as a pre wash application and wash it off with the Krya after sun products.

anti acne fw

If she had time, we also suggested a twice a week abhyanga – RM was exercising atleast 4 times a week intensively, and this would help bring down excess pitta from the body and balance the vata generated by the exercising.

 

Krya’s recommendation in Feb 2017:

We now come to RM’s latest email to us. While she is happy with the healing of her skin, she still feels that her skin has not yet regained its collagen structure and texture.

 

Ayurveda teaches us that the dhatus are built by sweet (madhura) and nourishing foods. These foods build the dhatus and help the formation of the collagen matrix, muscle and strength in general. If someone tells us their hair growth is poor or skin is not repairing or healing itself properly, we look for the presence or absence of dhatu restoring foods and habits. Based on evidence we have to decide what the exact problem is.

 

It could be one of the following:

  1. There is not enough dhatu building foods being consumed

Certain kinds of dairy, when consumed appropriate for your prakriti are dhatu enhancing. Examples of this would be Milk boiled in the correct Ayurvedic way, and properly prepared cow ghee which is consumed melted.

Cereals like old rice and lentils like Mung dal are also considered dhatu building. This is because they are easy to digest, release their nutrients quickly and do not block the minor channels in any way.

dal

 

Fruits and vegetables appropriate to the season are also dhatu building. So a Mango in summer is usually more appropriate than one eaten in December. Locally grown vegetables which are indigenous to your city and are part of your DNA (you have a history of eating them from childhood) are usually much more enhancing to your Dhatus.

 

So while quinoa may be appropriate for the Aztecs and a super food for them, if you have not grown up eating it, it will not enhance your dhatus as much as old traditional rice can.

 

  1. There is a lot of ama (toxin ) build-up in the body which is interfering with nutrient absorption

Ama can build-up in your body when you eat at improper times, eat improper foods or eat proper foods in improper combinations. Ama can also arise when you eat foods that are improper for your prakriti (constitution).

 

For example, curd causes ama build-up in most people. Ayurveda teaches us that Curd is high in Pitta and Kapha and is appropriately consumed only in winter when the weather is cold and the Pitta in the curd is good for your body. Curd is also considered difficult to digest and has the property of leaving a sticky residue inside your body.

curd

 

Ayurveda adds that people who do hard physical labour, with very strong digestive ability and teenagers (who naturally have higher digestive ability) can get away with curd consumption. For anyone else, it can cause or trigger many health issues. We see a lot of adult acne at Krya. An investigation of what is being consumed almost always throws up a high consumption of curd.

 

Similarly milk with sour fruits is considered an improper combination. Milk is considered sweet in its taste, and when this combines with sourness from the fruit, it creates a food that is tough to digest and stays for much longer, undigested in your body.

 

Eating before your previous meal is digested also leads to ama build-up and puts strain on your digestive system. All this undigested food sits throughout your GI tract reducing nutrient absorption, increasing wind in the system and making the entire body sluggish.

 

  1. A lot of dhatu depleting foods are being consumed or Dhatus are being depleted by certain activities

Highly processed food is considered dhatu depleting in Ayurveda. Depending upon the food being consumed it can also increase ama (toxins) in the body.

 

Chemically processed Maida is top on our list of Dhatu depleting foods. It is full of chemical additives and is very “abhishyanadi” in nature. By this we mean that this food coats the insides of the body and dullens the digestive power and workings of the minute srotas.

 

We receive a lot of hair complaints from young people in their twenties whose main dinner is often a pizza made from Maida or a pack of Instant Maggi noodles. They complain that after 2 – 3 months of this diet, their bowel movements are infrequent, constipation is high and the skin becomes dull and flaky with severe hair loss.

13. instant noodles

 

This is an obvious reaction to a food that increases toxin build up and actively prevents nutrient assimilation in the body.

 

Over –eating a food that is unsuitable for your prakriti can also deplete your dhatus. If your pitta dosha is already high, a diet that is high in spice and sour will imbalance your pitta dosha until it is no longer able to assimilate any nutrients from your food.

 

Ayurveda always advocates balance: your nature is kept in balance by eating foods that calm down your nature and not aggravate it.

 

 

Are we Shamans? OR are we simply practising what Ayurveda preaches?

Our consumers, and sometimes we, are shocked by how eerily well our products work for consumers, especially when combined with First principle based diet and regimen suggestions from Ayurveda.

It is at times like this that we remind ourselves and our consumers that we are relying on the principles set by a highly advanced Science based on First Principles. In the case of RM, using the steroid based whitening cream increased pitta dosha in her skin leading to heat based skin cracking, sensitivity and darkness.

When this aggravated pitta dosha was treated with pitta balancing foods like ghee and milk, pitta balancing practices like the Abhyanga, pitta reducing foods and Pitta balancing skin care products, the skin healed itself back to health.

 

To improve the collagen matrix, and to improve skin texture and health further, we have sent RM a battery of suggestions to improve her dhatus. These include adding dhatu enhancing foods like milk, removing improper food combinations, and helping nutrient assimilation by changing sleep timings and eating timings.

We have also suggested adding the Krya Moisture Plus Skin Oil every night as a leave on application and the addition of the Krya Moisture Plus face mask once a week  to support the skin’s healing. We are quite confident that she will see a further visible improvement in her skin as she continues on this path.

 

Shraddha: a path to Ayurveda and good health

I was listening to a wonderful Vedic chant called the Shraddha Suktam and I was curious about how the word Shraddha was defined. Shraddha, translated in English means faith or conviction, but many definitive Sanskrit texts and commentaries go much further than that.

 

Adi Sankara calls Shraddha, a positive attitude born from reason. Swami Vivekananda differentiates Shraddha from blind faith and Says Shraddha is a faith born from conviction and reasoning along with faith in your Guru and his teachings.

 

I like to say that Krya has Shraddha towards Ayurveda and not blind faith. By this I mean that I believe with deep faith what my Acharyas and the texts of Ayurveda say. Through my work, I will spend my Lifetime understanding this Truth and applying it to my Life until my belief comes not just from faith and a positive attitude but is also borne out through my intellect and reasoning.

 

And every time I hear back with positive feedback from consumers like RM on how beautifully Ayurveda works to solve difficult problems, my Shraddha in this system is deepened.

 

Krya products used by RM

  1. Face
    1. Krya After Sun face wash and Krya After Sun Face mask – initially to treat the steroid burn
    2. Krya Moisture Plus face wash – now that skin has healed
    3. Krya Moisture Plus Skin Oil and Krya Moisture Plus Face mask (suggested by Krya now)
  2. Body
    1. Krya Abhyanga Skin Oil
    2. Krya Women’s Ubtan
  3. Hair
    1. Krya damage repair hair system
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When stress causes hairfall – Insights from Krya on how your hair bears the brunt of grief and stress

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

3 months.

 

This is the time that it takes for your hair to display signs of the stress you are facing.

 

If you are losing hair today by the handful, then we have to dial back to what happened roughly 180 days before.

 

You can lose hair by altering the balance of pitta dosha, by chemical treatments, by increasing your shampooing frequency, and by imbalancing your vata dosha. You can also lose hair when your stress levels suddenly change. And we are going to explore this in detail in today’s blog post on stress related hair loss.

 

The 4 phases of normal hair growth:

All of us have between 90,000 – 150,000 strands of hair on our head. On any given day, depending on your state of health, weather and state of mind, you could lose anywhere between 20 – 100 strands of hair. As long as your hair loss stays within this range, and as long as you have 90,000 – 150,000 strands of hair, and your hair has the right proportion of growth and loss, this hair loss is considered normal.

 

Every strand of hair grows through 4 phases:

  1. Anagen phase (active growth phase) – In this phase, the hair is in its most active growth phase. The duration of the Anagen phase varies for different kinds of hair. For the hair on our heads, the Anagen phase can last anywhere between 2 – 8 years. Those of us who genetically are predisposed to long hair, have a much longer Anagen phase allowing our hair to grow really long.

Your eyelashes, on the other hand, have a much shorter Anagen phase of 30 days.

anagen phase

 

The 2 take-aways here are this:

  • The longer the Anagen phase, the longer the hair growth
  • When the Anagen phase is atleast 2 years long, it means that the hair is being allowed the right level of nutrition, and mental health to grown normally

In normal hair, atleast 85% of your hair is supposed to be in Anagen phase.

 

  1. Catagen phase – (transition phase) – In this phase, the hair prepares for hair fall by beginning to detach itself from the skin (the dermal papilla). This phase lasts 2 – 4 weeks. This phase marks the beginning of normal hair fall

Only 1% of your hair is supposed to enter Catagen phase at any point in time. While the hair strand is detaching itself from the dermal papilla, the blood supply is cut off from the hair strand.

catagen phase

 

  1. Telogen phase – (Resting phase) – In this phase, the hair completely separates from the dermal papilla and prepares for falling out. This phase lasts between 2 – 4 months. As the hair is completely cut off from the dermal papilla, the epidermal cells of the scalp form temporary bindings around the hair, anchoring it on your scalp until it is time for it to fall.

telogen

 

When the hair follicle, which remains dormant in the Telogen phase, starts to re-grow, the hair that has been anchored in place by your scalp will break from its root and fall out. This is the normal process of hair shedding. Even as the hair is shedding, the follicle below it has already started re-growing – this ushers in new hair growth within 2 weeks, when the hair and scalp are in normal health.

In normal hair and scalp, 10 – 15% of the hair strands are in Telogen phase.

 

Changes in the 3 phases of Hair growth under stress:

Studies among Mice indicate that in times of stress, like exposure to a high degree of noise, hair moves abruptly from the Anagen phase to the Catagen phase, in large numbers.

 

A similar response is researched to be true in human hair. In times of stress, your hair’s Anagen phase abruptly shifts to Catagen phase. In normal hair, atleast 85% of hair is supposed to be in Anagen phase at any point of time, and only 1% transitions to Catagen phase.

stress effects

 

This ratio is altered in times of stress, as a large proportion of Anagen phase hair shifts abruptly to the Catagen phase. This causes a sudden loss of much larger amounts of hair.  Literature review suggests that hormones like cortisol, which are used by the body to combat high periods of stress, may be triggering this shift. An analysis of Rhesus monkeys with hair loss found that there is a high level of cortisol in the blood stream.

 

How long does it take for this stress to show up on hair?

For human beings the hair on the head takes 180 days to show as hairfall from the time of the stressful event. This could be after a physically stressful event like trauma, surgery, or after emotional stress like a divorce or a change of job.

 

Chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hair growth:

Chemotherapy drugs work on attacking cells that replicate fast – cancerous cells are typically covered by these drugs. However, other, normal fast replicating cells are also attacked by these drugs like the hair follicles.

Therefore, chemotherapy drugs, depending upon the dosage, inhibit new hair growth and can also determine how severe the hair loss is after treatment.

Radiation therapy, especially on the head (seen in brain tumours) can severely affect hair follicles. Hair shedding can start within 2 weeks of beginning radiation therapy where hair follicles quickly enter the Telogen phase.

 

The Holmes and Rahe Stress scale

Here’s the thing about stress: It gives us a feeling of being inadequate or unable to cope with the demands that are being placed on us. And the level and type of stress we can cope with, without feeling inadequate varies for each person.

In order to standardise this , atleast to some extent, and to understand what level of stress can make us ill, The Holmes and Rahe stress scale was developed in 1967 by psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe.

This scale was developed by researching the stress faced by 5000 patients. Holmes and Rahe arrived at a list of 43 stressful events that can occur in anyone’s life and gave each stressful event a weightage. If a person is undergoing several types of stress at the same time, these combined scores could give your doctor a sense of how high or how low your stress levels are.

Many surprising life events find their way into the Holmes Rahe stress scale – these include even happy events like pregnancy, a promotion, and moving to a new home.

holmes rahe scale

Every day, modern stresses like a long commute, high noise levels, constant television / media consumption, high use of the Smartphone, late night working, do not find their way into the Holmes Rahe scale – we can argue that this is because this scale was devised at a much gentler time when these devices, and even the now common phenomena of working women were not this prevalent.

All of us live in a world with aggravated stress levels. If you add to this any of the 43 stressful life events that further push up stress, it is no wonder that stress related hairfall is now such a huge phenomenon.

 

The effect of stress on skin:

The American academy of dermatology also has many peer reviewed papers that explore the link between cortisol and your skin. Higher levels of cortisol means higher or unregulated sebum production on skin.  This means that greater stress could cause a sudden flare up of acne on your skin. Obviously, connected with this is the fact that many of us when stressed, tend to eat oily, rich or sweet foods that could easily trigger acne.

skin stress

A 2001 study called “Psychological Stress Perturbs Epidermal Permeability Barrier Homeostasis” found that stress can also cause higher degree of water loss from your skin. This water loss reduces the ability of skin to heal itself after an injury – so you could have dry or flaky skin, or blemishes and scars that do not go away.

 

To conclude:

How do we cope with this stress? Ayurveda discusses specific techniques that are suitable for different kinds of people including colour and aroma therapy, use of certain herbs and imbibing certain Dinacharya to help the brain calm down. We will discuss these in tomorrow’s post on coping with different kinds of stress.

Is your stress high? Should you be making some changes in your life? Is your life / job hassling you at a dangerous level? No stress scale can help you conclude, but this is a good place to start.

 

 

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The Krya ten point programme to help you heal, revitalise and repair chemically damaged hair

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We have been receiving a lot of excellent feedback on the Krya Damage repair hair revitalising system lately. We have also been receiving a lot of queries on just why chemical treatments like hair colouring, hair re-bonding, smoothening and treatments like the Cysteine treatment and the Brazilian damage hair.

 

Many of our consumers come to us after several years of chemical colouring with a few texture alteration treatments thrown in. At this point their hair is written off by the very parlour that damaged their hair, as too damaged for any more beauty treatments !

 

This is a subject that is very close to my heart, as someone who has gone through all these damaging treatments herself, and has painstakingly restored her hair health – my hair volume is still not as good as what I used to have, but despite my prolonged damage, I have reached a happy situation where my hair growth is good, texture is excellent and strength and elasticity is very good.

 

Just why are these chemical treatments so damaging to our hair? What about treatments advertised to “repair” hair damage like the cysteine treatment?

 

For the real truth on why you should run and not walk away from your hair stylist and your parlour, and how you can begin to heal damaged hair, do take a look at our presentation on this today .

 

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The Ayurvedic alternative to a shampoo and conditioner – Krya explains why a synthetic shampoo and a conditioner worsens hair fall, decreases hair elasticity and increases hair breakage.

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Reading Time: 12 minutes

“I can’t believe the difference just 2 months of using the Krya extra conditioning hair system has made to my hair,” said SB of Delhi to us this morning. My hair used to break, was dull and lifeless and I had almost given up hope on it”, she added.

 

Why are synthetic shampoos and conditioners so similar to Lex Luthor and his evil sidekicks? We have been discussing hair, how dosha imbalances affect it , and how what we eat, and do can severely affect our hair. Here’s a post on something else we do that affects our hair – our consistent use of synthetic shampoos and conditioners.

 

In this post, we will see how synthetic shampoos and conditioners, in their very design, can damage your hair, dry it out, increase hair breakage and slow down hairfall.

 

Why are synthetic shampoos so harsh on hair?

Harsh surfactant

Synthetic shampoos use only one grade of cleanser, the synthetic surfactant to clean hair. The synthetic surfactant like SLS / SLeS is basically a modified detergent which strips hair of oil and dirt.

1. industrial car cleaner

 

Unfortunately, SLS and SLeS do not have any safeguards – so even if the weather is dry, and your scalp really needs the sebum, a synthetic surfactant will still remove oil aggressively. This is why scalp gets either very dry, or reacts like the less mild mannered Hulk and over compensates by producing huge amounts of sebum in response to this aggressive cleansing.

 

SLS and SLeS have also been implicated in contact related allergic reactions on scalp and skin. Most people who use synthetic shampoos do not rinse their hair well and will have traces of SLS and SLeS lingering on the scalp. As scalp and skin sensitivity increases, you may find your scalp flaking aggressively (dandruff), developing excessive itching (mild dermatitis) and even resulting in conditions like boils, and scalp psoriasis.

2. scalp itching

 

One of the other ways synthetic surfactants damage your hair is by reducing its elasticity. The elasticity of hair is an important property where the hair shaft is able to cope with varying changes on hair. For example, hair elasticity comes into play when hair is combed, brushed or tugged. If your elasticity is good, your hair can handle pulling and snap back to place easily without damage. If your hair’s elasticity is poor, the slightest pulling, tugging or even wetting can instantly snap and break your hair.

 

Poor elasticity comes from excessive dryness and cuticular damage – this is the reason for extreme hair breakage and split ends. And synthetic surfactants are the primary cause of poor elasticity. The second cause for poor hair elasticity is chemical treatments like straightening, perming and hair colouring.

 3.chemical colouring damage

 

Silicone based conditioning agents that mask damage

If I shampoo and do not condition my hair, it is a mess”

 

How many times have you said this?

Is the conditioner repairing your hair? No, it is simply hiding damage. One of the side effects of using synthetic shampoo is that your hair’s cuticular structure is damaged. Some of the scales are ripped off, and some are broken or misaligned. As a result your hair will feel coarse, rough and look dull and lifeless.

 

To hide this damage, a synthetic shampoo is formulated with a silicone based conditioning agent. This is also the main ingredient in synthetic conditioners and gloss enhancing serums and spray on products. The silicones form a thin coating over the damaged cuticular structure – this is similar to a plastic wrap on your hair. As light falls on your hair, it reflects off this thin coating, making your hair look glossy and shiny. However, under this layer, the damage still exists. This is why every time you shampoo, your hair continues to feel rough. The silicones are simply hiding the damage done by the shampoo, and fooling you into believing your hair is healthier than it is.

 

Why are Krya’s hair washes better for you?

The Krya hair washes are designed differently from synthetic shampoos to cleanse in 3 different ways:

  1. a) through a natural surfactant
  2. b) by adsorption
  3. c) by the use of natural plant acids.

5. 3 types of cleansing

It is this combination of using 3 types of cleansing that makes the Krya hair washes milder, gentler, and better for the hair’s cuticular structure and helps us reduce hair breakage due to scalp dryness, and chemical treatments.

 

Natural surfactants

Krya uses biological surfactants like Soapberry and Shikakai for their oil removal and dirt cleansing effects. A mature, organically harvested soapberry contains 12% saponin content. A mature harvested Shikakai contains 6% Saponin content. The saponins in Soapberry and Shikakai are biologically and chemically unique. When we add 3 – 4 different kinds of detergent plants, we get a rich cornucopia of cleansing properties which complement each other.

 

Acacia concinna (Shikakai) at Krya

Acacia concinna alone contains several saponins, of which atleast 5 types have been chemically isolated. Apart from saponins, chemical analysis reveals that the Shikakai pod also contains acids like tartaric acid, oxalic acid, and  acacic acid, ketones like lactone, and natural sugars like glucose, arabinose, etc.

6.acacia

 

Ayurvedic texts like the Raj Nighantu classify Acacia concinna as laghu (light), tikta (bitter) and kasaya (astringent). It cures vitiated kapha and pitta dosha, which is why it works so well across Krya’s anti dandruff products like the Krya anti dandruff hair wash and the Krya Anti dandruff hair mask. It also cures leprosy and other skin diseases so it is classified as a “Kushta” herb and also heals oedema due to wounds which is why it is classified as a vrana-sopha herb.

 

Soapberry at Krya

Krya has a long and delightful history (and experience) of using Soapberry in our cleansing formulations. We use upto 3 species of Soapberry at Krya, and always try and introduce Soapberries from different geographical terrains in order to imbibe their varying properties across these places.

7.soapberry

 

Soapberry is recorded in the Raj Nighantu as having tikta (bitter), ushna (hot), katu (pungent), snigdha (oily) properties. It is a vatahara herb (reduces vata), and is kapha-hara (reduces kapha) as well. This is why the soapberry is indicated in both vata conditions like dry scalp and kapha conditions like psoriasis, itching, boils, etc.

 

The soapberry is therefore used at Krya in hair washes, ubtans and in certain formulations meant for difficult skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. We use 2 different species of Soapberry in Krya’s hairwash formulations: the South Indian Soapberry, Sapindus trifoliatus and the Himalayan Soapberry, Sapindus mukorossi.

8. soapberry 2

 

Sapindus trifoliatus grows across South and Western India and is found upto Orissa. We source Sapindus trifoliatus from Tiruvannamalai which is a dry region in south India and from the forests in Orissa which are much more moist, have greater tree cover with much higher bio diversity. The “tikta” content of Sapindus trifoliatus is much more than the Himalayan soapberry, which is why it has greater prescriptive use in therapeutic conditions.

 

Sapindus mukorossi grows across hilly terrains, and is native to the Himalayas and Nepal. We source Sapindus mukorossi from Uttaranchal and Punjab which have slightly differing heights and differing biodiversity. Sapindus mukorossi is a less pungent herb compared to Sapindus trifoliatus, so we use this for some of our sensitive hair products like the hair washes that are made for babies and toddlers. The foam produced by the Sapindus mukorossi is also different technically from what is produced by the trifoliatus herb. We find that a judicious combination of the two helps improve cleansing and detergency across our formulations.

 

Adsorption based cleansing herbs

Apart from natural surfactants, Krya’s hair washes also use several adsorption based cleansing herbs. These work differently from surfactants. They adhere to oil and grime on the hair and create a bond between themselves and these substances. So when the hair is washed, this oil, dirt and adsorbent layer is gently removed from the hair. Adsorption based cleansing herbs have always been used in Ayurveda and traditional medicine as a complementary cleansing aid to surfactant plants. Clays, muds, and certain kinds of lentils and grains form a part of this adsorption based cleansing family.

 

At Krya, we use special adsorption based cleansing lentils and grains. These are documented for their pitta hara (heat reducing) properties in Ayurveda, so they are very helpful in hair and scalp formulations. They are also very gentle and soothing in their action, and do not strip hair aggressively of sebum.

 

Why we do not use Muds and Clays at Krya

At Krya, we generally do not use muds and clays in our products. In our testing, we have found that several forms of clays and muds come highly contaminated with E.coli and other organisms that are commonly found in excreta. With arable land becoming scarce, there is a lot of animal and human contamination across land, so previously uncontaminated muds and clays have now become contaminated with these micro organisms.

9.clay

The use of muds and clays also comes with a great deal of environmental hazards. If we use river soil, we tend to take the richest river soil which could be put into better use for farming or growing of food. If we take top soil, we are again disturbing the land, without planning for replenishment of this soil.

 

Even though certain kinds of clays are documented in Ayurveda to have good skin and hair properties like Multani Mitti, because of bacterial contamination and environmental issues, we tend to avoid these ingredients at Krya.

 

Fruit and plant acids for hair cleansing, restoration of acid mantle and hair health

The pH of our skin and scalp is 5.5. This mildly acidic pH is healthy for us as it allows our skin and scalp to form a strong barrier function for our whole body to keep out harmful bacteria and other micro organisms. This acidic pH also helps our body secrete mildly acidic sebum which coats our hair and skin giving it moisture, gloss and a protective cover to keep it from drying out in harsh wind or cold weather.

 

Unfortunately by using harsh synthetic shampoos, we break this cycle of producing this precious sebum on our hair and skin. Because of the harsh way in which shampoos over cleanse hair and scalp, the body is left dry and has no acidic sebum either for its protection of for hair and skin health. This is why when we over use shampoo, we find that our hair becomes extremely oily within a day or two of washing.

14.samosa

 

Krya’s hair washes use a harmonious combination of fruit and plant based natural acids in our hair washes. When used along with the natural plant surfactants and adsorption based cleansers, these plant acids restore the acid mantle of hair and scalp, help the cleansing process and strengthen the hair.

 

One of our go-to fruit acids is the Amla (Indian gooseberry). The Amla is a famous rasayana Ayurvedic herb which promotes good health, longevity and youthfulness. It is used across Krya’s skin and hair formulations in our powders as well as our oils. The amla helps strengthen hair, works to restore the hair’s acid mantle, improves cuticular strength, and reduces hair breakage.

10.amla

 

Apart from the Amla, Krya uses a wide range of acidic fruits and herbs across our hair formulations like Haritaki, Vibhitaki, Orange, Sweet Lime, Lemon, Rose, Bhringaraj, Hibiscus, etc. Each one of these herbs come with unique hair nourishing properties apart from their acidic nature. They variously help improve hair gloss, improve the strength of hair, increase its elasticity, improves its ability to grow and help its health.

11. acidic herbs

 

The Use of hair oils and hair masks for good hair health

Krya recommends the use of generous hair oiling and the application of hair masks to improve hair health. Hair oiling is a practice traditionally recommended in Ayurveda. It helps balance pitta and vata dosha, removes excess heat from the scalp, and provides the scalp with a frequent dose of health giving herbs.

 

Hair masks are another part of Krya’s recommended hair regime to give hair strength and improve the texture, manageability and gloss of hair. Different herbs respond better to different ways of application. Some herbs are best used in hair oils where the slow boiling and processing help them release their properties. Also hair oils tend to use herbs that are beneficial when left on hair for a much longer time.

12. herbs for oils

 

Certain herbs are best use in extremely short applications like hair washing. Herbs like Shikakai, Soapberry, etc are short use herbs – they are best use in wash off applications where they can work intensively on the scalp and hair and give you immediate results.

 

Certain herbs are best used for an in-between application like a mask. We have found that herbs like orange flower, fenugreek, curry leaf, are also excellent when applied directly to hair as a paste and left on for a while. In this, the curry elaf is an extremely versatile herb, lending itself to all 3 formats. When herbs are used as a (short) leave on mask, they help strongly improve hair manageability, improve cuticular structure and vastly improve hair’s elasticity, gloss and smoothness.

13. curry leaf

 

The Krya hair systems – better as a whole rather than single products

To many of our consumers who come to us for recommendations of a good hair oil and a hair wash, we often suggest the use of a complete Krya hair system which includes a hair oil, a hair wash and a hair mask. Our hairwashes are designed to be used only along with our hair oils. Similarly, using a synthetic shampoo after using our hair oils, takes away from the good the hair oil can actually have on your hair.

 

Our hair systems have also been designed to be used as a whole. Our systems use a principle of layering and complementary abilities where each product works in harmony with the next to improve the effects on your hair. So a classic hair oil works along with a classic hairwash and a classic hair mask to reduce heat, dryness caused by heat, delay premature greying and improve health. Here’s a testimonial shared by a consumer who used this entire system and how her hair grew after the use of this system.

 

Similarly, the Krya conditioning hair oil reduces vata related dryness and works with the conditioning hair wash and hair mask to reduce vata related hair breakage, improve hair gloss and improve hair elasticity.

15. conditioning hair oil

A previous blog post written by a consumer, shares her experience with the Krya anti dandruff hair system. In this, she shares how use of all 3 products help treat her previously stubborn dandruff problem.

 

It is important to understand which of our systems will suit your hair best and then use them as a complete system. We have consistently found that use of all three of these products in conditions as varying as dandruff, pitta related hair fall, vata related hair dryness and chemical damage related hair breakage and dullness, use of all 3 products together, gives a much faster hair transformation.

 
A happy hair day everyday with Krya

We have been sharing personal transformation hair stories this last month on Krya, and how even severely chemically damaged hair has been restored to health using one of our hair systems. We receive a call / email amongst every single day from grateful consumers who cannot believe the transformation in their hair after mobbing out of synthetic solutions to our holistic, natural hair systems.

Almost every one of them uses the word “magic” when they describe the change our systems have wrought in their hair.

 

Is it magic?

 

Magic exists in the body’s propensity towards health and its willingness to heal itself. We have often said that hair and skin is supposed to look good. And when the body is in a state of health, this health radiates as hair that has a great hair day every day.

 

Even if our body is healthy, by the consistent use of unhealthy, synthetic products on our hair and skin, we create a state of ill health in our hair and skin. When we switch from using these ill health creating synthetic products, to holistic, natural products, we immediately start the natural healing process in our bodies.

 

Are you having a perpetually bad hair day? Are you looking for a change?

 

Your search ends here:

  1. Krya Classic Hair nourishing system – useful if you have straight – wavy hair, are seeing premature greying, have hair that is fluctuating in its oiliness, and hair tends to be dry or break due to excess ushna / heat production

 

  1. Krya Conditioning Hair system – useful if you have wavy to curly hair that is inherently dry, and are seeing manifold issues of dryness like dull un-glossy hair, hair that has split ends, lots of static when you comb hair, and are facing issues of aggravated vata dosha

 

  1. Krya Anti Dandruff hair system – useful if you have large flaky, itchy dandruff which is persistent and nearly chronic, which could sometimes be accompanied with a fungal infection of the scalp

 

  1. Krya Damage repair Hair system – useful if you have hair that has been persistently chemically treated – coloured frequently and regularly, has been permed / straightened or exposed to treatments like the Brazilian, Keratin, etc. This kind of hair is described as straw-like – is extremely coarse, ragged, dull and frizzy. This is the kind of hair that requires heavy application of silicon based conditioners to get it into any kind of manageable shape (and this is this way because of chemical damage and not its inherent nature)

 

  1. Krya Intense Hair system – useful if you have medication and illness based hairfall.

 

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14 reasons for hair dryness , split ends and hair fall according to Ayurveda. Krya shares deep insights and simple remedies to help you tackle hair breakage and hairfall.

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Reading Time: 21 minutes

“Dear Team Krya,

My hair is dull, dry, coarse and brittle. It breaks very easily. If I don’t use a lot of conditioner on it, it generates a huge amount of static. It also tangles very easily and breaks when I comb it brush it or wash it.

I wash my hair very frequently and apply special conditioners and serums on it. It has been more than 3 years since I applied any hair oil – my stylist told me that this will cause dandruff, so I stopped doing it.

I work in an IT job and I usually get back home quite late. I do tend to eat out quite a bit. In addition, I feel quite dull and lack energy at times. I also tend to get joint aches in my lower back and catches in my neck.

Despite spending a huge amount of money on spa treatments for my hair, the quality of my hair just hasn’t improved. What do you think could be the problem?

Can Krya and Ayurveda help? “

 

We have been speaking about the 6 causes of hairfall, hair breakage and hair damage this week on the Krya blog. We started on Monday with our post on pitta aggravation and how it is a leading cause for common hair problems like thinning, a receding hairline, premature greying and hair fall.

 

As a company based on Ayurvedic first principles, it is very insightful and enlightening for us to see how the Acharyas of yore have approached many common skin and hair problems we see today. The interlinkages between what we eat, the kind of jobs we work at, how our day is structured (or unstructured), the pressures we go through, and what we put on our bodies is fascinating and very deep.

These are the interlinkages we will explore today in our blog post, as we describe how Vata dosha, when aggravated by our diet, lifestyle or our habits, can wreak havoc on our hair and skin.

 

The importance of Vata Dosha and why it is vital to our healthy functioning:

Vata dosha is made up of Vayu (wind) and Akash (space) and is an extremely powerful dosha in the body. It is the only dosha capable of movement, so it carries pitta and kapha dosha to their respective places to help them function. Without a properly functioning vata dosha, none of the other 2 doshas can do their work.

 

When vata dosha is unvitiated and balanced, it holds up all the systems and organs, initiates all normal upward and downward movements of the body, leads and controls the mind, employs all the sense organs well, carries all sensations to the brain, causes structural formation of all muscle, bone and joint tissue.

1.balance key

Healthy vata dosha promotes the coherent working of the body, promotes proper speech, is the seat / origin of touch and sound, is the source of courage and exhilaration, stimulates digestion, throws out ama and toxins from the body, shapes the foetus and maintains the ayu / life span of each individual.

 

In nature, Vayu is said to hold up the earth itself, kindles fire, makes clouds, makes rain, initiates streams, helps plants, flowers and fruits sprout and grow, strengthens seeds and helps in normal transformation.

2.vata creates life

 

What are the qualities of Vata dosha?

The Charaka Samhita describes the qualities of vata dosha as follows:

“RookshaLaghuSheetaDarunakaRavishada “. – translated as rough, light, cold, hard, coarse and non unctuous.

In Ayurveda, like promotes like. So any food, habit, behaviour, or circumstances that have the characteristics of vata dosha, increase vata dosha in the body. Similarly, foods, habits, behaviours and circumstances that have the opposite characteristics of vata dosha help reduce it or balance it.

 

What happens to skin, hair and our body when vata dosha is aggravated?

Acharya Vagbhatta says that 50% of all diseases are caused by aggravation in vata dosha. At Krya, we have observed that almost 75% of the people who write to us with skin and hair disorders have aggravated vata dosha.

 

Skin and hair when vata is aggravated

When vata dosha is in excess, your skin will have unexplained darkening or tanning. It will feel coarse and flaky and look dull and lifeless. Aggravated vata dosha can also cause deep heel cracking where you can actually see the underlying layer of flesh as the cracks are so deep.

3.heel cracks

 

When vata dosha is in excess, your hair and scalp will suffer from extreme dryness. You may see scalp flaking where pieces of your scalp are getting dislodged when you comb or brush your hair. The scalp flakes will be white, powdery and dry.

 

Hair suffering from aggravated vata dosha tends to be much more dry and frizzy compared to normal hair. This hair breaks easily and lacks elasticity – so it will break when you brush it, comb it, towel dry it, plait it or even wash it. This kind of hair is also very high in split ends, and will generate static when you comb / brush it. The hair tends to look dry, lifeless, and coarse and lacks gloss and shine.

4. vata hair

 

Joint aches and dullness in the body – when vata is aggravated

As vata controls all joints and organs of movement, when vata is aggravated, you may notices catches, aches and pains in any part of the skeletal structure or in the legs. Lower back aches, neck catches, calf aches, ankle aches, knee pain and an unexplained dullness, and lack of energy may be noticed when vata is aggravated.

 

Vata dosha helps you stay longer, much like the energiser bunny. When it goes out of control, you might find yourself unable to switch off, having difficult falling sleep, have disturbed sleep where you wake up easily, and a general feel of ennui, and depression and dullness during the day.

5. depression

 

Vata prakriti – some clues

We have said before, that doshas can be aggravated because of your inherent nature / tendency towards that dosha or because of your activities, lifestyle and general regimen.

 

When we identify Vata prakriti, we look for a tendency towards movement and overuse of any of the vata rules organs. For example, you could be a very active sportsperson, someone who loves to exercise frequently, a runner, or even a professional singer.

 

Vata dosha encourages lots of mobility and creativity, excitement and love for variety and new things. So if you are talking to us with a lot of energy, talking nineteen to the dozen, and display an inherent creativity and love for new things, we think your vata dosha could be prominent.

6. vata creativity

Just like the texts say people with Pitta dominant prakriti make good leaders, and gravitate towards causes and missions and bring a single minded focus to what they do, the texts are also descriptive about vata dominated prakritis. They are extremely mobile, love creative pursuits, are said to be very intelligent and also display the qualities of air in their mental makeup – they are comfortable with ambiguity, creative and quick.

 

A predominant vata prakriti is usually thinner and lighter than their pitta and kapha counterparts. They have a tendency to lose weight easily, especially if vata is aggravated

 

Here is a great truth about vata dosha in particular: almost all of us have a tendency to aggravate it easily. So even if you are not a vata prakriti, if you live in the city and are leading the highly driven, clock watching life, you are probably prone to vata aggravation. We will see just below the causes of this vata aggravation, and explain why this is of concern to everyone, even if their basic prakriti is not that of vata.

 

The 14 Causes of vata aggravation

Raise your hand if this applies to you:

“My morning routine means that I wake up a bit late, rush around getting ready, gulp down a cup of coffee, and quickly eat a bowl of cornflakes with milk or instant oats. I then grab my car keys and I am out of the home in 30 minutes flat!”

Speed is a vata trait. Unfortunately eating foods that cook quickly or easily means that they are also vata dominating in nature. Rushing around and doing things very quickly is also a vata trait. So when vata eats vata and behaves vata, your dosha gets aggravated.

 

We will see below the 14 vata aggravating foods, practices, and lifestyles that can wreak havoc on your skin, hair and health.

 

  1. Dry, hard and crisp foods are vata aggravating

Any dry, hard, coarse, crisp food can be classified as having vata dominant properties. Many new age health foods satisfy this criterion. There is a disturbing movement towards eating unnatural, highly processed foods which are labelled as fat free or low calorie.

 

I used to be a fan of roasted soy sticks and ragi sticks in my youth. These foods were marketed towards people losing weight and were made with very little oil and were roasted dry to be low calorie. However, over-eating this increased my vata which was already aggravated due to the nature of my work.

 

It is far better eat a small quantity of a regular homemade fried snack, than eating large amount of commercially processed, weird additive filled low calorie snack. Please remember oil controls vata – so if you are carving fried food, eat a traditional preparation which uses oil, ghee or butter. Of course, even this is not good for you, so try and control your craving!

7. old fashioned

 

 

  1. Light, airy foods are vata aggravating

Foods that are light and airy in texture and tend to float like cornflakes, millet flakes, poha, are all high in vata as well. This is why it is a far better idea to eat cornflakes with whole milk instead of eating a granola bar for breakfast. When you add milk which is high in kapha and cooling to a vata based food like cornflakes, you are reducing its vata properties. However, if you are eating a plain baked granola bar as is, you are aggravating vata much more – and this is despite the nutritional benefits of the granola bar.

8.cornflakes

 

When we see vata aggravation at Krya, we normally recommend a switch to traditional, freshly cooked foods, especially at breakfast. While we can reduce vata present in cornflakes by eating this with warm milk, it is a far better choice to eat a wholesome, freshly cooked breakfast like pongal, upma, cheela, etc, if your hair is very dry and coarse.

 

  1. Lentils , nuts and seeds are high in vata

Many of you would have observed that soaking lentils overnight releases bubbles of gas in the vessel. This is applicable to any dried lentil like whole moong, whole urad, rajma, chole, etc. This is why Ayurveda classifies all dried lentils as vata promoting.

9.lentils nuts and seeds

 

However in this definition, lies a nuanced gradation of how much vata each lentil can produce. Split Mung dal is the least vata aggravating of all lentils. Rajma and channa are extremely vata aggravating.

 

Depending on how much your vata is aggravated, at Krya, we advise a few changes in the lentils you consume. If your hair is extremely dry and coarse, we advise switching for some time to split Mung dal as the lentil of choice. Even this lentil should be cooked with ghee or atleast eaten with ghee to reduce its slight vata aggravating properties.

 

If you cannot avoid eating heavy lentils like rajma or channa, we advise consumption taking a few precautions. Eating these heavy lentils with rice is better for you versus eating them with dry breads. They should be eaten with ghee. They should be eaten warm, as this is the opposite of vata’s cold nature. Lastly, they should be eaten at noon, because this is when your digestive fire is at its peak, so your body is much more capable of digesting this at this time.

 

  1. Vegetables and foods that are traditionally considered “gassy” are high in vata

Potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, peas, cabbage are all considered high in vata. Many vata aggravated people tend to over consume these vegetables over other vegetables.

 

Does this mean that Ayurveda says we should never eat potatoes or cabbage? No, of course not!

 

It means that Ayurveda says we should eat sensibly, with a reasonable rotation of vegetables, and take care to understand the nature of these vegetables and cook them appropriately.

 

For example, cauliflower and potatoes and other similar vegetables should be cooked with carminative and warming spices like jeera, pepper and dhania. This helps reduce the gassiness of these vegetables. These vegetables must be eaten as fresh and hot as possible – eating them cold means their vata aggravating nature is more pronounced.

 

Vata aggravating vegetables should not be eaten in a fried form – this increases their vata nature. They are best made as a liquid gravy based dished and not a fried dish. (So bye bye French fries and Gobi Manchurian!)

10. gobi manchurian

 

  1. Baked goods are considered vata promoting

Baked goods are considered vata promoting as they are dry, and sometimes crisp in texture. Again in this there are gradations. A soft bread made with whole wheat and plenty of fat (perhaps in the form of butter, milk or oil) is less vata aggravating compared to a maida based, crisp and dry lavash or bread stick.

 

11.lavash

 

If your hair and skin is dry, and you find yourself constantly reaching out for biscuits, cakes and breads try and impose some regulation on these foods. As a start, avoid commercially processed baked goods as much as possible as they are high in sugar and bad fats and E numbers.

 

Even if eating a healthily made biscuit, warming it before eating helps bring down vata. Adding a small amount of melted ghee to it further brings down the vata. Eating this when your digestive fire / appetite is strong is also a good idea.

 

Similarly, when eating bread based meals, avoid Maida based breads. Eat breads after warming / toasting them with a fat (preferably ghee, or desi butter). Eat this with a warm liquid preparation that uses vegetables like carrots, or beets that are unctuous. Bread and potatoes do not make a good combination.

 

Most importantly eat this at a reasonable time – do not eat bread / baked goods late into the night.

 

  1. A special note on Maida – and why you should avoid it strongly

Among grains, Maida is the lightest, airiest and therefore most vata aggravating. Maida also has a second dreaded quality – of being “abhishyanadi” in Ayurveda. This means that it has a tendency to coat your system, clog the fine nerve endings, and take a very long time to digest and assimilate. Besides being vata aggravating and abhishyanadi, commercial Maida is also a chemical nightmare – it comes pre-loaded with several E Numbers, raising agents and other additives especially when it is used in baking.  So it would make a lot of sense if your hair is suffering vata aggravation to completely steer clear of anything to do with Maida.

 

12. maida

 

Maida has been written separately about, because we see so much Maida in everyone’s diet charts these days.

 

A consultation I just finished mentioned that the person writing to me had eaten Maggi noodles for dinner continuously for 3 months – she was showing very high dryness, scalp thinning and hairfall.

 

If Maida should be avoided, then Maggi noodles (and all other brands of Instant noodles) should be very specially avoided. Maggi noodles is made from commercial Maida, filled with additives and pre-fried in suspicious fats, so that it can magically transform into noodles in 3 minutes.

13. instant noodles

 

Not only is this vata aggravating, it is also abhishyanadi, and very bad for health as you are eating a junky, chemical filled substitute that is very very far away from anything resembling real food.

 

Please remember: if you are eating commercial pizzas and Maggi noodles as a staple, your hair will fall. It is extremely logical.

 

  1. Drinks that remove water from your body are vata aggravating

Tea and coffee have become a ubiquitous part of urban life. This is our new addiction and coffee and tea parlours are extremely well designed, with great odours and the easy availability of baked goods to satiate our sugar craving. As per Ayurveda, both tea and coffee are vata aggravating. However, they react in a way that is very specific to their properties. They aggravate Vata by removing moisture from your body.

14. tea and coffee

 

Vata aggravated bodies are already low on water and moisture – so when you drink large and frequent cups of tea and coffee and “pee away” the water in your body, you are doing your hair, skin and body a great disservice.

 

Colas are also extremely vata aggravating as are commercially processed fruit juices (besides being high in sugar). These drinks remove biological water from your body.

 

As a part of Krya’s questionnaire for vata aggravation, we ask about the number of cups of tea, coffee, commercial fruit juices and cola that is drunk every day. Once we figure this out, we usually advise a gradual reduction (unless things are in very bad shape) in certain drinks, and the easiest way to do this is to reduce your cup size.

 

Many of us are addicted to our tea and coffee, and it gives us a lot of stress to contemplate doing away with them altogether. So we suggest starting by halving your consumption. An attractive tiny espresso / tea cup will help you feel good about the way you are drinking your tea / coffee while reducing your consumption.

 

When it comes to colas and commercial fruit juices, we advise a strict ban. In our considered opinion colas are nothing but poison for the body. Innumerable studies show their bone leaching effect, extreme acidity, effect on diabetes and other dis-eases. There is no safe dose of poison. So please throw away / flush your cola stash down the toilet – this is the safest place for it.

15.cola

 

Many commercial juices claim to be a healthy substitute to tea and coffee. If you attempt to replicate the process and make your own orange / tomato juice at home, you will understand the amount of sugar taken to make the drink taste so sweet. The existing properties of the fruits are long gone before they reach you – as all of us are aware, it takes a special amount of preservation to make an orange juice last for 6 months without refrigeration. Again, like the case of colas, avoid completely.

 

16. unreal

 

  1. Eating at irregular times every day is vata aggravating

At the beginning of this piece, we described the properties of Vata and how it loves variety and mobility. Therefore, Ayurveda advises that a rigid schedule helps control vata, and a variable schedule aggravates it. Many people, who come to us with vata aggravated hair, also tell us that their schedules are very variable. They tend to eat dinner at varying times everyday and often have a weekend schedule which is even more variable compared to their weekend schedule.

17.binge eating

 

 

If you are nodding as you read this, here is a simple fact: your body does not know that it is Sunday. Or Wednesday. It is designed to expect food, of a particular nature at a similar time everyday. If you keep varying your eating time, it will bring down your ability to digest food properly. It can give you gastric issues. And pertinently for this post, it will aggravate vata, leading to poor skin and hair.

 

  1. Being unplanned and chaotic is vata aggravating

Just like being over planned and having a rigid need for control can aggravate a pitta prone person, being unplanned, chaotic and unscheduled can aggravate vata in your body, especially if you are already prone to it.

 

Some amount of ambiguity is good for creativity. However, when your life descends into chaos, at the stage when you have really no idea what you are going to be eating in your next meal, or when you are going to be eating it, then your vata will go out of control.

18.chaos

We see a lot of creatively oriented people at Krya, complaining of vata aggravated skin and hair disorders. The very nature of creativity is vata driven – so it makes sense that very creative people, or people in creative professions like music, films, and entertainment, strongly harness vata dosha.

 

But when this vata inspired creativity is further surrounded by a lack of schedule and chaos in your basic day (unplanned eating, sleeping, living), this completely throws your doshas out of balance.

 

If you are prone to vata, then we recommend you start by bring atleast one part of your day under rigid control. It could simply be the time you eat dinner, or the time you go to sleep, or doing an abhyanga once a week. This simple act of bringing one part of your life under control will act as a counter to unbalanced vata.

 

A person in a creative position or a vata dominated person may never achieve the rigid control a Pitta person can. But we suggest you choose a few areas of your life and bring order only to this as a matter of habit. This will rein in agitation and the excesses of vata, without changing your basic nature or profession.

 

  1. A high amount of physical activity aggravates vata dosha

Vata is the dosha governing movement and mobility. It therefore stands to reason that if you are using movement and mobility often and in high doses, you could end up aggravating vata dosha.

 

Many sportspersons and long distance runners have the classic vata build – they are lean, and have much darker skin colour compared to their youth. They also tend to succumb quickly to disorders involving vata related organs – joint and skeletal injuries for example. While Western sports medicine would argue that this is a simple case of overuse, Ayurveda would say that this is because vata is aggravated and the body is full of dryness.

19. running

 

 

Acharya Charaka says for example, that it is far easier to break a dry and brittle stick than it is to break a stick that has been oiled every day. External oleation is strongly recommended when you do extreme, frequent physical activity to rein in excess vata. The body is less injury prone, much stronger and remains youthful despite the physical effort.

 

At Krya, we have seen several case of hairfall related to vata aggravation after a new exercise routine has been taken up. For example, a young man came to us for hairfall advice – on investigation we found that he had started marathon running as a hobby 8 months prior to the hairfall.

 

Does this mean Ayurveda is against running or any extreme physical activity?

 

Again the answer is no. Ayurveda deeply recognises the connection between your mind and your body and is always encouraging of activities that give you deep satisfaction and happiness. So if marathon running makes you happy you must continue to do.

stencil.krya-blog-landscape-new

 

However, you must prepare your body for this activity by ensuring you do regular abhyangas, by eating foods that pacify vata and controlling chaos in other parts of your life. This will ensure you neither lose hair nor health in your pursuit of happiness.

 

  1. A high amount of mental activity and use of electronic devices agitates vata

We have seen this at Krya. Sudden extreme hairfall after a promotion, during a job change or when someone is doing a difficult project. One can of course blame the late nights, coffee and lack of routine for this excess. But an agitated brain that will not shut down easily, a high use of electronic devices, a high amount of talking and mental activity will aggravate vata.

20.excited mind

 

Vata dosha is excited by stimulus. So using your mobile phone all the time, working late into the night, having frequent agitated conversations over cups of coffee and putting in a month of late nights will give vata dosha enough stimuli to push it over the edge.

 

Mental vata aggravation has to be tackled in three ways: one is to ensure that your diet does not further stimulate your vata during this stressful time, so choosing dal-chaawal over a burger will help.

 

Second is to physically calm the brain at night by oiling the scalp – at Krya we have recommended specific hair oiling for this kind of vata aggravation where herbs like Brahmi and Usheera (vetiver) are used. These herbs soothe the nerves and are excellent for stress related vata aggravation.

 

The third and important thing to do in stress related Vata is to follow an electronic cut off time and set up an electronics free zone for yourself. Restraining the use of electronics and imposing rigidity around this, again helps control aggravated vata dosha.

 

  1. Speaking for long periods on your mobile phone / telephone is vata aggravating

Vata’s secondary seat is your ears. If your job tends to involve long and frequent phone calls, then your overuse of a vata seat can aggravate vata. Many people who are in jobs which involve long phone calls tends to have the characteristics of aggravated vata – they speak a lot, are unable to focus or concentrate, experience skin darkening and have dry and coarse skin and hair.

21.long calls

 

 

At Krya we advise a good massage of your ears everytime during your abhyanga. In addition if your job involves overuse of your ears, doing a daily ear massage with warm oil will be very helpful. A Gandusha (swishing of water in your mouth after every meal and drink) is also very good for strained vocal chords. As is oil pulling once a week with Sesame oil.

 

  1. Raw food and vegan diets tend to be vata aggravating

Raw food diets by their very nature tend to be vata aggravating. Raw food satisfies many of the criteria of vata dosha like being dry, crisp, hard, light and non oily. This is why many people on a raw food diet could end up experiencing vata aggravation symptoms like joint aches, back pain, dry skin and poor hair.

22. raw food

 

Vegan diets, while excellent from an ethical perspective, are vata aggravating as per Ayurveda. Because of the high dependence on lentils and nuts (for nut milks and dressings), the food can severely increase wind and dryness in the body.

 

I am unable to offer any improving perspectives from Ayurveda for either raw food diets or a vegan diets. All the Ayurvedic weapons of controlling vata like ghee, cooking food and milk are not of use if you are a vegan or someone who eats raw food. I have often said that Ayurveda and being vegan do not go together, and I have learned this through direct personal experience. If you are leaning towards Ayurveda, and you are finding dis-ease in your current life having been on a raw food or a vegan diet, do re-examine your choices.

 

  1. Air travel and long commutes aggravate vata

Vata is the dosha which governs space and mobility. So it stands to reason that physically transporting yourself over a long distance every day or a super long distance frequently can aggravate the dosha of mobility and space.

23. the long commute

 

Many times a commute is out of our control, unless you are fortunate enough to work for yourself. So we advice a few precautions to be taken if you are in for a long commute everyday or frequent air travel (either everyday if you have a long commute or 3 – 4 days before air travel)

  • Eat an early dinner (before 8:30) and go to sleep exactly 2 hours later
  • Reduce your tea and coffee intake by halving your cup size
  • Keep yourself warm on the flight – warm is the opposite of vata dosha
  • Cover your ears and head if travelling in public transport. Reduce the AC if travelling in car –and keep the windows partially closed to reduce draughts of wind from settling on your person.
  • Stick like a maniac to your abhyanga schedule – this will bring down the stress of your commute and plane travel excesses

 

Krya recommendation for reducing vata aggravation

Our rather long post has examined 14 ways you can aggravate vata through food choices, lifestyle and certain behaviors. I hope you are not feeling disheartened or helpless at the end of this post. As I have mentioned, Ayurveda allows for everyone to lead a unique and tailor made life as per their needs. Ayurveda is never drastic (except in drastic circumstances) and always advises preparedness and moderation to handle the excesses of life.

Our post aims to put control back into your hands. None of us are helpless if we know exactly what we are going through and know how exactly to tackle these problems.

If you are experiencing vata aggravation due to any or all of the 14 vata aggravating foods, habits and lifestyles, here is a good recommendation from us to help you balance your doshas:

  1. Add melted desi cow’s ghee to your diet – atleast 1 teaspoon per meal. Ghee is universally acknowledged in Ayurveda as being tridoshic , balancing to all doshas and is especially useful to control aggravated vata
  2. Reduce the amount of tea, coffee, you are drinking – halve your cup size and ban colas and juices altogether
  3. Ban colas and commercial fruit juices completely from your life
  4. Control your meal times – we recommend breakfast at 8:30 am, lunch at 12:30 pm, a snack if you are hungry at 4:30 pm and dinner at 8:30 pm. As we have explained controlling one part of your life, particular meals, greatly helps control vata.
  5. Add a pada abhyanga if your mental stress, commute is very high – we recommend a thrice a week pada abhyanga (foot massage) – This is to be done atleast one hour after dinner and atleast 45 minutes before sleeping. Massage your feet with warm Krya abhyanga oil and massage the soles of the feet very well. After 15 minutes, wash off with Krya Men’s ubtan or the Krya Women’s ubtan. Dry the feet well, before sleeping. The pada abhyanga reduces stress, balances vata dosha, and calms the body down and prepares you for sleep.
  6. BE a MANIAC about your abhyanga: We recommend atleast once a week or ideally twice a week abhyanga for everyone. Tuesdays and Fridays are good for abhyangas for Women and Wednesdays and Saturdays are good for Abhyangas for Men. Do the Abhyanga with warm oil – 50% Krya Abhyanga Oil and 50% sesame oil (preferably cold pressed and organic). Warm the Sesame oil with Maricha (pepper – 1 corn), and Jeera (1/2 teaspoon). Filter out hot oil and add equal quantity of Krya Abhyanga oil to this. Apply as hot as possible on skin and massage very briskly using long up down strokes. The massage should generate heat and sweat. After 20 minutes, wash off with Krya Men’s Ubtan or the Krya Women’s ubtan.
  7. In times of great mental stress, we have found Hair oiling to be very beneficial to calm down jangled nerves. Apply ¼ tsp of Krya Classic Oil or our newly launched Krya Vata reducing Hair oil directly on the scalp and massage well. Do this at 7 pm to give the excess heat in the body enough time to come out. This will help you stay calm and focused and balances vata dosha.
  8. Of course, one of the key things to do when you have vata aggravated hair fall, is to look after your hair well. It needs to be oiled religiously 3 – 4 times a week, washed only with a gentle hairwash that will not further dry it and aggravate it. Our consumers swear by the health giving properties of our hair oils and how gentle yet effective our hairwashes and hair masks are. Like all Krya products our hair systems are synthetics and toxin free. You can try our classic hair system, or our conditioning hair system depending upon the texture of your hair. We also have a special hair system to address dryness caused by chemical damage (excessive colouring, perming, straightening, etc).

We hope this article was useful to you to help you understand the leading cause of urban hairfall and hair damage. Stay tuned for the next article in this series on how unbalanced Kapha can aggravate hairfall of a particular kind – we will be discussing hairfall related to PCOD in this post as well.

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Incorporating an Abhyanga for good health – Krya tells you how you can use this ancient Ayurvedic practice for balance, well being and great skin and hair

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Reading Time: 11 minutes

I have a pitta constitution, is sesame oil okay for an abhyanga?

Can I use plain sesame oil for an abhyanga? Must I necessarily use specialised abhyanga oil?

I am used to Mustard oil, especially in Winter – is it okay to do an abhyanga with this?

Why are you so against Olive oil? I am told it is great skin oil. Why can’t I use it for my Abhyanga?

I remember my Grand Mum adding hibiscus flowers to sesame oil for my hair – can I apply that for my body as well?

Our previous posts on the Abhyanga elicited a lot of doubts and queries on how to incorporate the Abhyanga into your daily / weekly regimen. This post addresses many of the subtle nuances behind an abhyanga with insights on why certain choices are made (like the choice of a base oil) to give you greater health benefits.

 

An Abhyanga is a part of every single Samhita and Ayurvedic text and is mentioned by every great Acharya from Acharya Charaka to Acharya Govind Dasji Bisagratna (of the Bhaisajya Ratnavalli) as an essential part of the Dinacharya (daily practices) for a healthy life. The Dinacharya also describes practices like waking up at Brahma Muhurtha, quiet contemplation before dawn, Yoga, Pranayama and activities related to cleansing like the Gandusha and Snana.

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An Abhyanga can be seen as a part exercise, part examination of the body, part toning of organ systems like the digestive system, maintenance of the musculo skeletal system, care of the skin and deep cleansing of the entre body. Most importantly, along with the above, the Abhyanga helps in balancing all 3 doshas of the individual, bringing the whole body back to a state of alertness, vitality and balance.

 

This definition of the Abhyanga from the Indian system of Ayurveda makes it very different from the western concept of a massage for relaxation, which is why at Krya, we insist on using the original Sanskrit term, ‘Abhyanga” and not the term massage to describe this Dinacharya.

 

As the Abhyanga is seen as a part exercise for the entire body, it was used in several ways:

  1. For the aged and infirm who cannot do strenuous exercise the abhyanga is to be performed by a well trained specialist who would work the muscles during the process of Abhyanga slowing down degeneration and decay. If this specialist is not available, a self abhyanga can also be done. Old age is considered high in vata dosha – therefore oil which uses vata reducing herbs is recommended.
  2. For the active sportsperson, the Abhyanga is used as a part of the cool down to relax tense muscles, bring them back to a state of normalcy and prevent muscular tears due to stiffness and over use. As exercise excites vata dosha, vata reducing herbs aid bringing the body back to a state of balance. In addition, regenerative and repair based herbs like Ashwagandha, Brahmi, and Manjishta are very useful when added to the oil.

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  1. For the infant whose body is just developing, the abhyanga is used as an aid to help the body’s development. Here the texts advice using kapha building and muscle building herbs like Mulethi, Bala, etc.6-baby-abyanga
  2. For the stressed working man or woman, the abhyanga helps reduce excited vata and pitta dosha. It also aids tranquillity and balance, pacifying the overwrought mind and body. So here cooling and pacifying oil for the head is suggested and a vata reducing oil for body abhyanga is suggested.
  3. For the post partum mother, the abhyanga helps build the body’s immunity, removes tiredness and exhaustion caused by child birth and baby care, and helps in rebuilding muscles and strength. The main emphasis here is on providing warmth and vata reduction to remove exhaustion, and to ensure there is no mucous production during this time which can in turn affect the baby.

 

How does an Abhyanga restore health back to the body?

City living is considered high and vitiating to Vata dosha. This combined with high commute times, constant travel, air travel; use of vata exciting devices like the mobile phone, computer, and constant use of the brain ensures that most of us have aggravated Vata dosha in excess of what we should have.

 

The Ayurvedic texts tell us that when Vata is in excess it contracts the minute channels (srotas) all over the body. This means that Rasa dhatu (lymph fluid) which is responsible for our strength and immunity has a narrower passage to flow through, which means that the body is depleted of its vital nutrients. When Rasa dhatu (lymph) is constrained, it in turn affects the free movement of rakta dhatu (blood).

 

When Rasa dhatu and rakta dhatu have a constrained flow in the body, we will feel exhausted, fatigued, mentally worn out and can also get easily over wrought, depressed and anxious in difficult situations. Our response to these situations is to make use of external stimulants like tea and coffee to help us keep going at work. Unfortunately, tea and coffee further aggravate and increase Vata dosha leading our body into a vicious cycle of imbalance.

3-fatigue

This is why Ayurveda prescribes the use of a Taila Abhyanga and the use of specific Sneha like Cow ghee internally in vitiated Vata.

 

The external application of Taila in the abhyanga works by trapping excess vayu from the skin. As the abhyanga is done continuously with warm oil, it helps trap vayu along with minute debris, dirt and dead cells through the skin surface and helps it leave the body through Sweda (sweat) generated after a vigorous abhyanga. As the action of the taila is warm, unctuous and penetrating, it is the opposite of vata dosha which is cold, rough and light – this in effect helps bring down the excess of vata dosha and restores the body back to a state of balance.

 

The internal use of cow ghee frees up the internal constrictions and allows the smooth passage of Rasa and rakta dhatu. This is because ghee is minutely penetrating (sookshma), demulcent and moisturizing in its action, and is pacifying to all 3 doshas, especially pitta and vata dosha.

 

What are the 5 positive changes I can immediately see after a month of regular Abhyanga?

Please remember that an abhyanga alone will not do if you have vitiated vata dosha. You must make necessary changes to your diet, include cow ghee and make a few lifestyle modifications as well. All modern devices excite vata dosha (cell phone, e readers, laptops, i pads) so ensure you set a diligent cut off every night after which you will allow your body to recover from the impact of using these devices.

If you have been sincere about implementing small diet and lifestyle changes along with a once a week abhyanga, here are some changes you should see:

  1. You should find it much easier to fall asleep – insomnia or an inability to fall asleep easily is typically symptoms of vata aggravation. As your vata is brought back to a state of balance, you should be able to fall asleep much easier.
  2. If you have been feeling maudlin, depressed, anxious and negative in general, you should be seeing a change in your disposition. Aggravated vata is considered to lead to mood swings and depression in the texts. When this is brought under control, you should see a change in your outlook on life.

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  1. You should see a positive change in your ability to digest food and your appetite. Vata aggravation brings about inconsistency in digestive ability and appetite. With vata under control you should be able to digest your food much better and should get hungry at roughly the same time and regularly every day.
  2. Higher energy and less aches and pains during the day – vata dosha has its seat in the joints, lower back and all organs of movement including the neck and shoulders. You should experience vitality and new life in all these areas and should wake up feeling fresh and full of energy.
  3. Change in hair and skin texture – when vata goes out of control, the first 2 systems to feel its effects are your skin and hair. You hair will become coarse, rough, brittle, have split ends and break easily when combed, when tugged or when wet. Your skin will also start looking rough, dull and can also start becoming much darker than usual. When your vata is under control, you should be able to observe lustre in your skin, an evening of skin tone and your hair should get much stronger. The elasticity of your hair should be slowly restored which means you should be able to comb / pull it without it snapping and breaking.

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Why is sesame oil used in an Abhyanga despite it having a pitta nature? Will it suit everyone?

All Ayurvedic texts are unanimous in their opinion of Sesame oil. It is considered the best taila for pacifying vata aggravation. As vata aggravation is the most common cause of most diseases (50%), sesame oil is used as the base taila in almost all skin and hair formulations. In fact when the texts do not specify the exact taila to be used and simply mention the word “taila” we take it to mean Sesame Taila as the word “Taila” is itself used interchangeably with sesame Oil.

6-sesame

We have mentioned that external application of taila requires a small amount of heat. This heat improves the penetrative ability of the taila and helps it enter the skin much faster. This heat also makes the action of the oil “sookshma” or minute and helps deliver the herbs to the body much faster.

 

This is why Sesame oil is preferred over oils like Eranda (Castor) even in applications for the hair. Despite the fact that castor oil is much more “cool” oil compared to Sesame which is required for hair and scalp applications, Castor is dense and not as Sookshma compared to sesame because of its cold nature. This means that castor does not work as fast as Sesame and is not as effective as sesame to deliver herbs to the body.

 

Depending on the formulations used, we can balance the nature of oils. However, it is important to note here that while Sesame is considered pitta in nature, it is not as pitta in nature like Mustard oil for example. So the Ayurvedic formulators were wise in recommending Sesame as the base oil of choice for tackling all Dosha based disorders.

 

The Krya Abhyanga Oil, for example is designed to control excess vata which is a common complaint and also balance Pitta. We do this by formulating our base oil sesame with herbs like Bala (Sida cordifolia), Sucukrika (Tamarind leaf), Nirgundi (Vitex negundo). Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) which are revered vata balancing and pacifying Ayurvedic herbs. Along with this we also use Pitta pacifying herbs like Nimba (Azadirachta indica), Vacha (Acorus calamus), Manjishta (Rubia cordifolia).

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While sesame oil remains the base oil, the Krya abhyanga oil also uses small amounts of Coconut oil and Kokum butter for their pitta and vata pacifying properties and many skin benefits.

 

When in doubt, and you do not have access to a specially prepared abhyanga oil, sesame oil is the best and safest bet for you and will work for all constitutions. Ensure it is prepared properly as described below.

 

The 4 step Oil preparation process for Abhyanga to suit all prakritis (individual constitutions)

Once you have chosen your base sesame oil, it is important to prepare it so that it helps your body, aids dosha balance and restores health back to you.

 

The rationale behind this is simple: all Tailas and Snehas are kapha promoting. By this, we mean that their consumption or application aids growth and strength. However, this also means that if they are applied unprepared, you can quickly accumulate mucous in your body as kapha is also responsible for accumulating mucous in the body (along with accumulating strength).

  1. Coarsely pound ¼ teaspoon of cumin seeds (jeera) and 1 pepper corn. The idea is not to make a fine powder but to simply bruise the spices so that they begin releasing their properties into the oil

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  1. Warm your sesame oil in an iron vessel, preferably.
  1. Into the hot oil, add the coarsely pounded spices PLUS ¼ teaspoon of raw rice. The addition of the raw rice helps remove moisture if any from the oil and ensure it does not splutter or retain any traces of moisture when applied on skin. Ensure the spices do not char or burn in the oil. Once you see foam coming up in the oil and the jeera has become reddish and is swollen, it is time to filter out the oil.
  1. Filter out the rice and spices from the oil. To this hot oil add your Abhyanga oil of choice. Apply the oil mixture when bearably warm on your skin.

 

In Ayurveda, we do not reheat oil which has already gone through the Tila Paka process. This is why to apply warm oil we add a small quantity of plain warm base oil to our specially prepared Abhyanga oil and apply this mixture warm.

 

We recommend using pure Krya Abhyanga oil for your Abhyanga or sesame oil prepared as mentioned above. Please note that Sesame oil is a stop gap measure as it does not contain vata pacifying herbs.  A specially prepared Abhyanga Oil is much better in the long run for your Abhyanga as it does a much better job of dosha balance. 

 

Notes:

  1. If you are prone to severe kapha accumulation (frequents coughs and colds), you can also add a tiny piece of dried ginger to your coarse spice mixture.
  2. If you have any manner of skin allergy, psoriasis or eczema, skip the pepper and ginger and only add cumin (jeera) and raw rice to your oil.
  3. If you find this irritating, simply warm the oil with raw rice alone and use this as your Abhyanga base oil.

 

The difference between Keshya Abhyanga and the Abhyanga for the body

We have spoken before about the differences in the constitution of the head and the body. The head carries the brain and the eyes, both of which are organs made up of fatty tissues. Kapha dosha is an important dosha here which has helped create the fatty tissues that make up both the eyes and the brain.

 

Heat melts kapha, so Ayurveda believes that it is important to maintain coolness in the brain, scalp, head and eyes for the organs to function well. The activity of these organs by themselves increases Pitta or heat in the body. As we see, process information, think and use our intellect we use up vital nutrients and generate heat in the body. So Ayurveda says we should constantly cool this area and apply tailas which soothe the brain and eyes, and allow them to relax and rest.

9-eyes-cool

 

This is also the reason behind using only cool water to wash the eyes and lukewarm – body temperature water to wash the hair. Hot water should never be used above the neck area.

 

The taila designed for this area is therefore necessarily different. We use cooling, relaxing and soothing herbs like Bhringaraj, Brahmi, Nimba and Amla. All of these herbs balance pitta, help in the release of ushna (heat) from the scalp and cool and relax the brain and the eyes. In addition, as this area is high in kapha, we use sweet kapha promoting herbs that are useful in hair softness, and growth like Mulethi etc.

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This is why Krya recommends a separate oil for the head and the body. The same cooling oil when applied to the body will aggravate vata dosha further and could also upset Kapha dosha. The warming, Vata reducing oil of the body when applied to the head can increase Pitta and heat in the body, which is the very thing we are trying to control in this area which is already very Pitta prone.

 

End notes:

We hope this post and our previous post on the Abhyanga have helped clear some basic doubts on the Abhyanga. 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 as a tool 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 or call us on 075500-89090.

 

Krya products for Abhyanga:

  1. Krya products for Abhyanga:
    1. Babies
    a. Krya traditional baby massage oil with Bala & Ashwagandhab. Krya Ubtan for Baby girls with Rose & Himalayan Turmeric
    c. Krya Ubtan for Baby boys with Chamomile & Rosemary

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  1. 2. Kids
    a. Krya traditional baby massage oil with Bala & Ashwagandha
    b. Krya Kids Ubtan with Gotu Kola & Cassia flower

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  1. Men & Women
    a. Krya Abhyanga Oil with Vacha & Ashwagandha
    b. Krya Women’s Ubtan with Lotus Leaf & Lodhra
    c. Krya Men’s Ubtan with Vetiver & van Tulsi

abhyanga-system

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Worried about your post partum hairfall as a new Mom? Here are 5 Simple yet powerful Ayurvedic Ideas that can help you

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Reading Time: 7 minutes

Childbirth is a singularity event.

The birth of the Universe itself is treated as a singularity in the big bang hypothesis, where about 15 billion years ago, there was a point when there was no space or real time. From an infinitesimally small and infinitely dense point, the big bang happened causing the birth of the Universe.

1-singularity

The birth of a baby is a similarly a very singular event

In a very small period of time, the pregnant woman experiences a spectacular change to become a mother and enters the post partum phase. Since this is a very dramatic, extreme event, Ayurveda recognizes the need to treat the new born baby and mother also with extreme caution, attention and thoughtful detail.

This caution and detail is mentioned to protect the Mother and Baby from infectious disease, to allow their muscles and dhatus to fully recuperate from the ordeal of child birth and build strength, and to allow only positive energy to surround the young growing child.

For example, in the Ayurvedic pediatric texts, it is clearly mentioned that the new born baby can leave the home for the first time only after the 3rd / 4th month to be taken to the temple for a brief visit and then should avoid going outside the home till the completion of the first year. The visit outside is allowed at the stage when the neck does not require support. This is also the time when baby begins to respond to social stimuli and smile back, so a visit is encouraged at this time.

 

Understanding Vata Aggravation is the Key

From an Ayurvedic perspective, with the birth of the child and expulsion of placenta, a large empty space forms in the womb. The nature of vata dosha which is made up of Vayu (wind) and Akash (space) is to rush in to fill this gap left behind by the newly born baby.

The aggravation of Vata is heightened further by urban living as the very nature of city life is vata promoting. Long commutes, late nights, irregular meal times, highly processed foods, excessive cell & device usage and multi-tasking are all factors that aggravate Vata.

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The key to putting together a good post partum care regimen for the new mother lies in this Ayurvedic understanding of the nature of Vata aggravation and the resultant management techniques.

The Ashtanga Hridayam defines Vata as dry, light, cool, rough and very mobile. To pacify aggravated Vata, the key Ayurvedic principles are :

Diet – Food which is warm, unctuous, freshly cooked. The use of ghee, rice , moong dal, milk , warming spices like pepper are highly recommended.

Regimen : Since Vata is mobile and agitated , a fixed daily routine for waking up, meals and sleep times controls Vata

Abhyanga – One of the seats of Vata is the skin. So the use of unctuous oils through a massage helps in removing excessive Vata and therefore this is a principal Ayurvedic tool to help in post-natal care.

 

The 5 Simple yet Powerful Ayurvedic Ideas for post partum care and health

If this very important concept of aggravated Vata is understood properly, it gives us a deep insight into the root causes of post partum hair  loss, dry skin , joint pains etc. While you can read in great depth about the Ayurvedic practices of post natal care on the Krya blog and more about the results of vata aggravation on a new mother and its effects on skin and hair, we have summarized below the top 5 simple yet powerful Ayurvedic ideas that should form part of an ideal post partum regimen

  1. Sequestration of mother & baby & Controlling travel : While this is a very good idea simply from the point of view of avoiding germs and infection for the newborn, it is also useful to control Vata. Travel and movement are Vata aggravating and simply eliminating all manner of discretionary travel, even short local trips, is an excellent starting point. For example , the new mother may wish to take a break and drive down to the supermarket to buy groceries. If there are clear symptoms of vata related disorders, then even this discretionary travel should be replaced with say, ordering groceries online, and say taking a short regular walk around your building. Regular western science cannot comprehend this very deep principle and only Ayurveda views travel as a cause for concern in Vata related disorders.

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  1. Daily Rhythms : The nature of Vata is mobile and agitated, so the discipline of fixed times for major activities like Abhyanga, bath, meal times and the time of going to bed provides a daily rhythm that can keep Vata in check. Even though to the new parents it may seem that their baby’s sleep and feed patterns are necessarily chaotic, it is still a worthwhile exercise to impose some sense of routine and rhythm for the mother. For example, her Abhyanga and bath times and her meal times can still be strictly monitored to ensure a sense of routine. Regularity, order and routine pacifies aggravated Vata dosha.

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  1. Abhyanga : We cannot overstate the importance of a regular Abhyanga in post-partum care. The use of warm, unctuous Ayurvedic skin oils balances Vata dosha which is coarse, rough, dry and light. In the abhyanga, special attention should be given to the abdominal area (for C Section moms, wait until the stitches are fully healed before attempting massage here), waist, lower back, joints ( wrist, knee & ankle) , the soles of the feet and the ears. These areas are the primary and secondary seats of Vayu and an abhyanga focused on these areas will help eliminate aggravated Vayu.  The Abhyanga will improve circulation and thereby repair minor soft tissue injuries, tone the abdominal and pelvic muscles and aid digestion. Please ensure the abhyanga is done with a warm, sesame based oil to help control Vata dosha. A simple pada-abhyanga (abhyanga for your feet alone) can help relieve exhaustion, tiredness and insomnia if done just before sleeping every night and is very useful for exhausted parents.

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An abhyanga is also vital for the young baby. If no help is available, this is something that can be done by the new Mother or the father and can be a very enjoyable activity for the parent and the child. If being done by the Mother, ensure her stitches are well healed and also ensure that she has had her abhyanga, bath and meal so that she is not tired when attending to the baby.

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  1. Vata-balancing diet : Reduce or eliminate following Vata-aggravating categories
    1. In vegetables avoid potato, peas, cauliflower, cabbage, beans and other “gassy” vegetables
    2. In lentils avoid / reduce all other lentils with the exception of split, yellow moong
    3. Avoid processed foods like Maida, bread , readymade cereal and colas
    4. Avoid diuretic drinks like tea and coffee

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Add the following nourishing foods like cows ghee and milk, aged rice, split moong dal, nourishing seasonal vegetables like squashes, beets and carrots. Use spices like cumin , pepper , dhania and turmeric and avoid chillies and other pitta aggravating foods

 

  1. Embrace Focus ( & avoid multi-tasking) – Ayurveda tells us that the nature of Vata is mobile and agitated , so the Vata constitution person moves around quickly, talks fast and multi-tasks. To pacify excess Vata, focusing on one task at a time, silence and present moment awareness are excellent tools. The practice of focus will help controlling the Vata aggravation faced by new mothers. Becoming a parent can be overwhelming and you may feel that there are literally a million things to do at any given moment. Remember that focusing on one thing at a time and doing whatever you do with focus and to the best of your capacity is good for you, your baby, your family and most importantly your doshas and health.

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We have been focusing on post partum Ayurvedic care over the last few posts as this is such an important piece of the puzzle to answer the high amount of hair loss that new mothers face today. Motherhood has indeed changed from ancient times when a Mother had access to high quality post natal care, rest. There was also a strong availability of traditional knowledge in the form of the older generation, and given that babies were born much earlier than they are today, mother and sometimes grandmothers were also available to provide physical care and attention to the new mother and baby.

This is no longer available for many of us. We live in cities. We are having babies much later than our mothers and grandmothers used to. Many of our Mothers are not as physically fit as the previous generation and because of the nuclearisation of our families, many of us do not have access to the traditional knowledge that our families used to have to let us know what should be done.

This is the reason behind focusing on this important topic and having many guest writers write for us on the Krya blog. Ayurvedic first principles are not difficult to follow and come with a lot of innate sense. It is our hope that if this knowledge were more widely available, new mothers can pick and choose what works for them and attempt to regain health using traditional, Ayurvedic first principles. You can choose as many or as few principles to start with. Adopting even one of these principles will lead to measurable changes in your health and well being. It is our experience that awareness and taking the first step are the hardest part of any health programme. Once you begin, the changes you will see for yourself will inspire you to keep going on this path.

We hope you enjoyed reading this post and also hope you were able to appreciate the difference in approach Krya follows when treating hair and skin problems. If you too are alarmed at your post partum hair fall and would like to consult us, do call us on 075500-89090 or write to us.

 

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

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Reading Time: 20 minutes

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

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

blog-post-1-vata-and-pregnancy

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

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

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


Old is Gold,

I was always told,

This advice I followed,

Especially when lo behold!

The most precious being in my hands I hold.”

Seetha Anand Vaidyam

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

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

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

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

“Sattvaviseshakarani Punarmathapithrasvadyoganatharvarthnyah:  Shruthyaschabhikshanam

Swopachintah cha karma bhavathi Poorvabhayschethi”

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Clothing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Daily Rhythms of a post natal home

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

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

 

Visitors and Outings for the Newborn and Mother

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

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

“Shoorairayodhibheergupathmadrashyam nagaram paraiha

Yatha shishovarpurathdhwagatho thaovirddhibhigrahaiha”

 

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

 

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

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

 

Massage and Bathing Rituals

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ayurvedic first principles:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Ayurvedic first principles: the use of herb enhanced collyrium

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

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

Diet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ayurvedic first principles – a healthy post partum diet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

General atmosphere in a post-natal home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The changing patterns of motherhood

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

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

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


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

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

 


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

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

 

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