6 ayurvedic strategies that help reduce Digital Addiction

are you a digital addict?
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Reading Time: 13 minutes

Kanye West did it. So did Ed Sheeran. Research tells us that when we practice this , our memory becomes sharper, we are able to sleep deeper, our posture becomes better, we are able to form more meaningful connections with people, and that we are open to more life changing perspectives and decisions.

What am I talking about? A Digital Detox program.

A conversation on another group I am a part of spurred this post. The author of the post shared that she felt that she was “digitally addicted” to social media and found that she had developed a need to stay connected and consume vast amounts of information. So she reached out asking for help and suggestions to help her digitally de-addict.

The number of responses in this discussion made me realise how much of a digital addiction problem all of us have. I began working at a time when I had no cell phone. I have even resisted using a cellphone for 2 – 3 years entirely and I avoided using a smartphone or using apps for a very long time. Yes even I find myself inexorably drawn to my smartphone. The ease of buying with pre-installed apps has left even someone like me, a self confessed Ludite, far more digitally addicted than I would like to be.

are you suffering from digital addiction?

Therefore I have written this post drawing on ayurvedic strategies to help everyone do a Daily Digital Detox. This post also shares the ayurvedic reasoning behind this, explains about the nature of vata dosha and how vata dosha is powerfully aggravated with digital addiction and what we can do everyday to control this addiction.

Background : Why it is critical to keep Vata Dosha in balance

We are all made of a combination of vata, pitta and kapha dosha. Each Dosha has its own set of functions in the body. The amicable and harmonious team work of all doshas in the body gives us a body in a state of health and balance and Mano gunas (mental traits) which are cheerful, positive and in control.

A combination of teh 5 great elemnts in balance gives us the correct and harmonious working of the mind and body

Vata dosha is made up of a combination of 2 Pancha mahaboothas (primordial elements) of Vayu (air) and Akash (space / ether). Hence vata dosha can be described as a combination of Mobility and lightness and speed due to the presence of Vayu and vast emptiness due to presence of Akash mahabootha.

Only Vata dosha has “Akash” or Space as a primordial element within it. This explains many symptoms of disease when vata is affected and also helps us understand the structural composition of organ systems which are givereend by Vata dosha.

When Vata dosha is in balance, the body has the ability of speed, lightness, mobility and the willingness to accept change. Vata dosha in balance gives us enthusiasm, creative fire, speed, willingness to get up and move the body, the capacity to talk in an animated and creative fashion. Vata dosha also helps provide “excitation” to the brain and is what get us “firing” with new ideas, thoughts, unique ways of doing things etc.

in balance, vata dosha gives us energy, creativity, mobility and lightness

Vata Dosha also governs important body systems. It governs all organs of movement (entire musculo skeletal movement) and governs transportation of all fluids, foods and wastes through the body and out of the body. So Vata in balance gives us timely “excretion” of urine, and bowel movements. Vata in balance gives us easy removal of menstrual wastes.

Due to the nature of urban living, the foods we consume and the high level of mental excitation, access to new information, fried food and vata exciting devices, most of us have an imbalanced Vata dosha (as it has been over used / over excited).

When vata dosha is over -used, it imbalances rather dramatically leaving you with insomnia, panic attacks, mood swings and depressive states, inability to fall asleep easily, tendency to wake up in the middle of the night several times apart from other issues. It also leads to catches in the muscular skeletal system, porosity of bones, weak teeth etc as the air in these parts increases due to excitation of Vata.

When vata is over used it leads to highs and lows in mental states besides many physical issues

Aggravated Vata dosha also leads to a chicken and egg situation which we will read about further . It leads to addictive behavior which in turn further excites Vata Dosha.

Digital Addiction and Vata dosha:

There is a growing body of research in Ayurveda which links the over use of smartphones and social media and even news to this state of imbalanced and over used vata dosha.

Vata dosha is light, mobile and subtle. Hence as these devices radiate at a minute level, are used close to the body, and use “Vayu “and “Akash” to pass signals, they easily stimulate and excite the nerve endings and subtle channels in the body causing minute, almost imperceptible movements in the body.

The medium and very nature of social media excites vata dosha

Due to this subtle excitation of cells, and due to the nature of the signals passed by these devices, and their nature of proving interesting and fresh stimulation to the mind, the overall vata dosha in the head and body is excited.

In fact in many kinds of addiction (binge watching of television, alcohol, smoking, shopping, binge-eating etc), we can see the excitation of Vata dosha as a cyclical cause of the addiction. The addiction excites Vata dosha which gives us the “crack cocaine effect” which in turn leads to further addictive behaviour . Thus, we keep on steadily unbalancing and aggravating Vata dosha.

Any kind of addictive behavior has its roots in vata aggravation and also triggers vata aggravation

Over using the cell phone to talk: an example of vata aggravation

Many times, after a long call, we feel “buzzed”. The ear feels over heated. We are unable to shut down and feel the need to visibly calm down. This is an example where the use of a vata exciting device on an organ dominated by Vata dosha has led to vata aggravation.

Over using the ears can lead to vata aggravation

The ear is considered a sookshma organ governed by vata dosha. The fine and minute bones in the ear are less dense and light, with a lot of “Akash” and “Vayu” in built in them. This light and airy bone composition allows these bones to vibrate physically and pass on auditory signals received. When vata is in good balance, we are able to hear very sookshma noises and have good hearing.

When vata is over used in the ear, the bones are tired from over vibrating and passing on a lot of auditory signals. So, when we are habituated to hearing loud discordant sounds, live in a high traffic noisy road, or speak a lot over the cell phone, the ear’s capacity to hear is diminished due to vata aggravation.

Over stimulation and use of ears aggravates vata and impairs hearing

In particular, the use of a device that uses Vata based signals like the cell phone, when over used on the ear, leads to a dramatic aggravation in vata dosha.

This is why Ayurveda suggests doing karna abhyanga (ear massage with medicated oils) regularly to balance vata dosha in the ear – taila and abhyanga are the best balancers of vata dosha and this principle is used in Karna abhyanga as well.

Why Digital Addiction can derange Vata dosha

Social media has often been described as crack cocaine for the mind. The always-on nature of social media, constant use of images and sound, and the presence of so much new news excites the Vata carrying channels of the brain. Because of this excessive neural activity, a high amount of pitta is also  generated in the brain.

Social media is primed to aggravate vata dosha

Vata dosha by its nature is irregular and chaotic. Therefore when we over-use this Dosha, its chaotic and irregular effects extend to our daily routine and schedule. So we find that our sleep timings become irregular, we are unable to eat at the right time and the brain is so over stimulated that we are unable to go to sleep at our regular time.

Excitation of Vata Dosha almost always leads to the derangement and increase of chaos in our daily routine. Conversely, when our daily routine and schedule is extremely chaotic, we can detect that we are suffering from an imbalance of vata dosha.

Deranged vata dosha leads to chaos

To rein in deranged Vata dosha, we follow the principle of opposites in Ayurveda. We focus on cutting excitement to the brain, calming down the brain through the use of specific herbs and using sweetness, and unctuousness to balance the dry, light and excitable nature of Vata dosha.

6 Strategies from Ayurveda to reduce Digital Addiction :

Fixed Electronic cut off every day:

To rein in the chaotic nature of Vata dosha and to train the body to an atmosphere of lowered stimulation, we advise those who seem to have vata excitation an electronic cut off every day. This is easier to implement than a onetime social media cut off, and trains the body to look at the day in buckets – in which at least one bucket is used to calm the senses down.

A planned daily electronic cut off helps gradually reduce vata burden on the body

What do we mean by an electronic cut off?

  • Switching off the wi-fi router
  • Turning the phone into airplane mode
  • Shutting down the laptop
  • Not using an e-reader
  • Closing all screens including the television
  • No smartphone / radiating devices in the bedroom

Every time this is done, there is a stark difference in the quality of sleep – sleep is longer, deeper and more restful.

A practical way to implement an electronic cut off is to set a time limit after which you will not excite Vata dosha. There is no need to go aggressive on this time limit – you can start this as small as you like.

For example: You could set your electronic cut off to 8:30 pm every day. After 4 weeks of following this, you could work on moving the time back by 15 minutes. Steady practice of this limit and slowly increasing the timing is very useful in training your body and controlling vata dosha.

Remember: do not approach this with a heavy hand. Be gentle with yourself.

Daily Shavasana:

This is the yogic pose most of us love to hate. Sometimes we end up sleeping while attempting to do this pose. Other times we are fretting while doing this pose, mentally calculating how long it would take to go home, shower and hit the office.

Our yoga teachers have always stressed on the high importance of doing correct Shavasana as a part of a good yoga practice. In the case of digital addiction and vata excitation, Shavasana again is a crucial aid.

The basic working of the Shavasana calms the mind and stills it by helping us focus entirely on the breath ,after cutting out any visual distractions by the simple act of closing our eyes.

The Shavasana is recommended to be done for at least 10 minutes or more after a 45-minute yoga practice. Similarly, after nearly 8 hours of continuous screen time and mental stimulation, a 15-minute Shavasana is essential to still the mind.

Daily Shavasana practice helps calm and still the mind

With this practice, the mental activity and strain drops, vata and pitta is calmed down and we are left ready for the next part of the day, i.e. dinner, time with family and alone time. This practice greatly aids in improving sleep quality.

Tip: Ensure Shavasana is done AFTER Sandhya time / twilight or during Sun rise and Sun set. If you are hungry after getting back from work, eat a light snack before doing a Shavasana.

Complete Sensory deprivation:

Ayurveda tells us that the smooth governing of the Idruyas (5 sense organs) is only done by Vata dosha. The skin, which is an important sense organ and Touch, is completely governed by Vata dosha.

Therefore an important ayurvedic practice to help balance Vata dosha is to cut down use of the 5 sense organs. This can be done by a daily sensory deprivation practice . So, after a day of working online with social media, etc, you can take a 15-minute sensory deprivation break in the evening, perhaps close to electronic cut off time.

During this time, dim the lights, remove any strong fragrances from the room, cut off all sound, and lie down and wear a blindfold / eye mask. Do not go to sleep – but lie in Shavasana (again). 15 minutes of this every day is very helpful for vata excitation.

This is strongly recommended for those in creative fields, jobs which involve a lot of social media consumption, those in Digital marketing, IT, etc. You will find that the brain is calmer, able to focus better and that your food cravings are lower after this practice.

Tip: If you do not have time to do a sequential shavasana followed by a sensory deprivation pose, you may combine both and do this as one practice . However doing these 2 practices sequentially helps till the mind much better.

The Ultimate Sensory deprivation treatment – Kutir Praveshika method

The ultimate sensory deprivation technique is followed in the Ayurvedic Kutir praveshika method, an ancient rejuvenation technique followed in Ayurveda, described in the Charaka Samhita. In this method, the patient enters a solitary hut, which has been constructed on Ayurvedic and Vastu principles. In this hunt, by the special construction methods used, light, air, sound, aroma and touch inputs are strictly controlled. The Kutir / hut is usually constructed in a solitary, well chosen place without any strong flow of wind.

Kutir praveshika is an ayurvedic long term sensory deprivation treatment used for rasayana therapy

The patient eats a strictly controlled diet, with properly chosen rasayanas and meets no one in this period of Kutir praveshika. This treatment starts from a period of one month and goes upto 1 year. It is called as a rejuvenation treatment that is almost like a “re birth”. The texts tells us that it is acutely life extending and rasayana (rejuvenating and youth giving) in its benefits. This treatment methodology has been reintroduced in India, and practitioners and recipients of this treatment methodology tell us of amazing reversal in age and health after this method.

Most of us do not have the psychological strength nor do we have the family circumstances or time to undergo such a tough and extreme treatment process, nor is it even needed. But even practicing this at a small level everyday as described above, can greatly help balance the mind and body and improve our health.

Night Sky Gazing:

This is an Ayurvedic technique designed to balance over use of Sookshma (close / minute) vision and helps calm Pitta and Vata dosha down. We also suggest it for those who have mild depression, panic attacks and other signs of vata aggravation.

As we gaze into the night sky, we expand the vision from a minute field to a vast field. This relieves the tiredness in eye muscles. As there is a change in the light patterns between a phone screen and the night sky, Sharma(fatigue) in the minute channels is reduced.

night sky gazing calms and soothes ethe mind, balances vata and pitta

Plus, in this technique, we harness the infinite nature and vastness of Akash as we stare at the night sky. The acharyas tell us that this gives us a sense of belonging in the larger world, and we also gain perspective about the actual size of our problems.

This ayurvedic method is consistently recommended for panic attacks, depression, digital addiction, and vision problems.  It can also greatly help stressed out mothers who need some time to themselves.

Pada abhyanga:

Pada abhyanga is a recommended ayurvedic dinacharya / ayurvedic practice that should be done everyday for good health. Charaka Samhita tells us that with regular pada abhyanga, coarseness, roughness and stiffness of the feet is reduced. Fatigue reduces as does numbness in the feet. Similarly pada sphutana (cracking of soles), is removed, and Acharyas tell us that feet are endowed with firmness, stability .

More germane to this post, the practice of Pada Abhyanga reduces imbalanced Pitta , and nourishes the eyes, improving vision. Therefore this is a drishti prasdaka practice (practices that improves drishti). Further the Acharyas observe that “Marut” or “Vata dosha” is brought under control. Interesting we are also told that due to regular Pada abhyanga, there is freer movement and flow in blood vessels without any constriction. This is why we advise Pada abhyanga for those who are highly stressed with elevated BP levels.

Pada abhyanga helps reduce vata and pitta build up, improves vision and deepens sleep

Because of the pada abhyanga’s strong balancing effect on imbalanced Pitta and Vata throughout the body, and particularly the head region, this is an excellent practice to counter the effects of digital addiction.

If you are in the grip of digital addiction, Pada abhyanga should be done every night for 3 weeks – this gives a very quick and deep relief from vata aggravation. For extreme vata aggravation we recommend using the Krya Intense Abhyanga oil as it is formulated with higher degree of vata balancing herbs.

Hair Oiling:

When digital addiction is leaving you sleepless with vata aggravated sleep (light and poor sleep quality), night head oiling is recommended. It is best done just before sunset so the oil can slowly work on calming vata over 2 – 3 hours until you go to sleep.

Head oiling helps calm down the brain and strongly reduces pitta + vata buildup

Any good ayurvedic oil that helps calm Pitta and Vata should be chosen. At Krya all of our hair oils (except the Intense and Lice hair oil) can be used for Pitta and Vata calming effects. But for extreme Vata aggravation, we recommend using Krya Harmony hair oil (best choice) or as a second alternative,  the Krya Conditioning hair oil. These 2 oils are formulated as vata + pitta balancers, especially Harmony hair oil. We use a large set of brain calming and rejuvenate herbs like Brahmi, Jatamansi, Guduchi, deodar, etc.

If using Krya Harmony hair oil for strong digital addiction and vata aggravation, please warm the hair oil slightly. Use this warm oil to massage the head and scalp well, preferably around Sunset or within the first hour of Sunset. If this timing is unsuitable, the head can be massaged 1 – 1.5 hours after dinner, atleast 30 minutes before sleeping. In the second case, after oil massage, as a precaution to avoid Kapha aggravation, please use Rasanadi choornam.

The consistent use of this hair oil has a brahmanya (nourishing) effect to the brain. The herbs calm down stress, and balance imbalanced vata and pitta dosha – obviously this works best when you follow all the other strategies described above in conjunction with hair oiling.

To sum up:

In this piece, we discussed the new malaise of social media and Digital Addiction. We examined this problem through the lens of Ayurveda and understood how digital addiction can trigger and excite vata dosha and Pitta dosha in the body.

Therefore, we looked at 6 Ayurvedic strategies that help in digital addiction to balance imbalanced Vata and Pitta dosha in the brain. These are:

  1. Electronic cut off
  2. Shavasana
  3. Sensory deprivation practice
  4. Night Sky gazing
  5. Pada Abhyanga
  6. Hair Oiling

In our work at Krya, we have observed the deep and potent effects of following all of these ayurvedic practices to calm down unbalanced Vata dosha in the case of digital addiction, high stress, lifestyle change or even temporary stress / grief. These practices come straight from the Ayurvedic texts and have been recommended by our acharyas after a deep study of the doshas and how each one of them affects both the mind and the body.

This is a part of Krya’s continuing series on Ayurveda. We write this series to educate, inspire and empower you to adopt these seemingly simple, yet astoundingly well though through and deep Ayurvedic practices to regain your health and well being.

If you have any queries on this post or about any of our products, please call us (0-75500-89090) or email us.

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Great skin and hair this Winter from Krya – positive health changes you can see with dosha balance

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

We have been speaking this month on the Krya blog on how a holistic set of changes to your diet, regimen and the products used can make a long lasting, positive impact on your health. Why do we attempt to make so many changes to cure a seemingly simplistic problem like dry skin or hair fall?

The answer lies in the fundamental principles behind Ayurveda itself.

Ayurveda, referred to the 5th Veda along with Yoga is considered a divine science. Its twin goals are Ayu and Ayush, which is long life along with good health. The Ishavasya Upanishad forms part of the 10 Upanishads called the “Mukhya” or principal Upanishads. A few of the slokas speak about the differences between the life of a householder and a renunciate and outlines the goals of a householder.

sankaras-commentary-on-isha-upanishad

The 2nd verse of the Ishavasya Upanishads says this:

“Kurvan eva iha karmaani, jejeevishet shatham samaah

Evam tvayi na anyethetho asthi, na karma lipyathe nare “

This can be translated roughly as this:

“Should you wish to live for a 100 years, you should only do so by productively discharging your responsibilities and doing your karma. If you live this way, the ill effects of karmic misdeeds will not cling to you” – Ishavasya Upanishad Sloka 2

We see a deep connection between the goals of a householder outlined in the Ishavasya Upanishad and the goals of Ayurveda. The twin goals of long life and health in Ayurveda help you discharge your dharma as a householder and perform your duties to the fullest of your capacity. Ill health, dis-ease and a short life span should not stand in the way of you achieving your goals and discharging your dharma.  Conversely, the very fact of a long life and good health allows you to take on more lofty and noble goals.

How a skin change can affect your energy and enthusiasm

Modern Science and Ayurveda both tell us that skin and hair manifestations are the first signs of dis-ease in the body.

In Ayurveda, each dosha occupies certain seats in the body. For example, Vata dosha has its seat in the large intestines, waist, thighs, ears, bones and skin. “Udana” vata regulates the action of speech, enthusiasm, motor movements, Urja (energy), strength, complexion and consciousness.

When people report a loss of complexion lustre or dullness of skin, the other functions of Udana vata like enthusiasm and energy are also affected.

vata-imbalance-2

This is borne out during our consultations. Many people who report seeing an increase in vata which is seen by dry and flaky skin, weight loss, unexplained skin darkening almost always report feeling dull, low, experiencing a lack of energy with associated joint aches and pains.

The body’s order of priorities: why a hair and skin change should be taken seriously.

Both Ayurveda and modern medicine recognise that the body has a definite order of priority when allocating resources to different organ systems.

clear-well-defined-priorities

If there is a problem in your body or a lack of nutrients, the body will first divert whatever is available to protect its most important organ systems of the heart, lungs and the brain. Once your basic systems of life are alright, your systems of cleansing will be protected like your kidneys, liver and spleen. Once these systems have enough to function well, your reproductive systems will be looked after. Only when there are enough nutrients above the reproductive systems need, will your hair and skin be dealt with.

Hair and skin problems manifest first because they are the first systems to be jettisoned when your body is working with a limited supply of nutrients. When your disease has passed this stage, and into problems of fertility, then we can safely assume that the stage has crossed over from hair and skin into the next organ system.

The wisdom of Ayurveda: when no disorder is taken lightly

This also explains the wisdom behind Ayurveda which takes every problem seriously and proposes a holistic, long term solution. A pitta disorder like prickly heat every summer, if not treated at the root cause can progress to premature greying, balding and diseases of the blood if left untreated for long.

pitta-imblance

Similarly, vata disorders like very dry skin, atopic dermatitis and dry, thin and breaking hair if left untreated can progress to more and more complex vata disorders like spondylitis, gout, etc.

vata-imbalance

As all Ayurvedic treatments attempt to change 3 things that we explored yesterday: diet, regimen and products, we are always able to do something much more than what is asked for. For example, when we treat a vata disorder of dry skin with the combination of diet (cow ghee), regimen (abhyanga + scheduled meal timings) , plus a change of products , we are able to tackle the vata imbalance at a much deeper level compared to just at an external level. Therefore we are able to see a much deep rooted and lasting change in health, compared to what we would have seen if we simply followed an external approach.

The hope in following this approach is that a dosha balance is corrected quickly as soon as it begins to manifest in the external skin and hair systems – which leads to much better health overall and a prevention of the dosha imbalance spreading further and causing major diseases later on.

We explored certain changes to be made when you have vata based complaints yesterday. And we will continue to explore disorders associated with the other doshas as well in subsequent blog posts.

Perfect health – what you can expect if your doshas are properly balanced

But before we do this, here is how your body will behave if your doshas are in a state of balance:

  1. Good strong, regular appetite with an ability to digest food properly and on time.

2. Free, easy and clear bowel movements atleast once a day or more than one – if you have a very heavy meal outside of your normal meal, the digestive process should work and throw out excess in the form of an additional bowel movement. The bowel movement should be neither loose nor scattered and should come out like a ripe banana in one continuous easy mass without strain or irritation

clear-bowel-movements

3.Reduced pain during your periods – cramping and clotting should be less. You should be able to function normally without pain killers

4.Reduced PMS and food cravings. You should be able to function in a more even manner the week before your periods and not experience any sharp mood swings.

no-sugar-cravings

5.Ability to stay level headed, even tempered and being able to focus on something for a long time without getting tired, drained or requiring artificial stimulants

6.Ability to hold temper in longer without erupting

evenness-dosha-balance

7.Clearing up of skin and hair with even, steady oil production. Hair and skin should neither be too dry nor too oily (except if there is any change in weather, climate or diet). Here there is certainly room for individual differences depending upon the unique prakriti of the individual.

8.Skin should start looking clear and luminescent. There should be an inner tejas (divine light) that shines through from the skin.

9.Hair should look good, be stronger and should not break easily. Growth should be good and it should feel soft and look glossy as the sebum secretion is balanced. It should not get oily very often necessitating frequent washing.

10.Easy, untroubled sleep with you waking up feeling bright, energetic and refreshed the next morning. You should wake up feeling light and energetic without aches and pains. The sleep should be refreshing, and undisturbed with nightmares.

restful-sleep

We hope you enjoyed reading this post on both the differences in the Ayurvedic approach to treat skin and hair problems. We also hope the description of the benefits of achieving dosha balance has inspired you to seek some changes to your diet, regimen, products used and health.

Do remember, True beauty comes from balance and wellness. Not from an external product alone.

A happy, dosha balanced day to you from us at Krya.

If you are seeking true beauty as well, and would like a consultation or advice on how to make a lasting change, do call us on 075500-89090 or write to us. Do explore our goodness and wellness filled products here.

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Krya Ayurveda series – The Abhyanga and skin moisture

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

The abhyanga is a central tenet of the Dinacharya prescribed in Ayurveda for the maintenance of good health. Apart from maintenance of good health, an abhyanga has also been used very successfully in the recuperation process of several wasting diseases like tuberculosis successfully in Ayurveda.

oct-19th-2016-blog-post-abhyanga-1

Vayu / Air is predominantly governs the sense of touch which has its seat in skin. Therefore a regular abhyanga is the most beneficial Dinacharya for skin. Apart from keeping the skin in good health, Acharya Charaka, Acharya Sushruta and Acharya Vagbhatta are unanimous in their praise of the abhyanga for maintaining good health.

“Na Chabidhatabihatam  gaathrambhyadgasevinaha Vikaaram bhajatheythyayartham balakarmani va kvachitha

Suspashorpachithadagascha balavaan priyadarshanam Bhavathya bhayadga nithya twanrogalapajara eva cha”

“The body of one who does a regular abhyanga does not get affected by accidents or strenuous physical work. A daily abhyanga endows one with good skin, good physique and the body becomes strong, pleasant to look at, has good lustre and is not affected by old age”.

For most modern Indians, Diwali is the time they encounter the abhyanga / oil bath – tradition demands waking up at Brahma Muhurtham, and having an abhyanga with sesame oil followed by a grain based ubtan to cleanse skin. As we move towards Diwali, we thought it would be a perfect time to write more about the abhyanga and inspire you to make it much more frequent than once a year.

oct-19th-2016-blog-post-abhyanga-2

So here is the start of the Krya Abhyanga series. With this series, which we will write upto Diwali, we will cover different aspects of the Abhyanga, how it is useful to skin and body health and also cover some of the practical aspects of how you can tailor an abhyanga to your body type.


 

“Dear Preethi,

As the cold weather has begun setting in here at Delhi, I am finding that my skin is feeling slightly dry, even when I bathe with a Krya body wash / ubtan. Do you think I should apply a cold pressed vegetable oil like coconut oil post bath? I really want to avoid using a synthetic moisturizer” –DP, Delhi

The Skin – a revered organ in Ayurveda

The Skin is treated with a great deal of respect and sensitivity in Ayurveda. The state of your complexion, moisture in your skin, its appearance and the kind of sensitivities it exhibits are all of great interest to a Vaidya. This is because the skin is the seat of 2 doshas – Pitta and Vata and their proper functioning gives the skin good health and vitality. This is also because along with “mutra” (urine and faeces, the skin is the 3rd largest excretory system in the body, producing “sveda” or sweat which is extremely important in removing toxins from the body and in regulating the body’s temperature and maintaining thermal equilibrium.

The Srota system in Ayurveda
The body also comprises of several srotas / channels according to Lord Atreya. These srotas help transport nourishing materials, or wastes all over the body. The srotas transport “prana” or breath, “udaka” water, “anna” or food, “rasa” (fluids), “rakta” (blood), “mamsa” (flesh, medas , asthi (bones), majja (marrow), sukra (semen), urine, faeces or sweat. Along with these dhatus, the srotas also transport vata, kapha and pitta dosha across the body. The srotas also carry the impulses of the sense organs to the brain and back to the sense organs, so the body responds with consciousness and intelligence to the external environment.

The skin is the seat of the Swedavaha srotas and these channels have their root in medas (fat) and Keshya (hair follicles). When these srotas are blocked they lose their functionality leading rise to several symptoms like a loss of perspiration, excessive sweating, coarseness of skin, excessive smoothness, burning sensation over the body, etc.

Keeping the Srotas clean – purpose of Abhyanga and Snana

One of the primary purpose of the daily abhyanga and bath is to keep the skin clean and ensure the minute srotas in the skin are clear, free from ama / toxins and can function properly.

oct-19th-2016-blog-post-abhyanga-3

Therefore as a general rule, Ayurveda advises oil application / abhyanga before the bath. The abhyanga is done using warm oil and oil is applied vigorously and copiously all over the body, paying special attention to the seats of vayu which is the whole skin, joints, limbs, ears and soles of the feet.

A short bout of exercise is advised after the abhyanga – this could be a bout of yoga, a brisk walk or any form of exercise that is brisk, wakes up the body and helps production of sweat. As the sweat rises out of the skin, the pre-application of warm oil along with the heat generated by the exercise liquefies toxins and excess kapha and helps their passage out of the body through the sweat. The exercise is to be done only until ArdhaBala / half capacity – we stop when we reach about half our capacity to exercise, so that the body still has gas left in the tank for the rest of the day and does not go into a state of exhaustion.

After this exercise, the bath is a last step in cleaning the skin.

Cleaning the skin – the Ayurvedic snana

A grain based ubtan / body wash is suggested – the combination of fine grain and lentil power with the right set of herbs helps in micro exfoliation – this removes the excess oil from the skin and also helps the minute srotas open up so that the ama can be cleansed roughly form skin. The difference in this Ayurvedic bath is that we are treating the entire skin as a living organ and through our activities (abhyanga, exercise and bathing with a grain and herb based product) we are literally coaxing the toxins out of the skin and actively encouraging good elimination so the body is in a state of well being.

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In this scenario, where we are working to clean the srotas and leave them active and unblocked, the application of an external moisturiser post a bath goes against the very principle behind how Ayurveda recommends we care and look after our skin. Unless there are specific cases of infection of skin disease where there is s longer application of herbs required, Ayurveda does not advocate a post bath moisturiser.

In conclusion – to moisture or not to moisturise?

The pre-bath abhyanga is more than sufficient to ensure skin moisturisation. In fact skin moisturisation is one of the smallest benefits of an abhyanga. The improvement in vitality, improved digestion, clarity and focus that a good abhyanga gives you is so much more than just plain skin moisturisation.

So to conclude today’s post, if the onset of Winter is leaving your skin feeling dry, instead of reaching out for a chemical laden petrochemical moisturiser that will just block your srotas, try out an abhyanga instead. Even just 2 – 3 abhyangas a week can keep your skin extremely well moisturised and ready to take on the dry and cold weather. In addition, the abhyanga will ensure your digestion does not go sluggish and leave you feeling active and focused through the day.


Krya Products suggested for an abhyanga and a traditional snana:

  1. Skin Oils
    1. Krya Classic skin oil with carrot & Winter Cherry – a skin nourishing oil that can be used if your skin doesn’t go too dry and you would like to maintain its health –
    2. Krya Traditional baby massage oil with Bala & Ashwagandha – (my personal favourite) – a traditional abhyanga oil that should be used if your skin tends to go extremely dry and the cold weather gives you aches and pains in your lower back, neck and joints . This is a very good vata reducing oil
  2. Post abhyanga snana (wash-off) products – (range of grain and herb based ubtans for different skin needs) –
  3. Abhyanga systems – a combination pack of our classic skin oil and an ubtan
    1. Krya Women’s Abhyanga System – comes with the Classic Skin Oil and our ever popular Women’s ubtan –
    2. Krya Men’s abhyanga system – comes with the Classic Skin Oil and our Men’s ubtan
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Krya Ayurveda series: The effect of unbalanced vata on skin & hair

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We had written yesterday about the pada abhyanga and how this dinacharya can go a long way in calming excess vata down. The proper balance of the doshas as per your individual constitution helps you maintain a sound mind and good health.

In our continuing education series on Ayurveda, you will find that we pay a lot of attention to the Vata dosha in your body. The proper functioning of the vata dosha hepls the functioning of all sense organs including the largest one in our body, the Sparsanendriya / our skin.

The fundamental quality of Rajas (cohesion) which ensure our hair grows deep rooted and strong is also governed by Vata dosha. So any discussion on skin and hair in ayurveda needs a deep rooted discussion on Vata dosha. We also focus on Vata dosha, as Krya focuses its work on city dwellers. City and city dwelling leans towards excess vata as the excitement, energy and constant stimulation of the city excites our vata dosha. It is therefore no surprise that more than 50% of dis-eases experienced by city dwellers has its roots in unbalanced vata.

We are happy to present today’s blog post by Dr.Anupama Santosh on how unbalanced vata affects skin and hair. We hope you find her post as insightful and practical as we did – we also hope that this post (and this series) inspires you to take a good look at your body and health and make the changes necessary to maintain its health and well being.


 

I often hear this at my practice at Shreshtha Ayurvedic Centre:  “Doctor,

  • I really take care of my hair. But still I have hair fall. I don’t understand this.
  • I eat lot of nuts and salads. But I still have dull skin and hair.
  • I exercise regularly and follow a great lifestyle; still I do not seem to feel healthy and energetic.
  • I oil my hair regularly, but I still have hair fall
  • I thought my hair fall is due to the water and I started using drinking water to wash my hair. But still my hair is thinning and becoming dry and rough
  • I make sure to moisturize my skin, but it still looks aged and lined.

WHY?”

 

My one answer to all these concerns is this: Hair and skin care is not skin-deep. It is much more than that. Your hair and skin is actually the mirror of your overall health.

For example, hair is considered as a byproduct/end product of the metabolism of the Asthi dhathu (the skeletal system). This means that only when the metabolism of various other systems of your body is working to their optimum, you can have good hair and skin. Only when there is abundant water in the river, the cascading waterfall looks beautiful, spectacular and full of vitality. To address a weak and poor waterfall, you have to address its root cause: the lack of water in the river.

Most often, a consultation for hair fall takes the longest time than any other, because the root of the issue is mostly deep within. Healthy hair does not grow on an unhealthy body. The health and luster of your hair and skin is an indicator of overall tissue health. The goal of great hair and skin can be achieved only when we start working from inward to outward. So, it is absolutely important to look deep in to other areas of life, which are seemingly not connected to hair and skin care. If we address these issues, some of which are a part of our constitution and some which are developed due to lifestyle unsuitable for us, we are automatically close to great hair and skin.

 

Is your state of health unbalanced, or in need of correction?

Answer a simple “yes” or no” to the following questions:

Say yes if this is the way you have felt consistently over a long period of time (I have always been/felt  like this)  OR if you have been feeling this way recently ( I never had/felt this before, but it is happening more often now)

Mind and moods:

  • I think and worry excessively
  • I think of the same thing over and over again
  • I feel a sense of nervousness, anxiety, panic and fear often
  • I am full of enthusiasm while starting something, which exhausts very quickly. Working in spurts and bursts than consistently
  • I am very active, sometimes restless, but I have low stamina
  • I am easily exhausted and irritable

Joints & tendons

  • My neck and other joints feel stiff, often
  • I often develop twitches and tics in the eyes and lips
  • I experience sudden spasms and pain in the muscles
  • My bones hurt and I can hear a creaking sound in the joints

 Skin:

  • My skin has darkened
  • My skin feels dry and rough patchy skin
  • My skin is dry or chapped
  • I am seeing skin wrinkles showing up prematurely
  • My skin is dry and lustreless
  • I have dark circles under the eyes and general darkening of complexion

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Sleep

  • My sleep is light and often interrupted

 Appetite and Digestion

  • I have constipation, gas, bloating, dry, hard stools
  • I have low body weight or varying body weight
  • My appetite and digestion is irregular/variable: I feel extremely hungry on one day and loss of appetite on another

 Nails and Hair

  • My nails are hard, brittle, rough and cracked
  • My hair is dry, rough and coarse and tangles easily
  • My eyes become dull very quickly

 Climate , environment and reaction to it:

  • I dislike the cold and the wind
  • I am unable to tolerate loud noises
  • I love the heat and feel ‘active’ after getting sun
  • React quickly to climatic change

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 Periods

  • My periods are irregular
  • I experience scanty blood flow in my periods

 Teeth and gums

  • I often have teeth and gum problems
  • My teeth are sensitive to cold

 Lifestye

  • Excessive use of gadgets for work or entertainment
  • Long commutes, late nights, eating out often

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If your answer is yes for most of the above, some of the following changes may help you towards better health and well being for your body and mind.

 

Prescribed dietary modifications :

  1. Food should be well cooked and warm
  2. Food should be consumed on time
  3. Cooked food is better than raw. Too much raw food like cold salads, should be avoided especially in the morning and evening

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  1. Choose fruits which are naturally sweet and sour like banana, avocado, melons, mangoes, coconut, oranges, plums, cherries, grapes, lemons, figs, dates etc.,
  2. Though fruits are good for you, a fruit-only diet is not suitable
  3. Natural sour foods like lemon and oranges are suitable, but avoid sour curd, vinegar, pickles and overly fermented food like old dosa/idli batter/ alcohol. Sweet wines in small quantities are better for you than beer or hard liquor.

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  1. Spices like fresh ginger, cumin, ajwain, cinnamon, clove, black pepper, garlic are useful. Avoid green chillies.
  2. Over eating or heavy foods will quickly lead to digestive problems
  3. Though salt is good for you, use it in cooked food moderately, do not consume fried salty foods

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  1. Vegetables like green beans, okra, radish, turnip, sweet potatoes, onion
  2. Whole grains like rice, wheat are suitable more than oats and millets. The grains should be well cooked with butter/ghee/oil.
  3. Bread and processed food like noodles, canned food and food items made with maida/all purpose flour are not suitable. Drying foods like biscuits, chips, khakra, popcorn, crackers should be avoided.

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  1. Dairy products are suitable, but not in cold form. Warm milk can be consumed with cinnamon, nutmeg or turmeric and unrefined sugar
  2. Moong dal is better than Tuvar dal, Rajma and Chana. When other dals are used, cook with turmeric, cumin, pepper, hing or coriander
  3. Almond is the best nut for you. Soak them overnight and remove the skin and eat in the morning. Pumpkin seeds are good too. All other nuts should be consumed moderately.

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  1. Fats and oils should be a part of your regular diet. Choose the oil which you are habituated to, as your family diet, than choosing new oils like olive oil. (They may be a healthy option in themselves, but your body may not be able to digest). Take cow’s ghee with rice, wheat and pulses. Moderate use of oil and ghee in all forms except deep fried is beneficial to you.
  2. Well cooked chicken, goat meat, fresh fish and eggs are suitable
  3. Frozen items like ice cream should be consumed rarely
  4. Choose nourishing drinks and warm drinks over aerated drinks
  5. Stimulant drinks like coffee, tea are not suitable and should be taken rarely and always with milk.

 

Lifestyle modifications

  1. Avoid multitasking, bring in more routine and consistency
  2. Spend time to organize your day at home and work
  3. Choose warmth over cold wherever and whenever possible
  4. Choose calmness and serene over loud and harsh. (Eg. While listening to music)

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  1. Room temperature is better than AC environment
  2. Develop a habit of applying oil on head and body at least twice a week, if not more. Seasame oil based oils are best suited for you.
  3. Learn relaxation techniques and meditate regularly even if it is for 5 mins.
  4. Remember to replenish your energy with at least 7-8 hours of sleep

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  1. Bring in discipline in food, exercise, sleep and work
  2. Smoking is best avoided
  3. Avoid frequent changes in work, routine, place and timings. Favour stability vs excitement.
  4. Avoid rigorous and excessive exercise. Choose light, slow but regular exercise like short strolls, yogic stretches, and learn breathing techniques

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  1. An afternoon nap of 10-15 minutes will help you avoid exhaustion
  2. Take deep breaths in between tasks and avoid rush
  3. Accept and begin to love the complexion, colour, texture, nature of your hair and skin. Take loving care of it rather than build anxiety trying to change it with curlers, straighteners, hair dryers, chemical peeling, and bleaching. Indulge rarely and replenish and nourish without fail. Healthy and nourished skin and hair will always glow.
  4. Avoid chemical shampoos, perpetual use of hair gels, hair dyes and hair sprays.

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  1. Make your house and work place soothing with gentle, soothing music, colours, art and fragrant smells
  2. Avoid excessive partying, late nights and if you indulge, compensate with soothing and relaxing activities
  3. A gentle pace with less hurry and more awareness is the recipe

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Last, but not the least, in spite of our knowledge of good and bad, we will indulge sometimes (this is called pragnaparadha in Ayurveda). Have a good time, but do not feel guilty and depressed. Quickly take remedial measures

As some of you may have guessed, we mostly discussed about Vata related symptoms, constitution, food and lifestyle today. Vata is the driving force of the other doshas and is mostly responsible for all aspects of health and disease. So, by balancing Vata through some small, but powerful changes, we have taken a big step towards a healthy mind and body. Great hair and skin is a given in a healthy body.

A note of caution: These are general suggestions to suit people with the above mentioned symptoms. Adopt these guidelines suitably after contemplation. You know your body better than anyone. If needed, take the help of your Ayurvedic doctor to customize the most suitable diet and lifestyle for you to enjoy a healthy mind and body. Your Vaidya may also suggest some herbs to balance the doshas. Be rest assured, that your hair and skin care regimen begins here.

 

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

 

About Shreshtha Ayrvedic Centre, Bangalore

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


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

  1. The Science behind hair oiling for healthy hair and basic health
  2. Making friends with Ayurveda – a guest post by Dr.Anupama Santosh, Shrestha Ayurveda
  3. The search for safety in the products we use on ourselves
  4. Ayurvedic Skin care in hot and humid India 
  5. The connection between your feet and your hair – pada abhyanga for health

 

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