Flowing Kapha, Warming Ginger : Ayurvedic tips to stay Healthy in Spring

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Reading Time: 8 minutes

Our series this week focuses on 5 common health issues that trouble people who live in urban environments. Today’s post gives you Ayurvedic tips to stay healthy in Spring (Vasanta).  We wrote yesterday on Computer vision syndrome, a common problem caused due to over straining of the eyes.

Preventive health care and staying healthy across seasons:

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

“Swasthasya Swasthya Rakshanam Aaturasya Vikara Prashamanam Cha”

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

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

Ritucharya: seasonal regimens to stay healthy

Dincharya comprises of regimens to be followed daily. These include waking up at the right time (Brahma Muhurtha), doing Vyayama (exercise), Oral care, Taila abhyanga , Snana (bath) and leading a life of balance. When these tenets of Dincharya are followed, we are guaranteed a life of harmony and balance.

Staying healthy in Spring: Dinacharya is a daily set of practices to stay healthy.
The seasonal health regimens form a part of Ritucharya (seasonal tenets of living). Ayurveda divides the year into 6 seasons. Each season lasts roughly two months. The time of change of seasons usually throws the body into a series of minor health issues, which can be avoided if we know what is to be done.

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

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

Staying healthy in Spring: We are advised to eat heavy, rich food in winter to satisfy increased agni in the body.
At the same time, we are asked to exercise well, sun bathe, do brisk abhyanga and avoid being lazy, sleeping during the day, etc.

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

Vasanta is the spring season described in Ayurveda. The official start of Vasanta is marked by the festival of Holi.

Staying healthy in Spring: spring starts with Holi

In Vasanta, as the climate again starts to become warm, the sun rays melt all the Kapha that has been stored in our body during winter. So we have liquefied excess Kapha / Mucous moving through our body . This explains why so many of us are prone to spring fever, hay fever, pollen allergies and coughs and colds in this season.

Staying healthy in Spring: Kapha liquifies through the body and flows leading to coughs, colds and seasonal allergies
The liquefied Kapha dosha, if aggravated can douse the digestive Agni. So our appetite will not be as strong as what it was in winter, if we leave this unchecked. So to stay healthy in Spring, we need to work on this liquiefied Kapha.

Ayurvedic therapies to stay healthy in Spring :

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

This is advised if you have Spring aggravation symptoms like severe mucous accumulation, pollen allergy, extreme lethargy, lack of energy etc. For many of us, this may not be required. So the Acharyas have given us many milder suggestions that we can all do to dry out liquefied kapha.

Staying healthy in spring: correction routines

The right diet for Spring:

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

Staying healthy in Spring: Avoid sweet, rich and heavy food that can aggravate Kapha dosha
Heavy and sweet foods increase Kapha dosha accumulation in the body. Snigdha and Amla foods aggravate qualities of Pitta, which will further liquefy Kapha causing even more flowing mucous in the body.

This is a good time to add Millets to our diet in small quantities. Millets are Laghu (light) and Rooksha (drying) so their addition can help absorb and dry out liquefied Kapha. Similarly, Yava (barley) is considered a good grain to be eaten during Vasanta. Yava has the property of removing excess watery Mala (toxins) through a diuretic action, so it is useful at this time.

Staying healthy in Spring: Eat drying, slightly astringent food with healing spices
This is also a good time to use spices like Haridra (Turmeric), Sounth (dried Ginger), Clove, Elaichi and Maricha (Black pepper) in the food. Haridra is astringent and drying, and will help absorb excess liquids in the body. Dried Ginger is warm without aggravating Pitta, so can be safely used to spice food. Similarly cloves and cardamom are both warming without aggravating Pitta dosha. Maricha is always recommended in Ayurveda to aid digestion and open up the srotas over red and green Chillies, which are considered teekshna (intense) and Pitta aggravating. Making these minor diet corrections will help remove liquiefied kapha, prevent toxin deposition and help us stay healthy in spring.

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

 

Staying healthy in Spring: Right physical exercise

Vasanta is also a good time for physical exercise. We are advised to do it at a slightly lower level than we would have during winter. The main purpose during exercise in Vasanta is to increase heat and provoke sweating in the body, to encourage drying and removal of excess Kapha dosha.

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

Staying healthy in Spring: drink the right warming drinks

Ayurveda does not universally advise to drink tea or coffee due to their many disturbing qualities. Instead, we are asked to sip specific, herbal warm drinks in Vasanta to aid expelling of liquid kapha. We can sip plain warm water, or water which has been boiled mildly with dried ginger powder (in cases of aggravated mucous).  Do not drink too much Ginger water as it can heat up the body in large amounts.

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

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


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

Boil one glass of water until the water comes to a rolling boil. Switch off the gas. Add 1 teaspoon of freshly ground dried ginger powder. Allow the herb to steep for 4 – 5 minutes into the water. Strain. Sip through the day.

Modified Taila Abhyanga with Mardana:

Taila abhyanga with emphasis on “Mardana” is a good practice in Vasanta. The right taila should be chosen which is warming and mala removing and not cooling.

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

Staying healthy in Spring: Taila Abhyanga and Mardana are recommended

Modified Snana (bath) with astringent herbs :

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

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

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

Some Snana options available at Krya are given below.

Snana options at Krya for Vasantha (Spring):

  1. Krya Women’s Ubtan (best for Snana after Taila Abhyanga) – made with astringent and Kapha reducing grains and herbs like Heritage Black horsegram, Rooksha and skin healing herbs like Vana Haridra, Daru haridra, and Sweet basil and Pitta pacifying, skin improving herbs like Vetiver, Vilwa Leaf, and Khadira.12. womens ubtan
  2. Krya Classic Bodywash (suits normal – oily skin on Non Taila Abhyanga days) – made with astringent and Kapha reducing grains and herbs like our herbal skin decoction charged Heritage Whole Mung bean, Rooksha and skin healing herbs like Rosemary, Triphala & Zeodary and Pitta pacifying, skin improving herbs like Manjishta, Mushta & Arjuna.
  3. Krya Moisture Plus Bodywash (suits normal – dry skin on Non Taila Abhyanga days) – made with astringent and Kapha reducing grains and herbs like Tavakshir and Heritage Whole Mung bean, Rooksha and skin healing herbs like Kushta, Amla & Moringa and Pitta pacifying, skin improving herbs like Durva, Neem flower & Manjishta.
  4. Krya Sensitive Bodywash for Adults (for skin that is prone to eczema and Psoriasis)
  5. Krya Men’s Ubtan (best for Snana after Taila Abhyanga) – made with astringent and Kapha reducing grains and herbs like Heritage White horsegram and Pink Masoor bean, Rooksha and skin healing herbs like Cassia Leaf, Brahmi, and Indian Borage and Pitta pacifying, skin improving herbs like Indian sarsaparilla, Guduchi, and Yashtimadhu.
  6. Krya Men’s Bodywash: (suits normal – oily skin on Non Taila Abhyanga days) – made with astringent and Kapha reducing grains and herbs like our herbal skin decoction charged Heritage Whole Mung bean, Rooksha and skin healing herbs like Cassia Leaf, Lemongrass & Kushta and Pitta pacifying, skin improving herbs like Peppermint, Vetiver & Lodhra.12. mens bodywash

 

To conclude:

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

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

Skin and hair care are not just superficial subjects. Our skin and hair reflects the inner state of health and well being, so only if we solve our deeper issues, can our external appearance be good.

We hope this post gave you an idea of how you stay healthy in Spring.  If you have any doubts in the above, please do drop a comment or write to us.

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

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Reading Time: 7 minutes

The Origins of Ayurveda

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

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

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

The Ayurvedic Canon

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

  1. Madhava Nidhana
  2. Sarangadhara Samhita
  3. Bhavaprakasha

 

The Ideal Ayurvedic Vaidya (Doctor)

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

Caraka Samhita defines the ideal medical student as

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

—Caraka Samhita 3.VIII.6

 

So what does this mean for us today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahara : Correct Nutrition

Vihara : Correct activities

Achara : Correct lifestyle

Vichara : Correct thoughts

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

 

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

  1. Jeevani : Ayurveda for Women by Dr PLT Girija

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

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

jeevani

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

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

 

  1. Living Easy with Ayurveda by Dr JV Hebbar

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

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

living easy with ayurveda

  1. Everyday Ayurveda by Dr Bhaswati Bhattacharya

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

everyday ayurveda

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

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

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

 1.abhyanga

 

The importance of the Abhyanga for good health:

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

Abhyangam aacharet nityam sa jaraa shramavaataha 

Drushti prasaada pushti aayu susvapna twak daardhyakrut

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

 

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

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

 

General Health benefits of doing an abhyanga:

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

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

2.better sleep

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

3.better skin better hair

 

The importance of choosing the right products for your Abhyanga:

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

 7-krya-bhyanga-oil

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

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

4.herb transport

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

5.avoid toxins

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

 

Step by step description of how to do the abhyanga:

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

6.abhyanga room

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

7.generous qty of oil

 

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

 

Special abhyanga techniques for certain body parts:

Legs:

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

8. Massage for legs

 

Chest:

  • Use open and upward strokes for the chest area

 

Abdomen:

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

 

Arm:

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

9.Massage for arms

 

Massage for the ears:

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

10. ear massage

 

When NOT to do an abhyanga: some pointers

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

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

11.when not to do an abhyanga

 

Post Abhyanga care:

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

 

Ensure you do NOT do the following:

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

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

 

Here is what you should DO on abhyanga day:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

For adults:

Krya Men’s Abhyanga system which consists of

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

MEn's abhyanga system

For Babies (age: 0 – 1 years):

 

For Kids & Toddlers (age – 1 +):

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

12-kids-ubtan

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

 

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9 things to do to help you stay cool this summer with Ayurveda– Krya shares insights and suggestions

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Reading Time: 10 minutes

We speak often on the Krya blog about traditional wisdom and cultural practices which flow from Ayurveda and our understanding of how the body functions and how we must take care of ourselves. We saw yet another interesting deity yesterday at the Parthasarathy temple of Triplicane yesterday. The temple contains a shrine to Yoga Narasimhar, one of the 9 forms of Lord Narasimha, who is himself one of the dasavataras (10 avatars) of Maha Vishnu.

 

Lord Narasimha and Yoga Narasimha:

Many of us would be familiar with the story behind Lord Narasimha. Prahalad, a devotee of Lord Vishnu continued to worship him, much to the dismay of his father, the Asura King Hiranyakashipu. One day, when answering Hiranyakashipu’s taunt of where Maha Vishnu would be found, little Prahalad answered that he would be found in both the “thoon and the thurumbu” (both in pillars and specks of dust. Incensed, Hiranyakashipu pointed to one of the pillars in his palace and mockingly taunted his son asking if Maha Vishnu would be found here. Answering the prayers f his devotee, Lord Mahavishnu burst out of the pillar in the form of Narasimha, half man, half Lion.

1. Lord Narasimha

 

The anger and heat of Lord Narasimha:

Lord Narasimha as an avatar is always considered an “Ugra” avatar or a fierce and angry avatar.  Everytime he manifests, his anger and therefore heat is so high, that it stimulates Lord Agni to manifests as forest fires everywhere. As a result, water evaporates and steam and heat rise from the surface of the earth, heating it up. The heat of Lord Narasimha is so powerful and intense that it spreads not just in our world, but throughout all the galaxies, .

2. Ugra Narasimha

 

To pacify the anger of Lord Narasimha, our scriptures tell us that all human beings, trees, flowers, all animals and all the celestial beings requested Prahlada, Lord Narasimha’s staunch devotee to pacify him.  When Prahlada started to sing devotional hymns in praise of Lord Narasimha,  the Lord’s anger cooled slightly. Then the Lord’s consort, Goddess Mahalakshmi took the form of “Goddess Narasingavalli” and manifested either on his chest or in his lap.

As soon as the Goddess appeared, the Lord’s anger cooled and he assumed the form of Yoga Narasimha where he sits in Padmasana and is seen doing Pranayama to cool his anger.

3. Yoga Narasimha

 

In the Kal Azhagar temple just of Madurai, there is another famous depiction of Sri Yoga Narasimha.  Here too the Lord sits in his yogic pose, and the ceiling of the sanctum above his idol has a circular hole just above eth crown of his head.

Interestingly, in this temple, the Lord is given frequent thirumanjanam (holy baths) using sesame oil as abhyanga oil before the bath with a specially prepared herbal powder. It is believed that the ushna (heat) emanating after this bath is released through the crown of the head of Lord Yoga Narasimha, which then is released through the special opening in the ceiling in the sanctum.

4. thirumanjanam

 

Excess Pitta dosha and Ushna (heat) and its effects on the body:

Pitta dosha is the dosha in our body that controls “Agni” or heat and is responsible for digestion of food, metabolizing nutrients form food, for the quality of blood in our body, for our intellect, focus, vision and complexion.

In our body, the main seat of Pitta dosha is the stomach. The second seat of Pitta dosha is the eyes, where Pitta dosha and Kapha dosha together are responsible for vision and clarity. Every process in our body generates Agni / heat, and to keep our body in a state of balance, we should have heat that is “just right” – not too much or too little.

5. Agni

 

The activity of the brain and eyes together generates tremendous heat, and Ayurveda says that this heat is continuously released through the crown of the head as vapour.

When the excess Pitta generated in our body continues to stay trapped in the body without being released, Ayurveda tell us that there are many health issues that can form and accumulate in the body. These include excessive hair greying, hair thinning, development of acne, rashes that can develop on skin on sun exposure, and even diseases like high blood pressure, poor vision, improper digestion, diarrhoea, etc.

6. rashes

In seasons like summer when Agni in the atmosphere is already very high, the excess Pitta in our body can build up much more. So in today’s post, we are going to look at 9 cooling practices to adopt this summer. These practices will help regular Pitta dosha in our body, check excess heat, and keep our hair, skin and body in good shape during the summer.

 

9 Pitta balancing and heat releasing practices for the summer:

1.Head to toe Abhyanga within the first hour of sunrise (before heat sets in) with sesame based abhyanga oil like the Krya abhyanga oil for the body, and a cooling; Amla based hair oil for the hair. This Abhyanga should be done twice a week.

  • Sesame Oil for the body balances vata and also helps open up the pores, allows the oil to penetrate deeply and helps the dissipation of heat through the skin
  • Amla based hair oil cools the scalp and brain roughly, helps release excess pitta accumulated in the eyes and head through the crown, improves hair growth and reduces hair greying and thinning
  • The abhyanga, if done properly and regularly, intensively removes excess heat through sweat , urine and bowel movements in the body, corrects impaired vata dosha, and leaves you feeling fresh, full of energy and sharp through the day

7. abhyanga

2.Hair Oiling the scalp with a pure, traditional Amla based hair oil every evening atleast 45 minutes before dinner or 2 hours after dinner, atleast 30 minutes before sleeping.

  • This hair oiling helps release excess heat accumulated during the day
  • This hair oiling also nourishes the scalp and promotes healthy hair growth
  • If done before dinner, it helps settle pitta in the body ensure the digestive fire is not too high or too low. If done after dinner, just before sleeping, it ensures restful sleep.
  • Only a small quantity of hair oil needs to be used – ½ teaspoon of hair oil is sufficient

8. hair oiling

3.Preferentially eat split Mung dal over other Dals this summer

  • Most lentils are considered high in pitta dosha, some are considered high in kapha dosha. All lentils are considered high in vata dosha
  • Lentils like Tuvar dal are generally considered high in Pitta, so are traditionally boiled or pressure-cooked with cooling fats like castor oil or ghee to ensure both pitta and vata is balanced.
  • Lentils like Rajma and Channa are considered very difficult to digest – they are best avoided in Summer where the high heat in the atmosphere unbalances the normal digestive process leaving us less able to eat tough-to-digest foods.
  • Mung Dal is considered, light, tridoshic and the least vata aggravating lentil. It is considered very soothing and cooling to the stomach and is normally fed to those with impaired Pitta dosha or digestive disorders.
  • It is an ideal lentil base in summer to ensure Pitta is not aggravated, and your digestive system is not taxed by difficult to digest lentils.

9.split mung dal

 

4.Add melted cow ghee to your diet; avoid other dairy products like curd, cheese, yoghurt, and milk based sweets

  • Most dairy products are unsuitable for this season as they may be difficult to digest: curd is an absolute no, as is cheese because they are both high in pitta and kapha. consumption of these 2 dairy products will build up heaviness and sluggishness sin the system in this season
  • Milk based sweets and consumption of high quantities f milk based drinks like tea and coffee (except advised to for a specific medical condition) also create ama and sluggishness in the system.
  • If you must drink some form of fermented dairy, then thin, Ayurvedic buttermilk is ok on occasion.
  • The safest dairy product to consume, which will actually help you this summer is melted cow ghee. Add to all meals to improve digestive ability.

10.no sweets

 

5.Use a grain based body wash powder or ubtan with cooling herbs for your bath everyday

  • In summer, as the sweat secretion from the body increases, there is also a proliferation of debris, dead cells and micro organisms which may grow on the skin, blocking the minor srotas.
  • These small micro organisms tend to feed on the small sebum secretions that come along with sweat.
  • These increases body odour in summer and also tends to block off the minor srotas of the skin, impairing proper functioning of the sweat glands, blocks healthy perspiration and also causes small bumps, rashes and minor inflammation o skin
  • Using a well formulated grain and lentil based ubtan with the right cooling herbs micro polishes the skin, opens up the minor srotas and cleans them well, and facilitates healthy perspiration and removal of ama from the body. This practice keeps skin free of pitta clogged reactions like rashes, acne, etc.

11.summer cleanser

 

6.Eat your meals on time and eat dinner as close to sunset as possible

  • In summer, as Pitta dosha is naturally aggravated, digestion becomes slightly impaired.
  • So eating late and at odd times strains the entire body and interferes with proper nutrient absorption.
  • Eating your meals on time, helps keep the appetite steady, helps nutrient absorption and keeps the body light and active

12.eat on time

 

7.Drink naturally cooled water and not fridge-cooled water whenever thirsty. Supplement with natural tender coconut water. AVOID all other fruit juices, colas, iced teas, granitas and synthetic drinks.

  • Fridge cooled water tends to be vata promoting and leaves the mouth and body dry
  • Naturally cooled water (water stored in earthen ware) is refreshing for the body, promotes natural heat exchange and allows for excess pitta to leave the body through urine and sweat.
  • Coconut water is an excellent electrolyte restoring , nutrient rich, cooling summer drink
  • Eating seasonal fruit is preferable over drinking the juice (even if it is made at home without added sugar) as chewing stimulates the digestive system, ensures you eat there right quantity of fruit (and not too much) and that your system is not overloaded.
  • Colas, iced tea and iced coffee are very vata aggravating, water and nutrient depleting and acidic and bone weakening. Avoid in all seasons, especially summer.

13.clay pots

 

8.Avoid the peak sun. Stay indoors between 10 am – 3 pm if possible.

  • Go out only if you must and cover your head and arms with protective clothing.
  • After coming back from high sun exposure, give yourself atleast 10 minutes of rest before drinking water. Do not drink cold water immediately after sun exposure.
  • Do not have a bath / cold shower immediately after sun exposure as it sends your system into shock.

14.sun protection

 

9. Eat bitter foods and avoid extremely sour or spicy foods to control pitta aggravation

  • Eat a small quantity of bitters regularly through the season like bitter gourd, local greens. These bitters help balance pitta
  • Control the amount of sour and spicy food you eat as both aggravate pitta dosha. Very mildly spiced food is best for this season.

15.sour and spicy food

To conclude:

A part of Ayurveda gives us detailed information, diets and practices for each season, called “Ritucharya”. By following the appropriate Ritucharya for Summer, we can avoid many of the health issues that plague us, and continue to lead a life of good health, balance and harmony.

We hope you enjoyed this post on 9 cooling practices and diet changes for the Summer. If you would like us to cover any specific topics on health which are appropriate for the Krya blog, do write to us.


Krya products recommended for this season:

  • The KryaAbhyanga system for Men and Women (consists of the Krya Abhyanga oil and either a Women’s ubtan or a Men’s ubtan. ) The system is designed to balance aggravated vata and pitta dosha. Most urban dwellers additionally have aggravated vata dosha due to their long commutes, nature of work, uncertain eating timings, etc. This together pushes vata dosha along with pitta dosha out of balance
  • The Krya Abhyanga skin oil with Vacha and Ashwagandhanoticeably brings down aggravated vata and pitta. Users report seeing a reduction in vata related aches and pains and balancing of excess pitta through the body with regular use.
  • The Krya Abhyanga bath powder for Women with Lotus Leaf and Lodhra – formulated to cleanse skin after an abhyanga. Helps remove excess oil, dead cells, debris for the skin without stripping it of moisture. Prescribed by Ayurvedic doctors as a natural soap substitute.
  • The Krya Abhyanga bath powder for Men with Vetiver & Van Tulsi– formulated to cleanse skin after an abhyanga. Helps remove excess oil, dead cells, debris for the skin without stripping it of moisture.

 

Bodywashes for adults: meant to replace soap; can be used even if you have not oiled your skin

 

Hair Oils for different hair types:

 

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Dos and Don’ts for the perfect Ayurvedic bath for good health, great skin and well being. Krya shares some insights on the Ayurvedic Snana (bath)

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Reading Time: 10 minutes

Today is the 8th day of Chaitra Navratri and it is dedicated to Goddess Maha Gauri (Gauri means white). Goddess Maha Gauri is depicted as beautiful with a shining, white-gold complexion. She is dressed in white and holds a lotus, a trident and a small drum in three hands while the fourth hand blesses her devotees. She rides a white bull and is dressed completely in white.

1. Maha gauri

In mythology, Goddess Maha Gauri is said to relieve all the sufferings of her devotees and fulfil all their deepest desires.

 

How Goddess Maha Gauri came to be:

Goddess Parvati is also referred to as “Aparna” or the Lady of the terrible penance in Hindu mythology. The story goes that she tried to attract God Shiva’s attention through her beauty and service to him. She was assisted by Lord Kamadeva and his wife Rati in the endeavour. When Lord Shiva felt his concentration waning and found that he was not paying attention to his penance and was instead disturbed by thoughts of the Goddess Parvati, he understood that Kamadeva was at play.

So Lord Shiva opened his third eye and incinerated Lord Kamadeva for distracting him from his penance.

Now Goddess Parvati decided to throw all her faith behind intense penance and focus. She did tapas for thousands of mortal years standing neck deep in cold water, standing inside a fire and did her penance through storms, hail, floods, droughts and intense heat. She was so lost in her penance that years went by and anthills and forests grew around her. She was so devoted to her penance that she was referred to as “Aparna”, the Lady of the terrible penance.

2. Aparna

Finally, moved by her severe penance, Lord Shiva appeared to Goddess Parvati and promised to  marry her.

 

The Divine Abhyanga and Bath of Goddess Parvati

After the Goddess’ long and terrible penance where she had braved the elements, her entire body was covered with dust, soil, earth and leaves of the trees and mud from the anthills that surrounded her. Her body was covered in a thick, dark, muddy layer.

It was said that Lord Shiva himself requested Ganga sitting on his head to appear and wash away the dirt, soil and mud from the Goddess’ body. It was said that this divine, purifying bath transformed “Aparna” to “Maha Gauri”.

3. ganga purifying

 

Snana (Daily Morning Bath) is a Nithyakarma:

Our cultural myths, allegories and stories and rituals help us go deeper and deeper into the significance of the things we do for ourselves and for our families. Ayurveda prescribes several “Nithyakarmas”. These are spiritual and sacred acts that are to be done “Nithya” or everyday by us for health, well being and prosperity.

Living a life of temperance and good conduct is a Nithyakarma, as is the act of bathing every single day within the first few hours of sunrise.

4. morning snana

The morning bath is specific to India and tropical counties and forms a part of our prescribed Nithyakarma. This bath is considered a sacred and inviolable start to the day and is considered both spiritually and physically purifying and cleansing to the body. The daily Snana is such an essential Nithyakarma that we are traditionally not supposed to eat or drink anything, cook, offer prayers , do yoga, or start our office work before completing the Snana.

 

The benefits of the Daily morning bath:

“Bathing is purifying, life promoting, a destroyer of fatigue, physically removes sweat and dirt, is resuscitative and a promoter of ojas or divine energy” :  Charaka Samhita – Sutrasthana shloka on Dinacharya

The Ayurvedic texts recommend eating with the sun. So generally the last meal of the day is best had as close to sunset as possible – in practice we recommend eating before 8:30 pm. A gap of 2 hours is advised post eating to allow the body to complete digestion. So if we go to sleep by 10:30 after completing our last meal by 8 pm, our body would have completed digestion before we sleep.

5. eating close to sunset

As we sleep, our body goes into a process of repair and renewal. Every organ system has a specific time when it is renewed. This time is fixed and is not changed. The most important thing to understand here is the digestion takes precedence over repair and renewal. So if you eat late, you are taking away an organ system’s chance to repair and renew itself.

Waste / Mala is the by product of all digestion, repair and regeneration in the body. Every single organ system sheds excess, and removes Mala from the body. Every single day cells die and are born in the body. A part of Mala is also the debris of these dead cells which must all be transported out of the body for good health.

 

Health issues and dis-ease when Mala is not periodically removed from the body:

Ayurveda traces the genesis of most diseases to the accumulation of Mala in the body. Mala can accumulate as a by product of eating, because of poor sleep and because of poor habits.

When we eat food that is not suitable to our prakriti, or we eat too late, or we eat in quantities that are not suitable to us, we dampen the Agni in our body. As a result, our body is not able to digest our food, and extract nutrients from it and remove Mala. So we are left feeling weak, we lose or gain weight, our appearance is poor, and our skin accumulates impurities which take the form of acne, pimples, or other skin issues.

6. mala accumulation

When we sleep at improper times, or we sleep too late, or at the wrong time or for too long, we impair the process of repair, regeneration and renewal in our body. So the organ systems in our body are carrying excess toxins, debris or dead cells. They may be long due for a “tune up” and have not been given the opportunity to do so because we have not slept. As a result, our body functions poorly at a sub optimal level.

 

Snana – the Ayurvedic tool to remove Mala from Skin

We have spoken about the difference between an Ayurvedic Snana and a synthetic soap bath before.

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

7. sweda

 

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

The Mala or toxins from many organ systems find their way to our Skin. From the skin, they are released outside through the outpouring of Sweda or sweat. Sweda contains Mala from the body in the form of oil, debris, dead cells, vapour or gases and debris of micro flora or the small organisms that live on us.

This is generated everyday as we sleep through the normal process of cell and organ system repair and regeneration.

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

 8.ayurvedic cleanser

 

This sounds great – what is wrong with having an evening Snana? Can I not get this cleansing then?

There is absolutely nothing wrong with having an additional evening Snana. In fact the Vedic texts, the “Grihya Sutras” carry more than 79 references to bathing ritual and stipulate a schedule of 3 baths a day, along with ritualized washing.

However, the morning Snana is a sacred Nithyakarma. It performs the extremely important task of cleansing the body of the Malas that are accumulated during sleeping. This Mala load is high on the body during periods of stress, high mental and physical activity, and during times of challenges and growth. If you have eaten on time and slept on time and have enjoyed a good quality of sleep, then your body would have aggressively used your sleep time to repair itself. So when you wake up in the body, all the debris from this cleansing will be present on your skin.

9.morning snana

So by removing this Mala in the morning, you are setting yourself up for a good day ahead. In contrast, if this Mala is not removed, it will mean that your body will have to carry this load much longer impacting your whole day.

 

OK this is fine during the week. But I wake up at noon during weekends after staying up late at night. Can I have my bath just before lunch on weekends alone?

Your body does not recognise the difference between weekdays and weekends. Repair, and renewal and all the rules of health apply on Sundays and Mondays. If you want health, then you need to stick to the same schedule no matter the day of the week or whether you are on holiday.

 

I live abroad. Here people prefer to have a bath at night before sleeping and not in the morning. What should I do?

Acharya Vagbhatta says that no matter where you live, the herbs of your native place and the practices of your native place work best for you. So, doing your Nithyakarma no matter where you live, makes sense.

Besides, what we have said about Mala removal and cleansing the body is the same whether you live in Chennai or in California. The body clock is the same and the time for renewal and repair is the same.

A bath signals a beginning of a particular phase in the day and not the end. So it makes sense to bathe at the beginning of the day or the beginning of the evening, not at the end. Plus as per Ayurveda a bath is energizing and refreshing and not soothing and sleep inducing, so if you want to sleep well, you should have eaten well, at the right time and gone to sleep at the right time.

10.ayurvedic snana

 

I live abroad. The local midwife and Doctor advised that I have a bath after lunch and that I give my infant a bath after lunch just before his nap. Is this okay?

In 2 words: ABSOLUTELY NOT. The shock of water on the body after eating , quells and dampens Agni , completely destroying it. Without Agni to digest the food, the food sits and ferments in your / baby’s gut and becomes poisonous and toxic. The food stays longer in the body, is not assimilated and generates a lot of Mala.

If this practice becomes a habit, the body will become weak, bloated, and listless and fall prey to disease.

11. agni after bath

On the other hand, bathing as per your Nithyakarma in the morning, promotes appetite and enhances digestive fire. Remember there should be a gap of atleast 30 – 45 minutes between a bath and eating and bathing should be done BEFORE eating.

 

Should I bathe as soon as I get up in the morning?

As the Snana physically wakes up the body, the Ayurvedic texts advise that you give the body atleast 30 – 45 minutes post waking up to have a bath. The texts advice sitting in quiet contemplation in the first 30 – 45 minutes of the day and this time is suggested to be spent in isolation and in reflection. This slowly wakes up the body and prepares it for a day of activity. A bath before this, is said to send the body into a state of shock.

12. bathing shock

Ideally we should be waking up at dawn or just before dawn, and this time is considered extremely spiritually charged.

So once we have visited the restroom after waking up, and sat in quiet contemplation, our body is now ready for the Snana and to proceed to the next phase of the day.

 

To sum up:

A synthetic soap only cleanses superficially and uses strong artificial fragrance that lull you into feeling that you are much cleaner than you actually are. The Ayurvedic Snana, on the other hand, is an excellent daily rejuvenative, detoxifying and cleansing and purificatory ritual that is best done in the morning at a quiet time. When done with the right Ayurvedic lentils, grains and herbs, it thoroughly cleanses and purifies the entire body without stripping the skin of its essential oils.

Here are your Snana options from Krya:

Bodywashes for adults: meant to replace soap; can be used even if you have not oiled your skin

Krya moisture plus range with yashtimadhu

Bodywash for Babies and Children:

Krya kids ubtan compressed for blog 2

 

Ubtans: Meant post abhyanga after body has been massaged well with oil

11-baby-ubtan

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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.

1-abhyanga

 

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.

2-postworkout

  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.

4-moods

 

  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.

5-storonger-hair

 

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).

7-krya-bhyanga-oil

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

8-jeera

 

  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.

10-hair-oil

 

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

11-baby-ubtan

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

12-kids-ubtan

  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

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The quick crasher to an Ayurvedic Abhyanga: Krya tells you how you can incorporate this into your daily regimen

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

At the college where I spent 2 years learning about Business, we had an interesting term called “the crasher”. This was a quick, useful and practical download given by your classmates who attended every single class during the term. The crasher was essential if you had a) not attended too many classes and b) wanted to know just the right stuff to help you pass. At this point I am not going to discuss whether I was giving or receiving the crashers and we will move on to the subject at hand: the Abhyanga. If you have been reading our posts, you would have seen the importance Ayurveda gives to this practice.
The Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic Dinacharya – a practice that should be done Dhina (daily) for good health. An Abhyanga is advocated for almost everyone in Ayurveda – infants, young children, men and women.

2-abhyanga

An abhyanga is prohibited for the following groups of people:
1. Pregnant women
2. If you are running a temperature, have a digestive disorder or are acutely ill
3. If you are extremely tired, have had high sun exposure or a very heavy and depleting exercise practice (for example: immediately after running a marathon)
4. Immediately after a meal

A daily abhyanga should not be started cold turkey and may not even be possible for most people. Krya recommends a weekly or a bi-weekly abhyanga for adults and children and a daily abhyanga for infants under a year of age. If a daily abhyanga can be given for children upto 2 years this will greatly aid their muscle development.

Ayurveda prescribes Tuesdays and Fridays for Abhyangas for Women and Wednesdays and Saturdays for Abhyangas for Men.

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

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

3-insomnia

What is the best oil for skin beauty and health? – Krya weighs in

Sesame oil is the base oil of choice for an Abhyanga. It can be used throughout the year and is beneficial for different dosha types in different ways. Because of its slightly warming nature, it helps bring down Vata dosha which is cold and rough. It is a very good “anupan” (medium) for many of the Vata reducing herbs Ayurveda recommends in an Abhyanga. It also helps liquefy Ama and dirt very easily from the body during the process of the Abhyanga – which ensures that these toxins leave your body quickly.

4-sesame-oil

Coconut oil is not the best choice of oil for an Abhyanga. It is kapha promoting and if not prepared properly can lead to mucous accumulation in the body. Mustard is not suitable for use in summer or for people with sensitive skin. Castor oil is too thick and cooling for the purpose of the Abhyanga. Olive oil, Argan Oil and other foreign oils have not been studied and classified as well as native oils in our Ayurvedic texts. So it is best to use these oils very sparingly for the Abhyanga as we do not completely understand the effect their use can have on your doshas.

5-local-oils
The Ayurvedic texts advise using oil which has been heated well and has naturally cooled to a warm temperature for an ideal Abhyanga. The warmth of the oil allows for better skin penetration and also helps in the trapping, liquefaction and expelling of toxins from the body.

It is best not to directly heat specially prepared Ayurvedic oils like the Krya Abhyanga Oil (as this could make these oils lose some of their nutritive properties). Instead, please heat plain sesame oil and add the specially prepared Ayurvedic oil to this hot oil. Apply the oil mixture when bearably warm on your body.

Ensure the Abhyanga is done as close as possible to Sunrise, ideally within the first hour of sunrise. This ensures that the body is given the whole day to release aggravated doshas, and that the temperature of the day does not make the process of abhyanga uncomfortable for you.
8-early-morning-abhyanga

Keep vata dosha at a minimum during the Abhyanga:
As the very purpose of the Abhyanga is to reduce excess Vata dosha, keep the influence of Vata dosha to a minimum while doing your Abhyanga. So switch off your fan or your air conditioner, close the windows and do the Abhyanga in a closed room where there is no draught or cold seeping in.
Do not talk too much at this time, or use electronic equipment like your laptop, phone, e-reader as all of these aggravate Vata dosha.

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A strong vigorous massage is the key to a good Abhyanga ,not a long soak

An Ayurvedic Abhyanga is not a gentle, relaxing massage. It is considered equivalent to physical exercise which is why you are not supposed to strain yourself after an Abhyanga with more exercise. The Ayurvedic abhyanga uses brisk, up-down movements to generate heat over the surface of the skin, relax the muscles and allow for deep and fast penetration of the Abhyanga oil.

Special attention is to be paid to all the seats of vata like the ears, waist, hips, lower back, legs and all the joints like the wrists, ankles, shoulders, fingers etc. These points should be well oiled and rotated well to release any excess vata immediately.

Small bones and organ systems like the fingers and toes often store tremendous amounts of vata, especially for those of us who use laptops and smart phones. These systems should be massaged well to remove fatigue and release excess vata dosha.

8-fingers-and-toes
The feet are also paid special attention in an Ayurvedic abhyanga. The feet store tremendous amounts of pain and excess vata dosha and are the key to managing insomnia and fatigue especially if you have been facing a lot of stress, poor eating and late nights. This is such an important part of the abhyanga that there is a special term for this: the pada abhyanga. For those with very high vata dosha, a daily pada abhyanga before sleeping every night can be extremely beneficial.

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The end point of an abhyanga is that your body should begin generating Sweda / Sweat – this is a sign of toxin elimination and removal of excess ama from the body which has been liquefied by the oil, the herbs and the strong massage.

You can aid Sweda generation by doing extremely light work after the abhyanga – like sweeping a small portion of your house, or doing any physical chore to aid the generation of heat and toxin removal. Do not do this light work if you generally exercise very regularly, are extremely tired physically or have been under severe stress.

An ideal oil soaking time after an Abhyanga is 10 – 15 minutes, especially for Abhyanga beginners.

Snana and skin cleansing after an abhyanga to ensure toxin removal – and the myth of the Ayurvedic soap
To completely cleanse the toxins that are flowing out of the body after the Abhyanga, Ayurveda recommends a Snana with a specific set of herbs, grains and lentils. The lentils and grains chosen are chosen for their granular and dirt dislodging capacity, to help literally wedge out the dead cells, debris and toxins that have arisen from the body after the abhyanga. The herbs chosen differ as per the season and the body type. Pitta reducing herbs like Chandana, Usheera (Vetiver) etc, are usually used in summer for example. A soap is not prescribed in Ayurveda for any manner of skin care, including post abhyanga . For post Abhyanga only an Ayurvedic ubtan is ideal as it is able to physically dislodge dirt, debris, dead cells and toxins from the body.
9-ubtan

Use the Ayurvedic ubtan by applying it in a circular cleansing motion on your body. The grains should not feel too gentle nor should they be too harsh or scratchy on skin. They should be able to remove excess oil from the abhyanga and the ama generated without making your skin too dry. Certain base grains are inappropriate in cold weather – for example besan and channa are not good cold weather grains and can make dry skin even drier if used inappropriately.

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Ayurveda recommends using warm water for a Snana post an abhyanga for the portion of the body below the neck. For the head and hair, water should be at the same temperature as the rest of your body (so it should not feel either cool or warm on your head). This is extremely important to ensure there is no damage to the brain, eyes or the nerves from the use of water at an inappropriate temperature.

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

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

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

The food on the day of the Abhyanga should be freshly cooked, light, warm and easy to digest. Most importantly it should be eaten on time so that there is no strain on the digestive system.

End notes:
We hope this Abhyanga crasher has 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. Babies
a. Krya traditional baby massage oil with Bala & Ashwagandha

b. Krya Ubtan for Baby girls with Rose & Himalayan Turmeric
c. Krya Ubtan for Baby boys with Chamomile & Rosemary

11-baby-ubtan

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

12-kids-ubtan

3. 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

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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.

2-vata-aggravation

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.

3-travel

 

  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.

 4-schedule

  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.

5-pada-abhyanga

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.

6-baby-abyanga

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

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

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

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

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


Old is Gold,

I was always told,

This advice I followed,

Especially when lo behold!

The most precious being in my hands I hold.”

Seetha Anand Vaidyam

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

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

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

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

“Sattvaviseshakarani Punarmathapithrasvadyoganatharvarthnyah:  Shruthyaschabhikshanam

Swopachintah cha karma bhavathi Poorvabhayschethi”

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

 

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

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

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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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Losing hair after your pregnancy? Worried? Your vata dosha could be imbalanced. Krya explains.

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We spoke last week about a common hair fall issue that we are seeing increasingly at Krya – hair loss that is traced to the post delivery period in women, or post partum hair loss. We spoke yesterday about how modern methods of treating pregnancy and child birth are at odds with what Ayurveda. These differences can lead to the severe dosha imbalance we see today and the many distressing extreme problems of hairfall that come our way.

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At Krya, it is a part of our mission to communicate just how advanced, well thought out and deeply rooted the science of Ayurveda is. Apart from what we post about, here is a gem I came across in my reading today.

 

Manasa Vikasam – Psychological development of the infant

An individual comprises of 24 tattvas (principles / realities) which comprise of the learnings their soul carries, their genetic makeup, their “aham” ego, their manas (mind), etc. The sum of these individual tattvas for each individual is called the “mahat”. As the Mahat begins to interact with environment, Ayurveda believes that psychic and psychological development begins. Unexplained talents and gifts that evolve in children are believed by Ayurveda to be gifts or talents developed in the previous cycle of birth.

The Ahamcara (loosely described as the I / Ego) is a set of unorganised drives, feeling and emotions which lies dormant within the Mahat. Depending upon the experiences that occur to the individual, both good and bad, the Ahamcara develops in later life, influenced by the positives and negatives surrounding the child.

Depending upon the experiences of the child, the Ahamcara may develop into a sattvic personality, a rajasic personality or a tamasic personality.

Herein lies the Ayurvedic genius of surrounding the foetus with good experiences and fulfilment at the antenatal stage. The pregnant woman is referred to in Ayurveda as the Dauhridini (the woman with 2 hearts). Her unexplained food preferences or wishes in the pregnancy are said to arise from the foetus who expresses his / her wishes through the mother. Ayurveda opines that as far as possible, the wishes of the Dauhridini should be fulfilled. Even in the case where her wishes are harmful to her and the foetus, she is to be treated in a loving manner and should be sweet talked or cajoled into accepting another similar fulfilment which does not harm her or the baby.

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Surrounding the foetus and her growing Ahamcara with positivity, love and fulfilment of her desires even at the foetal stage, helps develop her Ahamcara and mahat well and makes for better Manasa Vikasam in the later stage. Unfulfilled wishes of the foetus is said to lead to cognitive disorders in the pre birth stage or psychological disorders as the child grows to be an adult.

 

Increase in vata dosha post childbirth – leading cause of post partum hair fall

Our post yesterday discussed how Ayurveda views the process of childbirth and the after effects on vata dosha. We spoke about how Ayurveda traditional practices of internal oleation, controlling the diet of the pregnant women and the use of post natal abhyangas, tying of the stomach and inclusion of ghee (both as a diet supplement and in its medicated form) help control the excess vata post child birth.

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As the baby is born, there is a gap in the womb which vayu (air) attempts to occupy. If this space is not controlled and enough Sneha (fat) is not given internally to control the entry of vayu, the excess vata dosha can manifest as hair and skin disorders which can later lead to greater vata based disorders.

This then explains the common complaint of post partum hair fall. When excess vata is left unchecked and no measures of controlling vata are adopted, it dries up the body internally causing dry and brittle and weak hair, and aches and pains in the joints, a lack of enthusiasm and energy and an overall feeling of tiredness and exhaustion.

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We had mentioned how external oleation and hair oiling is a cornerstone in controlling this excess vata for post partum hair fall.

 

Excess vata – an urban malaise

Cities are considered high in vata dosha. By the nature of their design, the long distance commutes, high cell phone and device usage, and the nature of modern office jobs, all of us quickly accumulate excess vata dosha.

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By our frequent commutes, plane travel, excessive use of mobile phones, late nights, eating out and varying timings of eating, the vata dosha tends to aggravate. This leads to urban malaise disorders like lower back, joint aches, neck and shoulder aches, an inability to fall asleep easily, and a feeling of tiredness and a need for stimulants like coffee and tea to get us through our days.

When this existing urban malaise is combined with a serious vata affecting condition like what is seen after pregnancy, we see the vata disorders magnified by a massive amount leading to sudden, excessive and seemingly uncontrollable hair fall.

 

Ayurvedic herbs to control excess vata

Sneha (fats) are the key to controlling vata. Fats are thick, oily, unctuous, and smooth and are the opposite of vata dosha which is rough, dry, coarse and brittle. Most Sneha or fats are also kapha promoting because of their thick and unctuous nature. So when Ayurvedic oil is made for the purpose of balancing excess vata dosha, it is important to use a judicious base of oils and carefully chosen Ayurvedic herbs to ensure other doshas are kept in check.

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The Ayurvedic texts mention a good selection of herbs to help control vata. The texts also advise using carminative, slightly pitta increasing spices to help control vata for an important reason. The warming action of these herbs helps control the cold nature of vata and also decreases the kapha building property of the Sneha. In the next section, we will see a sample of vata reducing herbs that are used in the Krya Abhyanga oil.

 

The Krya Abhyanga skin oil with Vacha and Ashwagandha

Bala (Sida cordifolia)

Ayurvedic texts classify the herb Bala as a group of 4 herbs – “balachatustaya”. Bala is considered “brmhaniya” – promotes healthy muscle growth, “balya” – tonic and “vata samsamana” – pacifies vata dosha.

Acharya Charaka mentions that Bala is a rasayana drug (rejuvenative) for muscle tissue and muscular system. The literal translation of the Sanskrit word “Bala” is “strength” –so all the 4 Bala herbs are a tonic for the body and a rejuvenative when used in vata disorders.

As Bala is sweet in its rasa, it also helps alleviate excess pitta. It is therefore also considered valuable blood purifier helpful in rakta pitta disorders.

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Two Krya massage oils use Bala – the Krya traditional baby massage oil uses Bala to impart strength and aid healthy muscle development for babies. The Krya Abhyanga oil uses Bala to relieve excess vata, balance excess pitta and to bring relief in vata based complaints like post partum hair fall, joint aches, and other complaints associated with vata vitiation.

 

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Ashwagandha is a famous Ayurvedic herb known for its rasayana and kapha and vata balancing properties. The term Ashwagandha comes from the Sanskrit words “ashwa” meaning horse and “gandha” meaning odour – Ashwagandha as the texts describe is the herb that smells like a horse.

Just like the horse, the Ashwagandha herb imparts strength, speed and virility when used. Apart from these properties, it balances kapha and vata dosha, nourishes all dhatus (tissues) and has a rasayana effect on the entire body.

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Apart from these properties, Ashwagandha has a marked anti-arthritic effect and is very useful in inflammatory conditions like gout. It is also a calming herb and helps relax frazzled nerves and is a very strong rejuvenative herb to all the muscle tissues.

We use Ashwagandha in all our skin oils for adults at Krya. It goes into the Krya Abhyanga skin oil for its vata and kapha alleviating properties and its strong action to relieve muscle pain and inflammatory conditions.

Ashwagandha also goes into the Krya Moisture plus skin oil for its excellent skin regenerative and rasayana properties. This oil is meant as a frequent pre-bath moisturising product that we recommend for extremely dry skin and for very cold climates. Ashwagandha is also used in small doses in the Krya Classic Skin oil which is designed for the moisturizing needs of normal – oily skin and is to be used pre-bath as well.

 

Maricha (Piper nigrum) / Pepper / Kali Mirch / Milagu

Maricha is the Sanskrit name for black pepper which is one of the names of the Sun, referring to the hot and potent properties of black pepper. The use of black pepper is well documented in Indian cuisine for its ushna (heat), kola – taste improving sensation, Teekshana – sharp and intense flavour, krimihara – destroys insects and worms, etc.

Maricha is a spice that is revered in Indian medicine and was held n high esteem by the Ayurvedic Acharyas. Acharya Charaka classifies Maricha as a dipaniya (appetiser), sulaghna (relieves colic) and krimighna (removes intestinal worms). It is also classified as a rasayana drug for the respiratory system. Maricha is one of the 3 herbs used in “Trikatu” – three pungent spices which are used in severe colds, respiratory illnesses, and in reducing kapha accumulation.

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As Maricha is hot and virya (strong) and carminative (wind expelling), we add it in small quantities as  kashayas to the Krya abhyanga skin oil and the Krya traditional baby massage oil. This helps increase the warmth of both oils improving their vata reducing properties, helps the penetration of the oil better and also prevents kapha related side effects like coughs and colds.

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These 3 herbs are a sample of the 16 dosha balancing, skin improving and health giving herbs and  the 3 cold pressed , organic base oils we use in the Krya Abhyanga oil. As mentioned before we use the Tila paka method while making all of Krya’s oils.

 

The Ayurvedic Tila paka method – a sophisticated ancient oil manufacturing technique

The Tila paka method is one of the sophisticated oil manufacturing methods used by Ayurveda to make herb infused oils. Another method of making Ayurvedic oils is the Aditya paka method, where herbs are left to infuse in oil that is placed in the Aditya (Sun). This method is less popular compared to the Tila paka method, as there is a greater limitation on the use of watery herbs compared to the Tila paka method.

The Tila paka method helps transfer the properties of several carefully chosen herbs into base oil or a combination of base oils. Depending upon the properties of each herbs and whether they express their actives best in an oil phase or water phase, the herbs are either extracted through water or added as a paste into oil.

Ayurveda uses a combination of methods even in water extraction depending upon the woodiness, aroma and delicacy of the herb. Flowers are usually extracted as cold infusions or lukewarm teas to protect their delicate flavenoids. Thick hard, woody herbs are extracted in water separately using strong kashayams. Soft leaves are extracted as milder boiled infusions called kwathas.

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Oil based herbs and seeds are usually directly added to the oil to allow the oil based actives to percolate into the base oils. These form a part of the kalpa (herb pastes) that are added to Ayurvedic oils.

The result of this is a very deeply herb infused base oil which has used the correct medium to extract the actives from each set of herbs.

The Tila paka process is transformative in nature. The base oils we use like sesame oil, coconut oil, kokum butter etc completely transform in their stickiness, penetrative ability, colour and fragrance – the oil becomes something entirely new. The interesting change is also in how the base oils transform. Many of us may find sesame a thick, slightly difficult to use oil, for example. But we have seen time and gain, how the Tila paka process transforms the sesame oil to an oil that penetrates skin and hair very quickly, with a completely different fragrance from its original fragrance.

 

Krya products recommended to balance vata for women and men:

  1. Krya Women’s Abhyanga System (Krya Abhyanga Oil + Krya Women’s Ubtan with Lotus & Lodhra)

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  1. Krya Men’s Abhyanga System (Krya Abhyanga Oil + Krya Men’s Ubtan with Vetiver & Van Tulasi)

Depending on your hair type, we will also in addition suggest the right Krya hair system for you – Classic, Conditioning, Anti Dandruff or Damage Repair.

 

To conclude:

We have been speaking about the transformative effects of simple practices mentioned in the Ayurvedic Dinacharya (daily regime) on our health. The disorders caused by dosha imbalances can seem awful and daunting, but often the answer to helping your body lies in seemingly simple, yet deep transformative daily changes.

Can we give you a guarantee that our hair oil alone can help your post partum hair loss? No, and no one should give you one. As we have explained, any external disorder that manifests is a sign of a deep internal lack of balance, and a programme designed to correct this internal imbalance through diet, regimen changes and external application has the greatest chance of succeeding.

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

Remember, beauty is achieved only when health is achieved.

 

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