Pink Predators: Common carcinogens in your home

Breast cancer awareness - the pink ribbon walk
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Reading Time: 12 minutes

Update: Breast cancer rates are alarmingly on the rise and a few months ago, one of our close friends who is in her early 40s started 12 rounds of Chemo after detecting a tumerous lump in the left breast after a routine examination.

Krya regularly gets Cancer survivor customers who come to us for skin and hair products after the dreaded disease + even more dreaded treatment. Many of them have a simple question: “Why me”. Most of them are in good physical health, they exercise, take care of their diet and many dont even have a family history of this disease. Yet they contract it. Why is this so?

This post helps answer this question and looks at the extremely worrying effects of 3 possible carcinogenic chemicals which are commonly used in beauty, skin care, hair care and household cleaning products. Read on.

The dreaded “C” word:

In Oct 2014, I attended a meeting of women entrepreneurs. On the sidelines, we were invited to a breast cancer awareness campaign organized by one of the entrepreneurs who had been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer. This young lady is a passionate advocate of early diagnosis of breast cancer. As a part of the worldwide pink ribbon day, her team conducted awareness camps for women employed in the major IT parks in Chennai.

As she spoke, a palpable tremor ran through the women in the room. Many had some encounter with the dreaded “c” word, having watched a loved one suffer.

I lost a favourite aunt in 2009 to breast cancer, or perhaps the aggressive chemotherapy given to her. I watched my bright, active danseuse Aunt shrivel away, lose her hair, her energy and eventually her life after four repeated chemotherapy assaults on her body. Breast cancer is one of the most common and fast growing cancers in India today and forms nearly half of all the cancer detected in India . In 2012, 70,000 Indian women died due to breast cancer.

The Pink Ribbon movement

In 1985 in the US , the breast cancer awareness month (BCAM) was created as a partnership between American Cancer Society & a pharma company that is now part of Astra Zeneca. The main aim of the BCAM is to promote mammography as the weapon of choice to diagnose and fight breast cancer. Such partnerships are fraught with ethical dilemmas. Astra Zeneca is the manufacturer of the breast cancer blockbuster drugs Arimidex and Tamoxifen. Some have argued the overly visible and alarmist tone of breast cancer awareness pushes for over reporting and aggressive promotion of the treatment which are the drugs. Worse still, it is now understood that X-ray mammography to detect breast cancer is dangerous and is a carcinogen.

The breast cancer awareness movement came into its own in the early 1990’s with promotion of the pink ribbon as the symbol. In 1993, Evelyn Lauder, Senior Vice-president of Estee Lauder and a  breast cancer survivor herself founded the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and widely popularized the pink ribbon as its symbol. In that year, Estee Lauder make up counters handed out 1.5 million pink ribbons with a information card describing the steps to construct a self breast exam.

Pink marketing for Breast cancer awareness

Since then, the pink ribbon has become one of the most visible symbols of cause related marketing across the world. Research shows that given parity cost and quality, more than 50% of consumers would switch to a brand associated with a good cause. Going by the popularity of the pink ribbon, breast cancer certainly seems to be a popular and profitable cause for the brands piggybacking on this cause.

1Pinkmarketing.jpg

From NFL costumes to cosmetics, from shoe sellers to cricketers, the pink ribbon has engulfed them all during the awareness month. While many critics and naysayers tend to dismiss this as pink washing, there are positives. Millions of dollars have been raised from these campaigns due to which early warning signs are now part of the general lexicon.

But one critical issue continues to trouble the general public.

Despite the top management support, and marketing muscle thrown behind breast cancer awareness, several cosmetic companies who support this cause, continue to use ingredients that are suspected to be carcinogenic. In many cases these suspect ingredients have been found in breast cancer tissues.
Think about it.
The very brands that raise money for awareness continue to use suspected carcinogens in their products.

Pink washing?

In 2013, 15 beauty brands devoted to defeating breast cancer got together to start an offshoot campaign called “we are stronger together”. But according to EWG’s Skin Deep cosmetic database, 12 of these companies, including Aveda, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, and Estee Lauder & Origins sell a wide assortment of cosmetics that contain known carcinogens and other toxics.

The carcinogenic impact of these toxic ingredients is relevant to the study of what causes breast cancer. Research suggests that genetic causes form only 5 – 10 % to breast cancer develops. 90 – 95% of cancer exposure is thought to develop from a series of environmental causes including radiation exposure, excess alcohol consumption, and of course exposure to dozens of carcinogenic chemicals.

The Krya series on toxics

This Krya series on toxic chemicals in household products has been developed as a result of hundreds of queries from concerned users, very often in categories where Krya does not have any product yet. We are asked for our opinion on product categories on the potential hazards of chemicals and more importantly, recommendations for safer natural alternatives.

For the last 4 years on the krya blog, we have maintained our stand that the consumer products industry in India is dangerously under-regulated. Many products are sold widely with little understanding of long term human safety or environmental protection. In our personal experience, we have seen that R&D in global consumer products companies operates in silos, with a narrow focus on cost and immediate consumer gratification. Their safety standards are decades old. They continue to play with the boundaries of safety and often wait for a public outcry or a government order to cut back on toxic ingredients. This laissez-faire attitude has introduced to the trusting public a set of new, potentially dangerous, hydra headed monsters.

The Pink Predators

 Parabens : common possible carcinogen

Parabens are a big family of preservatives found widely in the cosmetic, pharmaceutical and food industries. and have been around for nearly 100 years. They are the industry standard for anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Parabens have been detected in urine, serum, breast milk and seminal fluid, but the most worrying fact has been their detection in breast tissue from patients with breast cancer. In one important north American study, it was calculated that the average person is exposed to 76 mg of parabens every day, with 50 mg from cosmetics, 25 mg from pharmaceuticals and 1 mg from food.

Research from the CDC’s National Centre for Environmental Health found that the blood of over 60% of the children surveyed during the National Health and Nutrition examination survey was contaminated with more than 8 toxins including significant levels of 3 kinds of parabens.

One alarming property of parabens is their ability to enter the body through the skin, something that most people are not aware of. This has been widely studied in underarm cosmetics like deodorants and whiteners. Breast cancer research shows a higher concentration of parabens in the upper lateral breast near the armpit corresponding to the use of deodorants which contain parabens.

3deo caution

After the work of many consumer awareness groups like EWG, Johnson & Johnson pledged to remove both parabens and formaldehyde from its baby care and adult skin care products by 2015 including brands like Aveeno & Neutrogena. But Johnson & Johnson continues to re-assert the safety of parabens and made this decision to eliminate parabens only to assuage certain consumer groups.

Globally most governments have not re-examined the safety of parabens. Some outliers are the Danish government which has banned the use of products for children below 3 years. In India,  parabens are commonly used in cosmetic and other applications.

While we can go back and forth on the safety of parabens , we certainly do not want to be learn 30 or 40 years later that the early researchers who warned against the use of parabens were absolutely right. This is exactly what happened in the global debate on smoking and lung cancer. While the debate raged, many were smoking their way to cancer hoping that the warnings would turn out to be false alarms.

On the other hand it is important to note that parabens do not have any beneficial or therapeutic whatsoever to humans. So the question to ask is this, are there safe alternatives to parabens ? The answer is YES! Paraben free products are available globally and are waiting for you to discover them.

Phthalates :

Phthalates are chemicals used as plasticizers, to make physical products pliant and flexible – they are widely found, in vinyl flooring, raincoats, adhesives, detergents, nail polishes, soaps, toys and skin care lotions. For example, DEHP, a common phthalate, is added to PVC at concentrations between 1 – 40% to make it soft and pliant. Unplasticized PVC without DEHP is hard and brittle.

Phthalates are physically bound into plastics using a heating process, which means that they are very easily released into the environment when this physical bond breaks. This happens in many innocuous ways when phthalate containing products are kept near heat or exposed to strong solvents. For example : when phthalate containing plastic dishes are washed with harsh chemical cleaners.

Phthalates are cheap and versatile: so they are found in products as diverse as children’s toys, and utensils, coatings in pills and nutritional supplements, emulsifying and suspending agents in lotions and shampoos, binders and gelling agents in liquid detergent and dishwash. Other personal care products that contain phthalates are liquid soap, perfumes, deodorant sprays, hair sprays, eye shadow, nail colours and moisturizers.

When used in vinyl flowing, phthalates like DEHP easily leach into the atmosphere, contaminating indoor household air. Once released this toxic air can be inhaled by babies crawling on the floor or pets. A 2008 Bulgarian study found that higher dust concentrations of DEHP was found in the homes of children with asthma and allergies compared to non- asthmatic children.

While a lot of the present phthalate research focuses on infants and children, it is believed women are at a much higher risk of phthalate exposure due to their higher consumption of cosmetic products and exposure to household cleaning products.

Recent (2010) in-vivo and observational studies show an association between phthalate exposure and breast cancer. Also, phthalates like many other endocrine disrupters are both bio-accumulative and additive – when mixed with other classes of chemicals like BPA or nonyl-phenols, they exhibit a deadly chemical synergistic effect. Essentially this means that all these toxic chemicals gang up against your body with a multiplier effect.

2Nail paints caution

A recent published study for the first time studied the positive correlation of DEP (diethyl phthalate), with breast cancer. DEP is found in a high proportion of perfume carrying products like deodorants, hair sprays and moisturizing lotions because of its ability to make fragrance “linger” for a long time. DEP is also used as denaturant in alcohol and is found worryingly in products like mouthwash.

Endocrine-disrupter effect of Phthalates

Why are phthalates dangerous to human health? Simply put, they are endocrine disruptors. Their behaviour can mimic endocrine hormones like estrogen , which really confuses our bodies , leading to disease.

In 2000, Puerto Rican scientists reported an association between DEHP & premature breast development in young girls signifying an early onset of puberty. At the same time the CDC in the United States tested blood samples of 289 Adult Americans and found phthalates in all of them. The levels of some phthalates, including DEHP in women of childbearing age far exceeded government mandated safe levels to prevent birth defects.

Two studies published in Environmental Health perspectives in 2003 found that pregnant women with phthalate exposure on average give birth one week earlier than those without significant phthalate exposure.

A 2006 study among Indian women with endometriosis showed a significantly high level of phthalates in their blood – this included phthalates which are restricted for use in the EU like DEHP, DBT, BBP and DnOP.

Regulations around Phthalates:

Most restriction around phthalates today focuses on children. The EU has restricted the use of certain phthalates like DEHP, DBP, in children’s toys from 1999. Phthalates like DINP, DIDP and DNOP are restricted in toys that can be put into a child’s mouth. The restriction allows these phthalates to be present only upto 0.1% of the plasticized mass of the toy.A similar act was passed in the United States in 2008.

5childrens toys post

Phthalates in the Cauvery river:

A study published this year studied water and sediment samples of the Cauvery River, one of South India’s major rivers. A two year soil sediment and water study found DEHP in 92% of the water samples and DEP and DMP in every water sample. Similarly 94% of soil sediment samples also contained DEHP. While the contamination percentage was said to be below USEPA guidelines for water, the soil concentration exceeded this guideline.

The Cauvery river basin covers Karnataka, Kerala , Tamilnadu and Pondicherry.  It is the source for both an extensive irrigation and hydroelectric system and also supplies drinking water for many towns and villages. Bangalore, Mysore and Mandya depend almost completely on the Cauvery for their drinking water. In this situation, the fact that some of the most toxic phthalates like DEHP have so comprehensively contaminated this river cannot be ignored.

Nonylphenols (NP ) and  Nonyl phenol ethoxylate (NPE) :

Nonyl phenols come from a class of chemicals called Alkyphenols. Alkylphenols, including nonyl phenol are precursors to chemical detergents , and are used as additive to fuels, lubricants and other polymers.

All alkylphenols including Nonylphenol ethoxylate are xenoestrogens. They mimic the effect of estrogen in the body and they can disrupt the normal process of reproduction. Xenoestrogens can increase the growth of the endometrium, leading to endometriosis, and can also increase breast cancer tissue in tissue culture studies.

Precocious puberty or puberty among young girls below 8 years is one of the effects of Xeno estrogens. Studies across America, Europe and Asia suggest that irrespective of race and economic conditions, the earlier onset of puberty is attributed to the environmental chemical exposure. Precocious puberty has been studied to lead to significant psychological distress, poor self image and poor self esteem in a young girl. It has also shown to lead to reduced adult height, paediatric & adult obesity, gynaecological disorders like endometriosis, poly cystic ovarian disorder and infertility.

Nonylphenols are chemicals used in laundry and dish detergents, cleaners and emulsifiers, paints, pesticides and in personal wash products. Since the discovery of Nonyl phenol in 1940, its production has been growing every year – it is now a high production volume chemical, with 100 million- 500 million pounds of NPE being produced globally every year.

4synthetic dishwash

Nonylphenol persists in aquatic environments and can take months or longer to degrade in water and soil. Because Nonylphenol is used in so many cleaning products which “go down the drain” like dishwash products and detergent products, it is a ready contaminant into sewage and water supply. Nonyl phenol bio-accumulates inside the body, and is a potent endocrine disrupter.

Synergistic effect of Nonyl Phenol:

As already mentioned, one of the most troubling problems of ingredients like Nonyl phenol which are used as filler in pesticides for their “inert” properties is their ability to work synergistically with other chemicals and multiply their toxic effect on humans.

Current regulations around Nonyl Phenol:

The EU has eliminated the use of Nonyl Phenol and its ethoxylate in most industrial and product sectors. Canada has implemented a pollution prevention plant to drastically reduce the use of NP/NPE.  The US EPA plans to encourage voluntary phase of using NP/NPE in industrial laundry detergents.

In India this is not yet regulated.

Products that contain Nonyl Phenol & Nonyl Phenol Ethoxylate:

Used as a surfactant in shaving creams, detergents, dishwash, hair dyes, hair styling products and pesticides. It is difficult to ascertain if your brand contains this chemical as it is a feedstock chemical which is usually unlisted.

A quick Sum -up: 3 possible carcinogenic chemicals to avoid at home:

Pink could be the colour of happiness. But it is not , in the case of beauty or consumer products, especially those marketed with a pink ribbon to provide awareness and support for breast cancer.  Our article discusses just 3 kinds of toxic chemicals that are commonly found in Indian homes today in their cleaning, skin or hair care products. The US FDA lists over 100,000 industrial chemicals in use today!

Parabens, phthalates and Nonyl Phenol and its ethoxylate find their way into several of the products we use for ourselves, our children and in our home. The worrying problem behind these chemicals is that they come to us in innocuous and friendly looking products like that bottle of nail pain, our favourite brand of deodorant, or simply, our dishwashing liquid that promised to carry the power of 100 lemons in each drop.

As most of these formulations do not declare what exactly goes into them, we would never be able to tell if our favorite brand of synthetic shampoo is actually free from parabens and phthaltes or not. Hence in the spirit of extreme caution and avoiding adding any manner of toxicity to the body, we advise a through and deep detox of all synthetics from your personal and home care list.

Specifically for those trying to conceive, pregnant women, women with a family history of PCOD and endometriosis and breast cancer should avoid using synthetic deodorants, nail paints, synthetic shampoos, bodywashes and shower gels, and also industrial cleaning products like detergent and dishwash products. A wide variety of alternatives exist which are completely natural and avoid using such potentially dangerous synthetics.

Having read this post, you may be left with a deep feeling of “why”. Why do companies use these chemicals? Is it out of malice? Are they out to get us? Are they as unaware as we are? Our next post will look at common myths and facts when formulating household products. Hopefully some more answers will emerge there.

This article is a part of Krya’s series on toxics in household and personal care products. Through this series, we hope to inform, educate and inspire you to look around your home and detox it and yourself from the harmful action of more than 100,000 suspect industrial chemicals that surround human life today.

 

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Sadhana : The why & how of a Spiritual Practice

The why & how of a Spiritual Sadhana
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Reading Time: 24 minutes

A Spiritual Practice is high on our prescription list whenever we encounter deranged vata, high anxiety, extreme stress, grief, deranged vata, or when people struggle with chronic or debilitating illnesses either with themselves or in the role of a caregiver.

This prescription comes straight from the Ayurvedic texts as the Acharyas tell us that a physical disease has its roots in the mind and our responses to situation. Therefore cleansing, and control of the mind and reining it with structure, discipline and “good mental food” is part of the ayurvedic Dinacharya.

A sustained and disciplined Spiritual Practice helps us choose happiness. We learn to respond to difficult situations from a better and more balanced place. It also gives us tremendous control over our physical body, reins in illnesses and weaknesses and helps us achieve our goals.

Regular spiritual practice is key to healthy and happy life

Many times when we have suggested starting a Spiritual Practice, we have been asked what this means and what all it would constitute. This post is therefore our detailed answer to this question.

Before we begin, here is a disclaimer from our end. The post describes what we believe is an ideal Spiritual Practice. This in no way means that we are qualified Gurus . We too are seekers on this path, and have shared our personal experiences through this post.

We have limited this post to Spiritual Practice derived from Santana Dharma (Hinduism) alone as this is what we follow. We are not qualified to suggest a Spiritual Practice for other faiths / denominations. For these, we suggest you read this post as a starting point and then speak to an elder / teacher within your faith to take this further.

An Introduction to Spiritual Practice :  from the Adi Kaavya

The very first shloka of Srimad Valmiki Ramayana, which is the Adi-Kavya , the first ever written work, gives us very deep & complete insights into the nature of both Sadhana & the Sadhaka.

Srimad Valmiki Ramayana is the holiest of spiritual texts and is highly regarded as being equal to the Vedas themselves. This work of divine origin is endowed with several layers of deep meaning and each stage of meaning reveals itself to the aspirant who applies himself with steadfast devotion. So we can be absolutely sure that we are on the right path if we take instructions from this work, which has been personally blessed and authorized by Lord Rama himself.

The Ramayana - a foundation for all spiritual Practice

The first Shloka is as follows :

तपस्स्वाध्यायनिरतं तपस्वी वाग्विदां वरम् ।

नारदं परिपप्रच्छ वाल्मीकिर्मुनिपुङ्गवम् ।।1.1.1।।

 

The word-by-word meaning of the above sloka is as follows :

“The Ascetic Valmiki enquires of Sage Narada, who is the most pre-eminent of sages , one who is most eloquent in speech and who is completely engaged in austerities and the study of vedas.”

There are 4 important concepts clearly expounded in the above sloka :

a. Shabda : words of a great Guru

The word of a great person ,a very reliable authority. The ascetic Valmiki, begins his enquiry by approaching Sage Narada, who is clearly established in all the worlds as an true and reliable source of correct information. So this illustrates the point that we should always begin a serious endeavor on the authority of a great person of unquestionable character and knowledge. We cannot afford to take any risk and base our actions on the word of an unknown on un-reliable person.

Shabda of teh words uttered by a great Man forms the basis for spiritual practice

In fact, in Indian knowledge systems , there are a standard set of  accepted methods of proof (Pramana) of anything, including a proper Spiritual Practice which are

    • Pratyaksha – direct perception
    • Anumana – Inference
    • Shabda – the word of a great authority or source

Hence “Shabda” or the words of a wise and Great Guru is critical for the foundation of any kind of Spiritual Practice.

Similarly, the whole system of Ayurveda has been based on the 3 methods of proof of Pratyaksha, Pramana and Shabda. Therefore when we make an Ayurvedic taila or a choorna, we do not base it on our own instinct or a new trend. Instead we choose herbs, preparation methods from the texts which is based on the Pratyaksha + Pramana + Shabda of the Great Acharyas. This reliance on a long, well thought out clear tradition with clear antecedents is what makes the ayurvedic formulations fool proof, error free, safe and still potent and good to use – this .

Ayurveda is also based on the 3 pillars of proof of Indian classical texts

b. Guru-Sishya : teacher – student relationship

The need for a Guru,  in Indian tradition is to guide, encourage and bless us . In sadhana, a true guru is of paramount importance and this is one the most important pillars of Sanatana Dharma .

Guru sishya relationship: cornerstone of sanatana dharma

Many volumes can be written about the vital role of a Guru in our life. This is why this concept is illustrated clearly in the Taittiriya Upanishad as “ Acharya Devoh Bhavah” i.e. the teacher is to be revered as a god. In the shloka mentioned above, Valmiki approaches Sage Narada as a Sishya would approach a Guru.

 c. Tapas-Svadhyaya : austerity, sacrifice and self study

These two great words Tapas & Svadhyaya reveal the heart of spiritual practice.

Tapas , which means austerity or discipline , contains a wealth of meaning for a single word. Spiritual Practice is a discipline, for which we need to put in effort and hard work, perhaps give up un-necessary distractions and apply ourselves.

Tapas: the practice of prioritising Sadhana and making sacrifices for Sadhana

Our sincere effort is the fuel for the spiritual practice and nothing is going happen if we don’t discipline ourselves. The actual details of the sacrifices and disciplines will apply to every part of our life from food rules, sleeping and waking times, taking care of our body, right company, thoughtful speech, honest vocation, commitment to our duties & family (dharma) etc

 Svadhyaya, literally means the daily self-study of the vedas. So this essentially means applying ourselves to regular, daily study of holy texts and scriptures. This definition does NOT apply to reading self-help books or reading technical books for your work and certainly not to fiction.

Swadhyaya - dedicated self study and practice of Spiritual Sadhana

This definition strictly means the daily ,devoted self-study of holy texts like the vedas, Upanishads , itihasas, puranas, smritis ( also ,from #2 above , when you get doubts in svadhayaya, you will automatically feel the need for a guru !)

In the shloka, Sage Narada is described as Tapas-Svadhyaya Nirattam – one who is constantly engaged in the austerities and study of the Vedas, and these qualities that mark him as a great sage (Muni Pungavam)

d. Sadhana is mandatory for All:

Even for the exalted Sage Narada, who is of divine origin, constant daily sadhana is mandatory. In fact, it is the daily disciplines that elevate him to his pre-eminent status among sages and he cannot stop his sadhana after achieving greatness.

There is a clear directive in this shloka that spiritual sadhana is required for everyone regardless of their status and it is a constant endeavor. This is another important lakshana (mark) of a true Guru – He / she is constantly practicing their spiritual sadhana with utmost rigour, before advising you. You must always assure yourself that a prospective Guru is first upholding Tapas & Svadhyaya, before giving them that exalted position of your teacher.

Swadhyaya mandatory for all everyday

Why do we need a Spiritual Practice?

 Sadhana, or spiritual practice is simply the work required to reach a state of permanent god-consciousness, which is an end in itself.

As Shri Ramanujacharya states in his seminal work , the Sri Bhasya, True Bhakti or perfect god consciousness is demonstrated as “Avichinna Taila Dhara Vat” – which means that true Bhakti or god-consciousness is perfectly smooth, continuous and un-interrupted like the flow of Taila (oil) from one container to another.

Bhakti is described as Avichinna taila dhara

A human being is a composite of 3 entities – the Mind (Manas) , the Physical body (Shareera) and the Soul (Atman).

The mind perceives the world through the 5 sense organs and if unchecked, the sense organs completely take control and leads the body into all kinds of troubles and diseases. A stable and steady mind , with the sense organs in control , helps us lead a life of balance and harmony. The control of the 5 sense organs appears as an important theme in the Bhagavad Gita and Sage Patanjali famously starts his instructions on yoga with the statement : Yogah citta-vritti Nirodah.

But beyond the mind and the body, we have the soul, the Atman.

Sadhana is for the Atma

It is very obvious to all of us that there is a “spirit” within all of us – which we call the Atman or Soul , hence the term “spiritual practice” – because these is an in-dwelling soul, the Atman , which is clearly different from the physical body covering it, we are able to differentiate between life and death. This spirit within us, is what animates us and gives the sense of “life” to the body outside. Hence like we need food, sleep and exercise for the physical body, we surely need daily sadhana or spiritual practice for our soul.

 

The presence of “3  parts” to each of us is clearly illustrated in Ayurveda, especially in the sections on conceptions. Here the Acharyas have clearly stated that without the presence of a willing soul / atma, conception cannot take place. Hence the parents to be are asked to do a strong spiritual Practice in order to access their higher state of being, make a connection to the divine and Invite a pure and evolved soul to make its journey in this world through them as Parents.

Conception does not occur without a willing atma prepared to be born to the parents to be

The Acharyas tell us that Parents with evolved Spiritual consciousnesses through daily Sadhana of a Spiritual Practice are able to attract highly evolved souls as Children. Such parents are considered to be blessed and worthy of high praise, as they are able to give the world highly evolved beings who can do their Dharma well and help many other people in their journey. It is not enough for Parents to be to be simply in good physical health and take their ante natal vitamins according to ayurveda. They should also be practicing to uplift their spiritual quotient in order to both attract and raise an evolved soul.

The importance of Sadhana or Spiritual Practice in Indian tradition

Classical Indian texts tell us that there are 3 pillars for the foundation of a  spiritual life :

  • Tattva – the Nature of reality (and the discussion on the relation of man and god)
  • Purushartha – the Goals of life , which are Dharma , Artha , Kama & Moksha
  • Sadhana – The means to attain the Purusharthas mentioned above.

Sadhana has a triple purpose in Indian Spirituality. It helps us understand and come to terms with “Tattva” . It also helps us achieve our Purusharthas with ease, clarity and balance.

But over and above these 2 goals, Sadhana is a goal unto itself. This is because it is the means to achieve the both happiness in material life and also help us attain the ultimate aim of Moksha. Therefore there is a tremendous body of divine knowledge in India which has been developed by the Great Masters to guide us and give a clear blue-print on how to live our lives.

The purpose of Sadhana is 3 fold: to understand relaity, achieve life goals and as a goal in itself

Sustained Sadhana clarifies and purifies our intellect , making it fit to receive Jnana , true knowledge which leads to Moksha. While this is the big picture , Sadhana also bestows a lot of bliss , happiness and strength to succeed in the material life as well.

Ayurvedic texts also clearly discuss the importance of spiritual practice in the section on Dinacharya or daily regimen. The 5 fundamental elements, Akash, Prithvi, Vayu, Agni & Jala combine uniquely to form the 3 doshas of the body – Vata, Pitta & Kapha, so too the human mind operates in 3 gunas or modes know as Sattva , Rajas & Tamas.

The texts say that the derangement of the 3 doshas causes physical disease and the derangement of the 3 Mano-Gunas causes mental or psychic diseases. Right conduct in our daily life helps maintain correct balance of the Mano gunas and this is achieved through consistent spiritual disciplines.

What constitutes Sadhana or Spiritual Practice?

 Once you are clear in your mind that you need a spiritual practice, the next question obviously is this: What constitutes Sadhana or Spiritual Practice?

  • Is it meditation? Is it Prayer ? Visiting temples ?
  • Is it living mindfully in the present moment ?

Luckily, these questions have been troubling mankind from the dawn of time and we have a number of instructions derived from Great Masters who have drawn direct references from authoritative texts.

The Indian tradition of Vedas, Upanishas, Itithasas, Puranas , Smritis are vast , extensive , comprehensive , authoritative and mind-boggling.

For example, the Bhagavad Gita in 18 chapters is the most authoritative text on Yoga and in the 4th chapter , lord Krishna defines 12 different types of Spiritual Sadhana to achieve perfection. Yet these are at the abstract , conceptual level , and it is difficult for us to translate these instructions into our daily lives.

Gita is an authoritative text on Sadhana

It is beyond the reach of most of us to make an authentic and wide study of these texts and arrive at a program for ourselves , hence we rely on the works of Great Masters to give us a program – however a vital point to note here is this : The spiritual practices are NOT the opinions or thoughts of these masters, they have merely helped us navigate the vast world of authoritative texts and their works are always based on first principles.

One must also remember that there are some fundamental philosophical differences in the works of the masters. So if your family has traditionally followed a particular school of thought (Sampradya) , then you must stick to that school and not try to look beyond the instructions of that school.

I have given below some examples of texts on spiritual practices by great masters , to give an idea of what is Sadhana. While there are numerous texts in India  , these are some of the well known ones.

a. The Narada Bhakti-Sutras

 In this post we once again take the assistance of Sage Narada – who we met at the beginning. In his Bhakti Sutras, Sage Narada gives us 84 extra-ordinary Sutras divided into 5 chapters, with clear guidance on the goal and the sadhana techniques to achieve the goal.

Sage Narada has written the Bhakti sutras for achieving spiritual prowess

b. Sadhana Panchakam of Adi Shankaracharya

 A student of the eminent Advaita Vedanta Philosopher, Adi Shankaracharya, asked him the direct question – What is the essence of Spiritual Practice ?

Adi Sankara composed the Sadhana panchakam

In response, the great master composed the “Sadhana Panchakam  or  “5 verses on Sadhana” . In these 5 concise yet comprehensive verses, he lists 40 different instructions on how to lead a spiritual life and achieve the ultimate aims of human existence.

c. Sadachara Smriti By Sri Madhvacharya

Sri Madhvacharya, the Dwaita Philpsopher , along with Adi Shankaracharya & Sri Ramanujacharya are the 3 prinicipal teachers of Vedanta. To help his followers,he has composed a short work in 35 Sanskrit shlokas called “Sadachara Smriti” – Or the instructions in Right Living.

Madhwacharya wrote Sadachara Smriti

This work is great starting point for spiritual practice , as Madhvacharya gives very clear prescriptions on how we should structure our day and this work is very lucid and not at all abstract. But as with all great masters, he has ensured that these prescriptions are comprehensive and complete. Even though this is a small text , it is very profound in its impact.

d. Dasabodha of Samarth Ramdas

 Swami Samarth Ramdas, was a 17th century Advaita philosophy Guru and the spiritual preceptor to Chattrapati Shivaji. He has composed a massive tome called “Dasabodha” or “ instructions to disciples” , which is another valuable work for those following that Sampradaya on how to construct their lives.

Samarth Ramdas wrote Dasabodha

Similarly many valuable works by the masters of different Sampradya’s exist in order to guide the followers on a well-structured spiritual path. Some more examples are :

  • Shodhash Grantha of Shri Vallabhacharya
  • Sadachar  Prakash of Shri Nimbarka
  • Shiksa Ashtakam of Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu

 

For one or more of the following reasons , I have deliberately referred to works by Sages of ancient India and not great men of recent times.

  1. Recency bias : Many of the modern masters are very close to us temporally , so we have a large amount of internet based resources , books , videos, pictures , discussions and hagiographic accounts given by direct disciples – the large volume of readily available online information clouds out the ancient masters but that is not a good reason to NOT know the ancient masters.
  2. Purity of doctrine (or) absence of Syncretism : The ancient masters outlined their doctrine in its pristine form with great adherence to textual evidence. Due to several hundreds of foreign invasions of India in the last few centuries, the modern masters had no choice but to follow a syncretic path and in my opinion it is very important to know the original doctrine well before studying the syncretic works.
  3. Re-energizing dormant Spirituality : By their own , admission, many modern masters acknowledge that they have nothing new to teach – their purpose is to merely re-energize the dormant spirituality in society through the timeless principles of Dharma
  4. Importance of Disciplic Succession : This is a very important point to ensure authenticity of teachings. All Sampradayas should have a clear Guru-Parampara or Disciplic succession , which traces the lineage of the current head all the way back to the Supreme creator of the world. By establishing this lineage through authentic accounts, we are assured that we are following a sound doctrine. Sadly, many modern teachers have literally sprung out of thin air, with no clear initiation by a acknowledged Guru and neither do they have proper successors. So it is extremely risky to trust our spiritual bank account to teachers without a clear lineage. It may work or it may not. The risk is too high.

7 Key Themes of All Indian Schools for Spiritual Sadhana

 After you conduct a comprehensive study of all instruction manuals of Indian systems of Sadhana, some important common elements can be easily observed

a. Preparing the body, to be fit for Sadhana :

Without fail , in all spiritual texts and Ayurvedic textbooks , we are exhorted to wake up before sunrise, in Brahma Muhurta, have a Snana, wear fresh clothes, apply the religious marks on our body as per our tradition and then remember God and our Gurus. This is the ideal, recommended start to our day for both spiritual progress and great health.

Prepare the body for spiritual practice

The steps outlined above for preparation to be fit for Sadhana i.e waking up early, having an Abhyanga-Snana, wearing fresh clothes, are all potent Ayurvedic practices that is deeper than what is obvious. They help build discipline, balance the 3 doshas and are designed to remove tamas and sloth from the mind and the body.

For example: In Ayurveda, a very potent medical tool to balance aggravated Kapha dosha in diseases like diabetes is to simply regulate sleep. By controlling the number of hours slept, the time of waking up and regulating afternoon naps, we are able to achieve an extraordinary balance in kapha dosha leading to regulation of blood sugar levels. This example is given the illustrate the power behind each of the so called simple preparatory steps listed in this point.

The application of religious marks on our body is an extra-ordinary subject in itself and deserves a separate article to fully describe its importance. In Sanatana Dharma this could encompass wearing a tilak, a bindi, an urdhva pundrum , or a “thiru neetru pattai ” (viboothi), gopi-chandan, etc. Both the substance used to wear the appropriate religious marks (vibhooti, thiruman kaapu, Kumkum, gopi Chandan), and the act of applying the mark on your forehead has deep spiritual significance – and helps clarify and open the ajna chakra. We will write a separate, more detailed post on this in the future.

Prepare teh 3rd eye for higher consciousness

b. Remain in God-Consciousness in everything you do

Remaining in God-consciousness is central to all Spiritual Sadhana :, in every thing we do. An atheistic or secular Sadhana has not been defined at all in all Indian traditions and is in fact to be strictly avoided. The method of god-remembrance is through chanting shlokas, japa , lighting lamps, worshipping at temples and a proper and complete Upasana ( or worship of the Physical form of god) at our home.

Even when we exercise and take care of the body, god consciousness is encouraged. Despite the non religious nature of yoga abhyasa today, its roots lie in the deepest form of God Consciousness. Here the entire body is worshiped as a temple with God / divinity residing within. So yoga and pranayama is done both as a method of cleaning the inner temple and also to go closer to the divinity within.

While the above form a specific portion of our day, i,e our daily Puja / Worship, we are encouraged to remain in God consciousness through the day in everything we do. So we are asked to practice God consciousness while brushing our teeth, eating, cooking, dressing, commuting, working , surfing the net, chatting with colleagues, etc.

Remain in god consciousness throughout the day
So this state of being slowly begins to permeate through our speech, thought, desires, the way we respond to external situations, the way we eat, etc. This state of entering and remaining in God-Consciousness is the secret key to all spiritual success.

c. Paramount Importance of Nitya-Karma (daily duties)

Nitya-Karma or our daily obligations are to be performed without fail , on all days. These supersede voluntary spiritual activities like visiting a temple. Nitya Karmas are well defined and examples are : waking up before sunrise, Snana, Sandhya-Vandana , Upasana , eating as per proper food rules , choosing a Dharmic Vocation , doing that vocation to the best of one’s ability , performing the role of spouse or parent with utmost dedication.

In Indian spiritual tradition, we are assured that no matter what our life stage is, the proper discharge of duties itself constitutes half our spiritual sadhana. Hence seeking a  spiritual path is open to all, not just renunciates, or anyone from a particular gender, creed, community , etc.

Similarly the proper discharge of our responsibilities be it at home, or at work is itself considered a sadhana. This is especially true when we choose the right vocation / career and seek to fulfill our highest moral and spiritual values through our work.

The loving & involved discharge of our duty is also part of Spiritual Sadhana

Even if we chose not to work, raising our children well, looking after our parents, or developing ourselves is also considered Sadhana in Sanatana Dharma.

 d. Need for a Guru :

There is no spiritual practice in a perfect vacuum or all by oneself. It has been clearly established in all Indian doctrines that a true Guru to guide us is absolutely necessary. How to find our true Guru is an important subject in itself.

 e. Svadhyaya :

This is another vital pillar of spiritual practice. The Daily, devoted self-study of holy texts and scriptures. This is an absolutely guaranteed route to purifying and elevating the mind.

 In Indian tradition, we are advised to keep copies of certain essential texts at home like the Ramayana, a portion of the Ramayana like the Sundara Kanda, Devi Mahatmayam, and the Bhagavad Geeta. In addition we can also keep copies of certain Puranas like the Bhagawata Purana, Padma Purana, etc.

The daily reading of good spiritual texts is a part ofSadhana

A small portion of our day can be devoted to reading a small portion of any of these texts every day, or even just a single stotra. The reading and re-reading of these texts give great spiritual strength, resilience, clarity of purpose and purity of thought.

For example: in many south Indian homes, a reading of the Sundara Kaanda (the portion of the Ramayana which spans a single day encompassing Lord Hanuman’s search for Sita Devi in Sri Lanka) is considered strengthening and auspicious especially in moments of great trouble. We are asked to practice reading of this Kaanda alone when people are ill, unwell, when we are going through a  tremendous crises of faith and when we seem to have exhausted all our logical options.

Another example is the dedicated reading of the Devi Mahaatmayam during Navratri. Over 9 days, during this spiritually charged period, we read the entire story behind the origin of Devi Durga, the battles she fought and are taught using divine parables the virtue of great courage, resilience, femininity, divine spirit, etc.

These practices are a beautiful exercise in positive visualization, strength giving and brings tremendous purpose and clarity. It is also a very handy tool to engage with the mind and spirit at a higher level, and give the mind a better rock to hold onto during moments of crisis.

Different people connect with different such texts. We encourage you to try out a few of the above options and see which one resonates most with you.

The safest spiritual books to start with are Ramayana, Ramcharitra Manas, Bhagawad Gita , Bhagavata Purana and Sundara Kanda. Among Puranas, please choose the Sattvic Puranas to start with.

Please avoid Puranas which are not supposed to be kept and read at home like the Garuda Purana. When in doubt, please consult the elders in your family or your family’s Upadhyay. This information is not reliably available online.

 f. Satsanga , Satsanga , Satsanga :

The company of Holy & good people. From the dawn of time , every Indian Sampradaya has been exhorting the importance of Satsanga – which is the company of Holy & Good people and how by the mere association , we are accelerated on the fast track in spiritual progress. Equally important is the avoidance of bad people or Dur-Sangati. One must actively thirst/yearn for Satsanga and also be very aware of who we keep company with. Satsanga is extremely powerful and totally overlooked.

Choose your Sangha (community) carefully

 The concept of Satsangha is repeatedly explained in the Ayurvedic texts, along with Shlokas on right conduct, learning to keep the mind in control, etc. The Acharyas opine that even a very well brought up person from a family with good values can be led astray with Dur Sangha. In fact the choosing of our friends, associates, workplace and which colleagues we would like to associate with is a critical step in our spiritual evolution. The right company can help us progress and progress with us. The wrong company can completely devalue our spiritual progress and set us back by a few decades.

 g. Japa (Repetition of a Mantra or the Lord’s Name):

Japa ,the constant mindful , mental chanting of a mantra or the Lord’s name is very central to all spiritual Sampradayas. It is truly good fortune to get initiated by a Guru who can chose an mantra for you. If not, you can easily chose a mantra of your favorite Ista Devata and start Japa. The masters have assured us that this pillar of spiritual practice is guaranteed to put us on a good path and take us where we need to go.

The simplest and most potent Japa to start with is “Rama”. This japa was able to even transform a simple robber to a Maha rishi and a poet when he mechanically chanted this mantra in reverse unknowingly (“Mara, “Mara” chanted by Valmiki).

Kapa chanting is a potent tool of Sadhana.

 So What should I do to Start my Spiritual Practice Right Away ?

This is the most obvious difficulty for all of us neophytes – where do I start ? What concrete and easy steps can I take right now ? So based on personal experiences, here are a number of easy and effective starting  points

Learn your Gotra & Nakshatra :

Across India, we have a tradition of identifying our biological lineage through the Gotra system and also the ruling Nakshatra on the day of our birth. In sanatana Dharma, every one and their family has a gotra. No one is left out of the Gotra system.

However, Many of us are not even aware of the names of our Gotra / Nakshatra. If this is the case, please check with your family and firmly identify your Gotra & Nakshatra.

The Gotra system traces our biological ancestry to a set of sages who were present at the dawn of time. These sages are extra-ordinary and realized souls who are eager to help us and ensure our welfare.

In Indian tradition these Rishis are “Nitya Suris” – immortal and ever present across all worlds. As our ancestors, they are awake to our calls asking for our help and are ever ready to reach out and help you.

Rishi from Gotra is a potent seer and guru

But they cannot interfere in your life without you actively seeking their help. You must seek them. They have utmost respect for your free-will and choice. By merely knowing their name and meditating on them, you will activate a very powerful source of guidance and benedictions. We have already discussed the vital importance of a Guru , and your ancient ancestor will help you in that quest along with other blessings.

Identify your Family’s Sampradaya :

In India, it is very likely that your family belongs to a well-established Sampradya, like those discussed earlier. In the spiritual quest , there is No greater advantage than traditional family adherence to a Sampradya. If you can easily identify this, then you should not look for other Gurus and other systems.

Your family has likely found success through the principles and practices of this Sampradaya and it is not correct to abandon this tradition with serious cause. Moreover, you already have the blessings of the Gurus of this lineage – all you need is to activate them.

Most vitally, all spiritual quests must make the family unit stronger and not weaker. If a member of the family suddenly starts off on a new Sampradaya or aligns themselves to a new Guru , it can cause serious rifts in the families progress. This is the problem with many new cults of god-men. They really isolate a key member of family from their tradition and cause serious troubles. It is usually a very bad idea to abandon a long-held family Sampradaya in favour of a new ,shiny Guru.

Create a Small Puja Room / Alcove ( your spiritual office)

 Spiritual Sadhana is serious work. It will not happen in your balcony or living room. You need to allocate an official space for this quest. If not available already you can create a small alcove with pictures of your Ishta-Devta.

You should light a lamp with cotton wicks and A2 cow ghee along with incense sticks daily in this space. There is special relationship between high quality Cow ghee and Agni – cow ghee is considered “the havis” or “best offering” for Agni Bhagawan. It also carries immense spiritual vitality and clarity and helps purify the space around it. This is the reason we suggest lighting a pure ghee lamp – when lighting a lamp, it is important to make offerings which are of the same or better quality than what you consume or use.

Currently there is a practice of offering slightly inferior quality ghee or “lamp oil” in your Puja, This is absolutely wrong. In our spiritual practice, we are appealing to the highest of our selves and then connecting that highest of selves to the divine. So every offering we make to this highest of selves must be pure, elevated and of extraordinarily high quality.

This spiritual office, is also the area for respectfully storing your holy texts , to do your Svadhyaya & Japa. With regular sadhana, this becomes a highly charged space which can re-charge your spiritual batteries and re-energize you. If would be very ideal if you can allocate a closed room for this purpose.

The pooja room is your spiritual office

 

The allocation of a “spiritual office” is an important investment. IF the energies in this room are regularly built up through your daily sadhana, this is like a charged battery waiting to uplift you when you are low. Therefore it is ideal to keep this space private and work in this space everyday to recharge yourself and the space.

 Start Swadhayaya :

The Srimad Valmiki Ramayana , Bhagavad Gita ,Sundara Kaanda portion of Ramayana ,the 5 Satvika Puranas ( Bhagavatam, Narada, Vishnu , Varaha & Padma) , the 10 principal Upanishads are amazing starting points for Svadhyaya. Of course these are all in Sanskrit , so it would be ideal to procure a copy that has the original Sanskrit text along with English translation for your Svadhayaya.

Begin your swadhyaya

Beyond these timeless texts, we also have great regional texts like the Ramcharitmanas, which are also good starting points. From personal experience, even the careful study of the English translation of an important text, we can derive tremendous benefits.

Start Japa & Puja of Ishta-Devta

 Many of us would have an Ishta-devta or favorite deity ,especially from childhood memory , one who has captivated us in some way.

Doing a simple puja to the Ishta Devta through decoration with fresh flowers, lighting of good ghee lamp and offering food for the Ishta Devta is a good way to invite their presence into your life. It is quite simple to learn the basic moola mantras of these deities and start chanting them with regular frequency daily. This again activates powerful latent forces within us and from outside as well.

Puja & Japa of Ishta devtha

This practice also powerfully re-charges our home space. The aura of the home is more positive, healing and gives us vibrancy, positivity and the ability to heal.

 Visit Temples Regularly ( if possible , ancient Temples) :

India’s temples, built as per specific Agamas, are its priceless treasures. They are all around us, open every single day without fail from ancient times, have free entry and are guaranteed to help us in many different ways.

The mere act of visiting a temple near you home daily or once a week is yet another exceptional spiritual practice and will surely benefit us massively. But we need to make the conscious effort to visit temples , to actively seek the priceless spiritual gifts within them.

We suggest visiting ancient temples which are well worshipped in to access the huge fount of stored positive spiritual energy within them. A good temple visit can give you a full battery recharge and wipe your mind free of negative and depressive thoughts with fresh and renewed purpose and clarity.

Visit more temples

The faith and belief of the devotees, sincerity of the priests, construction of temple to conserve spiritual energy as per Agama , Vastu & Shilpa sastra and power concentrated in the Archa Moorthy all work together to give you this cleansing and spiritual experience.

A temple must be visited as a separate visit in itself at first. We suggest proper preparation like visiting the temple after fresh Snana, wearing of clothes especially chosen for the temple (traditional dress is best), and on a comparatively empty stomach.

In our experience a temple visit can fill you with pranic shakti and energy – if you have visited on a full stomach, this can leave you uncomfortable, disoriented and sometimes with feelings of nausea as the body has literally received too much nourishment.

 Actively seek Satsanga

 Satsanga is a very important and over-looked spiritual Sadhana. It is the company of holy and good people. Now this is why the earlier point of regularly visiting temples is vital. You are un-likely to find Satsanga in a bar or a mall or even in your office. For urban Indians, the ancient temples are their best friend in developing Satsanga. Down-right bad people are un-likely to be found in temples as well.

As you perform Sadhana by the other methods mentioned above, your spiritual antennae will develop and guide you in identifying these holy & good people. With spiritual sadhana, many down-right bad people will also stop crossing your paths. You must actively seek Satsanga –  finding it is an art and an interesting journey.

 

To Sum up:

In traditional Indian works, is to customary to begin with a request for blessings from the almighty. So there was a deliberate choice of starting this post with the first shloka of Srimad Valmiki Ramayana, which is sure to bless all our endeavors with success.

 In traditional Indian works it is also customary to end with a Phala-Shruti Shloka, which means a shloka which explains the benefits that will accrue to the reader as a result of reading and following that work.

 Since our sincere endeavor in this post is to provide a simple outline of Spiritual Sadhana, we choose to end this post with the Shanti Mantra from the Taittirya Upanishad , which nicely summarizes the objectives of this post and we are sure that the regular chanting and meditation upon this mantra will help us in the spiritual path.

 सह नाववतु ।
सह नौ भुनक्तु ।
सह वीर्यं करवावहै ।
तेजस्वि नावधीतमस्तु मा विद्विषावहै ।
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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6 ayurvedic strategies that help reduce Digital Addiction

are you a digital addict?
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Reading Time: 13 minutes

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

What am I talking about? A Digital Detox program.

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

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

are you suffering from digital addiction?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Digital Addiction and Vata dosha:

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

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

The medium and very nature of social media excites vata dosha

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

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

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

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

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

Over using the ears can lead to vata aggravation

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

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

Over stimulation and use of ears aggravates vata and impairs hearing

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

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

Why Digital Addiction can derange Vata dosha

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

Social media is primed to aggravate vata dosha

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

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

Deranged vata dosha leads to chaos

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

6 Strategies from Ayurveda to reduce Digital Addiction :

Fixed Electronic cut off every day:

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

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

What do we mean by an electronic cut off?

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Shavasana:

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

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

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

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

Daily Shavasana practice helps calm and still the mind

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

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

Complete Sensory deprivation:

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

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

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

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

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

The Ultimate Sensory deprivation treatment – Kutir Praveshika method

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

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

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

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

Night Sky Gazing:

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

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

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

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

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

Pada abhyanga:

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

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

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

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

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

Hair Oiling:

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

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

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

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

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

To sum up:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Abhyanga modification for Spring (Vasanta Ritu)

abhyanga modification suggested for vasanta ritu - by krya
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Reading Time: 8 minutes

The abhyanga is a powerful Dinacharya that gives us good health and well being. When done regularly it helps improve strength, balance aggravated doshas and also improves skin health and hair health. However, as we have seen, Ayurveda also advises following Ritucharya practices. These are changes / modifications to food habits and daily practices in each season.  In today’s post we will look at the abhyanga modification to be done for Spring (Vasanta Ritu).

In our earlier post on Vasanta Ritucharya, we have covered why a change in habits is required in this season. In Spring (Vasanta Ritu), just like ice melts in the Mountain tops due to the presence of the sun, the Sun’s movement helps melt accumulated Kapha in our bodies too.

Just like ice melts in the mountain top in spring, kapha melts in our body in spring

As this Kapha beings to circulate in the body, we experience a surfeit of mucous related issues like colds, runny noses, hay fever, etc. Particularly if we did not follow the Ritucharya rule in Winter about putting accumulated Kapha to work through intensive exercise, we will have to deal with aggravated Kapha in spring.

The presence of this liquid Kapha in the body creates a few challenges to the practice of abhyanga in spring. As there is more Kapha circulating in the body, there is a resistance to oil absorption.

Also, as Kapha tends to increase heaviness and stiffness in the body, we must be VERY careful during Abhyanga NOT to contribute further to this feeling of “gurutva” or heaviness and stiffness in the body.

Abhyanga Contraindications :

Before we get into the post on the abhyanga modification to be done in spring, here are some basic precautions to follow while attempting this Dinacharya.

  • Do NOT do Abhyanga is you are pregnant or are menstruating
  • Do NOT do Abhyanga if you are tired, have had low sleep or are otherwise fatigued
  • Do NOT do abhyanga if you are running a temperature, have a fever or are ill
  • Do NOT do an abhyanga if you have indigestion or any gastric complaint
  • Do NOT do an abhyanga AFTER a heavy meal or in the evening
  • Do NOT do an abhyanga after an intensive workout or after heavy sun exposure

Abhyanga contraindications and general rules should be followed in all seasons.

Abhyanga modification for spring (Vasanta Ritu):

1. Yoga / Exercise BEFORE Abhyanga

In Winter, we recommend doing intensive exercise or doing housework AFTER doing an Abhyanga. When this practice is done in Winter where the external cold is high, the warmth generated by the body during exercise helps in the deeper and better absorption of the oil. However the exercise has to be of an intensive level in order to generate warmth in a cold season.

An important part of the abhyanga modification in Spring is a change in the order of exercise and abhyanga . As Kapha is already melted and circulating in the body, we recommend warming the body with light exercise or housework BEFORE starting the Abhyanga.

In vasanta do exercise before abhyanga

This exercise BEFORE the Abhyanga helps settle down circulating Kapha. It also helps the body warm up internally and allows the oil to penetrate the skin better in this season.

2. Do Abhyanga early

We have written earlier about how the day is divided into 4 hour parts and how each part is dominated by a particular dosha. The period between 6 am – 10 am is dominated by Kapha dosha, when we all wake up, do an abhyanga, bathe, eat breakfast, etc.

Doing an abhyanga in the Kapha period is generally not recommended. This is much more of a problem in Spring when aggravated Kapha is already flowing freely through the body. So if you are doing an Abhyanga between 6 am – 10 am, please do the Abhyanga as early as possible in this 4 hour period.

An early morning abhyanga is recommended in Vasanta

Even if you are unable to wake up before dawn for abhyanga, try and do your abhyanga in the early part of the Kapha period.

This abhyanga modification is recommended to ensure that the abhyanga leaves you feeling light and refreshed. Doing an abhyanga at 9 am vs 6 am will make your body feel stiff and heavy as you are applying oil ( a kapha increasing dravya) in a high Kapha time During a Kapha dominant season.

Late Abhyanga in Kapha peak = Aggravated Kapha

3. WARM the oil before Abhyanga

Warming oil is a generally useful suggestion throughput the year. However, it is especially relevant in Vasanta Ritu to avoid cooling the body and aggravating Kapha further.

In Spring, use warm oil for abhyanga

This abhyanga modification is recommended to help penetrate the skin and body much better. Warm oil is lighter, more sookshma and penetrates skin much faster than cold oil. Cold oil can further aggravate Kapha in the body.

Cold Oil = More Kapha

4. Use LESS Oil and Massage MORE

Due to the high amount of Kapha circulation in the body, using a high amount of oil during Abhyanga can potentially cool and stiffen the body due to aggravated Kapha. Therefore in this season, it is advisable to use slightly less oil than normal during Abhyanga and MORE massage + movement.

In vasanta, use less oil fo abhyanga with more massage

This abhyanga modification helps us get the benefit of abhyanga in this season without deranging kapha dosha.

More oil = More Kapha = More stiffness

5. Squeeze the limbs well during Abhyanga

An abhyanga massage with squeezing action is called Mardana.  Mardana massage is very useful in Spring as it helps draw out Kapha out of the body and ensure it does not get stuck and cause heaviness and stiffness in the body.

Use a downward squeezing action (mardana) especially in limbs.

Mardana action is suggested in Spring Abhyanga to constrict the movement of Kapha

This abhyanga modification is suggested to remove the feeling of heaviness and stiffness in the body which is common in this season. This restrains Kapha from spreading easily in the body. It also directs its proper flow and encourages movement out of the body.

6. Soak LESS after your Abhyanga

Generally we recommend waiting for 15 minutes after your Abhyanga. This “soak time” is useful to help the oil to penetrate deeper into the body. It also gives you a breather after a rigorous Abhyanga routine before you begin your Snana.

In Vasanta Ritu, the Soak time after Abhyanga should be very short. If you are a Sinusitis sufferer or are prone to coughs and colds, you may skip the soak altogether and directly begin your Snana. This is an important abhyanga modification in this season to prevent kapha aggravation.

The more you soak, the colder your body gets.

Cold = Kapha.

7. Bathe TWICE after Abhyanga

Bathing (Snana) is a critical practice to be done correctly in Vasanta (Spring).  When the snana is done correctly, the body feels well cleansed, and light after Abhyanga without any Kapha aggravation.

In Vasanta, it is a good practice to do Two Snanas (scrub the body, rinse and repeat) with a herb ubtan.

Bathe twice after abhyanga in vasanta

This abhyanga modification is suggested for 2 reasons. It ensures BOTH that applied oil is removed and that body is left cleaner as the Snana removes oily secretions deep in the srotas. If oil remains on the body in this season, you will feel stiff and heavy due to Kapha aggravation.

Krya’s Ubtans are best for post Abhyanga baths – our regular bodywashes just cannot remove oil as cleanly as our Ubtans do. but even our Ubtans will have to be used twice in this season, because of Melted Kapha.

8. Bathe in reasonably warm water:

Many Krya consumers complain to us when we remind them that according to Ayurveda, this season is Vasanta (Spring) and not Greeshma (Summer). Due to urbanization, urban heat effect and climate change, our once mild Vasanta (spring) feels hot, boiling and like a scorching summer.

But it IS NOT summer, not yet. Even though the weather is hot, your nose and throat might feel runny, you will sneeze more . These are signs of melting Kapha.

Melting Kapha = Vasanta / Spring.

In Summer, Kapha would have finished melting and would no longer circulate freely in the body.

To ensure that you do no further add to aggravate Kapha, please bathe in warm and not cold water. Bathing in very hot water will further liquefy Kapha. So your bathing water must be warm but not very hot.

bathe in warm and not hot water in Vasanta

9. Avoid aggravating Kapha & Pitta by Ahara (food) or other activities on Abhyanga days

Eating Kapha OR Pitta aggravating food / doing Kapha + Pitta aggravating activities in Abhyanga days. Kapha aggravating food will add to already excess Kapha in the body. Pitta aggravating food will melt more Kapha causing more runniness, colds, and more circulation of melted kapha.

10. Ensure your scalp is as dry as possible in this season

In this season, a wet scalp may mean sinus and kapha aggravation. Please use Rasanadi choorna LIBERALLY in this season: Inhale it, apply it on the crown of the head, on the sinuses of the head, behind the ears, etc.

Dry your hair quickly and efficiently using 2 towels if necessary. Do NOT sit in an air conditioned car / environment with wet hair.

Keep the scalp dry in Vasanta

If you find that your scalp is sweating, you may still use Rasanadi choornam to ensure the water does not seep into the sinusitis aggravating Kapha.

Cold = water freezing on scalp = Kapha.

Krya’s Abhyanga Products for Vasanta Ritu:

Classic Abhyanga Snana Range: general purpose for all Prakritis especially Pitta leaning prakriti

This Abhyanga Snana Range is a general Abhyanga Oil + Ubtans suitable for all prakritis, with no major aggravation in any one dosha. The Krya Classic abhyanga oil is a 34 ingredient proprietary formulation. The herbs and herb compositions have been carefully chosen from the classical samhitas. This is a balanced Abhyanga oil which helps balance all 3 doshas. It is suitable for both Men and Women and is a general abhyanga oil that can help all prakritis.

The Krya Classic Abhyanga oil goes with either the Krya Women’s Ubtan (Classic) OR the Krya Men’s Ubtan (Classic).

 

If you are a high Kapha prakriti, we advise using less Abhyanga oil which has been well warmed, more vigorous massage and bathing twice with the Ubtan – this is a guideline to ensure there is no further Kapha aggravation.

Intense Abhyanga Snana Range:

If you are intensely Vata dominant, or are a Post Partum woman or have an INTENSIVE exercise routine (marathoners, regular gym goers), the Intense Abhyanga Snana range is more suitable for you.

We have also recommended Intense abhyanga Oil for those on a low fat / limited fat diet and a Vegan diet – such diets usually aggravate Vata very quickly – so if you are on one and are noticing skin darkening and sudden weight loss, it is time to both re-examine your diet and use the Intense abhyanga Oil.

The Krya Intense Abhyanga Oil is a 41 ingredient proprietary formulation. This oil has been formulated to balance aggravated Vata dosha, so it is warming and intensely Vata balancing in nature. It is not recommended unless your Vata dosha is really out of balance. Pitta aggravated individuals might find this oil too hot and warming for their liking. In some cases Kapha aggravated individuals can also use this oil. If you have any queries, please call / write to us seeking clarifications.

The Krya Intense Abhyanga oil goes with the Krya Women’s Ubtan (Intense) which is a new launch. This is a special women’s ubtan designed with a high amount of Mangalyam (auspicious), Vata balancing , astringent, skin health improving herbs. This is especially suitable for post partum women.

We do not yet have a Krya Men’s Ubtan (Intense) – so to go along with the Intense Abhyanga oil, Men can continue to use Krya Men’s Ubtan (Classic).

To sum up – abhyanga modifications in spring

We hope this post gave you a good idea of both the importance of Abhyanga as a Dinacharya and the correct modifications you should be following in this season to get the most of your abhyanga.

If you are keen on adopting this Dinacharya, but still have questions, please write to us or Call/WhatsApp us (0-75500-89090).

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What are healthy eating timings according to Ayurveda ?

Krya blog post on healthy eating timings in ayurveda
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Reading Time: 11 minutes

A common misconception we hear at Krya is about healthy eating timings to follow and meal choice at each time. Today the Media is full of advice on nutrition and guides to healthy eating. Different theories abound on calculating protein and carbohydrate content of food, eating unpolished grains and ensuring higher nutrition by eating raw, unprocessed foods. It is no wonder that many of us are confused and seek advice on ahara and ahara niyama.

Is the diet and nutritional advise out there just confusing you

A key part of Ahara niyama in Ayurveda is the selection of proper / healthy eating timings. This influences the capacity to digest food, and our capacity to extract nutrients from food.

In fact, choosing the correct time to eat each meal has  a similar influence as choosing what to eat, on our health. In other words, we should spend the same amount of time planning when to eat as planning what to eat

In this post, we will see why Ayurveda pays so much attention to good eating timings and how we can improve our health and well-being by working out a healthy eating time schedule for us and our family.

Selection of healthy eating timings: Different Doshas influence different day parts

Ayurveda tells us that each day is divided into 4 hour dayparts. Each of these dayparts is connected to the slow rise, peaking and then falling of a particular dosha in our body.

Dosha surge in body corresponds to day part

The strength of the surge in the Dosha depends upon the movement of the Sun. So, for example, if there is Sunshine during a Kapha period, the effect of Kapha is slightly reduced. Similarly, if there is good Sunshine, say during a Pitta daypart, Pitta will be much more aggravated due to the influence of the sun.

In order to take advantage of these natural surges in a particular Dosha, we are advised to do certain activities during certain day parts. Our body’s internal workings also take advantage of the dosha surges in day parts.

As long as we do not tamper with our internal clock by eating at inappropriate times or sleeping at inappropriate times, we can be sure that our body is always working to ensure that we stay in good health and harmony.

An example is to wake up during a Vata day part and eat during a Pitta day part. Pitta influenced day parts are ideally suited to digest and process food. Hence a pitta day part makes perfect sense and is ideal  for our heaviest / largest meal.

Similarly, waking up during a Vata day part ensures we are able to utilize the creativity, enthusiasm and high energy that such a day part offers us.

Waking up in a Vata influenced day part helps provdie teh body with energy, and creativity

This is why our Acharyas recommend waking up during Brahma Muhurtha ( 90 minutes before sunrise) – by design Brahma Muhurta occurs after during the peak surge plus gradual drop of Vata dosha.

Waking up this time therefore gives us high energy, mental clarity and freshness through the day. In fact, many commentators say that waking up during this times allows for a “dosha re-balance” that is close to your natural state.

Selection of healthy eating timings: Choosing the correct Pitta day part for our heaviest meals

The process of kindling of appetite, production of salivary and gastric enzymes, digestion, absorption of nutrients and separation of food into useful and non useful by-products that eventually leave the body, are ALL governed by Pitta dosha and its various branches.

Pitta dosha is strongly influenced by the sun as “Agni” is one of the 2 Pancha mahaboothas that make up Pitta dosha. Therefore when the Sun reaches its Peak, with maximum Agni, the Pitta in our body is also at its peak, around noon.

Pitta energy peaks at noon due to the movement of the sun

So ideally, the correct time for our heaviest meal should be Noon.

But here comes a problem.

In traditional times, we ate one / two meals a day. In modern times this has been stretched to 3 meals of breakfast, lunch and dinner with sometimes 2 – 3 small meals / snacks between these meals.

Breakfast is usually around 8 am. Lunch around noon time and dinner is again around 8 pm. Many of us may also additionally snack on fruit juices, buttermilk, fruits, nuts and seeds or even cooked snacks between these 3 main meals.

Are you etaing many small meals on mistaken nutritional advice?

 Hence we may be overloading our body with food at the unhealthy eating timings – this leads to Ama build up in the body and weakens digestive fire.

Also, as many of us are stressed for time in the busy morning, we reserve our largest meal for our evening meal, i.e Dinner. Many families / friends also go out to Dinner during weekends to bond and catch up over food. This is great from the point of view of building relationships, but not so great from the point of your Digestive Agni and build up of Ama (toxins in the body).

There is a strong chance of over-eating and eating the wrong food for this day part in these occasions, leading to Ama build up in the body. 

Eating with groups of people at Dinner may cuase us to overeat, increaisng chances of Ama in the body

How to utilize the 2 Pitta day-parts everyday to make a healthy eating time table?

Ayurveda tells us that there are 2 Pitta strong dayparts in the day, 10 am – 2 pm in the morning and 10 pm – 2 am at night. The first Pitta daypart peaks at 12 noon approximately and the other at 12 midnight. As the Pitta peak coming at midnight is dampened by the absence of the sun, the BEST and MOST IDEALLY STRONG digestive Agni occurs at noon, in the day time.

So we should eat our heaviest meal of the day, as close to Noon time as possible . At this time, if we eat the right Ahara for our prakriti, there is the greatest chance for this food to be well digested, and properly absorbed with high nutrient retention inside the body.

Eating at teh correct time in the correct quantity strongly influences nutrient absorption in the body

 

What happens during the second Pitta day part at night?

In normal circumstances, the Pitta peak at midnight is utilized by the body to “tune up” Pitta organs like the Liver ,Spleen, etc. This repair and maintenance activity is ONLY done if Digestion is fully complete.

It takes the body upto 3 – 4 hours to digest a single meal fully. This timing slows down if the meal is extremely heavy, improper for our prakriti, improper for the Ritu, or contains a high amount of Guru foods (curd, sweets, red meat, etc), Or if Agni is weak / impaired due to Wrong Ahara and Wrong Ahara Niyama.

If the body is engaged in Digestion at the second Pitta time, the maintenance of Liver , spleen and Other Pitta organs DOES NOT TAKE Place. Habitually eating late means that these organs are under a severe strain without the time or space given to do their maintenance. This puts the body’s health under duress.

Eating at teh correct time also allows the body to do its regular maintenance activities

The ability of the body to digest is weakened severely post Sunset. So we are advised to have the lightest meal of the day as Dinner, and NOT the heaviest as is ritually the case with many of us.

It is also wise not to go out to eat for Dinner, experiment with new cuisines which may be heavy / difficult to digest or eat socially (as we often end up over eating in these situations). Instead we can reserve these activities for Noon, when our Digestive Fire + the sun can help us digest such experimental meals.

Choosing healthy eating timings: Effect on Agni + Ama when Kapha is aggravated

 In the normal course of events, we have only one Pitta rich day part to eat and digest a meal properly. Our other 2 commonly eaten meals of breakfast and dinner are BOTH in Kapha dominant dayparts of 6 am to 10 am, and 6 pm – 10 pm, respectively.

Kapha aggravation can produce “Mandagni” (reduced digestive fire), tamasic thoughts especially when food is tamasic, sloth, laziness and weight gain when ahara is improper.

In cases of Mandagni, the Agni is in a doused and weak condition. Its ability to digest food and absorb nutrients is extremely poor. So even if we feed the healthiest and best food to our body when it is in a state of Mandagni, it will be of little use to us. The body will generate Ama instead of digesting the food as the Agni is unable to handle the digestion process.

Instead of being fully digested, Food may be only partially digested. The undigested food will putrefy inside the system producing bloating, inflammation, and reducing the appetite and increasing heaviness in the body.

Heavy eating at peak kapha periods can increase chances of Mandagni in the body

This is why the combination of improper ahara and eating during a peak Kapha period is the precursor to an Ama disaster in the body.  The evening Kapha period when we have dinner is far worse than the morning Kapha period when we have breakfast.

The morning Kapha period, is weaker in the kapha surge. This is due to the presence of the Sun and increased activity on our part . This is why we have less trouble digesting our breakfast compared to digesting our dinner.

In the evening time, as the sun sets, Kapha dominance becomes extremely strong and our activity levels are on the wane . The later we eat, the worse our digestive capacity / food absorption is going to be.

Ahara Niyama (Eating guidelines) as per Ayurveda:

Here is an Ayurvedic recommendation for meals:

Breakfast moderately, lunch well, and eat dinner very sparingly.

To repeat: Eat a moderate breakfast, a good lunch and a sparing dinner

Any fruits, or in-between meal snacks should ONLY be eaten if there is good hunger and appetite. Do NOT eat because you have read that eating 6 small meals is healthy or that it is good for you “to graze”. Grazing animals have a completely different digestive system – we cannot follow their method of eating through the day.

Ideally all meals should be freshly made and hot as per Ayurveda. However, because both our breakfast and dinner is eaten during a Kapha surge, please eat food that is freshly cooked and hot. At these meals, the body’s ability to digest stale meals is impaired. Stale meals are higher in “gurutva” as per Ayurveda, so they are more difficult to breakdown and can quickly aggravate Kapha.

 

Freshly made, hot food id recommended for breakfats and dinner to counter the effect of Kapha surge

During breakfast and dinner,  Kapha rich foods like sweets, cakes, desserts, sweet fruits,  meats and foods like curd should be avoided. Any manner of cold / refrigerated food , cold drinks should also be reduced / avoided. If leftover rice is being used from the morning, we advise that you re-wash and re-steam the rice to remove some of its “gurutva” (heaviness).  

avoid kapha triggering foods like desserts and sweets during Dinner

Avoid difficult to digest food like raw food, highly complex cereals, and heavy lentils like Rajma, Channa, etc, for Dinner. They can be eaten in very small quantities occasionally at Breakfast, only if Digestive fire is good and activity level is high.

Choosing healthy eating timings: Recommendations by Prakriti

Aggravated Kapha / Kapha leaning prakriti – healthy eating timings:

For those with Kapha leaning prakriti or Kapha aggravation (weight issues, poor hair growth) we suggest eating Dinner as early as possible within the evening Kapha cycle.  

For example, eating at 7 pm means that only 1 hour has passed in the Kapha cycle of 4 hours. But eating at 9, means that the body has had 3 hours to accumulate Kapha – so digestive fire needs to be more intense to combat the coldness wetness and heaviness produced by the natural Kapha upsurge in the body.

Eat eraly dinners if Kapha prakriti is high

Apart from eating as early as possible, food must be light, well cooked, warm and devoid of kapha aggravating foods. Foods that are rich in oils, nuts and seeds, sweet foods, etc must not be eaten at Dinner.

Deepana & Pachana herbs that are recommended for Vata prakriti can also be used. In addition, mildly sour foods help kindle appetite and reduce Mandagni for this prakriti. So food can be flavoured with local tomatoes, lemon, small amount of ripe tamarind, etc. Well churned, well diluted buttermilk can also be taken at night.

Aggravated Vata / Vata leaning prakriti – healthy eating timings:

Vata leaning and Vata aggravated individuals have “Vishama agni” (Inconsistent Agni). So they will find that their appetite, ability to digest food, etc greatly varies from day to day. So here, apart from ensuring Dinner is eaten early and Kapha aggravating foods are avoided, the Agni needs to be trained and brought under control.

Vata leaning and vata aggravated individuals often have weak and dry hair, poor skin texture, suffers from bone and joint aches and disorders, abnormal skin darkening, gas, bloating, etc.

For such individuals, it is especially important to eat Deepana (appetite kindling) and Pachana (digestive) spices along with their evening meal and eat freshly cooked, hot, light , appetizing food. This food must be eaten at the same time every day as a habit. Training the body with regular meal timings and proving deepana and pachana herbs along with tasty food brings Vishama Agni under control.

Deepana and Pachana herbs and spices are excellent for Vata prakritis

Deepana and Pachana herbs that help Vishama Agni are Maricha (black pepper), Pippali (long pepper), Sunthi (dry ginger), Jeera (cumin), Curry leaf, hingu (asafetida), Black salt (small doses) and Saindhava Lavana (rock salt).

Aggravated Pitta / Pitta leaning prakriti – healthy eating timings:

Pitta aggravated / Pita leaning individuals are very sensitive to changes in eating timings and are most affected by improper dinner timings. Such individuals suffer from premature greying, hair thinning, gastritis, acidity, anger management issues, Blood pressure, acne, skin sensitivity, sun burn, etc.

Why is late dinner so problematic for Pitta aggravated/ Pitta leaning individuals?

We often find that Pitta dominant people never have a problem with appetite, but when they eat late, they develop gastric, acidity, sour belching etc. This is because of 2 reasons:

The later we eat in the Kapha cycle, we need to utilize more Pitta energy to combat Kapha upsurge. This is already high in Pitta leaning people – so they will extract MORE Pitta energy simply to digest their food.

The second reason is that after the Kapha cycle, we are in the beginning of the second Pitta cycle which starts at 10 pm. If we eat at say 9:30, instead of Pitta energy being used up and subdued after digestion if we had eaten at 7 pm, we will experience a second wind in Pitta at 10 pm. This will excite Pitta further. This also keeps us awake, gives us poor sleep as the body is engaged in energy intensive digestion at this time, instead of repair and regeneration of important pitta organs like liver, spleen, etc which is usually the case.

Pitta aggravated / leaning individuals do very well when they have a fresh, warm meal around 8 pm without any Pitta aggravating dravyas. Such people should avoid eating fried / oily food, sour food, salty food and other Pitta aggravating foods at night.

Avoid exciting Pitta dosha heavily for Pitta individuals during dinner

Suggestions for Pitta-Kapha aggravated individuals:

For many people with high Pitta-Kapha imbalance (Acne, PCOD / PCOS, pre-diabetes, etc), we advise completing dinner before 8 pm, and then drinking a glass of hot water about 30 minutes before sleep around 9:45 pm – 10 pm.

This has a stomach clearing effect, and aids elimination of toxins out of the body. This should not be done very late and strongly into the Pitta night period as it could the re-stimulate Pitta dosha. This is why we suggest doing this at the beginning of the Pitta day part or earlier, depending upon your eating timing.

To sum up: healthy eating timings for all based on ayurveda

We hope you found this post on choosing the healthy eating timings as per Ayurveda useful. We also hope this post gave you easy to implement modifications in both your selection of food and also when and how to eat your meals depending upon your prakriti.

An ideal suggestion as per Ayurveda is to eat by 7 pm, and go to sleep BEFORE the second Pitta surge starts at 10 pm. This is most ideal for rest, recuperation, good sleep and energy the next morning. If this is not possible, we must atleast avoid eating close to 10 pm and try and complete dinner around the half mark of the Kapha period, which is 8 pm.

We often say that Ayurveda is a holistic , health giving science. As we can see in this post, the acharyas have thought through every aspect of human existence and have given painstakingly accurate, logical and holistic suggestions to maintain health and well being.

We hope you too found the suggestions given in this post useful for your and your family. If you have any questions on this, please email us.

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The History of Abhyanga: What Ashtanga Hridayam says about Abhyanga

Benefits of abhyanga according to ashtanga hridayam
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The Abhyanga is a key Dinacharya, daily practice recommended in Ayurveda to impart Bala (strength), Ayush (health and Immunity) and Ayu (long life) to the body.  This practice forms an important part of Krya’s recommendations to improve hair growth, impart better strength and texture to hair and to also improve the quality, tone and texture of skin.

Abhyanga is a key dinacharya practice recommended in ayurveda

An abhyanga is also a very important Dincharya that is recommended for specific cases of hairfall like post partum hairfall, hairfall due to sudden and extreme weight loss (cases of high vata aggravation).

Many Krya consumers have found a HUGE difference to their hair health, skin texture and overall well being and immunity when abhyanga is added to their daily routine. The practice of abhyanga is mentioned as a health giving practice in all the Ayurvedic Samhitas.

In today’s post, we will analyse the abhyanga shloka in Ashtanga Hridayam’s Dinacharya chapter and see why Acharya Vagbhatta says this is such an important and useful practice.

Ashtanga Hridayam: part of the Brhat Trayee Texts in Ayurveda

We have written often about how empowering Ayurveda is as a Vaidya shastra. Ayurveda is considered an UpaVeda, an offshoot of the vedas themselves and is found in the Atharva Veda. This Upa Veda is a Divine Science which has been handed down from the Devas to the Raja Rishis.

Ayurveda is an Upaveda: it si incredibly ancient and of divine origin

It was then passed down in oral tradition until it was compiled about 3000 – 4000 years ago by Agnivesa. Agnivesa’s Samhita, was then further redacted by Charaka.  Charaka’s redaction of Agnivesa Samhita became much more famous than the original, and soon everyone began to refer to Charaka’s redaction as the Charaka Samhita.

Charaka Samhita is one of the 3 ayurvedic texts in the Brhat Trayee.

Charaka Samhita forms the first of the Brhita Trayee. The second text in the Brihat Trayee is Sushruta Samhita. The Sushruta Samhita concentrates more on surgery and surgical methods than general Chikitsa (medicines and general healing) which Charaka Samhita focusses on.

The Ashtanga Hridayam is the 3rd text included in the Brhat trayee – the great 3 texts of Ayurveda . This classification of “Brhat Trayee”  is of the 19th century origin. The classifier appears to have chosen 3 texts that are of universal repute in the field of Ayurveda, with use in almost the entire length and breadth of India.

The Ashtanga Hridayam is of more recent origin. Various datings ascribe it to the 7th – 8th century AD.  Despite its more recent origin compared to Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita, it is not surprising that the Ashtanga Hridayam text is included in the Brhat Trayee . This text is extremely lucid, clear with  easy to understand and shorter Sanskrit shlokas .

Concept of “Living Right” in Ayurveda:

One of the stark differences between Ayurveda and Western Medicine is the high emphasis on “living right”. Each Acharya tells us that if we followed “Dinacharya” (daily practices for health and well being), followed Ritucharya (seasonal modifications to adjust to changes in weather and internal doshas) and followed Ahara Niyama (guidelines to eat, choosing right food, avoiding incompatible foods, etc), we can avoid nearly 85% of the disease.

Ayurveda varies gretaly from allopathy in the emphasis on living right

A Vaidya is then only required for the balance 15% of the stubborn diseases which may occur due to accidents, karma etc. Even the effect of these diseases, their severity and the speed of our recovery can be greatly affected if we have been following Dinacharya, Ritucharya and Ahara niyama.

As Ayurveda spans a long length of time (over 4000 years), it makes sense that there will be variations in the variety of herbs used, and also additions to the disease conditions discussed, chikitsa techniques, etc over time across various texts.

But the basic fundamental chapters like Ahara Niyama (how to eat / food guidelines), Dinacharya (daily living) and Ritucharya (seasonal living) are largely unchanged from the time of the MOST ancient Ayurvedic Samhitas.

Abhyanga in Dinacharya: ancient and unbroken guideline to “Living Right” in Ayurveda

We have already seen that the chapters on Dinacharya and Ritucharya have remained largely intact, with only minor modifications and additions from the time of Acharya Charaka. So also,  Acharya Vagbhatta’s Shloka on Abhyanga is a modified and modern retelling of the Shloka found 3000-4000 years ago in the Charka Samhita. Since Charaka Samhita itself is a redaction of Agnivesa Samhita which is even more ancient, we can surmise that a similar shloka on abhyanga would have been found there also.

As many ayurvedic texts and commentaries are lost today, we cannot physically verify this fact. But each Acharya in his retelling confirms this and tell us that he is presenting in a brief manner what he has already read / seen / studied from earlier texts. The abhyanga tradition can therefore be seen as a distilled piece of practical wisdom that follows an unbroken chain across thousands of years of traditional Indian medicinal wisdom .

Abhyanga is a distilled piece of wisdom form an unbroken line of indian traditional medicine

So, without doubt, when we practice abhyanga regularly, we should get the benefits that the acharyas have described.

Abhyanga recommendations at Krya:

At Krya, we recommend doing a “regular” abhyanga for good health. What is the meaning of “regular”? As the abhyanga is mentioned under “Dinacharya” chapter in Ayurvedic texts, along with activities like brushing our teeth, etc, it should also be done “Dina” or daily.

However, most of us are unused to even the idea of a Dinacharya, let alone the concept of an Abhyanga. So at Krya, we start by suggesting that Abhyanga be done two times a week as a complete routine including Karna abhyanga (ear massage), Shiro Abhyanga (head oiling) and Pada abhyanga (feet oiling).

In addition, we have recommended doing a shortened version of the abhyanga, called “Mini Abhyanga” 3 – 4 times a week. The Mini Abhyanga is mainly done for women to balance Apana vayu. This is very useful to correct Vata imbalances in the lower abdomen – this helps regulate menstrual cramps and ensures periods are relatively easy and pain free. In Men, the mini abhyanga helps regulate digestion.

Similarly, we recommend doing Pada abhyanga atleast 3 – 4 times a week. The Pada abhyanga is a vital part of the daily abhyanga and is an incredibly health giving, relaxing abhyanga to do. For those who are unable to do a regular full abhyanga, the Pada abhyanga is a great way to start inculcating the Abhyanga Dinacharya.

Pada abhyanga is to be done atleast three to four times a week

We will do a separate post on the benefits of Pada Abhyanga. But in short, it helps relieve fatigue, improves sleep quality, balances vata dosha and is a “drishti prasadaka” practice – clarifies and strengthens the vision.

A pada abhyanga is especially recommended for Men and those with high mental stress, insomnia, late nights, high vata aggravation, etc.

Splitting Abhyanga into mini units – some benefits

By splitting the abhyanga into full and mini Abhyanga units at Krya, we have been able to overcome some part of the resistance to take time out to do this Dinacharya. As our consumers start experiencing the benefits of these mini abhyangas for themselves, they are much more motivated to attempt doing a full abhyanga regularly.

Also, we are seeing a high rise in certain repetitive stress disorders due to the nature of urban careers. For example, we see a lot of wrist injuries, frozen shoulder, lower back ache etc, due to the high use of smartphones and laptops and also due to long commutes in a car. This tends to aggravate Vata dosha in these specific areas in the body.

Hasta abhyanga - good mini abhyanga that helps in repetitive stress disorders

So when Mini abhyangas like Pada abhyanga & Hasta abhyanga are done, there is an immediate improvement in the flexibility, working and health of these areas.

An Interpretation of Acharya Vaghbatta’s Shloka on abhyanga:

How did we arrive at concept of Karna abhyanga , Pada abhyanga, and mini abhyanga ? We arrived at this by interpretation of the abhyanga Shlokas themselves. How did we arrive at the benefits of doing a regular abhyanga? Again by reading and interpreting the shlokas first and then following their instructions and then experiencing these benefits.

Every Ayurvedic Nighantu and Samhita offers a varied nuance / flavour for each Dinacharya practice suggested. Obviously the more texts we read, the more complex and detailed our understanding of the process becomes. When we do these Dinacharyas ourselves and also observe the benefits experienced by hundreds of Krya consumers of various prakritis age groups, demographics and geographies, we get better and better at understanding the abhyanga and its benefits.

Given below is a picture of the exact shloka on abhyanga from one of the commentaries written on Ashtanga Hridayam. The Shloka itself has been composed by Acharya Vagbhatta in the 7th century AD.

The translation given here is my own based on my interpretation, the interpretation of my gurus and also derived from the interpretation of many more commentaries of the same text.

Summarizing the benefits of Abhyanga: from Acharya Vagbhatta’s Ashtanga Hridayam

In this shloka on abhyanga, the Acharya uses the word ” achareth” which means “suggested / recommended”. This is a point of change from the Abhyanga shloka in Charaka Samhita. In Charaka Samhita the Acharya makes an observation: ” the body of one who does abhyanga daily is strong, does not break easily, etc”.

Ashtanga Hridayam - shloka on Abhyanga's importance

But Acharya Vagbhatta has taken it upon himself to make a more “prescriptive” suggestion. In the Ashtanga Hridayam, The Acharya has remarked that Vata based diseases are on the rise. This could be an increase from Acharya Charaka’s time. Acharya Vagbhatta has also predicted that he expects 50% or more of all diseases in the future to be caused by Vata aggravation. This is most certainly the case today for all of us. I suspect this is why he has actually used the word “achareth” or recommend in this shloka.

The benefits of abhyanga are well known to us: but to summarize from this shloka: A regular abhyanga retards aging, removes tiredness, reduces vata aggravation, clarifies eye sight, gives good quality sleep, improves health and improves the stability and strength of the body.

Acharya Vagbhatta tells us to pay special emphasis to the Head, Ears and Feet while doing an abhyanga. This is the reason behind frequent hair oiling of atleast 4-5 times a week which is recommended by us at Krya.

Hair oiling atleast 4 – 5 times a week improves health AND hair quality, growth and texture. Similarly, doing a Pada abhyanga 4 – 5 times a week improves vision, relieves fatigue, etc. Other texts contain specific shlokas on the benefits of Pada abhyanga and hair oiling separately.

Abhyanga products available at Krya:

We have 2 kinds of abhyanga snana products available at Krya. Just as the choice of abhyanga oil is very important, the right Snana product is also equally important. The correct Snana product cleanses and removes only the excess oil present after abhyanga on Skin. This varies by prakriti – we can expect Vata prakriti skin to strongly soak up abhyanga oil leaving very little aside to remove.

Such an intelligent system like our body, also requires intelligent cleansing. We have written more about why cleansers made from Divya Oushadis and live organic grains are intelligent and better suited for your body, here. Do take a look.

Classic abhyanga-snana range:

This abhyanga snana range is a general abhyanga Oil + ubtans suitable for all prakritis, with no major aggravation in any one dosha. The Krya Classic abhyanga oil is a 34 ingredient proprietary formulation. The herbs and herb compositions have been carefully chosen from the classical samhitas. This is a balanced abhyanga oil which helps balance all 3 doshas. It is suitable for both Men and Women and is a general abhyanga oil that can help all prakritis.

Krya abhyanga Oil - classic

The Krya Classic abhyanga oil goes with either the Krya Women’s Ubtan (Classic) OR the Krya Men’s Ubtan (Classic).

If you are a high Kapha prakriti, we advise using less abhyanga oil which has been well warmed, more vigorous massage and bathing twice with the Ubtan – this is a guideline to ensure there is no further Kapha aggravation.

Intense abhyanga-snana Range:

If you are intensely Vata dominant, or are a Post Partum woman or have an INTENSIVE exercise routine (marathoners, regular gym goers), the Intense abhyanga Snana range is more suitable for you.

We have also recommended Intense abhyanga Oil for those on a low fat / limited fat diet and a Vegan diet – such diets usually aggravate Vata very quickly – so if you are on one and are noticing skin darkening and sudden weight loss, it is time to both re-examine your diet and use the Intense abhyanga Oil.

The Krya Intense abhyanga Oil is a 41 ingredient proprietary formulation. This oil has been formulated to balance aggravated Vata dosha, so it is warming and intensely Vata balancing in nature. It is not recommended unless your Vata dosha is really out of balance. Pitta aggravated individuals might find this oil too hot and warming for their liking. In some cases Kapha aggravated individuals can also use this oil. If you have any queries, please call / write to us seeking clarifications.

The Krya Intense abhyanga oil goes with the Krya Women’s Ubtan (Intense) which is a new launch. This is a special women’s ubtan designed with a high amount of Mangalyam (auspicious), Vata balancing , astringent, skin health improving herbs. This is especially suitable for post partum women.

We do not yet have a Krya Men’s Ubtan (Intense) – so to go along with the Intense Abhyanga oil, Men can continue to use Krya Men’s Ubtan (Classic).

To sum up: the Benefits of a Regular abhyanga

At Krya, we emphasize that external products alone do not give you the holistic changes you expect in skin and hair health. When you add on good Dinacharya practices like the abhyanga and also follow Ahara Niyama guidelines, you can see a quicker and more long lasting change in your health and well being.

Today, we are no longer trained in our Indic languages like Sanskrit and Tamil. We do not have any training of Ayurveda. We have also lost out on hard earned cultural knowledge like food norms, dietary guidelines, etc.

Despite this loss, some of what the Ayurvedic texts survive in our lives – but as a fragment of a fragment of a fragment. This is why all of us are used to only a once a year abhyanga on Deepavali day. We have lost the knowledge of the Samhitas and the shlokas which asked us to do abhyanga “Nityam” and are instead doing abhyanga once a year only.

I hope this post inspires you to adopt this health giving, wonderful practice. The most wonderful part about Ayurveda to me, is how firmly the acharyas put our health in our own hands. Every Acharya tells us that if we adopted the guidelines of Dinacharya, Ritucharya, ahara niyama and Right living, we will not fall ill often and have to meet the Vaidya.

When we follow the principles of “Ayurvedic right living”, we have to meet a Vaidya only about 15% of the time for truly serious illnesses. The balance 85% of illnesses can be avoided, averted or simply treated at home.

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Reduce Eye Strain & naturally nourish the eyes with Ayurveda

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Reading Time: 13 minutes

Due to the high use of electronic devices, and excessive eye engagement, many of us commonly face eye strain & eye fatigue.  We have recently been receiving a lot of queries on tackling eye fatigue and improving vision through Ayurveda. So we have re-written and expanded one of our earlier posts on this subject. This post will explore how you can easily & visibly reduce eye fatigue & eye strain with Ayurveda .

Do you have eye strain?

Do you constantly feel eye fatigue? Do you develop headaches after a long bout at your computer? Are you experiencing premature greying and hair dryness?  Do your eyes feel dry, scratchy and itchy? You could be experiencing computer vision syndrome / computer related eye strain.

Eye strain is a real and wide-spread problem today, which affects both children and adults. For several hours every day, we stare at electronic screens across phones, tablet, TV and computers.

As we continually use our eyes for subtle / sookshma purposes, we strain the  minute eye muscles and do not allow them a chance to recover or relax. So we are all affected with eye strain to varying degrees.

Do you have eye strain & fatigue? You could be suffering from Computer Vision syndrome.

The symptoms are blurred vision, double vision, dry eyes, headaches, eye pain, neck strain, eye-irritation and eye watering. The factors that induce eye strain are the number of hours of screen-time, the size of the screen, the strength of your vision, light levels and posture.

Causes for Eye Strain as per Ayurveda :

It is astonishing that our ancient Ayurvedic texts are able to give us a rationale behind a seemingly modern problem. Acharya Sushruta tells us that all Netra Rogas (diseases of the eye), occur due to the following causes:

Imbalance of hot and cold ( Ushnabhitaptasya) leading to eye strain

When the body heat is very high, there is a vasodilation of blood vessels to help excess heat to be transmitted outside. When this hot body steps into a cold environment, the dilated vessels suddenly have to constrict to ensure heat loss is minimal.

When we constantly keep having this change in temperature, we over-work all blood vessels, including the ones in the eyes, leading to eye redness, weak muscles and poor circulation.

Reduce eye strain with Ayurveda: hot-cold imbalance causes eye strain

An example of Ushnabhitaptasya causing eye strain:

Many of us use our smartphones to read / chat whilst in our cars. The environment is usually an airconditioned one. Also, Indian roads are NOT smooth, so we travel in jerky conditions with sudden braking and stops – the eye muscle has to work harder in such a jerky / moving environment.

So apart from the strain of reading from a small device, we are also over-working the eye muscle by making it focus on a small screen in jerky, non-smooth motion.

All of this eye work is done in the cold confines of our car air conditioner, so we unknowingly causing Ushnabhitaptasya.

Vision distortion due to over-reliance on one kind of eye work – Doorekshanat :

All of us are subject to the complications of Dorrekshanat, as we have all transitioned to using our eyes for only one kind of work.

Increasingly, as we all become knowledge workers, we no longer use our eyes and muscles for doing work that involves eye work over the long distance or even over the medium distance. All work that involves using our hands to make large movements – sewing, cutting, cooking, pottery, painting, other forms of art involves both fine and moderate eye work.

Any form of outdoor physical work like working in the fields, cleaning, sweeping, walking to fill water, etc involves both medium and long distance eye work.

Instead, most of us who work in office environments work only using our laptops, computers and phones. So we substitute the wide range of work our eye is supposed to do, with a large amount of fine work or sookshma work.

This is referred to as “Doorekshanat” in Ayurveda – interestingly the Samhitas say that too much of any one kind of eye work – long distance eye work or short / fine distance eye work strains the eyes. This distorts the vision, over accustoming the eye muscle to only one kind of work.

In ancient times, the samhitas tell us that jewellers and those who worked with very fine and intricate crafts like small paintings and canvases, etc were subject to Doorekshanat.

Reduce eye strain with Ayurveda: Repeatedly straining the eyes to read fine print increases eye strain

Krodha, Shoka & Bhaya (Anger, Grief and Fear) leading to eye strain

Emotional strain in difficult environments over-aggravates the emotional qualities of Pitta and vata dosha. Krodha or anger activates Pitta dosha, and Shoka and Bhaya activates Vata dosha. The dosha aggravation strains the eye’s muscles.

Reduce eye strain with Ayurveda: Excessive anger, fear and grief increase eye strain.

Anyone who has undergone loss, depression or grief will know that the eyes feel wrung over after a bout of weeping. When this continues for a long time, it tends to affect eye health and vision quality.

A special note on PMS

Many women are prone to pre menstrual tension / depression. This is aggravated when we follow an improper diet which is high in Pitta and Vata stimulating foods. Not only can such foods increase bloating and discomfort, they can also trigger strong PMS symptoms like temper tantrums, fits of weeping, mood swings, etc. There is a lot of advertising and media driven acceptance of PMS and women are asked to “indulge” themselves during this time.

The acceptance of and acknowledgement of PMS is in itself a good thing. But unfortunately, this acceptance comes with encouraging unhealthy food habits which will further trigger PMS. For example: chocolates, wine, fried foods etc are common cravings during PMS and during periods. Chocolates and wine excite Pitta dosha. Fried foods excite Pitta and vata dosha.

If your diet consists of such foods before and during your periods, you will regularly notice that your temper is out of control and you have depressive mood swings leading to high amount of weeping, and eye strain due to binge watching television, etc. This should be observed and dealt with.

Ayurveda says that menstruating women should be cheerful and in good temper, eating healthy pathya food, and must avoid mental and physical strain at all cost. This is not just good for eye health but promotes overall feminine health and well being.

Vega vinigraha (suppression of natural urges) leading to eye strain :

In many office goers, we observe suppression of urges like urination – this is especially common among women. This leads to disturbance in Apana vayu and aggravates vata dosha throughout the body when it is carried out for a long time.

The urge to sleep (nidra) and the urge to cry (Ashru) are both urges which should not be suppressed as per Ayurveda. Working well beyond our bed time, suppression strong emotional responses, and not blinking often to help the production of tears to moisten the eyes, worsen the health of our eyes and increase eye strain.

Viruddha Ahara (incompatible food) :

Ushna, Lavana and Amla ahara (salty, spicy and sour tastes) aggravate eye strain because these  3 tastes aggravate Pitta dosha. When Pitta dosha is aggravated in the body, the amount of Agni energy in the eye increases – this weakens the accompanying muscles in the eye , causing higher eye strain and eye watering.

Reduce eye strain with Ayurveda: Foods that are sour, salty & spicy aggravate Pitta Dosha. This in turn, increases eye strain.

We receive a lot of enquiries from stressed out, type A individuals who write to ask seeing help for premature greying and hair thinning. On investigation, we find a predominance of Pitta aggravating foods being eaten by such people like curd, spicy food, chinese food, etc.

When such Pitta aggravating foods are eaten in a time of high stress, it further compounds the body’s Pitta dosha. This leads to hair greying, hair thinning, acidity, digestive issues, inability to relax / sleep and also affects eye health and well being.

Ratri Jagarati – (Night vigil) / Insomnnia or delayed sleep  :

In the texts, the Acharyas mention that certain occupations which require Night vigil (Ratri jagrati) are more prone to eye strain like soldiers, guards, etc.

Today, Ratri Jagrati has become a common feature in many urban homes. Due to late night working, late dinners, and late television watching, we are all prone to eye strain due to use of the eyes at the wrong time.

 

Reduce eye strain with Ayurveda: Staying up late and night and delayed bed time can also aggravate eye strain.

 

Ayurveda says that a disease must be tackled from the “Hetu” or root cause. So also, eye strain  must be treated by examining the root causes listed above.

If you have nodded yes to any of the points mentioned above like Ratri Jagriti, Doorekshanat , Virruddha ahara, etc, you must first start by correcting some of these behaviors. In addition, here are some Ayurvedic recommendations on how we can reduce / prevent eye fatigue below.

Reduce Eye Strain with Ayurveda in these easy ways:

Control the hot-cold imbalance 1 : Regular hair oiling to reduce Ushna

Keep the head cool and allow natural removal of excess ushna everyday through daily oil application. Remember, we encounter fresh stress everyday – so this fresh stress which aggravates pitta dosha must be tackled everyday by regular and frequent application of the right Ayurvedic hair oil. We have given recommendations for Krya hair oils below.

Reduce eye strain with Ayurveda: Regular hair oiling reduces eye strain and fatigue.

 

Control the hot-cold imbalance 2 – regulate the body temperature

Regulate the body temperature, especially if working in an air conditioned atmosphere. We often advise that you carry a light jacket / shawl to simulate the normal temperature outside your office. Request office admin to set temperatures between 24 – 26 degrees centigrade (this will also bring down electricity bills), and drink warming, non diuretic, and nourishing drinks in your office (so no tea, coffee, cola, cold fruit juices – instead warm water and a warm, natural spiced beverage is ideal).

Reduce eye strain with Ayurveda: Keeping your body temperature steady and warm and avoiding hot-cold imbalance improves vision.

When in your car, avoid working your eyes. Use this time to gaze out of the window, instead and engage in long distance eye work instead. Keep the temperature at a comfortable degree. If not, lightly wrap yourself using a jacket / shawl in your car.

Alternate between “Sookshma” and far vision:

Use your complete range of eye vision – so if you are constantly on a computer, take a break every hour or so to gaze into the distance (preferably at trees or greenery). Reduce your “Night vigil” and work towards saner and more balanced work timings.

Reduce eye strain with Ayurveda: Take a break from repeated fine use of your eyes to gaze into the distance. This relieves eye strain.

If you work in an air conditioned environment, it is possible that your neck muscles and shoulders are also strained from hunching over your laptop.  A short walk around the block every 2 hours will help stretch out these muscles and also give your eyes a rest.

Most of us also have strained our blink reflex with excessive screen use. Remember to  gently blink your eyes every 4 – 5 minutes or so to ensure your eyes do not go dry. Shifting your eye range also helps in this.

Do not suppress natural urges:

Do NOT suppress natural urges like the urge to use the washroom, the urge to sleep or the urge to blink or yawn. If you are doing this often to appear polite and well mannered , you are setting up yourself for a serious range of eye diseases later on.

Suppressing the urge to visit the washroom tampers with “apana vayu” a sub set of vata dosha. This also sets up for more serious disorders related to the urinary and reproductive tract. So, when you gotta go, JUST GO!

This is very common among women who are embarrassed to use the washroom due to public scorn / ridicule. This is also a problem when we are in public places and are afraid of unclean washrooms. Again: the possibility of an infection form an unclean washroom is less of a health issue compared to not using the washroom at all.

So, JUST GO! Please encourage your children to listen to their natural urges and not “learn the bad habit of suppression”.

Reduce screen glare and over-bright light :

Control the amount of bright light your eyes work in. Many computer and smartphone screens are set to the highest level of brightness. This is unnecessary and extremely fatiguing to your eyes. This along with the bright, white office lighting and pale walls, re-create the sun even in your office.

This amount of light is fatiguing and drying to the eyes. Re-set screen brightness and switch off a few lights if the room is bright enough. But do remember too much light AND too little light both strain vision – experiment and arrive at optimal light for yourself.

Reduce eye strain with Ayurveda: Turn down your phone's screen brightness to reduce eye strain due to screen glare and blue light.

 

Re-set aggravated pitta and vata through regular abhyanga:

Balance aggravated pitta and vata through the body through regular abhyanga – a regular abhyanga helps dissipate aggravated vata and pitta dosha and moves it back to its original seat, thus bringing the body back to balance. We often see that people with high pitta aggravation experience profuse eye watering and release of hot vapour from their eyes when Abhyanga is done. This is a good indication both of how aggravated the dosha is and how powerfully the abhyanga works in restoring the body back to balance.

Reduce eye strain with Ayurveda: Regular Abhyanga Snana balances aggravated vata and pitta dosha, reducing eye strain and fatigue.

Practice regular Pada abhyanga to improve eye strength and vision clarity:

Pada abhyanga is a gem of a dinacharya that is a gift from Ayurveda. When regularly done, Pada abhyanga deepens sleep, improves energy levels the next day, removes excessive fatigue and strain stored in the legs, balances vata dosha, and most importantly , gives “drishti prasadaka” or vision clarity.

A regular pada abhyanga helps reduce eye strain by nourishing the eyes, clarifying vision

This Drishti prasadaka benefit of Pada abhyanga can be explained using references from various Ayurvedic texts. Bhela Samhita tells us that one important centre of Alochaka Pitta is the feet. Alochaka Pitta is a sub division of Pitta dosha that is responsible for good vision. Alochaka Pitta’s primary centre is the Liver – so eating Pitta aggravating food over stimulates Alochaka Pitta which leads to eye degeneration.

But by doing a regular Pada abhyanga AND adopting a Pitta balancing diet, we can temper the Alochaka Pitta and help strengthen the eye.

Acharya Vagbhatta tells us that 2 important Siras (veins / circulatory vessels) of the eye end in the feet. Through the process of pada abhyanga using special herbs and oils, we can detoxify and strengthen these 2 Siras, thus helping nourish the eyes.

 

Regulating aggravated Pitta dosha through Ahara Niyama (diet + food regulation) :

Regulating Pitta dosha helps regulate Pitta aggravation in the eye.

At Krya, we advise various means of regulating Pitta through Ahara. This can be read in detail in some of our earlier posts on this.

In short, the addition of madhura and ojas building dravyas like milk and ghee to the diet, using a careful selection of spoces that warm and aid digestion but do not irritate the body (pepper, cumin and not red and green chillies), help balance aggravated Pitta. To ensure Pitta does not flare up, we advise following ahara niyama (meal regulations) like  eating meals on time. Delayed and untimely meals are a strong aggravator of both Pitta and vata dosha.

Regulating aggravated Pitta through right food is critical for eye health

Adding cooling grains and vegetables like split mung, aged rice, and gourds (ash gourd, ridge gourd, bottle gourd, snake gourd, parwal) are also very useful help in pitta regulation.

Night gazing:

Star and Moon gazing are prescribed Ayurvedic practices to infuse cooling, nourishing energies into the eyes. This also helps counteract the strain brought by close gazing.

Night sky gazing is an excellent practice to reduce stress and improve vision and well being

Night sky  gazing is an excellent practice to counter feelings of depression, high stress, inability to switch off and aggravated Pitta-vata dosha.  At Krya, we have seen that consumers with moderate depression, anxiety and stress related hairfall, benefit greatly from this practice. It helps calm down the brain and visibly brings down stress.

Electronic cut off time:

At Krya, we often recommend a strict cut off time in cases of aggravated vata and pitta dosha. Setting limits for smartphone and laptop usage go a long way in restoring health and harmony to the body.

Many of us use broadband and wi-fi at home to surf the net / watch television, etc. We often forget to switch off this wi-fi signal at night. Many of us also sleep with our cell phones in the bedroom  near our heads.

Radiation fatigue can excite vata in the body

These practices increase the amount of radiation our body absorbs over time. Research tells us that this radiation exposure causes deep seated fatigue and vibratory responses in the body. Minute nerve cells are excited by these radiation based energies and vibrate in response to them causing depletion of ojas and fatigue in the body. So from both eye health and overall well being, an electronic and radiation cut off is extremely beneficial for the family.

Application of cooling substances like Ayurvedic Kajal to the eyes:

Many synthetic eye make up products increase Pitta dosha in the eyes. They also contain ingredients like lead and other suspect minerals and substances which are transdermally absorbed through the eyes. Ayurveda recommends using only a suitable herbal kaajal that strengthens vision and cools the eyes.

Frequent eye washing using pure, clean water

Eye washing is an approved Ayurvedic practice to clarify the eyes, remove toxins and balance aggravated Pitta.. We will do a more detailed post on this later on the Krya blog.

Eye washing is recommended using pure clean water, or herb infused water in Ayurveda in the following times: on waking up, after meals. Each of these has a slightly different effect on the eyes, which we will read about in a later post.

For the best eye cleansing, we are asked to hold clean, cool and pure water in our mouths while washing the eyes. Once you have finished washing the eyes, the water held in  the mouth can be discarded.

A Summary: ayurvedic practices to strengthen vision naturally and reduce eye strain

Infographic on simple ways to strengthen vision naturally

To conclude:

Modern choices come with many serious, dangerous fall outs, which we remain unaware off. The practice of using a cell phone is barely 20 years old in India. Apps are even more recent : just 3 / 4 years old. However, we have already begun reaping the ill effects of over use of these conveniences.

Ayurveda is always immensely practical – the Acharyas are not strict or “Methodist” in their advice. They always recommend leading a life of balance for good health.

We hope our post helped you appreciate many of the deeper reasons behind eye strain and eye fatigue. We also hope you will go through and follow the Ayurvedic recommendations we have suggested to help you get the most out of your eyes.

Krya Hair Oils to reduce Eye fatigue :

  • For very high Pitta aggravation – (premature greying, scalp dryness due to high heat, and hair thinning) – choose the Krya Vibrant hair colour hair oil . This hair oil is very potent. If you experience high premature greying, hair thinning, have anger management issues, are a type A personality and have high stress (and other such signs of classic pitta prakriti / pitta agravation), please choose this oil.
  • For moderate – high Pitta aggravation – (premature greying, scalp dryness due to high heat, and hair thinning) – choose the Krya Classic hair oil
    • Note : If in doubt whether your Pitta aggravation is moderate or severe, start with the Krya Classic hair oil . If after a month you do not see good progress, crank it up a notch with the Krya vibrant hair oil
  • For Vata aggravation due to high stress (difficult work atmosphere, frequent air travel / travel, long commute, missed / skipped meals, difficulty sleeping, long working hours AND dry and falling hair ) – chose the Krya harmony hair oil

Krya Abhyanga Oils for Pada Abhyanga :

  • Classic Abhyanga Oil – can be used by everyone in the family. Balances all 3 doshas
  • Intense Abhyanga Oil – Can be used by people with high vata aggravation, those with very high physical activity, Post partum women                                       
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Eating for Good Health – An Ayurvedic Perspective : Part 2

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Reading Time: 6 minutes


krya on ayurvedic eating

As I had written in Prat 1 of this article, many Ayurvedic diet prescriptions do not go with modern notions on health and nutrition. In fact, they seem contrarian and sometimes weird or even “unscientific” as per modern and often western expectations.

However, as I have always maintained, good health reflects in great skin and hair. At krya we get many queries every day on tackling skin & hair care problems, which cannot be solved with the just use of external products alone, so we do end up gently nudging people to take a second look at their diet and lifestyle.

So here is part 2 of my post on eating sensibly according to Ayurveda. As with all new information, please read this with an open mind.

IMPORTANT NOTE :This article does NOT discuss the ethical consideration behind these food choices as some of the Ayurvedic prescriptions use animal derived products. At this point of time, I am simply talking about how Ayurveda analyzes each food choice in terms of its dosha and how it would impact human health alone.

1. Ayurveda follows a holistic approach to eating. There is no measurement of micro nutrients or break up of food into the terms we measure today like protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals etc.
Instead, Ayurveda and all traditional medicine talks about eating a balanced meal. And is concerned about eating local and seasonal food that is right for each dosha type. This cannot be compressed into a simple diet chart but has to be worked out according to the needs of the individual, their current state of health and the environment they live in and the nature of their work, etc.

So for example, the diet prescribed for me, a Pitta-kapha type would consist of foods that are cooling but do not cause mucous. So if I am prescribed milk, I would be asked to have it unsweetened. Milk is considered as “Madura rasa (sweet taste)” which means it is already high in kapha qualities. As milk calms pitta but can also increase kapha – I might also be asked to drink with a pinch of turmeric, and drunk warm to ensure that my dosha is not aggravated. I would also be asked to have only native cow’s milk and not buffalo milk, as cow’s milk is lighter and does not have the quality of tamas that buffalo milk has .

I might also be asked to cut down completely on consuming jaggery and sesame if my pitta dosha is aggravated or during summer . Both increase pitta, and would perhaps not be ideal for me to eat given my constitution. I would also be asked to include shitali pranayama as part of a yoga practise to cool down my body.

Someone with a high kapha dosha, who often gets mucous filled coughs and colds, would be asked to cut down dairy completely. They would also be asked to cut down sweets, perhaps eat millets for a meal instead of rice, and do brisk exercising or surya namaskar to melt excess kapha in the body and encourage its release.

2. Ayurveda and many new lifestyle diets or ethical diets do not go together. So there is no Vegan Ayurveda. Or Gluten free Ayurveda. Or Paleo Ayurveda. Or Grain free Ayurveda.

Ayurveda prescribes the use of limited quantities of dairy products for good health. This is non negotiable among 3 classes of people: children, people above 60 and pregnant women. For everyone who falls in between, certain kinds of dairy can be avoided as long as they are in good health. Ghee appears to be universally prescribed for everyone as it is considered extremely good for the body and useful to bring down both vitiated pitta and vata.

Many Ayurvedic medicines are made using ghee, honey and sometimes curd and even bone marrow. Each medicine has been formulated keeping the health condition in mind and depending upon what medium will deliver the medicine fastest to the patient.
In certain conditions like vitiated vata, ghee is used extensively to quickly bring down vitiated vata. Every fat is treated separately in Ayurveda, and the qualities of taila, ghrita and majja (oils, ghee, bone marrow) have been extensively documented. In cases where ghee is required, it is cannot be substituted with a vegetable oil, even with coconut oil.

In cases of extreme emaciation, the text books recommend giving very weak, debilated patients mamsa rasa (meat soup) to quickly build up strength. I have seen documented evidence of this treatment working, and working well.

Again here, Ayurveda does not treat plant protein and animal protein as the same. Both are said to have different qualities and are used in different situations. For example, plant protein like lentils is considered as high in vata. So in cases where patients are suffering from vata vitiation driven weakness and emaciation, animal fat like ghee or in extreme cases animal soup (which is considered higher in kapha) is given to build strength.

3. Raw food, is considered as difficult to digest and is considered as stressful to the digestive system. Also, raw food is considered extremely high in vata, and the quality of the food changes depending upon how it is cooked.

So foods already high in vata like cabbage, cauliflower, millets, bread, cornflakes must be eaten only after their basic nature is tempered by the way we prepare them. The texts suggest that these foods should not be eaten raw, and should be cooked in fats like ghee or coconut oil, and must be eaten warm and not cold to bring down their vata increasing effect. Spices like turmeric and jeera should be added to make it easy for the body to digest them. And they should be eaten at peak digestive capacity which is during noon and not after sunset.

For this reason, if your vata dosha appears to be high, eating cornflakes or toast for breakfast would be an absolute no. Both would further aggravate vayu. Instead, you might be best served eating a rice and mung dal pongal / khichdi, or a rice based upma.

4. The ideal meal plate in Ayurveda – would vary by season but would consist of a higher proportion of grain and lentil and a smaller proportion of mainly cooked, seasonal vegetable. This is in direct contrast to what many of us believe – in fact a lot of us consume a much higher proportion of both raw and cooked vegetables than rice/ wheat or lentils. Ayurveda believes that the essential nature of many vegetables and lentils is that it is high in vata. So it must be balanced by eating rice which is laghu (easy to digest), madura (sweet and kapha promoting) and which helps balance the vata nature of lentil and vegetable.

A meal which consists only of vegetables, or vegetable + lentils or only fruits would be extremely unbalanced according to ayurveda and promote vata.

5. Food combinations and prohibitions: The Charaka Samhita mentions many improper food combinations and restricted food, which is unhealthy and sometimes downright lethal to your body. I have listed a few basics below.

• Curd – considered very high in heat and difficult to digest. Only very young people and people who do a lot of high physical exercise are considered strong enough to eat curd. As it is high in heat, curd can be eaten in limited amounts, only in extremely cold weather, and that too only during the day (when the digestive system is very strong). Prohibited in pregnancy, other seasons, at night, and for people with high pitta dosha.

• Heating honey or honey in hot drinks – honey is an amalgamation of flower nectar sourced from many types of flowers, plus bee saliva. Some of the flowers from which nectar is collected could be mildly toxic. When honey is heated, it breaks down to its individual combinations and could release these toxins and become poisonous to the body. So honey is never used in cooking or heated in any way. So drinking honey in hot water is absolutely prohibited. As is adding honey to hot liquids like tea or coffee.

• Drinking large amounts of tea and coffee (even green tea) – tea and coffee are high in vata and are astringent in nature. They should not be consumed at all, and can only be consumed y people who live in regions where they naturally grow. They should definitely not be consumed immediately after meals.

• Drinking large amounts of water – puts a strain on the kidneys and removes nutrients from the body. Water should be drunk when you are thirsty (unless you work in an unnatural environment like an air conditioned office, in which case you should monitor your water consumption).

• Dairy with fruits / vegetables – Dairy is considered heavy to digest and a meal in itself. Most fruits have the opposite qualities of dairy, so by combining them, we are putting a strain on our digestive system. For example, a banana or chikoo milkshake is an absolute disaster.

• Milk with a meal – milk is considered a meal in itself. And difficult to digest. So when milk is prescribed, it should be consumed as a separate meal. And you should give your system atleast a few hours to completely digest it before eating the next meal

This list does attempt to be a complete prescription or a substitute to visiting a qualified Ayurvedic Vaidya. This is merely a starting point to think about what you put into your body and your health. As with everything, your body and your health are unique and what works for you is something you will have to evolve with time and experimentation.

As always, do remember that good health has no shortcuts. You have to eat your apple everyday and not seven on Saturday night to keep the doctor away. Great skin and hair comes from every meal you eat and every liquid you drink.

click here for part 1 of the article .

 

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What Everyone Must Know about ayurvedic oiling

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Reading Time: 8 minutes

The practice of ayurvedic oiling , i.e using ayurvedic skin and hair oils is essential for maintaining skin and hair health. Regular ayurvedic oiling improves hair and skin health, helps restore and repair these organ systems, balances dosha imbalances and gives many other important health benefits for the body.

 

ayurvedic oiling is an excellent practice ti give health and transform hair & skin.

Ayurveda also recommends the balanced consumption of “sneha” or oils & fats to keep the bones and joints in good working condition. Certain organs like the brain and the eyes are high in fat composition so the regular intake of good fats is recommended to keep these organs in good working order.

Properties of different vegetable oils – as per Ayurveda

Every vegetable oil / fat has a different quality as per traditional medicine.

Cow ghee:

Cow ghee is considered tridoshic in its nature, and helps calm down pitta and vata without increasing kapha greatly. So if your skin and hair is extremely dry or chemically damaged, the addition of cow ghee in your diet will be very beneficial. To avoid aggravating Kapha, it is better to consume only melted cow ghee. Do keep in mind that this ghee should be made the ayurvedic way from the milk of hormone and antibiotic free, A2 desi cows only.

 

Cow ghee is an excellent tridoshic fat to be consumed regularly

Sesame Oil:

Sesame oil is considered “the” base oil in Ayurveda. It goes into every external abhyanga, hair and skin formulation at Krya. Sesame is fantastic at balancing vata dosha, so if you have a lot of aches and pains, external application of sesame can go a long way in correcting this.

Sesame, however, can increase pitta – so if you have a high pitta constitution, it is better to cut down on the consumption of sesame seeds and oils, although you can continue to use this externally. High pitta dosha manifests itself as premature greying, balding, a quick volatile temper, skin that is dry due to excess heat, burning and inflamed skin conditions and hair that tends to have a reddish / brownish hue.

Sesame oil is the base oil of choice in Ayurveda. It is nourishing, intense and hot in nature

Coconut Oil:

Coconut oil is extremely nutritious and good for the body. Its composition is close to that of human breast milk, so it is very beneficial for the body. However, it is very cooling and can increase mucous in the body and also stimulates hair growth. So if you have a kapha prone body tend to catch colds easily and are also slightly hirsute, it is best not to apply coconut oil on the body.

Coconut oil is highly nutritious but very cooling and kapha aggravating

In the Winter season, coconut oil is best avoided on skin for everyone. However, it can be used for the hair , after processing with herbs, as it helps stimulate hair growth and cools the brain, scalp and eyes.

Some issues with Sneha (vegetable oils and fats)

What we have stated above are facts given in the Samhitas. However, in modern times, the properties of these wonderful base oils are altered due to the way they have been extracted. Also, we have seen that each base oil comes with its own suitability issues.

Issues due to sourcing:

We have written a detailed post on Cow ghee and how it should be sourced and consumed. If we are having ghee made the commercial way where we are not extracting ghee from naturally fermented curd / cream, or sourcing ghee form hormone and antibiotic pumped A1 cows, then we will not get the benefits of ghee that are outlined in the Samhitas.

Issues due to the essential nature of Oils:

For example, Sesame oil is a wonderful base oil, but its essential nature is pitta aggravating. So in conditions of high Pitta aggravation, it is better to temper down the properties of Pitta present in sesame. Similarly, we have seen that Coconut is hair growth promoting but is also kapha aggravating. So how do we continue to use its beneficial properties without aggravating mucous or stimulating hair growth? Let us see how we tackle both of these problems at Krya.

Issues due to extraction method followed:

All commercial brands of cooking oil unfortunately follow the chemical extraction method where “food grade” hexane is used as a solvent to extract oil. In this method, an oil seed can release almost 70 – 80% of its oil content. The recovery process in the mechanical chekku /  ghani is only upto 40%.

The solvent extraction process allows us to extract oil from even brand and husk, where oil content is very low – this explains how we are seeing new oils today like rice bran oil which were traditionally unheard of, as it is impossible to mechanically extract oil from rice bran using a chekku / ghani.

Cold pressed organic oils used at Krya : the first step towards ayurvedic oiling

We use only old fashioned chekku (in tamil) / ghani (in hindi) extracted oils that have been pressed from organically grown seeds. The chekku / ghani is a wooden press that uses mechanical pressure, sometimes aided by the use of cattle to squeeze out oil from an oil seed like copra, sesame seeds, mustard etc.

 

This kind of oil is also called a “cold pressed oil” although this is a misnomer strictly speaking as the chekku / ghani also generates a small amount of heat as the wooden crushes uses force to crush seeds and extract oil.

This “old fashioned” method of extracting oil is safe, retains the aroma of the oil and is extremely nutritious to the body.

Some of the qualities of a chekku / ghani extracted oil is that there is some degree of moisture preset in the oil. Also, the oil contains minute volatile compounds that oxidize releasing a characteristic aroma for each type of oil. As the oil ages and is exposed to oxygen, these volatile compounds start to ferment , so the oil with time will have a “riper” aroma and will eventually go rancid. This is why a chekku / ghani extracted oil will never have a shelf life of more than 9 months – it will start to go rancid.

Cold pressed oil extraction is a traditional method that retains nutrients in oil

A high quality, cold pressed oil pressed from organic seeds & nuts is the first important step in ayurvedic oiling. 

Compare this with the 3 year shelf life of a hexane extracted oil – this oil has been chemically extracted, refined, bleached and deodorised to remove all its individual characteristics and has been made to unnaturally stay edible for 2 – 3 years.

If an external products company like Krya does not use commercially extracted oil for our hair and skin oils, then you should certainly not use these oils for edible purpose at home. Think of the effect using these oils can have on your body.

Transforming a vegetable oil for for ayurvedic oiling: Tila Paka veedhi process

By sourcing only cold pressed, ghani extracted vegetable oils from organically grown nuts and seeds, we are able to solve one part of the oil sourcing  problem at Krya. We are able to avoid any chemical contamination and begin with only the purest and best form of the vegetable oil.

But how do we handle the fact that the vegetable oil is suitable only for certain prakrities? We widen its suitability and improve its bio-availability by cooking it with herbs to change its properties and make it suitable for ayurvedic oiling.

When the Tila Paka veedhi process is done correctly using the right herbs, the right process and the right temperature, the base vegetable oil TRANSFORMS. It becomes a potent, bio active rich oil by transferring the actives from herbs into the oils through this process. In this process, the base oil absorbs the properties of the herbs and its nature subtly transforms.

 

Tila Paka veedhi is a transformative ayurvedic oil manufacturing process

Depending upon the herbs used, we can make the oil less kapha aggravating (in the case of Coconut oil), and less intense (Sesame Oil). By judiciously formulating the right mix of base oils, herbs that go into the final oil, we can create an oil which is readily penetrative without being “teekshna” or intense, and which is nourishing / nurturing without enhancing mucous production. This is why we say that an oil made from an organic cold pressed oil and then further transformed using herbs by the Tila paka veedhi process is the ideal oil for ayurvedic oiling. When ayurvedic oiling is done with this kind of oil, you can see holistic and widespread benefits in hair, skin & health.

How is the Tila Paka veedhi process done?

The Tila Paka Veedhi is an ayurvedic oil manufacturing process. One of the reason this process is not used widely is because it is slow, and highly labour intensive . For example, it takes between 6 – 10 hours of SLOW boiling in the Tila Paka Veedhi process to get an oil ready for use. And it needs to be gently stirred throughout this time – so it is really tough to create but totally worth the effort.

When we do this process correctly, we start by extracting nutrients in 3 separate ways: through Herb deocotions (Kashayas), Herb Cold pressed Juices (Swarasas) and Herb churned pastes (Kalpa). Depending upon the herb you are incorporating into the oil, you should be following one of these 3 extraction methods which depends upon the nature of the herb. Juicy herbs lend themselves well to swarasas. Woody herbs to Kashayas.

Kashaya - one of the 3 bio actives added to an oil in Tila paka veedhi

Once the extraction is done correctly, each of these is added to the oil, and cooked with the oil, slowly stirring the oil mixture throughout the process. This disperses the actives which we have extracted into the oil. This also slowly and gently “nano-ises” the oil, breaking it down to smaller particles.

At the end of the process, the oil we get is highly potent and penetrative. Its texture, color and aroma are completely new and different from the base oil and it is absorbed very QUICKLY by skin and hair, allowing the body to absorb the nutrients we have so painstakingly extracted and incorporated.

Tila paka veedhi is a transformative ayurvedic oil manufacturing process

To sum up:

In this blog post, we discussed the important topic of ayurvedic oiling and explained its importance in maintaining and improving skin and hair health. The Samhitas are emphatic about the many skin, hair and health benefits we can see with frequent and regular oil application.

 

But simply using a cold pressed oil may not be enough / suitable for us. There may be issues of dosha imbalance. Also,  with the rampant use of harsh synthetics in the commercial extraction technique, these oils would be contaminated by these chemicals as well as the additives that are routinely added to vegetable oils.

We saw how we address both these important concerns at Krya . We source only authentic, organically grown cold pressed oils. We then process these oils using herbs in a special ayurvedic process called Tila Paka veedhi. Through this process, we transform the oil making it suitable across prakritis and also make it more potent, penetrative and therefore a much more effective product to help with skin and hair concerns.

If you too would like to experience the holistic benefits of ayurvedic oiling for hair & skin, do explore our wide range here. If you would like help choosing the right Krya oil for your skin / hair type, please call us (0-75500-89090) or write to us.

 

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Pitta balancing diet Part 1: Using specific Rasas (tastes) to balance Pitta

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If you are suffering from a visible Pitta imbalance like premature greying, acne outbreaks, then a Pitta balancing diet can help holistically heal your condition. Ayurveda believes in following a holistic approach to understanding skin and hair issues. Hair and skin reflects the body’s state of balance. Diet, emotional well being, quality of sleep, quality of daily Vyayama (exercise) all affect the body. These factors create changes in the subtle alignment of doshas in our body. This reflects in the quality of our skin or hair.

Pitta dosha: qualities and life stage

Pitta is “snigdha” (oily), “teekshna” (sharp), “ushna” (hot), “laghu” (light) “vishra” (mal-odourous), “sara“ ( flowing / laxative), and “drava” (liquid).

Hence when we have Pitta aggravation in our body, we could experience sharp discomfort in the abdomen, diarrhoea, gastritis, temper flares, strong body odour, high sweating, oiliness on hair and skin, etc. We could also develop acne flare ups, experience premature greying & also hair thinning.

Pitta aggravation can cause strong body odour

Ayurveda tells us that every lifestage is dominant in a certain dosha. Middle age, i.e. 30 – 60 years is considered Pitta dominant lifestage. In this age period, we naturally tend to harness and utilise Pitta’s qualities to help us focus on our career, manage our responsibilities, etc. Hence at this stage, we become even more sensitive to Pitta aggravation.

Pitta aggravating foods:

We had written earlier in detail about foods that trigger or aggravate Pitta in the body. This includes fermented foods, salty foods, spicy foods, and sour foods. We have a pretty detailed list of don’ts in the earlier blog post. This list includes commercial packaged RTE foods which are high in hidden salts and imported delicacies like Greek yoghurt, tahini sauce and hummus.

Consumption of these foods is tolerable when our doshas in balance. At this time, Pitta drayvyas help stimulate appetite, aid digestion and allow for appropriately timed digestion in the body. The problem occurs when we have already aggravated Pitta dosha.

In a Pitta aggravated person, a single helping of curd or 2 meals with idlis and dosas in them can act like a lit match on a petrol doused bundle. Pitta sharply flares up and you will notice an increase in rage issues, skin oiliness, breakouts and inability to switch off and sleep on time.

A single helping of curd can tip teh balance if you are already pitta aggravated

Basics of a Pitta balancing diet:

The Pitta balancing diet is based on 3 principles to help balance aggravated Pitta:

  • Introduce Tastes (Rasas) that are opposite to Pitta to bring Pitta down
  • Introduce Agni balancing dravyas and Spices
  • Ensure Pitta is not spiked by controlling meal timings

Each of these work in a slightly different way to harmonise aggravated Agni. In this post , we will explore the use of Rasa (tastes) to help balance aggravated Pitta dosha.

 

Using Opposing Tastes (Rasas) to balance Pitta:

A Pitta balancing diet uses “bitter”, “sweet” and “astringent” tastes that act like a countermeasure to Pitta which is “amla” (sour), “lavana” (salty) and “katu” (spicy) in taste. The tastes are added in this order: Bitter, Sweet and Astringent for best effect on aggravated Pitta.

 

Using Bitter taste “Tikta Rasa” to balance excess Pitta:

Bitter taste (Tikta rasa) is very pitta balancing. Bitter taste has the quality of “dryness”, coolness” and “lightness”. Hence it helps balance the oiliness and heat caused by aggravated Pitta dosha. Therefore, including foods, herbs and seasonings which are rich in Tikta rasa, is an essential part of a Pitta balancing diet.

Many local vegetables and greens are inherently “Tikta” in rasa. For example, parwal, lauki, ridge gourd, ash gourd are native gourds. All of these gourds have an inherent “tikta” or bitter rasa. These vegetables can be added to vegetable / dal dishes to impart a bitter taste to food.

Local gourds are naturally rich in Tikta rasa

 

“Shukto” and Vempampoo-rasam (Neem flower rasam) are also examples of bitter rasa found in traditional cuisine. Neem flower rasam is introduced in Indian cuisine at the beginning of the onset of Summer, when Pitta is high.

Traditional cooking also has included many tikta rasa rich dishes seasonally

Certain spices and seasonings also have a “tikta rasa”. An example is fenugreek seed which is recommended to be eaten by diabetics and pre-diabetics in Ayurveda. Bitter rasa in moderate amounts is useful to control Pitta aggravation and Kapha aggravation. Similarly, rosemary, oregano and parsley seasoning also has a mild Tikta rasa.

Tikta dravyas can aggravate Vata dosha when eaten in excess and cause dryness in the body. Hence, as always, please follow moderation when planning your meals.

Some examples of Tikta Rasa dravyas:

  • Vegetables
    • Bitter gourd
    • Methi greens
    • Parwal
    • Lauki (Bottle gourd)
    • Ash gourd (white pumpkin)
    • Ridge gourd
    • Non sour locally available greens
  • Spices & seasonings
    • Turmeric
    • Fenugreek seed
    • Rosemary
    • Oregano
    • Thyme

Turmeric is rich in Tikta rasa and is highly nutritious

  • Ayurvedic Tikta Herbs used in Krya products
    • Neem
    • Neem flower
    • Kalmegh
    • Vetiver
    • Sandalwood

Sandal is cleansing and good for skin and high in tikta rasa

Meal plan suggestions:

From this list, we can look at including the following naturally Tikta (bitter) foods  to craft a Pitta balancing diet :

  • Local gourds added to liquid / gravy dishes in a rotational basis like Lauki, Parwal, etc
  • Use of Tikta herbs in cooking to season food like turmeric, Fenugreek, etc
  • Occasional use of Tikta dried herbs to flavour food like Rosemary, Thyme, etc wherever appropriate

Include seasonal local gourds into your cuisine

Using Sweet taste “Madhura Rasa” to balance excess Pitta:

Madhura Rasa is “guru” (heavy), “sheetya” (cold), “snigdha” (oily) and is nourishing and grounding due to the predominance of Prithvi Panchamahabootha. Hence it helps calm down and ground aggravated Pitta. This does not mean that we should gorge on desserts and sweets. These are artificially sweet due to the presence of sugar in them. In Ayurveda, when we say “Sweet” or “Madhura rasa”, we mean that the tongue recognises the substance as “sweet” (Rasa) and that its taste post digestion in the body (Vipaka) is also sweet.

An example of this is Milk. A2 cows milk when freshly boiled has Madhura Rasa (tongue taste) and Madhura vipaka (taste post digestion). Hence it is used to balance Pitta aggravation in the diet.

As Madhura Rasa is also “snigdha”, eating too much of this can trigger excess oiliness and heaviness in the body. Hence do not eat artificially sweet substances, or eat too much of Madhura rasa.

Some other examples of Madhura dravya / Substances are the following:

  • Cereals
    • Aged rice
    • Aged Wheat
  • Sweeteners
    • Mishri (unprocessed sugar candy)
    • Guda (jaggery)
  • Vegetables
    • Fresh coconut pulp, milk and water
    • Naturally sweet Vegetables like sweet potato, beetroot, Kaddu (yellow pumpkin), carrot

Beets and naturally sweet vegetables are rich in Madhura rasa

  • Fruits
    • Dried Black Raisins (draksha) – Munakka variety
    • Seasonal Sweet, juicy fruits
  • Dairy
    • Freshly boiled , unpasteurised A2 cow milk
    • A2 ghee
  • Ayurvedic Madhura Herbs used in Krya products
    • Liquorice
    • Guda (Jaggery)
    • Guduchi (Madhura vipaka only)

Meal plan suggestions:

From this list, we can look at including the following naturally Madhura (sweet) foods in our diet to help balance aggravated Pitta.

  • Melted A2 cow ghee – across all meals in small amounts
  • A2 cows milk – unpasteurised and freshly boiled – one small glass everyday

 

A2 Cows milk is nourishing and madhura in nature

  • Seasonal sweet, juicy fruits
  • Rotation of Natural sweet vegetables
  • Carefully sourced Aged organic Rice and wheat
  • 2 – 3 soaked Munakka (large black grape) raisins 3 – 4 times a week

Dried raisin is an excellent pitta balancing dry fruit

 

Using Astringent taste “Kashaya Rasa” to balance excess Pitta:

Kashaya rasa is a taste that is most often missing in modern-day foods. This is an important rasa which is vital to our health. Foods rich in Kashaya rasa usually have a lekhaniya (scraping effect) and are very useful in healing the body of excess fat, fluid collection, inflammation, etc. Kashaya rasa has “rooksha” (drying), “sheetya” (cold) and “laghu” (light) qualities- hence it helps balance Pitta dosha.

Kashaya rasa is wound healing, absorbs excess secretions and clears mucous. It helps clarify the tongue and skin and is calming and healing to the body. It is also a good blood clarifier.

In excess, Kashaya rasa can be excessively drying and vata aggravating on the body. Please do not overindulge in this taste.

 

Some examples of Kashaya Rasa dravyas:

  • Vegetables
    • Broccoli
    • Lettuce
    • Fennel
    • Banana flower

Banana flower is naturally kashaya in nature

  • Fruits
    • Amla (Indian gooseberry)
    • Pomegranates (choose well ripened, sweet fruits and not sour)

Pomegranate is a medicinal fruit which has strong Kashaya rasa

  • Sweeteners
    • Honey
    • Indian Date – Kharik

Indian date is Kashaya in nature

  • Herbs & seasonings
    • Parsley
    • Coriander
    • Basil
  • Ayurvedic Kashaya herbs used in Krya products
    • Amla
    • Haritaki
    • Vibhitaki
    • Triphala(combination of above 3 herbs)
    • Khadira
    • Arjuna Twak (bark)
    • Lodhra Twak (bark)
    • Sappanwood

 

Meal plan suggestions:

From this list, we can look at including the following naturally Astringent (sweet) foods in our diet to create a Pitta balancing diet .

  • Amla made in different methods 2 – 3 times a week: Can be made as a raita (using buttermilk or thin curd), Chutney, Preserve, or as a souring agent into Dal / Sambhar

Include Amla in your diet frequently

  • Pomegranates – 2 times a week – choose sweet fruits only
  • Chutneys / Dips / Pesto made from Basil / Coriander – twice a week
  • Overnight soaked Khajoora eaten once / twice a week

 

To sum up:

In part 1 of our post describing the Pitta balancing diet, we explored how using specific Rasas (tastes) in your meals can help bring down aggravated Pitta.  Using rasas which have opposing qualities as that of Pitta help balance spiked Pitta levels and also bring in better nourishment and satiety to the body, improving health.

In the next part of our blog post, we will explore how using specific dravyas and spices like milk, ghee, coriander seeds, etc help counter excess Agni in the body. In the case of certain dravyas, we will also explore how different prakritis (body types) should have these dravyas for optimal health. Part 3 of our post will have detailed daily meal plan suggestions that can help you plan a Pitta balancing diet.

 

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