6 ayurvedic strategies that help reduce Digital Addiction

are you a digital addict?
Share
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.

Share

Fundamental Ayurvedic truths – Part 1

Share
Reading Time: 5 minutes

This is the first part of our 4-part series on fundamental Ayurvedic terms – that will help you navigate the wonderful world of Ayurveda with confidence rather than frustration or confusion

An important reason to know these terms is simply this: these are fundamental truths about how the human body functions and how it relates with the world around. These terms are NOT merely “theories” or the opinion of a group of scientists. So even if your minds doesn’t agree with these concepts at first, your body will continue to obey these fundamental truths ( more on this will be explained in great detail in part-3 of this series)

To get started, here are the first two Ayurvedic Axioms

  1. Everything on this planet earth, living and inanimate, is made up of the 5 basic elements, the Pancha Maha Bhutas. These are Air, fire, water, earth and Space ( Ether).
  2. These 5 elements combine in unique pairs to form the 3 Doshas which are Vata, Pitta & Kapha. These 3 doshas can be thought of as “mind-body” types or “energies” and the human body is made of these 3 doshas.

2000px-Ayurveda_humors.svg

 

Vata Dosha:

Vayu + Akash (Air + Space) forms Vata dosha. When 2 great elemnts combine to form a Dosha, the qualities of both these elements are found in this Dosha. So Vata Dosha carries the speed and mobility of vayu and its dryness, and the vastness and emptiness of space.

vata dosha - vayu and akash

 

Pitta Dosha:

2 seemingly opposite elements, combine to form Pitta Dosha – Agni + Jala  (Fire + Water) . This gives Pitta dosha its ability to spread quickly, the copious water it secretes in the form of sweat, its intensity and sharpness and also its ability to subside as quickly as it started.

pitta dosha

 

Kapha dosha: 

Prithvi + Jala ( Earth + Water) forms Kapha dosha. Kapha dosha therefore carries the qualities of both elements – it carries stability, weight, hardness, oiliness, firmness and slowness.

kapha dosha

The 3 doshas in each of us:

Every person is made up of a combination of 3-doshas, which is determined at the time of birth and is known as a person’s prakriti. This is not static. As a person grows older and moves through life-stages, various doshas dominate that particular life phase. For example, childhood is dominated by Kapha, from puberty till about 50 years is dominated by Pitta & the old age is dominated by Vata dosha.

tridosha theory

 

The dosha –based understanding of the human body is unique to Ayurveda & this is what makes it so effective. For example, Kapha (Earth + Water) is the building block which builds the human body. So it makes sense that childhood is dominated by Kapha, so that a baby which is 3-4 kg at birth can grow and becomes 60-70 kg adult. If all life-stages were dominated by Kapha, we would continue to grow taller & bigger till the day we die.

 

Have you ever asked yourself why we stop growing taller after our teenage years? Why is there no answer to this question, based on first principles, in western medicine?

 

Further, now that we know that childhood is dominated by Kapha (Earth + Water) it is easier to understand why babies are so susceptible to colds , since Kapha already is a fundamentally “cool” or “cold” dosha.

 

Therefore the dosha concept is the fundamental method by which Ayurveda determines good health & disease. This is summarized in the following Axiom, (Reference Textbook: Ashtanga Hridayam)

 

“Vata, Pitta & Kapha are the three functional units of the body. They destroy or maintain the body, when vitiated (impaired) or not respectively. “

tridosha theory of health

This is a very important concept in understanding health & disease in Ayurveda. When the three-doshas in your body are in equilibrium (right quantity & in the right place) then you have good health. When they are vitiated, either in wrong quantities or wrong place, then it leads to disease. This also helps create the right practices or medicines to balance doshas and restore health.

 

For example, the creative part of the brain is driven by Vata and the ability to focus comes from Pitta dosha. An excessive use of creative brain force, like say an art director or excessive use of focus , like in project management , vitiates the respective doshas. So Ayurveda recommends specific herb-infused hair oils to be applied regularly to balance these excesses. The sense of touch when massaging the scalp and certain herbs like Brahmi & Jatamansi calms & pacifies Vata. So an Ayurvedic hair oil is both very specific to a person and also very powerful in its action despite being an external use product.

12.harmony hair oil

*Krya harmony hair oil – suggested for high mental activity + aggravated vata based hairfall

 

It is also important to note that the dosha theory extends also to times of the day – so at different times of the day, different doshas dominate. So at noon, with the sun at the zenith, Pitta dosha dominates the environment. Doshas also extend to foods and how they interact with doshas. For example dry, baked foods like breakfast cereal or biscuits will further aggravate Vata. So a person with joint pain (a Vata vitiated condition) will suffer more when they eat these dry foods.

like aggravates like
On the other hand, desi cow ghee is considered sacred because it is Tri-doshic (in small quantities) ,which means that it works well in different ways to pacify all 3-doshas , a very prized quality in Ayurveda. So this explains why a person may be lactose intolerant and allergic to milk but NOT to ghee, a concept only explained by Ayurveda.

This is the end of Part-1 of our 4 part series on Fundamental Ayurvedic Terms

At this point, many readers new to Ayurveda might find it overwhelming to choose products based on their Prakriti – so we have made it easy to choose krya products, suitable for your prakriti , be describing the typical symptoms. So if you can identify with these symptoms, you can easily select the appropriate hair-care system.

If you are still confused, or unsure please write to us or give us a call (0 – 75500-89090).

 

 

 

Share

Ayurvedic Tejas – Krya Abhyanga Series

Share
Reading Time: 3 minutes

“Nothing can dim the light that shines from within” – Maya Angelou

As I was writing my to-do list for the day, I glanced at the bottom of the page to see the quote which I have put up here.

The inner light is referred to as “Tejas” in the Ayurvedic texts, and the English translations of this word are extremely inadequate. So when the Charaka Samhita refers to an abhyanga increasing the “Tejas” in the body due to nourishment of all dhatus, an English translation would read, “An abhyanga increases the lustre in the body / improve the complexion”.

However Tejas is much much more than the external appearance of skin. Tejas has to do with an inner light and a feeling of well being when all the 3 doshas are balanced, and when the dhatus are well nourished eternally by the copious application of oil regularly through the abhyanga.

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

Different people report a different state of well being after an Abhyanga. People with a  predominantly vata based constitution report that their skin which is generally dry and itchy feels well moisturized, soft and nourished. Their joints feel supple and well oiled and they report feeling at peace, and able to bring in a strong amount of focus, and not as scattered as they usually would feel.

People with a predominantly pitta based constitution report feeling cooler as their eyes and skin release tremendous amounts of excess heat after an abhyanga. They feel less inclined to speak sharply or lose their temper and report feeling cool, calm and tranquil the whole day.

 

People with a predominantly kapha based constitution report feeling energetic and less sluggish and wide awake and focussed the whole day. They also report having a feeling of their internal blocks being cleared.

No matter what your dosha type is, what you will feel after a regular abhyanga is a feeling of well being. Your entre body feels light and strong – the texts describe this as the “vigour and energy of a lion in the forest”. Your skin flows with Tejas – one can only describe this as an inner light switched on in your body.

blog-post-10

The practice of an abhyanga followed by a Snana with herbs and grains is not supposed to be a once a year ritual. It is prescribed as a Dinacharya (daily ritual) that helps maintain good health. Even if it is not possible to follow an Abhyanga every single day, the texts prescribe 2 days every week to do an Abhyanga for Men and Women – these days are decided by their auspiciousness and the deities that govern these days. So Fridays, governed by Goddess Lakshmi are considered auspicious for an abhyanga and traditional Snana for Women. In addition Tuesdays are also considered auspicious for Women to take an Abhyanga and Snana.

Saturdays, the day governed by Lord Shani, is considered auspicious for Men to take an abhyanga and Snana. This is said to promote good health and longevity. In addition, Wednesdays are auspicious also for Men to do an abhyanga + Snana to promote the intellect.

In this way, the texts have ensured that we do an Abhyanga atleast twice a week to promote good health and well being.

If you have been looking at adopting good health giving routines , do start with the Abhyanga. Here are some Krya products / bath systems you could explore to make your Abhyanga special.

  1. Krya Abhyanga Oil with Vacha and Ashwagandha (for the bi-weekly abhyanga – dosha balancing, fatigue reducing oil)
  2. Krya Abhyanga Bath powders for Women & Men – classic, tradition-inspired Bath powder that is cleansing, toxin removing and refreshing on skin – perfect post Abhyanga
    1. Krya Abhyanga Bath powder for Women with Lotus Leaf & Lodhra
    2. Krya Abhyanga Bath powder for Men with Vetiver & Van Tulsi

 

 

Share

Krya Ayurveda series: The effect of unbalanced vata on skin & hair

Share
Reading Time: 9 minutes

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

WHY?”

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Mind and moods:

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

Joints & tendons

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

 Skin:

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

blog-post-1

Sleep

  • My sleep is light and often interrupted

 Appetite and Digestion

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

 Nails and Hair

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

 Climate , environment and reaction to it:

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

befunky-collage

 

 Periods

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

 Teeth and gums

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

 Lifestye

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

blog-post-3

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

 

Prescribed dietary modifications :

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

blog-post-4

 

 

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

 blog-post-5

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

 blog-post-6

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

 blog-post-7

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

 blog-post-8

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

 

Lifestyle modifications

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

blog-post-9

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

blog-post-10

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

blog-post-11

 

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

blog-post-12

 

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

blog-post-13

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

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

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

 

ayurveda-post-5

 

 

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

 

About Shreshtha Ayrvedic Centre, Bangalore

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


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

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

 

Share

Krya Ayurveda series – Balancing vata dosha through your feet

Share
Reading Time: 9 minutes

It is interesting how the state of your feet reveal a lot about your dosha type and helps traditional medicine diagnose the state of your skin and health.

Ayurveda defines twin goals as its objective: the promotion of “Ayu” (long life) and the promotion of “Ayush” (health). Most treatises say that with the right care, proper following of prescribed health regimes, a human being should be able to live for atleast a 100 years free from disease. In my experience, I have seen this to be true of many of the great yoga gurus like T Krishnamacharya, BKS Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois, who all lived well beyond 90, and were mobile, extremely sharp and teaching and working until their very last day.

The most special quality of traditional medicine systems is their ability to form a holistic view and see the patterns between different parts of the body and the organ systems – no traditional medicine will dived itself by organ parts or systems. The body is treated as a whole and the corrections that are to be made are deduced by observing different parts of the body and forming seemingly disparate connections.

 

The role of Vata dosha in the body:

I have spoken about vata dosha and how it is essential in a healthy body to promote mobility, intellect, creativity and speed. Vata is often called the companion dosha as it helps transport and move the other 2 doshas of pitta and kapha which are immobile without Vata. Vata therefore governs the seat of the muladhara chakra in the body – the kidneys, uterus, and all organs of downward movement (faeces, urine, and blood).

Therefore any disturbance in Vata always affects all downward movements in the body – limbs, walking, joints, periods, bowel movements, etc.

I have mentioned before how cities and people living in cities naturally have an excess of Vata. Vata dosha governs the qualities of wind, space, and actions associated with air like speech and hearing. So when we utilise transport to commute long distances, use our speech and hearing in excess (with most office and creative jobs), use objects that excite the sense organs and involve creativity like a computer, mobile phone, Ipad, we are engaging with our Vata dosha – if this engagement is not balanced and does not give our Vata dosha a chance to calm down, we would have excited it to the point of excess.

stencil-blog-post-feature

Vata vitiating measures:

When we use products, or engage in treatments that dry out our body, we are removing moisture and therefore increasing vata in the body. So lack of oiling, no regular abhyanga and the use of drying products on hair and skin are also factors that can increase vata in the body.

Vata also increases when we selectively consume vata promoting foods – these include foods that promote wind like potatoes, cabbage, excess amount of lentils, high amount of raw foods and fried foods and even healthy foods like Millets.

befunky-collage-2

The quality of air that we must keep in mind the most is its ability to move rapidly and fill gaps – unlike pitta and kapha dosha which are immobile, vata is extremely mobile. So every time we leave our internal body dry, use products that deplete moisture, and over engage with vata dosha, we are leaving gaps in or body for vata to rush in and grow in excess.

The dance of the 3 doshas in the body is a fixed sum game: so whenever one dosha goes in excess/ reduced the other 2 doshas go down / up to make up the difference. So the vitiation of one dosha, if left untreated always leads to complications caused by other doshas.

 

Symptoms of vitiated vata dosha:

One of the questions we ask people who write to us with symptoms of dry lifeless hair and skin is to ask them to observe the state of their nails, especially toe nails. Ayurveda states that hair and nails are both made from asthi and majja – bones and marrow from the body. So in one sense, the quality of your hair and nails reflect the quality of your bones and marrow – so if your hair is dry, weak, lifeless and your nails are not in the pink of health, this reflects that your body needs to be taken care of.

befunky-collage-3

The asthi and majja, like the rakta is formed from the food we eat. When we eat the right food, and when our organs are in good shape to absorb nutrients, the process of forming our body is said to be good. Similarly, if the organs of Mala (excretion) like the skin, kidneys and lower intestine need to be functioning well to remove the waste products from the body, to ensure the channels are free and clear from toxins for nutrition assimilation to happen.

Food and external application are the twin routes to keeping the body in shape. Ayurveda emphasises on the roles of both anna and daily regimens to be followed (external application) to nourish, feed and maintain the body’s health.

An excess of both Pitta dosha and vata dosha can cause cracks in your heels. The cracks formed due to aggravated Pitta dosha are less deep compared to the cracks formed by vitiated vata dosha. The heel cracks formed due to aggravated Vata dosha can be deep, where you can see a layer of fat and tissue underneath the cracks, leading to pain when you walk.

Cracked heels are not a cosmetic problem: they are your body’s way of letting you know that you are off balance.

 

The quickest way to manage vitiated vata:

Vata dosha is the dosha that responds the quickest to the sense of touch as it is the dosha that governs all the sense organs. So every sense organ like the eyes, ears, skin, respond well to measures that decrease vitiated vata.

befunky-collage-4

The is why our single point prescription for any form of dryness (dry hair, dry skin, dry feet, lifeless skin, dullness, constipation, improper bowel movement, pain in joints) starts with an abhyanga (oil massage). By bathing the body in oil and massaging it vigorously, we control the spread of air. By increasing the warmth in the body, we liquefy fat / kapha and encourage it to come to the surface. By cooling the body, we also cool down pitta / Agni in the body. This is why an abhyanga is considered tridoshic and so beneficial for the body.

The Charaka Samhita states that if a twig is dipped in oil and massaged vigorously every day, no force can break this twig – it can be only bent but not broken. Similarly a daily / frequent abhyanga adds strength, glow and nourishment to the body and gives it the strength to withstand disease, old age and delays ageing.

Nail care in Ayurveda:

As the nails are a precursor to bone and marrow health, it is important to keep them in good health. Ayurveda recommends that the feet be observed atleast once a week in minute detail to ascertain signs of dosha vitiation. Nails should be clean and free from artificial colours and nail polish so that you can examine their colour, smoothness and growth to see if your body is working well.

Application of nail polish has long been deduced to be extremely harmful to the body. Nail paints are loaded with substances like dibutyl phthalate that are carcinogenic. The phthalate family is linked strongly to breast cancer, precocious puberty and has adverse foetal effects like low birth weight, and changes in foetal mental and motor development.

befunky-collage-5

In addition to their strongly adverse effects, the application of nail paint seals off the nails from interacting with the environment, and does not give us a chance to continually examine the state of our health.

Pada abhyanga:

Pada abhyanga is a strongly recommended Dincharya in Ayurveda. This is especially suitable for high vata vitiation – so if you generally have late nights, irregular eating schedules, dry skin and hair, cramping and pain during periods and incomplete bowel movements, a daily pada abhyanga before sleeping is very beneficial.

If you are not doing a daily abhyanga, a Pada abhyanga is beneficial between your regular abhyanga days. A Pada abhyanga is also beneficial; when you are not allowed to do a full Abhyanga due to certain health conditions.

A Pada Abyanga is also an excellent complementary Abhyanga practice to remove the fatigue of the day, calm down high mental stress and to assist you or your family members during periods of high mental stress (board exams, board exam results, etc).

How to do a pada abhyanga and when:

If your vata is out of control, a nightly pada abhyanga before sleeping is very beneficial. Else once a week as a part of a good maintenance routine, especially on Sunday morning is beneficial.

befunky-collage-6
Wash your feet extremely well, preferably with a grain based wash ensuring the pores of the skin are roughly cleaned and opened. Dry the feet very well and begin abhyanga using a medicated sesame based oil. If vata affliction is very high, warm, melted ghee may also be used. Using Melted ghee also helps with excess pitta if it is an issue.  Pay a lot of attention to the soles of the feet – The soles of the feet contain Marma points corresponding to many organs like the kidneys so a strong regular massage is said to be very beneficial to the entire body.

Once the soles of the feet are done, pay attention to the toe nails and the nail beds. Apply a good amount of warm oil / ghee copiously ‘watering” the nails to ensure oil penetrates the cuticles and the nail bed. This is also a good time to clean the nail beds and shape your nails without damaging the cuticles in any way.

Once the pada abhyanga is done, wait for 15 – 20 minutes before removing excess oil from the feet. If your vata dosha is very high, you can simply wipe off the excess oil with a warm and moist towel. If this is done, wear loose cotton socks over your feet to retain warmth and ensure the oil does not smear onto your bed linen while you sleep.

Otherwise, you can wash your feet again with a grain based wash and then dry the feet well. Whether your vata dosha is high or not,you must clean the excess oil using either of the 2 methods suggested.

Benefits of a good pada abhyanga:

The immediate benefit of a good pada abhyanga is that excess vata is controlled and you get sound sleep. Generally vitiated vata results in disturbed, light sleep that leaves you feeling tired and irritable the next morning. This settles within 2 – 3 regular pada abhyangas.

Apart from directly affecting the health of the feet and ensuring there are no cracks, dry skin or stiffness around the toes and ankles, in the long term, a pada abhyanga improves clarity of vision, reduces fatigue, improves strength of feet and improves the circulation of rakta in the body. Pada abhyanga along with an overall body abhyanga and kesha abhyanga (hair oiling) are the 3 important external oleation routines prescribed in Ayurveda for good health.


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

Our work consists of 2 parts: the first is in disseminating good quality information that is interesting and engaging to help you understand how relevant Ayurveda is to your life. The second part of our work is in research, formulating a manufacturing a high quality set of support products that are designed to help you maintain the health of your hair, skin and body (externally). We hope that our work inspires you to take charge of your health and follow simple, consistent and meaningful health routines to help you lead a better life.

 


Krya’s list of abhyanga-snana products can be found in the links given below:

Krya for abhyanga and pada abhyanga: Skin Oils

Unique features

  • Processed using traditional, skin health enhancing and regenerative herbs like Ashwagandha (Winter cherry), Bala (Sida cordifolia), Moringa, Liquorice, etc
  • As per the Ayurvedic tradition, all of Krya’s skin oils are processed with warming herbs like cumin, ajwain and dried ginger to ensure the body’s kapha and mucous level does not increase with the oil application. This is especially important when making skin oils for babies, as babies are generally high in kapha dosha, so the oil should not further vitiate this kapha.
  • All the herbs we use in our oils are either organically cultivated or wild harvested and are free from synthetics, pesticides and fertilizers.
  • Our herbs are processed in our cold pressed, manually extracted, full of goodness base oils of coconut, sesame, apricot, tamanu and kokum butter
  • The oil processing is done on gentle heat and takes upto 8 – 10 hours of gentle manual stirring per batch. The oils then steep for 7 more days in aromatic herbs before they are bottled and packed.

blog-post-12-womens-abhyanga-system

Krya Abhyanga-Snana : Ubtans

Unique features

  • Processed using organic grains, seeds and forest collected herbs that are extremely nutrient rich and beneficial for skin
  • The herbs are carefully sorted, cleaned, washed where necessary and solar dried at a gentle temperature before processing
  • Each herb is processed separately as per Ayurvedic Dravyaguna standards and then carefully blended for the final formulation
  • We take care to ensure that the natural aroma and properties of the herbs are maintained
  • Our ubtans are perfect post abhyanga to remove excess Abhyanga oils from skin and cleanse thoroughly yet gently, without stripping skin of essential oils.
Share