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Ayurveda with Anushree

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Until a few months ago, I was in a high-tech job as a software engineer at EMC, California. I left the job 9 months ago, to pursue my passion, and now don several different hats. I actively run a website, http://TheAyurvedicLife.com, which is my effort to share with others the learnings of Ayurveda that have positively changed my life. The website gives Ayurvedic analyses of food recipes, home remedies for general maladies and also contains a blog for Ayurvedic concepts and my thoughts in general, on topics like Detox, Facials etc. I have used the better part of the last year to become a certified Ayurveda Wellness Counselor. 

Additionally, I am a certified Dance Fitness instructor with Mona Khan Company's Bombay Jam® program and conduct weekly classes (http://DanceToFitness.weebly.com) in Cupertino, CA. I am a certified Yoga Instructor from The Yoga Institute, Mumbai, India and teach weekly classes (http://YogaToWellness.weebly.com) in Cupertino, CA. 

As women of the 21st century, in mostly nuclear homes on foreign or home lands, juggling a professional and family life, with little or no help, we have some unique challenges that were likely unknown to our mothers' and grandmothers' generations. However, despite societal norms and other pressures, we need to rise above it all and see that our (and our family's) mental and physical health is a primary pillar, which when cared for will bring about amazing positivity and harmony in the rest of our lives! This is, in a nutshell my life’s purpose – to help people bring about this harmony in their lives through good diet and lifestyle routines!

 

We had moved to Bangalore, India for a few years, when our girls were very young. Our household help, Muniamma, was an experienced mother of many kids who was never shy of expressing her approval and disapproval of my parenting decisions . I was the typical career woman turned stay-at-home mom in a nuclear family, struggling to do what I thought was the best for my family's health. Food was one of our favorite conversations. Of the many interesting pieces of free advice that I received from her, one stands out in my mind even now, several years later! It is how she used to tell me not to serve "cold" vegetables to the kids when they were afflicted with a common cold or cough. And no, she wasn't referring to the temperature of the food. What I didn't understand then, and even resisted from accepting, was that every food - fruit, vegetable, grain - in fact any substance, had inherent "qualities" that made it suitable or not suitable for consumption. So, what does this mean? If I made okra/bhindi when my kid had a bad cold, that was blasphemy to Muniamma, because okra's cold, slimy properties would aggravate the mucus that was already troubling my child! But nowhere in my copious years of education had anyone told me this, nor had I read about such a concept in any book about modern health and nutrition. Slowly but surely, I started "looking out" for more information along these lines. 

In the years that followed, Yoga, Reiki, and Ayurveda came into my life and I was like a thirsty traveler drinking greedily at each of these stops.I started studying Ayurveda, first out of curiosity and gradually, with more focus and intensity, slowly incorporating its principles into our lives, to see huge benefits in our mental and physical health.Ayurveda unlocked many a secret for me. Have you wondered why some people eat so little and gain weight so quickly and yet there are some who seem to have a bottomless pit and still don't gain weight at all? Do you wonder why some people react to stressful situations with anger and some people to the exact same situations with fear or denial? Do you want to treat small ailments that your kids suffer from with home remedies, but don't know where to start? Ayurveda has extremely logical answers to most of your questions. 

In this column, I'll post recipes with Ayurvedic analyses, home remedies for common ailments and sometimes blogs for my take on several Ayurvedic principles like how to do a quick Ayurvedic home facial or how to detox safely etc.

Today, I'll focus on quickly walking you through some basic Ayurvedic concepts. I have chosen to break the introduction into 2 parts, because I think it will be easier for you to assimilate the information slowly.

 

So here goes part 1 : 

Ayurveda is an ancient healing science that originated in India and is more than 5000 years old. “Ayur” means life, “veda” means science or knowledge. So, Ayurveda literally means a science that helps us to live life to the fullest potential. Ayurveda is part of the ancient Indian Vedic wisdom and is part of the Atharvaveda.

It focuses equally on prevention of disease as it does on treatment of disease. Prevention of disease and maintenance of optimum health can be made possible by following appropriate diet, sleep and lifestyle principles. The underlying commonality between all these principles is to be as much in harmony with nature as is possible. This aspect of “prevention” rather than “treatment” alone makes it a unique science whose relevance in our current stress-ridden societies is very pertinent and compelling.

Treatment of disease is focused on addressing the root cause of the disease, rather than the symptom alone. In some cases, symptoms are also treated, but the focus is always on eradicating the root cause, so that recurrence is prevented.

 

5 Universal Elements (Panchamahabhutas)

According to Ayurveda, everything in the universe is made up of some combination of 5 basic elements. Not just material objects that surround us, but also our own bodies, thoughts, feelings - everything is made up of a combination of the panchamahabhutas.

1. Ether/Space

2. Air

3. Fire

4. Water

5. Earth

 

Ether/Space: Space that surrounds us, spaces within our body, spaced out feelings – all constitute the ether/space element.

 

 

Air: Breeze, wind in our bodies, our racing minds – all constitute the air element.

 

Fire: Fire that cooks our food on the stove, our digestive fires that cook our foods once ingested into the body, fiery emotions – all constitute the fire element.

 

 

 

Water: Water in the oceans, rain, liquids inside our body like blood, saliva, gastric juices, cool, flowing thoughts – all constitute the water element.

 

 

 

Earth: Mountains, trees that surround us, our internal organs and bones, strong, grounding emotions – all constitute the earth element.

 

 

 

 

Mind-body Principles or Energies (Doshas)

 

The panchamahabhutas combine to form 3 distinct patterns or mind-body energies.

1. Vata (Ether + Air)

2. Pitta (Fire + Water)

3. Kapha (Water + Earth)

Our bodies have a unique combination of the 5 elements. This gives rise to our own unique mind-body disposition or energy. These energies are called doshas. They determine our physical appearance and also our way of thinking and behaving. It is in our best interest to maintain this combination of energies throughout our lifetime, because an imbalance (excess or scarcity) of doshas that deviate us from our inherent “balance” will be the start of disease.

Vata is the principle of movement and change. Pitta is the principle of transformation, digestion, metabolism. Kapha is the principle of structure, binding. All of us have some presence of all the 3 doshas within us, but due to the dominance of 1 (or most likely 2 and sometimes all 3) doshas), distinctive individual qualities of the body and mind arise. This combination of doshas in us makes up our own unique, individualistic constitution or prakriti. This is decided at conception time itself and will not change throughout our lifetime. Incorrect diet and lifestyle patterns may cause a deviance from this basic energy distribution that is inherently our nature, potentially leading to a doshic imbalance (vikriti), which if not corrected in a timely manner may ultimately lead to disease. Click here if you need to know what your constitution is.

 

Vata

 

Vata symbolizes movement and change. Muscle movement, nerve impulses, thoughts are all governed by the vata principle.

People with this predominant dosha tend to be light and lean. They tend to be energetic, creative and lively. They walk, talk and think fast, but tire easily. They grasp concepts quickly, but also forget easily. 

They have variable appetites and digestion.

When vata is out of balance, symptoms like racing thoughts, anxiety, fear, irregular digestion, dryness, gas and constipation arise.

Excess exercise, irregular schedules, dry and cold environs and foods, frequent travel, constant stimulation, loud noises are factors that can derange vata.

Regular schedules for food, sleep, exercise and other activities is key to keeping vata in balance. Oil massages, steam baths, eating warm, cooked, moist, grounding foods, regular meditation and other relaxation techniques, rest are all key ways to keep vata under control.

 

 

Pitta

Pitta symbolizes transformation, heat, digestion and metabolism.

People with this predominant dosha tend to be of medium build, with bright, sharp eyes and a warm, ruddy skin. They tend to early graying and early loss of hair. They tend to be sharp, intelligent, purposeful people with good powers of comprehension. They are natural leaders. They have strong appetites and thirst.

When pitta is out of balance, the person becomes short tempered, easily agitated, judgmental, critical and over ambitious. They tend towards qualities like jealousy, envy, anger and hate.Intense heat, intense exercise, intense emotions, spicy, salty, oily foods, excessive alcohol intake, dehydration are all factors that can derange pitta.

Cooler environs, exercise of medium intensity during the cooler part of the day, cooling, mild foods, adequate water intake, calming thoughts and relaxation practices, meditation, going to bed early (by 10pm), avoiding alcohol, a less intense perspective to life in general and doing less, not more :) will all help keep pitta in balance.

 

 

Kapha

 

Kapha symbolizes structure, binding and fluidity.

People with this predominant dosha tend to be heavier, with well-developed musculature, large, attractive eyes and thick, lustrous hair. They tend to be reliable, contented, calm, kind, loving and forgiving people. While they may tend to be slower to grasp things, they have excellent long-term memories. They are grounded, stable people who tend to earn and hold on to money.

When kapha is out of balance, weight gain, fluid retention, allergies manifest in the body. In the mind, excess kapha manifests as stubbornness, over attachment to people, jobs and things, even though these may no longer be nourishing or necessary. The person with excess kapha may tend to be lethargic, slow, lazy, bored and excessively tired.

Lack of exercise, sedentary jobs, excessive food intake especially of sweets, oily and heavy foods, excessive sleep are factors that can aggravate kapha.

Adequate exercise, avoiding excessive and untimely sleep habits, adopting an active lifestyle, avoiding heavy, oily, sweet, cold foods and choosing lighter, dryer foods will all help keep kapha in balance.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this introduction to Ayurveda, in which I’ll touch upon some other core concepts like gunas, tattvas and Ayurvedic Nutrition. 

Until then, choose wisely and live well!

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Good informative write

Good informative write up..looking forward to seeing more

Thanks a lot! 

Anushree Ramakrishnan's picture

Thanks a lot! 

eager to read more

Keep us posted, want to know more!

Sure! Stay tuned for part 2

Sure! Stay tuned for part 2 which should be out soon.

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