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Intro to Ayurveda

“Spring is in the air…….. ” Undeniably the most popular season is back. Spring is a time of new beginnings. After a long slumber nature starts returning to her glorious blossoming self and new growth is seen everywhere. The first spring flowers poke their heads from the ground and the singing of the birds tell us that mating season has begun. As we start feeling energized to clear out the excess in their homes, enthusiasm and renewed vitality exhibits itself in different ways; An old project left unattended starts to look appealing again. A spot of paint here, some gardening there. A Makeover, a new decor arrangement, a change in jobs or scenery, life begins to look full of potential and possibility again.

In Ayurveda, spring is considered a kapha (water and earth element) season in its inception, but starts to give way to pitta (fire and water) as it makes way for summer. “But isn’t Winter a Kapha season already?” You may ask, and in winter it makes sense that the nature wants to consolidate, bunker and hibernate which are characteristics typical of Kapha. “Waking up fresh, before the birds outside my window, dancing to the bathroom and deciding spontaneously to give my house a complete overhaul isn’t typically a kaph trait!!!! What gives????”

In order to understand why this happens, we should chat a little about transition. We can think of transition as a passage way from one season to the next. As we pass through, nature starts letting go of the old and embraces the new: The cold, ice and frost melts in the northern regions and what was hard and solidified now becomes soft, flexible and malleable. The warmth of spring starts to melt the snow which brings about more moisture into the atmosphere. Similarly in Ayurveda, it speaks about the springtime warmth melting away the accumulated cold quality of kaph in our bodies, which liquefies and can often present itself as congestion, watery eyes, postnasal drip and cough if not taken proper care off. So although Kapha may dominate at the start of spring, it is the agni or fire that starts to burn leading to nice warm fire, as the kaph melts away, both inside and out before the start of Summer.

Seasonal Routine:

Ayurveda tells us that our body doesn’t exist in isolation to the external world. It is, instead, a part of it, integrated with it, and depends on it for health and well-being. In this age, however, we live in such a separate state from nature that we’ve forgotten the natural and instinctual ways in which to nourish ourselves.  The seasons play a big part on how life is governed on earth and they serve to inform us on what changes need to be made in our diets and lifestyle.  Different seasons bring about an increase in different elements.  They also bring about different crops from the earth; these crops are meant to be consumed as per the season in order to nourish us and also to safeguard us against the harsher aspects of the season.  The guidelines and observances for seasons are known as Rithucharya (Rithu – seasons, Charya – disciplines) or seasonal disciplines.  In south Africa the seasons take on more or less the following dates:

Summer – 1 December to 29th February

Autumn – 1 March to 31 May

Winter – 1 June to 31 August

Spring – 1 September to 30th November

Spring happens to be the most ideal time in the year to do a cleanse, fast or detox. An Ayurvedic cleanse or Panchakarma is best during the Spring.

Spring and Diet

As the fire starts to disperse throughout the body, spreading outward from the core, Spring allows us to move away from the heavy, grounding, nourishing stews & sweet root vegetables we have been favoring all winter long. Its time to celebrate the colors and the flavors that spring fruits and vegetables have to offer. Astringent, bitter and pungent tastes are more favored as these help us cleanse the body as they counter the congestion and heaviness that kapha leaves within the digestive tract.

  • Spices for the spring include:
    • Cinnamon
    • Asafoetida
    • Mustard Seeds
    • Cayenne Pepper
    • Turmeric
    • Nutmeg
    • Cloves
    • Ginger
    • Garlic
    • Black Pepper
  • Jaggery
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Spinach and Chard
  • Basmati Rice
  • Seasonal fruits and vegetables
  • Olive Oil
  • Hot water and / or hot drinks
  • More seeds than nuts
  • More astringent fruits like berries, pomegranate, granny smith apples
  • Citrus fruits
  • Salads
  • Freshly pressed juices (more towards the middle of spring)

We should generally try to keep away or limit the consumption of:

  • Heavy foods
  • Root Vegetables
  • Dairy products
  • Oily Foods
  • Unctuous Foods
  • Sweet foods
  • Sour Foods
  • Beans
  • Bananas
  • Sweet Apples
  • Nuts like Cashews, Macadamia etc
  • Red Meat
  • Ice creams and cold foods

Spring Lifestyle

Making time for a yoga routine in the morning is the best way to promote clarity and improved energy during spring. Saunas are a really good idea (and as per ayurveda oil should be applied on the body before a steam or sauna). Its not advisable to nap during the day, especially during spring.

In early spring its good to dress in warm, bright colors and as the weather warms up towards to middle / end of spring cooling greens, blues, whites and purples will do just fine.

One of the easiest ways to support your Agni (bodily fire) and Kaph during this season is in having a daily routine (Dinacharya) – (although in Spring you can be little more playful with it……skip a day or two if you feel like it. Or change it up a bit 😉  Four simple practices that I follow are:

  • Waking up earlier in the morning
  • Nasya (placing two drops of sesame oil in each nostril)
  • Oil Pulling
  • Abhyanga (applying sesame oil on the body – 5 mins) before taking a hot shower or steam/sauna

Waking up just before sunrise:  If you set time for your day by waking up early you can really calm down the nervous system and keep it in rest and digest mode.  Waking up later gives you less time to prepare for the day and activates the sympathetic nervous system (getup and go /fight or flight) and depletes the adrenals before the day is through leaving you tired, needing a pick-me-up before the day ends.

Nasya: Putting two drops of sesame oil in the nostrils each day, dilates, nourishes and oleates the channels responsible for communication to and from the sinuses and the brain. It lubricates the nasal passages, preventing allergies. Repeated use relieves tension from the neck, head and shoulder area.  It gives more mental clarity and calms down the nervous system, preventing ailments like migraines in the long run and keeps the nervous system functioning at optimal levels. 

Oil Pulling:  Helps to reduce inflammation and reduce gum disease.  Removes bad breath.  Prevents cavities from forming and lubricates the channels responsible for communication in the head region. 

Abhyanga: You can calm your nervous system, awaken your tissues, and ground your energy by massaging your skin with warm, organic Sesame Oil.  Because of its highly penetrative properties, sesame oil is the oil of choice when applying on the body.  It nourishes the tissues and helps to expel toxins from deep within the body, on a cellular level, over time.

Spring Exercise

Exercise is one of the best ways to support optimal physical and mental health through the spring months. If kapha is more predominant you will want to push yourself physically, increasing both the duration and intensity of your workout. When Pitta is more dominant then medium intensity with varied duration workouts are best. Change it up a bit. Because spring is all about freshness, spontaneity, newness and change, its good not to have too rigid a routine. Be playful, escape the status quo, try something new and embrace the sense of adventure.

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in Intro to Ayurveda

What is Ayurveda

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About 12 years ago, somebody mentioned to me “The future has an ancient heart.”  With increasing resonance, these words started to root themselves within me.  I have been on a journey since, attempting to explore and appreciate Ancient/Future methodologies.  My journey had taken me to the east in Nepal and India where I was exposed to the Age-old science called Ayurveda.

What is Ayurveda?

Literally translated from Sanskrit (one of the world’s oldest language) Ayurveda means “The Science of Life.”  It is more than just a medicinal system.  It incorporates all aspects of manifest existence.  From single-celled organisms to vast Multiverses’ Ayurveda says that all existence is made up of 5 greater elements. From the very subtle to the gross: Space, Air, Fire, Water, Earth. From amoebas to planets, from your shoes to your furniture to birds and trees; these elements arrange themselves in unique, complex and intricate ratios and proportions to form what can be engaged by the senses and which we call reality. 

Our very own bodies, organs, systems are made up of these 5 elements in unique ratios and proportions.  How these elements group, interplay and have dominance in the body is what makes you different and unique to me. 

Ayurveda The Art of Being Documentary

What is the purpose of Ayurveda?

The purpose of Ayurveda is to create a prolonged experience of health, well-being and longevity in this existence.  The word used to describe health in Ayurveda is the Sanskrit word “Swast” – literally translated “To be established in the Self.”   The eastern view of Self extends far beyond the given western narrative.  The Eastern view of Self entails the physical body, the mind and the soul.  There is no delineation between mind and body.  It asserts that the mind is a subtle form of the body. And that the body is a gross manifestation of the mind.  (you have heard it being said that as a person thinks in his/her heart so is she/he.)

What Is Ayurveda?
From: https://chopra.com/articles/what-is-ayurveda

Any emotional or mental toxicity that we harbour in our minds over an extended period, eventually manifests in the body as a physical ailment.  For example, if one is living in constant anger, this creates a chemical imbalance in the body and excessive cortisol is produced.  Cortisol is a catabolic hormone and causes proteins and enzymes to denature in the system.  With increased cortisol levels, the body moves from parasympathetic (rest and digest) to sympathetic (fight or flight) This can lead to indigestion, ulcers and, over a period, to a serious chronic condition.

Subtle Aspects of Ayurveda ~ Swami Purnachaitanya

An Ayurvedic practitioner seeks to understand the unique constitutional or elemental makeup of the individual and creates a platform so that the bodies inbuilt healing mechanism can flourish towards that constitution or as we would say towards a state of homeostasis.

When one gets a cut as a child, there is no need to apply special techniques, medicines or procedures to heal.  All one needs to do is to leave the wound alone so that the body will naturally heal itself.  Ayurveda provides a support structure for the body so that the body can naturally heal itself.  The support structure can be in the form of:

  • Herbs or herbal formulas
  • Ayurvedic Treatments
  • Diet and lifestyle change
  • Yoga
  • Breathwork
  • Mindfulness practices

What Ayurveda isn’t?

Ayurveda isn’t a just a medicinal system or a form of alternative medicine.  Ayurveda predates and precedes all that we know to be modern medicine.  Ayurveda contains within its ambit the understanding or Yoga, how planets and their orbits and proximities affect the earth and its inhabitants, it understands plants and animals and various ecosystems.  These are just a few aspects included within Ayurveda.  It is far reaching and has wide impact.  Ayurveda has stood the test of time.

Ayurveda isn’t a science that is mutually exclusive.  Although Ayurveda predates modern medicine, an Ayurvedic practitioner is cognisant of the fact that the principles of Ayurveda can be followed even if one is taking medical treatment or prescription medicines.  Depending on the law in your country, after visiting an Ayurvedic doctor, you may be advised to consult your GP to ensure that the routine you have been placed on is permissible.

Ayurveda isn’t a quick fix endeavour.  Because Ayurveda is not purely dedicated to symptomatic relief, rather root cause alleviation, the principles applied in Ayurveda could take time depending on the extent of the disease in the body.  Remember what manifests as a disease in a body sometimes takes several years to get to the extent that it does.   

Ayurveda does not treat diseases.  Ayurveda treats people.  Again, Ayurveda isn’t just a medical science. Because the basis of Ayurveda is the 5 greater elements, Ayurveda attempts restorative balance of these elements in one’s constitution.  When these elements are restored then the body is no longer in a diseased state.

Intro to Ayurveda – Banyan Botanicals

Much can be said as an introduction to this wonderful and diverse topic, however we will leave it like this for today.  Be sure to look out for our next topic where we will explore more on the history of Ayurveda. This is just the beginning. You are welcome to browse through the informative video links provided from various sources in order to give you more of a well-rounded appreciation of this topic. Please be sure to read our disclaimer before embarking on this journey with us in understanding Ayurveda.

Yours in Service

Vishalin Vandiar

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in Intro to Ayurveda

Give Away…..

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For participating in the Introduction to Ayurveda course, we are giving away gifts to 3 lucky people. The gifts include:

  • An Abhyanga (Ayurvedic Massage) at www.vishal.co.za
  • A hamper of Ayurvedic products
  • Vishal Ayurvedas Tri-Doshic (Balancing) Massage Oil

Good luck

To qualify for these, all you need to do is respond to the questionnaire after a lesson or two. This will keep your name in the draw at the end of the course.

Click here to fill in your response if you have not done so already:

https://forms.gle/yhwBuZGGk8iGfW8W8

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Ayurveda tells us that our bodies don’t exist in isolation to the external world. They are, instead, a part of it, integrated with it, and depend on it for our health and well being. In this age, however, we live in such a separate state from nature that we’ve forgotten the natural and instinctual ways in which to nourish ourselves.  The seasons play a big part on how life is governed on earth and they serve to inform us on what changes need to be made in our diets and lifestyle.  Different seasons bring about an increase in different elements.  They also bring about different crops from the earth; these crops are meant to be consumed in order to nourish us and also to safeguard us against the harsher aspects of the season.  The guidelines and observances for seasons are known as Rithucharya (Rithu – seasons, Charya – disciplines) or seasonal disciplines.  In south Africa the seasons take on more or less the following dates:

  • Summer – 1 December to 29th February
  • Autumn – 1 March to 31 May
  • Winter – 1 June to 31 August
  • Spring – 1 September to 30th November

Because we are now in Summer (Ghrishma Rithu),  here are some tips and guidelines to follow until the 29th February:

Most of us need to balance the fire element (we will talk more about this as the Intro to Ayurveda course progresses) in the summer regardless of our constitution. Our digestive fire is naturally low during summer and we often experience a decrease in appetite. We should respect this change by eating in moderation. Our bodies will want more liquids when it is hot. But even though we find it refreshing and satisfying to drink cold water and cool fruit beverages at this time, we must take care not to douse the digestive fire by drinking ice cold liquids during or after meals.

Water:

Drink plenty of water throughout the day, as it helps in flushing out all the toxic matter from the body. About seventy percent of our body is made up of water, thus it is necessary to keep ourselves hydrated. Water is the major carrier of blood and oxygen to different organs of the body. It nourishes the red blood cells by providing them with nutrients.

What to eat

This is the time of year for sweet, light, cold, mineral-rich food. Eat lots of herbs and drink lots of fruit juices.  Seek out antioxidants. Eat fruits like watermelon, peaches, plums, mangoes, grapes, pears, avocado and berries.  Use vegetables like – Asparagus, cucumber, cabbage, sweet potato, celery, green leafy vegetables.

a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables on display

Greasy and junk food:

Avoid food that is greasy, oily, and fried. The food that contains lot of spices and pungent taste should be kept away. Do not consume stale or leftover food, as they contain harmful bacteria. Eat fresh food that is cooked just an hour before.

Cut down certain drinks:

Cut down the intake of coffee, tea, or carbonated drinks. Minimize the consumption of alcohol during summers. Carbonated drink contains acids that make your more dehydrated. Even the caffeine in coffee triggers dehydration in your body.

Work and stress management:

Remember during summer, the fire and water element is high in the nature. Take care to avoid strenuous or stressful activity between 10am and 2pm. (when the sun is at its peak and the atmosphere is the warmest)

The fire element is highest in the body during this time which means we are usually prone to a higher temper. If you are planning an office or business meeting that is foreseeably stressful then take care to schedule it during the cooler times of the day. (early morning or late afternoon)

Take care to have your biggest meal in the day during lunch as the digestive fire will be heightened due to the effect of the sun during this time and skipping a meal will be sure to get the stress levels up (especially for people with a fire temperament).

Recommended Ayurvedic treatments

Abhyanga: This season is drying, so keeping your skin moisturized is a must.

Shirodhara: Shirodhara is a deeply relaxing therapy that involves a steady stream of warm oil that is poured onto the forehead. This blissful treatment is perfect for the chaotic state that fire and air can bring to the mind.

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The Future has an Ancient heart.”  Archaeologists made the discovery that the people of the Indus Valley Civilization had knowledge of medicine and dentistry dating as far back as 9000 BCE.  Ayurveda the science of life, was recorded in this region, more than 5000 years ago in Sanskrit in the four ancient texts called the Vedas. Prior to written texts, because of the evidence above, this knowledge was shared in an oral tradition dating back to 9000 BCE.  Ayurveda holds on to the fundamental view that all of manifest existence is intrinsically connected and that all areas of life impacts ones health, so it follows that the Vedas cover a wide variety of topics including health and healthcare techniques, astrology, spirituality, government and politics, the arts, and human behaviour.

By the 8th century BCE, ayurvedic medical books were made available and provided not only procedural instructions but also a definitive understanding of the elements, plant medicine, the human anatomy, the nature, food and food combinations, times of day and seasons. 

The knowledge of Ayurveda today is based primarily on “the great triad” of texts call Brhat Travi which consists of:

  • Charak Samhita (600 – 900 BC)
  • Sushruta Samitha (600 – 800 BC)
  • Ashtanga Hridaya (500 AD)

Sushruta is considered as the “founding father of surgery.”  One of the earliest known mention of the name is from the Bower Manuscript where Sushruta is listed as one of the ten sages residing in the Himalayas.  He was an early innovator of plastic surgery who taught and practiced surgery on the banks of the Ganges in the area that corresponds to the present-day city of Varanasi in Northern India. Much of what is known about Sushruta is in Sanskrit contained in a series of volumes he authored, which are collectively known as the Sushruta Samhita. It is one of the oldest known surgical texts and it describes in detail the examination, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of numerous ailments, as well as procedures on performing various forms of cosmetic surgery, plastic surgery and rhinoplasty.

In order to qualify as an Ayurvedic doctor today, about 7 to 8 years of commitment is required.  The degree for an Ayurvedic doctor is called a Bachelor in Ayurvedic Medical Science.  There are 8 branches in Ayurveda:

  • Kaya Chikitsa – general practitioner
  • Shalya Chikitsa – Surgery
  • Shalakya Chikitsa – Ophthalmology & ENT
  • Kaumara Chikitsa – Paediatrics
  • Agada Chikitsa – Toxicology
  • Grihar Chikitsa – Psychiatry
  • Gera Chikitsa – Rejuvenation therapy
  • Vrishi Chikitsa – Aphrodisiacs

Ayurveda has two main goals:

  • To preserve and extend the life of a human being for as long as necessary to attain self-actualisation (realisation)
  • To treat one that has become sick

I hope this was helpful.  We will continue as the weeks progress with the next aspect of our series:  Ayurveda and Health.

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in Intro to Ayurveda

Ayurveda and Health

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The word used in Ayurveda to describe health is “Swast”.  Swast simply means “to be Established in the Self.”  This Self is understood to be a body-soul-spirit composite.   

Ayurveda says that there are two requirements to be healthy:

  1. When digestion, absorption and elimination happens at a 100% efficiency and
  2. When one’s elemental constitution (the combination of the 5 elements that everyone is born with and makes them unique) is intact throughout the life.

Then one is said to remain in a healthy state.  Let’s break this down:

Digestion and absorption

In Ayurveda digestion is said to be orchestrated in the body using Agni.  Agni is said to be the digestive fire in one’s body.  It is the driving force of cellular energy which comes from our mitochondria.  Our sex drive, enzymes and neurotransmitters would not exist if it were not for Agni.  Our sleep, mood and digestive fire depends on Agni.

There are two processes of digestion that happens in the body.  The first is through the digestive fire in our stomach and small intestine and this is accomplished by Jatharagni.  The second happens on a cellular level in our different tissues.  This is known as Dhaturagni.  

Apart from the stomach, digestion takes place in the 7 tissue layers in the body.  Once food is digested and absorbed in the intestines it passes through blood plasma.  Blood plasma undergoes its own digestive process and then pushes the more subtle nutrition to the blood then to the muscle and then fat.  From fat to bone and from bone to bone marrow.  From bone marrow to seminal fluid.  By the time the food makes its way to the seminal fluid it has become very refined and subtle. 

Via the use of spiritual practices, yoga and meditation, this seminal fluid can then be transmuted into what is known as Ojas (the vitality, pranic health quotient or subtle energy field that surrounds the body)

Elimination

We accumulate waste largely through our food and liquids and via the air we breathe.  The body has 4 main channels of eliminating waste.  These are via the outbreath in the lungs, perspiration, urine and feces. If we are not breathing properly, exercising regularly and going to the toilet daily then we start accumulating more toxins then we are releasing.  Over time, this creates a huge burden on the system and sooner or later manifests as disease. 

In addition to this, Ayurveda encourages us not to resist certain natural urges. Urges like sneezing, coughing, laughing, crying, burping, releasing gas are all encouraged in Ayurveda as the body uses these mechanisms also to release. Keeping these urges constrained over a period of time will lead to ill health and disease.

In next weeks topic we will discuss the second aspect of health:  The five elements and how they make up our physical and psychological constitution.

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Autumn is a time of transition.  It becomes evident all around us, especially in the trees.  The colours of their leaves change from lush green to browns and hues of orange as they quietly undress in preparation for the winter that is to come.  Temperatures begin to hint at the tell-tale crispness of Autumn.  The wind begins to pick up, slowly gathering its strength, carrying the promise of winter on its breath.  The autumn carries with it a certain emptiness that can leave us a little exposed, tender and raw but it also leaves us with the possibility of stripping off the old, a time for change, a time for simplifying and quietening down  in order to receive the new.  Autumn is the season when the air and space elements dominate.  Autumn is indicative of an increase in Vata in the atmosphere and it reminds us of a few things we need to do in order to receive the most benefit from this season. 

Seasonal Routine:

Ayurveda tells us that our bodies don’t exist in isolation to the external world. They are, instead, a part of it, integrated with it, and depend on it for our health and well-being. In this age, however, we live in such a separate state from nature that we’ve forgotten the natural and instinctual ways in which to nourish ourselves.  The seasons play a big part on how life is governed on earth and they serve to inform us on what changes need to be made in our diets and lifestyle.  Different seasons bring about an increase in different elements.  They also bring about different crops from the earth; these crops are meant to be consumed as per the season in order to nourish us and also to safeguard us against the harsher aspects of the season.  The guidelines and observances for seasons are known as Rithucharya (Rithu – seasons, Charya – disciplines) or seasonal disciplines.  In south Africa the seasons take on more or less the following dates:

Summer – 1 December to 29th February

Autumn – 1 March to 31 May

Winter – 1 June to 31 August

Spring – 1 September to 30th November

Considering the Ayurvedic principle that opposite values are complimentary, Vata season (Autumn – cool, dry, clear, light, mobile, constantly moving, unpredictable) can be balanced nicely if we follow practices and routines that are filled with depth, nourishment, warmth, oiliness, loving  relationships, routine, grounding and a sense of stability.

Autumn and Diet

Unctuous, warming, soothing foods that are rich in protein and fats will really help us navigate through this drying season.  Foods likes:

  • Kichidi
  • Avocados
  • Nuts
  • Warming spices
  • Hot meals
  • Oatmeal
  • Coconut oil
  • Cooked Grains
  • Cream of Wheat
  • Hearty Soups

Are all good for this season.  We should generally try to keep away or limit the consumption of:

  • Raw foods
  • Raw juices
  • Cold Foods
  • Dry foods (Crisps etc)
  • Popcorn
  • Frozen foods
  • Ice-Cream
  • Sprouts
  • White Potatoes
  • Crackers
  • Dried fruit

Autumn Lifestyle

One of the easiest ways to support Vata during this season is in sticking to a daily routine (Dinacharya)  Four simple practices that I follow are:

  • Waking up at a set time every morning (usually around 5am)
  • Nasya (placing two drops of sesame oil in each nostril)
  • Oil Pulling
  • Abhyanga (applying sesame oil on the body – 5 mins) before taking a hot shower

Waking up early:  If you set time for your day by waking up early you can really calm down the nervous system and keep it in rest and digest mode.  Waking up later gives you less time to prepare for the day and activates the sympathetic nervous system (getup and go /fight or flight) and depletes the adrenals before the day is through leaving you tired, needing a pick-me-up before the day ends.

Nasya: Putting two drops of sesame oil in the nostrils each day, dilates, nourishes and oleates the channels responsible for communication to and from the sinuses and the brain. It lubricates the nasal passages, preventing allergies. Repeated use relieves tension from the neck, head and shoulder area.  It gives more mental clarity and calms down the nervous system, preventing ailments like migraines in the long run and keeps the nervous system functioning at optimal levels. 

Oil Pulling:  Helps to reduce inflammation and reduce gum disease.  Removes bad breath.  Prevents cavities from forming and lubricates the channels responsible for communication in the head region. 

Abhyanga: You can calm your nervous system, awaken your tissues, and ground your energy by massaging your skin with warm, organic Sesame Oil.  Because of its highly penetrative properties, sesame oil is the oil of choice when applying on the body.  It nourishes the tissues and helps to expel toxins from deep within the body, on a cellular level, over time.

Autumn Exercise

The best times of day to exercise are in the early morning and evening hours (6–10 a.m. and 6–10 p.m.). Vata is very easily aggravated by fast, mobile activities, so consider slow, gentle, strengthening forms of exercise instead. Walking, hiking, swimming, biking, yoga, and tai chi are good choices, provided they are done at an appropriate level of intensity. Ideally, exercise at about fifty to seventy percent of your capacity, breathing through your nose the entire time. And remember to balance your activity with adequate relaxation and sleep so that your tissues can rejuvenate properly.

Remember, a seasonal routine is an investment in your own health. And while the specifics may vary from one person to the next, we all stand to benefit from aligning ourselves with the rhythms of nature throughout the year.

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Aaahh. Take a long, deep breath. Winter is here!!! Winter is the season when the earth’s energy withdraws back into herself as nature slows down and starts embracing a long, dark season of slumber and dormancy. There is a particular stillness that characterizes winter, and with it comes a subtle invitation to redirect our own thoughts and energies.

In Ayurveda, winter is considered a kapha and vata season, as it is characterized by cold weather, a sense of heaviness, and dryness. At the start of winter vata(Air and Space) is still dominant and slowly gives way to kapha (Water and earth) …….Now that we are in the middle of winter, welcome to the season of kapha. When balanced, kapha supplies strength, vigor, and stability to both body and mind. This subtle energy is responsible for lubricating the joints, moisturizing the skin, and maintaining immunity. But in excess, it can lead to sluggishness, mucus-related illnesses, excess weight, and negative emotions such as attachment, envy, and greed.

Seasonal Routine:

Ayurveda tells us that our bodies don’t exist in isolation to the external world. They are, instead, a part of it, integrated with it, and depend on it for our health and well-being. In this age, however, we live in such a separate state from nature that we’ve forgotten the natural and instinctual ways in which to nourish ourselves.  The seasons play a big part on how life is governed on earth and they serve to inform us on what changes need to be made in our diets and lifestyle.  Different seasons bring about an increase in different elements.  They also bring about different crops from the earth; these crops are meant to be consumed as per the season in order to nourish us and also to safeguard us against the harsher aspects of the season.  The guidelines and observances for seasons are known as Rithucharya (Rithu – seasons, Charya – disciplines) or seasonal disciplines.  In south Africa the seasons take on more or less the following dates:

Summer – 1 December to 29th February

Autumn – 1 March to 31 May

Winter – 1 June to 31 August

Spring – 1 September to 30th November

Considering the Ayurvedic principle that opposite values are complimentary; vata/kapha season Winter (Cold, Heavy, Slow, Oily, Slimy, Smooth, Dense, Soft, Sticky) can be balanced nicely if we follow practices and routines that are filled with warmth, intensity, sunlight, introspection, planning, meditative reflection, and vision. It is also a time of joy, rest, thanksgiving and sharing

Winter and Diet

Your limbs stay chilled as your body prioritizes keeping your core warm, shunting blood flow to extremities and skin. Because of this concentration of warmth, your digestion is strong enabling you to process the richer foods you crave. Eating Ayurvedically for winter involves balancing and placating both Vata and Kapha – to help you thrive in the winter months. 

  • Spices for the winter include:
    • Cinnamon
    • Turmeric
    • Nutmeg
    • Cloves
    • Ginger
    • Garlic
    • Black Pepper
  • Honey
  • Nuts
  • Root vegetables
  • Kichidi
  • Ghee
  • Seasonal fruits and vegetables
  • Coconut oil
  • Cooked Grains
  • Cream of Wheat
  • Hot water and / or hot drinks
  • Hearty Soups cooked with either ghee or coconut oil

We should generally try to keep away or limit the consumption of:

  • Raw foods
  • Raw juices
  • Cold Foods
  • Dry foods (Crisps etc)
  • Dairy products
  • Popcorn
  • Frozen foods
  • Ice-Cream
  • Sprouts
  • White Potatoes
  • Crackers
  • Dried fruit

Winter Lifestyle

One of the easiest ways to support Vata and Kaph during this season is in sticking to a daily routine (Dinacharya)  Four simple practices that I follow are:

  • Waking up at a set time every morning (usually a little later than in other seasons – Between 6am to 7am)
  • Nasya (placing two drops of sesame oil in each nostril)
  • Oil Pulling
  • Abhyanga (applying sesame oil on the body – 5 mins) before taking a hot shower

Waking up just before sunrise:  If you set time for your day by waking up early you can really calm down the nervous system and keep it in rest and digest mode.  Waking up later gives you less time to prepare for the day and activates the sympathetic nervous system (getup and go /fight or flight) and depletes the adrenals before the day is through leaving you tired, needing a pick-me-up before the day ends.

Nasya: Putting two drops of sesame oil in the nostrils each day, dilates, nourishes and oleates the channels responsible for communication to and from the sinuses and the brain. It lubricates the nasal passages, preventing allergies. Repeated use relieves tension from the neck, head and shoulder area.  It gives more mental clarity and calms down the nervous system, preventing ailments like migraines in the long run and keeps the nervous system functioning at optimal levels. 

Oil Pulling:  Helps to reduce inflammation and reduce gum disease.  Removes bad breath.  Prevents cavities from forming and lubricates the channels responsible for communication in the head region. 

Abhyanga: You can calm your nervous system, awaken your tissues, and ground your energy by massaging your skin with warm, organic Sesame Oil.  Because of its highly penetrative properties, sesame oil is the oil of choice when applying on the body.  It nourishes the tissues and helps to expel toxins from deep within the body, on a cellular level, over time.

Winter Exercise

Exercise is one of the best ways to support optimal physical and mental health through the winter months. If vata is predominant we will follow a slow, gentle, and strengthening exercise routine. On the other hand, if kapha is the more predominant with heavy, cloudy weather, and rain or snow—you will want to push yourself physically, increasing both the duration and intensity of your workout. The best times to exercise during winter are between 6am and 10am or 6pm and 10pm.

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