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Ayurvedic Wellness

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Attention to ojas for sustained wellness

Posted on September 23, 2020 at 1:43 PM Comments comments (27)
OJAS

Let’s get into ojas
sounds like Oh-Jus. 

It is a  key piece to our overall wellness. It helps build our reserve strength, and so says an ancient ayurveda text if our ojas is abundant we can live happy for a hundred years. Sign me up, happiness is wished by most isn’t it? What is this magic? Well not quite magic, but having a healthy ojas helps us to be our best self. The subtle energies are prana, tejas, and ojas; they are the subtle side team to the three doshas vata, pitta, and kapha. They are a team that work together to allow our deeper tissues the strength and sustenance they need. Shukra dhatu, another player here, is the reproductive channel and it is important to have wellness at this deeper layer because it feeds the health of our ojas. Ojas some say is the purest essence of kapha, it is the force that allows us to ride the waves and the ever changing tides of life, both protecting us and giving us the power that is the strong calm center of a storm. Life being the storm, calm center being us.

I was feeling so anxious, not the worried overwhelmed kind of anxious but the kind where I just couldn’t get settled down, grounded in my feet. I drank my warm water, and my golden milk daily every morning, I did a lovely yoga practice, but with all the variables going on I couldn’t get settled into myself. The smokey air here in California (which had gotten much better), being stuck inside, the anticipation of the change of season to vata time of year, and the change in the way we have been asked to live our lives due to the pandemic all point to the creation of a void within, a place that some habitual way of living was removed and space was created, and in this space vata now resides. My innate nature is made up of some vata, so there is air and ether elements and qualities already circulating within me and many of you.

As I mentioned we are moving into the fall, the vata time of year. In short vata is the ayurvedic dosha that is made up of air and ether elements and consists of those qualities which are, cold, light, dry, static, flowing, rough, hard. The tastes of food and drinks that are astringent, bitter and pungent aggravate vata. Vata is soothed, reduced, by sweet, sour, and salty tastes, but we aren’t quite in the depths of fall yet so careful with the summer/pitta aggravating tastes of sour, salty and pungent (pitta, fire, summer season, is soothed by the tastes sweet, bitter, and astringent).

I’m bringing in vata and my anxiousness into this post to highlight how much I and we all could benefit from knowing our ojas level and how to create healthy balanced ojas. The practices that increase our ojas also happen to balance and even reduce vata, the air qualities within. Modern life often gives many particularly this time of year excess vata elements. 

Regular patterns and rhythms in our day help to ground vata and build ojas, time meditating, sitting in nature, doing yoga, having a cup of tea, taking a warm bath, going to bed at a decent time and a regular time, sitting down to eat, chewing food well, resting when tired, these practices are some of the recommendations to boost ojas but also calm vata, bringing that air element into the roots.

Picture this, ojas is like a container, a container that holds within it prana and tejas. Prana is the circulation of the life force we bring into our bodies through food’s life force and the stimulations we bring in through our 5 senses. Prana is often referred to as the life force itself. Prana is the life force within us. Tejas is the flame that ignites our inner fire, responsible for our focus, our intelligence, self-discipline, and mental clarity. Tejas is our inner flame driving us through our day. Ojas is the container that holds prana and tejas within. 

This container when we are run down or burned out is quite thin if not broken completely and in that case it’s unable to properly hold prana and tejas. We can have too much intake (excess) of stimulus through our senses overloading our prana within or we can have too little (deficient) prana, by eating dead food and processed food, and taking in stimulus devoid of life force. We can have too much (excess) fire, an excess of drive and motivation that creates so much fire within that we have heat radiating out through our temper and mood. We can have burned out our flame by too much prana in the container or have a lack of (deficient) fire altogether leaving us with no motivation, focus or clarity in our mind. Different scenarios can effect the sustenance and quality of the container that is ojas. I often say ojas is like our reserve energy. It is fed by a healthy reproductive system but it isn’t a stand alone, we can do great service to our reserve strength by encouraging healthy ojas. Having a healthy ojas helps shield us from imbalance, stress, emotional upheaval and disease.

A note on excess kapha, earth and water heavy elements, often manifesting as slow metabolism, slow digestion, sluggish mind. If you may have excess kapha be sure to sip hot water through the day and/or have digestive teas. You can still partake in the ojas building foods listed below if you have excess kapha or if you have excess white coating on your tongue…what to do is sip some warm water every 15 minutes through the day to boost metabolism, to gently cleanse, and to warm and melt damp kapha and encourage a better functioning system. But most of us could use the building of ojas. Many have depleted ojas and show signs of low ojas in their physical imbalances. This is modern western life’s toll on the body and when unhealthy habits have taken a hold, doing a disservice to our over all wellness.

Many foods of fall also help to build ojas.

Ojas building foods:
Dates wrapped in coconut: I pit dates, mush them up well, you could food process them, then I roll them in shredded coconut

Almonds soaked in water for a few hours, you can then ideally pop the skin off and add a little salt to taste maybe a drizzle of honey

Pitted dates soaked in almond milk (eat the dates drink the milk)

Avocados

Sweet potatoes with cinnamon or nutmeg

Well soaked and multiple times rinsed and drained mung beans and rice aka kitcharee, look up a recipe there are so many. I posted one a long while back and will again soon.

Ojas building activities:
So Hum meditation AM and PM (internally say the sound So when you inhale and internally say the sound Hum when you exhale, this is saying I am this, I am this moment and it calms and steadies the mind, helping to activate the parasympathetic nervous system).

Nadi Shodhana—Alternate nostril breath (using right thumb and right ring finger, close right nostril with right thumb, breathe out left, inhale in the left nostril, lift thumb and close left nostril with right ring finger, exhale out right nostril, inhale in right nostril, lift ring finger, press thumb down, exhale out left side. That’s one round, do at least 5 round 2x a day, work up to doing this for 3 minutes). Rest and breathe normally when finished.

Restorative yoga—one pose is sitting with legs forward and out to a V—Upavistha Konasana—then have pillows piled in front of you, or a chair in between the knees, or a bolster with a couple blankets rolled on top. Lean forward and rest your head and your arms. We draw our focus and our senses within with forward folds, forward folds cultivate pratyahara (one of Payanjali’s 8 limbs) a turning inward away from external stimulus, this withdrawal takes our focus deeply within and enkindles our inner light. Forward folds helps calm the sympathetic nervous systems, relaxes the body, and builds ojas. Practice this AM and PM.

Slow walks in nature by water.

Sip tea, ginger tea for a digestive boost (but not if you are taking blood thinners), peppermint tea (not if you have high blood pressure), or chamomile tea.

Add a pinch of turmeric, a pinch of cardamom or nutmeg, 1/2 tsp of coconut oil or ghee to warmed milk for a relaxing and ojas building elixir.

Fill up your internal cup and you will find a higher level of functioning in your day, better sustenance to deal with life and the events that can arise, and you will feel more anchored in this upcoming vata season. Foster the health of your roots, digestive wellness, and the rest of your body will follow to heal imbalance.

Ayurvedic Wellness Facebook page

Posted on September 21, 2018 at 10:33 PM Comments comments (25)
Hello there, thanks for coming by. I’ve been posting on my Ayurvedic Wellness facebook business page and I wanted to invite you to check it out. I think there are two out there in the ethers of the internet so check that it’s Melanie MacDonald’s. I post seasonally and in between. It can be an easier way for us to connect and for me to more immediately share Ayurveda. Just a reminder and in case you didn’t know, I do phone consultations for Ayurvedic sessions and you can email me if you’re interested. [email protected] with the subject ayurvedic appointment.
Blessings.....
As we come into fall I’ve been browsing my summer photos as a little reminiscing to close up summer. One of our trips this summer we made it to Fallen Leaf Lake. A place I’ve been wanting to go for 20 years. As beautiful and as lovely as I’d imagined. 

Cardamom

Posted on September 21, 2018 at 10:18 PM Comments comments (64)
Cardamom I love you, I do. It's not just because you did that crazy erotic thing once, and not just because you've helped spice up love life, but you can heal so many common ailments, carminative/digesting agent, remover of mucus, clear the orifices of the head, respiratory healer, greatly relieve coughs, reduce cold symptoms, asthma healer, IBS healer, help heal heartburn, bring vibrancy to skin, bring excess vata dosha or air element downward, help manage weight, relieve tooth pain and help in dental decay, open the spiritual heart, AND a euphoric aphrodisiac, that reminds me.....

There's a story, its about a bit of cardamom essential oil, a husband and wife, kids sleeping, and an opportunity posed by the deep aroma of cardamom essential oil that brought about ancient exotic waves of euphoria, some time and space shifting and great pleasure all induced by intentional deep breaths through one nostril and then the other of cardamom through its essential oil bottle.

Ok so some other cardamom ideas for use:  put cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle and grind, or have cardamom powder, cardamom essential oil can be used, close your eyes, deeply inhale, take in its scent. Observe how you feel.

A simple drink: Put 1/2 tsp cardamom powder in warmed milk of choice. Whisk well, enjoy, dab of syrup added if desired.

Shukra dhatu and ojas rejuvenative drink! Shukra dhatu is our reproductive channels, and ojas is sort of like our reserve energy and the shukra layer of our body helps the health of the rest of our channels while ojas is a container for our prana our life force/energy and tejas our fire/drive.

1 cup water
5 Dates 
1 Banana 
1/2 cup almonds plus 1-2 cups additional water or 2 cups almond milk (homemade see below)
1/2 tsp cardamom powder 

1 cup water covering about 5 pitted dates, soak overnight or a few hours (ok I soak for 20 minutes sometimes, and some dates are super soft)
Add to blender with 1 banana, almond milk (homemade: 1 cup almonds with 3 cups water, blend well, strain through a nut bag)
Or almonds plus more water

Blend well, vitamix does the trick, 
sit down and drink to rejuvenate your deeper layers and add an inner luster that will radiate outward. 
Optional idea for fall and early winter before blending you can add 1/4 tsp ginger powder and some kale, might omit the kale in this way and cook it well with spices in a separate dish instead if you have existing vata digesting tendencies (flatulence, bloating, unsettled stomach).

Go ahead, experience cardamom today, it’s balancing in many ways, a little goes a a long way, it might be the spice you've been missing. 



The Six Tastes: part 1 CCG

Posted on February 23, 2017 at 11:26 AM Comments comments (95)
In any given day we all could use a little spice, a bit of richness, a little something to enliven. In what ways do you feel a breath of fresh air, a spring to your step, a feeling as if you are dancing on the inside, maybe you are actually dancing.

Rasa is that which gives us contentment, repose, a luxurious feeling, a vacation mode moment. Rasa is also taste, the taste or essence of a substance, the mood, feeling, or energy or it.

So the rasa of spices, the experience of spices, can add some spunk to not only your food but how that food is internalized within, food adds to our mood and yes I'm talking about spices from your kitchen cabinet, they can add spunk and delicacy to your day.

The essential six tastes: when we receive them through our sense organ the mouth, we can experience santosha or contentment with our needs to receive taste wise. So if we can get the six tastes through our food we can find that later in the day we won't crave less healthy choices, especially the commonly over used ones, sweet or salty, which we might be craving for stress or emotional reasons.

Introducing the possibilities sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, pungent. They're coming to a plate near you and hoping to satisfy your dhatus, your tissues.

There's a few spices I use in our kitchen daily. They have such an important role to play. The moment food or medicine touches our tongue we will experience it's rasa.

One easy mix that can ease your body and mind and create a more dynamic sensory eating experience is what I call CCG. While more used on the sweet then savory side it can be added to both sweet and savory meals.


CCG: equal powders of cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger, all three enkindle digestive juices, enhance absorption of nutrients, redirect flow downward, and are antispasmodic. They are so important for respiratory health, circulatory health, sinuses, and they can reduce the occurrence of colds. They've helped my family stay well through many winters and other seasons as well.

These spices can also encourage reproductive health, and as fun extras cardamom is an aphrodisiac, cinnamon will increase sperm, but is astringent to the uterus so limit use during pregnancy, and ginger prevents nausea, is anti-inflammatory, reduces feelings of cold and is rejuvenating.

All three have a post digestive effect of sweetness which calms and strengthens the nervous system and balances both kapha and vata.

Easy recipes:
A tea can be made with this powder:
1/8-1/4 tsp of powder to 1 cup boiled/warm water, stir well and drink;

or takra:
1/4 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 cup warm water, 1/4 tsp powder, stir well and drink, this balances appetite and awakens digestive juices, if you drink before a meal it gets the digestive system stimulated and if after a meal it'll help digest the food.

To prepare and experience a holistic healing moment through your senses and more subtly through spirit and your deeper consciousness, grind the spices from it's whole state by hand in a morter and pestal, while seated, or your can grind them in a grinder, in a coffee grinder but one that's designated just for herb and spice use.

So start here, dabble with these three spices; experiment with tasting spices to notice if you sense sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent, or pungent, could be a combination of those. Favor using spices together as they usually help each other. Start with the less is more approach and grow from there. Practice this awareness with your food too. What is the initial taste when it hits your tongue?

Vata dosha is increased with astringent, bitter, pungent and is decreased with sweet, sour, salty;
pitta dosha is increased with sour, salty, pungent and is decreased by sweet, astringent, bitter;
and kapha dosha is increased with sweet, sour, salty and decreased with astringent, bitter, pungent.

Through mindfulness and observing you'll notice what the post digestive effect is. For instance after you have black pepper or other hot spice and you notice you feel angry or hot or short tempered a bit later and maybe can't place why, that was probably too much heat for you, particularly if you are already of pitta constitution, so next time add fennel or another neutral to soothing spice to the hot spice or omit the hot spice all together.

Experiment and notice that with a little spice you can better digest and assimilate your food and the nutrients in your food. The bite you take will feel more satisfying.

Eat mindfully, chew slowly, savor and have a vacation moment.
A little can go a long way.

Here's to your spiciness and finding your rasa!
Check back soon for highlights on specific spices.....

Garshana-Dry Skin Brushing

Posted on February 8, 2017 at 3:16 PM Comments comments (29)




Our skin as you may know is the largest organ we have, our epidermis, and it takes in the elements around us just as much as our other senses. Often the skin gets stagnant and needs help sloughing off or renewing the outer most layer of skin cells. An important piece of ayurvedic health care is to apply oil to the body (oil self-massage or abhyanga), preferably warm oil and before showering although anytime can be a good time. But it is beneficial to stimulate the skin and lymphatic system first. Those who get bumps or feel their skin is clogged could especially benefit from this and anyone with an epidermis, so that's probably you and everyone you know.
To stimulate the skin and lymphatic system and to help allow the skin to properly absorb oil and moisture, use a dry bath brush and brush the skin. So you'll use the brush dry, and before showering. You can also purchase garshana gloves (raw silk garshana gloves are available at lifespa.com or amazon or ebay).
The strokes are done toward the heart:
  • from wrists, up arms toward the heart
  • from ankles, up legs toward the heart
  • up the back
  • brush inwards from the underarms toward the heart
  • then brush from the center of the chest out to one side and then the other
  • to finish off you can gently brush the belly in a clock wise motion as if the clock was facing outward

Doing this not only prepares the skin to more efficiently absorb the oil, but also invigorates the lymphatic system, an important piece of our over health.

Our lymphatic system is our drainage system and not only helps move toxins out of the body but functions to alert the body and carries lymph, fluid filled infection fighting white blood cells, throughout the body. The lymphatic system has lymph nodes, vessels and helpful organs like the spleen, tonsils, adenoids, and thymus but also there's the lymphatic connection to ama, waste matter, and to the nadis, the 72,000 channels throughout our body. Keeping movement of the fluids flowing with circulatory skin brushing helps to clear and balance these systems and allows for less clogging of skin and better processing of oils applied topically.

Give dry skin brushing a try, daily before you apply oil, then hop in the shower, or just try routinely upon waking in the morning.








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