Combating back pain with Ayurveda

indian ayurvedic oil body massageFrom shoulder aches and pains to chronic repetitive strain conditions such as sciatica, back pain has affected many of us through numerous causative factors. Back pain or ‘kati shoola’ as it is known in Ayurveda is a common condition where the one or more dosha becomes imbalanced, and of these, vata (air + space element) would be commonly responsible.

Back pain could be of varying types and caused by various factors Incorrect posture, external or sports injury, trauma or RSI will result in a degeneration of tissues (bone, muscle and connective tissue) with a rise of vata resulting in intense pain.

The increase of dry, rough and cold qualities of vata is another cause of emaciation and degeneration of bone and connective tissue leading to osteoporosis as the space element in the pores become increased in size, as vata needs to travel resulting in pain of a cutting or numb nature or as pins and needles.

Blockages in the channels of the body (veins, arteries, lymph etc) increases vata and not allowing vata to flow naturally and is forced to other spacial areas, creating again pain. The involvement of Pitta and kapha dosha are often cause complexities.

Doshic imbalance ranges from increased vata caused by stress, old age, lack of quality sleep, over-exercising, excessive intake of foods such as chickpeas, sprouts, tea coffee, alcohol, exposure to cold climates, drinks. Increased pitta dosha due to over exposure to the sun, hot and spicy, non-veg and acidic foods. Kapha increase due to day sleep, lack of exercise, intake of sweet cold foods such as yoghurt, ice-cream, fruit juices, dairy. These causative factors coupled with influencing factors of age, climate, occupation, digestive capacity can lead to doshic imbalance.

The first line of treatment would firstly be to remove the causative factors. Then physical Ayurvedic treatments to alleviate the back pain would carefully administered depended of type of pain. For example, lower back and neck pain can be effectively treated by kati basti (a pool of warm medicated oil). Pinda Sweda (hot herbal poultice) used with medicated oils to alleviate the vata out of the tissues. A simple abhyanga with specially selected medicated oils can help to alleviate back pain. In deep seated conditions vata would be eliminated through the administration of enemas, since the seat of vata resides in the colon.

Useful internal herbs to balance the dosha and condition would also be used as well as suggested back-bending yoga postures such as bhujangasana, khandarasana, surya namaskar all used with yogic breathing to heal through prana.

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Ayurvedic Abdominal Massage Treatment – Nabhi Abhyanga

digestive healthAyurveda & Yoga places great importance to healing the abdominal area as the Nabhi (naval centre) is located here which is considered to be one of the most important position in our bodies. Seventy-two-thousand Nadis (channels of the body) are regulated by the Nabhi imbalances residing in the Nabhi, often caused by emotional or physical trauma can affect the entire physiology of the mind and body.  Warm herbal oils are massaged into abdomen followed by gentle stretches. Sometimes the naval centre may become displaced causing uncomfortable aches, pains and digestive disturbances in such cases corrective procedure can help restore balance

The body is always talking to us, if we only take time to listen. Louise L. Hay. You Can Heal Your Life. P127

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Contact Geeta Vara Ayurveda for an appointment for ayurvedic consultations and treatments

Awaken the power of your breath

PranayamaWhen we are born our life starts with it and our life ends with it. What an incredibly powerful function is the breath!

In today’s sedentary and stressful lifestyle, we maintain a relatively shallow and quick breath, using only a fraction of our lung capacity providing just enough of energy supply for the body to function. This way of breathing reduces our vitality, our resistance to diseases and starves our brain of essential oxygen creating tiredness, irritability, disturbed sleep cycles and so on.

Pranayama is not only a deep form of breathing exercise, but a discipline of yoga, which prepares individuals for self-realization at an astral level and maintains the mind-body equilibrium at a physical level. The practice of pranayama decreases the respiration rate and elongates the breath and therefore interpreted as elongated life as well. It is therefore a powerful tool to eradicate diseases at the root cause.

Much research has been and is being carried out on the powerful health benefits of breath control used in yogic practice and needless to say you only have to sit for a few minutes and try these techniques to benefit from the instant feeling of calmness, peace and well-being

This research has demonstrated the positive effects on medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, migraines, obesity, asthma, high blood pressure, as well as many stress related conditions such as depression, anxiety and insomnia.

Here are some reasons why the practice of pranayama can be so valuable:

  • Increases the capacity of our lungs with a fresh supply of oxygen to energise the body
  • Massages the all the abdominal organs including the heart and the stomach
  • Reduces the breathing rate which can control blood pressure and increase longevity
  • Expels toxic waste such as carbon dioxide from the respiratory system
  • Improves health of the heart and can reduce hypertension.
  • Oxygen travels via bloodstream by attaching to haemoglobin in your red blood cells.
  • Strengthen respiratory and nervous system.
  • Helps increase metabolic activity and digestion of food.
  • Reduces stress and calms the mind and nervous activity by increasing oxygenation to the brain at the same time increasing awareness and concentration
  • Muscles tighten, the breath becomes shallow and there is reduced oxygen levels when negative emotions such as anger, irritability, depression, greed, arrogance, jealousy are present, pranayama can reduce this.

Consult a yoga or ayurvedic practitioner for more guidance on pranayama techniques.

Stay grounded while you soar to new heights

photo from airplane

Don’t let vata stop you from flying!

So it’s supposedly summer time and a time when many of us fly off on our summer holidays with the children, friends and partners. Lengthy travel by any means aggravates ‘vata’, the principle of movement. Air travel in particular, can drive our vata soaring, as you travel at high speed travel in vata’s own elements of space and air. The dry, re-circulated air, increased cabin pressure and high altitude add extra disruption to the already disturbed diet and lifestlyle routines and time zone changes.

  • Air travel can leave people with the feeling of:
  • Excessive sleepiness and fatigue
  • Inability to focus
  • Feelings of nausea & dizziness
  • Muscular & joint aches
  • Indigestion and constipation

Those individuals with a ‘vata’ dominant constitution and those with a rigid routine are likely to be the amongst the most effected by ‘jetlag’. What can we do to keep our vata grounded and minimise the negative effects of flying.

There are some simple techniques we can apply based on the principles of vata pacification in ayurveda.

Before you travel, give yourself or treat yourself to a hot oil abhyanga massage to lock in moisture to the deeper skin layers.  Warm oil is a fantastic antidote for vata since it has heating, heavy, oily qualities that counterbalance the dry and windy elements of Vata.

In-flight meal choices are hardly worth writing home about, so eat a grounding, balancing and nourishing meal before your flight and a few days before travel with plenty of proteins. So foods such as warm cooked whole grains, root vegetables, ghee and digestive herbs such as cumin, ginger and turmeric are all good choices. How about soups, stews, hot pots, kitchari, dahls & rice etc to up set you up for your journey? Pack a few healthy snacks, nuts & fruits. Avoid salads, frozen foods, dry snacks, ice in drinks.

Valium, sleeping pills? Don’t do it! Add in Chyawanprash to the mix to assist your digestion as well as give you an immune boost for the increased exposure to germs. Ashwagandha, a rejuvenating ayurvedic herb can give you a further immune boost and help you rest on the flight. Triphala, a cleansing compound herb can help balance your bowels as well as provide a anti-oxidant boost as it contains lots of vitamin C. Sleep, relaxing music and meditation are great for grounding mental vata. Try out hot milk with my special ‘Goodnight Milk Blend

On the flight itself, avoid those dry salty snack, caffeine, carbonated and alcoholic drinks etc as these can further dehydrate you. Instead opt for plenty of water and how about carrying some herbal tea bags?

Exercise your limbs out by walking and stretching out, this will ensure ‘prana’ stays circulating throughout the body. Maybe a few cheeky yoga stretches at the back on the plane? That’s what I do!

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