New Year, New Ayurvedic Outlook

Ayurvedic Herbal TeasSo we are well into the new year and so many of us made a resolution to start a ‘detox’, lose the holiday weight, stop drinking and get back into the gym. How many of us actually last past the first few weeks or even the first few days? So many people fail to complete a detoxifcation cleanse in January as it does not fit in with their lifestyle, they are not mentally prepared and lets face it, there’s still plenty of indulgences lurking in the cupboards. But do not fear all is not doom and gloom, changing diets drastically during the winter months is not conducive to our overall health and according to Ayurveda the ideal time to go through a detoxification programme is in Spring time, so plenty of time to plan and prepare.

Ayurvedic advocates following a seasonal regime to support our well being, we are in the hemanta and shishira months (December to March) and our Agni (digestive fire) is at its strongest during these months, hence the tendency to feel increased hunger. The quest to lose weight can have an adverse affect on our metabolism at this time as we starve our body of essential nutrients.

Without radical dieting, we can adopt methods to pacify winter ailments such as fatigue, mental confusion, digestive problems, aches, pains and persistent cold while giving ourselves time to prepare for a deeper cleanse and weight loss in a more suitable season. Winter is essentially a vata and kapha period and a vata pacifying diet is most suitable.

  • Avoid the causative factors such as refined sugars, fried, leftover or cold foods saturated fats, and heavy dairy.
  • Eat foods that are naturally sweet, sour and salty by taste to help pacify vata dosha, such as soups, stews, hot teas and stewed fruits.
  • Favour foods that are wholesome and easy to digest including, carrots, tomatoes, figs, dates, cane sugar, nuts, seeds, seasonal root vegetables, wheat, gram flour, rice barley, rye, milk products, edible oils such as ghee and olive oil
  • Immunity is connected to digestion and when digestion is strong then immunity is robust, so drink warm/hot water and digestion enhancing spices such as ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom and cinnamon. Strengthen your immune system with chywanprash, a jam packed full of immune boosting herbs.
  • Good news, Ayurveda says that a glass of warmed red wine can be and beneficial in winter, you can warm with cinnamon, cardamom, clove, ginger, fennel, nutmeg and black pepper
  • Opt for regular massage and hot or steam bath
  • Arise at 7am and take plenty of exercise to keep lymph moving and prevent congestion,
  • sexual activity is encouraged
  • Wear warm clothing of cottons, silks and wools.
  • Take exposure to sun when possible
  • Engage in calming meditation

Following a more natural regime will ensure that the body is able to cope with a detox and expel the toxins out of the body more effectively. Consult a practitioner for one to one guidance on your constitution and a personalised detox plan for the Spring.

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

Recipe: Seeded Indian flat bread (Bhakri)

Ingredients
2 cups whole wheat flour
¾ cup chapatti flour or plain flour
½ tsp grinded natural rock salt
1 tbsp ghee or natural sunflower oil
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground coriander
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ajwain
1 tsp sesame seeds
Warm water

Method
mix all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl
add the ghee or oil and rub with fingers until dough resembles a lose crumble
add warm water a little at a time and knead into a firm dough
Allow to rest for 20-30 minutes
break into 6 equal dough balls
roll into a ball and flatten slightly. Dust with flour and roll out round to about 3mm think
Roast on a flat pan already heated and on a medium heat and toast on both sides until golden and cooked turning about 3-4 times.

More information on ayurveda, ayurvedic treatments & consultations, recipes and workshops please visit: http://www.geetavara.co.uk

Ayurvedic Kansu bowl foot massage

Ayurvedic foot massage

Ayurvedic foot massage

Who doesn’t love a foot massage? Not only does it feel nice and relaxing for tired feet, there are many therapeutic benefits of massage to the feet. With over 12 of the 107 marma points found on the feet and lower legs, subtle rebalancing can be achieved as these points correlate to various organs as well as numerous nerve endings in the feet.

A foot massage can detoxify and stimulate the proper functioning of the vital body organs. This massage can help stimulate circulation of blood, lymph and free flow of prana (vital life force energy). Being a tri-doshic treatment, it is suitable for people of all doshic constitutions whether they are vata, pitta or kapha dominant.

Ayurveda has a special technique using a kansu bowel, traditionally called a ‘vatki’ containing three metals, copper, bronze and zinc each with their own therapeutic benefit. Copper helps absorb the excess body heat and is known for its anti-inflammatory properties particularly in the joints. Zinc stimulates the muscular tissue (mamsa dhatu) as well as contain antiseptic properties. Bronze acts as a catalyst for the former.

The treatment is performed with ghee (clarified butter) to massage the feet and lower legs and therefore balancing for pitta (fire element). This treatment can assist deeper sleep, reduce stress, depression and anxiety improve overall metabolism and strengthen the lower limbs. Just try it! 

More information on ayurveda, ayurvedic treatments & consultations, recipes and workshops please visit: http://www.geetavara.co.uk

Forget HRT try Natural Hormone Therapy

Menopause is an inevitable and natural change in every woman’s life where the monthly menstrual and ovulation cycles draws to an end. We hear of some pretty disturbing symptoms from fellow females who have been through the menopause, however it needn’t be so traumatic if we embrace the changes by adjusting our diet and lifestyle before and during this period. After all the more balanced your diet and lifestyle is when you hit the change age strongly determines how smooth your transition will be. Stress is the main cause to erratic and problematic menopause. According to Ayurveda, we can expect varied menopausal symptoms depending on our dominant ‘dosha type’, vata, pitta or kapha.

Typical vata symptomsPain in the abdomen
InsomniaNervousness/anxiety/panic
Mood swings

Vaginal/bowel dryness

Aching joints

Increased sensitivity to the cold

Typical pitta symptomsNight sweatsHot flushes

Irritability

Anger/hot tempered

Heavy bleeding

Acne

Urinary Tract Infections

Typical kapha symptomsTiredness/lethargyWeight increase

Sluggishness

Fluid retention

Depression

Yeast infections

A practitioner can help you identify your dosha type and may incorporate herbal-based medicine, purification practices, diet and lifestyle guidance, spiritual healing, yoga. Here are a few pointers to get you on road to stress free hormonal changes.

A diet plan according to ones dosha will ensure that menopause stays manageable from the outset. For a vata type of person, warm foods and drinks, regular meal and sleep times, warm oil massage, regular gentle exercise such as walking and hatha yoga. Include spices such as cumin, fennel, cardamom, liquorice and useful herbs include ashwagandha.

For a pitta type, opt for cooling and water based foods such as yellow squash, cucumber, courgettes, fennel, watermelon, grapes, coconut oil massages and meditation. Favourable herbs include shatavari, aloe vera and arjuna.

For the kapha type opt for warm, light and dry foods such as whole grains, leafy & green vegetables and bitter and pungent spices such as ginger, turmeric, black pepper Avoid cold/heavy foods such as cheese, meats, yoghurts and ice in drinks. Exercise and periodic fast are favourable as well as massage with mustard oil and opt for spices such as mustard, cayenne, cinnamon.

We can optimize the production of estrogen even after menopause as the female body is designed to continue its production by having a ‘balanced nutrition with plenty of whole grains, spouted grains and beans, lentils, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, asparagus, sweet potatoes, carrots, garlic and broccoli, grapes, pears, plums and strawberries. Ayurvedic herbs can support this.

More information on ayurveda, ayurvedic treatments & consultations, recipes and workshops please visit: http://www.geetavara.co.uk

Shake off those bad salts

Rock saltToday our diet consists of excess salt intake usually hidden in processed and pre-prepared foods. This excess of usually ‘bad’ salts can lead to health conditions including high blood pressure, water retention, dehydration, premature aging, hair loss, and hamper the taste buds.

As a necessity in life, the body needs salt to balance the electrolytes in the body as well as other functions. ‘Lavana’ as it is know in ayurveda is one of six tastes. It has the quality to heat, moisten, stimulating digestive activity, absorption, and assimilation. It has the ability to clear obstructions in the bodily channels and pores and increases salivation. It has a penetrating quality enhancing the qualities of other herbs and spices and is also responsible for lubrication of the body as well as producing sweat as a metabolic waste product.

According to ayurveda the water and fire element of salty taste increases pitta and kapha dosha if taken in excess but can be balancing and calming for vata dosha.

In classical texts ayurveda outlines 5 types of salt including sea salt, black salt and rock salt. Rock salt pacifies all the three doshas and traditionally considered the healthiest form of salt in ayurveda as it has a high mineral content and cooling.

Regular table salt is chemically cleaned and left with only sodium and chloride prepared at high temperatures changing the structure of a natural salt. An intake of this salt leaves our bodies deprived of essential trace mineral leading to imbalances. For example, sea water has 84 naturally occurring minerals which are beneficial for our bodies.

When a pinch of rock salt is taken with a teaspoon of fresh grated ginger before a main meal, it can act appetizer and it gets the salivary and digestive juices flowing. Other natural sources of salt can be found in seaweed and now widely available samphire.

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. http://www.geetavara.co.uk

Get sprouting

Sprouting mung

Sprouted mung beans

Sprouting is a great way to optimise the nutritional value of grains, beans and legumes as they contain the energy, enzymes and vitamins needed to transform seeds into strong healthy plants. By the simple method of sprouting, mung beans, adzuki beans, chick peas, fenugreek, red clover, radish, sunflower seeds, rye berries and alfalfa and many grains can be eaten as a tasty addition to a super food salad, stir fry’s, in green juices and can also be lightly sautéed with ghee and spices as a snack.

Sprouted beans are alkalizing and a live food with high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, proteins and anti-oxidants. Packed with all this goodness sprouted foods help fight against toxins and boost the body’s immune system

Growing your own sprouts is easy. Simply take 2 cups of mung beans. Wash in cold water until water runs clear and soak them in a sprouter or glass bowl in room temperature water 2 -3 times as much as seeds over night (8-12 hours). Soaking neutralises the enzyme inhibitors. Rinse thoroughly and drain off the next day. Place in a cheese cloth, sieve or colander and rest in a covered bowl and leave at room temperature out of direct sunlight. The seeds need to be kept damp and aired, but not wet, otherwise it could spoil. Leave for 2 -3 days rinsing every 12 hours with low impact. They are then ready. For larger sprouts leave for 4-5 days. Most sprouts are edible as soon as you see a tail (the root) emerging from the seed.

Spice up your mung sprouts

Lightly sauté some cumin in ghee in a large heavy based pan. Add some turmeric and ginger and then the mung sprouts. Season with lime/lemon and salt and paprika.

The Ayurvedic First Aid Kit

Ayurvedic First AidWe all have a first aid tin at home packed with plasters, antiseptic cream & wipes, antacids, anti-inflammatory, pain killing drugs, etc. But what if you wanted to achieve a quick first aid fix naturally? With just a little know how and patience you can easily find a remedy from within your own kitchen cupboards for so many common conditions. Here are 8 of my favourite first aid natural remedies.

Sore throat: A classic combination is honey and turmeric, mix a dessert spoon of both of these ingredients and suck on the spoon. Also gargle with warm water, turmeric and rock salt. Just watch the results.

Cuts & grazes: apply a paste of honey and turmeric, this is both anti-septic and will help the wound heal super fast.

Burn – immediately run through cold water, then apply a paste of fresh aloe vera gel with a pinch of turmeric powder. Once the initial sting subsides you can continue with aloe or apply a little ghee or coconut oil with rose and sandal wood to enhance the cooling effect.

Headache – for a temporal headache, apply a paste of dry ginger to the forehead and lie down for about 5-6 minutes, remove the paste and take some rest. Headaches are often a sign of dehydration, so increase your water intake. A local massage to the forehead, temples, neck and shoulders can help loosen up tightness that can contribute to headaches. A downward dog yoga pose can help increase the blood supply the head.

Acid reflux – Often caused by an increase in the pitta dosha; a pitta pacifying diet would be advised. Correct diet will play a very important role in managing this condition.  As a quick home remedy try chewing on fennel seeds after food or drinking aloe vera juice. Drink a small glass of buttermilk with a pinch of asafoetida, turmeric and fenugreek with or directly after the meal.

Indigestion – Simple, avoid overeating! Since we live in an indulgent society and want a quick fix and you can have pomegranate juice or seeds or drink hot water infused with lemon juice. Fasting is also a favourable option to allow the digestive system to recover. Drink buttermilk after the meal to improves digestion with cumin seeds and a little salt.

Cough – For dry cough take a decoction of liquorice root. For a cough with mucous take a decoction of turmeric, ginger, lemon, pinch of black pepper and a squeeze of honey once cool. You can also chew on ginger root and eat a little paste of garlic.

Diarrhoea – drink a glass of buttermilk with a pinch of salt and cumin as a general remedy. A great remedy is powdered mango seed taken with honey twice a day. A mix of dry ginger, rock salt and jaggery is very effective in cases of loose motions cause by indigestion.

Palliative care for cancer patients

Herbal TeasRadiation to cure cancer affected parts of the body can leave a patient feeling drained of energy and feeling low in spirits. In the early stages various measure can be taken to holistically prevent cancerous tumours from developing such as herbal oils and pastes with heath therapy as well as the internal cleansing treatments of pancha karma to reduce deep seated toxins in the body. Treatments are tailored for the particular type of arbuda (cancer) and care is advised based on the individuals doshic constitution. If allopathic treatment has already taken place then palliative care can be given to improve the quality of life.

Ayurvedic treatment focuses on improving the immunity by strengthening the digestive power and metabolism of the patient. Treatment would start with eliminating the damaged tissues and then protection of the healthy tissues cells from becoming damaged and then regeneration of healthy tissues.

Diet is very much a part of the wellness programme when it comes to an Ayurvedic treatment. Though not an extensive list, supportive foods include, ghee, goats milk, abundance of fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables suitable for your dosha, these can includes soups, stews, sprouted beans, raw soaked nuts and semi-dried fruits such as dates, figs, raisins etc. Tailor-made herbal decoctions are given to control cancerous growths. Foods to avoid of course include lifeless foods that come in tinned, fried, junk and fast foods forms as well as over spiced and vata aggravating foods. Practitioners can give advice on specific food choices based on the type of cancer, for example liver patients would be advised a reduced fat diet and renal patients would be advised a reduced salt diet.

Support for the patients mind and emotions are just as important as the physical. Staying positive is a key component in improving the quality of life and the healing process. Uplifting books, activities that make the patient happy turn the focus away from dwelling on the disease itself. It’s a perfect time to adopt breathing exercises and meditation that create inner stillness and increase prana. The healing power of our mind and attitudes is incredible. Gentle exercise can be stimulating both physically and mentally. Two easily available herbs that can enhance immunity are withania somnifera and tinospora cordifolia. Consult a practitioner before use.

Dress up you salad with a doshic friendly finish

Since it summertime and we all want to eat healthy & enjoy a salad as the main event, but sometimes we can be left feeling bloated and gassy, so salad choices are important as we sometimes find it difficult to digest certain raw foods. Here are a sample of salad dressing recipes to help you spruce up your salads in line with your constitution.

Vata dressing: Orange Sesame dressing: ½ orange juice & zest, ½ lemon juice & zest, 1/3 cup cold pressed sesame oil, pinch of salt & ¼ tsp of black pepper, 1tsp date sugar or jaggery. You can add 1 tsp of finely chopped rosemary or thyme or ½ tsp of ajwain seeds.

Pitta dressing: Mint & Lime dressing: 2 tbsp sunflower oil, juice & zest of 1 lime, 3-4 finely chopped mint leaves (or basil/coriander if you prefer), pinch of salt. replace oil with honey and use as a dressing for fruit salad.

Kapha dressing: Honey Mustard dressing: juice & zest of ½ lemon, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tsp of wholegrain mustard (or mustard or choice or ½ mustard seeds or dry powder), 2 tbsp raw honey, 1 tsp olive oil, 1 tsp finely chopped tarragon or thyme (optional), pinch of salt & black pepper.