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

Milk – to boil or not to boil

A pitcher of fresh milk on the terraceWith so much questioning around the subject of milk, whether it’s good for you, if the alternatives are more digestible, are most people lactose intolerant etc etc. There is no doubt there is confusion. Here is the Ayurvedic perspective. Cows milk is considered to be the best and a complete food, providing unique nutrition with ‘saatvic’ qualities when it is digested properly, nourishing the body tissues, balancing the doshas and promoting emotional balance and ojas (a refined substance providing strength, immunity and contentment). With such nourishing properties why would we want to exclude milk from our diet?

Western research has found milk harmful largely due to their mode of intake. When milk is taken cold, unspiced, homogenized, combined with unsuitable foods and in excess, health concerns will prevail. The secret to milk as a healthy food lies in the way it is prepared and consumed.

First is it advisable to choose organic milk which does not contain hormones that are fed to cows to increase milk production. Traditionally, ayurveda recommends milk to be taken raw (not homogenized or pasteurised). In order to digest milk properly it should be brought to the boil for at least 5 minutes. The process of boiling changes the molecular structure of the milk, breaking down the milk proteins into digestible amino acids ensuring that it easier and lighter to digest, taken with spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, turmeric can help reduce the accumulation of phlegm for kapha types and its cooling properties.

So we may argue that pasteurisation cleanses milk of bacteria, therefore it has already been ‘treated with heat’. However, it’s worth noting that the process does make the milk more digestible. The process of pasteurising is a treatment of milk to the temperature of 71.7 °C (161 °F) for 15–20 seconds which assists in the partial breakdown of milk proteins, making them very difficult to digest for the human system.

Furthermore, homogenization only serves to make it easier to pack, store and retail, benefiting only the organizations that want to make profit by retailing milk, and clearly overlooking the health issues. It is no wonder that there are so many complaints of milk intolerance and the switch to alternatives.

However it is safe to say that the cow’s milk whose virtues were praised by the ancient ayurvedic seers, is not the same milk that we are getting to consume today, so it will not have the same properties. We can do our level best to make informed choices to consume organic milk and undertake the process of boiling so we can still digest and get the best of what is available without having to substitute. Ayurveda also recommends goats milk, since it is less mucus forming and easier to digest than cow’s milk.

Milk should not be taken with incompatible foods such as fish, meat, fruits, foods that are sour, bitter, salty and astringent which can cause the build up of harmful toxins. Milk can however be taken with sweet tasting foods such as rice, dates and almonds. Boiled milk at night with spices can be a fantastic aid to sleep. Why not try the Geeta Vara Ayurveda ‘goodnight milk blend’.

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The wonders of Tulasi (holy basil),

botanical name: Ocimum Sanctum

holy basil

Tulasi – holy basil

Tulasi, cultivated in India for thousands of years for its religious and medicinal purposes is an aromatic leafy plant. Of the two types, rama and shyam tulasi, the latter is considered to contain more medicinal properties. Ancient Ayurvedic seers, including charaka recognised tulasi as the ‘elixir of life’.

Of the plant, the leaf is most commonly used for its heath benefits, although the whole plant including the stem, roots, flowers and seeds have various medicinal properties. Tulasi can be taken in a variety of forms including fresh and dried leaf tea, fresh green leaves, alcohol tinctures, medicated ghee and used in external body treatments in herbal poultices and pastes.

Rich in vitamin A, C and minerals such as zinc, calcium, iron, chlorophyll and other phytochemicals, this pillar in Ayurvedic herbology enhances digestion, absorption and general health and well-being with positive effects on the mind and body. Tulasi is commonly used to treat various conditions from coughs, colds, flu, headaches, arthritis, ear ache, rheumatism, fever, allergies, intestinal parasites, insect bites as well as being a key herb in formulations used in treatment for conditions of the heart, blood, liver, kidneys, throat and metabolism to name but a few.

As a powerful adaptogen, holy basil has the capacity to enhance the body’s natural adaptability to physical, mental and emotional stress and various stress-related degenerative disorders.

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Insight into ayurvedic food combining

Ayurvedic Incompatible Foods

Ayurvedic Incompatible Foods

Unlike the traditional view of a balanced diet consisting of basic food groups, such as dairy, grains, fats, meats, fruit and veg. Ayurveda suggests an approach for correct diet based on the individual’s doshic constitution (vata, pitta, kapha). Every food has its own taste (rasa), a heating or cooling energy (virya) and post-digestive effect (vipaka). When we combine food that consist of different tastes, energy and post-digestive effect, the digestive fire (agni) gets disturbed, slows down and start producing toxins in the system.

Not only can incompatible foods remain in the stomach for several hours, combining foods improperly can cause indigestion, fermentation, putrefaction and gas formation. If prolonged it can lead to toxemia and lead to various other diseases.

When foods are eaten correctly or separately they can aid digestion. eating bananas with milk; egg with fish; radishes with milk, bananas or raisins; lemon with yoghurt; melons with any other foods; raw foods with cooked foods; fruits and grains, are some examples of incompatible foods.

What happens when we eat for example melon and milk? Well milk has a laxative effect and requires more time to digest and melon is a diurectic. The digestive enzymes required to digest melons cause the milk to curdle due to the sourness. This type of constant digestive confusion can be the cause of many diseases, especially related to respiratory or skin conditions.

An Ayurvedic practitioner will be able to offer suitable dietary guidance considering nutritional value, constitution, seasons, age and any disease condition. The key to all of this is to start slowly, one thing at a time such as beginning with separating fruits from other foods.

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Hello world!

Welcome to my blog via WordPress.com!

This is my very first post and i’d like to introduce myself here, you can read more about me here.

I hope to use this space to share an oasis of ayurvedic knowledge by posting interesting facts including herbal remedies, recipes, management of health conditions and general health tips. I hope you enjoy reading the posts. As I continue to blog I hope to make recommendations on products and various other treatments and introduce interesting individuals doing inspiring work.

Health and Happiness to you all,

Geeta