It has always been a conundrum to me that athletes and people with type A personalities are Pitta types because these are the types of people that are the most susceptible to inflammation which would compromise their athletic performance and cognitive function. Not necessarily from the increased demands that they put on their bodies and minds on a daily basis, but because of their tendency to respond to imbalance through inflammation. This is the cornerstone of imbalanced pitta and let’s look at how this inflammatory response often occurs.
I have some time off from school and I am spending it on a biodynamic farm in Southern Oregon. It is so peaceful and quiet here. In deep contrast to my life in Oakland.
I have noticed that I believe all the hard work and rushing will have the eventual goal of landing me permanently in the environment that I am experiencing this week on the farm. The quiet, the community, the peace. Yet, even with so much unscheduled time I still wake up in the morning with a sense of haste.
We are a culture of causes. Always looking for a reason a diagnosis, someone to blame for everything and anything that has ever occurred in our lives. Although some things are quite random in the case of many conditions we can trace them back to a primary cause. Take the following symptoms for example
Within the realm of Ayurveda there are three gunas or qualities that define the universe. These qualities can be considered to be the perspective that we bring to the events in our life. This perspective colors all our activities and leads us towards outcomes and behaviors that may be appropriate and beneficial or self-destructive. By understanding the three gunas we can choose to bring in more of the perspective or mindset that allows us to achieve our goals. The three gunas are:
Being a health care provider since 2006 I have seen a lot of changes every year as a new pivotal study is published and everyone rushes to be a part of the newest fad diet. During all of this I have continued to prescribe diets based on peoples constitution (vitality, digestive strength, mindset, etc and imbalance. This structure is not a reproducible and cannot be called a diet because it is uniquely tailored to the individual. However I have found some interesting data to support this.
We have all been there. In a state of panic or obsessive worry that we just can’t seem to break free of. It affects our relationships, our ability to function and our motivation for life. So what can be done? In Ayurveda anxiety is considered to be a Vata condition. This is because the Vata dosha is governed by the space element and space resides in the ear. When you are anxious your internal voice won’t stop its monologue. It is said that worry is in the ear, not in the eye. This condition is often the result of cortical rigidity. Which takes place when the limbic system and emotional brain have lost the capacity to respond flexibly to changing circumstances. This makes us worry and obsess, because we are trying to stop change from happening. As all of us know that is impossible so better to cultivate the emotional responsiveness and re-establish our cortical plasticity. Some ways to do this are:
I admit it. I am subject to the same tendencies as everyone. Yesterday I ate a half a block of goat cheese. Why didn’t I stop when I knew it was enough? Because I didn’t employ my strategy for stopping. Willpower by itself is rarely enough unless you are from India and have been meditating since you were 2. Gandhi and Eknath Easwaren seemed to have more willpower than the average person, but they also had powerful motivation and probably some deeper insight that fed their willpower. For the rest of us relying on willpower probably won’t work. In order to get control of your eating habits there must be an upstream, in the stream and downstream approach. I call this the Stream strategy.
These days asking someone “How are you?” basically means hello. As a clinician the questions I ask are more than how are you, but I consistently find the same thing. Someone will say that they basically feel OK. Nothing serious is holding them back and that they are doing fine. After some further interrogation it becomes clear that feeling OK includes fatigue, poor sleep, bad skin and bloating. That doesn’t sound “fine” to me, but many of us have learned to put up with a certain amount of stress and discomfort. What if I was to tell you that this is not necessary? That you no longer need to sweep things under the rug and you can remove 80% of your symptoms if you were supported to complete five things. Sounds too good to be true? I have seen it work time and time again and I encourage you to make a commitment to incorporating these five things into your life and see the results.
Your diet is math. It is simple like math if you add this then it will equal this. Of course depending on what you are adding to. Meaning that your unique bio identity is what you are adding or subtracting from through the foods that you eat. Just like with math you can go too far in either direction. At first it may be necessary to subtract certain foods from your diet that have been linked to inflammation, but if you diet becomes too simple or too homogenous then it may be time to add some new kinds of foods in.
I know that the title of this article sounds a little farfetched. Stress is a natural part of life, but I have been hearing a lot of talk from my clients lately about gaining weight easily, feeling tired, weak, stress and anxious. Most of them are calling it adrenal fatigue. Which by all accounts is the result of their adrenal glands being worn out from the stress of modern life. There is a huge supplement industry that is growing up around this theory and plenty of marketing materials to support it.
The adrenal glands are small lumps that sit on top of our kidneys. There primary function is to secrete various hormones including the most popular hormonal response to stress, cortisol. These days who hasn’t heard about cortisol? It is true that the adrenal glands can stop working. In an autoimmune condition called Addison’s disease the immune system destroys the adrenal glands. The public is led to believe that adrenal fatigue is a mild version of Addison’s disease that is caused by stress.
Chai is becoming a popular substitute for coffee because it helps people get going in the morning without as much caffeine. Chai is a traditional Indian drink and it has a lot of healing properties. Many people depend on stimulants to get going in the morning. Like everything in Ayurveda we must assess whether it is appropriate or inappropriate and coffee may not be appropriate for most people. Try this morning tea cocktail instead of coffee in order to reduce your dependency on stimulants.
This tea may seem reminiscent of Bulletproof Coffee, and it is. They serve similar purposes and it is for this reason that I named it 16 Carat Chai. It is also similar to Tim Ferris’s Titanium Tea.
In locations where there are four seasons every season has unique characteristics that define it. Spring is characterized by cool, wet, variable qualities. Summer in most places is primarily hot, dry and intense. Fall brings about the qualities of cool, windy, dry and variable weather patterns. Winter is characteristically cold, wet and steady. Each of these characteristic qualities affects our physiology and affects the growth of certain plants and the animals that consume them. For example in the Spring the stored food like nuts and seeds that were used during the winter are all gone and there is less availability of food. What is available are primarily spring greens and roots that tend to cleanse the blood, lymph and heal the kidneys. Examples of these kinds of herbal foods are dandelion greens and chickweed. These herbal foods are perfect for gently cleansing the body of the heaviness and rich foods that predominate in the winter. If the diet is not adjusted to honor this natural cycle then the heavy food can bio accumulate in the body leading to conditions such as obesity, heart disease and cancer. That is why aligning with these rhythms can prevent the accumulation of wastes caused by eating too much of one kind of food until the body can no longer adapt and it becomes aggravated thus leading to disease.
If my hard core Ayurvedic friends knew I was a fan of the smoothie bowl they would probably disown me and call the Ama police. If you are not familiar with the ama police they are the Ayurvedic individuals committed to serve and protect your digestion from mis-digestion. I wish there was a similar community for miscommunication, but that is another topic. The basics of a smoothie bowl is to turn a smoothie into a meal and if you are have every enjoyed one this Ayurvedic tips can help keep your digestion strong while enjoying your smoothie bowl.
Guest Post by Nathan Platt
When ancient people started picking through the topmost layer of earth to find what was buried underneath the soil, the first metal that they came across and started using with purpose was copper. The soft metal was easy to work into useful shapes, and although it was not strong enough to withstand heavy impacts without reforming its shape, it was perfectly suitable for making simple objects such as containers.
Thus began the first practical uses of metal by ancient civilizations some eight thousand years ago, followed quickly by the realization that copper was a particularly good material for holding and storing drinking water. Ancient copper containers dating back thousands of years have been found in civilizations around the world from ancient Egypt, Hindustan, and Central and South America.
For thousands of years plants have been used as medicine. It has not been until recently that the scientific community has begun to study and isolate certain compounds in plants and utilize them as medicine. This strategy of isolation and reductionism has proven useful to develop new drugs that treat many diseases. Unfortunately in conjunction with these advances in treatment there has been an explosion of unwanted side effects normally mitigated by the synergistic nature of the whole plant. Ayurveda has long since seen the strength of using whole plants and combining them in artful way to create personalized cures. Just like any effective team or group when herbs are combined together they become more powerful than their individual parts.
Chances are you have tried everything. You have tried cutting calories, but calories feed muscle, bones and fat so if you have done this and you are exercising or doing cardio then cutting calories is doing you harm. The more muscle that you lose the more likely it will be that you will have trouble losing belly fat, shrink your thighs and firm up your arms. It is not about the amount of calories that you eat it is more important to pay attention to the type of calories you are eating. Not all calories are created equal choose veggies whenever possible.
When we think about our motivation and what goes wrong we learn that the nature of our motivation is extremely important in whether we will be able to sustain a new habit long term. Most of us have been brought up to have a reward mentality. This mentality encourages us to receive extrinsic rewards for a job well done. This is partly because of the way that school and work are organized. We receive rewards and credit for what we do on the outside. Because of this many of us have lost track of what our intrinsic motivations are.
Each different Dosha has a unique way in which they can get motivated intrinsically. This explains why an individual with a higher proportion of one of the Dosha may be more motivated then another.
Small wins were considered one of the keys to Michael Phelps winning strategy in Beijing at the Olympics. The idea behind small wins is that everything we do can be seen as a win or a loss and when we create a lot of small wins that gives us the momentum and good mood to be successful when we face real challenges.
With Michael Phelps he would eat breakfast and do the same stretches and training regimen before each race. Each one of these activities creates a sense of accomplishment and success and builds on itself. I feel this sensation when I am hiking. Traversing cliff side trails or getting to the top of a mountain gives me a sense of accomplishment. In our modern lives we have fewer small wins which will make us less insulated towards rejection and challenges.
The hair and fingernails can be a good determinant of the overall health of your body. Not to mention that the quality of our hair is also really important for your self-confidence. When you hair starts to thin or recede it can be an indication that your hormones are out of balance and something needs to happen to get them back on track. In addition to hormones the dominant theories also include nutrient deficiencies, autoimmune conditions and stress.
Ayurveda is uniquely attuned to be able to address stress related hair loss. Ayurveda has precise practices from maintaining energy levels, balancing sleep patterns, maintaining a positive mood and improving our behavior and decision making abilities. By combining all of these we get a more complete picture of the person and the effect their decisions have on their appearance.
The basic human condition is dependent upon skillfully tending the fire within in the form of digestion. Life itself cannot be sustained if the process of learning how to tend this flame s is not of primary importance. This means that we are looking for ways our diet, lifestyle and relationships can support samagni or balanced digestion. Remember the children’s story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” where she tests their porridge, chairs and beds to find the one that is just right? This is the essence of the science of Agni. We will know that our Agni is sama or balanced when what we eat makes us feel just right. Herbs and spices can have a pronounced and long term effect on the body and mind. That is why something as simple as an herbal tea when drank regularly can bring balance to the digestive fire.
Nobody wants to cleanse over the holidays, there is so much good food and cheer and it feels good to let loose a little. Many people have the willpower to re-establish there healthy routines once the holidays are over, but that is not true for everyone.
Most people gain an average of five pounds over the holidays and then never get rid of it. That is probably why there are so many heroic programs in the New Year. Bootcamps, cleanses and the like promise to reset the system and leave you feeling your best. While this may be true, my practice of Ayurveda has always revolved around the idea: get the most benefit with as little effort as possible.
I have often heard that "Leaders are Readers" in an effort to see if that was true I made a concerted effort to read more this year. Any books that I didn't read cover to cover didn't make it on this list, but I wanted to share what I read last year.
One thing I will say about Ayuveda is that it is very thorough. It dives deep into all the possibilities and provides insight and answers too many of life’s questions and quandaries. This level of comprehensiveness is often interpreted as complication.
There are many gifted Ayurvedic practitioners on the scene who have taken it upon themselves to make Ayurveda more accessible. The New Year Re-Solution program is inspired by them. It is geared towards making Ayurveda useable for everyone.
As the health and wellness culture seems to have a “hard on” for cleansing this book was written with that in mind. Also re-solution is not a true cleanse.
In Ayurveda there are two primary therapeutic actions that are employed and these are rejuvenation and detoxification. I talk about them briefly in the book and mention their Ayurvedic names of Brahmana and Langana. All interventions can be differentiated to have one of these intentions.
Within the category of Langana is the advanced Ayurvedic cleansing technique of Pancha Karma, which is still very young in the West. The many practices that make up a Pancha Karma experience have elements of both detoxification and rejuvenation. That is because the practitioners of this art recognized that cleansing had to be balanced so that the body would not get stressed and respond by holding on to toxicity.
This approach that blends rejuvenation to reduce depletion and cleansing to remove toxicity is called palliation. The definition of palliation is:
to relieve or lessen without curing; mitigate; alleviate
Palliation takes a long term view of the situation. It provides small steps that have a cumulative effect over time; which lessen, mitigate and alleviate the symptomology that would inspires someone to do a cleanse. So why didn’t I call it New Year’s Palliation. Well besides the obvious word play using people’s inspiration in the new year to have a resolution I’m not quite sure anyone knows what palliation is outside of the medical community. So let’s break down the word resolution.
Re is defined as:
Preposition: in the case of; with reference to
a prefix, occurring originally in loanwords from Latin, used with the meaning “again” or “again and again” to indicate repetition, or with the meaning “back” or “backward” to indicate backward motion.
The preposition is obvious. We are all looking for a solution to our problems. The prefix is less obvious. The Re-Solution is not a magic bullet, it is not a one-time event. It is a ritual that when done year after year it has a profound effect on the body. Believe me I have seen the results with countless clients over the last decade. The backward connotation of re refers to most peoples want to be young again. Re-solution, like its parent Pancha Karma, works to turn back time and help you to look and feel young again.
In essence the Re-solution program is aimed at providing a thorough program that can be easily followed. The recipes and recommendations are geared towards repetition year after year and so they are focused on being delicious and nutritious. Lastly the small steps taken every year through this program will have a cumulative effect so that over a period of time unique to you as an individual you will find yourself transformed by the new habits and practices that you have adopted.
While Re-Solution is simple and safe it can be a powerful way to change your life for the better, but like many things it takes time and will not happen all at once. Hopefully you will feel inspired to experience the thorough, tasty and transformative effects of a Re-Solution.
Chances are you are a foodie. Maybe you love food as much as I do. Finding yourself meandering through specialty grocery stores looking for obscure ingredients or spending a Sunday afternoon cooking just for the love of it. Or perhaps you are not as crazy about food as I am.
Either way you are probably interested in food not just for its delicious flavor but also for its health benefits. You recognize that food can be used as medicine and so you spend time in your kitchen, not just because it is your favorite room in your house, but because you want to improve your health. This was me in 2006 when I graduated from the California College of Ayurveda and started to offer detoxification programs to my clients.
I would try and impress them with my culinary skills and create programs that would get them back on track. Those early years of clinical experience were not easy. All the theory I learned in school did not add up to be useful to the person sitting across from me.
So I studied deeper into Ayurveda and yoga, but I also started to dive into social and behavioral psychology and I started to simplify my relationship with ethnic and exotic food. Over time I continued to refine my approach. What I found is that there are some simple steps in healthy food preparation and that recipes do not have to be overly complicated in order to be flavorful and delicious. So I started to simplify. I took the less is more approach. I started to ask myself what is the minimum that I can ask this client to do and get the most results.
Fast forward to 2010 and I started to feel like I had finally found a framework that worked. The reason is that I started to get a lot of clients asking if I could put the program I was leading them through into book form so they could share it with their friends. Honestly I was reluctant. I am a huge fan of personalized medicine and providing high quality support to my patients so putting the program in a book seemed, well inconsistent with providing the best quality care possible.
I kept teaching the program and kept refining it and I started to notice something else. When I first started I would receive a lot of emails asking for clarification and support about the program and so I would answer the email and then include the information in the next version. I had the great gift of clinical experience to teach me how Ayurveda was useful for the modern woman and man (the women outnumber the men). So that over time I started to get a lot less questions.
It was at this point that I realized maybe a book could be sufficient. The challenge was breaking through cleanse mentality. Everybody wants to cleanse. Many people feel out of sorts and they believe if they can just cleanse they will finally find the breakthrough that they have been searching for. Not to devalue this possibility I have seen it happen, but it is rare.
The Re-Solution program could be considered a gentle cleanse, but its primary aim is to reset positive eating patterns after the holidays. It does this by treating any deep seated depletion from excess work and overdoing for long periods of time. It encourages you to slow down and to replenish your reserves of energy and vitality so that your body has the strength to cleanse more deeply when the time is right. That is why it is called a Re-Solution and not a cleanse.This is really what makes this program unique.