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Monday, February 21, 2011

The Solution to the Health Care Crisis. Yes, it is that Easy :)

Today, we hear the problems surrounding health care in the United States almost on a daily basis. How can we resolve our Health Care Crisis? How can we afford to take care of all of the health problems facing our nation with dependable and adequate medical treatments? We will need to look at the principles of our present health care system and how it is supposed to work in theory first in order to arrive at a solution. In Theory, if we are to pay a premium for health care we should be able to afford to heal our citizens who are sick. However, modernity has pushed us to a state of unhealthy habits and a care-free sentiment about our health. We stopped taking responsibility for our own health when we began to pay Insurance Companies to take on our own responsibility so we would not have to worry about it.

The truth is that we should always be responsible and conscious of our health. If we were to educate ourselves better about our health, the benefits would be instant and we would not have to pay so much for health care both personally and collectively. If we were to be more conscious about our health and what we eat we would see tremendous benefits in terms of our health and the amount of doctors and hospital visits we have in a lifetime. The simple principles of digestion, nutrition and diet would bring enormous benefits to the general health of our nation. If we are to truly solve the health care problem we need to look to the source of the problem: not taking responsibility and care of our own health. What we need to do is to engrain the principles of health eating, exercise, and consciousness into our every day lives. There are many diseases plaguing our country and a big part of them can be alleviated through healthy eating. We can also become a stronger nation by the implementation and practice of Yoga which brings many benefits physically, mentally, and spiritually. It is important to bear in mind that we should really try to learn from our history and the history of other civilizations. There are many cultural traditions which provide many methods of healing naturally. Ayurveda is one such tradition being the most ancient and also the most comprehensive medical science in the history of mankind. In Ayurveda, you are taught everything relating to health from your breathing, to your posture, your nutrition, digestion, meditation practices, natural herbal formulas, natural oils and so much more. You can choose to adopt the methods of your liking to try them first. What is clear in Ayurveda is that there are many ways to heal naturally and that we are a part of nature with which we can align ourselves. Ayurveda can provide a complete education on health and the principles are easily incorporated into your everyday life. The responsibility for our health never ceases to be our own. We need to nurture ourselves and value ourselves so that we can begin to take care of ourselves.

The other problem we face is that we constantly undervalue our own health. We ascribe value to so many other things but fail to remember that we cannot enjoy anything unless we have our health first. We only value health when we are sick and then when we feel better we forget why we got sick in the first place. Our health should be the top priority in our lives or we should at least provide for some health eating and exercise for the same. Eating organic foods and balanced meals, drinking at least 3 liters of water daily and taking some nutritional supplements can go a long way in improving your health. If we began at the fast food level and demanded not to have so many processed foods consumed in our nation I think we would find that our nation would begin this healing process. It is unbelievable that we are still feeding our citizenry processed foods that are very low in nutritional content and very high on fats which are very damaging to our health.

The problem with health care is a problem we created. We should look to the source of disease in our country if we are to solve this problem. The heart of the matter is related to our own perspective of health. We need to educate ourselves further and to simplify our health education so that many Americans can benefit from natural healing and other countries can follow suit in the same way.


*The opinions expressed herein are the authors and may or may not reflect the opinions of Kerala Ayurveda Ltd. Or any of its companies.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ayurvedic Medicines and Preventative Measures


Ayurveda means Knowledge of life. It focuses on – ‘Swaasthasya Samrakshanam’ which means Maintaining health and ‘Aaturasya Vikara Prashamanam’ means removing diseases. Ayurveda is the only science which provides the scientific ways to prevent diseases.

Ayurveda advises certain daily regimes, which a man if follows, will not be afflicted with any disease. Most of day to days diseases which are termed as LIFE STYLE DISORDERS, which include from allergy to cancer, are occurring due to the bad regimes or non-regimes life.

Following are some of the Regimens that are mentioned in Ayurveda which if followed daily will maintain a human healthy. They should be practiced in order.

1) Braahma muhurta Uttistanam(Getting up at Brahma muhurta)-
Brahma muhurta is the time nearly 90 mins before sunrise. Getting up between 4.30 am and 5 am can be considered best, between 5 and 5.30 am is moderate. But, should never sleep after 5.45 am. It is said as ‘Braahmae muhurtae uttistaet swasto rakshaartam aayushaha’-a person who wants to maintain his life healthy, should wake up at braahma muhurta

2) Danta Dhavana(Brushing of Teeth)-
The next activity is to brush your teeth. Teeth have to be brushed with some medicinal plant leaves or powders or stem twigs. It should be also be practiced after having food or drinks. At least teeth should be thoroughly brushed using fingers after food. The majority cause for teeth and gum problems is poor oral hygiene.

3) Jihwa Nirlekhana(Tongue Scraping)-
After Danta dhavana in the morning, scrap your tongue mildly with any metal tongue scrapers. It will remove the accumulated wastes on your tongue and bad odour of mouth and keeps mouth fresh.

4) Anjanam(Application of Kaajal in eyes)-
This is one of the most important regimes that even women are not practicing today. Anjanam if done every day will prevent dryness of eyes, which further prevents all infectious and communicable eye diseases, will enhance color vision, create good looking eyes and make eyes able to see small objects. In Short, Applying Anjana every day will reduce chances of refractive errors, color blindness, infective and communicable diseases of eyes. Chemical eyeliners may make your eye shine, but they will definitely harm your eyes.

5) Nasyam(Instilling nasal drops)-
Instillation of medicated drops in the nose is nasya. Nasya is specially indicated for prevention of diseases organs above neck i.e., nose, head, hairs etc. Doing nasya daily with 2 drops of medicated oil in each nostril will result in strong healthy shoulder, neck, normally functioning eyes, ears, brain and prevention of premature graying, excessive hair fall, recurrent rhinitis, recurrent sinusitis, pain in the neck, recurrent headaches, stress and makes voice soft and clear.

6) Gandoosham(Holding medicated liquid in mouth)-
Holding mouthful of medicated liquid in mouth for some time is gandoosha. It prevents Enamel damage thus preventing teeth sensitivity to hot and cold, removes gum damage and makes its root strong thus assuring a good oral and dental health. It Should be practiced atleast once in a week.

7) Dhoomapanam(Inhalation of medicated smoke)-
Inhalation of medicated smoke is dhoomapanam. It prevents problems pertaining to sinuses, palate, chronic cough, respiratory complaints like asthma, premature hair fall or graying, and any infection relating to ears.

8) Taamboola Charvanam(Chewing Betel Leaves)-
It has been advised to chew betel leaves with some medicated drugs like pepper, pure camphor etc and never with Tobacco. It enhances salivary secretion and prevents cancer of mouth. It also removes dirt from mouth and deodorizes mouth, keeps them fresh and keeps gums healthy. It will also scrap the yellow deposits from the teeth and make your teeth white and shining It should be practiced atleast once in a week.

9) Abhyangam(Oil Application)-
Application of medicated oil should be done every day. It prevents aging of skin and dryness and cracking of skin. Abhyanga should be done on Face, Head, Ears and Foot. Applying oil on face prevents the formation of Black Circles, Black Spots, Black heads and other cosmetic problems of the face. It should be practiced atleast once in a week.

10) Vyaayamam(Excerise)-
It should be followed everyday. It reduces Excess Fat Accumulation and Related Disorders, Increases Quality of Metabolic Reactions in body, Reduces unwanted fats and gives shape to body and reduces overweight. It should be practiced only till ‘Ardhasakti’ i.e. till you start breathing through your mouth alone or till your mouth gets dry or till your face, arm-pit and body gets sweat. If practiced even after that it, will create bad affects.

11) Mardana(Massage)-
After Vyayama mild mardana is advised as it will produce relaxation of muscles and normalizes blood supply.

12) Udwartanam(Powder Massage)-
After Mardana powder massage with medicated drugs should be done. It Removes Excess fat, Fats deposits from muscles and liver, reduces clot formation in heart vessels and produces shining skin. It removes all the skin problems like excessive moist skin, and fungal infections of skin. If Rubbed on face it will produce fair skin. Atleast it should be practiced once in a week.

13) Snanam(bath)-
This is also a regime which is not being done regularly today. Bathing of Body should be done with warm water and head with cool water. Never bath head with hot water. It causes defects for eyes, head and hairs. Never have bath immediately after having food.

14) After Bath, have your morning food. It is advised ‘jeernae hitam mitam cha adtyaat’-eat only after the previous days dinner has been well digested. Take the morning meal only in minimum quantity, and that too which is good for health. Avoid fried and Oily foods in the morning.

The procedures like Anjanam, Nasyam, Gandoosham, Dhoomapanam, Tamboola Charvanam, Abhyangam and Udwartanam should not be directly started if there is some active problems going inside body. They should be only done under an expert advise with suitable medicines for subsiding the problem.

Body gets healthy when,

- there is hunger at proper time
- Eats food only after getting hunger
- there is complete and easy digestion of consumed food
- natural urges likes motion, urine, faltus passage are not suppressed
- there is lightness of body
- all indriyas are functioning properly
- there is sound sleep and waking at proper time

When the above are properly practiced body attained bala(immune power or resistance), Varna(Complexion), Enthusiasm and Best Quality metabolic power of body.

So beware: if you find any one of the above components deranged, your body has been set in a problematic state and it’s the right time to give care to it, so that very severe diseases can be prevented.

Prevention is always better than cure. When you have simple low economic regimes that can be practiced daily to make you healthy, why to spend lakhs of rupees for curing the most dreaded diseases occurred after a non-regimous life. Think!

Quality of Life is always in your hands. You can make it good or bad.

Follow Ayurveda. Lead a Healthy Life.

Dr. Praveen Balakrishnan BAMS,
Registered Ayurveda Practioner
TD West Road Ernakulam.

For more information please log on to:

Kerala Ayurveda Academy and Clinics


Kerala Ayurveda Clinics and Wellness

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Path of Ayurveda

We are constantly asking ourselves the perennial questions in Life. Why are we here? What are we here for? What is the meaning of life? Short of answering these questions there is one thing that becomes abundantly clear as you walk through your experience in life. We have the ability to become better, healthier and happier human beings. We are built with the capacity to develop ourselves psychologically, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Once you discover this truth it almost becomes a responsibility to help and develop yourself. So the questions remains – how do I do it. What are the steps that I need to take to become a better, happier and healthier human being.

Ayurveda is the most ancient and comprehensive healing system in the world. Dating back almost 4 to 5 thousand years ago, Ayurveda blossomed as a natural healing system and still remains a holistic healing system that can bring many benefits to our lives. The beauty of Ayurveda can be found in its understanding of the human being as a mind, body, spirit complex. It would seem obvious that we are not just bodies but are actually a combination of mind, body, and spirit but in our health care system we treat ourselves as if we were only a body. We prescribe pharmaceuticals to treat our bodily diseases and we leave it at that. We recommend exercise and a healthy diet – that is where we typically end the health recommendations. In Ayurveda, health goes far beyond that. To begin with, the human being is treated as an individual who is composed of a unique body constitution. This body constitution is determined by what elements are present within the body or to what degree these elements are present within us. Depending on these factors you begin to balance these components to bring harmony and wellness. It is of no surprise then when we remember the words of the western father of medicine: Hippocrates:

“The natural forces within us and the true healers of disease”

From this perspective Ayurveda looks to heal the individual completely. It utilizes a very thorough understanding of Nutrition which determines the optimal foods to eat, the right times to consume food for proper digestion, and the right state of mind to develop when consuming our foods. Furthermore, Ayurveda also heals by incorporating natural herbs and natural herb combinations. A comprehensive understanding of herbs is presented give the ways of consumption, the combination of herbs, the preparation of herbal formula and the times to consume along with the mental framework as well. You learn to work with natural oils. A full spectrum of natural oils is presented through Ayurveda and how to apply these oils in different ways to Marma points which are very similar to meridian points in acupuncture. Ayurveda also has a recommendation in terms of the mental aspects of the human being. The comprehension of mental patterns becomes important, developing presence and consciousness of the moment or of the present moment becomes an important aspect of life for Ayurveda. The capacity to develop the power of attention which is the basis for meditative practices and other spiritual practices that we see run through many traditions. There are no secrets here. We know that many different cultural and religious traditions use rosaries, malas, repetitive prayers, chanting, meditation or dancing to harness the power of attention or to concentrate the being on one single point. This concentration and emptying of thought patterns allows you to concentrate on the present moment of being. This state helps to develop inner peace, tranquility an objective perspective on life and many other benefits. Ayurveda also incorporates training in meditation for well-being and health. Even further, Ayurveda incorporates Pranayama or the science of breath which teaches you how many different techniques to harness the power of breathing more completely. Current studies show that the average American only uses about 26 percent of their lung capacity. Through Ayurvedic principles you are taught how to breathe better and fuller breaths and how to nourish your organs through breathing among many other benefits. Ayurveda also looks to incorporate the science of Yoga which is a complementary science and even has postures designated for each particular body constitution.

In essence, Ayurveda offers a system of natural healing that is very complete both in terms of its treatments and also in its understanding of the human being. It offers a vision of healing for curing disease, for preventative health and ultimately for spiritual liberation. Ayurveda offers timeless principles for healing and well being.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ayurvedic Beauty

I. Introduction
In accordance with Ayurvedic teachings, upkeep of the skin is an important aspect of maintaining health. While the aura represents our body’s first level of protection from disease, and the immune system represents the third level of protection, the skin, along with the digestive system, composes the body’s second level of protection. This is due to the fact that both come in contact with foreign objects and represent the physical barriers separating the internal from the external. Bodily wastes are excreted both through the skin and through the gut. Sweating is one of the body’s ways of excreting Mala. If the amount of waste in the body surpasses the ability of the excretory organs to remove them, then excess waste is directed outward through the skin. Therefore, the skin and the digestive tract are closely related. The state of the skin improves when the state of the digestive tract improves and vice versa. (Svoboda, 95)
It is important that the skin is kept healthy and strong in order to keep the body balanced and disease free. The skin is an organ that absorbs anything applied topically. Therefore, it is very important never to apply anything to the skin that contains chemicals. By taking into account each individual person’s unique body constitution, Ayurveda provides clear recommendations and routines regarding how to best care for the skin and promote health.

II. Anatomy of the Skin
Color, texture, temperature and other qualities of the skin vary depending on an individual’s Prakriti or unique body constitution. Each individual’s Prakriti is made up of varying levels of the three Doshas: Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Those whose constitution is dominated by Vata Dosha (air and ether) tend to have skin that is darker (darker than those of the same racial/ethnic group), or tan easily and rarely burn. Their skin is generally cold, dry and may have a grayish cast to it. They may suffer from eczema, dry skin or psoriasis. Individuals with predominant Pitta Dosha (fire and water) in their constitution may have reddish, pink or coppery colored skin. Their skin is usually warm to the touch and delicate. Pitta predominant skin is often irritable and prone to rashes and acne. Their skin may wrinkle early. They have a high volume of blood beneath the skin and usually blush quite easily. The hair on their skin is usually very fine and pale. Kapha Dosha (water and earth) predominant people have a tendency towards pale, smooth skin than may be oily. Their skin tends to be cooler, thick and have a moderate amount of hair on the skin. The coolness of Kapha allows them to easily withstand moderate amounts of sun exposure. (Svoboda, 34)
The skin is associated with the sense of touch. The sense of touch is associated with the air element. Therefore, the skin is closely related to Vata and is prone to Vata. Pitta is also closely related to the skin. Bhrajaka Pitta is the subdosha that is associated with the skin. Bhrajaka Pitta is situated within the skin (Murthy, Pandey, 32) and presides over the color and luster of the skin, linking it closely to the western concept of melanin. Bhrajaka Pitta controls the absorption of sunlight into the body as well as the sweat glands (however actual sweat itself is a Mala of Meda Dhatu). It serves as a barrier between the external and internal world and also maintains blood flow and body temperature. The skin itself is an Upadhatu of Mamsa Dhatu, therefore, Mamsa Dhatu is also associated with the skin as it is responsible for keeping the skin smooth. Rakta Dhatu, associated with the blood, is also closely related to the skin, as many skin disorders are caused by vitiated blood. Healthy, glowing and lustrous skin is usually a sign of healthy Dhatus in general. (KAA 102)
There are seven layers or levles of skin according to Ayurveda and each layer is associated with a specific Dhatu. For example, the surface layer of the skin is connected to Rasa Dhatu. The second layer is associated with Rakta Dhatu. The third layer, which is also the subcutaneous tissue, is directly connected to Mamsa Dhatu. Each subsequent layer is connected to each Dhatu in the same sequence of Dhatus that digested food travels through (from grossest to subtlest) in the process of subtle digestion. However, all layers of skin (except for the topmost layer) can be grouped together as the Upadhatu of Mamsa Dhatu. (Lad, “Textbook of Ayurveda” 125).
On a subtle level, the skin is also related to the functions of the mind. The skin is associated with the Anahata Chakra or the heart chakra. The literal translation for Anahata is unstruck sound. Ahahata Chakra is the heart center Chakra and it rules the sense organ of touch and the skin, which is the organ of action associated with touch, along with the hands. (KAA 103, 33) Skin is connected to the emotions through Prana as the skin breathes Prana (Lad, “Textbook of Ayurveda” 65). A person’s emotions are displayed through the skin; for example the skin may become flushed when angry, pale when anxious, etc.

III. Ayurvedic Skin Care and Prevention
Ayurveda focuses a great deal on prevention, which is the easiest, most painless and cost effective way to health. Through proper diet, exercise (both physical and mental) and daily and seasonal routines, a person can effectively prevent the vast majority of disorders. Depending upon the individual Prakriti, age and mental state, different types of diet, exercise and routine are recommended. For example, a person with Vata dominant Prakriti should emphasize salty, sour and sweet foods that are warm, moist, stable and smooth. They should focus on consistency when it comes to eating, sleeping and exercise. Due to the fact that Vata is comprised of Ether and Air, a person with high Vata must strive to incorporate foods, thoughts, actions, etc. that are grounding, warm and stabilizing into their life. People with high Kapha need action, variability, lightness and heat, while those with Pitta dominance need cooling, dullness and sweetness. Time of year, stage in life and time of day should also be taken into consideration, as the seasons, phases of the life cycle and hours of the day are dominated by the Doshas as well. Through a comprehensive understanding of Prakriti, a healthy diet and routine may be established for an individual to maintain health and keep the body disease free. This section examines some simple practices to incorporate into the daily routine to prevent disease and promote skin health while taking into consideration individual Prakriti. Section VI introduces some Ayurvedic herbs that are particularly helpful to the skin.
Abhyanga is a daily skin treatment to strengthen, nourish and moisturize not just the skin, but all of the Dhatus. The skin is highly prone to Vata conditions, so performing a daily routine of Abhyanga can help to reduce Vata and is especially helpful under Vata-aggravating conditions. Abhyanga strengthens the body and muscles, smoothes the skin, and improves the sense of touch. Abhyanga also helps the body become more resistant to injuries and strenuous physical activity, and reduces the effects of old age on the body (Verma, 86). Abhyanga involves massaging the skin with warm oil 15-30 minutes before bathing. As the oil soaks through each layer of skin, the corresponding Dhatu is nourished and lubricated by the oil. Oil should be applied in the direction of the hair growth and massaged into the skin towards the heart. Special attention should be paid to massaging the joints, scalp, and soles of the feet. Massaging the head with oil helps to strengthen the hair follicles as well as the bones in the skull. It helps to sharpen the sense organs and memory and promotes sound sleep. Massaging the soles of the feet improves vision and increases stamina. (KAA 105, 16) If time does not allow for a full body oil massage, a mini-massage is better than no massage, concentrating on the head and soles of the feet (Chopra, 209).
Different oils are recommended to help balance different body constitutions. For example, coconut oil is recommended for Pitta Dosha predominant people, because of it’s cooling nature. Sesame oil is helpful for people with high levels of Vata because it is lubricating and warming. The use of mustard seed oil for Abhyanga is encouraged for those with Kapha dominance because of its inherent heating quality. It is important to take into account the season and life stage of a person as well. A Kapha dominant person in the Kapha period of their life (infancy to puberty) and in the Kapha season (late winter to early spring), may not benefit as much from Abhyanga, if they already have too much oil, liquid and heaviness (Kapha is aggravated). A good alternative for this individual would be an herbal powder rub that is drying as opposed to lubricating.
Herbal Skin Rub
Applying an herbal powder to the skin has some of the same effects of Abhyanga such as pacifying Vata Dosha and cleansing the body. In addition, this practice helps to reduce both Kapha Dosha and Meda Dhatu, reduces body odor and prevents blemishes. A dry herbal rub will stimulate circulation. Herbal powder application to the skin improves stamina and the function of Bhrajaka Pitta. Sandalwood powder is an excellent powder to use for herbal skin rubs. (KAA 105, 17)
Cleansing the Skin
Another reason to perform Abhyanga daily is to counteract the drying effects of soap. Soap can alternatively be lathered between the palms and mixed with oil before applying to the body while bathing. As an alternative to soap, milk may be used to cleanse the skin and will not cause dryness. Another option is to use clay, barley flour or chickpea flour to cleanse the skin and soak up any oils or sweat. If Abhyanga has not been performed before bathing, oil can be mixed with chickpea or barley flour along with a pinch of tumeric and enough water to make a paste. This mixture can be applied to the skin. It serves as something like a full body mask if the mixture is left to dry and then washed off with water. Warm or cool water may be used to bathe, but not water that is overly hot or cold. It is also important to never use hot water on the head or face. The body can withstand a higher temperature of water than the head. Hot water applied to the head weakens the sense organs and loosens the hair follicles (Svoboda, 102). Also, the heating quality is intrinsic to the Sahasrara Chakra (the crown chakra), so hot water is not necessary. The best time to bathe is in the morning because morning is the best time to remove all of the Dhatu Malas in the body that have formed over night. (KAA 105, 17)
Facial Care
According to Dr. Vasant Lad, “The face is the mirror of the mind. The lines and wrinkles in your face are revealing. If disorder and disease are present, they will be indicated on the face” (“Ayurveda: The Science of Self Healing,” 62). The health of the body’s organs is reflected in the face, lips, tongue and eyes (Lad, “Ayurveda: The Science of Self Healing,” 64). Also, the face is home to the Panchagyanendriyas or 5 sense organs (ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose). Therefore, proper care of the face is and important aspect of maintaining ones health. This paper will focus on skin care, and proper care of the facial skin as well. A healthy complexion is the sign of balanced Dhatus and Doshas. Listed below are some ayurvedic facial recipes.
? Milk-skin (the creamy layer of fresh milk that forms after it has been boiled) may be mixed with almond powder for an effective facial mask (Verma, 86). This is a good way to cleanse the face and avoid the drying properties of soap.
? In order to improve the complexion, an Ayurvedic facial pack may be applied. Mix equal proportions of Amalaki, Manjishtha and Sandalwood. Add this mixture to milk for dry skin or to water for oily skin. Make a paste out of the mixture and apply to the face. Leave the paste on for 10-15 minutes before washing off (Anjali, Herbology Lecture).

IV. Exposure to the Sun and Skin Care
The sun effects each person’s skin differently depending on the body constitution as well as the complexion. The complexion is based on genetics from a particular racial or ethnic group, as well as the three Doshas. Individuals who are Vata predominant can best withstand sun exposure. They tend to tan easily and rarely burn. In fact, those with high Vata need more heat to help balance their bodies, and they usually enjoy sunshine a great deal. Those with Pitta dominant constitutions naturally are hot, and therefore, they are not able to withstand much sun exposure. They tend to burn easily, may suffer from sun allergy, and may acquire freckles or moles from sun exposure. Kapha predominant people will tan evenly from being exposed to moderate amounts of sun. They are naturally cold but do not require as much sun as those with Vata predominant Prakriti. (Svoboda, 34)
Complexion also plays a major role in an individual’s need and ability for sun exposure. It takes a person with darker skin longer to absorb Vitamin D from the sun compared to a person with fair skin. People with very fair skin should avoid extensive sun exposure, particularly during times of day when the sun is strong (typically around noon depending upon proximity to the Earth’s Equator). It is best for those who burn easily to cover up with loose white cotton clothing and a hat or umbrella when exposed to bright sun. Shea Butter and Cocoa Butter also provide some natural protection from the sun. Sunscreen is not recommended because of the harmful chemicals it contains. These chemicals are absorbed through the skin and enter the bloodstream, affecting the Dhatus. (Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar, Ayurvedic Foundations Lecture)

V. Treatment of Common Skin Conditions
Many skin problems are most commonly associated with aggravated Pitta. Herpes, jaundice and inflammation are a few conditions listed as part of the forty innumerable disorders of Pitta by Caraka (Verma, 47). This section of this paper provides some ayurvedic herbal remedies to common skin problems.
Acne is oftentimes a sign of aggravated Pitta, specifically Bhrajaka Pitta. However, aggravated Kapha may cause acne as well. During puberty, acne is common due to the fact that the individual is changing from the Kapha stage of life (birth to puberty) to the Pitta stage of life (puberty to menopause). Young people who have Pitta predominant Prakriti may suffer from acne more than those who have higher levels of Kapha or Vata. Depending on the diagnosis, a Dosha balancing diet along with Panchakarma may likely be all that is necessary to treat acne. A half-cup of aloe vera juice can be consumed twice a day to help clear up acne. Although aloe vera is cooling, it does not aggravate Kapha due to the fact that it acts as an expectorant. Aloe vera is balancing to all the Doshas. (Lad, “Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing” 130) It is important to find out if the acne is related to menstruation. If not, blood-purifying herbs that are bitter and astringent may be used both internally and externally (Dr. Manisha Krishangar, Conference Call). Also, anti-inflammatory herbs are helpful. Following is an herbal topical treatment for acne.
? Combine equal parts turmeric and sandalwood powder. Add water to make a paste and apply to the effected areas externally. (Lad, “Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing,” 157)
Eczema and Dry Skin
Dry skin and eczema are typically problems related to Vata aggravation. Performing Abhyanga daily will greatly reduce these issues. Also, eating a Vata pacifying diet with plenty of natural oils such as ghee will greatly reduce problems of this nature. Taking a bath with licorice tea water is helpful with soothing eczema.
? Apply fresh aloe vera gel directly to the burn, a pinch of turmeric may be added. (Lad, “Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing,” 158)
? Apply Manjishtha ghee directly to the burn (KAA 106, 29).
Insect Bites and Stings
? Drink cilantro juice and apply sandalwood paste directly to the bite or sting (Lad, “Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing,” 160)
? Drink a coriander tea made of one teaspoon of coriander seeds to 1 cup of water. It is also helpful to apply the pulp of cilantro leaves directly to the rash. (Lad, “Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing,” 161)
? Make a paste of Nagarmotha powder and apply to rash (KAA 106, 29).
? Apply cooked onions made into a paste directly to the boil. This will bring the boil to a head. Alternatively, one can combine equal parts of ginger powder and turmeric and apply directly to the affected area. ((Lad, “Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing,” 157)

VI. Ayurvedic Herbs Promoting Skin Health (KAA 106, 22-30)
Amla: Amla is especially pacifying to Pitta by has the ability to pacify all Doshas. It is helpful for many skin problems including blemishes and acne. Amla improves the complexion overall.
Ginger: Ginger is helpful for treating skin diseases caused by an aggravation of Kapha. Ginger also purifies the blood, which is a major component of clearing up many types of skin disorders. Because of its heating quality, it should not be used or only used very carefully for skin issues related to Pitta.
Guggulu: Guggulu is an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and disinfectant among other qualities. These qualities make it helpful for skin conditions caused by Vata or Kapha aggravation. Guggulu increases Pitta, so it should not be used for skin conditions caused by Pitta exacerbation.
Haritaki: This herb helps with elimination and is mainly astringent. It helps with alleviating swelling and prevents the accumulation of pus in the skin.
Manjishtha: Manjishtha effectively decreases Vata, Pitta and Kapha. It is one of the best blood purifiers, and is especially useful for treating acne, blemishes, blisters and skin infections.
Neem: Neem is a blood purifier and an anti-bacterial. To clear up skin infections, neem leaves may be added to bathwater. Neem can help treat itching, dermatitis, eczema and scabies.

VII. Conclusion
Prevention through proper diet, daily routine, along with physical and mental exercise such as yoga and meditation is the path to health. Taking good care of the skin is an important preventative measure, contributing to increased health for the entire body. It represents just one aspect of preventative care that has immeasurable positive effects on the body. Healthy, glowing skin and a good complexion also has a healthy effect on the mind, as it increases confidence and self-assurance. As one of the body’s major natural layers of defense from the external world, taking proper care of the skin essential to health.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wisdom Quotes

"The body is a mandala. If you look into it you see a source of endless revelation. Without embodiment there is no foundation for enlightenment"
-Dr. Tsampa Ngawang

Health is a state of complete harmony of the body, mind and spirit. When one is free from physical disabilities and mental distractions, the gates of the soul open -B.K.S. Iyengar

Mountain pose teaches us, literally, how to stand on our own two feet.... teaching us to root ourselves into the earth.... Our bodies become a connection between heaven and earth. ~Carol Krucoff

Yoga is a spiritual practice. Of course, you can practice yoga strictly for its physical benefits, but that's a bit like traveling to a foreign country known for its native cuisine and eating at the nearest McDonald's the whole time. A yoga practice fully nourishes by aligning our bodies, minds, and spirits, and to solely on the physical practice is to miss a profound opportunity." R.Pacheco

We do not see things as they are. You see them as you are. When you look, you see reflections of your being. When you listen, you hear echoes of yourself. If you don't like something about what you see and hear, no point in smashing the mirror, change who you are becoming. -Anonymous

If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover those precious values - that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all reality has spiritual control.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.
-Mother Teresa :)

Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.
Dalai Lama

He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

All my life I have tried to pluck a thistle and plant a flower wherever the flower would grow in thought and mind.
-Abraham Lincoln

To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
-Bertrand Russell

It isn't until you come to a spiritual understanding of who you are - not necessarily a religious feeling, but deep down, the spirit within - that you can begin to take control.
Oprah Winfrey

Within each of us lies the power of our consent to health and to sickness,
to riches and to poverty, to freedom and to slavery.
It is we who control these things and not another.
-Richard Bach

The first step in the acquisition of wisdom is silence, the second listening, the third memory, the fourth practice, the fifth teaching others.
-Solomon Ibn Gabriol

The point is not to pay back kindness but to pass it on. – Julia Alvarez
We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection -Dalai Lama

Peace begins with a smile.


“The goal of
mankind is knowledge ... Now this knowledge is inherent in man. No
knowledge comes from outside: it is all inside. What we say a man
'knows', should, in strict psychological language, be what he
'discovers' or 'unveils'; what man 'learns' is really what he discovers taking the cover off his own soul, which is a mine of infinite
knowledge.” Swami Vivekananda

Friday, July 16, 2010

David Frawley's Visit to Ayurvedagram

We are posting our pictures from when David Frawley honored us with his presence.

Om Shanti

Please click below:


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Science of Breath: Pranayama

I’ve been told that my first breath came with a scream as the doctor held me by the ankles and slapped my bottom. From that moment forward breathing seemed such an easy and ordinary thing I have hardly even thought about it.

The most simple of truths seem to always be the most profound and life altering. Breathing, though a simple act we will continue doing whether we think about it or not and will continue doing even when we try not to do it, when we pay attention to it and elevate it to a sincere practice and even an art form, brings us the richness, purity, depth and breadth of life’s experiences. We can say that how we breathe actually defines the quality of our lives. All cultures have recognized this in different ways. The opera singer, the aboriginal didgeridoo, the philharmonic orchestra, pearl divers, and the list can go on…

Through the breath the laboring mother feels the rhythm that allows for the infant to ease into the world. Through the breath the hunter steadies his aim to meet his mark. Through the breath the flutist expresses his soul to the enjoyment of others with his music. Through the breath we can bring about balance within our body and mind which allows for optimal health. Through the diligent practice of working with the breath the Yogi realizes enlightenment.

How we breathe determines our quality of life, and according to some, how long we live as well . The act of breathing could be likened to the churning of the Celestial Ocean of Consciousness. Purusha and Prakriti churn together allowing us to maintain a physical form to experience life as we know it. The evidence for this is that when we stop breathing Purusha and Prakriti again separate and we perish. Our first breath and our last breath determine our lifespan and one can find the dates documented for posterity on our tombstone.

So with the humble experience of breathing for over forty eight years I will hopefully be able to bring you a little insight as to how we can balance our lives and maybe even bring us to a greater realization of our place in the scheme of things or at least learn to breathe a little bit easier.

What Is Prana?
Prana can be considered the life force, life energy, or chi. This is the stuff that energizes our cells and receptors beyond just oxygen and a few other gaseous elements. Prana is difficult to describe since the English language is not designed to consider, let alone articulate such concepts. Maybe “God activated air” or “electrified ions of universal love”, or “no prana, no life”?
Imagine standing on a busy city street corner with buses going by and high rises all around, flashing lights, signs, many loud noises and afflicting smells all of this dominating your senses, now take in a big deep full breath… …do you even want too? Just the thought of it makes you want to keep your chest drawn in tight or have a fit of coughing! Now imagine sitting on a big rock covered in moss in the forest next to a gently babbling brook, you can feel the green speckled sun shining on your face, your eyes are closed as a warm breeze caresses your cheeks, now take in a big deep full breath… …feel the difference? This is Prana.

It seems a bit odd to attempt to recount the history of the breath but here goes. It is all about rhythm. Back to the churning of the Celestial Ocean of Consciousness, back and forth, the action of churning is the rhythm of respiration; the simplest single celled forms of life are recognized because of this simple rhythmical act. In with the new and out with the old. And most critically in with the Prana and out with the mala .
We can’t rightly speak of “history” when the breath brings us unequivocally to the moment as every exhalation and inhalation in the Now is a death and rebirth, when the space between each breath brings us squarely facing the place/space of No Time which has not ever changed, which knows nothing, and certainly knows nothing of history. The macro holographic experience of time as a chronological sequence simply does not exist within the context of conscious breathing (pranayama). So we can speak of the “history” of breath within the development of breathing styles or formulated thoughts about it throughout time.

Patanjali was a great sage who lived around 200 BCE and is attributed to having compiled the Yoga Sutras which is a foundational text of what we now speak of as RajaYoga. Though brief, the Yoga Sutras are an enormously influential work on yoga philosophy and practice. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras contain four chapters or books (Sanskrit pada), with 196 sutras (threads or aphorisms). Pranayama is discussed within the second chapter as one of the eight limbs of ashtanga yoga. Following is a fairly literal translation of the last 10 sutras of the second book which describes the importance of pranayama:

46. Right poise must be firm and without strain.
47. Right poise is to be gained by steady and temperate effort, and by setting the heart upon the everlasting.
48 The fruit of right poise is the strength to resist the shocks of infatuation or sorrow.
49. When this is gained, there follows the right guidance of the life-currents, the control of the incoming and outgoing breath.
50. The life-current is either outward, or inward, or balanced; it is regulated according to place, time, number; it is prolonged and subtle.
51. The fourth degree transcends external and internal objects.
52. Thereby is worn away the veil which covers up the light.
53. Thence comes the mind's power to hold itself in the light.
54. The right Withdrawal is the disengaging of the powers from entanglement in outer things, as the psychic nature has been withdrawn and stilled.
55. Thereupon follows perfect mastery over the powers .
I believe that all of the ancient lessons were in the form of sutras for the convenience of memorization by the student. As these began to be preserved through the written word, there have become inumerable interpretations, treatices, and expounding upons. It may be possible that Patanjali has received the credit souly due to his insight in writing down what had been passed from generation to generation for eons. So we can’t say how far back in time this science has been practiced.
Pranayama is life force energy control (prana=life energy, yama=control). Breathing is the medium used to achieve this goal. The mind and life force are correlated to the breath. Through regulating the breathing and practicing awareness on it, one learns to control prana. There are many different kinds of pranayama, each with specific goals. All pranayama ultimately works towards the awakening of the kundalini shakti at the muladhara chakra . The awakening of kundalini energy and its ascent to the crown chakra is the final goal of Raja Yoga. This is a path to liberation of atachment of the material world also refered to as moksha.
Pranayama should not be considered simply as breathing exercises. Pranayama influences the flow of energy and nervous system balance in the body and mind. Pranayama provides methods where the life force is activated and regulated to attain a higher state of energy and awareness.

The mystic practices pranayama in the context of an ascetic lifestyle, which frees nervous energy for intuitive purposes.
Sankara Saranam, Ontology and Pranayama

Many different methods or exercises are described differently by many different teachers. Before we describe a few of the breaths most practiced today lets look at the fundamental physiology and function of the pranic and respiratory systems.

Chakras and Nadis
This is an image depicting the seven primary Chakras and the three most essential Nadis.

Chakras are centers of spiritual energy. They are located in the astral body, but they also have corresponding centers in the physical body. They can be seen by clairvoyant eyes. They loosely correspond to certain plexuses in the physical body. These important Chakras (from bottom to top) are: Muladhara at the anus; Svadhishthana at the genital organ; Manipura at navel; Anahata at the heart; Visudha at the throat and Ajna at the space between the two eyebrows. The seventh Chakra is known as Sahasrara, located at the top of the head.
Nadis are astral tubes made up of astral matter that carry the Pranic currents. They also can only be seen by the astral eyes. They are not the nerves. They are 72,000 in number. Ida, Pingala and Sushumna are the most vital ones. Sushumna is the most important of all.
Ida is the left channel, is white, feminine, cold and represents the moon. It originates in Muladhara and ends up at the left nostril. Pingala is the right channel is red, masculie, hot and represents the sun. It also originates in Muladhara but it runs up to the right nostril. Sushumna is the central channel and runs up the body from just below Muladhara chakra to Sahasrara chakra at the crown of the head. These channels carry prana to the entire body, activating the life force of our entire living system.

The respiratory system allows for our breath and the assimilation of the air element. It draws oxygen and other gases in as well as prana with the diaphragm into the lungs.

The diaphragm is the strong wall of muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. By moving downward, it creates suction to draw in air and expand the lungs. It has been found that in general most people do not use this muscle properly and thus are starving themselves of air and prana. Pranayama focuses on learning to fully utilize this muscle and through stillness of the mind learn to control the breath.

Preparing the spine through yoga for pranayama is very important and allows for air and prana to flow freely to all aspects of our being. It also assists in our ability to comfortably sit still without distractions. The primary purpose of the postures (asanas) is to lengthen, flex, extend, bend, twist and compress the spine. This increases the flexibility of the spine and the capacity for us to receive air and prana.

Diaphragmatic Breathing
All pranayama begins with breathing properly by fully engaging the diaphragm. When the diaphragm muscle contracts, it pulls the bottom of the lungs downward, causing them to fill, while the ribs flare outward to the sides. The chest and abdominal muscles are not used in diaphragmatic breathing. Conscious diaphragmatic breathing is extremely relaxing to the autonomic nervous system. The chest should not be moving perceptibly or the belly. The expansion should be more lateral in the ribcage. The breath should not be noisy or unsteady. This practice should be done sitting cross legged or upright in a firm chair, with spine erect, back, neck and head aligned, and the shoulders relaxed. Most usually the hands will be palms up resting on the knees or in the lap.
The length of the inhalation, the pause and the exhalation is now to be considered. This will strengthen the diaphragm and steady the breath which in turn steadies the mind. The time ratio of inhalation, retention and then exhalation is that of 1: 4: 2. So if the duration of the inbreath is 2 seconds the retention of that breath should be 8 seconds and then the outbreath will be of 4 seconds. Then one expands the time span as they gain strength and mastery. The precautions for the practice is to stay within your own level of comfort. Once this breath is mastered then one can work with the other forms of breathing.
Like I said before there are many styles or forms of breathing exercises. Even ones with the same names are practiced differently by different teachers. Following are a few of the most widely practiced breaths.

Anuloma Viloma or Nadi Shodhanam
Ones natural breathing cycle constitutes the air flowing freely through the left nostril for about an hour and then it flows freely through the right nostril for about an hour. This cycling occurs without effort in a balanced individual. The ida and pingala are activated equally. The nadi shodhanam breathing sequence reinforces this natural cycling and brings balance.
To begin with sit comfortably as described before and with the right hand up by your face place the thumb against the right nostril to gently hold it closed. The forefinger can rest on the forehead between the brows and the other fingers prepared to close the left nostril. We then breathe in a deep, slow and steady breath through the left nostril, open the right nostril and close the left and then exhale through the right nostril. Now we breath in through the right nostril, open the left, close the right and exhale again but this time through the left nostril. This is considered one cycle. Dr. Lad recommends ten cycles with a rest and then ten more cycles.

Bhastrika or Bellows Breath
This breath is described as like a bellows you inhale and exhale with equal volume and force. This is a very active breath and can produce a lot of heat. When practicing this breath you should begin with just twenty breaths, rest and then 20 more. Work up to one hundred at a time but rest before continuing if there is any dizziness. According to Sri Swami Sivananda this breath should end with the deepest possible inhalation, suspended breath for as long as is comfortable and then a complete, slow and steady exhalation. In this manner one should only do ten to twenty breaths for each round or cycle and do as many as three cycles in one sitting. Again never allow yourself to get dizzy. This is a powerful breath and should not be overdone. He goes on to say that the practitioner will never suffer from any disease and will always be healthy .

Bhramari or Bumble Bee Breath
This breath is done sitting upright with the eyes closed, the thumbs up against the ears gently pressing them closed, the rest of the fingers spread across the face above the eyes, over the cheekbones, with the pinkies resting on the jaw bones. Take in a long deep breath and exhale slowly while humming. When done correctly you will only be able to hear the humming in your head and feel a refreshing buzzing all around your sinuses and brain. My experience of this breath is that it clears the sinuses and the mind.

There are a multitude of breathing exercises within the practice of pranayama that allow for many amazing results. Reports of being able to live on only prana for an indefinite period of time have been given. Once the Kundalini is awakened and rises up sushumi then all sorts of seemingly supernatural feats can be accomplished.
Levitation and many psychic powers can be attained. These all become mere parlor tricks compared to the peace and liberation experienced by the yogi who masters pranayama. The gift of the adept is their presence, the level at which they vibrate raises the consciousness of everyone else in which they come into contact.

Anyone wanting to practice pranayama should do so with pure intentions. This practice amplifies the primary law of Ayurveda, in which like increases like. Practicing each step and not proceeding until the first step is mastered and working directly with a teacher is the safest. Always listening to and following your body, mind and spirits greatest good.