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Posts Tagged ‘ayurveda’

Eczema, Contact Dermatitis, Atopic Dermatitis, or Psoriasis?

Skin conditions are often affected by the seasons and can become increasingly worse at different times depending upon the individuals constitutional trends and the qualities of condition itself. Eczema is a broad term for several types of skin disorders, also known as dermatitis. The most common form is atopic dermatitis, which affects people of all age groups and is often due to an allergic reaction. Its sufferers may also have a predisposition to various allergies, hay fever, and asthma. Infantile eczema occurs in babies under 3 years old, but usually clears up within few years and it is best to not treat them with steroidal creams and internal medications if at all possible. Adult seborrhoeic dermatitis is associated with yeast and fungal infections and occurs mainly between the ages of 20 to 40 years of age. There are several other classifications, such as xerotic eczema and contact dermatitis, which are related to allergic skin reactions, and so on. Some people notice that exposure to the sun, humidity, or ocean water helps tremendously, while other not. Areas affected in adults are mainly the face, elbows, hands, knees and ankles. In infants it mainly manifests on the face, neck, scalp forearms, and legs. Of course, simply labeling the condition doesn’t help much in the long run if the underlining causes are not identified and addressed.

In conventional medicine the root cause of eczema is not clearly understood, but autoimmune function and hereditary factors are thought to play a major role. Aggravating factors include seasonal changes, certain foods, environmental allergens, pet dander, soaps, detergents, some fabrics, hot water, and bodily sweat. Certain high allergy foods such as wheat, gluten, soy, corn, and dairy are believed to contribute to the condition is some cases, but efforts to omit lots of items from the daily diet can be frustrating. In any case, it is best to start with the basic guidelines offered here along with a well-rounded individualized Ayurvedic program, and over time take further measures with dietary restrictions if and when needed. In Ayurveda, psoriasis is a similar condition to eczema in that it has much of the same root causes, so herbal treatment and dietary and lifestyle recommendations are also similar.

The Ayurvedic Perspective on Eczema

In Ayurveda this condition is referred to as vicharchika and it is related to the vitiation of any of the three doshas affecting the skin and blood as well as accumulated metabolic wastes. Traditionally, the main doshas involved are pitta or kapha, but all three can be involved. Below is a general description of how doshas influence the characteristics of this disease.

Vata type of eczema in AyurvedaVata types of eczema are characterized by extreme dryness, scaling, exfoliation, itching, and much pain and throbbing.

Pitta type of eczema in AyurvedaPitta types of eczema are associated with redness, blisters, bleeding, burning sensations, and infection. Pitta individuals may be prone towards seborrhoeic and contact dermatitis due to excess heat, especially in the armpits and on the scalp.

Kapha type of eczema in AyurvedaKapha types of eczema cause itching, oozing, and thickening of the skin. Kapha types may also be prone to seborrhoeic eczema, especially in between rolls of fats as well as other moist sweaty areas.

Dual or Tridoshic types are when more than one dosha is involved and the various symptoms are mixed, which is common in many cases.

For some people this condition can be acute and pass within a short period of time, while others experience lifelong symptoms. Though not a life threatening condition, it does cause psychological stress and extreme self-consciousness. Modern medicine believes there is no cure for this condition, but Ayurveda can safely manage and in many cases cure it over time. Treatment in Ayurveda is a wholistic process with more than just the application of topical creams or oils. It requires great discipline, observance of diet and lifestyle, patience, and a good method for stress management. such as yoga, tai chi and meditation.

Herbal Treatment in Ayurveda

To treat eczema and psoriasis, it is essential to have the guidance of a skilled practitioner who can tailor an herbal and dietary program specific to your individual needs. Not all cases can be treated or respond to treatment in the same way, so follow-up care is necessary. Because these conditions can take years to treat successfully, having the care of a skilled practitioner also provides the necessary support and reassurance at the emotional level while the healing process takes place.

Cleansing from within is also a major factor in removing this type of condition, as accumulated toxins tend to surface on the skin. A progressively cleaner diet may be necessary to promote the healing process and allow proper digestion of food (to avoid further accumulating toxins in the body) along with the unique cleansing therapies Ayurveda has to offer, including Panchakarma for deep detoxification, and a stress management program that would include yoga and meditation to strengthen the body while calming your mind.

Common Ayurvedic Herbs Used to Treat Eczema

Ayurveda offers many traditional and custom formulations that are specific to the various forms of this condition, but these can only be selected once a full evaluation is made by an Ayurvedic practitioner. Below is a general list of some of the most commonly used herbs to treat eczema, psoriasis, and related skin conditions.

Neem clears the heat and toxins from the liver and blood and relieves itching.

Manjista balances pitta in the skin, calms itching, and purifies blood.

Guduchi relieves all three doshas, especially pitta, regulates the immune system, reduces burning and systemic inflammation.

Punarnava is good for pitta and kapha related skin diseases and purifies the kidneys and liver.

Turmeric detoxifies, reduces inflammation, and relieves itching.

Aloe juice cools the blood, promotes healing of the skin, cleanses intestines, calms itching and burning sensations.

Licorice calms and sooths tissues, reduces inflammation, restores the gut, balances bitter herbs used to treat this condition, pacifies vata and pitta.

Shatavari cools blood, restores the gut, calms pitta in the GI tract and throughout the entire body.

Triphala cleanses the entire GI tract, promotes healthy digestion and absorption, and improves the tone of the skin.

Gotu Kola cleanses the blood, reduces the effects of stress, and calms the nerves and mind.

Jatamansi calms the mind, replenishes the nervous system, supports, cleanses blood, balances all doshas.

Ashwagandha reduces effects of stress, calms vata in the mind and nervous sysytem.

Tikta Ghrita (bitter medicated ghee) purifies the blood, cleanses and regulates proper liver function.

There are so many herbs, medicated oils and formulas that can be effective, but an individualized approach is often the best way to determine the right approach for the situation. This also saves valuable time, energy and money when embarking on treating such conditions. Sometimes a streamlined regime is more effective than lots of supplement and excessive elimination diets for dealing with stubborn chronic skin conditions.

Cleansing and Rejuvenation for Eczema

One of the most important aspects of eczema treatment includes seasonal detoxification with Panchakarma. This allows for the removal of deep-seated toxins and metabolic wastes, and also helps to weaken the tendencies that stand in the way of the healing process. This type of cleansing process is tailored to your individual needs to help remove excess dosha and toxins, calm your mind and nervous system, and uproot the underlying causes of this condition. Gentle home cleansing may also provide relief if a full Panchakarma program cannot be done, but only under the guidance of a trained Ayurvedic practitioner or doctor.

In infants with eczema deep cleansing is not indicated and the treatment is usually given through the mother, especially in the case of a breastfeeding baby. Usually, in such cases simple home remedies and diet and lifestyle tips are given for both mother and baby. A daily teaspoon of Aloe Vera juice mixed with any liquid and given to the infant can do wonders to relieve symptoms and rejuvenate the skin. A mothers diet will play a key role during the breastfeeding period. If the condition persists after 3 years of age, stronger internal herbs may be given. Subtle Ayurvedic herbal treatment, an aspect of sookshma chikitsa, can be administered even to young babies.

Traditional Ayurvedic warm oil massage, herbal steam bath, and Shirodhara are very beneficial in most eczema cases and can be performed as often as desired to promote lymphatic circulation, gently cleanse the system, calm the body and mind, and overcome fear and insecurity around the issue.
Vishnu Dass

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Eczema, Contact Dermatitis, Atopic Dermatitis, or Psoriasis?

Skin conditions are often affected by the seasons and can become increasingly worse at different times depending upon the individuals constitutional trends and the qualities of condition itself. Eczema is a broad term for several types of skin disorders, also known as dermatitis. The most common form is atopic dermatitis, which affects people of all age groups and is often due to an allergic reaction. Its sufferers may also have a predisposition to various allergies, hay fever, and asthma. Infantile eczema occurs in babies under 3 years old, but usually clears up within few years and it is best to not treat them with steroidal creams and internal medications if at all possible. Adult seborrhoeic dermatitis is associated with yeast and fungal infections and occurs mainly between the ages of 20 to 40 years of age. There are several other classifications, such as xerotic eczema and contact dermatitis, which are related to allergic skin reactions, and so on. Some people notice that exposure to the sun, humidity, or ocean water helps tremendously, while other not. Areas affected in adults are mainly the face, elbows, hands, knees and ankles. In infants it mainly manifests on the face, neck, scalp forearms, and legs. Of course, simply labeling the condition doesn’t help much in the long run if the underlining causes are not identified and addressed.

In conventional medicine the root cause of eczema is not clearly understood, but autoimmune function and hereditary factors are thought to play a major role. Aggravating factors include seasonal changes, certain foods, environmental allergens, pet dander, soaps, detergents, some fabrics, hot water, and bodily sweat. Certain high allergy foods such as wheat, gluten, soy, corn, and dairy are believed to contribute to the condition is some cases, but efforts to omit lots of items from the daily diet can be frustrating. In any case, it is best to start with the basic guidelines offered here along with a well-rounded individualized Ayurvedic program, and over time take further measures with dietary restrictions if and when needed. In Ayurveda, psoriasis is a similar condition to eczema in that it has much of the same root causes, so herbal treatment and dietary and lifestyle recommendations are also similar.

The Ayurvedic Perspective on Eczema

In Ayurveda this condition is referred to as vicharchika and it is related to the vitiation of any of the three doshas affecting the skin and blood as well as accumulated metabolic wastes. Traditionally, the main doshas involved are pitta or kapha, but all three can be involved. Below is a general description of how doshas influence the characteristics of this disease.

Vata type of eczema in AyurvedaVata types of eczema are characterized by extreme dryness, scaling, exfoliation, itching, and much pain and throbbing.

Pitta type of eczema in AyurvedaPitta types of eczema are associated with redness, blisters, bleeding, burning sensations, and infection. Pitta individuals may be prone towards seborrhoeic and contact dermatitis due to excess heat, especially in the armpits and on the scalp.

Kapha type of eczema in AyurvedaKapha types of eczema cause itching, oozing, and thickening of the skin. Kapha types may also be prone to seborrhoeic eczema, especially in between rolls of fats as well as other moist sweaty areas.

Dual or Tridoshic types are when more than one dosha is involved and the various symptoms are mixed, which is common in many cases.

For some people this condition can be acute and pass within a short period of time, while others experience lifelong symptoms. Though not a life threatening condition, it does cause psychological stress and extreme self-consciousness. Modern medicine believes there is no cure for this condition, but Ayurveda can safely manage and in many cases cure it over time. Treatment in Ayurveda is a wholistic process with more than just the application of topical creams or oils. It requires great discipline, observance of diet and lifestyle, patience, and a good method for stress management. such as yoga, tai chi and meditation.

Herbal Treatment in Ayurveda

To treat eczema and psoriasis, it is essential to have the guidance of a skilled practitioner who can tailor an herbal and dietary program specific to your individual needs. Not all cases can be treated or respond to treatment in the same way, so follow-up care is necessary. Because these conditions can take years to treat successfully, having the care of a skilled practitioner also provides the necessary support and reassurance at the emotional level while the healing process takes place.

Cleansing from within is also a major factor in removing this type of condition, as accumulated toxins tend to surface on the skin. A progressively cleaner diet may be necessary to promote the healing process and allow proper digestion of food (to avoid further accumulating toxins in the body) along with the unique cleansing therapies Ayurveda has to offer, including Panchakarma for deep detoxification, and a stress management program that would include yoga and meditation to strengthen the body while calming your mind.

Common Ayurvedic Herbs Used to Treat Eczema

Ayurveda offers many traditional and custom formulations that are specific to the various forms of this condition, but these can only be selected once a full evaluation is made by an Ayurvedic practitioner. Below is a general list of some of the most commonly used herbs to treat eczema, psoriasis, and related skin conditions.

Neem clears the heat and toxins from the liver and blood and relieves itching.

Manjista balances pitta in the skin, calms itching, and purifies blood.

Guduchi relieves all three doshas, especially pitta, regulates the immune system, reduces burning and systemic inflammation.

Punarnava is good for pitta and kapha related skin diseases and purifies the kidneys and liver.

Turmeric detoxifies, reduces inflammation, and relieves itching.

Aloe juice cools the blood, promotes healing of the skin, cleanses intestines, calms itching and burning sensations.

Licorice calms and sooths tissues, reduces inflammation, restores the gut, balances bitter herbs used to treat this condition, pacifies vata and pitta.

Shatavari cools blood, restores the gut, calms pitta in the GI tract and throughout the entire body.

Triphala cleanses the entire GI tract, promotes healthy digestion and absorption, and improves the tone of the skin.

Gotu Kola cleanses the blood, reduces the effects of stress, and calms the nerves and mind.

Jatamansi calms the mind, replenishes the nervous system, supports, cleanses blood, balances all doshas.

Ashwagandha reduces effects of stress, calms vata in the mind and nervous sysytem.

Tikta Ghrita (bitter medicated ghee) purifies the blood, cleanses and regulates proper liver function.

There are so many herbs, medicated oils and formulas that can be effective, but an individualized approach is often the best way to determine the right approach for the situation. This also saves valuable time, energy and money when embarking on treating such conditions. Sometimes a streamlined regime is more effective than lots of supplement and excessive elimination diets for dealing with stubborn chronic skin conditions.

Cleansing and Rejuvenation for Eczema

One of the most important aspects of eczema treatment includes seasonal detoxification with Panchakarma. This allows for the removal of deep-seated toxins and metabolic wastes, and also helps to weaken the tendencies that stand in the way of the healing process. This type of cleansing process is tailored to your individual needs to help remove excess dosha and toxins, calm your mind and nervous system, and uproot the underlying causes of this condition. Gentle home cleansing may also provide relief if a full Panchakarma program cannot be done, but only under the guidance of a trained Ayurvedic practitioner or doctor.

In infants with eczema deep cleansing is not indicated and the treatment is usually given through the mother, especially in the case of a breastfeeding baby. Usually, in such cases simple home remedies and diet and lifestyle tips are given for both mother and baby. A daily teaspoon of Aloe Vera juice mixed with any liquid and given to the infant can do wonders to relieve symptoms and rejuvenate the skin. A mothers diet will play a key role during the breastfeeding period. If the condition persists after 3 years of age, stronger internal herbs may be given. Subtle Ayurvedic herbal treatment, an aspect of sookshma chikitsa, can be administered even to young babies.

Traditional Ayurvedic warm oil massage, herbal steam bath, and Shirodhara are very beneficial in most eczema cases and can be performed as often as desired to promote lymphatic circulation, gently cleanse the system, calm the body and mind, and overcome fear and insecurity around the issue.
Vishnu Dass

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The further we have strayed from the simple village life of our ancestors, the more we have moved away from the comfort of a close knit community, spending time in nature, experiencing the darkness of night, the bright shining stars or seeing the sun rise over the trees as the morning mist evaporates into the blue sky.

IMG_0088As we live in our modern world, we can make it a ritual and practice to re-establish a deeper connection by taking regular walks in nature, growing a small garden, exercising daily to off set the more sedentary life of excessive driving and office work. We can choose to walk rather than drive, if possible, or to go for walks alone or with friends and family. Preparing home cooked, healthy and nourishing food more than eating out. Taking time out from our daily duties to relax and enjoy life beyond our work, worries of health, concerns for the endless problems of the world around us. These can revitalize us and allow us to remain inspired when we engage life. We have heard these things in many books, podcast and magazine articles, yet it is so easy to overlook them, to think that someday life will afford us the time and leisure to do them.

Reflect on ways you know you would like to change in a positive way. Consider deeply how you can make the time in you life to partake in these things while you have the life to do it, and remember how good it felt when you did do these things. Health has less to do with medicines and supplements as it does in the life affirming activities that we yearn for on a deep level. When we combine healthy diet with lifestyle we will find that our healing response quickens. One of my mentors Roy EugeneDavis often says “read some, meditate more.” We can apply this idea to healing as well. We can live fully, engaging in healthy, life affirming activities more than searching for health only at the doctors office and on the internet. These things play an important part in health, no doubt, but they can’t substitute for a life well lived. Live well

 

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In both Yogic philosophy and practice, developing equanimity of mind is central to the practice of meditation. Through our practice we can observe that the mind is either constantly attracted towards the objects of the senses, or it has aversion to them. Everything is being weighed on the scales of pleasure and pain, lose and gain, good or bad and so on, and a great deal of energy is spent seeking pleasurable experiences, while avoiding others that are painful. If we become too attached to something, we may no longer even enjoy that which we have obtained because we start to fear of losing it. This clouds the joy of experiencing life as it is. One of my teachers puts it like this, “we eat the banana of pleasure, only to slip on the peel of pain.” The slip isn’t in the experiencing something, but the attachment to it in the mind. In our constant search for comfort, or a sense of safety, it is easy to mistake the temporary satisfaction felt by having certain experiences for the true lasting contentment that is our very nature. My guru uses the analogy here or a thirsty man mistaking a mirage in the dessert for water.

When we seek the view of a mountain vista, or to stand on the shores of the sea and look out into the vast expanse of water, we are in a very real sense, seeking that infinite peace within. Humanity is constantly in search for this, and people of all shapes and sizes search in the cathedral of nature for the spiritual union, even if they don’t realize it. The joy felt in such surroundings is nature’s way of wooing us back to the present moment. The point I want to make here is that this peaceful, contented feeling we get when we behold something beautiful is really whelming up from within, rather than being something is added to us, that makes us feel this way. Remembering this in the heat of passion, joy or bliss is an important piece of wisdom that the yogis share with us.

Image

In the world of duality, we experience both side of the coin, so rejecting and avoiding pain only perpetuates it. Of coarse, this is easy stuff to talk about, but when the rubber hits the road it is another story all together. So how can we learn to loosen the grip of our attachments to the way we would like things to be and learn accept the way things as they are? Well, according to the yogis, it is only by persistent and unbroken practice in every moment of life, not just sitting, but in all of our daily activities. When we seek knowledge of our true nature, we must apply ourselves to that task and no matter how you slice it, life presents us with the opportunity to practice. We are not trying to force this process, but rather open, and relax into it, but this takes practice and constant remembering. If we are already established in the deep peace, the need for practice doesn’t arise, and no theoretical explanation is needed, one simply is. Many yogis I have come to respect teach that such a one has already gone through the needed practice. If you feel that there is more to yourself than the fluctuating thoughts in the mind, or you have a deep sense of longing and yearning for inner peace, this is a good signal that practice is the right medicine for your ills.

We may not consider ourselves to be on a spiritual path, but the path of life is a practice, if we choose to view it that way. Those that consciously take up the path of sadhana, or regular practice, have chosen to place a greater amount of life energy towards this inner investigation. The great yogi, Ramana Maharishi, would often say that the one simple and fundamental truth is that we are all having an experience of the “I” or a sense of “being alive.” We may not know who we are, why we are here, or how we can to be, but here we are experiencing life in the world. If we seek to penetrate beyond the temporary manifestations and experiences of life, and peek behind the veil, we can practice meditation to train the mind, until quieting the mind becomes as natural as walking and breathing. When we go about the day to day, try to remember that the contentment that settles the spirit is not something gained from outside oneself, from anyone or anything. That being said, the practice of yoga is not a form of escapism, where we live on an isolated island within oneself. Let life offer a helping hand, it is a priceless gift to be loved by another and share the gift of being. The freedom of yoga, or union, that I am speaking of here is the freedom to love, to taste, to touch, and experience life more fully, without being hindered by the self generating pain of attachment that binds us to the memories of past and our worries of the future.  It is also a freedom from the self-criticism and for the aversion to the way we perceive ourselves. We are not broken and we don’t have to fix ourselves either. This process is one of deeper and deeper surrendering and self-love.

The one teachings of my guru that has stayed with me more than almost anything else he every wrote on his chalkboard is “peace comes when we accept life as it is.”

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Life undoubtedly will present us with many challenges, but it seems that over time, we learn to accept things. The resiliency of spirit somehow gives us the ability to accept almost anything, in time. When we make an effort to show up everyday to practice meditation, we are training ourselves in a deeper way, to accept things as they are, in that moment, no matter how we feel. Meditation is an act of deep surrender that spreads out into all aspects of our life. Conversely, what arises during practice, often relates to our dealings in day-to-day life, one reflecting the others.

At times we may feel enthusiastic about sitting for meditation, and at other times we may feel like it is the last thing we want to do with ourselves. In my practice, when I’m distracted and preoccupied with the daily list of things to do, I make a note of what it is that needs attending to afterwards, and then resolve myself to the practice as earnestly as I can by saying to myself, “There is plenty of time for all of “that,” after “this.”

Often the mind will make every excuse in the book to not take the precious time out to sit. This is precisely where our practice of meditation can really start bearing fruit. When the river of emotion is swollen and ready to breach its banks, if we can bring ourselves to the meditation cushion, withdrawing the mind away from the pulls of the world, we are in a sense strengthening the muscle of dharana (concentration.)

Over the past 23 years of practicing meditation, I have become less interested in what will be gained by this process. I am less concerned with what I am getting out of it. At first, it is natural to yearn for some release from the tumult of the mind, from our struggles and suffering, but over the months and years, it has become apparent to me that practice has been of tremendous benefit in my daily life. Many meditators I have met over the years have shared with me a similar sentiment about the value of practice. It may not be an easy journey we are on, and at times it seems that we are dragged into the abyss against our will, kicking and screaming. The waters of mystery tempted us to the edge, and we couldn’t resist dipping our curious toe into the water, and whoosh, we are pulled in.

My guru often says, “fake it till you make it,” to students that complain about how distracted their minds get while attempting to meditate. What I feel he is trying to convey by this comment is that when we maintain a regular practice, making a concerted effort to sit still, calm the breath, and gently and persistently redirect the mind back to the present moment, the murky water of our mind will eventually settle.   Another point he makes is that each time we sit to meditate, it is like adding a thread to a rope, which over time gets thicker and stronger, until we can climb quickly into the stillness of meditation; into the clear sky behind the clouds our thoughts. This process may take time, even years, so it’s helpful to balance our effort with softness; remembering that where we are trying to get to is closer than our own skin. It may be helpful to reflect on the truth that there is nothing to attain that we don’t already possess in our heart.  There is no perfect technique, posture or practice that can enhance the changeless, pure consciousness that is the source our own breath.

It is the restlessness of the mind that keeps our true nature obscured, and the very act of practice is a willingness to turn within to uncover the truth of our being. When we stabilize the mind through meditation, day after day, the muscle of concentration is strengthened, and the gaps between the thoughts become larger and more spacious. This can happen for just a moment, but these moments can have tangible affects own our being. When we become become less interesting in the endless chatter, the thoughts the mind become like a distant roar of a crowd and the mind soon becomes merged into the object of our meditation. This object can be a thought, such as “I Am,” or one of the many the names or forms of God or Great Spirit.

In my experience, the one thing that I can say for certain is that the practice never leaves me alone for long. If I try to shake it off, and just hovers around like a horsefly, until it can again land on my shoulder again. The impressions formed in meditative states have a way of resurfacing in all aspects of our lives, coaxing us ever closer to our true Self.

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soham

Ajapa meditation is the practice of reciting a mantra internally, as a mental repetition. One of the most well known mantras used for practicing Ajapa is the  So Hum mantra. This mantra is as ancient as the breath itself, since it is the sound that the breath makes as it moves in and out of the body. It is the first and most constant expression of the Self within. A new born baby chants this mantra as it takes its first breath. The seed syllable “So” represents the pure I-sense, that Self, God or pure consciousness, and “Hum” represents am-ness, or the sense of being. “So Hum” is often translated as I Am He, but I prefer I Am That, or That I am. It can also be recited as Hum Sah, and when put together as one mantra it is So Hum-Hum Sah, which is similar in meaning as I Am That I Am. So Ham Hum Sah is a good mantra to say internally or externally for protection and releasing fear or trauma.

Traditionally, there are many methods for chanting So Hum. A good practice to start with is to simply recite the mantra internally as you breathe deeply and slowly. When you inhale, slowly and mentally chant the sound “So” and visualize the breath coming in through the nostrils and moving down through the chest and coming to rest just behind the navel. After a brief pause, slowly exhale and mentally say “Hum” as the breath comes back up through the body and out just past the tip of the nostrils, again pause briefly. As your mind becomes concentrated, your breath will  slow down and become more shallow. Keep repeating the mantra in this way, as if the breath itself is making the sound of the mantra. When your practice deepens, the visualization of the breath may fall away and just the sound of the mantra will remain. Throughout this practice, it is helpful to reflect, from time to time, on the meaning and vibration of the mantra. Ultimately, the mind will come to reside in the meaning “I Am That,” That pure, infinite, consciousness. The practice of Ajapa eventually leads the aspirant to heart of the mantra and Self realization.

If visualization doesn’t feel comfortable or natural, then simply breathe in and out while repeating the mantra, reflecting on the meaning and feeling the power and vibration of the mantra. If the mind stops the chanting, enters stillness, then just abide in that. If you notice that the mind is starts following thoughts, and creating stories, gently redirect the mind back to the practice.

It is helpful to keep the body relaxed and as still and comfortable as possible while doing Ajapa meditation. Lastly, my guru Baba Hari Dass has expressed that chanting So Ham helps to purity the subtle body, while Hum Sah is more purifying to the physical body. The practice I have shared here can be done either way. The key is to practice it regularly.

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Benefits of Healthy Fats in the Diet

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Ayurveda has long proclaimed the benefits of adding healthy fats into the daily diet. Fats are associated with kapha dosha; the bodily humor comprised of the earth and water element and governs the structural and lubricating energy of the body. Healthy fats are deeply nourishing to the bodily tissues and help to loosen metabolic waste products from the deep tissues, organs and channels, thus aiding in their elimination.

Cell membranes are comprised mainly of fatty acids, and their integrity is crucial for the free flow of nutrition and removal of waste products. A healthy cell structure enables clear cell-to-cell communication, which is essential for maintaining health and the prevention of diseases such as cancer and autoimmune diseases, where this communication is greatly broken down. So in this way, the right amount of healthy fats can help to keep the lines of cellular communication open and flowing freely.

In Ayurveda, this cellular communication is associated with prana, the vital life force energy.  The spark of intelligence that guides prana is associated with tejas, the subtle essence of pitta dosha, and the pathways in which this communication takes place in the field of kapha. To go deeper here, the myelin sheath, the insulating layer that forms around the nerves, is made up of kapha, in the form of fats and proteins. The myelin insulates the nerves and allows the impulses to move quickly and efficiently. If the myelin becomes damaged due to excess movement of vata, or deranged pitta, it can lead to demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Here, healthy fats can help to calm vata, pacify pitta and nourish and protect kapha dosha.

Adding the right amount of healthy fats into our diet has both cleansing and rejuvenating effects. For thousands of years Ayurveda has known about this and has encouraged eating healthy fats, such as ghee, for nourishment and prior to Panchakarma, cleansing and rejuvenation therapy to lubricate the bodily tissues, thus loosen toxins to be expelled from the system.  In deficient conditions bone marrow broths are also used to build the strength back up and to protect and nourish the nervous system. Conversely, if our diet contains trans fats, rancid and over cooked oils, or conventionally raised and grain feed animals, it contributes to the degradation of the fluidity and permeability of the cell membrane.

 Omega 3 Fatty Acid

In recent years, the awareness of the benefits of healthy fats in the daily diet has increased. The most notable are essential fatty acids, or EFAs especially from Omega-3. Aspects of these oils are not produced by the body, and must be obtained from the food we eat.  We already tend to get enough of Omega 6 & 9 already, so it is important to that we get more Omega-3 from sources including high quality fish oil, walnuts, flax seeds, soy beans, pumpkin seeds, and dark leafy greens and so on.  There are also some very good Omega 3 oil supplements in both fish and vegetarian form. Omega-3 has shown to support the immune system and metabolism, regulate cholesterol, and enhance the joints, eyes, bones and nerve tissue. Along with a holistic approach it may also aid in the treatment of mental and emotional conditions such as mood swings, depression, ADHA, and bipolar disorder. Omega 3’s anti-inflammatory and immune supportive properties make is a useful addition in the treatment of asthma, arthritis and degenerative and autoimmune diseases.

Fat Got a Bad Rape

Unfortunately, fat got a bad reputation in the 80 and 90’s and people where encouraged to eat low fat diets, but unhealthy fats still made their way into the daily diet in the form of trans fat and partially hydrogenated oils. In fact, he standard American diet is still loaded with trans fat and poor quality saturated fats. It is important to note that not all fat is bad for the body. In fact, saturated fat from coconut, avocado, nuts and ghee (clarified butter) is quite nourishing for the body.

Ghee ~ The Nectar of the Gods

Ghee (clarified butter) has a full spectrum of short, medium and long chain fatty acids, both unsaturated and saturated. Ghee made from the butter of healthy, organic, grass fed cows is naturally lactose free and a rich source of Omega 3 & 9 essential fatty acids, anti-oxidants, minerals and vitamins such as E, A D, and K.

Ayurveda often uses ghee as an anupana, a substance that is taken along with other herbs to enhance their absorption and direction into the body. When we cook food in ghee, it enhances the flavor, improves agni (digestive fire), and increases the absorption of nutrients. Lightly sautéing culinary spices in ghee is a good way to improve digestion and nourish the system, especially in the fall and winter months, when the body experiences more dryness as a result of increased vata dosha. Ghee is also considered sattwic, or pure, and can be added to meat soups to help balance meats tamasic, or inert qualities.

 

Health benefits of ghee:

Improves digestion and absorption

Nourishes the bodily tissues, especially the nerves

Lubricates, cleanses and protects the channels

Improves complexion

Increases immunity

Reduces inflammation

Improves mental function

Improves the eyesight

And much, much more

Fat Sources to Avoid:

Grain fed beef

Meat from non-organic and conventionally raised sources

Non-organic, non-free range eggs

Homogenized  dairy products

Deep fried foods

Refined cooing oils

Rancid nuts and seeds (taste them first)

Lard

Farmed fish

Donuts

Conventional brand cookies, crackers and breads (many contain partially hydrogenated oil)

Ice cream (unless its your birthday J)

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