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Archive for the ‘Beginner’s Guide to Ayurveda’ Category

Take a cooling bath in a lake with friends

So here we are in the dog days of summer. As the heat and humidity reach their pinnacle in the world around us, so does Pitta within us. Have you felt any of the following signs of high Pitta recently?

  • Rashes or redness in the skin
  • Hot flashes
  • Impatience
  • Acid reflux or heartburn
  • Irritability over little things
  • Road rage
  • Inflammation

Pitta is easily elevated in anyone this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, but even more so for those who have a significant proportion of Pitta in their baseline constitution, or prakriti.

Here are some quick solutions to bring that inner fire down fast:

  1. Spritz pure rose water over your face and eyes for an instant cool-down
  2. Drink coconut water or cucumber water (soak a few organic cucumber slices in a cup of water overnight) – both help cool you from the inside out
  3. Avoid spicy salsas and chili peppers, as well as acidic foods like tomato sauce, kombucha and grapefruit
  4. Schedule regular “computer screen vacations” throughout your work day, and then soothe your eyes (an organ with high concentrations of pitta) by gazing at an image of nature, especially bodies of water, or simply “palming” the eyes to let them rest in darkness
  5. Instead of lemonade, which is heating due to the sour taste, drink limeade (it is lime’s prabhav or mysterious effect that it is cooling despite being sour)
  6. Practice sheetali pranayama: roll your tongue like a straw (or press the tip of your tongue against the back of your top teeth) and breathe in through the mouth so air rushes over the tongue, then breathe out through the nose. Wait for the next inhale to arise naturally so you don’t hyperventilate. Do 12 slow rounds, then sit quietly. (This is a great antidote when someone cuts you off in traffic!)
  7. Create a little space in your schedule – give yourself extra time to get to an appointment, or block off a half hour at the end of your work day to close up loose ends before starting your commute
  8. Wear cooling colors like green and blue
  9. Sit for five minutes of stillness in the morning simply observing the breath, bringing the mind back to the breath each time it wanders
  10. When the critical or judgmental mind starts talking in your head, say to yourself, “Ah, my Pitta must be high!” and wait for a cooler moment before sharing your thoughts.

With a little forethought, we can anticipate high Pitta and take steps in advance to pacify it. Most importantly, be gentle with yourself. Stop working so hard (in all arenas) and remember that summer CAN be an invitation to adventure and fun. Put your feet up and kick back, even for five minutes – your Pitta will thank you.

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Join me for a free webinar “Deepen Your Yoga with Ayurveda” on Tuesday, Aug. 21, at 7pm CDT (8pm EDT, 5pm PDT). Register and get more information here: http://ivyingram.com/free-webinars/

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In a previous Foundations post, I described the main qualities of Kapha dosha (the energy of Earth and Water): heavy, slow, cool, oily, liquid, slippery/smooth, dense, soft, and stable.

In human beings, Kapha’s primary responsibility is creating structure, stability and lubrication. When Kapha is in balance (i.e., when it is maintained at the original baseline level set at an individual’s birth), then that person enjoys a sense of groundedness, stamina and compassion.

A two-toed sloth at the San Diego Zoo.

When Kapha dosha gets elevated, however, then excess mass or liquid can start to cause problems. Imbalances connected to the element of Water such as congestion, excess mucus, edema, and weight gain can occur, as can Earth element issues like cysts, tumors, gallstones, diabetes, and kidney stones.

In the mind and heart, excess Kapha can make a person feel lethargy, fatigue, “stuck in a rut,” a lack of clarity, or overly attached, greedy and possessive.

What causes Kapha dosha to elevate? Exposure to Kapha’s qualities (in the immediate environment around you, in foods consumed, or in the environment of the mind) will cause Kapha to rise in accordance with the law of “like increases like.”

Kapha-increasing foods are heavy, oily and sweet, like dairy, fried foods, meat, cake and ice cream. Cold and moist climates, iced drinks, sedentary lifestyles, napping during the day and sleeping in a soft bed can all increase Kapha.

Kapha is most present in the early years of childhood when our bodies are responsible for growth and building. Kapha is also high in the damp, wet season of Spring, when allergies often unleash a torrent of Kapha phlegm.

The best “medicine” for Kapha contains its opposite qualities: light, sharp, fast, warm, dry, rough, and mobile. It is of the utmost importance for Kapha types to engage in plenty of exercise and movement, avoid cold and heavy food, cook with ginger, chilis and black pepper, and cultivate devotion through chanting and yoga.

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Join me for a free webinar “Deepen Your Yoga with Ayurveda” on Tuesday, Aug. 21, at 7pm CDT (8pm EDT, 5pm PDT). Register and get more information here: http://ivyingram.com/free-webinars/

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In the last few posts, we’ve been learning about Pitta Dosha, the energy of Fire (and a little Water). Today, we’ll celebrate the endurance and compassion of Kapha Dosha.

In Sanskrit, the term Kapha comes from “ka” meaning water, and “pha” meaning to flourish – that which is flourished by water. Kapha is made up of the energy of Water and Earth. It creates stability, moisture, and the power to reduce friction.

Kapha in the body governs lubrication, structure and support, a dosha relatively underdeveloped in our culture, especially in comparison to the overly celebrated multitasking of Vata and intense drive of Pitta. Another very important function of Kapha is the responsibility for recording and retaining all experiences. A balanced Kapha person has the memory of an elephant and will never forget.

Here are some expressions of the qualities of Kapha:

Heavy – strong muscles, big bones, large frame

Slow – sluggish metabolism, slow speech

Cool – clammy skin

Oily – oily skin, well-lubricated joints

Liquid – secretion of saliva and mucus, eyes deep like an ocean

Slimy/Smooth – protective mucus in the gastrointestinal tract

Dense – luxurious thick hair, firm mind

Soft – smooth soft skin, voluptuous body

Static – stable and sedentary behavior

Kapha’s functions in the body include lubrication of mucus membranes, maintaining electrolyte balance, wound healing, cellular wall structure, sleep, nourishment, taste and smell.

Kapha is the archetypal Earth Mama who represents motherhood, fertility, and embodies the bounty of the Earth. These individuals are gentle and slow. Kapha people love to hug and are full of grace and compassion. They can also be described as a “tortoise” type.

Kapha-dominant people like to keep a schedule; they enjoy routine and can be thrown by a change in plans. Kaphas have a great capacity for forgiveness and are capable of a deep sense of inner peace, typically expressed through acts devotion. Their reliability, stamina and loyalty are often noted by the people closest to them.

Stay tuned to learn what happens when Kapha dosha becomes imbalanced.

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Goodness, how times flies in the summer! I just returned home after ten days in Portland, Oregon, enjoying the July 4th festivities as well as the wedding of some dear friends, Chris and Suji. It was blissful for this Pitta gal to wake up to temperatures in the 60’s!

While traveling, I was honored to be included in a survey of Ayurveda experts on the hot topic of juicing by fellow blogger Nadya Andreeva. There is a lot to say on the subject – and perhaps the best advice is that, as in all things viewed through the lens of Ayurveda, the wise choice depends on one’s constitution, the climate, one’s current state of balance and digestive strength. Our responses to her questions were included on two different blog posts: SpinachandYoga.com, and  MindBodyGreen.com. Thanks, Nadya, for the opportunity to share my two cents.

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And now, back to Ayurveda summer school! In my last Foundations post, I described the main qualities of Pitta dosha (the energy of Fire and Water): oily, sharp, hot, light, smelly, spreading, and liquid.

In human beings, Pitta’s primary responsibility is to coordinate digestion and healthy temperature. When Pitta is in balance (i.e., when it is maintained at the original baseline level set at an individual’s birth), then that person’s digestion and ability to manage internal heat are normal.

When Pitta dosha gets elevated, however, then signs of excess heat begin to show up. Fever, inflammation, irritation, hot flashes, diarrhea, ulcers, burning sensations, and skin rashes are all common signs of aggravated Pitta.

In the mind and heart, high Pitta can lead to anger, irritation, annoyance, jealousy, competitiveness, or simply a shorter fuse than usual.

What causes Pitta dosha to go up? As previously discussed, exposure to Pitta’s qualities (in the immediate environment, in foods consumed, or in the mind) will cause Pitta to rise in accordance with the law of “like increases like.” Watch out for greasy, acidic, and pungent-spicy foods, alcohol, hot temperatures, competitive activities, exposure to bright sunlight and overworking, which can all cause Pitta to rise.

During the particularly hot season of summer, Pitta tends to become elevated naturally. There is also a natural surge of Pitta during our mid-adult years when we are responsible for establishing our careers and making our mark on the world. With the emphasis on accomplishment and rational thinking in our culture, Pitta elevation can easily occur anytime.

The best “medicine” for Pitta contains or expresses its opposite qualities: dry, dull, cool, heavy, stable, and dense. Given that it’s mid-summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, now is a good time to drink cooling coconut water, hibiscus tea, pomegranate juice, and organic milk, to schedule in periods of rest (and actually follow through on it!), and to find a shady spot by a pool of cool water.

The trickiest part of managing Pitta is to keep our inner heat under control without putting out our digestive fire, or agni. Drinking ice cold beverages while eating a meal, for example, or piling on the ice cream after a meal, will disrupt digestion entirely. Extremes of cold cause constriction of vessels internally, which is why we ice an injury – to reduce inflammation. When we are trying to digest, however, it is helpful to keep vessels dilated with foods and liquids that are warm.

In the next post, we will begin to explore Kapha dosha, the energy of Earth and Water.

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In the last few posts, we’ve been learning about Vata Dosha, the energy of Air and Space. Today, we dive into the fire of Pitta Dosha.

Pitta – The Energy of Fire and Water

The word Pitta comes from the Sanskrit root tap, meaning fire or heat. This is the same root that the term tapas (discipline) comes from, which refers to the burning passion of commitment and dedication.

Pitta is predominantly the energy of the element Fire, although there is also a little bit of Water energy in Pitta as well. Just like a physical flame, Pitta transforms matter from one form to another. We can see Pitta at work in the daily transformative power of our own metabolism and digestion.

The qualities of Pitta are oily, sharp, hot, light (in both senses: light-weight and bright), pungent in odor, spreading and liquid. A Pitta-dominant person typically has a medium-framed body, red-toned oily skin, quick digestion with a ravenous appetite, balding or prematurely grey hair, and a sharp intellect. When the weather is hot and humid, Pitta is dominant in the environment. (Hello, summer in central Texas!)

In the human body, Pitta is responsible for metabolism and maintaining healthy temperature. Its functions include digestion, absorption, assimilation, cellular metabolism, vision, and maintaining healthy skin. Importantly, it is also responsible for the digestion of information or experience into emotions and knowledge.

People with Pitta as their dominant dosha tend to be interested in matters of the mind, sometimes at the expense of the body. They can have fiery emotions, full of passion, and they can be competitive or even aggressive in communication, invested as they are in persuading their listeners. Their drive and motivation is strong and goal-directed.

Stay tuned to learn what happens when Pitta dosha gets out of balance.

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