by Susan Bernhardt
My years of studying and practicing Ayurveda and yoga introduced me from afar to India. I anticipated that a three-week trip to India last month with my Ayurveda teacher, Dr. Bharat Vaidya, and his school, Ayurved Sadhana, would make everything feel more tangible and deepen my knowledge. The trip certainly did that. And much, much more.
The majority of our trip was Ayurveda-focused:
I'm still working on sorting through photos as well as thoughts about the trip, but for now I want to share a few observations and takeaways. Some Observations
In the spirit of giving more public acknowledgments and expressions of gratitude: thank you to Dr. Bharat Vaidya and Anupama Vaidya for organizing this trip and founding a school based in traditional Ayurvedic teachings; thank you to Dr. Ujjvale Kale for organizing the clinics, being a guide for much of the trip, and for sharing your warmth, fun-loving spirit, and love; thank you to all of the local Ayurvedic doctors and others who visited with us, cared for the people who came to the clinics, and shared their knowledge and experience in order to enrich ours; thank you to those who visited the clinics, sharing your concerns and trusting our advice. Thank you also to other teachers who have shared their wisdom and helped lead me on this beautiful journey in Ayurveda, yoga, and healing, among them Dr. Sarasvati Buhrman, Shar Lee, Derik Eselius, Santosh Powell, and Baba Hari Dass and his senior students.
Mantra Purusha marries the healing sciences of mantra and marma therapy. The mantra and marma connection is very important for healing purposes. The combination of mantra and marma heals the physical body, changes the frequency of the subtle body, and removes negative patterns from the mind. It reduces the karmic code or matrix which resides in the psyche. This paper will describe the meaning, purposes, and origination of mantra and marma. It will also describe why the Mantra Purusha is the best tool in Ayurvedic medicine.
Marmas are special, sensitive points on the body; they are junction points where 2 or more tissues meet. They are located at the intersection of blood vessels, bones, and ligaments; they are most commonly found at the joints. The wrist joint is an example of a marma. These locations are places where prana can enter or leave the body. The ancient healing practice of marma is used to shape prana in the subtle body.
These special points carry energy information between the mind and the organs and tissues of the body; they are access points to body, mind, consciousness. Marmas are the intersection between: matter and energy, the physical and subtle planes, matter and consciousness, Purusha and Prakriti, ojas and prana. Each marma point contains the energies of Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
Another meaning of marma is “secret”. This alternative meaning of marma is used in several contexts. One context is that the marma points exist below the surface of the skin. Another context is in connection with keeping the teachings of marma secret until the person is ready for the information. A third context is that this valuable knowledge was known only by kings and warriors to be used judiciously in battle. Sushrut promulgated the science of marma, and he used it in surgery and healing wounds in warrior battles.
There are 108 marmas; 37 on the head and neck, 22 on the arms, 22 on the lower extremities, 14 on the back, 12 on the chest and stomach. The mind is the 108th marma point.
Mantra finds its origin in the Vedas and is derived from the word “man” which means mind, and “tra” which means tool. Therefore, mantra is a mind tool. Mantra is asana for the mind. “Mantra puts the mind into a certain pose in which it can become a conduit for higher flow of energy and grace.” . It provides focus, strength, adaptability, and plasticity for the mind by forming new synaptic connections in the brain. Mantra works on many levels and has many purposes.
Painful memories are stored as frequencies or sound patterns in our psyche. The liver stores unresolved anger, the gall bladder stores hatred, the kidneys store fear, the stomach and colon store nervousness, the lungs store grief and sadness, and the spleen stores attachments.
Mantras can be used in Ayurvedic preparations; they empower the herbs, foods, and therapies. Since water is a vehicle for prana and emotions, one could energize the water with mantra and then use the water to release and heal the negative experiences and painful memories, and uplift our inner rasa.
The Sanskrit language is the language of the angels. It is the only language that transmits meaning through sound. It is a vibrational language and therefore it can awaken Kundalini and transform us. The Sanskrit alphabet reflects prime powers of creation. The Sanskrit syllables are “Matrikas” or spiritual mothers of our being. They are the root forms of Shakti.
There are 50 sounds and each sound relates to a place on the body or a marma. The 16 vowels relate to the head and senses, the first 20 consonants relate to the main joints on arms and legs, the last 5 consonants relate to the abdominal region, the 9 semi-vowels and sibilants relate to the tissues, mind, and soul.
There are also mappings of the language constituents to other facets of the universe. The vowels correspond to consciousness, spirit, Shiva or Purusha. Consonants relate to matter or nature or Shakti, or Prakriti. The sibilants and semi-vowels stand between vowels and consonants, between consciousness and matter.
There is even further mapping of the sounds. Gutturals symbolize pranic urges or impulses in life. Palatals connote emotional energy, and generative power. Cerebrals give stability and form to life. Dentals project force from our being. And labials express our energies to the outside world.
In order to turn the alphabet letters into mantras, an anusvara, or final “m” is added to each of the letters. For example, the letter “ai” becomes the mantra “aim”. This way the recitation of the alphabet becomes a mantra.
The Purusha mantra links marma and mantra; this mantra directs healing energy and higher prana to different places within us that need healing. Each of the 50 letters corresponds to a marma or body location. To awaken the Shakti in each Sanskrit alphabet mantra, one must recite it with deep feeling, awareness of a larger power, and with concentration of the mind and heart. The attached file contains the mantras and body parts chart. There is also a jpeg file associated with this paper that contains a more advanced version of the mantra. You can touch each area with your hands or with your mind, and recite the associated mantra. As you deepen the practice, the mantra begins to speak to you and teach you. You move from speaking the mantra to listening. Grace flows from the mantra when we are in the listening state and receptive to its Shakti. Sanskrit is the language of the angels. Practicing mantra in this way moves us to a state of listening to the angels.
As a final foot note there was an article in the NY Times about Einstein’s theory. It explains how there were 2 black holes circling each other (Purusha and Prakriti) and then they finally merged and produced a sound or frequency that was recently measured by the LIGO apparatus in Louisiana. One could surmise that the 2 black holes were Purusha and Prakriti, and the sound produced was OM. OM is the prime mantra of the Atman, or Purusha. It is the seed mantra of all other mantras
 Dr. David Frawley, "Mantra Yoga and Primal Sound, Secrets of Seed (Bija) Mantras”, 2010, p. 24.
On Tuesday, November 15, 2016 COLORAMA held its annual public meeting with the intent to nominate, confirm and re-elect members of our Board of Directors.
COLORAMA by-laws require that 25% of the membership attend such meetings in order to cast a valid vote. Unfortunately, only 8 members were able to be there, one short of the 9 required.
Therefore, we are resorting to an electronic ballot which, if you are a member, you will have received in an email. The purpose of the document you are right now reading is to provide further information about the indiviuals up for election.
The information below is a compiled from letters of intent written by the candidates themselves, official board recommendations and some inevitable personal perspective.
If you are not a member but would like to have your voice heard in these and other matters, please join us! We are planning our 2017 public meeting for April of this coming year, so stay tuned!
Here is an excerpt from Meera's letter seeking re-election:
"Dear Fellow COLORAMA members...
I am seeking reelection for another term and… ask for your support so that I may continue to serve in this premier organization. I have been actively involved with COLORAMA since 2012-2013, first serving as support and help for Dr. Lad's last two visits — spearheading the design and development of the program guide, developing sponsorship programs to foster fundraising efforts and implementing advertising efforts for the event with two time sponsor Nexus magazine. After that, I have served on the COLORAMA board for the last few years as Treasurer and was instrumental in securing our non-profit status with the IRS and Colorado state government.
If I'm reelected to the board, I hope to continue for another term as Treasurer if possible, or in some other capacity that would best serve the needs of this organization. I would greatly appreciate your vote as a message of confidence that I may continue to serve.
The COLORAMA Board unanimously endorses Meera for re-election. We appreciate her diligence and precision with the bookkeeping, and value her input on the other tasks at hand. We are grateful for her good work thus far, and feel deeply relieved that she wishes to serve the COLORAMA community for another three years.
FOR CONFIRMATION / RATIFICATION
Akacia was appointed to the COLORAMA board in January 2016 to spearhead the Events committee. Here is an excerpt from her letter written at that time:
"To the members of COLORAMA,
My name is Akacia. I am a student, musician, dog owner, outdoor enthusiast and instrument builder with a passion for Ayurveda…
What started as an irrepressible urge to become a student of Ayurveda has evolved into a full embrace of Ayurveda as a life path. I hope to bring forth my skill set to assist in the establishment of Ayurveda as a widely recognized, legitimate form of medicine in this country. This is why I am inspired to serve on the board of COLORAMA."
The COLORAMA board unanimously endorses Akacia to be ratified in her role as Events Coordinator in order to complete the next 2 years of a 3 year term. Akacia has taken on her role with gusto, convening and overseeing an events committee that put on six excellent events in 2016 with the promise for many more in 2017. Akacia is an organizing force with an instinct for innovation and the drive to improve every project with which she becomes involved.
Appointed to the board in October 2015, David started as the Membership coordinator and has recently added Webmaster to his list of duties. Here is an excerpt from his introductory letter to the membership:
"Dear COLORAMA members,
My name is David McConaghay, and I am proud to be the newest member of the COLORAMA board.
My first priority is to support you, our existing members. We are working to significantly increase the benefits of being a member, and have already taken strong steps in that direction… COLORAMA is nothing but our members, and our aim is to enhance the sense of camaraderie within this steadily growing community.
As stewards of Ayurveda in Colorado and North America, I feel it is our duty to share this living science with honesty and enthusiasm, so that others may discover and benefit from it just as we have. Thank you for being a part of this mission. We look forward to sharing the journey with you."
The COLORAMA board unanimously endorses David for ratification, so he may serve out the remaining 2 years of a 3 year term. David brings consistent enthusiasm and a work ethic that helps move important initiatives forward. As the sole member of the Membership committee, he is now Webmaster, supports the Events committee and helps with Communications.
Here is an excerpt from Sujatha’s self-nominating letter to the Board:
"Where [do] we stand today as Ayurvedic professionals state wide and in the country? As per NAMA's requirements we are working towards proper certification to be Ayurvedic practitioners at different levels. That satisfies the academic criteria. There are some other issues that need attention:
1. Ethics and Regulation of practice of Ayurveda as per COLORAMA BOARD
2. State Board certification by COLORAMA for practitioners for practicum and supervision hours and Supervisor requirements
3. Accreditation of Ayurvedic schools in Colorado through COLORAMA
4. DORA affiliation to COLORAMA.
I would like to support and be a part the board in achieving the status that Ayurveda deserves and be able to serve the people in need of our science to achieve good health. I strongly feel the people and our professionals should be protected from unethical practices with continuing education and ethical practice guidelines.
It is high time that we get recognition as professionals through education and awareness. At the least we can work towards becoming registered professionals. Yoga used to be what Ayurveda is in the 90's. I am sure we can achieve this too.
AAPNA: Founding member, Clinical chair for two years.
AAPI: Auxillary Chair for Association of physicians from Indian origin, Ohio 2003-2004
Asha ray of Hope: Non profit Organization which helps victims of domestic violence in the South Asian Community. I am a Founding member and served as Vice president, Direct services chair and Board member for more than 10 years. 2002-2014"
The COLORAMA board is grateful for Sujatha’s willingness to serve. She brings great experience and expertise in the non-profit sector with other relevant organizations. Her focus is on uplifting the professional status of Ayurvedic practitioners, an issue that is ripe for development at this time.
Here is an excerpt from AV’s letter of intent, addressed to the board:
This letter is to express my interest in one of the board positions. I understand that the available position is Secretary of Advisory Board in COLORAMA.
After establishing various thriving careers as Project Manager, Senior Engineer and Quality Engineering Manager over last 20 years, I have co-founded Ayurved Sadhana Vidyalaya along with Dr. Bharat Vaidya to provide Authentic Ayurvedic Education to like-minded Ayurvedic and local community.
I have been working as Lead Administrator for Ayurved Sadhana Vidyalaya. I am working with students and teachers for Ayurvedic Practitioner, Advanced Ayurvedic Practitioner and Ayurvedic Doula programs and collaborating with NAMA, CDA and other Ayurvedic partners. I am also working as Web Administrator for Ayurved Sadhana Vidyalaya maintaining all web page updates
Last many years, I am actively involved as Ayurvedic Cooking Instructor and Coach for RMIYA, Sacred Windows and Ayurved Sadhana Vidyalaya as well as Ayurvedic Doula Coach for Sacred Windows and Ayurved Sadhana Vidyalaya.
Thank you in advance for your time. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. I would appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the position.
The COLORAMA board is grateful for AV’s willingness to serve. She brings powerful enthusiasm and vision to all of her work, which can be seen in her personal career as well as her many volunteer positions, not to mention her efforts as the coordinating force behind Ayurved Sadhana.
What is Ayurveda & how is it useful?
Ayurveda is the 5,000 year old system of healing from India which teaches “the way of life”. This way does not dictate one path for all, but offers understanding about the basic energies of the universe and how they manifest in differing amounts in each person. Maintaining one’s own personal balance of energies amid the changes of life allows mind, body & soul to express in the healthiest possible way. Ayurveda is being talked about more & more in alternative health magazines and yoga communities. It is a natural sister to yoga.
I became drawn to Ayurveda when I was a busy homebirth midwife, supporting women in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum with natural means. Why did some herbs and therapies work for one person with a condition, while another person with the same condition didn’t respond favorably to that same help? I saw that a piecemeal approach to using natural remedies was based on symptomatic treatment—which is one of the problems with western medicine. Just as one birth plan doesn’t work for all laboring women, one treatment doesn’t work for all women who are nauseated in pregnancy.
A holistic approach deals with the person more than with the disease, encouraging and supporting the natural healing responses in that person. Chinese medicine was becoming more popular at that time and I considered it. But when I read about it, the terms and philosophy just wouldn’t fit into my head. Then I heard a tape by Deepak Chopra, someone influential in popularizing Ayurveda in the US. Chopra’s charismatic address drew me to look further into Ayurveda. As I read about more it was like recognizing what I already knew. Many of the principles and applications fit my own intuition and experience in my body. Thus began my studies in earnest.
That was over 15 years ago. After hours & hours of classes, reading and practicing I see that Ayurveda delivers all & more than what it promised me. It is both as simple & commonplace as the sun rising each day, and as complex as all of the forces that allow that to happen & us to view it. What I’ll explain to you here is for simple & commonplace use. To delve into the more complex levels takes time & dedication. And I encourage you to go for that level, if you, like me, feel that pull to integrate your knowledge with this rich system.
Ayurveda, like midwifery, finds intuition to be the highest authority. Sometimes people get bound up in the guidelines about how to balance through diet, lifestyle, and therapies, making them into rules written in stone, and then get discouraged when they can’t follow them exactly, right from the start, so they quit. This perfectionistic view is a disease in itself. Just as written protocols might guide a new student or support when we are too tired or out of balance, so too the guidelines & principles of Ayurveda. They help you get to the point where you are clear enough & experienced enough to go with the flow with confidence. Ayurveda even recommends methods to increase our native intelligence, through increasing mental clarity.
The aspect of Ayurveda that is most commonly known is the DOSHAS. These are basic energies that act within all living beings.
VATA comes from ether and air elements.
PITTA originates from fire and some water.
And KAPHA comes from water & earth elements.
The qualities of the three doshas are outlined in Table A. All of us have all three of the doshas operating within us. We all need all of the qualities working at doing different jobs in our bodies.
Each individual has an doshic proportion set at birth. The proportion of the doshas which an individual can contain in a healthy way is called the CONSTITUTION. Our constitution is determined by the three main influences: the environment when we are conceived (climate, & thoughts, condition and constitutions of the parents); the diet, lifestyle & emotions of the mother during pregnancy; and our spiritual destiny. We can determine what this constitution is for a person through investigating the long term trends of the body & mind and by pulse diagnosis. The constitution is the benchmark of health. It can be expressed as ex. Vx Py Kz, with x, y, and z a numbers from 1 to 3, according to the proportions of the particular constitution.
Our current CONDITION shows if we are filling or exceeding our capacity for the doshas in our body/mind system. It is influenced by what we eat, the weather, the emotions of people around us, our activities, our daily routine(or lack thereof), how we breathe, our own thoughts & emotions and so forth.
Maintaining a relatively stable condition requires adjusting our choices to balance out influences which are beyond our control, such as change of the seasons or uncontrollable events in our lives.
The condition is expressed as Vx Py Kz, same as the constitution, making it easy to compare the two. The levels of the condition might go as high as 4. When our current condition levels match our constitutional levels then our body/mind is balanced & expressing in the healthiest possible way.
But this balancing act is more like surfing a wave than like a static balance. This means that the more you can tune in to what you need to balance and can discern what is vata, pitta, and kapha increasing or decreasing, the better you can ride those waves.
The condition is determined by noticing changes in our body/mind, and by pulse diagnosis. The advantage of pulse diagnosis is that subtle changes will show up in the pulse before showing up on the physical level and can be addressed more gently before they become physical.
For more about surfing the changes of the doshas in your life, contact an Ayurveda Practitioner. For more about Terra and WiseWomanhood Holistic Women's Health, go to www.wisewomanhood.com
[Excerpt from Ayurveda for the Childbearing Years by Terra Rafael, available from Amazon.]
Here are a few general recommendations that are helpful to most people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and joint pain.
Rheumatoid arthritis is called Amavata and is mainly caused by, as the name implies ama, which are toxins from undigested food particles due to low Agni, and Vata Dosha aggravation.
When I work with clients, I teach them how to prevent further toxins and how to get rid of them, this takes dietary and lifestyle changes, herbal remedies and cleansing programs developed to suit their unique and individual needs.
Apply castor oil packs on affected joints for 20 minutes. Afterwards soak or wash the joints with a strong warm mustard seed tea or apply a poultice of ground mustard seeds for 20 minutes.
Include more turmeric, ginger and mustard in your meals.
Do not eat raw fresh fruits too close to a meal of solid foods, instead enjoy the fresh fruits at least 45 minutes before a meal or at least two hours after a meal.
Avoid refined white sugar and refined white flour.
Avoid ice cold drinks and foods.
Leave 3-5 hours between meals without eating anything but fruits and drinking warm water and tea.
Include more turmeric, ginger and mustard in your meals.
Do not eat raw fresh fruits too close to a meal of solid foods, instead enjoy the fresh fruits at least 45 minutes before a meal or at least two hours after a meal.
Avoid refined white sugar and refined white flour.
Avoid ice cold drinks and foods.
Leave 3-5 hours between meals without eating anything but fruits and drinking warm water and tea.
Love your joints. Literally tell them how much you love them, how beautiful they are and how well they serve you. Visualize a golden white light within your joints healing them and nurturing them.
In addition for rheumatoid arthritis, drink 1 teaspoon hexane free castor oil in a cup of ginger tea every morning on an empty stomach for up to three weeks.
Give these guidelines at try and then leave a comment below with your observations and how you feel.
If this information is helpful, share it with your health conscious friends and family.
Stay tuned for more Ayurvedic health tips.
The saints of Ayurveda observed how the elements are involved in the different seasons and times of day. They brought to light the importance of understanding this in order for us to prevent imbalance and disease.
During fall, in the temperate climate, Vata predominates; leaves dry out and fall, wind increases, and it gets colder. Thus, at this time, in places such as North America and Europe, it is wise to include more digestive spices and soupy, moist, warm, oily, cooked foods with heating virya, and healthy sweet, sour and salty tastes. This is of great importance especially for people with a Vata constitution. Those having a Pitta constitution should be careful not to indulge in too much sour, salty, pungent and heating foods, and if Kapha, one should not eat too much sweet, sour and oily foods.
Suggestions for great meals include basmati rice, dal, vegetables such as pumpkin, beet, carrot, yam, asparagus, okra, parsnips, and spinach, paneer or other cheeses, prepared with an array of digestive spices such as turmeric, cumin, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, black mustard seeds, roasted garlic, dill, basil, hing/asafetida and fenugreek.
During winter, in temperate regions at low altitude and close to the ocean, such as at the coast lines of North America and Europe, Kapha accumulates. This is a time of clouds, wet and heavy snow and cold temperatures. Thus cooked warm foods with greater pungency and heating virya are preferred. Avoid old leftovers and excessive sweet and heavy foods. Enjoy hot water or herbal teas such as fresh ginger or cinnamon with honey throughout the day to stimulate the digestive fire.
If you have a Pitta constitution, be careful not to ignite the inner heat too much; instead of consuming pungent foods and drinks, enjoy the coziness of exterior heat by sitting next to a fireplace or wrapped in soft blankets with a cup of hot chamomile tea.
During winters that are particular long and cold as well as in high altitudes such as the Rocky Mountains in the USA, Austria, and Switzerland, the wind is more rough, the air is thinner and drier, and Vata is likely to get provoked, thus follow more of a Vata soothing diet as in the fall.
Spring is the junction between winter and summer. This is a time of increasing daylight and warmer temperatures; flowers bloom and hibernating animals leave their winter sleeping places. Mother Earth is awakening while the sun melts the snow. In early spring, Kapha easily gets aggravated because the water and earth elements liquefy. Just as rivers tend to overflow at this time due to spring floods, the body is exposed to internal overflow of the Kapha attributes. Thus it is important to favor dry, light, rough, warm, bitter, astringent and pungent foods to help clear mucus and excess moisture from the body. If suffering from ailments due to Kapha aggravation, this is a supreme time to cleanse the body.
During later spring, as the sun rises and it gets warmer, Pitta starts accumulating and the need for foods and drinks with more cooling virya increase. This of course is most important for people with a Pitta constitution or aggravation.
When the heat escalates and summer comes, the fiery, sharp and light qualities of pitta increase in the body and mind. It may appear that during this time, the digestive fire should be strong; however, due to certain physiological factors, it is not. Hence, it is very important to follow proper discrimination regarding what is good for us and not to indulge in what the mind and senses attract. For example, ice cream is a common food during summer, and while there is nothing wrong with a little ice cream during the heat of summer, we have to resist the desire of wanting a second serving. When we practice moderation and non-attachment towards the foods we take, we can enjoy the pleasure and nourishment it offers.
The foods to favor during summer consist of bitter, astringent, healthy sweet, light and easily digestible foods. One should especially enjoy the great variety of colors of vegetables and fruits such as broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, cauliflower, turnips, purple potatoes, karela (bitter gourd), cabbage, dandelion, burdock, lettuce, neem, green beans, peas, cucumber, zucchini, yellow squash, apples, pears, sweet berries, ripe mango, peach and watermelon. Prepare the foods with spices such as fennel, coriander, cardamom, cilantro, and coconut. When cooking beets, carrots, tomatoes, pumpkin, okra, spinach, and chard, make sure to include a lot of cooling foods such as coconut, cucumber and cilantro in the menu – especially when living in places where the summer heat is intense.
During this time, it is best to avoid all red meats, garlic, onion, and tomato sauce, as well as pungent and excessively sour and salty tastes. The mind easily gets aggravated by the heat and the risk of imbalanced Pitta emotions, such as anger, irritation and criticism, increases. Thus, practicing more pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditating in the moonlight is recommended.
Please note that in tropical climate, the seasons are different; due to the high temperature and humidity, Pitta and Kapha prevail. Thus, it is recommended to favor cooling, bitter, astringent, healthy sweet taste such as grains and milk and lighter foods. Refer to the diets outlined during spring and summer.
Note that Vata can get provoked during tropical storms and other dramatic changes in the weather as well as lifestyle.
Healing Your Body Is Your Choice ~ Make It Now!
Suffering from any of the following?
All of these health issues are classified as Vata disorders. Vata Dosha gives light (versus heavy), dry, cold, rough, hard, subtle, clear and mobile properties to the body and mind.
Vata is the governing principle of movement and affects the nervous system, joints and bones; especially the pelvic girdle when aggravated.
1) Like Increases Like
When calming Vata Dosha, opposite properties are generally applied: heavy/grounding, oily/moist, warm, smooth/slimy, soft, gross, cloudy and static. Therefore, include in your diet lots of warm cooked grounding vegetable and chicken soups and stews, creamy sauces, healthy oils such as ghee, sesame oil and avocados, warm cooked cereals with soaked moist nuts and seeds.
2) Eat enough
Three square meals and two substantial snacks are ideal.
4) Digestive Spices
When Vata is disturbed, it is difficult to digest food, therefore, prepare your meals with several digestive spices such as ginger, black pepper, salt, cumin, turmeric, oregano, basil, thyme, tamarind and lemon juice.
5) Warm Milk Tonic
Before bed enjoy a warm milk tonic with cardamom, nutmeg, ghee and raw honey.
6) Abhyanga - Traditional Ayurvedic oil massage
ABHYANGA is very important when balancing Vata. For severe symptoms daily apply warm Vata oil or sesame oil to the whole body for 20 minutes before a hot shower.
Massage the whole body so you stimulate various Marma points to enhance circulation and blood flow as well as to open the subtle channels.
Each person has individual needs and while these recommendations may greatly help you, consider taking your health to a greater level by understanding YOUR Ayurvedic body-mind type, your current imbalances, and how to maintain your equilibrium and harmony when you are in balance.
Each season, your body and mind are affected by the changes in the environment and imbalances occur if you don't know how to prevent them by taking the necessary precautions.
If you are suffering from severe symptoms that are interfering with your life, diet and lifestyle changes are likely not enough. It will take the expertise of an Ayurvedic Practitioner to bring you back into balance; it will take Ayurvedic herbs, various herbal preparations and other Ayurvedic treatments.
This is your life. The longer you wait receiving the support you may need, the deeper the imbalance will go and more serious issues may develop.
Healing Your Body Is Your Choice ~ Make It Now!
Why would something like constipation or diarrhea be a sign of something that could lead to implantation problems, in utero developmental problems, or premature labor?
Female reproductive health is greatly dependent on the downward energy regulation of apana vayu, as taught by Ayurveda. The functions of the uterus of a woman during menstruation, as well as in pregnancy & birth, are controlled by apana, along with bladder and bowel functions. For optimal fertilization, implantation and pregnancy the apana needs to be balanced- being neither over-stimulated or reduced in activity ( signaled by diarrhea or constipation, which are also regulated by this vayu.)
The growth and differentiation of different organs of the fetus are also regulated by apana, thus both exaggeration and reduction in its function can injure during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. When apana is out of balance it can, for instance divide the fertilized egg into several parts, creating twins with the special added risks. At various times of development an imbalanced apana can also cause malpresentation, prolapse, prematurity, intrauterine growth retardation, and malformation of various organs or body parts.
Want a timely start of labor and a healthy process? Be sure that apana has been tended. Preparing for birth in Ayurveda also involves continued protection and balance of the apana vayu.
Here are six of many practices to help balance the Apana vayu:
Protecting and Correcting Apana vayu in Menstrual/Fertility Phase
Protecting and Correcting the Apana vayu in Pregnancy
Spring is the season when kapha liquefies throughout the body and especially in the bronchial tree. Although cleansing kapha is helpful for everyone at this time of year, it is of particular importance for asthmatics. In the classical Ayurvedic texts, asthma is known astamaka svasa, one of the kaphaja diseases in the category of svasa or dyspnoea (shortness of breath). (1)
Initially in the samprapti (pathogenesis) of asthma, vata is provoked with urdva gati (upward vector). Entering prana vaha srota, the respiratory tree, it aggravates kapha in the bronchial mucus membranes.
The purva rupa or premonitory signs outlined in the texts include headache, cough, chest pain, mood swings, running nose and thirst. “Vata, getting aggravated, begin to move in the respiratory channels, aggravating kapha and producing breathlessness with catching pain in the head, neck, chest and flanks, cough accompanied with cracking sound, delusion, loss of appetite, running in the nose and thirst.” (1) It is worth noting that all these premonitory signs are now listed in the standard checklists of early warning signs of asthma attacks which are given to patients at National Jewish Hospital for Respiratory Diseases in Denver. (2)
The disease process, moving through astayi rasa dhatu, can swiftly proceed to rupa, cardinal signs and symptoms of a full blown asthma attack: cough, wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, rapid breathing and orthopnoea (difficulty breathing when lying down).
“The bouts of respiration are very forceful, producing great distress to life, the patient goes into darkness by its force, finds momentary comfort after expectoration, is unable to breathe while lying down and finds comfort sitting.” (1)
In terms of nidan or causation, both remote (viprakrushta) and proximate (sannikrushta) causes are of importance. Remote causes relate to khavaigunya in prana vaha srota. Complex hereditary causes of airway hyper-responsiveness are very significant in atopic or allergic asthma, and play a major role in the wheezing response. (3) Vagbhat relates many of the proximate causes of asthma attacks to the shita (cold) quality of vata and kapha, the involved doshas, as well as to the avila/ pichila (cloudy/sticky) quality of kapha. “The condition gets increased by accumulation of clouds in the sky, drinking cold water, cold breeze, direct breeze, and ingestion of substance which cause accumulation of kapha.” (1). Dust, irritant gases, pollens and smoke are also mentioned as sannikrushta causes of asthma in Ayurvedic classic texts (4-5).
These sannikrushta causes are now regarded as asthma triggers. Triggers include allergens such as animal dander, pollens, moulds, dust mites, cockroaches and food allergens, non-allergen irritants such a cigarette smoke, perfumes, paints and particulate pollution and environmental factors such as cold air. “Symptoms of asthma are exacerbated by exercise, strong emotions, viral infection, airborne allergen exposure, airborne pollutants, and change in the weather.”(6).Asthma is on the rise, (7) increasing worldwide by 5–6 percent per year (8)because of both indoor and outdoor environmental pollution and is a much more important condition today than it was when the Ayurvedic texts were written.
Vagbhat regards asthma as a yapya condition, one that cannot be completely cured but can be effectively managed. (1)
Ayurvedic management of asthma involves removal of triggers and application of a kapha cleansing program including kapha pacifying diet, pranayama, asana, oleation, sweating, emesis, virechan, nasal therapies and herbal therapies. (9)
However, the ways in which these basic therapeutic measures are introduced will differ depending whether the patient is a child, adolescent or adult.
Managing asthma in children
Asthma is a disease that is considerably more common in children and adolescents than in adults, affecting over 5.3 million children in America (6). We will examine some management options for paediatric asthma through the lens of a case history. A six year old girl of kapha constitution developed asthma following an infection with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) as an infant. RSV is a common childhood respiratory infection which can increase the risk of developing asthma by tenfold (10). Asthma development after RSV is particularly important if there is a genetic predisposition (10) or khavaigunya or if food allergies go undiagnosed. This kapha girl of Eastern European extraction was suffering from undiagnosed gluten sensitivity and was living mainly on processed foods such as cereal with cold milk, macaroni and cheese and peanut butter sandwiches, all of which served both to trigger her gluten sensitivity and to exacerbate the pichila/avila, sandra and shita qualities associated with kapha and asthma. She also had mild eczema, a typical manifestation of atopy (allergic tendencies). Eczema is frequently associated with asthma and food allergies. She was currently using one steroidal and one albuterol (bronchodilator) type of inhaler.
She was placed on a gluten free, Kapha soothing diet, since gluten was her main asthma trigger. Outdoor exercise in cold air was limited since it is an asthma trigger, and indoor exercise in the school gym was encouraged. Her mother was advised to spend some time with her each day doing deep breathing and mother and child were trained to apply deep breathing whenever there was an emotional upset, since strong emotions can trigger asthma. Her mother was trained in nasya application and with her mother’s help the child used nasya oil daily to reduce post-nasal drip, another asthma trigger.
Local oleation and sudation were applied when she had an upper respiratory tract infection with increased cough. The form of oleation most suitable for young children is local application of either warm mustard oil or warm kapha massage oil, which can be applied to the chest to ease tight breathing. Internal oleation takes the form of sipping a cup of Licorice tea with ten drops of Mahanarayan oil at the onset of an attack. Sudation in paediatric asthma is best done by steam inhalation. Natural mineral salt can be used in the steam inhalation to ease asthma by providing essential trace minerals needed for lung function. Aromatic herbs such as Cardamom andCinnamon can be used in the inhalation as well as Dashamoola, which contains castor root and helps dilate the bronchi and reduce allergic airway reactivity. Older children canalso do mild sudation in a tub with natural mineral salt, dry ginger powder and baking soda. Note that is important not to apply sudation to children five and under when they have a fever, as they can overheat and have a febrile convulsion.
Daily Chyavanprash was well accepted because of its sweet taste, and led to a considerable increase in energy, to the point where she could keep pace with other children her age. Although Pippali is an excellent lung herb, compounds containing Pippali, such as Sitopaladi and Talisadi were not accepted due to her sensitivity to the pungent taste. Many children do accept Sitopaladi because of its sweet, cinnamon-y taste, so it is always worth trying in paediatric asthma. Our patient accepted other herbal formulas well with honey asanupan. Herbs used in her regime included Punarnava as a lung strengthener and dosha vyadhi for kapha, Vasaka as a bronchodilator,Cinnamon, a useful lung herb, and Chitrak for kindling agni and clearing ama.
Asthma has a strong emotional component related to breathing space.
When a child is being engulfed or controlled by a parent or does not have breathing space within the family ego mass, asthma symptoms can be greatly exacerbated. As in all paediatric situations, a child with severe asthma may well be the presentation of a distressed family system. For truly holistic Ayurvedic care, it is important to see the whole family and to assess and gently address the deep tensions within the family system.
Managing asthma in adolescents
Management of any yapya condition in adolescents is largely a matter of securing compliance. Parents cannot exercise the control they could during childhood and adolescents tend to be impulsive and susceptible to peer-pressure. The best advice to practitioners is to keep things as simple as possible and to enlist the teenager’s ‘trophy-ism’ by making Ayurvedic asthma care a way to be special and different.
A redheaded vata-pitta adolescent girl had a family history of allergic asthma and was experiencing significant asthma. She lived in a damp, cold, kaphagenic climate in a damp cottage. Her mother was diligent in addressing triggers, maintaining an immaculate home. To address kaphagenic foods in the simplest way possible, she avoided cow dairy products, substituting goat milk in its place. She typically used an Albuterol inhaler was also able to get off the inhaler for a time by using a smoking mix which included Calamus root, which helps asthma due to its anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties (11). The best way for teens to smoke herbs is in a water pipe, which essentially provides local sudation to the lungs in the form of herbalized steam. Older adolescents can also learn to use the neti pot to manage post-nasal drip, an important asthma trigger. Adolescents can also begin using Lung Formula to strengthen the lungs. This formula contains Pushkaramoola (Elecampane), which relieves bronchospasm, as well as Pippali, Licorice, cane sugar and cinnamon, which are expectorant, and Triphala which will reduce the inflammation involved in atopic asthma.
This patient also suffered from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is closely associated with asthma in children and adolescents due to the urdva gati of vata involved in both GERD and asthma. By later adolescence, as her impulse control strengthened, she managed her GERD with a strict pitta pacifying diet and pitta soothing herbs such as Shatavari and Guduchi.
Managing asthma in adults
Although paediatric asthma is more common in boys than girls, by mid-life women are affected more frequently than men (7, 8). A fifty-five-year old pitta woman complained of mild asthma which she managed Ayurvedically to obtain optimal functioning. Like the previous patient, her niece, she had red hair and freckles and grew up in a damp climate in a damp Victorian house. Much of her childhood was spent in an industrial region with high particulate pollution. She was extremely allergic to yeast and moulds. She was advised to manage asthma triggers by strictly avoiding yeasted breads and limiting exposure to dust, mould and animal dander. Harsh chemicals were banned from her home and she used only unscented natural cleaning products. When she received an accidental allergen exposure, she took Mahasudarshan to support the liver in clearing the allergen from her system.
Annual pancha karma including vaman with licorice tea or natural mineral salt and virechanwith Amlaki helped keep her asthma under control. She used Mahanarayan oil for oleation to help ease asthma-related chest pain and tight shoulders, did frequent sudation withnatural mineral salt tubs to great effect and used nasya oil for post-nasal drip. Chest opening asanas such as camel pose and cobra helped keep her lungs open. She massaged krukatika marma at the base of the neck posteriorly, amsa phalak in the centre of the scapula and nasa marma at the lateral side of the nostrils with Almond Oil.
Chyavanprash was an important part of her daily routine, strengthening prana vaha srotas, helping fight upper respiratory infections and combating free radical damage caused by living in a polluted city and undergoing various life-stresses (13). She daily drank “Trinity Tea”—ginger, turmeric and tulsi, which helped combat respiratory viruses, allergic reactions and the inflammatory response that underlies asthma. At night she took warm milk with Turmeric, nutmeg and cinnamon to reduce night time coughing, limit allergic reactions and help ensure sound sleep. If her prakruti were kapha instead of pitta, we might have recommended warm goats milk with Pippali.
Herbs that we recommended when her asthma was exacerbated—usually by influenza—included Punarnava, Vasaka, Boswellia,Dashamoola, Pippali and Sitopaladi. The anti-inflammatory effect of Boswellia has been found to be of significant benefit in reducing atopic reactive airways disease (14). A pitta pacifying diet and use of Aloe Vera as anupan helped her tolerate herbs that might otherwise be unsuitable for pitta prakruti. She could also take Lung Formula to good effect.
The same basic treatment protocol of removing asthma triggers, kapha pacifying diet, pranayama, asana, oleation, sweating, emesis,virechan, nasal therapies and herbal therapies are applicable to all ages and stages of asthma although, as we have seen compliance levels and methods of application vary with the patients age. As a yapya condition, asthma requires a long term commitment to Ayurvedic care in order to sustain optimal wellbeing.
Jwara (fever) is the lord of the diseases, born from sin, causing death, feeds on ojas, lead to the final end…characterised by santapa(discomfort from heat), arising from improper conduct; is a cruel one, affecting all species of living beings and called by different names. (1)
In the Charak Samhita, Puranvasu explains that fever originated when Daksha, King of Kashi, excluded Shiva from his sacrifice. In his anger, Shiva emanated a boy who, heated with the fire of anger, could destroy Daksha’s irreverent sacrifice. Once Shiva calmed down, the emanation of his fire of wrath, possessed of three heads and nine eyes, holding a weapon of ashes and surrounded by flames, needed a job. Shiva told him, “You will be fever in the world.” (2) Since then the emanation of Shiva’s wrath has run around the world making immense trouble. Just in terms of influenza alone, there are 250,000-500,000 new cases each year in the United States, with a resultant 20,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations annually. (3) The 1918 pandemic flu was more lethal that World War I, killing from 20,000,000 to 50,000,000 people in two short years. The magnitude of the health challenge presented by influenza and its common incidence render it an extremely important topic, particularly in the winter months when epidemics of influenza tend to occur. In this article we will consider differences in how Ayurveda and biomedicine see influenza, complementarity between the two, benefits of influenza, hazards of influenza, prevention, treatment, aftercare and pandemic influenza.
Differences in How Ayurveda and Biomedicine See Influenza
The biomedical approach to influenza is based in the sciences of virology, biochemistry and microbiology. From this standpoint, it is important to know the exact virus that caused the flu-like illness and the exact mechanisms of infectivity, transmission and morbidity or lethality of this virus. Viral cultures, immunofluorescent tests and serologic studies are required in order to make a definitive diagnosis. The disease entity characterised as influenza is caused by a single-stranded RNA virus, the influenza virus, which is subdivided into type A or B (causing epidemic flu) and type C (causing sporadic flu). Influenza is transmitted via the respiratory secretions over a time period from one day before until about five days after the onset of the disease. Non-influenzal flu-like illnesses are caused by other viruses, notably the adenoviruses, double-stranded DNA viruses which can survive for long periods of time in house dust and cause flu-like illnesses on an endemic basis throughout the year.
The Ayurvedic approach to influenza is based on the prakruti-vikruti paradigm and emphasises the condition of the host rather than the nature of the infective agent. Diagnosis depends not on serology and virology but on the age old methods of darshanam, sparshanamand prashanam, (observation, palpation and questioning). Two individuals affected with the same virus will likely receive a somewhat different Ayurvedic diagnosis, depending upon their presenting features. Strictly speaking, Ayurvedists should stay away from the word influenza (a diagnosis rooted in virology). From the Ayurvedic standpoint, the abhisanga (external) cause or infective agent (personified as Shiva’s anger-emanation) is still less important than the pre-existing doshas and ama. The infective agent is the seed butama is the fertile field in which the seeds can sprout. As Vagbhat describes the pathogenesis of fever,
Doshas, getting increased by their respective causes, enter amashaya (the stomach) combine with ama, obstruct the channels, drive the fire to the exterior and moving along with it make great increase of heat in the body. (4)
Based on the symptom picture, the fever is characterized as arising from vata, pitta, kapha, a combination of two doshas or all three (sannipata). A typical influenza might fit the description of a pitta-kapha fever, with symptoms of shivering, stiffness, sweating, burning sensations, thirst, cough, and elimination of phlegm and yellow or green secretions. (5) A pandemic influenza of high lethality would fit the picture of incurable sannipata jwara, with stupor, expectoration, vomiting and exhaustion. (6) Ayurvedically, it is also important to be aware of which dhatu is being affected by jwara. Acute fevers move swiftly through the astayi dhatus, penetrating deeper and deeper, giving rise to the ever changing symptom picture of flu-like illnesses as the symptom complexes of each dhatu appear sequentially. Initially there might be the body aches and nausea of rasa jwara, soon followed by the high fever and prostration of rakta jwara. This may be followed swiftly by fainting as doshas enter mamsa dhatu. The author recalls passing out on the London Underground during the pandemic flu of 1969! Soon after comes the onset of anorexia, thirst, malaise and sometimes vomiting as doshas reach meda. In more serious flus the intense bone pain and breathlessness of asthi jwara may follow and in extreme cases influenza may lead to encephalitis, an all-out majja jwara. (7)
Complementarities between the two views
In contemporary practice, the two views of influenza complement each other. Virology, biochemistry and phytochemistry offer the Ayurvedist valuable insights (8) in the selection of herbs that will be active against viral illnesses. For example, knowing of the impressive antiviral resumes of herbs such as Turmeric, Tulsi and Neem may lead us to include these herbs in our influenza chikitsa, while taking their rasa, virya and vipak into account within the prakruti-vikruti paradigm. At the same time, Ayurveda offers biomedicine and Western herbology potential answers to the question why only some exposed individuals will actually develop influenza, why some will be worse affected than others and why some are harmed by the same treatment that benefits others. A mother arrived in my clinic very concerned because her young daughter had not recovered from a flu-like illness despite dosing with Echinacea, which cured her step-brother. We discontinued Echinacea and she spontaneously recovered. As a vata, she was adversely affected by Echinacea, a bitter and pungent herb that was beneficial for her kapha step-brother.
Benefits of Influenza
From a biomedical standpoint, influenza has an effect in priming the immune system, raising levels of interferon that help combat other viral challenges. A small child’s frequent flu-like illnesses are a kind of immunological curriculum, training their immune system to recognize and combat a wide range of viruses. From an Ayurvedic standpoint, it is important to distinguish between prakrta andvaikruta fevers. Prakruta fevers occur at the change of seasons in Spring and Fall and are the body’s way of expelling excess doshas. These fevers are typically in the category of abhaisaja sadhya or illnesses that spontaneously remit without medicine. Suppressing these natural fevers leaves the doshas no way of being expelled and sets the stage for the onset of more serious conditions. On the other hand, vaikruta fevers occur unseasonably (such as kapha flu in summer) and should be treated vigorously as they represent an inherent imbalance. (9)
Hazards of influenza
Influenza is particularly troublesome in older adults (over fifty), in respiratory-compromised individuals such as asthmatics, in immuno-compromised situations like HIV and in those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. These groups are more likely to develop significant pranavahasrotas disorders such as bronchitis and pneumonia as a consequence of catching flu. In light of these dangers, prevention is an important aspect of the approach to influenza.
In working with those in the risk categories discussed above, it is particularly important to address influenza prevention during the fall and winter. An herbal formula to detoxify rasa and rakta and stimulate the immune response with herbs such as Pippali, turmeric, andTriphala, will be of value during this season. Immune Support is a combination that includes these traditional herbs as well as Echinacea and Osha, which have known effects in stimulating the immune system. Daily use of Chyavanprash during flu season is very traditional and will help maintain the health of pranavahasrotas and fight off flu. A home-made “Trinity Tea,” as we like to call it, is a tasty combination of Tulsi, Turmeric and Ginger to make a warming and anti-viral beverage for use in the winter months, particularly for the at-risk populations. Of course, regular pancha karma at the change of seasons takes flu prevention to another level. Shodhanatherapies expel the excess accumulated doshas, removing the need for the body to expel them through a prakrta fever.
Influenza is treated by langhana (reducing) therapies, particularly fasting (10). Loss of appetite during fever is a response of cellularprajna since agni has become externalized and is unable to digest solid food. A small child whose parent s encouraged her to eat during an influenzal fever developed sores on her mouth and tongue. These immediately abated when she was asked to fast for a short while and sip Fennel tea. While fasting, the patient should sip warm water frequently and should avoid cold water, which will cause further accumulation of vata and kapha. In the case of a strong pitta fever, room temperature water can be sipped. (11) Herbal teas containingMusta and Ginger are ideal. Musta is regarded as the pre-eminent herb for fevers (12). Cooling herbs are added to this blend, traditionally sandalwood, now unavailable for sustainability reasons. Rose and Coriander can be substituted to provide the cooling anti-febrile component. The texts emphasize that no solids, including powdered herbs, be taken at this time. (13) Sweating is applied using aginger bath or sauna but oiling or lepana should not be applied. As the fever comes down and appetite begins to be felt, the patient should use bitter herbs such as Mahasudarshan to dispel toxins and can consume a thin gruel containing digestive spices such as Ginger, Coriander, and Pippali(14). Kapha should add Dashamoola to these recipes. (15) Traditionally the reintroduction of foods progresses from manda (a liquid gruel) to peya, or semisolid gruel to yavagu or soup with boiled grains to vilepi, somewhat soupy boiled grains and finally to odana or solid boiled grains. (16) Vata and pitta can use rice for these recipes while kapha should use barley instead. Mung dal can also be used for the gruels while for gluten sensitive kaphas we have had good results substituting quinoa for barley in the traditional recipes. Non-vegetarians can also use chicken soup (‘Jewish penicillin’) as a substitute for the quail soup mentioned in the texts (17). Maya Tiwari’s book Secrets of Healing contains recipes for the traditional gruel preparations of manda, peya etc showing how to use spices such as cumin, coriander, turmeric and mineral salt in the recipes.
Following the reintroduction of food, it is wise to use rakta shodhan or blood cleansing herbs such as Guduchi and Musta (18) or a formula such as Blood Cleanse and to take Triphala to expel residual doshas.
Following influenza the patient may be debilitated for weeks, even if they shook off the initial fever in a few days. At this time it is best to remain celibate, to continue an easily digestible diet and to introduce physical exertion gradually (19). Walking can be increased from slowly strolling around the block to gentle walks. Restorative yoga will also be helpful. Lung rejuvenative herbs such as Licorice, Pippali or Lung Formula are of value at this time, to clear up residual cough and upper respiratory symptoms and strengthenpranavahasrotas. The post-flu formula par excellence is Chyavanprash, which heals the lungs, boosts immunity and restores strength and energy. Post-influenzal depression arises from penetration of the virus and disease process into majjavahasrotas and is best addressed by a tea combining equal portions of Brahmi and Tulsi.
A Word about Pandemic Influenza
Influenza viruses responsible for causing pandemics are influenza A viruses which emerge as a result of a process called "antigenic shift” causing sudden, major change in certain proteins on the surface of the influenza A virus. This change is great enough that the body’s immune system finds the new virus unrecognizable. Much of the severity of pandemic flu may result from over-reactivity of the immune system, a process known as ‘cytokine storm’ which results in severe lung damage and ultimately necrolysis of the vital organs. (20) In this situation it is vital to avoid immune stimulants such as Echinacea or Immune Support which are so valuable in epidemic and sporadic influenza. Honey should not be used for the same reason. Turmeric is the ideal herb to use in this situation since it will both fight the virus and calm the immune response.
As we have seen, biomedicine and Ayurveda view influenza through different lenses and yet the two approaches can complement each other. Ancient texts provide detailed instructions regarding the prevention, treatment and aftercare of influenza.
From the professional and student members of the Colorado Ayurvedic Medical Association