Mar 17, 2015


What we do for ourselves everyday is more important than what we do once in a while. Daily practices and routines are the key to adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle and there are a few ayurvedic rules which will enhance the results. There is hardly enough hours in the day to do everything that ayurveda recommends, but it will only work if its practical. Do not try to do everything at once, but to gradually work things into a routine which fits your lifestyle. There are two words which make ayurveda possible, one is simplicity and the other is community. Another key word is routine which is extremely important especially for vata aggravation, if you dont have a particular structure or are self employed. If every day is reinvented then time has to be organized differently each day. A newborn is driven by instinct, if you let a baby sleep and eat when he/she needs to, it soon falls into a routine and if you follow the babys routine it will be very little trouble, but if you upset the routine then the baby becomes more agitated and difficult. we are the same.


Sleeping and Eating routines. 

MORNING - The best time to do yoga is before sunrise, and this is because the earth has a particular energy at sunrise and sunset, almost like a gasp. Many indigenous peoples have a ceremony to captures this energy, in India it is agni hotra. Try getting up just before sunrise and face the East take some deep breathes and do some gentle stretching exercise. This is where the exercise sun salutationcame from. You may not notice anything at first but if you do it regularly you will see a difference. You may be thinking there is no way I can get up at that early I have to have eight hours sleep, but if you make it a habit sleep patterns regulate themselves. If the sun is up at 6am then the time to go to bed is 10 oclock or before at night during kapha time. We naturally slow down and get sleepy in kapha time and if you wait then the earth goes to pitta time and you will wake up again. An old saying says, one hour before midnight is worth two afterwards meaning sleep before midnight is more valuable. If you have a big project to complete, the best way is to go to bed before ten and set the alarm for early morning. You will be more alert, rested and will achieve much more. What most of us do is have a cup of coffee or tea first thing in the morning and both are dehydrating. We are dehydrated anyway, especially if we live in a dry climate, sleep in a heated or in an air-conditioned bedroom. Take several cups of hot water first thing. Iced or cold water will deplete energy and the body doesnt absorb it anyway. You can add a little lemon juice if you like. You may find that you feel nauseated at first which is due to an accumulation of kapha or undigested food in the stomach because of eating indigestible food late at night. But this will pass as the diet & digestion improve. 


Digestion is slow in the morning, so heavy foods should be avoided. It is best to eat fruit alone and early morning is a good time. Theres a lot of fructose in fruit which gives energy, apples are good for digestion and vata people can cook them with clove and cinnamon added. Bananas are rich in potassium but are kapha and some people have difficulty digesting them. If you like a fruit smoothy, this is the best time to have it, but only have sweet fruits and dont mix with dairy.  Melons should not be mixed with other fruits. Always wash fruit especially apples which are copiously sprayed and eat organic whenever possible. Vitamin C in citrus fruits is delicate and disappears as soon as it hits the air. Commercial fruit juices have vitamin C added, its much better to eat citrus fruits - oranges, grapefruit lemons as a whole fruit. Wait a little while to digest fruit which leaves time to shower if you like to do that in the morning. Many people prefer to take a bath before bed which helps to relax the body and nighttime is a better for babies and young children. 


Ayurveda recommends oiling the body before a shower or bath and is another reason why it is better to bath at night, especially in cold weather. Copious amounts of oil are used in ayurvedic massage which is not practical in the West, small amounts can be massaged into the body. There are simple self massage techniques, which follow the flow of lymph and blood. It doesnt have to be long but is very nice especially for older and high vata people, where the skin is dry. You do not have to spend a lot of money on products, remember that if you cannot eat it you shouldnt put it on your skin. The best oils are sesame for vata and coconut for pitta Coconut oil goes solid in the cold, but if you rub it in your hands it soon becomes a liquid. While the oil is soaking into the skin, ayurveda recommends cleaning the senses. We all understand oral hygiene so that isnt covered here, we do not recommend harsh chemicals and commercial toothpastes in ayurveda. Ayurvedic toothpastes are available but there may be chemicals used to preserve them. The best brands contain, neem, fennel and other ayurvedic herbs which help to control bacteria in the mouth. This can be done by using the herbs themselves, mixed with bicarbonate of soda to make a toothpowder. The best care for teeth is to eat foods high in calcium and raw hard foods like carrots and apples. 


Ayurveda recommends scraping the tongue to remove ama accumulated over night. You can buy tongue scrapers through ayurvedic suppliers, but a spoon works just as well. We also recommend an oil pull. This is holding sesame oil in the mouth for a minute or two and swishing it between the teeth and repeating this at night. It not only prevents dental caries, but pulls mucus from the throat and sinuses into the mouth. This is very helpful for post nasal drip and mucus. Remember that mucus is kapha and is cold so people with mucus issues should avoid cold milky foods like ice-cream, and even iced water. 


Ayurveda recommends using a neti potwhich is a like a small funnel which fits into the nostril and warm salty water can be poured into the nose. The pot isnt really necessary, a little warm salt water into the palm of the hand and then sniffed into the nose will work just as well. Salt will break up the mucus and allow it to flow out. I dont recommend harsh sniffing and blowing which is traumatic for delicate mucus membranes. Ayurveda recommends washing the eyes with warm sterile water, water which has boiled can be kept in a bottle and washed over the eyes in the shower. This is especially important in dry climates. Ghee is wonderful for the eyes, but best done at night.  Next the ears. I think q-tips are the worst thing ever invented for ears. Only use them to clean the outside never poke into the ears to clean out wax especially in babies and children. Wax is a natural protection of the ear drum. Ayurveda recommends a little oil or ghee placed on the little finger and put inside the ear. This will help to keep the wax soft, but in heathy ears even this is not necessary. Never put hot water in the ears, especially lying in the bath where there will be bacteria from other parts of the body which can be introduced into the ears. Chemicals in swimming pools are unhealthy for ears, so put a little cotton wool with ghee or oil inside the ear to protect them when swimming. Always dry hair thoroughly before going outside in cold weather, wear a hat and something to protect the ears from the wind. Remember that kapha is cold, mucus is cold and children are in the kapha period of life. The body needs oil more than it needs soaps and perfumes. We dont even need to use soap, but shower or bath in hot water and wipe the body down leaving a film of oil. 


After dressing, complete breakfast. Fruit is digested quickly so the stomach will be ready to receive heavy foods. The best is oatmeal, its cheap and can be eaten hot or cold, other things like wheatgerm, bran, and grains can be added along with nuts, seeds, goji berries and dried fruits. In the West we eat a lot of bread which is a good way to get a variety of grains in the diet, but commercial bread contains a lot of preservatives, colorants etc. White bread should be avoided altogether. Gluten intolerance is a common complaint but is more likely the be related to processing and the modifying of wheat rather than the gluten itself. Heavy breakfasts of ham, eggs, cheese should be avoided during kapha time when the digestive fire is weaker especially in vata and kapha people. Many people say, how will I ever find time for this. Actually, you will find that it simpler, less expensive and the results far reaching. it takes a little planning and awareness, putting physical and mental well-being first. It does require some self-discipline, but you will soon realize you have more time and are happier and more productive never mind what your age.


We are so affected by advertising today and peer pressure, which used to be something we associated with teenagers, is now affecting every generation to spend money, fashion, eating out, keeping up with the Joness. Most, if not all homes have at least one television which may be  on all day long and there will be an advertisement every few minutes. There wont be an ad telling you that you dont need any of this stuffits just making your life more complicated. Everything is funded by companies trying to get you to spend money which many people dont even have. I have lived on boats in very small spaces and I will tell you you really dont need all that much to lead a happy fulfilling life. The television is pervasive, mind altering and divisive, it is the Big Brotherthat George Orwell predicted. Not that there arent good things to watch, but even that can be addictive and time wastingthere is so much more to life than the television. It is a passive activity which molds and homogenizes people without them realizing.


MIDDAY Most people are away from home over midday, and which is when we should eat the major part of our food. This presents a big challenge especially to school children where we depend on what the local school district is providing. This food is often of very poor quality, and young children need the very best quality of food and a lot of rest..this sets the stage for health and eating habits for life. 

This is where India and China are far more sophisticated than most Western countries. All over india ashrams feed the poor and the food is good and freshly I myself have eaten it. They are open to anyone who wishes to help cook. They cook huge pots of dhal and rice, fresh vegetables and chapatis made from whole wheat flour. Its simple food, but nutritious and good and the people themselves run these places. In China fast food is available everywhere, but it will be a cooked yam, boiled egg or a dumpling and although there can be issues with hygiene for Westerners, the food is wholesome and freshly cooked. Refrigeration is limited and that means that food is freshly cooked. The only time I was sick in China was when I ate European food which had been in a refrigerator. One of the rules of ayurveda is not to eat leftover food, because it is tamasic or dead food.  


When I was growing up there wasnt much in the way of refrigeration and we had community kitchens which cooked for schools. Our school meals were fabulous and were mainly managed by mothers at home. Parents depended on the meal in the middle of the day, which is very important for children who will run out of energy in the afternoon. This is where community and local democracy must come back where we can take care of each others needs, instead of having our needs dictated to us. In Mumbai there is an amazing food delivery system run by Dabbawallahs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dabbawala  A wallah is an Indian name for a man who delivers something like a chai wallah makes tea. This army of men take food into the city for workers from outside villages. They collect home cooked food from the homes of workers in lunch boxes take it on bicycles to the trains and on the trains they sort out what boxes go where, deliver the food, then pick up the boxes and take them back to the homes. They  deliver 250,000 meals a day without any computer program, any government assistance. This community has addressed a problem and solved it by mutual cooperation. Communities are much more able to solve their own problems.


In Portland Oregon, food carts have been introduced in the city where people working there can get freshly cooked meals at reasonable prices near to work. Its marvelous and the people love it. We could do the same for schools, nursing homes and put people without work actively participating in growing food and cooking for the community. I was recently staying in an ashram in Germany where there were many people, even families who were homeless or they had addictions. They could live there for free but had to work in the garden, in the kitchen cleaning and maintaining the ashram and cleaning up after themselves. In doing this they also learnt how to look after themselves and others in a community. Lack of community and breakdown of the family unit has created huge problems for us in modern society. Many people who live alone especially men do not eat properly. Soups are an excellent way to make an inexpensive meal and a slow cooker is a boon for this. Ayurveda has a dish called Khichardi which is a rice and bean mixture cooked with digestive spices, ginger and ghee. This is an excellent staple with fresh vegetables and will give you everything that you need.  


Potatoes used to be the staple Western food, but I wont eat potatoes unless they are home grown. They are literally grown in poison these days. I am vegetarian, but I like eggs. I wont eat them in the West when I realize how these poor creatures are treated. Even when they say free range it hardly means anything, you havent tasted an egg if all you have eaten is eggs from battery hens. 


The main expense in this diet is with nuts, (almonds are best) but buy them in bulk, canned are salted or processed. Most nuts should be bought in the shell, as soon as they are shelled they start to go rancid, if you suspect nuts are old take them back. Raisins, dates, figs and dried fruits are important. If you have vata issues dried fruit and nuts should be soaked first. Iron rich foods should be included in the diet every day, such as dark green leafy vegetables kale and spinachthese can be grown easily in the garden. Beetroot is very rich in iron also molasses, whole grains, or jaggery which is raw unrefined cane sugar. Root vegetables are good because they store nutrients from the soil in which they grow, it is especially important for root vegetables to grow in rich organic soils. If you want to eat a little meat or fish, make sure you know the source, if you like fish, eat wild, not farmed and eat small amounts, remember we dont have the digestive system for meat, ama will be created which eventually will cause disease. 


EVENINGS The kapha time is between 6 and 10pm and lighter food should be eaten during this time. Ayurveda doesnt recommend hard cheese, but light cheese like goat cheese, feta or panier can be eaten. Small amounts of heavy cheese can be eaten in the middle of the day, a small amount of good cheese is better than mounds of processed cheese. There should be at least two hours between the evening meal and bedtime, so eight oclock at the very latest preferably six is the time to eat dinner. It is a good to take time to wind down especially for children. Babies and young children should be in bed by 7pm as twelve hours of rest is important for them. A period of preparation for bed, perhaps a bath, a little meditation or reading of good literature helps sleep. The bedroom should be kept for sleeping, no television, computers and electronics on chargers should be out of the bedroom and turned off. A nourishing drink at bedtime is a little boiled organic milk, with some ground nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamon even saffron will help sleep. You can add raisins almonds and a little honey. Try to be in bed at the same time every night, at least work and school nights. 


Ayurveda recommends adding spices to food but not hot chillies as in typical Indian food. The digestive spices are cumin, coriander, fennel, turmeric, ginger salt and black pepper and this simple digestive mix taken after meals or thinly sliced ginger with a little fresh lime-juice is very helpful after meals.


Managing stress is a big part of modern-day living and for the most part we cant do much about, but we can control how we deal with it. Stress is linked to leading causes of death, cancer, heart disease, lung ailments, accidents, suicide and depression is predicted to be the leading occupational disease of the 21st century. Ayurveda and yoga, diet & lifestyle are the best way to manage stress. Ayurveda says that we must not suppress natural urges, which are, crying, defecation, urination, vomiting, sleeping, hunger, thirst,. ejaculation, belching, breaking wind, sneezing, breathing and yawning.

Beverages. Carbonated drinks, especially sugar loaded drinks should be avoided except naturally carbonated water. A cup of freshly ground coffee every day is a good thing, but must be limited. Do not drink water especially iced water with meals as this will deplete the digestive fire, this is important for older people whose digestive fire is weak. Ayurveda recommends herbal teas which can easily be made at home using fresh ginger simply grated up and infused in boiling water. An equal mix of fennel coriander and cumin seed boiled for a short while and strained with a little honey makes a wonderful tea. Honey bought in the supermarket comes from commercially raised bees fed on sugar and I because they are susceptible to disease are given antibiotics. This honey will not be the same as honey bought at the farmers market. In ayurveda we say not to heat honey. Perhaps in a cooled drink, but not foods that have honey cooked in them like cereals, cakes, health bars etc. Ayurveda says that honey turns into a glue-like substance when heated and blocks the channels. 


Some form of exercise every day is most important and yoga and pranayama are easy to work into a busy schedule. Swimming is very good when we are older as there isnt the weight bearing stress on joints, walking, using the stairs and climbing hills are excellent and leaving the car at home works well too. 


According To Ayurveda and Yoga - Ann Holaday 








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According to Ayurveda & Yoga

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