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Why Ayurveda Could Change Your Life

Jumping

Imagine you’re outside, by a beautiful lake, enjoying the perfection of your surroundings. You feel comfortable, relaxed, as if you are an important part of it all. You are so in tune that it is as if you can hear nature speaking to you.

You see a swan glide past, and the swan is thinking to itself: “How wonderful it is to be a swan. I can take my time; life is serene. I am graceful and lovely. All is right with the world.”

And then you notice an eagle flying high overhead, and the eagle is thinking: “Ah, what a joy it is to be an eagle. I am strong, and free. This is the life!”

A hummingbird flits past, and you can hear the hummingbird is thinking: “I’m having so much fun on this glorious day. There’s so much to see and do. I’m so glad I’m a hummingbird and can move easily to all the things I love.”

Everything in nature has a purpose. We’re all connected. Sitting amongst the trees and looking at the clear blue sky you know that you are an important part of this connection. You breathe deeply and feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and peace.

Now, imagine you’re in that same place, same time. When you hear nature speaking to you things are a bit different.

You see a swan glide past, and the swan thinks to itself: “Oh, my. Why am I stuck being a swan? I would so much rather be like that little hummingbird. I want to flit around like that! I feel so dumpy just floating here on this silly lake.”

Then the eagle flies overhead, and you read its thoughts: “Wow. Look at that swan down there. He’s got the good life. Why can’t I just hang out on the lake? Instead I’m up here working so hard. This isn’t fair. I’d rather be a swan.”

Then the hummingbird flits by and thinks: “Really? That eagle is so lucky. She’s way up there with a great vantage point. She can go so far without even flapping her wings. I’m down here pumping away a million beats a minute! Man, I want to be an eagle.”

Somehow, this second scenario just doesn’t make sense, does it? Because this is not how nature operates! And yet, this is exactly what we do as human beings all the time. We fight our own nature. We compare ourselves to one another. We think we need to always be thinner, more beautiful, more successful, more something, anything! When the truth is that we are inherently perfect. If we are carrying around excess weight, or stress, or feeling bad about ourselves it is because we are out of balance, our lives are out of balance in one way or another. We can find that perfect state of balance, and regain our strength and confidence and energy to be the best that we can be.

The most important thing we can do for ourselves, to be our healthiest and happiest, body, mind, and spirit, is to know who we are. Some of us are swans, some of us are eagles, and some of us are hummingbirds. Each being is valid, each being has value, and each being brings his or her unique gifts to the world. When we know ourselves, and our own nature, we allow the best of ourselves to shine through. Nature operates through us. So why are we fighting it?

Ayurveda is the 5,000 year old “Science of Life” from India. It explains the nature of everything in the universe. It teaches us how to live in harmony with nature, knowing the connections that we share. Ayurveda is all about balance, and this is something we are in dire need of today.

There are a lot of things that take us away from our state of balance. We are overstressed and overworked. We overeat and are overweight. We over exert ourselves and overspend so that we end up tired, hungry, in debt and living in a mess. Look at all the extra “stuff” we carry around with us. We need to lighten up! We need to shed the stress, the pounds, the debt, and the distractions and focus on what is good for us, what serves us. Food is a huge part of all this. We use food to soothe our emotions, to fill up our tummies when we feel a lack in some part of our lives. We fall into habits, with food and otherwise, that we think are easy, and they become mindless and robotic so that we don’t see any other possibilities or potential for ourselves.

It’s time to get back to nature, to get back to basics, to get back into balance. And what better way than by turning to a practice that has been tried and true for all these centuries? Ayurveda is a “sister science” with yoga and meditation. As we experience the benefits of these practices in our lives we naturally want to learn more – and that’s where Ayurveda is positioned right now.

Twenty years ago or so here in the west Feng Shui was a foreign concept – but now it’s a part of our every day vernacular. If you haven’t heard of Ayurveda yet – now you have! And if you haven’t lived the Ayurveda lifestyle yet, I encourage you to try it now. Lots more info in my new book, The Perfect Balance Diet: 4 Weeks to a Lighter Body, Mind, Spirit & Space and on my new website: perfectbalancediet.com

5 Ways to Look and Feel Better Than You Did in High School!

Spa Treatment at Le Telfair Golf & Spa Resort - MauritiusIt’s been said that youth is wasted on the young. When we’re in our teens we can get away with bad habits because we have that natural, youthful energy anyway. As we get older, we find that energy is a commodity that we prize and need to be more diligent in our self-care so that we have plenty of it!

Luckily for us, Ayurveda, India’s 5,000 year old “Science of Life,” has some easy guidelines we can follow to look and feel healthier, sexier, and more energetic than we did in high school!

Here are 5 tips from Ayurveda on how to look and feel better:

1. Know your body type.

THEN: In high school you probably coveted the body types of the women in Charlie’s Angels, or wanted to look like Cheryl Tiegs. Now we know better! YOU are the best you, don’t try to be someone else.

NOW: Know your body type – Are you Vata, Pitta, or Kapha. This way you know what “normal” is for you. That way you don’t have unrealistic expectations of yourself. Every dosha is beautiful! Be your best self.

2. Eat for energy.

THEN: In high school you probably lived on pizza and leftovers, and ran through the drive-through after school.

NOW: Eat energizing foods. Fresh vegetables should constitute 40% of the meal. Green, leafy vegetables are especially high in minerals and fiber, so should be eaten often. Raisins are among the best of fruits because they enhance purity, pacify the mind and heart and increase the coordination between them. They are also a rich source of iron and vitamin B6, and provide magnesium, calcium, zinc, and potassium. Raisins aid digestion and elimination when they are soaked in water overnight. One handful per person is a good amount.

A date-milk energy shake is a nourishing way to end the day because it promotes sleep and calms both Pitta and Vata sleep imbalances.

Date-Milk Energy Shake

  • 4-5 whole dates
  • 1 cup whole organic milk (may substitute soy or rice or almond milk)
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • Boil the milk until it creates a foam. Turn off the heat and cool until the temperature is comfortable for drinking. Combine the milk with the other ingredients and blend until the dates are ground up. Drink it warm in winter and at room temperature in summer.

By the way, the warm frothy milk can also be used as a face mask – wonderfully hydrating and leaves the skin super soft!

Herbs and spices are your friends! Cumin helps digestion, freshly crushed black pepper helps you assimilate food better, cilantro cools and nutmeg soothes. There are spice blends, or CHURNAS, specifically to pacify each dosha – you can buy them ready made or make them at home.

Also, avoid energy-draining foods. Any fast foods, canned, frozen, packaged, leftover, or old foods, or foods with preservatives, chemicals and additives, are difficult to digest and contain little nutritional content. They actually drain the body of energy. If you do have some of these foods and feel heavy afterwards, drink half a glass of warm water with ¼ of a lime squeezed into it.

3. Keep skincare simple.

THEN: In high school, you probably spent a ton of money on grooming products, soaps, perfumes, lotions, hairspray.

NOW: Keep it simple. Nourish the body with natural oils. Abhyanga is a daily self massage which is good for keeping all the doshas in balance. It helps moisturize the skin, helps to release toxins, helps to tone the muscles, and it soothes the nerves. Sesame oil is usually recommended in general and is very good for Vatas specifically. Almond oil is also good for Vata. Coconut and sunflower both work well for Pitta. Corn and olive oils are beneficial for balancing Kapha.

The massage can be done in the morning before your shower, or in the evening before bed. Start by warming the oil to skin temperature, and drizzle a small amount of oil into the palms of your hands. Massage the top of your scalp (on days when you wash your hair), pay particular attention to the circumference of your ears, and the soles of your feet. Massage with long strokes on your limbs, and round strokes on your joints. It’s best to leave the oil on the body for 20 minutes before washing it off in a warm shower or bath. This 20 minutes is a good time to do your morning meditation!

4. Maintain a regular routine.

THEN: In high school, you probably kept late nights studying and partying with friends, up early for school, activities – on the go all the time.

NOW: Regular routine can help prevent stress. Ayurveda says there are 3 types of fatigue. Mental fatigue is a Vata imbalance, emotional fatigue is a Pitta imbalance, and physical fatigue is a Kapha imbalance. For all three:

  • Meditation – Twice daily
  • Good sleep habits.
  • Regular meal times.
  • Regular exercise, morning walk in the sun, yoga.
  • Dosha balancing routines – and teas.

5. Support fertility naturally.

THEN: In high school, energy probably came easily. You were always ready for a date!

NOW: Some grains, such as quinoa, enhance estrogenic activity and support the hormonal activity of both men and women. Cook it with a little ghee, salt, and spices such as cumin. Fruits such as papaya and pineapple are also helpful in strengthening the ovum. Turmeric helps enhance the binding of estrogen and progesterone.

Take the Dosha Quiz to determine your Dosha and learn more about Ayurveda with my free 6 week e-course here.

 

Originally published April 2012

Kerala Backwaters Vacation Ideas

With the Arabian Sea in the west, the Western Ghats towering 500-2700 m in the  east and networked by forty four rivers, Kerala enjoys unique geographical  features that have made it one of the most sought after tourist destinations  in Asia. An equable climate. A long shoreline with serene beaches. Tranquil  streches of emerald backwaters. Lush hill stations and exotic wildlife. Waterfalls.  Sprawling plantations and paddy fields. Ayurvedic health holidays. Enchanting  art forms. Magical festivals. Historic  and cultural monuments. An exotic cuisine…  All of which offer you a unique experience. And what’s more, every one of these  charming destinations is only a two hour drive from the other. A singular advantage  no other destination offers. Kerala, India’s most advanced society : A hundred  percent literate people. World-class health care systems. India’s lowest infant  mortality and highest life expectancy rates. The highest physical quality of  life in India. Peaceful and pristine, Kerala is also India’s cleanest State.  For administrative purpose, the state of Kerala is divided into fourteen districts.  Most of these districts offer all the tourism products typical of the State.  It’s up to you to decide whether Kerala is the most beautiful state of  India for summer
vacations
. At least it is the greenest and is a melting pot of cultures, activities  and other interesting sights. It is situated in the south of India with the  Arabian sea along its western coast, that paved the way for international trade,  and the mountain range of western Ghats on the east with its marvellous (Trivandrum)  in the south. Trivandrum is the state capital although it might not appear  like that at first sight. It still has a rustic ambience. The Napier Museum  has a good overview of the state’s history. From here, you can easily  explore the marvellous beaches of Varkala and Kovalam.

A trip you can’t refuse when you’re in Kerala is leaving the small  town of Kollam by boat and go by means of the backwaters, to the market town  Alappuzha. You’ll have a spectacular view of what life is like in that area.  Kochi, the commercial capital, is a bit more to the north and has, besides  its seaside front, a lot to offer for those interested in history. The old  European church, Chinese fishing nets and the Jewish synagogue are only a few  of the remnant’s of the former days.

Getting Around
  On arrival, take a prepaid taxi from the airport to your hotel. You can order    one in the arrival lounge. This avoids haggling and provides a measure of    security. For further short distance travel    packages, use taxis or the local    bus service (very cheap but, as often is the case, buses are generally overcrowded).    Hardly any traveller dares to drive a hired car. This is definitely a smart    decision when you don’t have any driving experience on the local roads (that    sometimes tend to illustrate the survival of the fittest). A few adventurous    types buy a motorbike for the duration of their stay, the legendary Royal    Enfield built in Madras being the favourite one. Trains are convenient for    longer distances and, again, very cheap. There is no need for booking seats    when travelling shorter distances within Kerala. However, it is a must if    you’re planning to travel to the neighbouring states.

Kerala Backwaters
 Kerala and backwaters are synonyms to one another. Known by the name of God’s    Own Country, Kerala has always attracted visitors from far away destinations    to relax their mind, body and soul in its magnificent backwater destinations    like Alleppey, Kollam, Kumarakom, Kochi and Trivandrum. Apart from its backwater    destinations, Kerala is world over famous for its Ayurveda Therapy and Yoga Treatment Spas.

It is really one of the best experiences of lifetime to hear the soothing  sound of ripples in the backwaters of Kerala, when you relax on the houseboats  away from the fast and hectic life of metros.

Famous Backwater Destinations in Kerala

Kochi
  Kochi or Cochin is a really neat and compact town in Kerala. The town has a    distinct european feel, due to the fact that it was controled by the Portugese,    Dutch and English who each left buildings and foot prints in the culture.    It is a very nice town to walk around and has quite some sights of it self.It    is a reasonable base to do an excursion to the backwaters of Kerala. The    rivers around Kochi are not as wide as further down south and you get to    see much more. There are a number of small travel    agents that allow you to    book these tours or transport options for further travel.

Alleppey
  Alleppey is famous by the name of Venice of East because of its beautiful backwaters,    lakes and lagoons. It is also known by the name of Alappuzha, which is located    on Vemband Lake’s banks. It is famous for its Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race,    which is organized annually around Onam festival.

Kollam
  There is a famous proverb in Malayalam ” kollam kandavanillam venda, Kochi  kandavanachi venda” It means one who saw kollam doesn’t need a house.  This old famous proverb tells the blessed heritage and popularity of Kollam.  Because of the pronounciation problem britishers named Kollam as Quilon. So  in the railway map you may not see the name Kollam but quilon. the name Kollam  is very famous in Kerala even though the britishers called it as quilon.Kollam  is very rich with its costal area, cashew nut, backwaters, mountains, rivers,  beautiful natural forests etc.Lot of people comes from foreign countries to  enjoy the beauty of kollam.

Kumarakom
  Kumarakom is situated on the banks of Vermbanand Lake and is treated as a paradise    on earth for enjoying holidays in backwaters. It is one of the most sought    after tourist holiday backwater destinations in Kerala, India.
   
  Trivandrum
  Trivandrum is the capital city of Kerala and is also famous by the name of    Thiruvananthapuram. It is also one of the famous starting points of many    backwater cruises in Kerala. There are a number of historic attractions    in Thiruvananthapuram. One of the beautiful beaches of India, Kovalam Beach    is also situated in Thiruvananthapuram.

Kasargod
  Kasargod is an another beautiful city famous for its serene backwaters in Kerala.    It is located in North Kerala and is well known for its Valiyaparamba backwaters    stretch. The main attraction of this place is the cruise ride in and around    Chandagiri, which is located 4 km to South East of Kasargod.
   
    Honeymoon in Kerala
  It is your Honeymoon and you and your companion needs privacy, luxury and security.    This is time for romance, excitement and leisure.Dreaming of an exotic Honeymoon?    Kerala is for lovers,    romantics and those in search of a tropical vacation.    Cuddle up in a warm beach cottage, dine and vine under the stars, or getaway    to your own clandestine vacation hill station with a picnic lunch. Kerala    is a perfect place for your island vacation.

Kerala is the right place to spend your Honeymoon where an  assortment of activities is on hand. Lakes to sensitize, Sparkling backwaters,  Luxuriant jade Hill Stations, Distant Beaches, Succulent Cuisine, Gracious  people and great facilities. With us visit top attractions in Kerala and benefit  from exploratory activities in Kerala on your honeymoon.So whatever honeymoon  destination you choose – whether  it is Hill area (Munnar),  Wild Life (Thekkedy), Jungle (Wayanad – Vythiri),  and beaches (Kovalam, Poovar, Varkala, Aleppey and Cherai) – we can facilitate  you to accomplish utmost contentment and unforgettable honeymoon.Make your  honeymoon holidays unprecedented by selecting the most romantic destinations  in Kerala.

Introduction to Ayurveda

Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word derived from two roots: ayur, which means life, and veda, which means knowledge. Knowledge arranged systematically with logic becomes science. Over time, Ayurveda became the science of life. It has its root in ancient vedic literature and encompasses our entire life – the body, mind and spirit. It is clearly unique in this day and age to find a system of medicine that is over 5000 years old and still today one of the largest on the planet. Ayurvedic medicine, although in its infancy here in America, has over 300,000 Indian doctors in the All Indian Ayurvedic Congress, making it the largest medical organization in the world. Ayurveda focuses on prevention of illness and the body’s natural power of cure.

Prevention

Ayurveda recognizes that all life, whether it be human, plant or animal, must live in harmony with nature in order to survive. Like the owner’s manual of your car speaks of maintenance schedules for the long term health of your car, Ayurveda speaks of daily and seasonal routines that insure maximal health and longevity. For example, birds fly south in the winter as their survival depends on it. Leaves turn red and fall off trees in the Fall. It’s a law of nature. However, we tend to insulate ourselves from any participation in the huge changes that take place from one season to the next even though our survival depends on it. Just putting on or taking off a sweater or eating the same foods 365 days a year is not in keeping with the original human design. In Ayurvedic medicine, prevention starts with a lifestyle that is in harmony with the changing cycles of nature.

Body type

In Ayurvedic medicine prevention is dictated by the unique requirements of your body type. Because we are unique, what we eat, how we exercise, when we sleep and even where we prefer to live can all be understood according to one’s body type. There are three basic mind-body types that combine to make ten unique mind-body types. Vata types tend to be thin, hypermetabolic, and they think and move quickly. They typically have dry skin and cold hands and feet. They do not like cold weather because they already have many of these winter qualities inherent to their nature. Pitta types are competitive, hot and fiery with a medium frame. They prefer cool weather. Under some conditions they may get heartburn, skin rashes, inflammatory diseases or they just burn out. Kapha types are easy going and hypometabolic. They will hold on to more weight and water and tend to develop allergies and congestion. They can become lethargic, obese and even depressed under certain conditions.
 
Eat to live

We have made eating very complicated. There are more modern theories on eating than there are days in a month. While animals seem to balance their nutritional needs quite well without the knowledge of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, we incessantly count calories and measure grams of fat only to find out about the latest study which tells us the rules of eating have changed once again. In Ayurveda the rules remain constant. As the seasons change and different foods are harvested, we change the foods we eat.

In winter, for example, the squirrels eat nuts, a good source of protein and fat. This is a perfect food to help combat the cold dry weather in the winter months (Vata season). Grains which are harvested in the fall and cooked in the winter are also a perfect winter food. Cooked grains provide a warm heavy nutritional base that helps us adapt to the cold of winter. In spring, after eating all the heavy nuts and grains during the long sedentary winter, nature again provides the perfect food. Light leafy green veggies and berries are the first foods harvested in the spring (Kapha season) and are the natural antidote for the allergy season. As the days get warmer in July and August nature provides cooling fruits and vegetables to balance the heat of summer (Pitta season).

Ayurveda understands the cycles of nature and that these cycles will provide what we need. These cycles also provide a rhythm of life that is enjoyable. Unfortunately our society has demanded that we rush, push and shove our way through life in order to get ahead. The biggest social violations of natural law revolve around our meals. We frequently race through our meals or at times skip meals. Ayurveda recommends that the main meal should be at midday and this meal should be eaten slowly and calmly. Crashing through our day, racing through lunch and coming home to eat our biggest meal of the day at 7:00 PM when the digestion is the weakest could not be more against the powerful grain of mother nature. Living in harmony with nature’s cycles is what I would call "Lifestyle Therapy" because the health benefits of a proper lifestyle will help us heal what Ayurveda considers a major cause of disease, our improper lifestyle.

Exercise

In Ayurveda, exercise is not only about losing weight, winning races and staying healthy. Exercise provides a kind of physical stress that can be used to teach us how to deal with all kinds of stress (mental, emotional and social) with an internal sense of composure. I have integrated a specific nasal breathing technique I call "Darth Vader Breathing" into exercise. Darth Vader breathing (Ujjayi Pranayama as it is called in Ayurveda) allows a deep sense of calm to co-exist with exercise, making it an enjoyable experience rather than a "workout." Billie Jean King recently told me that she has not enjoyed exercise this much since she was a child. I have used this technique with world class athletes like Martina Navratilova, with elderly people who want safe and enjoyable exercise, and as a therapy for people who have difficulty handling stress. Simply breathing deeply through the nose while walking fast for twenty minutes can teach you to handle stressful situations. ( And here’s a tip: while walking fast, If you you have to breathe through your mouth, you are walking too fast.) With eighty percent of all disease related to stress, learning how to take an experience of calm into dynamic activity is an integral part of prevention and cure. The ability to know exactly how much exercise is good for you and how much is harmful becomes more automatic as you learn to listen to your body. Breathing Ayurvedically during exercise provides numerous health benefits including a natural experience of calm that can stay with you all day long.

Ayurvedic diagnosis

In Ayurveda, the primary form of diagnosis is the reading of the pulse. The Ayurvedic practitioner can read your pulse and obtain valuable information about the workings of your body, mind and spirit. In addition, the purpose of pulse diagnosis is to identify and treat imbalances; and the treatment protocol is based on the body’s healing rather than mere symptom removal. In Ayurvedic medicine the removal of symptoms is viewed as a side benefit of a larger healing of the heart and mind.

Ayurvedic healing

In Ayurveda we believe that healing starts from within. The idea of giving an herb to sedate you for insomnia or a laxative to relieve constipation is contrary to the Ayurvedic philosophy. Basically, we believe that the body can heal itself. When this is not happening it is usually because the body does not recognize the problem as a problem. The cure then is in the enhancement of the body’s own internal awareness of itself. The most powerful form of Ayurvedic healing is a series of treatments called Panchakarma. These are extremely powerful healing therapies that were in ancient times reserved for the kings and queens. The treatments last about two and a half hours, seven days in a row, and often two therapists work on you simultaneously. Over thirty different treatments are employed to remove gross physiological stress and impurities that can inhibit healing and awareness. During this process the basal metabolic rate is dramatically slowed and awareness enhanced with techniques such as the "shiro dhara" where warm oil is poured over the forehead for 45 minutes. This treatment calms the mind and disarms the "fight or flight" nervous system response which holds stress and toxins captive in the tissues of the body. This treatment enhances a deeper level of self awareness. With this heightened state of awareness, Ayurveda says that, "there is nothing that the body can’t heal."

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