Love, Fat and Happiness

“Tita knew through her own flesh how fire transforms the elements, how a lump of corn flour is changed into a tortilla, how a soul that hasn’t been warmed by the fire of love is lifeless, like a useless ball of corn flour.”

Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate

Ayurveda and yoga share a unique understanding of our basic anatomy and physiology in that the human body (and all things in nature) consists of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether. These five elements combine to form what is known as the doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha–commonly understood to be one’s constitutional type.

Going into greater detail, our body can also be dissected into layers, the dhatus, or tissues of the body. Through proper nourishment, digestion, and elimination we are able to build and maintain healthy tissues. Interestingly enough, each of these tissues has a subtle purpose. For instance, it is our rakta (blood) that gives us invigoration, our mamsa (muscle) that assists in protection and a healthy ability to exert will, and our medas (fat tissue) that provides a sense of contentment and love.

Snehana, the word for oil therapy in Ayurveda, contains the root sneha, meaning love, affection, AND unctuousness. “Well nourished flesh feeds fat, whose function is ‘sneha,’ which literally means unctuousness.” ~Robert Svoboda. Svoboda goes on… “Fat, and to some extent flesh as well, provide us with that sublime satisfaction that a sound sleeper receives from a warm quilt on a cold night.” (Prakriti, Your Ayurvedic Constitution).

If healthy medas leads to a sense of love and contentment, does this mean that thin people can’t be happy? Well, not exactly. Like all good things in life, it’s about quality over quantity and striking the constitutionally correct balance. Insufficient medas leads to emotional coldness and dissatisfaction, whereas overabundant medas leads to complacency. However, correct balance is a highly subjective matter and varies from person to person. Regardless, nourishing your body with high quality oils both inside and out is one key to developing healthy medas and thus a sense of self-love, as well as protection from the harsher forces of the external world.

I often get questions about which oils are best–for cooking and for external application. And of course, the answer is that it depends…on you, the season, the temperature, your present situation…

These are a few ways to enjoy sublime snehana this season:

  • Make ghee! Ghee is tridoshic, meaning it is appropriate for all constitutional types. See easy recipe: https://www.ayurveda.com/online_resource/ghee_recipe.html
  • Apply a fine layer of oil to your skin before bathing: sesame, coconut, almond, or mustard depending on you.
  • Especially good for allergy season: oil your nostrils daily with sesame oil or a special nasya oil: http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/nasya-oil-7/
  • Receive Abhyanga (massage with hefty amounts of oil) or Shirodhara (an oil therapy that pacifies the nervous system).

Here’s to love, fat, contentmet and keeping your body a well-oiled machine!

Greta

Good To Come Home

Happy New Year! Though Christmas travels only carried me as far as the well-watered deserts of Palm Springs and the snow-capped mountain hamlet of Idyllwild, this first week of January has truly felt like a process of landing.
New Year’s Day is one of my favorite days of the year because it represents a pause–one year has ended and a new year begins. Yet that new year is suspended in its nascent stages–in a state of peace, nakedness, and innocence. Rather than cluttering 2016 with willful plans and wild ambitions, as this new year commences I invite you to enjoy the spaces between. Come home and witness with amusement your perfect imperfection.
Ayurveda (the traditional medicine of India) teaches that healing wisdom already exists in each of us. We are not to become something or someone else, but rather to be a more clear and pure reflection of our deeper, higher selves. That process of polishing means hard work and austere measures at times. It also requires rest and nourishment, and most importantly sustainable practices. 
 
I am not going to sell you on a New Year’s cleanse or a get fit quick scheme. Instead, I encourage you to engage and delight in the study of that complex animal called YOU. Ayurveda offers a sound and time-tested road map for this process of self-inquiry and self-healing. 
Journey to the center of you! Visit my page “Ayurvedic Medicine Services” for information on Ayurvedic consultations and Abhyanga.

Your Ayurvedic Travel Kit

The holiday season is a popular time for travel. Whether you are jetting off to exotic locales or paying a yearly visit to your Aunt Mildred in Oklahoma, a few simple self-care routines will make the trip a whole lot more pleasant! These are my Ayurvedically informed don’t-leave-home without-it travel essentials!
1. Travel neti pot: A daily practice of Jal Neti (rinsing the nasal passage with salt water) not only helps clear allergens, it also clears the mind and strengthens your nervous system! You can purchase a plastic neti pot for safer travel and be sure to only use purified water.
2. Nasya oil: A lot of people skip this step! After jal neti, follow up by oiling the nostrils and nasal passages. This prevents dryness, which can lead to more irritation. I love Banyan Botanicals Nasya oil http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/living-ayurveda/lifestyle/how-to-do-nasya/. It contains herbs to clear and strengthen the nervous system and smells like Eucalyptus. Check out the “how to” video on the link!
3. Triphala: An essential for your herbal pharmacopeia! Taken in the proper doses, Triphala can treat and prevent the range of tummy (and intestinal) troubles. Consult your local Ayurvedic Practitioner to learn the proper dosage for you. I like Organic India’s:
4. Grapefruit seed extract: This is your natural anti-biotic so use sparingly! It has a powerful anti-microbial action, but if you feel like you are coming down with a bug, it will kill what ails you. Wormwood tincture works nicely too!
5. Abhyanga oil: A daily whole-body application of warm oil will give you grounding, nourishment, and subtle protection. Sesame, almond, or coconut oil works nicely depending on your constitutional type. Apply, let is sink in for 20 min, and rinse! Your troubles will roll off like water off a duck’s back!

Herb of the Month: Lemon Balm

Although the coldest winter you ever spent may have been a summer in San Francisco, for the rest of the Northern Hemisphere we are moving into the warmer season, a time ruled by Pitta, the fire dosha. Pitta types run warmer–physically, mentally, and emotionally. Therefore, Pitta season is the summer season. Especially if you have a lot of Pitta in your constitution, it is important to take measures to cool off as the weather heats up. Lemon balm is a pleasant herb for such purposes. It is delightful to smell and taste and though it’s initial flavor is hot, sweet, and distinctively lemony, it’s overall effect on the body is cooling. It is also mildly calming to the nerves, helps settle the stomach, and can help induce sweating (leading to further cooling off). You can take lemon balm as a tincture, but if you pick the leaves fresh it makes a great tea. You can also used dried leaves for a tea. Lemon balm loves the sun, so if you grow it at home, give it as much direct sunlight as possible (up to 5 hrs. a day). For a refreshing summer tea, combine fresh lemon balm leaves with fresh mint leaves, steep for an hour, and enjoy at room temperature.

LemonBalm6:24:15

Herb of the Week: Ashwagandha

For those versed in Ayurveda and herbology, I imagine Ashwagandha would make it on the short list of herbs to take if stranded on a desert island. This warm and nourishing herb has a powerful tonifying effect and is a panacea for Vata disorders. Ashwagandha is a nervine tonic and nervine sedative, a muscle tonic, a respiratory tonic, boosts male libido, and is considered adaptogenic–meaning it helps us resist stress. It is warm and slightly oily, hence its value in balancing Vata. (Vata is aggravated by anything light, dry, cold, and mobile…think salad and air travel in the winter). If you suffer from weakness, anxiety, burnout, or a sleep disorder, Ashwagandha may be a good herb for you. You can take it in tincture form for a faster effect on the nervous system. If you are looking to build or repair tissue, take it in whole powdered form (you can mix it in hot water or warm milk or take as a capsule). Ashwagandha combines nicely with other tonic herbs such as Shatavari and Gotu Kola. If you have a lot of Pitta in your constitution, use caution because this herb does have a heating effect.