Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ayurveda - Is it for you?

I dabbled a little with Ayurveda after discovering Yogi Cameron on the Veria network last year.  I picked up a few of his tips for cooking and self-care for balancing the body, but in the Fall when my allergies were screaming, I decided it was time for an Ayurveda consultation.  I wanted a more preventative approach to managing my allergies by building my immune system and resistance to some of my biggest allergen triggers include pet dander, dust, grass, wool, lavender and mangoes.  My daily routine has made all of the difference in the world, so I thought I would share it here- especially for any fellow allergy sufferers.
While you sleep, your body is detoxifying and some of those toxins reside in your mouth.  It is better to scrape the toxins away before you swallow them back into your system first thing in the morning.  I drag the stainless steel scraper (below) from the back of my tongue moving forward 3-4 times & rinsing between scrapings.  You can also used a spoon to scrape the tongue. About twice a week, I do oil pulling.  Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic dental health technique with a long list of health benefits.  I use either sesame oil or coconut oil.  I prefer the coconut oil.  Chew on a tablespoon of coconut oil until it turns to liquid.  Then swish it around the mouth and squish it through your teeth for 20 minutes.  You can start out with 5 or 10 minutes.  Discard the oil, but not down the sink.  I place a small dish next to the sink for this purpose.  Rinse the mouth and brush your teeth.  Your teeth will feel clean and smooth like you just left the dentist's office after a cleaning.  Oil pulling isn't nearly as terrible as it sounds.  In fact, my kids oil pull with me.
The Ayurveda consult opened my eyes to look at the ingredients in my body care products.  I was waking up in the middle of the night with a scratchy throat.  I discovered my face cream had lavender extract hidden in the ingredients.  Many projects don't list a full ingredient rundown on the package.  You might need to go online and research.  I've whittled my products down to 4.
Dry brushing is great for the skin and lymphatic system.  Dry brush in body working from the feet, up the legs, hands up the arms (moving towards the heart).  After dry brushing, I massage my entire body with the cold pressed sesame oil (which is now my favorite body product).  I start by massaging it into my scalp and end with rubbing it on my feet.  This daily self-massage is called Abhyanga.  I was apprehensive at first about using the oil on my face, but contrary to belief, it will not clog your pores.  I perform Abhyanga either in the morning before my shower or in the evening within 30 minutes of my bedtime.  Make sure it is cold pressed sesame oil and not toasted sesame oil.  After showering, I apply vitamin C lotion on my face and Mapi's Youthful Skin Cream- great ingredient list.  For UV protection, I like Skinceuticals Physical Fusion Sun Defense sunscreen which was recommended by an aesthetician friend. It has a slight tint and non-greasy application.
Hair care is something I have recently switched.  After a friend mentioned she only washes her hair twice a week, I started rethinking the product I use not just daily, but sometimes twice a day with my varied outdoor activities.  I'm trying out the Everyday Coconut Super Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner.  I have some natural curl to my hair and this product seems to add volume and aids with straightening.  It doesn't lather as much as shampoos I am used to using and my hair seems tangled when I get out of the shower, but I am starting to adapt to the product.  Great fair trade company.  The product ended up being too waxy for my hair so I use it as a body wash.
My eating is centered around my dosha type.  You can take a dosha quiz here and then take a look at the foods that most benefit your dosha.  My dosha is Vata (air)/Pita (fire), with Vata (air) being the dominant dosha. Breakfast used to look like eggs and bacon, a fresh fruit smoothie, or a chocolate protein bar.  Breakfast now consists of stewed fruit or oatmeal with dried fruit.  "Stewed fruit" did not initially sound appetizing until I started cooking it each morning.  The warmth of the fruit is very satisfying.  I switch up the fruit, but tend to stick to apples, pears, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and cranberries.
Chop the fruit into small pieces.  The smaller the piece, the easier it is for your digestion.  Why cooked instead of raw?  Cooking increases the element of fire (Pita) and again makes the food easier for digestion.  You want your digestion to be as easy on the body as possible.  Healthy digestion = healthy body.
As Vata dominant (think light and airy), I need warming foods (think fire and spice) to keep the doshas in balance.  Too many cold foods add to the Vata element and creates imbalance in the body.  Cooked fruits with warming spices have replaced cold fresh fruit morning smoothies.
 The warming spices I add to the fruit are ground cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg:
 Let the fruit simmer until softened.  
On work days, I transfer the stewed fruit to a food thermos to take to work.  In Ayurveda, you only cook enough portion for one meal (no leftovers or microwaves!) and you should consume the meal within 6 hours of preparation.  
Last part of the morning routine includes herbal supplements:  Triphala, Turmeric, Ashwagandha & Bio-Immune.  Since adding in the Ayurveda routines, my day-to-day allergy symptoms have become very minimal.  I sleep better at night and feel more restful in the morning.

It may seem like this routine would add a bunch of time to my get-ready-for-work-and-two-kids-off-to-school-in-twenty-to-thirty-minutes routine.  Not so.  I oil pull while I'm in the shower, sip warm lemon water while I chop the fruit and vegetables for lunch and leave them simmering on the stove, dry my hair and get dressed, and return to the kitchen and place breakfast and lunch in a food thermos to take to work.  Next time I'll share lunch preparations and evening routine.  For more information on Ayurveda, consider these sources:  Yogi Cameron, MonicaB, Mapi, LifeSpa.

Here is the Ayurveda lunch I make most days to take to work with me.

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