9 Reasons You Should Start Your Day With Lime Water – Everyday!

I know what you’re thinking… Seriously? Lime water? I literally just got used to the idea of drinking warm lemon water, now you’re telling me lime water? What is this?

The thing is, both are great for you.  But with all things Ayurveda, some things are better for different people during different times of life, and during different seasons.

For example, a kid before puberty (kapha time of life), especially during the spring season (kapha time of year), we would probably do better with lemon water. 

But those of us between puberty and haven’t quite hit menopause/retirement age (pitta time of life) and especially during the summer (pitta time of year), lime water may be just what the doctor ordered.

How to know when to use what?!

Let me explain.

 
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Lemons & Limes in Ayurveda

I have described in previous posts the three effects we note regarding taste (rasa), effect on the body (virya) and post-digestive effect (vipaka). Each food is a bit different.

Sour virya is best for increasing digestive power.  This is why both lemons and limes are so great overall for digestion.

While lemons and limes both have a sour rasa and a sour virya, lemons have a warming vipaka and limes have a cooling vipaka.

This is what makes lime water preferable to lemon water when trying to balance out pitta.  Our bodies can use all the help they can get to keep cool during the summer heat!

 
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9 Reasons You Should Start Your Day by Drinking Warm Lime Water

1)      Warm water increases peristalsis [1]

Basically this helps to get your digestive system moving for the day and helps to stimulate elimination.  Which we should be doing every. single. day. (No, it is not healthy to skip days.) 

2)      Limes (and lemons) are anti-inflammatory [2], [3]

This is helpful to reduce inflammation in the GI tract and in the deeper tissues.

3)      Lime helps to increase the flow of bile, which helps in our digestion of fats

When bile is flowing, the congestion of the liver and gall bladder is minimized.  This is also said to help to keep the blood cool, which again helps against inflammation.

4)      Lime can help to balance tikshna agni – or teenage-boy-raging-appetite

Agni is the digestive fire.  Tikshna agni is when this digestive fire burns too hot.  It can be accompanied by cravings for sweets and inflammation.  I experience this often, and to balance this sort of appetite I drink a mix of coconut water with a dash of lime in between meals to help to lower cravings and ‘cool’ the digestive fire.

5)      Lime juice adds a burst of brightness to wake you up in the morning

Since beginning this practice of lime juice first thing, I have found that I sometimes just forget to have coffee until a few hours after I wake. 

6)      It is summer!

During summer we can use all the help we can get to help to balance the heat we experience.  Lime’s cooling effect helps to do just this, while keeping our digestive power strong.  [If you haven’t noticed, EVERYTHING is Ayurveda relates back to digestive strength]

7)      You are likely to have lime on hand if you live in the southwest!

Or Thailand.  Or anywhere where spicy dishes are the staple.  It seems tradition determined that lime accompanies spicy.  Amazing, since Ayurveda specifies to use lime in dishes with extra spice to complement the taste.

8)      The citrate in lime may help to prevent kidney stones by preventing crystals from forming or growing[4]

 

9)      Warm water is great for moving lymph-- ie, improves immune function

Warm water acts as a vasodilator which opens the blood vessels and stimulates movement in the GI tract.  Since the water goes to your GI tract, it is especially useful for dilating, cleansing and hydrating the GALT – or the gut associate lymphoid tissue.  Most infections make their way into the body via this route. It is known that if the GALT is dysfunction or impaired due to inflammation, the body is more susceptible to infection

The great thing about Ayurveda is that unless we’re talking about strong herbs and treatments, diet and lifestyle can be watched with an experimental eye.

Just take note on how you’re feeling.  If you feel great, keep doing what you’re doing!

If you don’t feel so great, and perhaps notice some imbalanced emotions, slow digestion etc, use the basics of Ayurveda to help find balance once again.  Any questions?  Please email me at ayurverica@gmail.com -- I'd love to hear from you!

Look – gall bladder, liver, GI tract, kidneys!  Lime helps your body to run more efficiently.  And we all could all use a bit of help.

 
 

[1] http://www.hon.ch/OESO/books/Vol_4_Prim_Motility/Articles/ART009.HTML

[2] http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?pfriendly=1&tname=foodspice&dbid=27

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16435583

[4] https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/kidneystones_prevent

Fennel Isn’t Just For Foodies

 
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Hey there!

When was the last time you cooked with fennel?  Ever? Fennel seed?

Do you know what it looks like? 

It’s a funny thing, this practice.  It has made me realize just how much I don’t know!

So here we begin with the basics....

 
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The first time I ran across fennel was with a community supported agriculture haul in Tucson, AZ.  Thankfully they had these really handy recipes that came with our bag of goodies.

Back then I was really terrible at cooking.

These days, after lots of trial an error, I have come quite a long way.

I still experiment and have some not so great recipes.  Some that I think are wonderful, but my husband and mother frown upon.  Our western palates are not quite accustomed or open to experiencing new flavors. 

If I had to say what the number one aid in transforming my life from nightly frozen pizzas (and numerous health disorders, even in my early twenties), to one where I make the time for homemade almond milk, is fostering the LOVE of cooking, of experimenting and of learning. 

Learning means not being perfect, but enjoying the process.  Due to my perfectionist nature, this has been a lesson all on it’s own [check out next week’s post on how I’m learning to chill out and reflections on the cooling nature of coriander, also known as cilantro].

To me, Ayurveda is providing the next level of self-awareness.

Let’s start here by introducing you to the properties of fennel and how they can increase your awareness of the relationship between food and the body.

In this writing, I’ll go over the basic energies, called doshas.  They were mentioned in the last post, but they deserve a bit more attention.

[If you missed the last post on the power packed mustard seed, check it out here www.ayurverica.com/mustardseed]

Division of Natural Qualities

Natural phenomenon was described in terms of qualities in the ancient world.  There are 20 of these qualities which are 10 pairs of opposites (e.g. hot/cold, static/mobile).

The world was also divided into the 5 elements which can be described by the qualities.  The elements are water, earth, fire, air and ether (space).

The three energies, or doshas, are known as Vata, Pitta and Kapha.  It is these that we will work with most often. Understanding their make-up can be helpful in determining if a food, spice or environment will increase the dosha or balance the dosha.  The goal is Ayurveda is always to find the balance appropriate for each person.

Each person has unique proportions of the three doshas.  One is usually dominant.

Our dominant constitution, or prakruti, is determined by our genes.  Vatas tend to be born into families of vatas.  Although, this is not always the case.

In the examples above we would say Person A (furthest left) is Kapha, with secondary Pitta;  Person B (middle) is Pitta; Person C (right) is Vata, secondary Kapha.

The current state of the doshas, or vikruti, can be different than our prakruti.  For that reason, we focus on our vikruti as that is the state that has been altered by our environment, stress and daily habits.

The goal of Ayurveda is to bring us into alignment with our prakruti.  Our prakruti is who we were when we were born.  It is easier said than done.

For example, I am predominantly Pitta dosha, but often experience Vata vitiation.   This is the case for many of us.  Vata most easily goes out of balance as it is the nature of air and ether – easily disturbed.  When we are distracted by our phones, the TV, electronics and our non-stop, eat-on-the-way lifestyle, we are vitiating Vata.

Vata Dosha

Let’s begin to dive a bit deeper into the doshas, starting with Vata.

As we just discovered, Vata is the nature of air and ether. 

In the body this can manifest as a thin frame and small facial features.  They tend towards constipation and dryness in the body.

In the mind and personality this can manifest as feeling spacy and ungrounded if out of balance.

When a person of predominant Vata constitution is in balance they are the creative types. 

Pitta Dosha

Pitta is the nature of fire.

Pitta predominate bodies are usually medium size with good muscle tone.  If pitta is out of balance there can burning bowel movements, acid reflux and burning indigestion.

In the mind it can manifest as a perfectionist or controlling if out of balance.

When a Pitta is in balance, they are great leaders and planners.

Kapha Dosha

Kapha is the nature of earth and water.

The body type is usually a bit stockier and fleshier than pitta.  If a Kapha is out of balance there can be sluggish digestion, heavy stomach after eating and low appetite.  Interestingly enough, kapha is also associated with the respiratory system.  Excess mucous can be seen as Kapha vitiation.

In the mind an imbalanced Kapha can be extra stubborn and resistant to change.

When in balance, a kapha is loving, loyal and a great support.

Seats of Doshas in the Digestive System

In the body, vata is located in the colon, pitta in the small intestine and kapha in the stomach. What is so fascinating is that we can see which dosha is vitiated based on digestive symptoms.

 
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Elimination

Yupp.  We’re going there.  Gut health, the Ayurveda way.

If you’re anything like me, you grew up fairly prude in regards to talking about our daily elimination habits.  In fact, I was told by several doctors that elimination 1-2x a week was perfectly acceptable.

Let me tell you, this is simply not true. 

Elimination is the method our body uses to remove anything that is not useful to the body.  It is imperative that we learn to tune into our digestive system, see what is working and what isn’t.

Everything we do in Ayurveda stresses the importance of proper digestion. If digestion is poor, quality nutrition will be much less valuable. 

Efficient digestion means no gas, no heaviness, no burning indigestion.  Just smooth flow of food in to waste out with barely a noticeable change in the body.

Sound too good to be true?

I feel ya.  I used to laugh when my teachers said this too.

But through some habit and dietary changes, I can attest that it is possible, plausible and you can implement it into modern living. Stick around and I'll show ya how ;)

Fennel – The Super Spice

 
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Fennel is considered tridoshic in nature. 

Its impressiveness lies in the fact that it increases agni, our digestive power (and efficiency), without aggravating Pitta. 

In Indian restaurants, there is usually a bowl of fennel mixed with some sugar near the check out counter.  This is to take a pinch after eating to improve digestion.  It is offered to all, as it is helpful for most everyone.

Here is a bit of deep dive into the Ayurvedic understanding of fennel seed:

o   Taste (rasa): sweet

o   Warming/Cooling effect (virya): Cooling

o   Post-digestive effect (vipaka): Sweet (water and earth)

o   Dosha effect: VPK-

o   Qualities (gunas): light, moist, sharp

o   Fennel is considered a dipana (it increases agni, or the digestive fire); a carminative (dispels gas); emmenagogue (can bring on menses); diuretic (rids of excess water)

o   Contraindications include pregnancy, but only in doses larger than ¼ cup/day

Modern View of Fennel

Taken from drugs.com:

“All parts of the plant have been used for flavorings, and the stalks have been eaten as a vegetable. The seeds aid digestion.

Fennel has been used to flavor candies, liqueurs, medicines, and food, and it is especially favored for pastries, sweet pickles, and fish.

The oil can be used to protect stored fruits and vegetables against growth of toxic fungi.

Beekeepers have grown it as a honey plant. Health claims have included its use as a purported antidote to poisonous herbs, mushrooms, and snakebites.

It also has been used for the treatment of gastrointestinal inflammation, indigestion, to stimulate milk flow in breast-feeding, as an expectorant, and to induce menstruation.

Tea made from crushed fennel seeds has been used as an eyewash. Powdered fennel is said to drive fleas away from kennels and stables.”

“Fennel has been used as a flavoring agent, a scent, and an insect repellent, as well as an herbal remedy for poisoning and stomach conditions.

It has also been used as a stimulant to promote milk flow in breast-feeding and to induce menstruation.”

“Fennel seed and fennel seed oil have been used as stimulant and carminative agents in doses of 5 to 7 g and 0.1 to 0.6 mL, respectively.”

I just get a kick out of the fact that Ayurveda reinforces what our modern understanding of the power of these plants.

We just forgot…

How to Take Fennel

I have two go-to recipes.  Both the kid will eat.  One, the husband will not. 

I use them as my gauge for what is acceptable to our western palates.  The kid eats just about anything, unless it’s really really terrible.  The husband would prefer hot-dogs and potatoes nightly. 

It’s one thing to recommend foods, but if they are in no way compatible with our western style of living, then there has to be a substitute used. 

CCF Tea

This is a digestive tea, made of equal parts cumin seed, coriander seed, and fennel seed.  It has a sweet, but earthy taste.  It may take some time to acquire the taste, but the benefits are well worth the effort.  This is the recipe that the kid loves, but the husband won’t touch.

I have been using it as part of my digestive health regimen for about a month. 

If I use it regularly, after each meal, I don’t experience any heaviness, gas or burning indigestion.  My digestive issues tend to be vata based, in the colon, or and manifest as uncomfortable gas and bloating. As we learned earlier, fennel is a carminative, or dispeller of gas.

The tea works in two ways.  It is great for the medicinal use of fennel.

But it is also great because of the intake of warm/hot water.

In fact, Ayurveda recommends we never drink cold water. *GASP*… I know…

Sipping warm water every 15-20 minutes is said to stimulate the lymphatic system.

According to Dr. John Douillard

“Drinking plain boiled hot water is an ancient Ayurvedic method for flushing the lymphatic system, softening hardened tissues, and dilating, cleansing and then hydrating deep tissues. It also heals and repairs the digestive system and flushes the GALT (lymph on the outside of the intestinal wall).”

Eggs with Fennel

An easy way to add fennel to our already standard foods is through a small bit of fennel to scrambled eggs. 

Just put fennel is a salt/pepper grinder.  While the eggs are cooking, grind a bit over the pan.  Since fennel is a dipana, or it increases agni, which can be translated loosely as digestive fire, it helps the efficiency of digestion of the foods we take.

This is a recipe that both the husband and the kid will eat. 

It’s funny. I’m always surprised at the variety of foods the kid will eat.  At some point I realized that kids all over the world eat foods we would find strange.  If they’re introduced at an early age, they just don’t know any better.

So, it is my job to introduce, without expectations and if it is a hit, it will be better in the long run for wellbeing.

Fennel for all Doshas

Fennel is a great addition regardless of your vikruti or prakruti. 

Here is the progression of my little home experiment with fennel seed.  It has taught me patience, more so than the quick growing mustard seed.  It took the full 10 days to see the sprout. 

I was so flipping excited to see that sprout....  That I knocked it over, into the sink.  The photo below is what survived. *face-palm*  All in the joy of the journey

Check out the next post on coriander (the seed of cilantro!) if you’re interested in the next herb that is in my beloved CCF tea.  Sign-up below for reminders and for my newsletter.  Which I am slowly working on rolling out…. Trust me.  I will not be bombarding your email box.  Still having troubles regularly getting out posts. ;)

Alright, foodies, homemade chefs, yogis and lovers of all things of mother nature.  Enough for today. 

Many blessings to you and yours.

Love & Om

 
 

The Faith of a Mustard Seed

 
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Have you ever seen a mustard seed?

Tiny.

 
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We began an exercise in class to get to know our spices.  To really get to know them. To know what their effect is on the body and mind.  To learn how they grow and to learn how to use them effectively in our cooking. 

As a bonus, we expand our palates and reinforce our reputation as foodies!

Perhaps, you too, would like to be a foodie.  Or perhaps you're looking to strengthen your connection with the natural world.

I have come to discover all things that remind us of our natural connection is just ancient knowledge.  It is repackaged and wonderfully marketed as the new foodie craze by personalities like Dr. Oz.  Then, this kernel of knowledge then becomes the new foodie fad for the next 1-2 years. 

But what if we knew the ‘why’ of each of these super foods.  What if all food could be utilized and in a way be a super food, based on inherent qualities?

What if we knew how to understand this secret knowledge of foods, and what if we understood how they react with the qualities of the person consuming them?

There is a way.

Ayurveda leads that way.

Let’s learn all there is to know about nature’s secrets in the form of spices and herbs.

The Choice of a Mustard Seed

This week I chose the mustard seed. I couldn't help but be reminded of Jesus' teaching ‘have thee but the faith of a mustard seed’. For me, this path of Ayurveda is less about health than it is about finding balance, harmony and making daily life my sadhana, or spiritual practice.  But it could not have been possible if I took a chance, with a bit of courage, and faith as tiny asthat of a mustard seed.

I refer you to the commentary on this passage from Saint Thomas with the commentary here by Osho. 

This is the first book I read when I began deepening my yoga practice.  At that time, I don’t know if my faith was even that of a mustard seed. I could relate quite well to this teaching.  I honestly had been rather put off by the whole idea of spirituality.

Since then, I have found that at the core of all religion there is Truth.  And this Truth is grounded in reality and is entirely practical. But as is the nature of humanity, we make the Truth dogmatic, and dogma is of no real benefit.

But, I digress.

If you’re interested in connecting and learning more about the deeper philosophical understanding of yoga please reach out to a wonderful teacher and guide, Swami Sankarananda .

Why start with herbs?

There is so much to be taught in Ayurveda.  It has been my mission to come up with a logical series to follow on this blog.  I want to honor the fact that I am still yet a student.

[Perhaps, the best way, would be to always see myself as a student]

Yet there are so many gems that we each can implement in our daily lives to improve our health and wellbeing.  I would hate to wait and not share these bits!

Being that at heart, I am a student of science, it is imperative to me that the techniques one follows are reproducible. 

Studying herbs, their properties and how they affect the body will introduce many of the basic Ayurvedic concepts, such as dosha (constitution), rasa (taste), virya (warming or cooling action) and vipaka (post-digestive effect).  These concepts will reinforced with each herb, and eventually the pattern will unfold and reveal itself to you.

I have found this practice is meditative.  It brings us back into connection with the natural world.

It used to be that our grandmothers just knew, not from a medical basis, but from a holistic worldview, which herbs, substances, foods would be best for us and when. 

That is what I am here to share with you.

Ayurveda & Digestion

Ayurveda’s focus is on the quality of digestion.  It is said that all disease begins in the digestive system (perhaps, of course, after the mind space, but that is a yoga based philosophy).  In order to live a vibrant life, free of causing discomfort to our own bodies, it is required that we focus on our digestive system.  Actions such as increasing agni, will increase our digestive power.  It increases the efficiency by which our body can break down food into its subcomponents which will be used to build tissue, repair tissue and give us energy.

We so often talk about the macronutrients of fat, carbs, protein.  It has only been recently that we have been focusing on the quality our digestive environment. 

Ayurveda sees the efficiency by which we digest as the key to wellbeing.  I have experienced firsthand (which I will go into in a later post on panchakarma, the Ayurvedic cleanse) what it is like to experience no gas, no bloating, no heartburn and a light stomach after eating. 

It is possible, even in our modern society, to have effective digestion.  But there are certainly changes we must implement to make this possible.

Modern View of Mustard

According to drugs.com mustard is said to be “used as a food flavoring, for forage, as an emetic, and diuretic, as well as a topical treatment for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism.  Mustard also has the potential pharmacological effects in cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.” 

Properties of Mustard Seed from and Ayurvedic Viewpoint

Taste (rasa): Pungent (fire & air)

Warming/Cooling effect (virya): Warming

Post-digestive effect (vipaka): Pungent

Dosha effect: VK-P+ == Increases the qualities of fire (Pitta) and air, decreases the qualities of ether (Vata), water and earth (Kapha)

Qualities (gunas): sharp

Actions:  mustard seed is considered a dipana (it increases agni); a carminative (dispels gas); lekhana (supports weight loss); pachana (eliminates ama); anthelminthic (destroys worms or parasites); expectorant (reduces mucous); analgesic (reduces pain); diuretic (rids of excess water)

The most complete meal is said to have all 6 tastes – pungent, bitter, astringent, sweet, sour and salty.  The idea is to use spice to balance out the overall tastes.

While modern medicine has done wonders for helping us to survive through emergencies, it seems to be lacking wisdom in that which keeps us vibrant and healthy.

This is where I have been drawn to holistic medicine.  It sees not the body and mind as separate, but rather as intricately connected. 

Many of us think we are perfectly healthy compared to >>insert any friend’s name here<<, but in fact we are suffering with sleep disorders, hormonal imbalances and SO MANY DIGESTIVE DISORDERS.

It is ingrained in our culture.

We even have a children’s song that encourages digestive imbalance. 

[You know, ‘beans, beans a wonderful fruit…’]

Ayurveda gives us the tools to overcome these imbalances before they manifest into what is called ‘relocation and diversification’. 

Ayurveda uses herbs as support, but not as the end-all.  It is important to note that herbs can have side effects.  It is always advised to consult a herbalist or ayurvedic practitioner if using in dosages larger than would be normally found in food. 

Let’s just remember though that the typical western diet doesn’t make room for much spice.  We have graciously given away our food preparation to companies that market their expertise.  Companies with an eye on the bottom line, more so than on the quality of products. 

With that in mind, a half to a full teaspoon or so a day of any given spice (within reason, let’s not start adding a teaspoon of cayenne to our food), is most likely going to be a reasonable amount.

My experience with mustard seed

Here are images of the plant I have at home!  It quickly grew from seed to sprout in about 3 days.

I picked up some fun cups from the thrift store.  Layered the bottom with small rocks for drainage.  I added about 6-7 seeds. And violia!  Look at that growth!

 

This is a great exercise for the family.  I find it important to introduce my daughter to the beauty of the natural world.  As we come more and more engaged with our technological advances I want her to remember that it is nature, first and foremost, which supports us.

It is learning to connect with the pace of nature, to learn to surrender the organic growth that has sustained my yoga and now my ayurvedic practice.  All beginning with the faith as tiny as a mustard seed.  Through that seed of faith, I have experienced the extensive growth in my wellbeing

Next week we touch on the benefits of fennel for all three doshas.  We will also begin to define doshas. Sign up below for notifications on updates on the site! Looking forward to sharing with you <3

 
 

Many blessings.  May you too cultivate that faith within yourself.  Even if it be merely be the size of a mustard seed.

Love & Om

 
Jesus has used this mustard seed very often, for many reasons. One: the mustard seed is the
smallest seed. God is invisible, smaller than the smallest, so how can you indicate him? At the
boundary of sight is the mustard seed, the smallest thing.... Beyond that you will not be able to understand because beyond is the invisible. The mustard seed is the boundary, the smallest thing in the world of the visible – you can see it but it is very small. If you go beyond you enter the world of the subtle, that which is smaller than the smallest. This mustard seed exists on the boundary.

And this mustard seed is not only the smallest visible thing, it also has a very mysterious quality:
when it grows it becomes the biggest of plants. So it is a paradox: the seed is the smallest and the plant is the biggest. God is the invisible and the universe is the most visible; the universe is the tree, the plant, and God is the seed; God is the unmanifest and the universe is the manifest.
If you break down a seed you will not find the tree there; you can dissect it but you will not find a tree hidden there. And you can say there is no tree and people were just foolish saying that a great tree is hidden in this seed when there is nothing. This is what analysts have always been doing. You tell them that this flower is beautiful; they will take it to the lab and they will dissect it to find where the beauty is. They will come upon chemicals and other things, they will dissect it and analyze it, and they will label different fragments of the flower in many bottles – but there will not be a single bottle in which they will find beauty. No, they will come out of the lab and they will say, ”You must have been under some illusion, you were dreaming – there is no beauty.” We have dissected the whole flower, nothing has been left, and there is no beauty.”
— Osho - The Mustard Seed, My Most Beloved Story
 

Our Old Friends, The Yamas

This week I had the honor of meeting up with an old friend.  We met back in the day in an organic chemistry class.  She was the best kind of friend to have.  We would (secretly) compete for the highest grade in the class.  I kept her close by.  No one better to learn from than the top of the class ;)

Boy, does it seem like have our paths diverged.  She went on to live in Caribbean, travel the US, and take on med school.  I went on to become a mom and fall in love with Vedic studies. 

The conversations have been such a pleasure given our diverse experiences over the past few years.  There’s something about old friends that is so comforting.

That brings me to today’s topic.  The first step in Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga – The Yamas.

 
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Yamas are like our old friends.  They give us the guidelines which remind us of who we really are.  From here we can find that positive personality through our journey to wellness. 

When I came to yoga, I was far from a saint.  I still am.  But it is these guidelines that have proven invaluable to improve my relationship with myself and others.

When I first heard of these 5 old friends, I thought they seemed rather old-fashioned and perhaps even patriarchal.  I also thought they would be easy to implement, because they’re just so basic.

I quickly learned that simplicity does not equal ease of adaptation.

So what are these old friends?

In order, as taught by Sivananda, Patanjali, Pattabhi Jois and all of the great Yogis:

  1. Non-injury (ahimsa)

  2. Truthfulness (satya)

  3. Non-stealing (asteya)

  4. Energy management, or traditionally referred to as sexual restraint, although not suppression of (brahmacharya)

  5. Self-restraint, Non-covetousness (aparigraha)

Ahimsa

We start with ahimsa. Non-injury in thought, word or deed.

What does this mean?  It suggests not injuring another being.  And here we open acan of worms.  This is *the* principle yogis all over the world argue about. 

[Yes, yogis argue]

Is it more ethical to be a vegan?  Or perhaps follow the Jains, who wear masks not to injure the microscopic bugs they may breathe in? 

Or perhaps a middle path as a vegetarian or a pescatarian?  After all, Jesus ate fish.  And so did the Essences of the ancient Jewish esoteric tradition.  One might argue that it is helpful to remember that they were in a very different culture.  One in which the oceans were not becoming depleted.

My dear teacher, Swami Sankarananda, has shared this sentiment:  It used to be there were three things you didn’t talk about in polite conversation; politics, religion and sex.  These days we’ve added a fourth, food choices.  Therefore, I will leave this part of the discussion up to you to debate.  It really is only the surface level of the argument.  I am sure we will touch on it again as we dive deeper into the teachings.

Ahimsa truly starts with the mind.  If even your thoughts cause injury to another, then there is work to be done.  This is where I began on this journey.  At the time, I was eating raw, whole foods, and practicing yoga 3-4 times a week.  But internally, I was not practicing yoga.  I was judging and criticizing those around me.  I was thinking mean and hurtful thoughts.  Those thoughts were not just injurious to others, but they came back at me tenfold. 

If our goal in our wellness journey is to find Bliss, then we have to stop engaging in behaviors that veil Bliss. 

The Vedic sciences promise us that Bliss is our true state.  It is there behind all of the drama we cause ourselves.  Ayurveda is a science of personal empowerment, but also of personal responsibility.  If we are to see reality clearly and experience the Bliss within, we must start with the fundamentals.

Satya

Which brings us to our second step on the ladder to Bliss, satya.

Satya means truthfulness. 

I have a challenge for you.  For one whole day, just notice how many lies you tell. I bet there is more than you would expect.

I was a total liar-liar-pants on fire.  I am still surprised to this day at the silly lies that come out of my mouth.  No judgment, just the recognition that there is work to be done.

We tell lies about the most ridiculous of things. 

I used to do things like call my mom and say, “I’m so sorry I’m going to be late to Sunday dinner, I got home at 4:30 and have barely had time to get ready”. 

Lies.  I got home at 2pm and was too busy playing around on my phone to get moving.

By beginning my yoga practice and recognizing these habits from a non-judgmental place, I began to notice that lies made me feel heavy, anxious and unable to freely be me.  Because, let’s be honest, my mom knew I was lying, but she was going to love me anyway. 

My grandma always told us that she just couldn’t lie, because it’s too much work to keep it all straight!

Surprisingly though if you are caught deep in the traps of a lying personality, this can be a hard habit to break, so I empathize.  But don’t let that be an excuse to keep you from reaching your highest potential!
Break free from the traps! 

There was a study done by Notre Dame that asked participants to reduce lying for 10 weeks. Truthfulness proved clinically to be better for your mental health. [1]  It is not a far stretch to see that less emotional worrying would lead to lower blood pressure and less production of the stress hormone, cortisol. 

Asteya

Non-stealing.  This is easy, right?  Ha, not.  Remember, this is in word, thought and deed.

How often do we take from the office without permission?  Or from your parent’s house?  These small actions create disharmony in ourselves.  The message we are send ourselves is that we are not complete without this small thing.  How often would your parents or boss say ‘yeah, that’s fine’ if you just asked. Do you realize the mental pressure you add to yourself?  It may be repressed and ignored, but none-the-less it is still there. 

Remember, as much as these principles are for the greater good, they really are selfish.  They are principles to align you with who-you-really-are.  And who you are is complete, and doesn’t need to steal. 

Another way that Swami Sivananda mentioned asteya is in the form of hoarding. When we add to our wants and desires we have stuff that someone else could NEED.  As modern humans, we have wayyyyy too much stuff. Gandhi has reportedly said ‘mankind’s greed and craving for artificial needs is also stealing.’ 

On a subtler level, by stealing we are creating a mental environment of lack.  By feeling lack, we lose contact with the Bliss (Ananda) within.

Brahmacharya

This is another can of worms, like that of ahimsa. 

Traditionally brahmacharya is translated as sexual restraint.  In our day, free-love seems to be the cultural norm.  This isn’t so much an ethical point as it is practical. 

In Ayurveda, shukra is semen or the creative fluid of the body.  In it’s subtlest form, it creates ojas, or the immunity and rejuvenate fluids.

Ayurveda is concerned with proper management of the body’s energies for health and well-being’s sake.  Basically, do you deplete yourself day in and day out by completing endless tasks?  Or are you able to gracefully flow from one project to the next, full of energy and enthusiasm?  If we are engaging in too much of any energy expenditure, including sex, we have less to give the world through creative endeavors.

Aparigraha

Overcoming the need for possessing objects.  To covet is to yearn, to desire.  In all yoga teachings we discuss desire as the root of all suffering.  As long as we are not content, as long as we yearn for more than what we have, we are unable to feel that we are whole and complete.

Think about the unhappiness and suffering that we as a wealthy, first-world society experience.  We have giant cars and giant homes.  Filled with stuff we don’t need, nor do we use.  We work extra hours and rack up extra debt to impress people we don’t like.  We normalize these actions through statistics of the ‘average-American’ with debt owing $16,000+ [2].  We pay more for medical care than ANY other nation [3], while the health of our life span is decreasing for the first time in years [4].  The US uses more pain killers than any other country [5], and we’re at the top of the list for drug, alcohol abuse and depression and anxiety [6].

There has to be a better way.  A way that empowers ourselves and our communities, rather than creates a culture of victimization to the powers-that-be.

We complain about being ‘green’, the pollution of our planet, yet our desires keep increasing.  Therefore, the supply increases to meet these demands.  And do we know what the consequence of this extra supply is?  Extra use of energy, of natural resources, of waste!

If you made it this far, you realize the importance of these practices.  The time is now for self-empowerment, self-improvement and self-responsibility.    If for nothing other than to be an example for those around us.  The examples we see on TV are what most people aspire to.  But what they don’t understand is that they are aspiring to a lie. 

If you’re looking for an amazing program to help you become content financially, please look to Dave Ramsey.  My sister, who is a financial planner, introduced his program to me - Financial Peace University.   His work has added so much depth to my yoga practice, specifically related to asteya and aparigraha. 

Take it from me, you will be ridiculed if you follow these disciplines.  I have been ostracized from many groups when I decided I no longer wanted to participate in gossip, live above my means or participate in a culture of delusion.  But if you quit looking for validation and approval from outside, you will find that the reserves inside are more than you could have ever possibly imagined. 

I have lots of work left to do.  But the carrot on the stick is that I have lots of peace left to gain.

While many of these guidelines may feel restricting, it is through self-discipline that we experience the true Self and experience freedom.  The yamas are really just old friends, the ones who keep us connected with who we really are as to not get lost under the veil of who we are not.

And so I will leave you with these quotes of inspiration.

If you feel these posts have been helpful and would like to continue to be updated on future content, please subscribe below. 

 

Om Namaḥ Śivāya

ॐ नमः शिवाय

lokāḥ samastāḥ sukhino-bhavaṁtu 

लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनो भवन्त

Peace Peace Peace

 
No person is free who is not master of himself. - Epictetus


Happiness is dependent on self-discipline. We are the biggest obstacles to our own happiness. It is much easier to do battle with society and with others than to fight our own nature. - Dennis Prager

Self-disciplined begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don’t control what you think, you can’t control what you do. Simply, self-discipline enables you to think first and act afterward. – Napoleon Hill

Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind-you could call it character in action. – Vince Lombardi

Self-discipline is crucial to a simpler, more contented life. – Dalai Lama

Serving one’s own passions is the greatest slavery. – Thomas Fuller

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit – Aristotle
 

Fun-damentals of the Vedic Sciences

How does health serve to align me (and YOU) with the best version of my-Self?

Where do I start?

How do I serve?

These are all questions I have been contemplating over the past couple of months.

I have been brainstorming a million ways to help make the depth of wisdom contained within the Vedic sciences applicable to our modern lives.

I started with the basics. Like a new name -  Ayurv-Erica – clever, huh? ;) 

And we have a new platform (yay Squarespace!).

And even a new logo.

[Om Aim Saraswatyai Namah, with deepest reverence to the Divine knowledge and Divine teachers. *see below for explanation*]

But behind all of these details, I have been stuck. 

I have been pondering how do to take a 5000-year-old worldview and translate it into our modern worldview. To be honest, in a lot of ways it doesn’t translate.  So instead I will share how I began to see with new eyes.  And perhaps my story will be of benefit.

I will walk you through the processes I have used in my daily life to create more health and wellness, starting with the fun-damentals.  I know we have a tendency to become excited by the exotic and want to learn the most complex practices first.  I can tell you, I was (okay, in some ways, I still am) attracted to Yoga and Ayurveda in that way too. 

 
 

 

My first experience with Yoga and Ayurveda came through one of Pattabhi Jois’ direct disciples, Lisa Schrempp. 

I had the honor of volunteering at a yoga studio in which she taught.  I was tasked with setting up the altar in exchange for classes.  It seemed like such a small effort to be graced with the depth of knowledge that was received.

On the superficial level, I had a super toned, lean body, and could bend into all sorts of contortions.  On a deeper level, it was through this experience that the seeds were planted as introductions to the Vedic scriptures of the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. 

And while this was very much a worthwhile effort, in order to truly experience the benefits of Yoga and Ayurveda, for my own personal journey, I had to take a few steps back, and start at the beginning.

You know, I was not very aware of myself at this stage.  I can now see that living in Arizona, with a Pitta (fiery) predominate constitution, the form of hatha (physical) yoga I was practicing, especially without the strict adherence to the ethical foundations, was not beneficial for me. 

Now, let’s be clear here, this is not to say that it is not beneficial to others.   In my case, I found myself becoming more critical.  Feelings of jealousy and anger were arising.  With the understanding I have no, these are all considered Pitta (hot) emotions. 

Of course, I didn’t know this at the time.  Retrospect is 20/20.

So what is yoga?  And what are these fundamentals we speak of?

 
Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha
— Yoga Sutras 1.2
 

This is the defining sutra on Yoga.  It means, Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations in the mind.

 
Sat Chit Ananda
— Truth, Conciousness, Bliss
 

After being exposed to Vedanta, a form of philosophy deeply connected to yoga, I found this to be a wonderful guiding principle.  The goal of yoga being to experience Truth, Consciousness, Bliss. 

I had a very superficial understanding of these definitions at the time, but  it was this Bliss thing I really got stuck on. 

I realized on some level that external objects did not provide this everlasting happiness.  But where to begin?

Since Yoga and Ayurveda are tools for Self-knowledge and Self-awareness, it became imperative for my progression to start doing the internal work.  It became imperative to find my Bliss.  After all, that is all we want anyway.

So how does this relate to Ayurveda? 

Ayurveda is defined as the science (veda) of life (ayur).  In Sanskrit, health is defined as svestha, or establishment of the self in the Self.  Ultimately, we are healthy when we have strong self-esteem (self) and are aware of our intimate connection with the Divine (Self).

So to begin our deep dive into Ayurveda, since this is where I began, we will actually begin with Yoga.

Ashtanga is defined as eight (ashta) limbed (anga).  Yoga means “to yoke”, or union.

It is the eightfold path to union. 

Therefore, Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga gives us the eightfold path – the path to Self-Realization, to Health, to Wholeness, Peace and Happiness.

Our mind is intimately (more than we realize….) tied to our health.  So our first steps to wellness will be the use of the basics of Yoga.  I would like to take you through each step and give some reflection on what I have learned from my teachers and through direct experience along the way.

The 8 steps as classically defined are:

  1. Yamas – external disciplines (like, be nice, tell the truth… you know, the universal codes of right and wrong)

  2. Niyamas – internal disciplines (HOW to think)

  3. Asana – postures (what we think of when we think of yoga)

  4. Pranayama – breath control (the breath is intimately tied with the mind)

  5. Pratyahara – control of the prana by withdrawl of the senses (our 5 senses take us away from our internal Self)

  6. Dharana – Concentration

  7. Dhyana – Mediation

  8. Samadhi – Self-Realization, Wholeness, Peace

Guys, it wasn’t until 2014, when I began to examine my beliefs, my thought patterns and habits that yoga really proved its worth beyond the external nice-bod.  I cannot begin to explain how much more fulfilled my life has become due to these simple, albeit difficult, practices.

Join me as I take you, one step at a time, through the timeless Vedic wisdom to health, happiness and prosperity.   

Join me as I share my continued journey to find my Bliss.

Add your address below to be notified of any new content, and as I begin to launch various projects on this site.  I am so looking forward to sharing with you all, what I have learned, through Grace.

Om Aim Saraswatyai Namah

Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya

 

*Saraswati in the Hindu tradition represents the Divinity of Knowledge and it dispels the darkness of ignorance.  The symbol is used in the new logo. In an effort to remain humble to this knowledge, we express our reverence.*