Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Winter is here!

Ayurveda takes in many factors when working to create health and wholeness in an individual. One that plays a major role is the seasons. While the seasons affect each of us differently, due to our own unique constitution, each one has particular qualities. Ayurveda uses both herbal treatements and simple lifestyle practices to remedy the effects of each season.
Late fall and early winter is the time of year when Vata is most aggravated. Fall is dry, light, cold, windy, rough, and empty- all qualities of Vata. We can see this in the blowing cold winter winds that are present in our environment, and the leafless trees. Vata is responsible for such things as; governing movement, circulation, thought process, and helps with digestion. Increased Vata can show up as anxiety, irregularity in the mind and digestion, or arthritis to name a few problems.
Late winter and early spring is the time of year when Kapha is most aggravated. Winter is cold, cloudy, heavy, slow, and damp- qualities of Kapha, though it shares some qualities with Vata. We can see this as the days become darker, longer, and colder. Kapha is directly linked to our weight, the fluids in the body, lubrication of joints, our immunity, and our mental sense of stability and wellbeing. When Kapha becomes out of balance it can lead to weight gain, lethargy, sluggish digestion, and becoming more susceptible to colds and flus.
Here are some simple things you can do every day to keep your Vata and Kapha in balance as we head into winter.
· The most important thing to keep Vata in balance is to stick to a routine. Being regular will go along way with keeping Vata in balance and keeping you calm and centered during the winter season.
· Exercise 5 times a week for 30 minutes or more. Do not increase your Vata by being too vigorous or moving too quickly. Help to keep Kapha in balance, which has the qualities of heavy, moist, and cold, by sweating moderately. Think steady controlled heat in your practice. This will help counteract the sluggish energy of Kapha.
· The main home of Vata is in the Colon, so any Yoga asanas that compress or stretch the colon are very useful. Practice all forward bends, especially Paschimottanasana. You can also practice spinals twists like Matsyendrasana. Practicing a moderate pace Surya Namaskar is good for controlling both Vata and Kapha.
· To control Kapha practice Yoga asanas that help to open the chest, stretch the front of the body, and relieve congestion. Danurasana, Ushtrasana, and Pranamasana are very useful. Also practice Kapalabhati or Bhastrika Pranayama to clear toxins out of the body, stimulate the digestive fires, and remove excess Kapha.
· Practice abhyanga, warm oil massage, every morning. It takes only a few minutes and is one of the best practices for controlling Vata. Primary Vata people should use warm oil like sesame, Pitta people a cooler oil like sunflower or coconut, and Kaphas can use corn oil. If possible the oil should be warmed-up, not hot.
· Practice Nadi Shodhana, it will help to balance out the Doshas in the body. A few minutes of practice will induce a deep state of relaxation and peace. It helps to relieve stress, bring mental clarity, and focus. It is a wonderful technique for people who are feeling stressed, anxious, or tired. It brings the Pranas into harmony and helps to balance Ida Nadi, the passive channel, and Pingala Nadi, the active channel.
· Fight the sluggish properties of Kapha by cooking with warm spices, as long as they don’t aggrevate your Pitta (fire), such as ginger, cumin, black pepper, mustard seed and hing.
· Share your life with friendly, warm, and loving people. They can bring great joy, light, and comfort as we go into the darkest part of the year.


Vajrasana, the thunderbolt pose, is an amazingly powerful pose and the base position for many other Yoga asanas. The word Vajra means thunderbolt, and also refers to Vajra Nadi-the energetic pathway that is directly connected with the genitounrinary system. Practice of Vajrasana and all related asanas are beneficial for the reproductive system, digestive system, and regulation of sexual energy. Anyone who is interested in dedicated study of Hatha Yoga or going beyond the beginning level of techniques should seek the guidance of a Guru or experienced Yoga educator. One should always practice under competent guidance, and never rush. Hatha Yoga has traditionally been taught one on one, and can not be learned through reading articles, it should be learned from a competent guide who can correct any mistakes or dangers that you might not be aware of. If you have not learned this practice from your Guru or a competent Yoga educator please do not attempt it.
Vajrasana Technique:
Kneel on the floor, the big toes are together with the feet spread apart.
The buttocks will be resting on the inside of the feet, the heels will be touching the sides of the hips.
The spine should be completely straight.
Hands will be either palms down on the legs or Bhairava Mudra. The hands and arms should be relaxed.
Close the eyes, and relax.
Breathe normally.
Your inner awareness comes to your belly button or Manipura Chakra.
Length of Practice:
Vajrasana can be practiced for extended periods of time. Hold the pose as long as it is comfortable. Vajrasana is used by both Muslims and Zen Buddhists for prayer and meditation, and can be held for extended periods by those that cannot sit in other meditation asanas. Try to practice Vajrasana for a few minutes before and after meals to stimulate digestion.
Practice notes:
If there is pain in the thighs or knees, began by separating the knees by a few inches. If there is still pain, place a folded blanket between the buttocks and the legs. If this is not enough, sit on a block or a cushion until the legs open up. If the ankles hurt from tightness, release the pose and stretch the ankles and then resume the posture again.
And, all the wonderful benefits:
Vajrasana stimulates our digestion and help us to fully digest all things come into our being; food, thoughts, and emotins. It is used in yogic therapy to treat digestive disorders, stomach problems, and ulcers. Vajrasana alters the flow of blood and nervous impulses to the entire pelvic region. It helps to strengthen the pelvic muscles and alleviate menstrual disorders. It stimulates Vajra Nadi, regulating our sexual energy, allowing us to engage in meditation and spiritual practices.
Bonus practice to bring balance to the breath and mind:
Check the flow of your breath and see what nostril is predominant. If the left side is dominant place the left big toe on top of the right big toe; if the right is dominant place the right big toe on top of the left big toe. The flow of breath in the nostrils is related to the flow of two of the major energy channels in the body Ida and Pingala Nadi. By balancing the breath you can bring peace to the mind.

Constitution and the Three Doshas

Each person possesses a unique constitution that is made up of a combination of the three Doshas called Prakriti. Every person has all three Doshas within them. Vata is our energy and our breath, Pitta is our warmth and transforms substances in our bodies, and Kapha makes up the flesh and secretions. The play of the Doshas and the five elements within us is the same as the play within the universe. The macrocosm is recreated in the microcosm of our body. What makes every person unique is that we all have a different proportion of the Doshas. Typically, one Doshas will dominate in a person and will show clearly in their physical appearance and mental constitution.
When individuals predominate in one Dosha, we could call this pure Vata, pure Pitta, or pure Kapha. Some people may have a dual constitution where two Doshas are more or less in equal proportions. Three different types of dual constitutions exist; Vatta-Pitta, Vata-Kapha, and Pitta-Kapha. There is also the rare type of Vatta-Pitta-Kapha. In total there are seven major types.
By looking at the constitution of an individual Ayurveda can go beyond the pure medical lines of treatment in the form of health education, lifestyle changes, and counseling to help establish full health and wellbeing. While each person will have a unique approach to their own health, Ayurveda’s aim can be summed up in this quote from the Sushruta Samhita, 15.38
sama dasah samagnis ca sama dhatu mala kriyah
prasannatmendriya manah svastha ityabhidhiyate
One who is established in Self, who has balanced the Doshas, balanced agni, properly formed dhatus, proper elimination of wastes, well functioning bodily processes, and whose mind, soul, and senses are full of bliss, is called a healthy person.

The following is a brief constitution test, that will examine aspects of the physical body; weight, frame, and complexion. There is also a mental constitution that another article will be written on. The list will help you to identify your predominate Dosha. Generally speaking, I believe most people can understand the basics of their Ayurvedic constitution. Consulting an Ayurvedic practioner is always helpful and will allow you to gain a deeper understanding of your own constitution. The Doshas tend to stay constant through our life, but factors like long-term illness or trauma can change it. When going through the list choose the one that has been constant through your life. For example, if you have had a thin frame your whole life except for the last year when you have gained weight, you should choose the thin frame (Vata) as that has been predominant.
Review the following list and circle the characteristics that describe you. Then, total the number circled in each column.

Vata Pitta Kapha
Tall or short, thin, slender, poorly developed, irregular
moderate physique, balanced
Stocky, short, big,
well developed, balanced
Low, hard to gain weight, lean, prominent bones, fat stored in midriff “spare tire”
Moderate, average weight, even fat on body
Heavy, tends towards Obesity, easy to gain weight
Dull, darkish, grayish
Red, ruddy, flushed, glowing
White, pale
Skin Texture
Dry, cold, cracked, rough,
veins are easy to see
Warm, moist, pink, irritable,
moles, freckles, acne
Thick, white, moist, smooth,cool, soft
Dry, scanty, rough, kinky
brown, wavy, frizzy
Moderate, fine,
early gray, bald, red
Thick, oily, wavy,
abundant, lustrous, brown or chocolate
Long, thin, small
Thin, long, small,
Moderate, ruddy,
Sharp features
Large, round, pale,
Small, wrinkled
Moderate, folds
Large, broad
Small, thin
Moderate, fine
Thick, bushy
Small, dry
Small, fine
Large, thick, firm
Small, dry, thin, dull, sunken, grey, violet, slate blue
Medium, easily inflamed, bothered, green, hazel, light blue
Wide, white, almond shaped, large, liquid
Thin, long, crooked, dry, deviated septum
Medium, moderate
Thick, big
Thin, small, dry, narrow
Medium, red
Thick, large, smooth
Teeth and Gums
Thin, dry, small, crooked, receding gums
Medium, sharp, soft, pink, gums bleed
Large, thick, white, healthy gums
Thin, long
Large, thick
Thin, small, flat,
hunched, bad posture
Broad, thick
Thin, small or long,
Little muscle
Large, developed
Thin, small, underdeveloped
Broad, large
Small, dry, cold, rough,
Medium, warm or hot, pink
Large, cool, firm
Thin, narrow, underdeveloped
Large, sturdy
Thin, short or long, prominent knees
Small, hard
Small, thin, rough, dry, long
Medium, soft
Large, hard, firm
Small, thin, cracking, dry, prone to injury
Medium, loose
Large, strong
Small, thin, dry, hard, brittle, dark, nail bitters
Medium, pink, soft, strong
Large, thick, symmetrical

Malas(wastes) and Agni(digestion)
Vata Pitta Kapha

Difficult, very little,
Profuse, yellow or red,
Moderate, whitish
Dry, hard, difficult, painful, gas, constipation
Loose, yellowish, prone to diarrhea, burning sensation,abundant
Moderate, solid,
pale, mucus in
body odor
No smell, little sweat
Abundant, hot,
strong smell
Moderate, pleasant smell, consistent
Erratic, weak, variable
Strong, sharp
Constant, low
Poor, erratic, cold hands and feet
Good, warm or hot
Good, steady, warm