Ayurveda

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Frozen River SmallDuring the holidays, it’s easy to get caught up in frantic activity that leaves you exhausted, out of balance, and susceptible to winter colds and flu. If you want to truly enjoy this special time of year, the best gift you can give yourself and your family is nurturing self-care.

1.  Do one thing at a time.
Instead of multi-tasking, give yourself the joy of focused attention. When you’re cooking, turn off your phone, Blackberry, and TV.  Let yourself fully experience the sensory pleasures of preparing and eating your special holiday meals. If you’ve decided to send out Christmas cards (remembering that you can ignore the voice telling you “should” do so), make it a pleasurable ritual. Turn on some beautiful music and focus on the gratitude you have for each person to whom you’re writing a card.

2.  Commit to less.
Don’t succumb to the collective hallucination that would plunge you into a mad scramble to find thoughtful gifts for everyone from your mother to your child’s teacher, create reindeer topiary for the lawn, and make platefuls of cookies, candies, and pies from scratch. Choose to participate only in those holiday activities that hold meaning and joy for you and your loved ones.

3.  Communicate consciously.
A helpful tool to prevent emotional strain at family gatherings is the Buddhist practice of “right speech.” Before you speak, ask yourself these three questions: Is what I am about to say true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?  Find more conscious communication tips here.

4.  Maintain a restful sleep routine.
While it’s easy to fall into an erratic schedule with parties, travel, preparation, and other seasonal events, you will feel better and actually be able to accomplish more if you cultivate a restful sleep routine. When you find yourself pushing too hard or overdoing any activity, rest.

5.  Learn to meditate.
Besides sleep, the best rest is the deep relaxation provided by meditation. When you meditate, your breathing slows, blood pressure decreases, and stress hormone levels fall. You go beyond the mind’s noisy internal dialogue and experience an oasis of inner silence and stillness. An easy way to get started with meditation the Chopra Center’s 21-Day Meditation Challenge – we have a brand-new free challenge starting in February 2012, and you can also start right now by downloading our Summer Meditation Challenge. Learn more here.

6.  Eat warm, Vata-pacifying foods.
ginger teaWhen the weather is cold, limit your intake of dry and raw items such as nuts, chips, and uncooked vegetable, which all tend to aggravate the body’s nervous system and digestion. Try delicious soups, cooked whole grains, and nourishing stews. Drink plenty of hot tea, such as ginger tea. Find a simple ginger tea recipe here.
Learn more about Vata-balancing foods here.

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7.  Don’t skip lunch to do holiday shopping.
Skipping meals aggravates both the Vata and Pitta doshas, so stick with regular mealtimes.

8.  Exhale your stress.
In stressful situations we have an unconscious tendency to breathe shallowly, which only increases anxiety in our mind and body. Kapalabhati is a yogic breathing technique that releases stress and toxins from the body. Find Kapalabhati instructions in our library.

9.  Nurture your senses with aromatherapy and essential oils.vanilla
In your home or office, use soothing scents such as orange, lavender, neroli, sandalwood, vanilla, orange, basil, or clove. Performing a relaxing self-massage with sesame or other natural oils is a deeply healing practice that you can treat yourself to every day.


In honor of Earth Day, reflections by Chopra Center co-founder, Dr. David Simon
. . .

Heal The WorldThe ancient Vedic sages declare, “I am not in the world; the world is in me.” From the perspective of universal awareness, everything is consciousness―everything is Spirit―in disguise. Our inner world of memories, desires, fantasies, and feelings expresses the subjective face of consciousness. Our outer world of form and phenomena expresses the objective projection of consciousness. According to the 5,000-year-old healing system of Ayurveda, the environment is an extension of our physical bodies. When I first heard this, I thought it was an interesting metaphor, but the more I explored the idea, the more I realized it was true.

There is no “there” out there. The ecology is us in a less localized state. Our personal bodies and the environment are in a constant, dynamic exchange. We transform the energy and information of food, water, and air into the energy and information of our bodies, while simultaneously returning molecular bits and pieces of our bodies back to the environment. With every breath we exchange approximately 10 billion trillion atoms with the universe. Even more amazing, we claim ownership in our body of a quadrillion atoms Meditating Green Mtnsthat have been in someone else’s body within the past few weeks.

Perhaps most mind-boggling of all is the math that shows that at any given moment, each of us has at least a million atoms in our body that were once in the body of every person who has ever lived, from Moses to Lady Gaga, from Marcel Proust to Newt Gingrich. Our skin, the largest organ in our body, is completely shed and regenerated within about one month. The lining of our stomach is replaced every week, and our liver is swapped out about nine times a year. While you may identify closely with your body, the truth is that the molecules that compose it are only on temporary loan to you from the environmental library.

If society collectively recognized this inherent inextricability, we would dramatically change the way we treat Spaceship Earth, as the great visionary and engineer Buckminster Fuller called it. Most of us wouldn’t allow sewage in their living room or throw out garbage in our backyard, yet the toxicity we deposit in our environment is every bit as irrational and destructive. As evolving beings it’s in our highest interest to treat the planet and its living inhabitants with reverence and responsibility. We can put our attention on living in balance with our ecosystem, making choices that reflect the intimate relationship between our individuality and our universality. We can minimize our exploitation of the environment whenever possible.

I asked my young children to elaborate the things they could do that would reflect their love and caring for Mother Earth. In honor of Earth Day, here’s a partial list of what they came up with:

Alasken waters1)    Turn off the lights when they leave the room.
2)    Take shorter showers.
3)    Eat organic foods whenever possible.
4)    Don’t leave the refrigerator door open.
5)    Recycle bags, cans, and bottles.
6)    Use less bottled water.
7)    Be nice to bugs, plants, and animals.
8)    Pick up trash when they see it.
9)    Buy fewer plastic toys that have lot of packaging.
10)  Drive a hybrid or fuel-efficient car.

We can learn from our kids, who tend to personify everything around them―their dolls, caterpillars, flowers, and so on. From the innocence of children to the awakening of yogis, taking the world personally spontaneously leads to treating it with compassion. As Daniel Quinn told us in The Story of B, we don’t need to save our souls―our souls are already whole.

If we care about humanity, we do need to save our planet. It starts with the choices we make today.

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David Simon, M.D. is the co-founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California. The Center offers programs and retreats focusing on mind-body health, Ayurveda, meditation, yoga, and other practices for physical health, emotional wellbeing, and spiritual awakening. For more information, visit www.chopra.com or call (888) 736-6895.

The healing science of Ayurveda recognizes that seasonal rhythms have important influences on our biological cycles and health. Each season expresses characteristics of a specific dosha, or mind-bodyAyurveda spices principle.  Learn more about the doshas here. In the Northern Hemisphere, we are in the midst of what is known as Kapha season – the period of late winter and spring, which brings the cold, wet weather that characterizes the Kapha dosha.

When our Kapha dosha is out of balance, it can manifest as colds, sinus congestion, weight gain, allergies, sluggishness, depression, and a lack of motivation.  These common conditions tend to be aggravated during Kapha season, so now is a good time to correct any imbalances in your mind-body health.

You can find out what your current imbalances are by taking part 2 of our Dosha quiz here.

Here are some suggestions for balancing Kapha:

  • —Make choices that are warm, light, energizing, and purifying.
  • —Follow a regular daily routine; avoid taking naps during the day.
  • —Favor lighter, drier foods with pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes .
  • —Exercise every day: running, bicycling, swimming, aerobics.
  • —Stick to warm and bright colors, such as yellow, orange, and red.

Interested in more mind-body wellness tips?

Subscribe to the Chopra Center’s free online newsletter, combining timeless wisdom with the newest discoveries in mind-body medicine. Click here to sign up for the newsletter and visit our rich archive of past issues.

CandleThe garshana is a traditional ayurvedic dry massage that refreshes and stimulates the skin and lymphatic system, enhancing blood circulation and the release of accumulated toxins. The ideal time to dry brush is in the morning for three to four minutes before you shower, so that you can rinse off the impurities loosened by the massage.
To perform a garshana, you will need natural silk gloves, a soft sponge, or a dry brush that gently removes dead skin layers leaving the skin supple and glowing.

  • 1. You will want to massage your entire body, excluding your face, chest, and heart.
  • 2. Begin by massaging the head, using brisk circular motions and expanding to long strokes as you reach the neck and shoulders.Alternate these two motions as you continue down the arms, using circular movements at the shoulder joints and long strokes down the upper arm, circular again at the elbows, long down the forearm, circular at the wrist, long down the hand, and circular strokes over the finger joints.
  • 3. Now move to the chest, massaging horizontally with long strokes. Avoid massaging directly over the heart and breasts.
  • 4. Massage horizontally  on your stomach for two strokes, then use two diagonal strokes.  Using this alternating pattern, move on to the lower abdomen, lower back, buttocks, and thighs.
  • 5. Standing up, massage the hip joints with circular motions and move down the legs as you did with the arms. Use long strokes on the long leg bones and circular ones at the knees and ankles, finishing with long strokes over the feet.The direction of the stroke should always be towards your heart as this helps drain lymph back to your heart.

Tips

  • 1. Apply light pressure where the skin is thin, such as the underarms, and harder pressure where the skin is thicker, such as the soles of the feet.Also avoid sensitive areas and anywhere the skin is broken or inflamed.
  • 2. Complete your garshana with a shower. To enhance the release of toxins, end with a few cycles of hot then cold water. First turn the water to as hot as you can take it for several seconds, then to as cold as you can tolerate, then back to hot, and so on. This will stimulate the blood circulation and further invigorate the skin.

Looking for more ayurvedic health tips?
Subscribe to the Chopra  Center’s free online newsletter, combining timeless wisdom the latest discoveries in mind-body health. Sign up for the newsletter here and visit our rich archive of past issues.

Pink Shirt
The Chopra Center’s Perfect Health program is featured in this month’s issue of Green Living Arizona Magazine, including an article by Deepak about the timeless ayurvedic cleansing and renewal therapy known as panchakarma.

Here is Deepak’s interview with Green Living editor-in-chief, Tishin Donkersley

Green Living: What are the most common thoughts that block one’s inner peace?

Deepak: Regrets, grievances, and resentments from the past and anxieties about the future.

Green Living: How can we use our emotions to our advantage?

Deepak: Emotions such as loving kindness, joy at the success of others, compassion, and equanimity take us out of the ego self into our transpersonal self. They are emotions that bring about physical healing as well and increase our connection with the world.

Green Living: How has the electronic world contributed to inner disconnect?

Deepak: The electronic world is neutral and has not contributed to inner disconnect. People use the electronic world from the state of consciousness they are in. Those who want to connect, heal the planet, and foster relationships are using the electronic world to do just that.

Green Living: In a world where many focus on materialistic things to make them happy, how can one begin to turn away from the external and focus on internal happiness?

Deepak: If you realize that happiness comes from finding opportunities where others find problems and from finding creativity and meaning in your own life – and from making other people happy, you will discover the source of true happiness. Material things will make you happy but only transiently.

Green Living: How can one begin to learn to adapt to new circumstances and find happiness?

Deepak: It takes patience and perseverance. Focus on being in the present moment. Be open and receptive and have the intention to connect and you will be happy.

Green Living: As many people today are dealing with negative effects of the economic downturn, (job loss, homelessness . . . ), how do you recommend they remain positive?

Deepak: In every crisis there is the seed of a greater opportunity. Identify all the problems you are facing and ask yourself what is the opportunity here. Live those questions and life will move you into the answers.

Green Living: Is world peace attainable?

Deepak: I don’t know but it’s worth striving for.

Green Living: How did you formulate the Seven Practices for Peace?

Deepak: I tried them out myself and they work. Some of them are drawn from Buddhist practices.

Green Living: Where is your favorite place to meditate?

Deepak: I can meditate anyplace, anytime.

Green Living: Do you have a favorite mantra? If so, what is it?

Deepak: Yes I do, but I’m not telling.

Read Deepak’s article about Perfect Health here.

There’s still time to register for the Journey into Healing workshop this February 16-20 in beautiful Vancouver!

Learn more here >>

If your New Year’s goals include physical health, emotional well-being, and spiritual awakening, the Chopra Center’s Journey into Healing workshop in Vancouver is a rare opportunity to learn with the masters.

For the first time, Cesar Millan will be a featured speaker at this signature event, where he will teach the practical steps for reconnecting to the body’s natural state of health and balance. Along with mind-body healing pioneer Deepak Chopra, the Vancouver premiere of this signature workshop include the Chopra Center’s medical director, Valencia Porter, M.D.; co-founder of the San Diego Cancer Research Institute, Daniel Vicario, M.D.; and Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar, an internationally renowned ayurvedic physician and teacher.

Frozen River Small

Tips for a Relaxing Holiday Season

During the holiday season, it’s easy to get caught up in frantic activity that leaves you exhausted, out of balance, and susceptible to winter colds and flu. If you want to truly enjoy this special time of year, the best gift you can give yourself and your family is nurturing self-care.

1.  Do one thing at a time. Give yourself the joy of focused attention. When you’re cooking, turn off your phone, Blackberry, and TV.  Let yourself fully experience the sensory pleasures of preparing and eating your special holiday meals. If you’ve decided to send out Christmas cards (remembering that you can ignore the voice telling you “should” do so), make it a pleasurable ritual. Turn on some beautiful music and focus on the gratitude you have for each person to whom you’re writing a card.

2.  Commit to less. Don’t succumb to the collective hallucination that would plunge you into a mad scramble to find thoughtful gifts for everyone from your mother to your child’s teacher, create reindeer topiary for the lawn, and make platefuls of cookies, candies, and pies from scratch. Choose to participate only in those holiday activities that hold meaning and joy for you and your loved ones.

3.  Communicate consciously. A helpful tool to prevent emotional strain at family gatherings is the Buddhist practice of “right speech.” Before you speak, ask yourself these three questions: Is what I am about to say true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? Find more conscious communication tips here.

4. Maintain a restful sleep routine. While it’s easy to fall into an erratic schedule with parties, travel, preparation, and other seasonal events, you will feel better and actually be able to accomplish more if you cultivate a restful sleep routine. When you find yourself pushing too hard or overdoing any activity, rest.

5. Meditate. Besides sleep, the best rest is the deep relaxation provided by meditation. When you meditate, your breathing slows, blood pressure decreases, and stress hormone levels fall. You go beyond Meditating with incentsthe mind’s noisy internal dialogue and experience an oasis of inner silence and stillness. Click here to access free guided meditation audios from the Chopra Center’s lead meditation teacher, davidji.

6.  Eat warm, soothing foods.
When the weather is cold, limit your intake of dry and raw items such as nuts, chips, and uncooked vegetable, which all tend to aggravate the body’s nervous system and digestion. Try delicious soups, cooked whole grains, and nourishing stews.

7. Don’t skip lunch to do holiday shopping. Skipping meals aggravates both the Vata and Pitta doshas, so stick with regular mealtimes. Learn more about the doshas here.

8.  Exhale your stress. In stressful situations we have an unconscious tendency to breathe shallowly, which only increases anxiety in our mind and body. Kapalabhati is a yogic breathing technique that releases stress and toxins from the body. Find Kapalabhati instructions in our library.

9.  Nurture your senses with aromatherapy and essential oils. In your home or office, use soothing scents such as orange, lavender, neroli, sandalwood, vanilla, orange, basil, or clove. Performing a self-massage with sesame or other natural oils is a deeply healing practice that you can treat yourself to every day. Find complete massage instructions at the Chopra Center’s online library here.

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Interested in more mind-body wellness tips?

Subscribe to the Chopra  Center’s free online newsletter, Agni, combining timeless wisdom with cutting-edge information that will help you get into the best mind-body shape of your life. Click here to sign up for Agni and visit our rich archive of past issues.

multicolored leaves XSmallIn Ayurveda the fall season corresponds to two major doshas: Pitta and Vata. Autumn is considered Pitta as long as hot weather prevails, and Vata as it becomes cold. Late fall and winter are known as “Vata season” because they are marked by some of the same qualities that characterize Vata: cold, dry, light, clear, and moving.

As long as these qualities are in balance, a person whose dosha is predominantly Vata will be healthy, creative, and exuberant. But when too much Vata accumulates in the body and mind, the imbalance may manifest as physical or emotional disorders, including insomnia, dry skin, arthritis, constipation, high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression.

Doshaquizbutton

All body types are vulnerable to Vata derangement during autumn and winter, but those who are predominantly Vata types need to be particularly vigilant about staying in balance. Here are some practical ideas to keep you grounded and vibrant during the cold months ahead.

Follow a Vata-pacifying Diet

  • Ayurvedic spicesEat foods that are warming, fresh, and well cooked; avoid dry or uncooked foods (especially salads and raw fruits and vegetables).
  • Drink lots of warming liquids such as hot water and herbal teas to prevent dehydration. You can prepare a fresh ginger tea by placing a teaspoon of fresh grated ginger into a pint  thermos  bottle and filling it with hot water.
  • Eat more of the sweet, sour, and salty tastes and less of the bitter, astringent, and pungent ones. Avocados, bananas, mangoes, peaches, lemons, pumpkins, carrots, beets, asparagus, quinoa, rice, mung beans, almonds, sesame seeds, and ghee are a few excellent Vata-pacifying foods.
  • Don’t worry if your appetite seems stronger than usual as this is a natural tendency in winter and helps pacify Vata. At the same time, of course, don’t eat to the point of discomfort.

Nourish Your Senses

  • Wear clothing made with soft fabrics in earth tones and mild pastel shades, which calm Vata.
  • Stay warm. Vata is a cold, dry dosha, so it’s important to make sure that your home and work place are well heated and that the air has enough humidity. Since Vata is extremely sensitive to moving air, it’s wise to avoid drafts or sitting near fans or ventilators.
  • Give yourself slow, gentle self-massage in the morning or before bed. Use a nourishing, warming oil such as sesame or almond. You may also want to gently rub a drop of sesame oil inside your nasal passages, which tend to become dry during winter. Find  instructions for performing an ayurvedic self-massage here.

Sleep and Restful Awareness

• Get enough sleep! This is vital for Vatas, who tend to push themselves to the point of physical or mental exhaustion. Read more about creating a restful sleep routine here.

• Learn to meditate. For the overactive Vata mind, meditation is one of the best ways to find calm and stillness. The Chopra Center recommends and offers instruction in a powerful practice called Primordial Sound Meditation, a mantra-based meditation rooted in the traditions of ancient India.

Interested in more mind-body wellness tips?

Subscribe to the Chopra Center’s free online newsletter, Agni, combining timeless wisdom with cutting-edge information that will help you get into the best mind-body shape of your life. Click here to sign up for Agni and visit our rich archive of past issues.

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