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5 Ways to Stay Healthy During Autumn & Winter

5 Ways to Stay Healthy During Autumn & Winter

5 Ways to Stay Healthy During Autumn & WinterAyurveda San Francisco suggests that during Winter, the inner Agni or the digestive fire is stronger than in other season of the year. So this is the time when you can chow down and eat more heartily because the digestive fire is strong. Strengthen your body and mind during this time.

1. Warmth

Eat warm and nutrient dense meals. This would include foods such as stews, soups, dairy (organic), almonds and other soaked nuts, soaked dry fruits such as raisins, dates or figs (which can be served with cinnamon). Avoid ice cream and cold foods. Stay warm and bundle up.

2. Spices

Include the following spices in your diet: fennel, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, licorice, cloves, basil, and parsley. Vata Churna is a spice mixture that already has a lot of these spices in it. You can sprinkle some on your food.

3. Hydrate Right

Avoid ice cold drinks and drink warm ones instead. Drink hot water throughout the day. Boil water gently for about 15 minutes in an uncovered pot. Then pour into a stainless steel thermos and sip small amounts throughout the day. Avoid stimulants, such as coffee, black tea, cigarettes since these throw the Vata (space and air elements) off very quickly and out of balance.

4. Oil Massage

Loving yourself with an oil massage. Doing an oil massage with unrefined, cold-pressed sesame oil, or with Vata Oil (oil cooked with vata pacifying herbs) help to nourish the skin and is anti-aging. Please leave on for a few minutes before taking a shower or bath afterwards so the oils and herbs can be absorbed by all the different layers of tissue. This massage has a calming effect on the nervous system, supports the circulation, and aids in toxin reduction from the body.

5. Vata Reduction

Reduce everything that could compromise the Vata dosha balance in your body, especially during Autumn and Winter. Reducing stress factors such as work pressures, long journeys/travel/commutes, going to bed past 10pm, too much tv or late night computer work. For change, have a warm, relaxing bath with epsom salts and a few drops of lavender essential oil. Listening to some relaxing music before bedtime or reading some uplifting spiritual books or poetry. Get enough rest and sleep. Sleep is very important during this time.

Come in for a tune-up and re-balance yourself and your life. Renee has opened up another office for ayurveda San Francisco at the Sanctuary at the new CenterSF in the lower Haight, 546 Fillmore between Oak and Fell.

Ayurveda San Francisco: Your Digestion is Key to Overall Health

Ayurveda San Francisco: Your Digestion is Key to Overall Health

Chitta Happens, an Ayurveda San Francisco Clinic, Approaches to Digestion and Overall Health

76411_10150089190885450_737130449_7816882_1414485_nA vital part of illness prevention in Ayurvedic practice deals with creating strong agni, also known as “digestive fire.” You can help your body live harmoniously through changes that occur daily as well as seasonally by understanding and monitoring your diet, herbs and lifestyle—as well as by implementing yoga and meditation routines—that will help you support better digestion.

Each focusing on different aspects, your dominant dosha in the triad (pitta, kapha and vata) determines how it influences and affects the digestive system. For instance, people with the pitta dosha most prominent often have potent agni and an active metabolism, which provides them with strong appetites and the ability to consume significant amounts of food since this dosha concerns the gastrointestinal tract’s acid secretion levels and digestive enzymes. Practitioners of Ayurveda San Francisco also say the dosha of kapha, on the other hand, is typical among individuals who experience slow, steady rates of digestion that generally means they have good agni but a penchant for excessive weight gain due to overeating.

The third dosha, known as vata, has characteristics such as trouble with constipation and irregularity of bowel movements as well as a tendency to experience frequent appetite loss. Vata’s variable energy also dictates digestive movement, including peristalsis and waste product excretion. Additionally, those who practice Ayurveda San Francisco note the fall season will often stimulate the vata dosha due to the change toward weather characterized by wind, cold and aridity because of the dosha’s relationship to the air and ether elements, which you can see by its strong influences on choices regarding changes in diet, environment and lifestyle.

People in whom the dosha vata takes dominance often experience increases in the cool, rough and dry qualities of both their internal and external environments. When left unaddressed, this can sometimes result in a disturbance in a variety of vital organs and tissues, which typically manifests externally via the appearance of excessively dry skin and/or lips. Meanwhile, Ayurveda San Francisco professionals note that internally a person might experience a lack of moisture in the places where vata often accumulates such as the large intestine and colon. Digestion issues aggravated by problems with the vata dosh include bloating, bowel movement irregularity, constipation, decrease in appetite, diarrhea (often altering in tandem with constipation), gas and hiccups.

Diet Changes for Better Digestion

YogaUnsurprisingly, seasonal fruits and vegetables including root vegetables such as beets, carrots and sweet potatoes as well as winter squashes such pumpkin, acorn, buttercup, butternut and delicate can help bring balance to and provide appropriate nutrition for the body because the dense, heavy, moist, smooth and sweet qualities of these vegetables balance the vata dosha. Ayurveda San Francisco practitioners suggest including them in casseroles, stews and soups, allowing them to warm the body from the inside out.

You should also add salty, sour and sweet dishes in your diet to combat vata-related issues. For instance, experts at Ayurveda San Francisco know a diet rich in sweet grains such as basmati, brown and sushi rice; buckwheat udon noodles; and whole wheat pastas can ground the vata if you increase your intake of them in autumn.

Additionally, consider the base ingredients and seasonings you use in preparing dishes. For instance, at Chitta Happens Ayurveda San Francisco clinic, we recommend warming spices such as asafetida, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, dried ginger and nutmeg, which can help vata-related digestion issues, promote sleep and reduce nervousness. Healthy oils (almond, sunflower, sesame, etc.) and ghee (South Asian clarified butter) allow for better oleation (maintaining the body’s oiliness), allowing you to increase the absorption rate by igniting the agni.

Finally, Ayurveda San Francisco professionals suggest avoiding astringent and bitter flavors; cold foods (including raw vegetables); cold drinks (especially the consumption of such during or immediately after meals); and stimulants (including caffeinated beverages) as much as possible, as they can further aggravate the vata dosha and related digestion issues.

To further nourish yourself with a healthy diet that allows the body to maintain balance when you experience vata-related issues with the digestive system, establish routine times to eat and stick to them as much as possible. Additionally, the Ayurveda San Francisco team recommends making lunch your largest meal and using an appetite stimulant such as Hingvastak if necessary. Do not rush through meal preparation, instead doing so thoughtfully while taking pleasure in the process.

Lifestyle Tips from Chitta Happens’ Ayurveda San Francisco Clinic

NasyaAs with diet, establishing and sticking to a consistent routine proves more effective as a method of prevention than treating a medical issue that results from an imbalance in the vata dosha. Experienced Ayurveda San Francisco practitioners insist consistency proves key to restore and maintain balance to the body, thus preventing stress and anxiety.

Ayurveda San Francisco experts often suggest daily abhyanga, a type of oil massage, for strengthening and nourishing the body. The practice improves blood circulation, stimulates the internal organs and facilitates sound sleep patterns—all important components in reducing digestion issues related to the vata dosha.

If you suffer from emotional stress and anxiety related to the vata dosha, adding the routine practice of meditation to your daily life can help alleviate it. When you feel stress coming on, take a moment to center yourself by taking conscious note of your breath and focusing on stilling yourself internally. Ayurveda San Francisco practitioners also recommend you implement elements of Pranayama, also known as “yoga breathing,” to help further calm the nervous system. Additionally, strive to get plenty of restful sleep each night.

Though it may seem contrary to popular opinion, Ayurveda San Francisco experts say those with vata imbalances should avoid strenuous physical exertion and excessive exercise. However, many yoga poses incorporate moderate and appropriate exercise that also promotes good vata practices. For instance, the asana Pawanmuktasana (also known as the “knees-to-chest” or “wind relieving” pose, assists in expelling air that collects in the colon. This simple pose can also relieve lower-back tension, massage the intestines and abdomen, tone the spine, and alleviate constipation-related pain. To execute this pose, follow these steps:

  • Lying flat on your back, draw your right lower leg to your knee and then gently lift the knee toward your breastbone.
  • Thread together your fingers and use them to gently support the knee as it rests near the chest.
  • Life your head and move as though to touch the tip of your nose to your knees.
  • Holding your breath, maintain this position for five to 15 seconds.
  • Straighten your right leg; repeat the process with the left leg.
  • Repeat the process again, this time drawing both legs toward the chest simultaneously.

Herbs for Digestion and Relaxation

Head and Scalp Rejuvenation MassageMany herbs support a healthy vata digestive system. For instance, fennel, ginger, licorice and peppermint teas can prove soothing, while munching on a few fennel seeds following a meal typically promotes proper digestion. Similarly, Hingvastak herbal tablets can ease and prevent indigestion related to high vata conditions because they contain ajamoda, asafoetida, black cumin, black pepper, cumin seeds, ginger root, mineral salt and pippali. Ayurveda San Francisco practitioners often recommend this traditional synergistic blend because it addresses indigestion issues, including appetite loss, constipation, flatulence, hiccups and malabsorption.

Ayurveda San Francisco practitioners generally consider Haritaki to rank highly among herbs known for their vata dosha balancing properties. A natural purgative and laxative, this herb helps eliminate accumulated toxins and undigested food lingering in the gastrointestinal tract while nourishing and strengthening tissues and supporting proper colon, liver, lung and spleen function. Traditionally taken as a remedy for all vata disturbances, Haritaki can aide in many digestive issues, including indigestion, emaciation, constipation and flatulence.

Remember, the way in which you care for your body and spirit in autumn can dramatically affect how you “winterize” your body and prepare it to maintain good health in the following, colder season.

Ayurvedic Recipe: Spicy Oatmeal

  • 2/3 c. dry oats, rolled or instant
  • 2 c. water
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 c. raisins
  • 1 cardamom pod (about 3-4 seeds)
  • 1/4 t. cinnamon
  • 1/8 t. ginger

Put oats, raisins, salt, and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add the rest of the ingredients, breaking open cardamom pod to put whole seeds in the cooking cereal. Cover and cook on low until done, 2 to 10 minutes, depending on type of oats used.

Comments: Can be served with ghee, maple syrup, and/or coconut. Good warming meal on a cold winter morning.

For more information about Chitta Happens’ Ayurveda San Francisco Clinic or digestion and overall health, contact Renee Rivera @ (415) 994-8704 or reneerivera108 [at]

Healthy Skin for the Summer

Healthy Skin for the SummerWith spring upon us, people prone to inflammation of the skin may be experiencing the discomfort of more frequent flare-ups and break-outs. From an Ayurvedic perspective, problems such as rashes, acne, hives, boils, psoriasis and eczema occur when too much heat accumulates in the body. This can happen at any time of the year, but the seasonal increase in temperature make heat related imbalances of the skin more prevalent in the summertime. Fortunately, the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia offers some wonderful herbs that cool the system and help restore our natural state of balance. Following a daily herbal regimen, along with a few simple diet and lifestyle suggestions, is the Ayurvedic recipe for beautiful, healthy skin.

Excess heat is normally eliminated through the GI tract. However, when the body becomes overloaded with toxins this heat becomes trapped and is absorbed into the blood. The body, naturally seeking to remove these toxins, resorts to using the skin as an organ of elimination. This will usually manifest as some type of skin inflammation.

Ayurvedic Herbs for Healthy Skin

Ayurvedic herbs have been used effectively for generations to restore the normal elimination process while promoting healthy lustrous skin. The traditional Ayurvedic formula Triphala is used to remove excess heat from the system by facilitating healthy elimination. A daily dose of Triphala will:

  • Eliminate excess heat from the body
  • Remove toxins from the GI tract
  • Support healthy elimination
  • Promote the skin’s natural healing process

A combination of cooling herbs like turmeric and neem that pull toxins from the blood and minimize the body’s need to use the skin as a route of elimination. These herbs can:

  • Detoxify the blood
  • Remove excess heat from the system
  • Restore the skin’s natural beauty

Ayurvedic herbs may also be used externally to support the skin’s healing process. Neem is an extremely cooling herb that is naturally antibacterial and antifungal. It is available in the following forms:

  • Neem soap is great for cleaning and cooling irritated skin.
  • Neem oil can be applied to dry inflamed skin.
  • Neem powder can be applied as a paste to weepy, oily or oozy skin inflammations.

The use of herbs is an excellent way to restore and maintain healthy skin. Making adjustments to your diet and lifestyle will also help to address the underlying causes of the imbalance. Trying any or all of the following suggestions will accelerate and amplify the results you experience from taking your herbs.

Diet Tips for Healthy Skin

  • Avoid consumption of spicy foods
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Minimize alcohol and coffee consumption
  • Drink plenty of fresh water
  • Favor intrinsically cooling foods like vegetable greens, basmati rice, sweet juicy fruits, coconut, cucumber and cilantro

Lifestyle tips for Healthy Skin

  • Avoid getting sunburned
  • Wear protective clothing in cooling colors like green, blue and purple
  • Avoid strenuous activity during the hotter times of the day
  • Exercise in the morning or evening
  • Take an evening stroll in the moonlight
  • Minimize anger, criticism and hate
  • Cultivate peace, patience and tolerance
  • Meditate

Yoga for Healthy Skin

A simple seated forward bend is cooling to the system and good for releasing heat from the body. For the more advanced yogi, incorporate moon salutation into your daily practice.

Cooling Breath for Healthy Skin

Shitali Pranayama, the cooling breath, is excellent for eliminating heat from the body. The practice is as follows:

  • Curl or roll the sides of your tongue upward into a tube or straw.
  • Inhale slowly through the rolled tongue, and then close the mouth and exhale normally through the nose.
  • If you are unable to roll your tongue into a tube, lightly clench your teeth together with the tongue pressed against the teeth. The air is then inhaled through the teeth and sides of the mouth.
  • Notice the instantly cooler temperature of the inhalation.
  • Practice for 10-26 rounds of breath.

Ayurvedic Recipe: Fresh Dilled Zucchini

  • 2 medium zucchinis
  • 1 bunch fresh dill
  • 2 T. sunflower oil
  • 1/2 t. turmeric
  • 1/8 t. hing
  • 1 T. barley malt or brown rice syrup
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 t. coriander powder

Wash dill and chop finely. Wash zucchini and slice an inch thin. Heat oil in medium sized skillet. Add turmeric, hing, zucchini and water. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Then add the rest of the ingredients and cook for 5 minutes more.