Freelance researcher and writer – San Francisco, CA
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CC image courtesy of liz west on Flickr

CC image courtesy of liz west on Flickr

One of my favorite words in Ayurveda is rasa. It is generally translated as juice, taste, essence. Rasa is also plasma, the watery component of our blood. When rasa is sufficient in the body and mind, we feel calm, nourished and content.

To maintain health in summer, we need to build rasa by incorporating its cool, smooth, moist qualities through food and lifestyle choices.

Use Opposites to Balance Each Other

In Ayurveda, we use the principle of “like increases like, opposites balance each other” to guide our actions. That means we treat an excess of a particular quality by introducing more of its opposite.

Let me give a few simple examples. When there’s excess heat, we favor foods that are cooling. When there’s excess dryness, we favor foods that are moist.

When it’s both hot and dry, what do you think Ayurveda recommends? You’ve got it: moist, cooling, rasa-building foods and beverages. This is the time of year when it’s actually okay to indulge in occasional sweet treats like ice cream. Hooray! (In moderation of course, and during the day rather than at night so it’s less likely to produce mucus.) (more…)

CC image courtesy of chriswaits on Flickr

CC image courtesy of chriswaits on Flickr

Your body naturally goes through a cleansing cycle in the springtime. Similar to the process of snow melting in nature, any stagnation that has accumulated during the colder months begins to thaw and circulate throughout the body, looking for a way out.

Since we all have unique constitutions and life circumstances, the cleansing process should look a bit different for each person. Some people need a big burst of lightness and activity to shake off the heaviness of winter while others need continued attention to grounding and nourishing as they cleanse.

Kate Schwabacher’s explanation of how different types of cleanses work best for different mind-body constitutions is one of the most helpful articles I’ve seen on the topic. A week of seasonal, home-cooked, whole food meals and lots of rest will give good results for most people without the side effects of a more austere regimen. As popular as juice cleanses are these days, I agree with Kate that they are often too depleting.

To gently support the body’s natural detoxification process this spring, follow these lifestyle tips: (more…)

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what one of my mentors said. Paraphrased, it goes something like this: the body has an innate intelligence. Our role is simply to remove the obstacles blocking the flow of that intelligence so healing can occur naturally.

What does this look like from a seasonal health standpoint? We’ve now entered late winter, which is generally wetter and less cold than early winter. It’s the time of year that the channels of the body can start to feel a bit boggy or sluggish.

Perhaps it’s more difficult for you to wake up, or you’re noticing more respiratory mucus in the morning. Richer foods and decreased physical activity during the past few months may have slowed everything down, and now it’s time to shift gears with the changing seasons by giving some TLC to your lymphatic system. (more…)

CC image courtesy of *Kicki* on Flickr

CC image courtesy of *Kicki* on Flickr

Ever since I began studying Ayurveda, I’ve found it odd that people allow themselves extra sleep, comfort foods and general coziness in November and December and then when January comes along, all those things go out the window.

In the new year, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the myriad promises of a brighter, shinier you. People embark on rigid diets, commit to intense workout regimens and deny themselves the sensory pleasures of the previous months.

You know what? The only thing that has changed is the number on the calendar.

The weather certainly hasn’t changed, and the body’s needs for warmth, nourishment and grounding (to fortify the immune system and insulate against the cold) haven’t changed either. (more…)

CC image courtesy of susivinh on Flickr

CC image courtesy of susivinh on Flickr

It’s that time of year again.

Traveling to visit family and friends over the holidays can be enjoyable, but it also brings its fair share of stress. Disrupted waking and sleeping times, increased traffic, flight delays, unfamiliar foods and dry, recirculated air can all put a strain on the body and mind.

From the Ayurvedic standpoint, being on the move and off your normal daily rhythm increases vata dosha in the body, which has the qualities of coldness, lightness, dryness, mobility/instability and roughness. These qualities translate into physical challenges like dry skin, gas and bloating, constipation, cold hands and feet, worry, anxiety, insomnia and mood swings.

Although unpredictability is part of traveling, there is much you can do to make your upcoming trips go more smoothly. (more…)