Holistic Health Care For Women – 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…)

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…)

As I mentioned in my previous post, the sweet taste enhances feelings of contentment. It’s easy to forget that the sense of taste is just one of the ways we invite nourishment and satisfaction into our lives. In Ayurveda, we understand that well-being is impacted by everything we take in through our five senses. Therefore, what we eat, touch, smell, hear and see affects our physical health and state of mind. Have you ever found yourself craving junky sweets when you’re not getting enough nourishment from other aspects of life like your relationships, career or self-care practices? I know I have. Here are some ways to increase sweetness in your daily life through the other four senses:

Ayurvedic warm oil massage

Ayurvedic warm oil massage

Touch: Soaking in the tub, any form of loving touch like holding hands, long hugs, cuddling and gentle massage with warm oil. The word sneha in Sanksrit means both “oil” and “love.” Ayurveda recommends daily warm oil self-massage through a practice called abhyanga.

Smell: Flowers, essential oils like cardamom, cinnamon, jasmine, neroli, sweet orange, rose, vanilla, or ylang ylang. Use a diffuser or purchase a small spritzer bottle and add 10-15 drops of essential oil. Keep it by your desk or in your bag for whenever you need a little boost.

Sound: Kind words (especially self-talk), any soothing, calming or uplifting music.

Sight: Earthy colors, pastel colors, spending time in nature, bringing nature into your surroundings at home or work.

Some of my other favorites include smiling, laughing, getting more sleep and taking deep belly breaths.

Right now, jot down a few simple and pleasurable activities that help you to feel more nourished. The next time you find yourself craving a cookie or some other treat, take out your list and pause for a moment to reflect. Do you actually want to eat that specific food or is your craving indicating that another area of life may need some TLC? When is the last time you did something on your “pleasure” list? Perhaps there’s a way to satisfy the craving with a more nutritious form of the sweet taste. Or maybe you decide that what you really, really want right now is the treat. If so, honor that craving by giving the experience your complete attention and savoring each bite with the fullest pleasure.

When the weather turns cold in fall and winter, you may notice an increase in your appetite or a desire for heavier foods like sweets and animal products.

However, now that the holidays are over, many people are starting diets or doing cleanses to “repent” from the indulgences of the past couple months. Guess what? Even though we’ve entered a new calendar year, it’s still winter!

Photo: smiteme

Photo: smiteme

Now is the time to build strength, not deplete your resources. In winter, the body still needs warmth and grounding to fortify immunity and protect against cold weather. Spring is a much more effective time for cleansing.

Craving more of the sweet taste is natural during winter AND it’s possible to satisfy your cravings in healthy, balancing ways.

The sweet taste promotes the production of healthy tissues, relieves thirst and gives strength. On the emotional level, it enhances love, compassion and a sense of contentment. Is it any wonder why we tend to crave this taste during times of stress?

The sweet taste is naturally found in most fruits, root vegetables, squashes, pumpkins, cooked grains, legumes, nuts & seeds, healthy oils, fresh dairy, sweeteners like dates, honey and maple syrup and spices like allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, licorice root, nutmeg, saffron.

Experiment by making some spicy sweet herbal tea or dusting off your slow cooker for nourishing one-pot meals like hearty lentil and root vegetable soups or oatmeal with chopped apples, pears, dates, cranberries, ghee and warming spices. Try this date and almond shake for a tasty, soothing snack, or check out Spinach and Yoga’s delicious and healthy winter dessert ideas. Please note: if you do consume milk, it should be taken warm and with spices like cardamom, ginger or nutmeg to avoid creating congestion.

What are your favorite foods for keeping the winter chill at bay? Let me know in the comments.