Holistic Health Care For Women – San Francisco, CA
Header image
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 *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…)

Photo: lululemon athletica

We all know that the body and mind function optimally in their natural, relaxed state. Inputs like food and sensory impressions are assimilated properly, leaving no undigested matter. All systems of the body receive adequate nourishment and eliminate waste products efficiently. We feel clear, grounded and energized.

However, when chronic stress begins to alter the body’s physiology, warning signs like fatigue, digestive challenges, pain, decreased libido, insomnia, menstrual irregularities and emotional stress start popping up. At this point, each of us has a choice. We can continue down our current path, or we can experiment with listening to what the body is trying to tell us. But how do you learn to tune in to this inner guidance? (more…)

In part 1 of this series, we saw how keeping a food journal can be helpful for uncovering connections between our food choices and mood. If you’ve been keeping a journal, you may have noticed that when you’re feeling a certain way, you reach for a certain type of food. Conversely, you may have discovered that when you eat a certain type of food, you find yourself feeling a certain way several hours or even a day later. Now here’s one more piece of the puzzle: in addition to thinking about what we’re eating, it’s important to consider how we’re eating.

When I worked a stressful cubicle job several years ago, I would grab a muffin or a piece of fruit for breakfast as I ran out the door and eat it in the car as I drove to work. I used to spend my lunches hunched over my desk shoveling food into my mouth while I answered emails or worked on a presentation. Then I would come home at the end of a long day and reward/comfort myself by eating half a bag of tortilla chips before dinner or getting take-out because I was too tired to cook. Have you ever been there?

What if you could instead use your mealtimes to take a break from the craziness of your day and really ground yourself in the present moment? In Ayurveda, we aim to approach each meal with awareness and a sense of gratitude. After all, the food that we put into our bodies literally becomes us as it is digested and transformed into the building blocks of healthy tissue. We really, truly are what we eat. Here are some ways to help bring more mindfulness to your mealtimes:

  • Begin meals by giving thanks for the food in front of you or simply taking 3-5 slow breaths with your eyes closed. Doing this brings your awareness to the present moment and prepares your body to receive the food. There is an actual stage of digestion called the cephalic phase in which the release of gastric secretions is triggered by the sight, smell and anticipation of food.
  • Eat in a calm environment where there is little distraction. It is best to avoid having the television or the radio on. Avoid reading, excessive conversation and all conversation about emotionally intense issues.
  • Chew your food until it is an even consistency. This requires your attention to be on the food in your mouth. There is no magic number of times to chew your food. Chewing well improves your digestion and absorption of the food.
  • Eat at a moderate pace and until you are approximately 75% full. You should feel neither heavy nor hungry. When we overeat, our digestion becomes compromised and the undigested food particles ferment in our gut, fostering bacteria and toxins that are then transported throughout the body. Some people notice a small burp when they are reaching 75-80% full.
  • Following your meal, let your food digest for a little while before going on to the next activity. It is best to wait 15-20 minutes. During this time, engage in light conversation or read a light book. You can also go for a slow walk. If you are rushed, at least take 3-5 slow breaths to consciously close the door on your experience.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “There’s no way I could do all of this! My current way of eating is so far removed from what you describe that I wouldn’t even know where to start.” Believe me, I understand how you feel because I’ve been right there. Here’s what you do: start by keeping it very simple and picking just one suggestion to play with over the next week. If it doesn’t go perfectly as planned, don’t worry! I’m always pleased when a patient discovers an area of stuckness, because that means we’re starting to move closer to the heart of her challenge. In part 3, I’ll share a bit more about my own experience of learning to work with these guidelines.