Ayurveda Day 72: Enemas and Induced Diarrhea!

In the physical body, our cells can become bogged down with ama, which are essentially toxins or a buildup of indigestible material. These cause of all sorts of problems with digestion and can filter into all systems of the body.

But we have more than just the physical body to contend with. We also have our emotional/mental body, also known as the subtle body. In the subtle body we have over 72,000 nadis, which are channels for our prana to flow through. These connect to the 7 energy centres we all know as the chakras. Although there is no physical substance like ama in the subtle body, we do have a tendency to carry a “subtle ama” if you will. These can bog down the nadis and in a sense are indigestible by the mind and heart. This subtle ama is made up of all the emotions that rule us. Our past traumas, our worries of the future, our inability to stay in the present moment.

In the physical body we can undergo many different methods to rid ourselves of ama. During Pancha Karma, which can take weeks and weeks to complete, the body is prepared to withstand the proceduce of ridding the body of it’s toxins, and then is strengthened. This is accomplished via many different methods, some more desirable than others. All the methods however are safe and monitored, with indications of proper purging vs improper. Some of the methods include vomiting, inducing bowel movements, enemas, sweating, nasya, and rarely bloodletting (though this is admittedly not practiced in the west). At least buy me dinner first!

The great thing about these treatments is that you can’t work on the physical body without working on the mental/emotional and vice versa. There is a connection between the body and the mind. The breath, the prana, needs to be rid of ama, be it subtle or physical, so that the energy can flow freely. But removing ama is only the start. Restoring strength and rejuvenating is it’s ultimate end goal. This is why Pancha Karma is so great, as it gives the body that clean slate to move forward. After Pancha Karma, the person’s diet and lifestyle are integrated properly and monitored as to ensure that proper habits are being formed.

We know that physical ama is formed through our diet. Processed, inorganic, genetically modified foods, with little nutritional value, all create this. One might argue a peach is a peach whether it’s canned or plucked from the garden, but anyone who has tasted both would never say such a thing. There is no comparison. It’s not enough to just eat healthy foods unfortunately. The origin of that food is important as it literally becomes the cells of your body! How it got to your mouth is more important than what it is you are eating. Otherwise, ama will form. Intention is everything.

If intention is so important when fueling the physical body, then imagine what ama would look like in the subtle body. In the nadis, how does flow become bogged down by subtle ama? What is this subtle ama? Our thoughts and emotions play a huge role in our system. When one is worried, it is a problem of the mind. Yet, people who are worried can have physical problems in the gut. The body and mind are inter-related.

Just as we must be careful with the intention of our food to ensure no ama is formed in the physical body, we must too be concerned with the intention of our fuel for our subtle body : our thoughts. Our internal dialogue, if repressive or toxic, will create that subtle ama. If when we speak we are constantly judging or complaining, we will create subtle ama. If we have trauma, grief, depression…all these things create that ama. And you can bet on the fact that over time, we tend to repress these things and ignore them, just as we do with our food habits, until eventually we have problems that require more urgent healing.

It is a gift and a curse that our physical body and subtle body are so interconnected. I view it as a blessing: it allows us to have respect for both if we can see how one affects the other and vice-versa. When imbalanced, we can work on one to work on the other.

Unfortunately, these treatments are not always the most comfortable for people. But think about it, how comfortable are you with delving into your past issues and hashing them out? Going into your suppressed or ignored feelings and finally confronting them? That takes courage. Sometimes, so do the treatments, though not as much as you may think.

Enemas are a great example. For those with Vata vitiation, especially in the mind, doing a sesame oil enema (using any pharmacy enema kit) of 2-4 oz, slightly above body temperature , is a great stand alone treatment. It not only helps physically with vata in the colon, but it also helps with vata in the mind – anxiety, worry, grief, etc.

Another great example is inducing diarrhea. Purging via taking 1-2 tbsp of castor oil before bed will cause vata and pitta types to purge in the morning (be sure to have something to increase electrolytes handy , such as pedialyte. Not powerade). It is best for pitta. They may experience 5-8 bowel movements, but afterwards any pitta in the body and mind will be lessened greatly. This includes feelings of heat and intensity.

I understand that most people cringe at the thought of anything to do with their anus. It simultaneously inspires giggles and fears. No one wants anything unfamiliar going in or going out of there. Even typing that makes me giggle and cringe. But these are treatments that are very powerful and effective.

Ama is a powerful thing as well. It invades all levels of our existence. Ridding the body of it is the first step towards ultimately creating a healthier you.

With gratitude,

S

Ayurveda Day 71: Momma Knows Best

When I was a child I would sometimes get a buildup of secretion around my eyelids. It would sometimes cause my eyelids to be closed shut for a while, and when the secretions dried up there was risk of it cracking the skin. I never once saw a doctor for this.

My amma (mother) would always have the same response: She’d heat up some cooked rice, place it in a handkerchief, tie it up into a little ball, and dip it in oil. She’d then press this contraption to my eyes for few seconds, remove it, then place it on my eyes again. When it cooled down a bit more, she would tell me to leave it on my eyes. The heat and pressure felt good as I remember it.

Within minutes, the entire condition would be alleviated. It would be completely gone. If memory serves, it probably only occurred again months later, or may even have been seasonal. I was very young and it stopped once I hit puberty.

Only now through my course am I learning this is a treatment known as Pinda Svedana.
This is traditionally done in the same way my mother did. The device she prepared is called a bolus. Sometimes, herbs will be used in these as well and more specific oils to pacify doshas. On top of that, these boluses are used sort of as a massage tool during abhyanga, and are comparable to a hot stone massage, only better if you ask me.

But it doesn’t end there.

Also when I was a child, I would get upset tummies. I actually had an ulcer when I was about 10 or 11 believe it or not. But my amma, whenever I had an upset tummy, would grab some oil, heat it up, and rub it on my tummy near my naval in a clockwise motion. Whether or not she realized it, she was applying the principles of Ayurveda. The home or seat of Vata dosha resides in the large intestine. Stress is a Vata vitiation as well. Vata is all about depletion. The oils she used where tonifying, pacifying the air and ether elements of vata with it’s water element, providing comfort. The clockwise motion was pacifying the chakra. But if you asked her she’d just say “this is what my amma did for me”.

But wait, there’s more!

My parents would always stress the importance of the time of day, position of the sun in the sky, and other such natural rhythms. I never listened, as teenagers do. But now I have learned there is a time of day for everything: A vata time of day where you can be most creative, a pitta time of day to be most productive, and a kapha time of day for rest and retention.

I have so many stories. Like how my amma would put asafetida, a spice, in our sambar (a hearty Indian curry made with daal). Daal causes gas. Asafetida is a carminative herb (it dispels gas). Or how my mom would always say when frying our spices to wait until the mustard seeds “popped” (often hitting me in the eye). This reasoning is two fold: One, you know that the pan is hot enough for the other ingredients now, and two, you know that the oil has now taken on the flavour of the spices.

I could go on and on.

You see, I am from Tamilnadu, a region of South India. Specifically, I was born in Pondicherry, a once french occupied settlement near the mid-southeastern shore. In India, especially South India, Ayurveda isn’t an office you go to where a practitioner prescribes you some herbs for X condition. Of course practitioners exist and are needed. But Ayurveda is so much more than that. It is the science of personal responsibility. For many in India, health care of any kind is not affordable. Ayurveda is accessible to everyone and was passed down generation to generation for 5000 years. It became a part of the culture, from village to village. Though these regular citizens may not have understood why or how things worked, they preserved that knowledge through their culture.

It is still this way in India, but now Ayurveda has made it to the west. India is a sort of funny place. You will get the most extreme and polarizing situations:

  • Beautiful landscapes littered with garbage
  • Reverence for cattle yet they are yoked and eating the garbage
  • The birthplace of silent meditation yet a cacophony of honking horns and noise
  • The richest city neighbouring the poorest by mere metres, juxtaposed in a undeniable way

You see, India is the birthplace of much. It is like a seed, then a womb. The guru Osho once aptly described it in this way. India is a fertile land, ready to produce much beauty. But a womb cannot sustain the child indefinitely. If the child stays in the womb too long, even the womb will become it’s coffin.

So things that are beautiful from India have a tendency to leave India. But everything comes full circle. So Ayurveda started in the east. Now it is being adopted arguably more lovingly here in the west than in India, where it is largely seen as the poor man’s medicine. “You became an Ayurvedic doctor? Why not a medical doctor!” There’s a lot of emphasis on status and caste even to this day. And remember, Ayurveda was outlawed in India when it was colonized. This has had an effect on it’s popularity in India.

Here people are embracing it. The want to focus more on diet, lifestyle. They want to take that science of personal responsibility and discover the art of their being. It’s a beautiful thing. I was born in India, but even I had to leave to embrace my own culture, it’s rich history, and it’s gift to the world: Ayurveda. It’s kind of funny.

Ayurveda has always been a part of my life. Even to this day when my girlfriend has an upset tummy I rub oil on it. When I get nausea I chew or suck on certain preserves. These are just a part of me in the same way your mommy probably told you to eat soda crackers and ginger ale when you are sick (never understood that one!).

As I learn more about Ayurveda everyday, I learn more about my amma, my past, my heritage. It is truly a blessing to not just be studying something I love that can help people, but also be studying something that is solidifying the roots of my upbringing in meaningful ways.

So thanks to Ayurveda and my amma. I’m going to learn as much as I can from both of you! And thanks for all you’ve shown me thus far.

Amma knows best! So listen to yours and thank her for taking care of you and raising you.

With gratitude,

S

Ayurveda Day 70: Oleation

What is oleation?

Oleation is the practice of oiling the body either externally (via abhyanga massage, bastis, etc.) or internally (via medicated ghees and oils swallowed directly or in some teas).

In Sanskrit, the term for this is known as snehana, a wonderful word which translates literally as “to love”. In Ayurveda, love and oil are interchangeable. When we perform any oleation practice, we are taking care of our self, loving our self! Our busy society and lifestyles often cause us to neglect this aspect of self love. Through snehana we are allowing the oils to lubricate the tissues of the body as well as promoting self care and love.

The oils have the power to penetrate deeply into the cells of all layers of the body. To name but a few benefits: they nourish the phospholipid layer of the cells, the nervous system, and build ojas.

In addition to tonifying the body and protecting us, they loosen and liquify ama. These are the indigestible substances that find their way into the body via the digestive system. They can block absorption of nutrients (ex – mucoid plaque), and especially with highly processed foods, they are able to pass through the walls of the small intestine and cause all sorts of problems.

Oleation is also used in preparation for Pancha Karma, an intensive purification process.

When should I use oils?

Pretty much all the time! As part of a daily practice, it helps to pacify the doshas (especially Vata/Pitta), and increases ojas. This self abhyanga stimulates the flow of the lymphatic system increasing immunity.

Oils should especially can be used for any Vata type conditions, including:

– dry, rough skin

– hypersensitivity

– weight loss

– weakness

– dizziness

– low ojas

– anxiety, worry, etc.

What oils should I use?

The best oil to use isn’t even oil – it’s ghee! It’s tridoshic, meaning good for all doshas. Aside from that:

Vata: Sesame or almond in large amounts

Pitta: Sunflower, coconut, or olive in moderate amounts

Kapha: Safflower or mustard in minimal amounts.

Should I take it internally or externally?

Great question. Anyone can do the external abhyanga as part of their daily routine. Seeing a CAS will open up other massage and oil treatments that you can’t otherwise do on your own. These techniques can help to pacify imbalances immensely. Oil can be used on the head for mental imbalances, on the eyes for any vision related ailments, on the skin, in the ears, rectally…

Internally, we use medicated ghees or oils. This takes the form of 1 part herb, 4 parts ghee/oil, 16 parts water. It is then boiled until all the water is gone and strained. It is best to speak with a CAS to find out which herbs are best for you condition. Typically, the ghee/oil is taken over 7 days, starting with 1 tsp on day 1, 2 tsps on day 2, etc. up to 7 tsps on day 7. They are taken in the morning on an empty stomach.

How do I know if I need oleation?

Clear signs of under-oleation are dry skin, lips, eyes, etc. as well as hard stools.

Too much oleation manifests as loss of appetite, paleness, nausea, vomiting, mucous buildup in mouth, stools, or respiratory system.

You want the Goldilocks zone – just right: skin is soft, stools are oily.

Saran, this is way too much information. I mean come on. Ayurveda tells me I should do a million things everyday, seriously where do I find time for all this???

Even better question! As with any practice, start small. Be forgiving of yourself. There is no one judging you to do this everyday. If you struggle with this practice of self oiling, then set an attainable goal. Maybe for you that goal is to do it once a week. If that is too much, try once every 2 weeks. Then slowly build towards a daily practice. The best part about oiling is it supports nervous system function, so the more you do it, the easier it will actually be to form these good habits.

In a more general sense, yes, living a healthy life takes work. We often may have to re-evaluate the priorities in our life. As humans we are a funny breed, because even if something works and we believe it will work, we often refuse to try it or change it due to fear, judgment, or attachment. This is why seeing a CAS is important, as we can help support you in healing holistically, as a complete individual.

For more information on oleation, check out my previous blog.

With gratitude,

S



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