Archive for April, 2015

Ayurveda Day 75: The Liver

The Liver is an amazing vital organ. It has an incredible ability to regenerate it’s cells, and performs approximately 500 functions in the human body. In short, we can’t live without our liver (hence it’s name)!

Some of the important functions of the liver include:

– storing our venous blood

– regulating blood sugar by storing glycogen and releasing glucose

– stores vitamins A, D, and B12

– produces bile

– deactivates toxins in the blood

– converts ammonia to urea

– produces fat for storage

– forms blood coagulants

– synthesizes amino acids and cholesterol

– much, much more

In short, taking care of our liver is paramount to good health. From an ayurvedic perspective, a subdosha of pitta, ranjaka pitta, resides in the liver. When we don’t take care of our liver, we can create many problems in the body, such as:

– jaundice

– abdominal swelling

– hyperglycemia after eating

– abnormal bleeding

– pain in upper right quadrant

– enlargement upon palpation and percussion

– fever

– anemia

– red nose, cheeks, palms

So how do we take care of our liver?

My answer may be so simple that it surprises you:

Don’t eat meals after 9 pm, and get to bed by 9 pm.

What?

Yeah, that’s right. You see, there is a vata, pitta, and kapha time of day for everything:

6 – 10: Kapha time. When we are most stable and solid. Best for preparation of your dharma (purpose for the day) and getting ready for what the day will bring. Since kapha is at work here, we often are slower, just waking up or getting sleepy. This is the best time of day for light exercise and yoga asanas, mental warmups, memorization, etc.

10 – 2: Pitta time. When we are working hardest. Best for productivity, the performance of your dharma. This is when work is at it’s peak not only mentally but physically as well. Eating your largest meal at noon is paramount because that is when all organs of the body are at their most productive. Digestion especially is easiest for us here and will reduce the chances of creating ama in the body. Our liver is doing it’s best work at this time.

2 – 6: Vata time. When we are at our lightest. Best for reflection, being creative, and decompressing. Meditation practices, bigger picture ideas, those sorts of things work best at this time.

This timetable is for both am and pm. You may notice that if you are not asleep by 10 pm, your mind is racing. Solving problems, suddenly unable to go to rest. That is because the pitta time has taken over. Or even when dreaming I often notice my craziest dreams are during the vata time. Even if I wake up and return to sleep, if it’s between 2-6 I have crazy dreams about dinosaurs flying through outer space pooping rainbows. For example.

Following this timetable, if we eat too late in the evening, all our vital organs have to kick into work. They should be resting, after all they have evolved to work best in accordance with the flow of the sun. But when we put food into our bodies at 9pm, then try to sleep at 11, our liver (amongst other organs) has to work overtime. It never gets a chance to regenerate or rest because we are making it work nonstop with no breaks. Midnight snacks are a nightmare for our liver. Staying up late watching netflix is a nightmare for our liver. But if we take care of our liver, it will take care of us. Remember, it has so many jobs to do! Let’s respect it and give it the time it needs!

Some of you may be feeling like we are humans and surely we can change this cycle. If I work nightshifts, eventually my body can adjust to a different schedule right? We are adaptable, amazing humans!

To that I say this:

We are not separate from nature. We are a part of nature.

I know where the mentality of “I’m invincible and I can create my own timetable” comes from. We have egos, and they don’t want to change. Couple that with the fact that society is not setup to follow this sort of schedule, and it makes it very tough to follow the natural flow of things. In India, people take lunch breaks and sit down with their family and have huge meals. They eat light at night and go to bed at 8 or 9. They wake up when the sunrises. It’s just part of the culture. That may never really be a possibility with how entrenched our society is with it’s 9-5 workday, but we still can try and plug into this timetable as much as possible. Try and find ways in your life where you can reorganize duties to see if they fit more into the doshic times of day, and take note of the effect. Is it easier? You may actually save some trouble in the long run!

Maybe the day will come thousands of years from now where humans have evolved to not need to follow the cycles of the sun. But that day is not today. So take heed of those times of day, and if you can follow one rule let it be to give your liver a rest. Don’t make it work for you after 9 pm (that will buy you an hour to fall asleep).

With gratitude,

S

Ayurveda Day 73: Diagnosis

In Ayurveda we have the ability to diagnose people’s conditions. However, this doesn’t manifest in the way we are used to, ie via western medical names. And quite rightly so, we are not MD’s and cannot diagnose medical conditions.

How we approach things is from the perspective of Ayurveda in regards to the 5 elements: Earth, water, fire, air, and ether.

We look at things in this way:

– Doshas are the cause of the disease

Dhatus and Srotas (tissues and channels of the body) are the site of the disease

– Doshas enter the body via our diet and lifestyle, get circulated by the fluids of the body and can eventually manifest as a “western medical” disease name. We also have imbalances based on our karma, but we always have a choice as to how we wish to live our lives within that karma.

In a western medical diagnosis, typically the root cause of a problem may not be addressed. The whole body may not be considered, and side effects merely listed as a necessary evil. But western medicine is great at diagnosing it’s illnesses, and for acute conditions and emergency situations.

Where Ayurveda steps in is through prevention, holistic symptomatic relief, and dealing with chronic conditions.

So in Ayurveda, we diagnose conditions from that perspective. You might come to a CAS and say,

“I have constant diarrhea”

What the CAS will hear is:

Ah. So this patient has pitta dosha vitiation in their annavaha srota (digestive system). The excess heat is depleting the rasa dhatu (fluids and tissues).

From this perspective, we can now decide to use cooling herbs to assist in symptomatic relief, and then address the larger issues of their diet and lifestyle and how it is contributing to excess pitta (heat) in the body.

No matter what condition you come to a CAS with, this is the thought process they will have. They have to translate what you are experiencing into Ayurvedic terms so as to best help you. Some things are red flags for us and we will always refer you to a doctor for. But how do we figure out what is going on?

In Ayurveda, there are 5 parts to Diagnosis:

1 – Nidana – What is the cause of the disease?

2 – Purvarupa – Early symptoms that serve as indicators to potential ongoing larger problems

3 – Rupa – Full manifestations of the symptoms

4 – Samprapti – The pathology of the disease; how it unfolded and came to be

5 – Upashaya – Testing the diagnosis with a treatment plan that is flexible

The last one, upashaya, is where the patient really is involved the most. This is where we might prescribe that herbal tea, or oleation therapy, or meditation practice, etc. If it’s not working for you, then we can now narrow it down to other doshic possibilities and adjust the dosage, herbs, treatments, etc. Just as when you go see a doctor and they may adjust your dosage or medications, we too will check in on you and make sure things are going properly.

Once we have found the right treatment for you, it becomes chikitsa or your treatment. If it works, it works. We won’t keep you on the same herbal tea for years if you still have the same problem – clearly the medicine isn’t addressing the issue. Based on the patient’s response we are able to cater and craft a treatment that is ideal for them as an individual.  Ayurveda has the ability to step in and really spend the time with a person to work on their lifestyle, to support whatever western healing they may be undergoing.

Hospitals and doctors today are overworked and lack the time and tools to help a patient in this long term way. And patients have come to expect magic one pill solutions. No solution will ever solve the problem if ultimately a person is not willing to take ownership of their own role in continuing to enable the disease. That patient will continue to come back, again and again, for a solution. But even in Ayurveda, it is so easy to come in and just expect a magic tea. The pill has now become the drink, and the real issue is being ignored.

It is from this realization that we must understand something quite simple:

It is not the treatment that heals the person. It is the person’s openness and commitment to healing.

Remember: Ayurveda is a science of personal responsibility.

With gratitude

S

Ayurveda Day 73: The Buddhi

Today was a review day in class and not much new to talk about. I love these days because it gives me a chance to blog about things that I have kept on the back burner for a while, as more pressing blogs came to fruition. So today is a perfect day to do a review on a subject with all of you that is dear to my heart:

The Buddhi.

We have more than just our physical body. In fact, we have three bodies:

– The physical body

– The mental/emotional body

– The spiritual or causal body

We mostly live our lives through the first two bodies. Our body and our mind are interconnected via pranayama (breathing practices) which act as a sort of bridge. When we are physically breathing rapidly it is impossible to be relaxed mentally and emotionally. The breath is a tool we can use to effect the the mind/body connection.

In a similar way, there is a bridge between our mind and our higher self, or truth. This bridge can be thought of as our intellect. It takes in information, sensory input, data. But upon that bridge is an organ that is responsible for processing this information to serve one of two purposes:

– To serve our higher self, truth, and enlightenment

– To serve our lower self, our ego, our suffering

That organ is what we call the buddhi.

Buddhi obviously stems from the word Buddha which means “enlightened one” in Sanskrit. So it’s easy to remember our buddhi as a tool towards enlightenment.

But how does it work?

This is where the role of karma (cause and effect – not good or bad, just simply is!) and samskaras, or our tendencies, come into play.

We are born into this world with a sort of programming code that dictates what our tendencies will be. We come to know this as our constitution as described through vata, pitta, and kapha doshas.

But we also have the ability at any given time to overwrite these tendencies. This is why a person who displays pitta anger their whole life can still learn to have non-judgment. However, without proper training of our buddhi, we lean into our samskaras and further solidify them, forming habits. And unfortunately, the vast majority of the time, we tend to feed the habits that are disharmonious though non-intention and non-attention.

It requires deep intention and attention to be able to overcome that programming and make a better choice. This is one of the main causes of disease according to Ayurveda: the failure of our intellect, or the inability to make harmonious decisions.

The buddhi is just an organ of the mind/spirit connection. It will only do what we train it to do.

Let’s say someone cuts you off in traffic, an example most of us can relate to.

At this point, information has come into your brain. Then the mind can process it and decide what it wants to do. In the moment, your fight/flight/freeze instincts take over and you get angry, scared, or panic. This is just your programming. You do what you are used to. But here, the buddhi has a choice: Does it choose to recognize that this is not the way, and decide to pursue a path of peace, calm, and grace? Or does it just ignore the enlightened path and go straight into old habits driven by the ego?

The more we train the buddhi through inaction, the more it feeds that ego. Only through proper action can we overwrite our samskaras and bridge ourselves with a higher level of existence, of truth.

Ayurveda says there are three main causes of disease: misuse of our senses, failure of our intellect (buddhi), and decay due to time and motion.

However, there is always a fundamental cause of disease that if truly addressed ends our suffering, and that is remembrance of our true nature, beyond our first two bodies.

So when placed in situations that cause you that suffering, you must ask yourself:

“What is my buddhi training? My ego, or my higher self?”

There is always a thread of personal responsibility to everything that causes us suffering in life, no matter how convinced we may make ourselves out to be as a victim. We must own our own role in our existence, and recognize that everyone is responsible for their own wounds. But we are not without help. Our buddhi is there to solidify who we are, so long as we are willing to go through paths like Ayurveda (the science of personal responsibility).

With gratitude,

S



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