Archive for May, 2015

Ayurveda Day 87: You Give Me Fever…

Fever!

I couldn’t get the song by Peggy Lee out of my head all day in class today. But today’s blog isn’t about the classic song, it’s about the disease condition know as fever, or jwara in Sanskrit.

First of all, what is fever? Well, first we must understand that our metabolism, the sum total of all chemical reactions in the body, is measured via our temperature. We have a BMR (basic metabolic rate) when resting. When that BMR is increased by infection, inflammation, autoimmune disease, cancer, severe stress, viruses, or bacteria, we see a rise in our body temperature.

According to the Caraka Samhita, Ayurveda’s most important text, “…[fever] afflicts the body, the senses and the mind. It is first to be manifested among all disease. It is exceedingly powerful.”

I’m sure we’ve all experienced a fever at some point in our lives, if not in ourselves at least in a family member. It is quite common. You tend to feel a whole myriad of symptoms as your body temperature increases. Typically when you go to a doctor and have a fever, they will give you something to bring down the fever, like tylenol. But this could be a mistake. The fever has a purpose.

Purpose

Fever has been found to further activate the immune response of the body, making white blood cells more active. It increases the rate of chemical reaction and metabolism in the body. However, in doing so, it may also create an environment for a pathogen to thrive and reproduce further. A fever will typically run for 24-48 hours. If it runs longer, then medication may be needed. However, if we take tylenol too early, the fever can last for 3-5 days! Besides, there are ayurvedic antipyretics (fever reducers) that you can take instead.

Causes

The causes of fever are many, according to Ayurveda. But they may surprise you. The primary cause is the weakening of immunity via poor lifestyle and diet choices:

– living out of harmony with nature (daily, seasonal)

– poor digestion and creation of ama

– poor food choices and habits

– intake of poisons or toxins

– Unseasonable weather and temperature changes

– Food that is too hot when the body has been stricken by grief or fear

– Ignoring vedic astrology (though admittedly I don’t know much about it or it’s validity)

Purva Rupa (early symptoms/indicators of fever)

– fatigue

– loss of complexion

– bad taste in the mouth

– burning and watery eyes

– loss of appetite

– alternating desire for warm and cool

– irritability and depression

General Signs

– Red eyes: heat carried in bloodstream, inflammation of blood vessels

– Flush skin: body dispersing heat by dilating surface vessels

– Perspiration ceases: body is retaining heat to allow fever to rise

– Pain in the body: always a sign of tissue damage, in this case generated by heat

– Increased urination: dispel heat via urine

So now we know what a fever looks like and why. But what do I do if I have a fever?

Fever FAQ (frequently asked questions)

Should fever be treated?

– Generally not except to prevent dehydration and to support the agni, remove ama, and reduce sweating.

Should drugs be taken to reduce the fever?

They are not considered necessary and may have side effects. May also prolong the condition further, not allowing the body to perform it’s wisdom.

Should baths be taken?

– Only if very high. Remember that water therapies are counter productive for removing ama.

How can I let the fever run it’s course and prevent dehydration?

– Great question. Keep in mind maintaining electrolyte balance. Take any drinks that are higher in electrolytes (potassium  broths, juices, powerade, reharge, etc.). Eight oz per hour when fever begins, and more often if already dehydrated.

When it comes to fever, it can manifest in many ways. Vata, pitta, kapha, vata/pitta, kapha/vata, kapha/pitta, tridoshic…but in the end you just want to let the fever run it’s course. The only real danger present is dehydration which can be prevented. If for any reason you are trying to let the fever do it’s thing and can’t keep liquids down or are having trouble absorbing them, it’s time to see a doctor. Don’t be a hero! But for the vast majority of fevers, the body is trying to solve the problem. Support it and just sing along knowing your body is actually trying to help!

You give me fever…

With gratitude,

S

Ayurveda Day 86: Breath is the Bridge

As I’ve referenced in the past, we have not one, but three bodies: our physical, our mental/emotional (subtle), and our spiritual (karmic/causal) bodies.

The bridge between our karmic and subtle body is the buddhi.

But the bridge between our subtle and physical body is the breath.

The easiest way to understand this is to imagine having a panic attack. How is the breath? Erratic, short, superficial. The body becomes tense, afraid, and the fight/flight/freeze response is in effect. Now imagine the breath when it is slow, steady, full. It is impossible to be panicking and have this sort of breath.

Our breath is the bridge we use, or a tool if you prefer, that we can use to affect both how our body and mind are working! It is an amazing gift. Breath is the only voluntary and involuntary system in the body. We are programmed to breathe. However, we can always overwrite that programming and train the body to breathe however we need it to (much like our habits are formed).

So why even bother with working with breath? Because it can allow us to heal.

We tend to store our emotional trauma in the mind and emotions. Often if we are in situations where we can’t physically express ourselves (abuse for example), we will retreat into the mind because it is the only place we feel safe. We build walls and barriers around these feelings, and then one day events can trigger them to flood out, often in damaging ways.

The breath however allows us to bring these emotions to the surface. While they remain stagnant, slowly poisoning us, our breath can stir things up a little, and allow these emotions to be brought to a place where we can express them. This also allows us to recognize we have trauma, as most of us are so good and building these barriers that we may not even realize we have trauma (I would venture almost all adults have trauma emotionally in some capacity).

When we use breath, we can move it to the surface, then out. Now it can be expressed in many ways: if unconsciously done, it may come out as sorrow, anger…but if consciously done we can transform it into art: writing, music, painting, etc.

So how do we breathe then? Pranayama practices are many. But the simplest things to keep in mind when breathing:

– it can be done at anytime. Even now.

– you are breathing in oxygen and prana. Breathe in to a count of 4 and imagine these entering your body, providing life.

– when you breathe in, pause and hold before exhaling, anywhere from 7-16 seconds max. Here is where absorption happens. Imagine individual molecules of oxygen and prana going to specific areas of the body and feel rejuvenated.

– Release the breath for 8 seconds. Imagine the bellybutton moving towards the spine. As you release, release CO2 into the world for the plants in nature to live off. Appreciate the cycle of how what your body doesn’t need the earth can use and vice versa.

– Breathe through your nose only. Breathing through the nose tells your mind everything is okay. Breathing through the mouth is what we do during fight/flight response.

Ideally you should:

inhale for 4 count

hold for 16 count

exhale for 8 count

repeat.

5-10 minutes is sufficient. Overdoing can be depleting. But even just to consciously breathe brings you into the moment. What is more grounding than appreciating the cycle of breath as it nourishes you? Breath brings you into here and now, in the simplest most beautiful way possible.

So relax. Just breathe. Breath is the bridge.

With gratitude,

S

Ayuveda Day 85: Buddha and the Angry Villagers

Today was a review class, so I get to write about whatever I want!

One of my favourite topics to write about are zen stories. Here is a favourite of mine starring Buddha:

The Angry Villagers

Buddha and his disciples were passing through a village one day. In this particular village however, there were many wise sages, some of whom were jealous of the buddha’s fame. He was approached by these men, who were all yelling and screaming at him.

Buddha just stood in silence, calmly and indifferently letting the men speak. To this sort of response, the men became even more upset!

“How can you stand there and not defend yourself? How dare you disrespect us so! Have you nothing to say for yourself?”

At this comment, a concerned look befell Buddha’s face. He said to them,

“In the previous village I was in, the people were overjoyed by my presence. They offered us many sweets as tribute, but since we had already eaten that day, and we do not take more than one meal per day from one place, we had to reject their offerings.”

The men who were screaming at Buddha were puzzled by this comment.

“What does this have to do with anything!?”

To this Buddha said,

“I wonder, what did the townspeople do with all the rejected gifts?”

“Is it really such a mystery?” said one of the men. “They must have distributed the gifts amongst the village and shared them!”

Buddha’s look grew even more concerning.

“This troubles me greatly. For in the same manner I had rejected their sweets, so to have I rejected your garbage. Will you now go home and spread this anger and resentment to your community? To your neighbours? To your family?”

Buddha and his disciples then passed through the village.

Anger is a concept I know all too well as a predominately pitta type. Too often I don’t deal with my emotions properly in the moment, and wind up taking them out on the people I care for most. It is far easier to drag someone down to your level than to rise above yourself and see these moments of anger for what they really are: opportunities.

Learning how to view the world from a perspective that is beyond good or bad, right or wrong, this or that – it is within that centre that the buddha nature is found. But if we let the ego take hold, then we will always be a slave to the polarizing nature of our thoughts and emotions.

With gratitude,

S



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