Photo by Veena Haasl-Blilie -- New Year’s Day Sunrise 2016
“May every sunrise hold more promise and every sunset hold more peace.”
Happy New Year. This is not an article about easy to start and easy to forget new year’s resolutions. Ayurveda’s view is that balance is a life-long adventure--what provided balance when we are 20, is likely different from what balances us when we are 40 or 70. While it is very helpful to know what to do to specifically to balance individually, the practical tips listed below are supportive for most everyone. By integrating the New Year Renewal Tips into your daily routine (dinacharya), you will step into this new year sure-footed as you take your next steps on the path.
Here are some simple tips to use daily for a more peace-filled you:
3. Movement is key. When we exercise, eat and sleep at the same time each day our whole being responds with delight to the stabilizing routine as it calms us, literally down (apana vata). We digest better, sleep better and enjoy overall improved immunity and state of mind. According to Ayurveda, the idea is to balance energy and stamina at all times. How do we know if we are doing this while exercising? The idea is to not exert more than 50% of your capacity. How do we know if we are at 50%? Ayurveda recommends this simple tool—if you begin to sweat under arms, on forehead or off the nose, you are above capacity or, if you can no longer breath through the nose. If you follow these guidelines, you will be energized by exercise and not depleted by it. Overtime, you will be able to increase exercise. It’s is a practice in ahmisa.
4. Rejuvenate through sleep. Having integrated an ayurvedic routine and eating foods that are correct for you, the next most important thing you can do for your health and peace is to improve your sleep. The CDC reports that nearly nine million Americans take sleeping medication in an often desperate attempt to sleep. (https://www.nbcnews.com/health/sleepless-states-nearly-9-million-pop-pills-shut-eye-study-8C11026819) Recent reports estimate 50 to 70 million Americans are sleep deprived and are turning to sleep medications in record numbers. (https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db127.htm) A recent article in the Times of India focused on insomnia and in Europe it is considered a significant problem. (https://www.ispor.org/research_pdfs/31/pdffiles/PND1.pdf) Having a good night’s sleep is a challenge for most of us regardless of geography.
Your ideal sleep and wake time are determined through ayurvedic consultation. In general, going to sleep by 10:00am, during kapha time, is good for nearly all. Additional tools for a good sleep include taking a warm bath, doing self-oil massage (abhyanga) with a dosha balancing oil, avoiding screens of all types after supper as it is overly stimulating and the light disrupts the circadian rhythms, reducing or eliminating caffeine, refined sugar, and alcohol all support having a good night’s sleep. Implementing the appropriate yoga and meditation practices is key to good sleep.
5. Reducing and Letting Go of Stress. It seems obvious, yet are we reducing and letting go where we can? So often it seems we become acclimated to a certain level of intensity and believe we need to maintain or increase that level. It is the time of year to reflect on what are the sources of stress, where can we modify or eliminate or bring in some tool to mitigate the stress? Daily life seems to offer up a certain amount of stress, then life presents periods where there is higher stress, be it a project at work, increased travel, financial strains, the death of a loved one…the list goes on. The point is, since there is a guarantee of a certain amount of stress, how about we do what we can to reduce and eliminate where we can? Little things can make a big impact. For myself, I no longer answer the cell phone while driving. The reduction in the strain on the nervous system is noticeable. For others, getting up 15 minutes early so they have some quiet time before the rest of the household awakens, reduces stress. Get creative and brainstorm with a friend.
Herbs are an effective and supportive tool for stress reduction and sleep improvement. Plant nutrition is best used as part of an overall Ayurveda plan and not used as a stand-alone tool. Asanas, pranayama and meditation are all key stress reducers as they help calm the autonomic nervous system and sooth vata.
6. Attend to ama and flush out the debris. Taking care of ama is both a mental and physical process. According to Ayurveda, disease, disorders, imbalances result from the accumulation of ama. Physical ama leads to weakened digestion and creates the ground for further imbalances to take root. Mental ama can impact our ability to handle daily stresses which then can impact sleep quality. Poor quality sleep results in higher mental ama and around it goes. Nature’s design is that we sleep well each night and rejuvenate through this process. When that is disrupted, the stresses of the day, or mental ama, do not get cleansed out. A rejuvenating night’s sleep by comparison, can help us see the world in a new way and feel like a new person—such is the importance of good sleep.
The most important thing is to prevent ama from forming by eating a food program suitable to you, following a daily (dinacharya) and seasonal routine (rutacharya) that discourages toxins from forming in the tissue layers, channels and digestive tract.
Improving elimination helps to carry toxins out of the digestive tract through the bowel and urine. Eating stewed apples and if needed, adding prunes to the dish, is one tool. Adding more vegetables to your meals that have been cooked in the Detox or other appropriate churna is another tool. Make sure your bowels are moving frequently enough for your type. If not, seek guidance for a supportive herbal formula.
If your body is balanced, it will cleanse itself of many toxins using its natural detoxification pathways of sweat, urine and feces. Spring is the time the body natural detoxifies so it is an ideal time to support it by doing a spring cleanse program. (Please inquire if you are interested in joining the Spring-2016-at-Home Cleanse.)
As for mental ama, there are many tools such as journaling, maintaining a consistent connection with a kalyanamitra, attending satsang, sleeping and waking at the ideal times, moving and laughing daily, to name only a few.
7. Drink up as it replenishes the body’s inner ocean. Taking enough water helps detoxify the body and prevents drying and therefore, aging of the tissues. Herbalized water substantially increases the positive effect of hydrating. Drinking Vata, Pitta or Kapha herbalized water is great way to go. An herbalized water that is good for nearly all types is Digestive Tea.
To make digestive tea: Boil 2 quarts of water. Add to the boiling water, ½ t whole cumin seed, ½ t whole coriander seeds and ½ t fennel seed. Cover and steep. Pour into a thermos having strained out the seeds. Drink the herbalized water warm to somewhat hot.
In working with the natural rhythms of the day, seasons, and stages of life, we live in greater harmony and bring health and vitality to the body, and a state of balance and wellbeing to the mind.
It seems fitting to close with this quote from Pema Chodron, “Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.” Blessing to you for a happy, healthy and peace-filled new year.
The New Year Renewal Tips are general suggestions only and are not intended to replace the guidance provided by a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner. Enjoy the gifts of winter and please email me with any questions.
To Your Health and Peace,
M.A., Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner
Saumya Ayurveda --Ayurveda in Northeast ®