Category Archives: Ayurveda

Emotional Supernova

Just this morning, I stumbled upon this YouTube clip of Eckhart Tolle answering a question about anger. Although it might seem random in a July 4th message, I thought blowing things up all over the country is a good enough metaphor to share it today. I highly recommend listening to the clip so you can hear the wisdom from the Meister himself, but for what it’s worth, here are my reflections.  

Although unpleasant, anger and strong emotion can help us to grow, when we recognize that they are all just patterns of thought, or what Eckhart calls “thought forms”. When intense feelings come up, instead of identifying with them, fanning that fire, and succumbing to a knee jerk reaction, remember that you are not your thoughts and you don’t even have to believe all your thoughts. As Eckhart said – there’s enormous freedom in that.   

Working with the negativity that arises within us, however it shows up, can be a really important spiritual practice in and of itself. When you recognize anger, see it as just a thought form that you simply absorbed somewhere along the way. It’s not actually you and you can decide to let it go if it’s not serving you. It will probably show up again in the future, but it doesn’t have to control you, or have the ability to ruin your or anyone else’s day. Further, when you can look at your own anger without judgement, you’re naturally more understanding when others get angry.  

So we can even be grateful for anger and other strong emotions because they give us something to work with, a way to expand our understanding, and learn to become truly free. 

The Ayurvedic Perspective   

Also, we may be more prone to anger in the hot weather. Ayurveda, the world’s longest continuously practiced health care system, teaches that we are ruled by energies of fire (Pitta), air (Vata), and earth (Kapha), and that Like Increases Like. So if we’re outside in the hot air, working out hard, eating spicy food, etc, we may feel symptoms of too much fire energy, which includes anger, inflammation, stress, etc.   

Certified Ayurvedic Consultant, Emmie Stamell recommends treating excess pitta with opposite qualities, “A cooling diet and lifestyle practices such as moon-bathing, avoiding the mid-day sun, wearing colors like white and blue, and enjoying a light diet full of locally grown veggies are ways to pacify the conditions associated with excess heat. Coconut, watermelon and salad are great summertime treats. Essential oils like sandalwood and rose cool the body-mind. Exercise is best done in the early morning or evening to avoid overheating the system, and as a general rule, back off to 75% of your typical effort. Yin yoga, or a calmly paced yoga flow that incorporates wide-legged forward folds and twists with elongated exhalations is ideal for a summer practice.”

Image credit: NASA

3 Ways to Cleanse with Us

… Even if you’re not cleansing with us

If you didn’t join our group cleanse this spring, we want you to know that we’re still thinking about you and want to support you from afar! Spring is the time when your body really wants to cleanse. It’s truly is primed and ready to release anything unneeded, like toxins, extra adipose, water retention, and the like. To feel truly vibrant, help that precious body along!

  1. Drink lots of water. Start your day with one or two big glasses of water with fresh lemon in it, and then sip water all day long between meals (not with meals).
  2. Sweat that out with exercise, an IR Sauna, and/or a hot Epsom salt bath.  
  3. Go light on the fat and sugar, and hit the greens hard… lots of leafy greens – arugula, parsley, cilantro, baby spinach, kale, microgreens. Be sure they’re organic and chew them well to extract as much nutrition from as possible!

And if you still feel like you need some extra support, we have another smaller group beginning their cleanse on May 12th. Stay tuned!

Image credit: Speleolog

Cleansing is the New Diet

Spring is when the body is primed and ready to clear out toxins, stagnation, sludge, excess weight, and inflammation, according to Ayurveda. Come spring, many of us are so ready for this. I know I am!

We can help that natural cleansing process along with a multifaceted cleanse. But it’s more common to turn to diets to spur along spring weight loss. There’s a big difference between diets and cleanses. Although diets can help you lose weight, they aren’t the best strategy, as research consistently shows. In a diet, the goal is to lose weight at any cost, usually through some variation of calorie deprivation and exercise intensification – the classic calories in vs calories out approach that relies on sheer willpower. Although calories do matter on one level, there are several other important factors that diets usually ignore – such as detoxification, oxidative stress, nutrient density, food sensitivities, stress, and how and why we eat. Aggressive weight loss without attention to these areas is not only an uphill battle, but likely to increase inflammation and initiate a vicious and frustrating weight loss cycle. Which, as we know, is very common.

If you want to lose winter padding, boost your natural spring cleansing power, and get healthier along the way, be sure your spring strategy more holistically addresses these concerns:

Detoxification. Whenever you lose weight, toxins are released from the fat cells, where they are commonly stored. If you don’t have abundant nutrient support (such as sulfur containing veggies, antioxidants, fiber, minerals, b vitamins, etc), toxins will not get excreted from the body. Instead, they get pulled out of the cells and recirculated through the body, where they cause more damage and make you feel terrible. Supporting detoxification along with any weight loss is vital. In its wisdom, the body may actually resist fat loss in an attempt to keep toxins in the fat cells where they do the least damage. Getting them out of the body in a safe effective way will help with successful long term weight maintenance, energy, and overall health.

Nourishment. This brings us to nutrient density. Whole, unprocessed plant foods offer tens of thousands of phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fiber, all of which are your best friend for losing weight and cleansing toxins. Phytonutrients reduce inflammation and free radical damage, support detoxification, and help your body actually repair itself. The fiber keeps you regular, so that you can most efficiently excrete the toxins that made their way to the intestines. Constipation doesn’t feel good for many reasons, toxicity being one of them. You can lose weight eating highly processed diet wafers, bars, and shakes, but these don’t offer the array of healing nutrients that whole plant foods do. Do yourself a million favors by centering your diet on abundant fresh, colorful veggies.

Food sensitivities. Another hidden factor in stubborn weight is food sensitivities. When we regularly eat foods our bodies don’t like, we set up an inflammatory dynamic that causes all manner of annoyances like eczema, arthritis, psoriasis, fatigue, and – you guessed it – stubborn weight. Uncovering your food sensitivities is vital for overall health and thinner peace. At the top of the list are gluten and dairy. Try avoiding those for a few weeks and see what happens!

Stress. No discussion of weight loss would be complete without addressing stress. When you are stressed for sustained periods of time, your body is going to hang on to every calorie for dear life. Not only that, but stress often results in emotional eating. Furthermore, stress diverts energy away from digestive organs (because who needs to digest your meal, when you’re being chased by a tiger and about to become a meal?), so you don’t digest well. Maldigestion/malabsorption paves the way for nutrient deficiencies, which can suppress the thyroid, which slows your metabolism, and things just keep getting uglier. Meditation, deep breathing, yoga, exercise, laughter, and mindful eating are all excellent ways to reduce stress.

Sustainability. The plan you use to achieve your desired wellness and weight should be something you can sustain long term and even enjoy. If not, you’re likely to revert pretty quickly to old habits. And that’s not good for the body or mood.

I hope it’s obvious that weight loss is much more complex than the simple calories in – calories out equation. And also that weight loss without concern for nutrient density will ultimately be damaging and keep you in the vicious weight loss cycle.

If you’ve been struggling with stubborn weight and feeling like you have no will power, please know that it is so much more than that. Processed food, toxins, stress, food sensitivities, and even our gut microbes strongly influence our cravings and stamina for making healthy changes.

This is why I included all of these vitally important areas in one comprehensive, life changing program called the Ultimate Rejuvenation Cleanse. It’s a gentle, supportive, 4-week, online program that optimizes your spring cleansing and detoxing. Your health will noticeably improve in several areas, and weight loss will be a natural by product. The spring cleanse begins April 14th. I hope you’ll join us! To learn more or join the cleanse, click here.

Image credit: Nicoleta Ionescu

The Many Benefits of Daily Body Oiling

Abhyanga is an Ayurvedic practice that involves massaging good quality oil into your skin every day. It’s the perfect remedy for the cold, dry, winter air! Most obviously, daily oiling helps your skin retain its hydration and luster. When you oil your skin in the morning, you feel warm and cozy all day, as if you were wearing silk long underwear. Oiling your feet at night helps you to get more restorative sleep. The physical action of massaging oil into your skin and joints helps to relieve stiffness and improves circulation, giving your whole body a nice glow and boosting energy and overall health. Since there is so little circulation in the joints, they can really benefit from the extra attention. You can even put a little oil in your nostrils to help keep the sinuses moist, which helps you to avoid colds and sinus infections.

The benefits of abhyanga don’t end with the physical. According to Ayurveda, the cold winter air can also impact the mind, causing us to feel jittery, scattered, and exhausted. Regular application of oil infuses your body-mind with a grounding energy that soothes any winter-induced anxiety or forgetfulness. All of these symptoms (cold, dry, stiff, anxious, scattered, tired) that we can relieve with abhyanga are often associated with aging. This is why abhyanga is considered one of Ayurveda’s top anti-aging strategies!

How to oil

  1. Since your skin absorbs whatever you put on it, use the highest quality oil you can find – organic, cold-pressed, and in a glass bottle when possible. Jojoba, sesame, and coconut are great choices. Most of these are available at the grocery store. However, you can also purchase wonderful oils infused with herbs or essential oils (we especially love Sarada’s Woman Power oil!). Natural, cold-pressed oils contain fatty acids, vitamin E, and other antioxidants that promote healthy skin. Sure, lotions often add vitamin E, but not the whole vitamin E complex, like natural oils have.
  2. Before your shower, rub the oil into your skin, using long strokes on the long bones, and circular motions around the joints. Be sure to pay attention to your toes and feet, fingers, and neck too. Enjoy it!
  3. You don’t need to use a lot of oil.
  4. If you like, you can rub some into your scalp. This helps keep your hair healthy and conditioned. (When doing the hair, it’s great to let it soak in for 10-15 minutes if possible.)
  5. Using your pinky finger, you can apply a bit of oil to your nostrils as well. “Nasya” oil was created for this purpose, and is usually infused with sinus opening herbs like eucalyptus. But of course regular oil also works well.
  6. When you shower, the warm water will help the oil to sink in. Be sure you don’t use soap on the arms and legs. You may need to shampoo twice if used a lot of oil in your hair. Blot your skin dry after the shower.
  7. An alternative option is to apply the oil after your shower. Just use less oil, and give it a few minutes to sink in before getting dressed.
  8. When you’re cooking, rub extra olive, sesame, or coconut oil into your hands!
  9. Ayurveda is pretty obsessed with oiling. They even put drops in eyes, ears, other places :-0 and swish with oil like mouthwash. It’s really good for dental health. Swishing with coconut oil actually whitens your teeth while improving dental health! If you decide to try this, swish for about 10 minutes as you do your morning routine, and spit the oil out in the trash, not the sink (because it can clog the sink over time).

Image credit: Lisa Mair

Three Ayurvedic Beauty Tips for Summer

Ready to glow this summer? These simple tips from the time-tested wisdom of Ayurveda (literally “the knowledge of life”) will help you look and feel your best!

#1 Body Skin Care

Abhyanga, or self oil massage, will restore youthfulness and radiance to your skin. Like all Ayurvedic beauty practices, the benefits are never purely superficial, and the application of oil over the entire body is renowned for its healing effects on the body and mind. From boosting the immune system and balancing the nervous system to promoting flexibility in the muscles and lubrication of joints, Abhyanga is like giving yourself the gift of beauty from the inside-out.

The ideal oil to choose depends on your constitution, but in the summertime it’s safe to say that organic virgin coconut oil is an excellent option. If it’s a cool day and the oil has solidified (as coconut oil will if it’s under 76 degrees), warm it up first to liquefy it. Massage your entire body slowly, with loving care (this increases oxytocin levels), before you shower. The water in the shower will help the oil penetrate more deeply.

Bonus tip: Apply ground chickpea flour to your skin in the shower to soak up residual oil and leave your skin extra soft.

#2 Facial Skin Care

Here are the steps to doing an Ayurvedic facial.

Steaming

Pour boiling hot water into a large bowl. Cover your head with a towel and lean over the bowl, breathing in the steam for 5-10 minutes. This will open your pores, release toxins and prepare your skin for a mask.

Bonus tip: Add 5 drops of nasya oil or a combination of eucalyptus and rose essential oils to the steam to improve respiratory health and promote mental clarity.

Mask recipe

  • ½ tsp organic neem leaf powder
  • ½ tsp organic triphala powder
  • 1/8 tsp organic turmeric powder
  • 1 Tbsp organic chickpea flour
  • Organic rose hydrosol (rose water spray)

Mix ingredients to form a paste and apply to face, avoiding contact with the eyes. Leave it on for 5 minutes and rinse several times with warm water. If you need to replenish some oil to your face afterward, apply a thin layer of coconut oil. Finish by spritzing with rose hydrosol

#3 Hair Care

Massage coconut oil into your scalp and comb it through your hair. I hate to be redundant with coconut oil tips, but it truly is our ally in beauty! Leave the oil on for a minimum of 30 minutes before shampooing, but if you can leave it overnight, even better. Put an old towel over your pillow to prevent staining, or wrap one gently around your head. Coconut oil is full of fatty acids that will repair split ends, penetrate the scalp and thereby soothe the nervous system, preserve color, resolve dandruff, detangle, and hasten hair growth. This treatment will also leave your hair looking lustrously healthy. Wow!

Bonus tip: To get the oil out of your hair more easily, do a “dry shampoo” which means don’t get your head too wet before shampooing.

I heard a quote that recently that really resonated (source unknown): “Haste and superficiality are diseases of the 20th century.” While I’m sure hastiness and superficiality have existed to some degree historically, they are prevalent features of our modern day culture and are root causes of psychological and physiological illness. None of these ancient Ayurvedic beauty tips are hasty in the same way that putting foundation on your face to cover blemishes is, and they’re not superficial either because they have far reaching health benefits. That said, nothing can make our skin shine and our hair lustrous like taking the time to do a well crafted cleanse, like the Ultimate Rejuvenation Cleanse, at least twice a year. After all, 80% of the skin’s appearance on the outside is determined by the health of our organs, blood, lymphatic and circulatory systems. So enjoy the immediate benefits of the practices I’ve described here, and do the work of radiance from the inside-out by following Michael Pollan’s sage slogan, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.”

Image credit: Susanne Ollmann

Emmie Stamell is an Ayurvedic practitioner and yoga and meditation teacher. She offers private Ayurvedic consultations, mindfulness coaching and personalized yoga. She loves connecting with folks and is happy to answer questions. Feel free to reach out via email: Emmie@sukhayoga.org or phone: 781.608.9369. Learn more about Emmie at www.sukhayoga.org

Oil Pulling for Oral Health

Oil pulling is a method of daily detoxification (and very beneficial for oral hygiene) that is easy to incorporate into your morning routine. Toxins are usually fat soluble and when you swish the oil in your mouth, toxins are pulled through the mucous membranes into the oil, so you can then spit them out. In addition to the detox benefits, teeth become whiter, breath becomes fresher, and overall dental health improves. This is probably why my dentist so highly recommends it!

Every morning, before eating anything, put 1 tablespoon of cold-pressed coconut oil in your mouth. (If it is solid, it will melt in less than a minute.) Slowly swish the oil in your mouth for 5 minutes. You can walk around and do your morning clean up routine while oil pulling. DO NOT actually swallow the oil because it is loaded with bacteria, toxins, pus and mucous! When done, spit the oil into the trash (NOT your sink or toilet where it will accumulate and eventually clog the drain. To maximize detoxification, you can repeat this a couple more times. When done, rinse out your mouth thoroughly, scrape your tongue, and brush your teeth.

Image credit: Amirul Mukminin