Emotional Stability in Vata Season
Anyone out there finding themselves on an emotional rollercoaster? Those with vata sensitivities, much vata in their constitutional make-up, or with seasonal allergies or a job that requires much travel in the fall will probably join me in feeling somewhat scattered.
Thankfully, there is help out there, both from the Ayurvedic Tradition and from the Yoga Tradition, which are seamlessly interwoven. A yogi can follow some dietary restrictions with a mono diet plus appropriate herbs for a period of a few days to two weeks in order to create a little more internal digestive balance. More details on seasonal cleansing are given below.
AND a yogi who follows the Iyengar tradition has the boon of a sequence specifically designed for emotional stability from B.K.S. Iyengar himself. It takes an hour and a half to two hours to complete (depending on holding times), requires several props, and is summarized below:
Adho mukha svanasana, head supported, 2 to 3 minutes
Uttanasana, head supported, shoulders resting on high stools or bolsters on chair seats, 3 to 5 minutes
Rope sirsasana, as long as comfortable
Viparita Dandasana, on two stools or two chairs, holding front legs of stool or chair, 3 to 5 minutes
Chair Sarvangasana, 5 to 10 minutes
Niralamba Sarvangasana (arms resting), 5 minutes (can also be done starting from a chair, head near a wall then toes to the wall
Niralamba Halasana, thighs on a chair seat or stool with appropriate height, arms resting, 5 to 10 minutes
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, on a wide bench or two blocks for 10 minutes
Viparita Karani in Sarvangasana, pelvis on one or two bolsters, 5 minutes
Paschimottanasana, head resting on a bolster, 3 to 5 minutes
Upavista Konasana, 2 minutes, holding big toes or hands behind hips
Baddhakonasana, 3 to 5 minutes
Supta virasana on a bolster, stay as long as you can with ease
Viloma pranayama, with interrupted exhalation either sitting or supine, 5 to 10 minutes (no more than 8 minutes if sitting)
Savasana, chest elevated, weight on thighs optional, 10 minutes.
May your autumn days be stable, filled with family, friends, yoga and good food!
For centuries, Ayurvedic tradition has recommended a period of cleansing in the spring and/or the fall. For years, I’ve wanted to share some of this information with students, and now it’s time.
If you are basically healthy, have a few days when you can be extra quiet (about 5 of them) and wish to experience the transformation possible by going through this process, please read on and take these recommendations under consideration.
When the summer or winter seasons have extremes of heat or cold, sometimes we react by overindulging. In Sanskrit, this is called Pragna Paradha, or living against wisdom. Overindulgence in carbohydrates or in the sweet taste is one of the possible reactions we may have had. This may have taken the form of an excess intake of calories in the form of sugar, alcohol, dairy or even whole grains. Such a period of excess can lead to clogging of the lymphatic system, a large portion of which resides in our lower intestine.
When such clogging occurs, our digestion can become unbalanced in some subtle or not so subtle ways. Constipation, bloating, muscular aches and pains and a general feeling of sluggishness may result. Ayurveda has long viewed the health of the digestive system as the indicator of general health. This is why an Ayurvedic practitioner may ask so many questions about your digestion and elimination.
The cleanse has three parts, a few days of pre-cleansing, during which the diet will be low fat, vegetarian and regular (three meals at regular times, a practice continued throughout the cleanse and recommended for daily living), five days of the actual cleanse, during which a monodiet of kichadeee (a blend of brown basmati rice and split yellow mung dal/lentils, lightly spiced) is recommended. During the actual cleanse, we monitor our energy and blood sugar closely, and if we experience a radical reduction in energy, we do supplement with steamed vegetables or nonfat vegetable soup, and possibly even free range chicken or deep ocean fish if we have not been vegetarian. Each day of the actual cleanse begins with a dose of ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil, which serves to loosen built up toxins in the body (called ama by Ayurvedic practitioners). As this internal oiling process occurs, the body prepares to eliminate these toxins, which continues during the days of the post cleanse, when digestion is reset to accommodate a wider variety of foods.
Because Ayurveda views the mind (which is present in every cell of the body, not just the brain!) as primary—as far back as the time of Charaka, who wrote one of the primers of Ayurvedic healing in the second century BCE, the teaching has been that our food creates our thoughts and our thoughts create our body. For this reason, a major component of the lifeplan for the precleanse, the actual cleanse, and the postcleanse, and for life thereafter, is the combined practice of yoga asana, meditation and pranayama. Our daily routine is the framework for this transformational approach to living. The Sanskrit word for daily routine is dinacharya. A life in harmony with the seasons is called ritucharya, and because fall and spring are transitional seasons, they are traditional seasons of cleansing and resetting our inner bodies for the shift from cold to hot or hot to cold. When we have had a season of extreme heat or cold, a cleanse is a particularly good idea, and should bring especially transformative results.
MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: I am an ayurvedic practitioner, trained by the American Institute of Ayurveda, the Wise Earth School and Dr. David Frawley. I am not a medical doctor. If you have any doubts about whether this program is right for you, please consult your doctor. If you have any ongoing conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, an autoimmune disorder or any other condition that you think might warrant special treatment, please let me know and be sure to consult your doctor before beginning. This program is not suitable for pregnant or nursing women.
Note: Before embarking on the cleanse, you will have to take a dosha test to determine your predominant dosha. It is given in the last pages of this article. If there have been recent changes in your regular habits, or you have a recent rash (but don’t usually get them) , for example, answer the questions to reflect how you have been most of your adult life (rash-free). If you come out with even numbers for vata, pitta and kapha, or an even number of two of the doshas, choose the kapha digest for even numbers in v-p-k, the kapha digest for even v-k, and the vata digest for even v-p, and the pitta digest for even p-k. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
For the first three days, we will begin shifting to a low fat, nutrient dense diet, focusing on three regular meals per day with the main meal between 10 am and 2 pm.
This phase may have slightly different regimes for different people. Some may eat only the rice and lentil mixture mentioned above, some may add to this seasonal vegetables, and some may even add some animal protein (for example eating a small portion of skinless white meat chicken or low fat fish with the mid day meal), depending on blood sugar levels, the feeling of hunger, and overall condition—mental clarity, physical energy level and ability to deal with life’s duties during these days.
Four Day Post-Cleanse
During this phase, the digestive system will be reset after its cleansing has completed. Seasonal vegetables and fruits will be added back into the diet, and animal foods for those who eat them.
The following herbs are recommended for all who undertake this cleanse:
A digestive formula appropriate to your dosha: either Vata Digest, Pitta Digest or Kapha Digest, available from Banyan or from AYI.
Plus, everyone on the cleanse will take two of each of the following formulas following each meal:
Blood Cleanse, containing, among other herbs:
Turmeric, latin name: Curcuma longa
This is a commonly used spice in Indian cooking and is the powdered root of the plant, It will discolor clothing, so be careful when measuring and handling. It has been shown to be effective in keeping cholesterol levels down to healthy levels,a nd is a good overall anti-inflammatory herb, and
Manjistha, latin name: Rubia cordifolia
Manjistha is not commonly used in cooking, but is an excellent lymph destagnator, because of its lymph cleansing properties.
Liver Repair (a combination of Bhumyamalaki—Phallanthus fraternus, the supreme liver detoxifying herb, along with other assisting herbs.
The liver is the largest organ in the body and is critical in the digestion of fats. Because our modern environment contains so many heavy metals and other pollutants, which tend to cluster in fat cells when we inhale or ingest them, keeping the liver functioning well can be a challenge. Of course, it can be overloaded by our own dietary habits, especially if we happen to eat a diet high in fats or alcohol or use recreational drugs. Raw beets and apples are also cleansing to the liver and act to thin the bile.
If two of the above herbal blends, Liver Repair and Blood Cleanse prove to be too much for your system, cut back to one tablet of each.
During the two weeks of the cleanse, these foods are to be carefully avoided:
1) Wheat and all gluten products (which include most prepared breads, cookies and cakes as well as pasta unless it is made from rice or quinoa or some other non-wheat flour)
[Rice cakes, cooked rice, amananth, quinoa, potatoes, oats and millet are all okay.]
2) Coffee (green, black, and herbal teas are fine in moderation)
5) All sweeteners except raw honey
6) Nuts, including peanuts (seeds are okay: hemp, chia, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame)
The daily routine should include:
10-15 minutes of pranayama practice, reclining or seated, followed by
15-20 minutes of yoga asana practice two times per day if possible, followed by
20-30 minutes of silent meditation, practicing breath observation to still the mind
In addition to the above, exercise moderately for 20-40 minutes per day outdoors—walking in your neighborhood, hiking the trails of local parks, cycling, or swimming in an outdoor pool Breath rhythmically through the nose during your yoga asana practice as well as during your outdoor practice.
Eat three meals a day, at regular times, with no snacking in between.
Drink one half your body weight in ounces of water per day, e.g. 60 ounces if you weigh 120 pounds. A good practice is to purchase a thermos that will hold a quart or more of warm water and sip it throughout the day, refilling it at midday with warm water. DO NOT DRINK ICE WATER. Sipping warm water during the day is in addition to the 60 ounces of water, which could include smoothies and apple juice.
Daily external oiling:
With your daily bath or slower, use sesame oil or coconut oil on warm wet skin. Sesame is better for vata types and coconut for pitta types. Sunflower oil is sometimes recommended for kapha. If your skin is naturally very oily all over, either oil very lightly or skip the daily external oiling. Have a dispenser near your shower or tub. Put a nickel sized bit of oil in your palm and rub it in long strokes over a limb, Do both arms and legs this way, then put a bit of oil in your palm to rub into your abdomen in clockwise circles, another bit to rub over your chest and another bit to rub over as much of your back as you can reach. Let the oil sit on the skin for at least 5 minutes, then lightly shower off and pat dry with a towel. The tub or shower and the towel will take on some oil. Be sure to scrub down the tub/shower so no one slips, and wash towels with a good detergent in warm water.
Special guidelines for the three days of precleansing:
Eat a low fat diet focusing on rice, beans, vegetables, soups, salads, seeds and fruits, avoid nuts and oils, seeds are okay (chia, hemp, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower). Use non fat salad dressings: fresh lemon juice, balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Avocadoes are fine, but no oils without the food they came from!
Eat a raw beat or two per day (see recipes following)
Eat as many organic apples as you can for their cleansing properties.
Drink four 8 ounce glasses of organic apple juice a day (at room tempoerature, this can replace 32 ounces of water).
Drink a green smoothie once or twice a day. See recipes starting on page in the Appendix. These can also replace water.
Add a small portion of low fat chicken or fish only if you are used to animal protein and find the lack of it affects your ability to get your work done or keeps your blood sugar from becoming too low.
During these first three days, if you do get hungry between meals, eat another apple, and/or add some nonfat organic whey powder to your smoothie, or even low fat skinless chicken or low fat fish to your midday meal if you are used to animal products and feel that more protein will keep you from needing to eat between meals. Not eating between meals is essential for the cleanse to be effective.
A word about organic food. It is wise to grow or purchase organic foods whenever possible. We know from experience that food grown with chemical pesticides can be toxic to us. In Austin, we might have the best grocery stores in the entire world, and even the large chains (HEB, Randalls, Fiesta) carry some organics.
A possible daily schedule for the three day precleanse:
6 am rise, drink some warm water and/or herbal or green/black tea
pranayama, yoga asana and meditation
7 am breakfast Take two tablets of your Digest formula before eating breakfast, and two each of Blood Cleanse and Liver Repair after eating. Breakfast could consist of steelcut oats or rolled oats cooked (try soaking your oats in water the night before cooking and eating them—this makes them more digestible), including a green smoothie with organic apple juice.
between 10 am and 2 pm main meal (before eating take two tablets of your Digest herbal tablets), soup, salad with sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, pecans, almonds or walnuts, cooked rice (and quinoa if you like it, adding a little seaweed is a good idea), Apple for dessert. Take two tablets of Liver Repair and two of Blood Cleanse after eating.
5 or 6 pm pranayama, yoga asana, and meditation
6 or 7 pm light supper. Before eating, take two tablets of your Digest formula and after eating take two tablets of Blood Cleanse and two of Liver Repair. Dinner could consist of soup, salad, apple for dessert.
The seven day main Cleanse
Follow the schedule above beginning the day with the ghee or olive oil cocktail and following with three meals at regular times, consisting solely of kichadee, OR, if this proves to be insufficient, add steamed veggies, nonfat veggie soup or lean chicken or fish with the MIDDAY meal.
NOTE: Do not drink ghee if you have gall bladder problems or any other difficulties with digesting fat. Try the same or smaller amounts of olive or flax oil (ghee is best for vata, other doshas should try the ghee; if it becomes difficult, try olive or flax oil)..
Day one, take 2 tsp of ghee
Day two, take 4 tsp of ghee
Day three, take 6 tsp of ghee
Day four, take 8 tsp of ghee
Day five, take 10 tsp of ghee
Day six, take 12 tsp of ghee
Day seven, take 14 tsp of ghee, only increasing the dose each day of the previous days’ dose went down well, was digested well, and caused no discomfort
NOTE: three tsp equals one tablespoon
If drinking the ghee or oil causes nausea, sip up to a cup of warm water with fresh squeezed organic lemon juice and grated ginger. Eat some kichadee about half an hour after taking the ghee or oil. You can also try mixing your ghee with warm rice milk, almond milk or soy milk. Be sure ghee and milk are at the same temperature, mix well and drink down.
On the evening of day seven, take 4 to 8 tsp of castor oil, or 1.5 cups of prune juice. This should lead to a strong elimination on the following morning or even the same night. Before taking the oil or juice, have a hot bath or hot shower if a bath is not possible. Have a light dinner on this last day.
If the taste of the castor oil is unpalatable, mix it with half a cup of warm water plus the juice of a fresh organic orange. After mixing juice, water, and oil very well, hold your nose to drink it and suck on slices of another orange afterwards to purge the taste of the castor oil, not everybody’s favorite!
During the main cleanse, each of the three daily meals will consist of the rice and lentil dal, unless this becomes too boring, or too difficult, or your energy levels on this regime do not permit you to continue.
In this case, add to the lunch meal steamed seasonal vegetables or simple nonfat vegetable soup, and a small amount of low fat animal protein if you are used to it. If this is still not enough, add a lunchtime salad with nonfat dressing. Aim to eat one half to three quarters of your usual amount.
Keeping a journal during the cleanse might be helpful. Do your grocery shopping in advance, and keep restaurant meals to an absolute minimum (rice and beans and steamed vegetables are available in many restaurants these days). Remember, as you surely will, that eating is an emotional subject, and that much of the world’s population eats a mono diet with little variation in any case. I’m told that a third of the world goes to bed hungry every night. The cleanse is temporary, always remember this.
Herbs to take during the main cleanse: Continue taking one liver repair after each meal and two manjistha and two turmeric after the midday and evening meals.
IN ADDITION, before each of your three meals on the seven days of the main cleanse, take two of your Digest tablets, and after each meal take two of Liver Repair and two of Blood Cleanse, unless two of each is too much for you, in which case, take only one of each.
Four Day Post –Cleanse
During these four days, digestion will continue to be improved by maintaining a non-fat, non-dairy, non-wheat, non-sugar diet. In addition, before each meal during these four days, take your two digest tablets with an 8 ounce glass of water with the juice of an organic lemon. Finish the lemon water with your meal, and after each meal take your two Liver Cleanse and your two Blood Cleanse tablets. Stick as much as you can to the schedule you have followed since the beginning of the pre-cleanse.
See these books for good low fat vegetarian recipes:
Food for Life by Dr. Neal Barnard
Recipes for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe
Ayurvedic Cooking for Westerners, by Amadea Morningstar
Eat to Live and Eat for Health by Dr. Joel Fuhrman
Ayurveda, a Life of Balance by Maya Tiwari
Ayurvedic Cooking by Usha Lad
Preparation time: About 30 minutes
Good for all doshas
In a heavy medium saucepan, heat one pound (4 sticks) butter—unsalted is best– over medium heat. Continue to cook at medium low heat. The butter will bubble and make bubbling sounds. When it is almost done, milk solids will begin to collect on the bottom of the pan. They may also rise to the top, if so skim them off lightly with a spoon and discard. When it is done, in about 15 to 20 minutes, it will be clear and become very quiet. Quickly take it off the heat before it burns, which it can do rapidly (if this happens it will begin to foam again rapidly and turn brown instead of golden). Cool slightly. Ghee is the clear golden liquid. Pour ghee through a fine metal strainer into a sterilized glass container. Store at room temperature. Note: you can sterilize a 16 ounce jam or canning jar by putting it in a large pot, pouring water over it, and bringing it gently a boil, simmer for five minutes or so, then turn off heat and allow to cool. Yield: About two cups.
To reduce the gas producing potential of the lentils, you may soak 1/2 cup of split yellow mung beans over night or bring to a boil twice and rise after boiling twice,
Then combine the dal with ½ cup of brown basmati rice and rinse together till water runs clear
Dry roast the following spices
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled or peeled and grated ginger roont
half a teaspoon each of
whole cumin seets
whole mustard seeds, yellow or brown
add to the above a pinch of hing (asafetida) and stir frequently to avoid burning while dry roasting.
Add 7 to 10 cups water and the rice and dal. You can experiment over time with the ratio of rice to dal, the amount of water and the amount of spice to find a formula that suits you exactly. Many of us find twice as much spice or even more can be delicious.
Bring mixture to a boil and boil 10 minutes. Then simmer for 30-40 minutes, adding 1/2 teaspoon rock or sea salt and a handful of freshly chopped cilantro or parsley leaves when done. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos can be added to taste, or to make this is a breakfast food, omit the spices above, substituting cinnamon and nonfat rice milk for all or some of the water.
Lightly steam for 10 minutes:
2 medium zucchini
1/2 bunch parsley
1/4 pound green beans
3 stalks celery
then blend with organic apple juice or vegetable broth in a blender or vitamix.
Add fresh ginger and/or garlic as desired to taste
Raw Beet Salad
One peeled and grated raw beet
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Prepared mustard to taste
2 tablespoons flax or olive oil
or just add raw grated beets to your green salad
Organic brown basmati rice
Organic split yellow mung dal (not yellow split peas, as these are different)
Organic unsalted butter, OR flax or olive oil
Castor oil or prune juice for the laxative on the last day of the main cleansing week
Pasta made with rice or millet
Fruits in season for the post cleanse, particularly recommended:
Organic Texas ruby red grapefruits
Oranges and tangerines
Apples and pears
Kiwis, papaya, mango and pineapple
Ground and whole cumin
Whole mustard seeds, yellow or brown
Asafoetida powder, also called hing
Braggs Liquid Aminos
Massage Oil: Sesame for Vata, Coconut for Pitta, Sunflower for Kapha
The Doshas are the five elements harmonized into the forms of life. The Vata dosha contains the elements air and ether, the Pitta element air and fire, the Kapha dosha the elements water and earth. Here are two dosha tests designed to help you determine what your dominant doshas are, both mentally and physically. Circle the adjective in the column that BEST describes how you have been for most of your life. If there have been changes in your weight lately, or in your bowel movements, indicate what your weight has been and/or what kind of bowel movements you have had for most of your life.
Ayurvedic Physical Constitution Chart
For each category in the left column, please circle the description that MOST CLOSELY describes you as you have been for most of your adult life. If more than one description fairly describes you, circle more than one in that row, Then tally the total number of circles from each column at the end of the chart on page two.
VATA (air) PITTA (fire) KAPHA (earth/water)
Height tall or very short medium short or tall&large-boned
Frame thin, bony, good muscles moderate large, well-developed
Weight hard to gain, thin moderate heavy, hard-to-lose
Skin Luster dull, dusky ruddy, lustrous white, pale
Skin Texture dry, rough, thin warm, oily cold, damp, thick
Eyes small, nervous piercing, large, white
Hair dry, thin thin, oily thick, oily, lustrous
Teeth crooked, malformed moderate, soft gums white, strong
Nails rough, brittle soft, pink strong, white
Joints stiff, easily cracking loose firm, large
Circulation poor, variable good moderate
Appetite variable, nervous high moderate
Thirst low, scanty high moderate
Sweating scanty profuse, slow to start
Stool hard, dry soft, loose normal
Urine scanty profuse, yellow moderate, clear
Sensitivity cold, dry, wind heat, sun, fire cold, damp
(This asks you to identify what kind of weather “riles you up”, what kind you don’t like)
Immunity low, variable moderate high
Disease type nervous inflammation, fever, rash lungs, congestion
Activity high, restless moderate low, moves slowly
Endurance poor, easily fatigued moderate, focused high
Sleep poor, disturbed variable excess
Dreams frequent, disturbed moderate, colorful romantic, infrequent
Memory quick, absent-minded sharp, clear slow, steady
Speech fast, frequent sharp, cutting slow, melodious
Temperament nervous, changeable motivated content
Positive Emotions adaptability courage love
Negative Emotions fear anger attachment
Faith variable, erratic strong, determined steady, slow to change
TOTALS ______(vata-air) _____(pitta-fire) _____(kapha-water)