Bodhidevi maintains that a holistic, Ayurvedic diet and balanced lifestyle are critical to being healthy, both physically and mentally. One of the most crucial elements of a healthy, balanced lifestyle is a sustainable and effective exercise regimen. At Bodhidevi, we embrace functional fitness as the foundation of our fitness programs.
What is functional fitness, and why do we place it at the core of our fitness philosophy? Functional fitness might sound like a rigid fitness dogma or intricate exercise regimen. But in reality, it is exactly what it claims: a training program with functional applications. Today we explore the nature of functional fitness training, the benefits it can offer, and the reasons we chose to make it the backbone of our personal fitness philosophy.
What is the Purpose of Functional Training?
Functional training, or functional fitness, is just that: training that has a functional purpose. What that means in a practical sense is that functional exercise conditions the body for practical everyday movements, like mowing the lawn or carrying a baby. By extension, regular functional training enhances the capacity to perform other activities that aid us in being healthy and active.
Most popular forms of exercise, like resistance machines and cardiovascular equipment, exercise individual muscle groups in a one dimensional way. If you’re training for a specific event, like a bike race or a marathon, one-dimensional exercises serve a functional purpose in that they prepare the body to sustain these activities for extended periods at a higher output.
But everyday movement is rarely one-dimensional, and typically requires the coordination of multiple muscle groups. Regularly exercising on the elliptical thus does little to condition you for yard work, coaching sports practice, or cleaning the house, activities that necessitate movement in a two-dimensional plane.
Unlike conventional exercise, functional fitness requires two-dimensional movement engaging multiple muscle groups. Further, functional fitness necessitates forms of exercise that condition the body for other elements of everyday movement. Thus, it not only strengthens the muscles through resistance; it also enhances muscular endurance, speed, proprioceptive awareness, and agility.
The defining element of functional fitness is the emphasis it places on neuromuscular coordination. Functional fitness not only strengthens muscles; it also reinforces the neural circuitry coordinating the nervous and musculoskeletal systems. In so doing, it enhances muscle memory and trains our bodies to perform complex, compound movements in everyday life with ease.
What Does Functional Training Require?
In some ways, functional training parallels the “Paleo” stance on being healthy. Those who embrace the Paleo lifestyle emphasize not only eating the way our ancestors did, but also exercising the way that they did. And that means alternating short bursts of intense exercise with strength training and complex movements. Functional training, too, incorporates complex movements that mimic the ones our ancestors performed and that we continue to perform in everyday life.
Functional fitness fuses exercises that require core stability, strength, and balance. The most important body parts to emphasize are the hip abductors and rotators, abdominal muscles, and scapula stabilizers. Exercises require movement in the sagittal, frontal, and transverse planes of movement. They tend to be fluid and integrate movement of multiple body parts. Finally, functional fitness principles emphasize improving form and posture to properly condition the body and prevent injury.
What Exercises are Considered Functional Exercises?
Functional exercises include classic bench presses, squatting, and deadlifts. These exercises engage multiple muscle groups and have practical applications, increasing the ease of lifting and moving heavy objects. But there are so many other types of functional exercise. In fact, many of the movements you perform as part of your current efforts at being healthy may actually qualify as functional exercises.
Other forms of functional exercise might include forward, side, and back lunges with a bicep curl. Functional cardiovascular exercise could involve running up stairs or squat jumping. Deadlifting with a row or squatting with a shoulder press effectively engages multiple muscle groups to mimic activities like lifting heavy boxes or kids. The possibilities are endless, and at Bodhidevi, we like to get creative with them in our Fitness classes.
To reduce the impact of functional exercises, you can perform them in a pool, or simply with your own body weight. To up the intensity, you can add resistance bands, weights, kettle bells, medicine balls, and more! Functional fitness permits many types of adjustment to make the exercises suitable for all fitness levels.
What are the Benefits of Functional Exercise?
Functional exercise boasts a broad array of benefits. Perhaps the most significant is the reduction of injury risk in everyday life, which is critical for being healthy in the broadest sense.
Sure, lots of people get injured doing sports or races. But the average person is more likely to suffer injury as a result of an uncoordinated fall, lifting a heavy object the wrong way, or performing some other everyday activity with improper strength and form. Because functional exercise enhances bodily strength, flexibility, and coordination, and trains the neuromuscular system to properly coordinate complex activities, it can significantly reduce the likelihood of sustaining an everyday injury.
Functional training may be particularly beneficial for both athletes and the elderly; athletes, because sports often require fast, load-bearing multidimensional movement; the elderly, because they are more susceptible to injury from simple activities like walking down the stairs. Functional fitness emerged at the crossroads between personal training and physical therapy. That means it is particularly applicable to the needs of these groups.
Because functional training strengthens stabilizer muscles and improves posture, it can relieve joint pain. By engaging multiple muscle groups, functional training improves range of motion, flexibility, body stability, strength, and endurance. It thereby helps to prevent overtraining and improper form.
Finally, by improving the ease of everyday movement, functional fitness may actually increase our ability to be active throughout everyday life. And that makes being healthy as a lifestyle a whole lot easier. Greater daily activity translates to a greater daily calorie burn, which may aid in weight loss and improve mood and cognition.
Ayurveda is not a trend or a fad diet. It doesn’t promise quick, drastic weight loss or shredded abs. Rather, Ayurveda is a philosophy of medicine, providing guidelines for healthy living and balance. Following the principles of Ayurveda restores vibrant health and lifestyle balance. In turn, ascribing to the tenets of Ayurvedic medicine often results in weight loss by reversing the bad habits that produced weight gain in the first place. Thus, Ayurveda for weight loss is merely a distillation of Ayurvedic medicine as a whole. Focusing on these three Ayurvedic habits are particularly essential for stabilizing at a healthy weight.
Perform The Right Kind of Exercise
Exercise is an integral component of any effective weight loss regimen. Ayurveda for weight loss is no exception. Regular exercise boosts energy levels, increases resting metabolism and calories burned via activity, and supports healthy digestion. By boosting the number of calories that you burn, exercise encourages your body to tap into its fat stores for fuel.
Performed properly, exercise may also help reduce stress levels and prevent depression. Thus, exercise not only encourages weight loss by increasing metabolism; it also helps to tame the fatigue, sadness, and stress that often lead us to reach for unhealthy sugars and fats that our bodies don’t need.
The key to exercising for weight loss in the Ayurvedic tradition is performing exercise that is suitable for your dosha. For example: vata types should avoid vigorous exercise and instead opt for yoga, walking, or easy cardiovascular activity. Because vatas have highly sensitive nervous systems, they are susceptible to cortisol spikes after rigorous exercise. These spikes, in turn, promote fat storage. Weight loss for vata, then, requires cortisol-taming physical activity.
Kapha, on the other hand, tends to have a sluggish metabolism. But kaphas are actually quite strong and resilient, and they rarely suffer from cortisol spikes after vigorous exercise. On the contrary, vigorous cardio is actually quite beneficial for kapha. Kapha is therefore likely to achieve lasting weight loss by performing vigorous exercise on a regular basis.
Regardless of your dosha and your preferred form of exercise, it is best to exercise between the hours of and 6 and 10 a.m. for 45-60 minutes. The elements of water and earth are strongest during these hours, and can cause sluggishness. Exercising at this time of day combats fatigue, providing you with the energy and concentration necessary for an active, productive day.
Eat the Right Foods at the Right Times
Ayurveda for weight loss encourages us to eat in accordance with our dosha. Once we are eating in such a way that promotes doshic balance, our bodies naturally stabilize at a healthy weight.
Ayurveda does not valorize or condemn any specific food group. It therefore diverges quite markedly from today’s most popular diets, like Paleo and Keto, which swear off whole food and macronutrient groups. However, Ayurveda for weight loss does recommend eating only wholesome, organic, in-season foods.
It also recommends that we incorporate all six tastes—sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent—into every meal. The standard American diet is abundant in sweet, sour, and salty tastes, the anabolic tastes, but sparse in bitter, pungent, and astringent. This imbalance can lead to weight gain, cravings, and insulin resistance. Incorporating all six tastes, in contrast, will leave you satisfied, nourished, and lean.
Ayurveda also offers a few general guidelines that will support overall health and, by extension, healthy weight loss. In Ayurvedic Medicine, it is best to eat your largest meal at lunchtime, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. That’s because agni, the digestive fire, is strongest during these hours. If we eat our largest meal when digestion is strongest, we will be better able to break down and assimilate nutrients.
Ayurveda for weight loss recommends eating lighter breakfasts and dinners, when agni is weak. Eating large meals when agni is weak results in slow digestion and bloating. It can also lead to the buildup of ama, or toxic, undigested food, in the digestive tract and bodily tissues. Over time, the slow buildup of ama can lead to weight gain, exhaustion, and poor digestion. Eating large meals when agni is strong instead promotes weight loss and positive energy.
Ayurveda was on to the health benefits of stress reduction long before we in the West even knew what cortisol was. When our bodies produce stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline in excess, our cells are instructed to store fat, especially around the waistline. And stress assumes many forms, from poor diet and lack of sleep to excessive activity and emotional stress. Sleeping and practicing stress reduction are thus integral facets of Ayurveda for weight loss.
Practices like yoga, pranayama, and meditation align the mind and body and nourish body and spirit with life force. These types of exercises are excellent for counteracting mental and emotional stress and easing physical tension. They are also simultaneously soothing and stimulating, and may be a great, stress-busting alternative to a cup of coffee or vigorous HIIT workout in the morning.
A good night’s sleep is imperative for combatting the physiological effects of stress. Lack of sleep, like stress, elevates cortisol levels. Studies demonstrate that sleep deprivation leads to an average increase of 300 calories in daily caloric intake. And that would result in a 30-pound increase in body weight over the course of a year!
Ayurveda for weight loss suggests rising and setting with the sun, or waking around 6 a.m. and falling asleep around 10 p.m. Doing so restores the body’s natural circadian rhythm, improving the quality and quantity of sleep. To help yourself adjust to a healthier sleeping pattern, avoid using electronics or stimulants before bed.
Taking a trip to the doctor is a hassle. Prescription medications are expensive, and typically result in unpleasant side effects. But staying home sick can be a drag, and for many isn’t even an option. So what are you to do when you are tired, sick, dry, or infected? Thankfully, there are several Ayurvedic home remedies that promise relief from conditions ranging from dry skin, eczema, and inflammation, to fatigue, sore throat, and flu. You might be surprised to find that you already have several of these Ayurvedic home remedies in your own home! Just be sure, when sourcing these items, that you are choosing fresh, local, in season, and organic products.
Lemon juice is a powerful healing tonic and is thus incorporated into several Ayurvedic home remedies. Applied topically overnight, lemon juice is an excellent treatment for acne, blackheads, and scarring, producing results in as little as two weeks. To tame oily skin, mix lemon juice with oatmeal and an egg white and leave on as a mask for 15 minutes.
Consuming hot water with lemon juice also eases constipation, thus clearing the body of toxic ama and promoting healthy skin from the outside in. Drinking warm water with lemon first thing in the morning will boost your digestion, promote detoxification, and fight fatigue.
An antioxidant in turmeric called curcumin is responsible for the orange root’s powerful medicinal properties. Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Thus, ingesting turmeric can ease a whole host of inflammatory conditions, from acne and depression to asthma and pain. As every injury and illness produces inflammation, turmeric is sure to provide relief from whatever ails you.
Ground turmeric can be used topically to disinfect wounds and promote healing. Mixed with lemon juice, turmeric powder creates a paste that can be applied under the eyes to reduce dark circles. Mixing turmeric powder with black pepper and warm milk provides relief from colds, and is one of the most popular Ayurvedic home remedies. Ever heard of golden milk?
Oats are high in fiber and iron, and are thus excellent to incorporate into your diet if you suffer from constipation or anemia. Applied topically, oatmeal relieves dry, itchy skin, be it from acne, eczema, or infection. To increase the efficacy of topical application, try adding anti-inflammatory turmeric, antiseptic honey, or detoxifying essential oils.
Coconut oil boasts a myriad of health benefits, both internal and external. This popular oil is excellent for skin and hair care. Unlike most other oils, which are heavy and warm, coconut oil is light and cool. It is thus suitable for all doshas to use topically. Coconut oil can be applied to the skin to treat dryness and acne, or left in the hair overnight as a moisturizing hair mask. It can go a long way in preventing dandruff. And its high levels of pyruvic acid allow it to kill bacteria on the skin, treating skin infections and acne without over-drying.
Coconut oil has medicinal applications for internal use as well. Consuming coconut oil supplies the body with short and medium chain fatty acids that can be used as fuel. It is therefore an excellent way to fight fatigue and supply quick, non-stimulating energy. Regular consumption of coconut oil also prevents the overgrowth of candida albicans, a type of yeast that, when overgrown, causes fatigue, acne, digestive complications, and more.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Consuming apple cider vinegar is another excellent way to treat intestinal candida overgrowth. Doing so can, in turn, treat vaginal yeast infections and increase energy levels. It also helps mucus from the sinuses to drain, making it a useful tool when you have a cold or sinus infection.
Apple cider vinegar is an effective treatment for skin infections like ringworm. Apply the vinegar diluted with water to the infection twice a day until pain and swelling subside. If the mixture stings too harshly, try adding coconut oil to further dilute the vinegar.
Green tea is an excellent source of cancer-fighting antioxidants. But it is also useful in treating other ailments. Consuming green tea helps to fight fatigue without over-stimulating the nervous system, as it’s concentrated levels of L-Theanine simultaneously promote energy and calm. Green tea also boosts metabolism, thus aiding in the treatment of obesity. A little green tea with lemon can be great for subduing a headache.
Green tea has a host of topical benefits as well. Applying green tea or used green tea bags to the skin effectively reduces irritation, providing relief from eczema, acne, and infection. Place the bags under your eyes to reduce puffiness and dark circles resulting from stress and fatigue.
Honey is a medicinal powerhouse in Ayurvedic medicine and one of the most versatile Ayurvedic home remedies. That’s because honey is antimicrobial and antiseptic, making it appropriate for treating infections and irritation. Applying honey topically helps to treat acne, dry skin, and skin infection. A blend of cinnamon, honey, and olive oil can also help prevent hair loss and dandruff.
Ingesting honey can be useful in treating a whole host of conditions. For asthma, colds, and flu, take a mixture of honey, cinnamon, and hot water at night. Taken in the morning, this same concoction provides energy support and treats hangovers, particularly if you add lemon juice or clove. A blend of steeped mint, honey, and lime juice treats morning sickness, sore throat, and obesity. Boiled in water alone, honey provides excellent pain relief. Blended with fresh squeezed orange juice and a little cinnamon, honey reduces stress and anxiety.
Bananas provide several essential vitamins and minerals, as well as a healthy source of sugar. They are therefore excellent for providing a quick energy boost and fighting fatigue. Bananas are particularly rich in potassium. Consuming banana with a sprinkle of sea salt, followed by a glass of water, balances electrolytes and supports hydration. In turn, this concoction can prevent and treat muscle cramps. Applied topically, banana moisturizes and soothes dry, irritated skin.
Garlic, like honey, is another Ayurvedic panacea. Garlic’s list of applications is unsurpassable. It is an effective antiviral, antiseptic, antibacterial, antimicrobial, antifungal, and anti-parasitic. Consuming garlic is thus an excellent choice if you are suffering from any sort of virus, infection, parasite, or overgrowth. Boiling garlic and sugar to create syrup will help treat coughs, colds, and asthma. Applied topically, a clove or two of garlic puts up a powerful fight against warts and yeast infections.
Sea salt is mineral rich and a powerful antiseptic. You’ve probably been instructed to rinse and gargle with sea salt if you have a toothache or sore throat. Doing so also kills bacterial overgrowth in the mouth, preventing cavities and bad breath. Boiling fresh peppermint with salt creates a refreshing antiseptic mouthwash to prevent pain and odor.
Consuming water mixed with sea salt helps hydrate the cells and promotes cellular detoxification, thus fighting fatigue and dehydration. It can also aid in the treatment of low blood pressure, preventing dizziness. If you suffer from constipation, blending a quart of warm water with 2 tbsp. of sea salt creates a powerful colon cleanser that flushes the GI tract without causing severe dehydration and dependence. Just be sure, when you try this “Sea Salt Cleanse” that you are able to be near a bathroom for several hours. Yes, it’s that powerful.
Ginger joins garlic and honey as one of the best Ayurvedic home remedies. Chewing on ginger or boiling it to make a tea helps relieve nausea and morning sickness. It also promotes digestion, providing relief from constipation and bloating. If you are particularly constipated, try stewing prunes with fresh ginger. Mixing ginger tea with cinnamon, clove, and honey helps to treat coughs and sinus complications.
Fennel is popular among Ayurvedic home remedies because it is both powerful and versatile. Chewing on fennel seeds is an excellent treatment for halitosis and secretes digestive juices to prevent constipation. Fennel tea and essential oil are effective in reducing gas and bloating and promoting elimination in a gentle, effective way. Perhaps most influentially, fennel promotes the movement of lymphatic fluid. As a healthy lymphatic system is key to overcoming any illness and infection, it is great to consume fennel regardless of what ails you.
Basil is another herb with powerful applications. Crush a handful of basil and a bit of raw ginger to extract the juice. Then combine with a spoon of honey to treat fever. Chewing basil leaves after a meal also helps to treat acid reflux. Crushing the leaves with orange zest creates whitening toothpaste. Finally, adding chlorophyll rich basil to smoothies and dishes promote detoxification, thereby preventing fatigue.
As a holistic wellness philosophy, Ayurveda seeks to heal the entirety of the person: spirit, emotion, mind, and body. Imbalances and complications in these four arenas tend to manifest quite differently based on the nature of the complication and the individual constitution of the sufferer. For many of us, stress, poor diet, and general imbalance are evident in our physical appearance. We may appear tired or dull, with brittle hair or a negative expression. But perhaps the most common way in which ill health manifests in our appearance is through skin complications like acne, irritation, eczema, and more. Thankfully, looking into Ayurveda for skin can help you design an overall wellness routine that will improve your skin from the inside out.
Your Dosha and Your Skin
We all possess our own unique balance of the three doshas, or life force energies. According to Ayurveda for skin, the health of your skin is actually one of the primary physical indicators of your doshic constitution.
Vata dominant individuals tend to have skin that is dry, thin, and sensitive. Vatas rarely suffer from enlarged pores and are less prone to irritation, but their dry skin can make for premature aging. Kaphas are quite the opposite, as their oily complexion renders them far less susceptible to wrinkling. However, their thick skin and large pores still leave them vulnerable to acne and eczema. Pitta skin is fair, neither dry nor oily, and quite sensitive. Pittas are more likely to possess “combination skin,” which is susceptible to breakouts when oily and irritation when dry. Pitta-dominant individuals are also heat-sensitive and therefore suffer from heat-related skin conditions, like rashes, sunburn, and breakouts.
Your skin is, in a state of doshic balance, an indicator of your dominant dosha. But it can also be an indicator of imbalance. A predominantly kapha individual with extremely dry skin may be suffering from excessive vata energy. And a predominantly vata individual with oily skin and pimples may indicate imbalanced kapha. Thus, Ayurveda for skin holds that pacifying imbalanced doshas and restoring doshic balance is the ultimate method of healing. Following a diet and lifestyle that compliments your dosha will promote health and vitality in every aspect of your life, thereby improving your complexion.
In seeking to balance your doshas for the explicit purpose of improving your skin, don’t neglect the impact of the season. You will need to take measures to balance pitta in the summer or in equatorial climates. Cold climates and winter seasons require the pacification of the vata dosha.
Ayurvedic philosophy stipulates that one should only apply topically what one would ingest internally. The rationale: the skin is an organ and, like the internal organs, absorbs and assimilates that which it comes into contact with. Thus, Ayurveda for skin recommends discarding any products with harsh chemicals. Chemical additives exacerbate the pitta dosha, generating heat that disrupts the enzymatic behavior of skin cells and results in dry, sensitive skin.
Instead, use natural products on your skin. Coconut oil, unlike other oils, is moisturizing yet cooling and light. It is therefore suitable for dry kapha, hot pitta, and heavy kapha. Sugar, a natural exfoliant, facilitates detoxification and can be blended with herbs and essential oils for additional benefits. Raw milk, like coconut oil, cools inflammation while gently cleansing the skin. Neem and tea tree oils are drying and cooling, which is great for irritated pitta or kapha skin. And aloe vera, whether taken internally or used externally, works wonders for the skin. Taken internally, aloe vera promotes detoxification, whereas external use soothes inflammation and moisturizes.
The Importance of Detoxification
Ayurveda for skin maintains that detoxification is integral to a healthy complexion. In a healthy, balanced body, the digestive system efficiently eliminates ama, or toxic material, from the colon. However, sluggish digestion and poor diet can lead to the accumulation of ama in the digestive tract. When these toxic compounds are assimilated, they must be eliminated through the lymphatic system. But when the lymphatic system, too, is functioning sub-optimally, they are expelled through—you guessed it—your skin. The result? Acne, pimples, and blackheads.
There are several detoxification methods that Ayurvedic medicine embraces. One of the most critical among them is dry brushing. Dry brushing not only polishes the skin, but it also promotes detoxification through intercellular processes, thereby preventing future breakouts. It also boosts circulation, producing a natural, healthy glow. Kapha types can handle tough bristles, whereas sensitive pitta and vata types may require a gentle dry brush.
Ayurvedic massage is another excellent detoxification method. The healing oils used in Ayurvedic massage effectively balance the doshas and nourish the skin externally. But, like dry brushing, they also stimulate internal processes that reduce future breakouts. Specifically, Ayurvedic massage stimulates the lymphatic system, promoting detoxification.
Regular exercise, too, improves lymphatic circulation to promote detoxification. It also prevents the buildup of vata, which can cause dryness and wrinkles. As always, be sure that you are performing exercises that are appropriate for your dosha.
The Role of a Healthy Diet
Diet is an absolutely essential component of Ayurveda for skin. That’s because a healthy diet both minimizes the ingestion of toxic compounds and encourages the elimination of ama.
Of course, which foods will help improve your complexion largely depends upon your dosha. Warm, oily foods will nourish vatas’ dry skin and improve their weak digestion to prevent future breakouts. Kapha and pitta, however, might benefit from fresher, cooling foods.
Generally speaking, consuming easily digestible high fiber vegetables is great for skin health. Carrots, cucumber, daikon, lettuce, fennel, and asparagus tips are particularly good for hydrating and nourishing skin. Nuts and seeds contain anti-inflammatory omega 3’s and ama-eliminating fiber, both of which are essential for good skin. Avoid consuming leftover foods, which often contain harmful bacteria that can cause breakouts. Consume spices like turmeric, coriander, fennel, and cumin, while avoiding irritating ginger, garlic, and red pepper.
Periodic fasts and detox diets can do wonders for the skin. They are especially critical for kapha types, whose innate detoxification systems tend toward weakness. Always be sure that you are only performing fasts and detoxes that are suitable for your dosha.
Stress and Ayurveda for Skin
Research in recent decades has steadily unveiled the insidious effects of chronic stress. Stress can impact every aspect of your health, from physical performance and mental acuity to emotional wellbeing and complexion. That’s because stress impacts both the digestive tract and the adrenal glands, resulting in poor digestion and hormonal imbalances. And both digestion and hormonal health are particularly critical to skin health.
According to Ayurveda for skin, certain types of stress affect the doshas differently. Mental stress disturbs the subdosha of kapha that governs moisture, leading to dry skin and aging. Emotional stress activates pitta subdosha, causing acne and sensitivity. Physical stress can activate the vata dosha, causing dryness. Taking care to minimize the form of stress associated with your specific skin condition will not only improve your complexion. It will also help to balance your doshas more broadly, improving every component of your health. Positive forms of stress reduction include yoga, meditation, exercise, and pranayama.