Chronic stress has, unfortunately, become part and parcel of everyday living in the modern age. Some stressors, like heavy traffic, a busy schedule, and insomnia have become almost inescapable in everyday life. Others, like a move, divorce, or job change, are less common but much more impactful. Generally speaking, life is much more complicated and, by extension, more stressful than it was just a hundred years ago. Thus, finding the appropriate tools for managing stress and anxiety is imperative to your mental health.
Managing stress and anxiety is also critical to your physical health. Chronic stress can lead to elevated cortisol levels and inflammation, in turn damaging your metabolism and contributing to chronic fatigue. Relentless physical and emotional stress can even affect your DNA, accelerating cellular aging and increasing your risk of developing cancer. Not good!
Of course, establishing a healthy diet and lifestyle is critical to managing stress and anxiety. But, for those of us who could benefit from additional homeopathic support, I’ve provided a few examples of effective holistic remedies for stress. As always, always consult with your physician before trying any herbal remedies.
Kava is a tropical evergreen shrub and a member of the nightshade family that originally hails from the Polynesian islands. Arriving in Hawaii 1,400 years ago alongside Polynesian settlers, Kava became a celebratory and ceremonial drink amongst these Native Hawaiians. Today, kava remains an integral facet of Native Hawaiian tradition as a hallmark of peaceful and celebratory times.
The psychoactive components of the kava plant reside in its root. Known as kava-lactones, these psychoactive compounds work to increase available levels of GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter necessary for restoring the body to a parasympathetic state in the brain. It also reduces the reuptake of dopamine, thus activating the brain’s reward center. Some say kava induces the same kind of happiness and relaxation that alcohol does, but without the impaired judgment and coordination.
Kava is considered a sedative capable of promoting both euphoria and relaxation. As such, kava can be useful for both daytime and nighttime relaxation. It has also proven effective in relieving aches and pains and can be used as a muscle relaxer. You can consume kava either as an earthy beverage or as a tincture diluted in water. Some natural grocery stores even have chocolate bars that contain kava.
You’re probably familiar with lavender, the small, light purple flower from which the color derives its name. The lavender plant is a beautiful perennial evergreen that will adorn your garden with beautiful sights and smells. But lavender is far more than a sensory indulgence. This potent medicinal plant functions as both a sedative and anxiolytic. It is thus a powerful tool for managing stress and anxiety.
Like kava, lavender works to reduce stress by increasing the availability of GABA in the brain. It can also relieve symptoms of depression, and studies show that it improves sleep, its efficacy rivaling that of powerful drugs like Ativan. Lavender not only relieves the psychological manifestations of anxiety; it also reverses the physiological symptoms, such as high blood pressure and heart rate. Finally, lavender possesses analgesic properties and is excellent for relieving mild aches and pains.
You can consume lavender in oral capsules or tinctures. Aromatherapy, too, is a great way to reap the benefits of lavender. Just put a few drops of lavender essential in your bath, on a pillow, or in a diffuser.
Keep in mind that lavender is also an endocrine disruptor, and excessive use can create imbalances in testosterone and estrogen. Be sure to consult with your physician before incorporating lavender into your supplement routine.
Valerian root is a bitter, earthy medicinal herb hailing from Asia and Europe. The name derives from the Latin word “valere,” which means “to be strong.” Valerian root’s most popular function is to relieve insomnia and promote sound sleep. Known to many as “nature’s valium,” this plant medicine also relieves anxiety and benzodiazepine withdrawal.
Valerian root is yet another anxiolytic that works by increase levels of GABA in the brain. More specifically, valerenic acid, isovaleric acid, and several antioxidants in valerian root slow the breakdown of GABA in the brain, leaving more available to inhibit the physiological component of fight or flight symptoms.
Valerian root is excellent for managing stress and anxiety, but it can also provide powerful relief for insomnia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Valerian root is available in a wide variety of forms, including capsules, essential oils, tinctures, tablets, and teas.
If you awake with bloating, nausea, fatigue, or brain fog, you might be quick to blame poor sleep or weak digestion for your troubles. Ayurvedic medicine, however, would beg to differ. According to Ayurvedic philosophy, lethargy and stomach upset, especially in the morning hours, are most commonly indicative of a poor diet. More specifically, fatigue is associated with eating a dinner that is too large, too heavy, or simply inappropriate for your doshic type. Eating an Ayurvedic dinner may just be the key to brightening your mornings and restoring your vivacity!
This week we will explain what qualifies as an Ayurvedic dinner and what Ayurvedic dinner is most appropriate for your dosha.
Dinner is for Paupers
The old adage that one should eat “breakfast like a King, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper” doesn’t completely apply here. Indeed, Ayurvedic medicine actually stipulates that lunch should be the largest meal of the day. Agni, or digestive fire, is highest in the middle of day. Eating a large lunch thus ensures that your largest meal is digested and absorbed most efficiently.
However, Ayurvedic medicine would certainly concede that you should eat dinner like a pauper. That’s because the digestive fire is weakest in the evening. It is therefore healthier to eat a small, light, and healthy dinner than a large, heavy one. If your dinner is too large or heavy, you will likely have difficulty digesting it due to dwindling agni. The result? Your body fails to excrete ama, or toxins, and to digest properly. And that means bloating, fatigue, digestive troubles, and general malaise the next day.
Ayurvedic philosophy recommends consuming dinner between 6:30 and 7:00pm—not too close to bedtime. Generally speaking, light soups and fresh salads are excellent Ayurvedic dinner options. Avoid heavy, oily foods, or foods that are high in carbohydrates, as these are too heavy for your body to process in the evening.
If you use oil, choose a light, cooling one like olive oil. Limit your consumption of high-carb grains, beans, eggplant, radishes, dill, red cabbage, and tomatoes. Instead, choose lean meats, fibrous, slow digesting grains, and light vegetables. Squash, bell peppers, lettuce, mixed greens, green cabbage, and cucumbers are excellent additions to an Ayurvedic dinner.
Pacify Your Inner Kapha
Kapha energy governs the evening. Thus, it is important to eat a kapha-pacifying Ayurvedic dinner. Doing so staves off the heavy, slow qualities of kapha that can lead to lethargy and poor sleep. Eating kapha-aggravating foods high in carbs and fat can also slow metabolic activity—a logical outcome, as kapha types typically have slower metabolisms.
In addition to avoiding heavy foods, you should steer clear of sour foods in the evening. Limit your consumption of fermented foods and citrus to earlier in the day (or not at all, if you are a kapha). Also limit your consumption of dairy, which aggravates kapha, and especially fermented dairy products like yogurt and cheese. Opt for light, cooling vegetables and lean proteins instead. Steamed vegetables, particularly greens, cabbage, broccoli, and asparagus are great for pacifying kapha. Be wary of high-carb root vegetables like beets, carrots, and parsnips.
The Ayurvedic Dinner for Your Dosha
Ayurveda also offers different recommendations for a healthy dinner based on your doshic type. Vatas, for example, require three ample meals a day. They are better able to tolerate carbohydrate sources like fruit, grains, and beans in the evening. A vata type may be able to consume root vegetables in the evening, whereas a pitta should opt for steamed vegetables and kapha should stick to steamed or lightly sautéed green vegetables. A vata may enjoy dates, avocadoes, and coconut in the evening, whereas kapha should stick to lighter fruits like mangos and peaches. Pitta should avoid fruit entirely in the evening.
Portion sizes differ from dosha to dosha, too. Vatas often have a hard time keeping weight on. They can therefore handle a heavier evening meal. Pittas would do well to eat light yet solid food, like a modest portion of stew or a source of lean protein and vegetables. Kaphas can enjoy a light soup and salad. Kaphas benefit more from fasting than any other doshic type and may even benefit from skipping dinner altogether.
Tips for Optimizing Your Digestion
The perfect Ayurvedic dinner won’t be enough to relieve fatigue and indigestion if you aren’t taking the proper steps to optimize your digestion. Try chewing a slice of fresh ginger before a meal. Stick to warm water throughout the day, and don’t drink water during or immediately following a meal. Try eating slowly and mindfully, which eases digestion and can fight cravings and blood sugar fluctuations. Finally, try taking a light walk after dinner two or three hours prior to bed.
It never hurts to brush up on the basics! Check out our first blog post on doshas, types of yoga, and all of the other essential principles of Ayurveda.
Ayurveda: some readers are intimately familiar with it, and others may have never even heard the word. For some it conjures thoughts of kitchari and meditation. For others it invokes images of certain types of yoga poses. In our introductory blog, we hope to teach you about the core principles of Ayurveda and, by extension, share the ideas that give life and purpose to Bodhidevi.
In simple terms, Ayurveda is a wellness philosophy that originated in early Indian civilization over 5,000 years ago. Perhaps one of the first forms of holistic medicine, Ayurveda prescribes dietary and lifestyle changes in accordance with each individual’s unique body to promote health and balance. The practicing different types of yoga is one of Ayurveda’s primary prescriptions, the philosophy advocates various wellness practices.
But Ayurveda isn’t simply a diet or exercise regimen. It’s a philosophy designed to optimize every facet of the individual, including mind, emotions, and spirit. It encourages spiritual practice and engagement with nature in the interest of restoring our innate intimacy with ourselves and with the planet. When we practice Ayurveda, we become attuned to our most raw, pure, and divine form. When we become acquainted with the beauty of our innate self, we awaken to the interconnectedness of the self with all beings and energetic forces.
Ayurveda honors the sacredness of individuality.
Different individuals possess different physical and mental attributes. As each of our bodies and minds differ, so too do our nutritional, physical, and emotional needs. Ayurveda recognizes and respects each person’s bio-individuality and seeks to cater to the unique needs of each individual. Acknowledging that different people are prone to different diseases, digestive problems, psychological ailments, mental capacities, and energy levels, Ayurveda stipulates that understanding an individual’s unique body and mind absolutely must precede medicinal treatment.
According to Ayurvedic philosophy, we are born with a unique prakriti, or constitution. One’s praktiri consists of one’s unique balance of the three doshas, or energetic life forces. The first dosha, vatta, governs the breath, heart, nerves, consciousness, and happiness. The second, pitta, regulates appetite, digestion, nutrient absorption, intelligence, bravery, and drive. Finally, Kapha manages stability, order, grounding, growth, strength, energy, memory, empathy, water, and fat regulation. Different individuals possess different ratios of the three doshas, and thus have different praktiri.
It is essential to ascertain the nature of one’s praktiri before suggesting treatments or lifestyle changes, such as dietary changes of practicing different types of yoga or meditation. The balance between our doshas at birth is our point of homeostasis, the place in which our body thrives. Each individual possesses different needs in accordance with his or her praktiri. Therefore, according to Ayurveda, understanding your own inherent, optimal balance is the key to determining your medicinal and lifestyle needs.
Ayurveda inspires us to seek balance.
There is nothing inherently wrong with any of the doshas. However, years of unhealthy, stressful living can cause doshic excess, which, in turn, leads to distress and disease. Excessive vata is conducive to anxiety, emotional limitation, constipation, dry skin, poor circulation, insomnia, and malnourishment. Excessive pitta can cause rage, envy, reflux, overheating, diarrhea, headaches, skin conditions, inflammation, and insomnia. Attachment, stubbornness, lethargy, obesity, oversleeping, depression, edema, and sinus infections all indicate too much kapha. In general, if you stray too far from your praktiri, you will experience doshic imbalances that will damage your health.
The objective of Ayurveda is to treat disease and promote health by balancing the doshas and restoring your praktiri. In order to do so, you must balance the gunas—the basic qualities of objects and life forms. The gunas include hot vs. cold, dry vs. oily, dense vs. liquid, soft vs. hard, and heavy versus light. Certain gunas are associated with certain doshas. For example, dryness is associated with vatta. Thus, if you are experiencing excessive Vatta, you want to consume more oily foods to balance your dryness. This notion is based on the Ayurvedic principle that like increases like and opposites balance. Restoring the gunas opposite to those which characterize your excessive dosha therefore establishes doshic balance.
Achieving doshic balance also requires living in accordance with the season. Eating in season not only means eating locally grown, in-seasons foods; it also requires that we balance the gunas of that season. For example: winter is characterized by excessive cold, so we should eat hot foods in the winter to balance that guna.
Ayurveda is a medicinal way of living.
Ayurveda seeks to promote the health of the entire person. Achieving doshic balance is not just a means of healing the body. Rather, Ayurveda understands that doshic balance is linked to mental, spiritual, and emotional health as well. Thus, Ayurveda does not simply treat ailments with food or supplements. Rather, it encourages us to lead a balanced lifestyle in accordance with our doshic make up. For some, that may mean getting more cardiovascular exercise and practicing deep breathing. For others, it may mean getting more sleep or practicing certain types of yoga. The objective of Ayurveda is help the individual discover the lifestyle patterns most conducive to health and happiness.
Oftentimes it is lifestyle choices in the first place that cause doshic imbalance. Restoring doshic balance and achieving svasthya, or the state of equilibrium in which we are most healthy, thus requires lifestyle alterations.
Though some lifestyle changes are relative to the individual, there are a few practices that Ayurveda believes are universally beneficial. Ayurveda unconditionally encourages the consumption of whole, nutrient rich foods. It also recommends regularly practicing certain types of yoga, meditation, and detoxification. It even encourages frequent massage to stimulate the lymphatic system, cleanse, and relieve tension.
Most Ayurvedic practitioners discourage their clients from snacking between meals. Contrary to the dietary dogma of the modern age, which prescribes 5-6 small meals a day for weight loss and stable energy levels, Ayurveda holds that snacking can actually be detrimental to your health. Frequent snacking never gives your digestive system the chance to rest and repair. However, we live in a day and age where we are constantly on the go. Many people take seemingly endless commutes to work every day. The typical working mother doesn’t stop moving from the moment she awakens to the moment she returns to bed at night. It’s not practical or possible for many women to sit down to three full, healthy meals a day. For the busy women that ask me what to eat, I recommend dosha-dependent Ayurvedic snacks between or instead of meals.
Ayurvedic Snacks for Pitta Dosha
Pitta dosha is oily, hot, sharp, and liquid. Eating to compliment a pitta dosha requires avoiding foods that exacerbate these qualities. These include foods that are spicy, sour, salty, and pungent. Opt instead for foods that will balance pitta—foods that are cool, sweet, bitter, and astringent.
Pittas have the strongest metabolism of the three doshas. Though pittas should aim for three solid meals a day, pittas that frequently miss meals or are incredibly active should be sure to include healthy Ayurvedic snacks in their meal plan. Cooling vegetables like cucumbers and celery make excellent snacks for pitta, especially in hot weather. For a more filling snack, add sunflower butter, hummus, or guacamole. Make it even more cooling by adding cilantro.
Pitta also benefits from sweet fruits like mango, pineapple, figs, melon, and apples. To prevent blood sugar spikes and keep you fuller for longer, try adding coconut or sunflower butter to fresh fruit. Berries, too, are excellent for pitta types, and pair well with almond butter. Just be sure to avoid mixing your fruits with yogurt, as the sour taste can aggravate pitta dosha.
Ghee is one of the few oils that actually have a cooling effect on the body. Adding ghee and honey to warm coconut or almond milk will warm you up during the winter without aggravating pitta dosha. For additional cooling and great flavor, try steeping rose petals in your mixture as well. Blending the drink is the best way to ensure the ghee thoroughly mixes in.
Ayurvedic Snacks for Vata Dosha
Unlike pitta, the vata dosha is cold, mobile and dry. Thus, vata types should opt for warm, moist, oily, and grounding foods, avoiding snack foods like pretzels and rice cakes that are too dry. Sweet flavors, too, pacify vata dosha. Because vata is prone to undernourishment, vatas are actually encouraged to include an afternoon snack in their dietary regimen.
Like pitta, vata is encouraged to consume warm milk with ghee. However, vatas may benefit from a touch of extra sweetness and the addition of warming spices instead of rose petals. Adding ginger, black pepper, ghee, and dates to warm milk will provide plenty of energy and nourishment to sustain you until your next meal.
Avocados make one of the best grab-and-go snacks for vata, as they are oily and grounding. Roasted nuts, too, provide the oil and fiber that nourishes and promotes healthy digestion in frequently constipated vata types. If you have a little extra time, try blending nuts, nut butters, dates, sea salt, honey, and spices in a food processor to create a sweet, oily, and energizing on-the-go bar. Larabars are great for vatas as well.
A banana with nut butter is great for vata. However, generally speaking, vatas do not tolerate fruits and vegetables well unless they are cooked. If you don’t have time for a full meal, stewing apples or greens in avocado oil is a quick, nourishing option for vata. In preparation for a busy week, prepare a warm soup or stew with plenty of warming spices and cooked vegetables that you can heat up on the go.
Vatas should avoid dry grain products like crackers and pretzels. However, cooked grains are excellent for encouraging healthy digestion in vata types. Cooked oatmeal or millet with almond butter is a filling, grounding option for vata. With a little cinnamon and maple syrup, it is also makes a delicious treat.
Finally, unlike pitta, vata actually benefits from sour or fermented foods. Thus, yogurt and cheese make excellent snacks for vata. Just be sure to select full-fat, organic, unsweetened dairy.
Ayurvedic Snacks for Kapha Dosha
Advice on selecting Ayurvedic snacks is least practical for kapha types, who should ideally fast between each meal. However, Ayurvedic medicine also recommends honoring hunger and never depriving the body of necessary nutrients. Thus, even a busy kapha should eat more than one meal a day. If you are a busy kapha, incorporating light, dry, and warm snacks into your day will tide you over until your main meal.
Kapha is the only dosha that benefits from an abundance of raw vegetables. A salad with a light dressing is a great option for kaphas between or in place of full meals. Kapha benefits from light fruits, too. However, Kaphas should be wary of consuming too much sugar, and should thus steer away from fruits like bananas and melons. Apples and pears are the best options for kapha.
Unlike both pitta and vata, kapha benefits from consuming dry foods and legumes. A rice cake with chickpea hummus is therefore one of the best snacks for Ayurvedic types. Just be sure not to go overboard, as rice cakes are considered sweet.
For a particularly hungry kapha with time to plan ahead, try preparing a blend of cooked millet and beans. If you are limited in time or you aren’t that hungry, an herbal tea with a spot of honey may be enough to curb your hunger until your next meal.
At Bodhidevi, we choose to honor nature’s beautiful rhythms by aligning our bodies, minds, and actions with them in true Ayurvedic fashion. One of the most essential methods is to embrace the emotions characteristic of each phase of the lunar cycle. Thus, during this past Hawaii full moon—also a Super Blood Wolf Moon—we allowed energy, conflict, and change to guide us on the journey that is living.
During the New Moon, we host our New Moon Sister Circle. The Sister Circle allows women to turn inward, to process and rejuvenate together. Soon we will be debuting a dinner and ecstatic dance event to celebrate the spiritual energy of the full moon.
In this week’s post we explore the symbolism of the full moon, including this month’s Super Blood Wolf Moon. Wondering how and why to attune your own life to the lunar cycle? Read on!
The Moon, Symbolism, and Human Emotion
We associate the moon with a myriad of symbolic meanings deriving from different origins and cultures. Broadly speaking, the moon is said to influence fluids, our minds, and our dreams. It symbolizes and influences our deepest emotions and our internal landscape.
Because the moon both represents and influences our internal space, it is powerfully connected to several elements of our lives. Our pasts, our spirituality, our dark secrets and moods, our sends of mysticism, our deepest feelings: all will all reflect the state of the moon.
The moon is a particularly powerful symbol for women. It is a physical manifestation of the sacred feminine, the opposite of our masculine sun. Perhaps the connection between the lunar cycle and women’s emotions derives from ancestral inclinations. Long ago, before modern living began to disturb our elemental circadian rhythms, women’s cycles would typically sync with the lunar cycle. Women menstruated during the new moon, a time of rejuvenation and rest. They ovulated during the full moon, a time to embrace the external self through energetic, creative expression. Indeed, we observe higher conception rates during the Hawaii full moon even today!
At Bodhidevi, we observe that the state of the moon can impact the state of human emotion, particularly for women. We believe it is healthy to practice self-expression and self care in accordance with the phase of the moon and the emotions that it invokes. Indeed, our mindfulness of the state of the moon aligns with one of the core principles of Ayurveda: to align oneself with the rhythms of nature.
The Meaning of the Full Moon
Your relationship with yourself and your emotions will naturally change in accordance with the progressing lunar cycle. The effect may be particularly intense if you are highly aligned or energetically sensitive. The new moon is a time of rest, regeneration, re-evaluation, and new beginnings.
The opposite of the new moon in the context of the lunar cycle, the full moon is an exuberant time. The full moon calls us to experience our external selves in much the same way the new moon calls us to observe our internal self. The Hawaii full moon is thus a natural time for emotional release and creative expression. During the full moon, you may feel inclined to cast off old binds and restraints; to harness your swelling energy to overcome obstinate challenges; and to leverage the peak of your emotional instincts to abandon negative habits, situations, or relationships.
The full moon is an exuberant time, an energetic peak. Ayurvedic philosophy holds that the Hawaii full moon will heighten Shakti prana, our empowered, elemental, cosmic, feminine energy. This increase in spiritual energy will powerfully impact all aspects of a woman’s internal and external health. It is a powerful emotional and physical energy that compels alignment of the spirit, body, and mind.
Furthermore, the full moon represents a balancing of lunar and solar energy, an equalization of yin and yang. But it also calls the moon and the sun into opposite signs of the zodiac. This polarity can intensify emotions and mental processes. Strong emotional experiences, lucid and memorable dreams, and significant life events are all part of the Hawaii full moon. It is therefore an excellent time for meditation, or for creative expression through art, music, and dance.
Full Moon in Leo
This past Hawaii full moon in Leo was particularly intense! The full moon of January 20th-21st, 2019, was a Super Blood Wolf Moon:
- It was a Super Moon, i.e. when the moon is closer to the earth in orbit and therefore appears larger to the naked eye. Folklore holds that super moons are particularly emotional and intense.
- It was the first moon of the New Year, what the Native Americans refer to as the “wolf moon.”
- It was a blood moon as a result of a rare lunar eclipse. During a lunar eclipse, the earth falls directly in between the sun and the moon. The moon is therefore illuminated not by direct sunlight, but by sunlight that is refracted through the earth’s atmosphere. Eclipses give the moon a gorgeous, red-orange glow.
Super moons always invoke intense emotions. The blood moon only intensified the effects of this full moon. A blood moon can symbolize either bad omens or the path to elevated consciousness. Furthermore, lunar eclipses facilitate mystery, transitions, and even conflict. You can expect a significant, unexpected, and positive transition to come your way during this special time.
This past Hawaii full moon will powerfully impact private life. This phase of the moon catalyzes intense emotional experiences and feelings of instability. However, it will ultimately illuminate your path as you move forward. It will call forth and initiate significant changes in your life that will set you on the path to alignment. This full moon will lend you the clarity and power to remove yourself from non-beneficial situations.
Ayurveda is a holistic wellness philosophy that, by definition, seeks to restore every aspect of human health through time-tested natural methods. Ayurvedic healing typically includes prescriptions for dietary and lifestyle changes designed to compliment and restore one’s doshas, or life force energies. Commonly recommended lifestyle changes include eating a cleaner, healthier diet, practicing stress reduction, and, for most Americans, getting more exercise.
Exercise is integral to Ayurvedic healing. Working out increases the flow of bodily fluids like blood and lymph, permitting the excretion of toxic substances, or ama, that can create doshic imbalances and, by extension, a myriad of health complications. Performing certain types of exercises can also strengthen or pacify individual doshas, and is thus vital in attempting to realign off-kilter life force energies.
But, as with all things, too much of a good thing can quickly turn into a bad thing. Our diet obsessed, efficiency driven, stress and labor valorizing culture applauds those who exercise ad nauseam, training for marathons or powerlifting competitions while maintaining strict diets. Many people love the endorphin high they achieve after a hard workout, and even enjoy the sleepy, sore exhaustion that follows. But no amount of proper stress reduction will allow the body to recuperate from the abuse of excessive exercise.
Understanding the right way to exercise is crucial for those on a journey of Ayurvedic healing. This week we will identify how much exercise is beneficial, and how much is too much.
Exercise According to Ayurveda
Ancient Ayurvedic texts laud exercise as a critical component of Ayurvedic healing. Proper exercise enhances the digestive fire, promoting efficient digestion and assimilation. It also increases bodily capacity for load-bearing work, stabilizes the doshas, and reduces excess fat. Ancient Ayurvedic texts maintain that exercise is not only critical to Ayurvedic healing, but also to balance and health in all aspects of life, both physical and mental.
When exercise reaches excessive levels, it no longer possesses a balancing effect. In fact, it can actually cause doshic imbalance and result in poor digestion, exhaustion, irritability, slow metabolism, and weakness. For some, excessive exercise is so hormonally destructive that it can actually cause weight gain! The key to all things, in Ayurvedic healing, is balance. In all areas of our lives, we must concern ourselves with proper maatra, or quantity.
Your sweet-spot maatra of exercise will largely by contingent upon your doshic constitution, body type, age, and health. Pittas benefit from a combination of strength training, cardiovascular exercise, and stress-reduction. Vatas are easily excitable and thus benefit from grounding, stress-relieving practices like yoga or light walking. Kaphas are the hardiest dosha, and they thrive when performing intense cardiovascular exercise. Most doshas benefit from about an hour of exercise each day, though sensitive vatas may require less.
How Much Exercise is Too Much?
It can be difficult to ascertain whether you are doing too much exercise. Oftentimes we feel good when we begin an exercise routine. The flood of endorphins and the reward of quick results can drive the cycle of ever-increasing intensity and duration. If it feels good, it must be good for us too, right? And even if it doesn’t feel good, we have been told that exercise is good for us, so more must be better, right?
Not so fast. A rigorous, unhealthy exercise routine might feel good at first. However, after a period of weeks or months, you are likely to start experiencing serious side effects. Your endocrine health is likely to suffer, resulting in poor metabolism and an inability to lose weight. You might also start to feel “tired and wired” as the adrenals are forced to continually pump out the stress hormone cortisol. If you continue to push through the exhaustion instead of resting, your body will cease to respond to the constant influx of cortisol, leading to weight gain and exhaustion.
Excessive exercise also tends to excite both the pitta and vata doshas. When pitta is aggravated, you may experience hotness, irritability, skin irritation, sensitive digestion, and oily skin. Oftentimes the early symptoms of excessive exercise are the result of aggravated pitta. If you continue to deplete your body, you will aggravate your vata energy as well. Excessive vata can lead to coldness, slow digestion, dry skin, anxiety, and sadness.
There are a few telltale signs that indicate your exercise routine may be excessive. Dry mouth, breathing through the mouth, and sweating on the hands, legs, and nose can all indicate that your body is working too hard. Emotional disturbances or depleted energy after exercise also indicate that you may be working out too much.
Changing Your Exercise Routine
The first step towards optimizing your health through Ayurvedic healing is to schedule an appointment with an Ayurvedic Therapist. The therapist will evaluate your health and lifestyle to determine your doshic balance and make recommendations that will improve your physical and mental health. If you suspect that you may be over exercising, consider scheduling an appointment with us.
If your therapist suggests that you may be overdoing your gym sessions, don’t panic. You don’t have to completely abandon exercise. Try reducing the length or intensity of your typical exercise session. You can also swap out a few sweat sessions for a relaxing yoga or meditation class.
An Ayurvedic therapist can guide you toward the type and amount of exercise that you should be doing. But, ultimately, you are the expert on your own body, and you know your needs and limits. Most westerners have been inundated with diet culture from a young age. We therefore tend to suffer from poor body image and a sharp disconnect with our bodies, having lost the innate bodily intuition of our ancestors. Yoga can go a long way in restoring bodily awareness, intuition, and appreciation. If you are having trouble tuning in with your body and determining the right amount of exercise for you, yoga will serve you well.