BY LINDA EGENES

Why You React to Stress the Way You DoWith 87 percent of America on lockdown, most of us are feeling stress. Parents work from makeshift home offices while homeschooling their kids and prepping meals. Others, less fortunate, have been furloughed or laid off and struggle to make ends meet. Stuck in the house, each member of the family is under stress, yet each handles it differently.

Consider this scenario, for instance. Katie, the mom, tries to keep a happy face, but instead of sleeping at night, grocery lists and visions of empty shelves whirl through her mind. Naturally thin and wiry, she can’t focus on her work deadlines and is so nervous about keeping her family safe that she finds it hard to eat properly and is losing weight. No matter how hard Katie tries to relax, she can’t stop the worry.

Let’s call the husband Charlie. A man of medium build and thinning blond hair, he’s a competitive sales person. He feels increasingly agitated when his company’s website crashes and the kids, with their impeccable timing, crowd into the closet that is now his home office. He blames his boss for not organizing online systems better before this crisis and finds his normal desire to help his co-workers and family fading as his patience runs thin and he falls behind.

Tanner, their easy-going 12-year-old son, plants himself on the couch with a plate of cookies after online schooling each day. With his last season of soccer on hold, he cheerfully resorts to playing video games and watching TV non-stop. After a week of too much eating, no interaction with his buddies, and too little exercise, though, he’s feeling sluggish and a little down.

If like Katie, Charlie, and Tanner we each react to stress in our own way, then it’s also true that we need different antidotes to stress. Maharishi Ayurveda recognizes the unique makeup of each individual and helps you identify your body type—and your stress reaction—and offers simple, natural ways to help you destress and restore balance.

Curious about your Ayurvedic Body Type? Take the Body-Type Quiz Here.

Worried Vata
Thin, active, creative people like Katie often have more of the fast-moving, dry, and light qualities of Vata dosha. When in balance, Vata types are energetic, creative, and stimulating to be around. The problem comes when Katie can’t turn off her overactive brain and can’t fall asleep at night. It becomes a vicious cycle, as the less she sleeps the more scattered her focus, the more she worries, and the more her sleep problems escalate. To keep stress levels in balance, people with Vata dosha need more calming foods, lifestyle, and herbals that bring balance to Vata dosha.

Stress Solutions for Vata

  • Favor warm, well-cooked, nourishing foods. Lay off the raw foods and cold salads, as they are hard to digest and increase Vata dosha. Check out the Dietary Guidelines for Vata. Use Organic Vata Churna to spice your food with calming spices and herbs.
  • Aim to turn off all screens by 8:00 p.m. at night. Listen to calming music or read a light-hearted book before bed. Those with dominant Vata dosha may love warmth. Try soaking in a warm bath with a cup of Epsom salts. Snuggle under a heavy blanket and consider wearing socks to bed to keep your toes warm. Turn off the lights early—by 9:30 p.m. If you fall asleep before 10 p.m., during the heavy, slow Kapha cycle of the evening, your sleep will effortlessly be deeper and more restful. If possible, it’s ideal to wake up at sunrise, while the Vata time of the morning is still lively.
  • Exercise. While exercise is healthy for all body types, it needs to be lighter and less intense to avoid aggravating Vata dosha. Daily walks for 30 minutes plus a light yoga practice are ideal.
  • Keep a regular routine to calm Vata dosha. Waking up at the same time, practicing meditation at the same time morning and evening, and exercising at a prescribed time each day helps provide the structure that Vata dosha needs to stay balanced. When you eat at the same time every day, your digestion revs up and becomes stronger, another plus for Vata digestion, which tends to be irregular.
  • Plan calming, enjoyable activities every day. Listen to music you love, watch movies you enjoy, or read books that are engaging. Try to limit the time you spend scanning news headlines and watch funny videos instead.
  • Drink soothing Organic Vata Tea to enhance digestion, support healthy elimination, and restore balance to Vata dosha. Or alternate with Worry Free Tea to calm the mind and soothe frayed nerves. If worries are keeping you awake at night, try Blissful Sleep, a natural sleep aid that supports falling asleep easily. It contains two Vata-balancing herbs: Indian valerian, which supports falling asleep easily, and ashwagandha, which boosts resistance to stress.
  • Try Worry Free to soothe anxious feelings or Stress Free Mind to keep calm under pressure while working from home. “When I take Stress Free Mind morning and evening, I have more peace and less stress,” says Susan, a customer. “Life is hard when you’re caring for loved ones, but this amazing product helps me navigate calmly through all those bumps in the road that we all face.”

Frustrated Pitta
People with Pitta dosha, like the husband in our scenario, may be naturally friendly and giving when in balance. They may also have a sharp intellect, which supports the ability to make clear decisions.. When out of balance, this person may feel intense emotions, such as anger, frustration, or exasperation. People like Charlie may wake up in the middle of the night and find it hard to fall back asleep. To keep stress levels in balance, people with Pitta dosha need more cooling foods, exercise, and herbals, and a lifestyle that takes the pressure off when away from the office.

Stress Solutions for Pitta

  • Select cooling foods, which go a long way toward balancing overheated Pitta dosha. Check out the Pitta balancing diet here. Enjoy some sweets, especially sweet fruits or dairy products. Season your food with cooling spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and coriander, and stay away from chilies. To make it easy to flavor your food with cooling herbs and spices, try Organic Pitta Churna, a cooling spice mixture.
  • Swimming is a great sport for balancing Pitta dosha, because it cools while giving exercise. Since most pools and rec centers are temporarily closed, try taking walks in the shade, near creeks or rivers, or in other cool areas. Pitta dosha is soothed by beauty, so try to get out in nature. Drive to a park and walk around, enjoying the cheerful sights and sounds of spring.
  • Organize your schedule so you’re not under the pressure of deadlines, as this just turns up the emotional heat. Plan for leisure time every day. Make a point of connecting with friends online or spend an evening with the family. Downtime cools overheated Pitta and opens up your generous and loving heart.
  • Sip Organic Pitta Tea throughout the day to help cool your mind and body with its fragrant rose petal mixture. Stress Free Emotions is a go-to formula for active Type A personalities and Pitta-driven people. It not only reduces anger and frustration, but soothes the emotional highs and lows through the day. Over time it can improve resistance to emotional stress and fatigue, helping to promote self-confidence and a more positive outlook. “Stress Free Emotions gives me great emotional stability which translates into patience with others and myself,” says Ivanka, a customer. “As a Pitta I really appreciate this transformation.”

Easy-going Kapha
People who are bigger physically, naturally social, and generally able to roll with the ups and downs of life have more of the heavy, slow-moving Kapha dosha. When a Kapha person like Tanner is stressed, he may internalize the stress and withdraw. The problem comes if he continues to sit on the couch eating sweets day after day, as this will only increase the heavy, slow qualities of Kapha dosha and can eventually lead to lethargy or feelings of sadness. To keep stress levels in balance, people with Kapha dosha need more stimulating foods, exercise, and herbals, and an active lifestyle.

Stress Solutions for Kapha:

  • Eat more warm, soupy, and light foods, as explained in the Kapha Balancing Diet. Favor bitter, astringent, and pungent (spicy) food and lay off desserts, especially the cold, heavy sweets like ice cream and cheesecake. Season your food with Organic Kapha Churna, a delicious Kapha-balancing spice mixture that works well with Indian cuisine.
  • Make your evening meal light, and try to finish it early, by 6:00 p.m., so your slower Kapha digestion can finish before sleep. While people with more Kapha sometimes need less sleep, the most important point of your routine is to wake up early, by sunrise. This will infuse more of the light, bright Vata quality into your day. Sleeping late into the Kapha time of the morning (i.e. after sunrise, from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.) can make you feel sleepy and dull and increase your tendency to gain weight.
  • With their steam engine physiology, Kaphas love sustained exercise. Schedule some type of cardio or strength-training exercise daily. The hard part for Mr. or Ms. Kapha is motivating yourself to be active, so try registering for an online fitness course or connecting with a buddy to exercise together on video. There are now many online apps with sophisticated routines and opportunities to work out with others in real time.
  • Keep your brain stimulated too. Take a free course online, like Yale’s popular course on happiness, first offered to help students overcome sadness and anxious feelings. Playing games with the family or getting an online bridge game going can keep you socially and mentally stimulated.
  • Whenever you feel sluggish or heavy, drink a steaming cup of Kapha Tea to up your energy levels. Or try Fatigue Free for a natural energy lift. It contains the energy tonic dashmula and heart-leaf sida to supply nutrients to your cells and enhance vitality.
    “I ordered Fatigue Free for my daughter and within days she had energy to workout after work, not feeling sluggish all day,” said Maria. “It made a huge difference in a very short time.”
  • To uplift feelings of sadness, stabilize emotional highs and lows, and help with energy, try Blissful Joy formula.

No matter what your body type, it’s important to remind yourself that things have a way of working out. The more you can focus on the upside, the better you can create something positive out of these extraordinary times. The founder of vpk by Maharishi Ayurveda was fond of saying, “What we put our attention on grows in our lives.” So treat yourself to some positive news every day, stay in touch with friends, and enjoy the undivided attention of your family. Wishing you good health and happiness.

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], April 18, 2020. Reprinted with permission.) 

BY LINDA EGENES

Key to ImmunityAs we face a global pandemic, immunity is on all of our minds. The most effective ways to increase the immune system may be deeper than you think.

According to the ancient science of Ayurveda, strong immunity is synonymous with strong digestion. In fact, the factors that determine a person’s bala, or immunity, are directly related to digestion.

Let’s break down the digestion-immunity connection in three stages.

Stage One: Is your digestion strong enough to digest your food properly?

Digestion is defined as a person’s capacity to break down food into substances that can be used by the body—and it’s the word “capacity” that contains the whole story.

If your capacity to break down food is impaired, undigested food or ama is created. Ama is the Ayurvedic term for the sticky, gooey mess that is left behind when digestion isn’t going right (you may know that feeling—heartburn, bloating, or your stomach in knots). Another sign of ama is a coated tongue.

When ama, the waste product of incomplete digestion, accumulates in the digestive tract, it overwhelms the digestive fire (called agni in Ayurveda), making your digestion even weaker. Eventually, if your digestion stays weak and continues to generate ama, it can travel to other parts of the body where it can accumulate and cause stiff joints, clogged arteries, brain fog, and a host of other imbalances.

You may have heard health practitioners describe “leaky gut syndrome,” an unhealthy inflammatory response caused when particles of undigested food, bacteria, or toxins cross the intestinal wall, enter the bloodstream, and spread to other parts of the body. This is another way of saying that when food is not digested properly, it can eventually cause imbalance and health problems throughout the body.

Stage Two: Is your gut environment so healthy that imbalances can’t take root?

When digestion is healthy, it not only burns away or digests ama, but also digests and eliminates toxins from the gut—including invasive microorganisms. A balanced metabolism creates an ama-free gut environment that is not welcoming to invaders.

In modern terminology, a balanced microbiome is an environment in which the good bacteria thrive and the bad bacteria recede. In Ayurveda, it’s said that imbalance can only grow in conditions where ama and imbalance already exist.

Stage Three: Is your digestion performing at its peak, supporting radiant skin, shining eyes, exuberant energy, and robust immunity?

This is the goal of Ayurveda—to create such healthy digestion that your skin is glowing, your eyes are bright, and you feel mentally, emotionally, and physically balanced. It’s a definition of health that goes way beyond not being sick—it’s a state of happiness and self-realization.

So how do we get there? That’s a big question, and actually the entire field of Ayurveda is aimed at improving digestion in order to create this balanced state of health and immunity.

Here’s an easy guide for getting started.

Ten Ayurvedic Ways to Boost Your Gut Health (and your immunity)

  1. Eat fresh, organic food according to your body type.
  2. Sit down when you eat, and choose a settled atmosphere—including congenial conversation with friends or family—to support digestion. In other words, eating standing up at a counter in O’Hare Airport could be hard on your digestion.
  3. Plan your main meal at noon, when digestive strength is strongest. Eat lighter at breakfast and dinner. Allow three hours to digest your evening meal before going to bed.
  4. Eat your meals at the same time every day. Avoid snacking between meals unless you’re hungry, as this disrupts digestion and can cause gas and bloating.
  5. Include plenty of roughage in your diet, including freshly cooked veggies, whole grains, and pulses (small beans such as split mung dahl). Roughage binds to toxins and carries them out of the body.
  6. Use spices and herbs to stimulate digestion such as cumin, coriander, fennel, oregano, basil, and rosemary, according to your body type.
  7. End your noon meal with lassi, a natural yogurt-based probiotic drink.
  8. Drink plenty of pure water throughout the day. Your digestive system needs water to work properly—dehydration is not only the main cause of sluggish bowel movements, but also contributes to low energy and mental fatigue. Sipping hot water throughout the day is a good way to dissolve ama. Ice-cold water and drinks, on the other hand, disrupt digestion and create ama.
  9. Exercise daily according to your body type, as movement boosts agni and helps burn away ama.
  10. Use herbal supplements for digestion management.
  • Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus) to support your digestive system and elimination.
    This go-to daily detox formula helps maintain regular elimination and the flushing of toxins from the body, purifies the liver, intestines and blood, assists the digestion and absorption of nutrients, tones the large intestine, and creates luster in the skin, a sign of healthy digestion. It contains a powerful combination of three legendary fruits—indian gooseberry, chebulic myrobalan, and belleric myrobalan—revered in the Ayurvedic tradition for their cleansing and nourishing benefits. Digest Tone is also a powerful antioxidant and balances all three doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha).
  • Herbal Cleanse to support elimination and intestinal cleansing.
    Herbal Cleanse absorbs toxins in the GI tract, promotes the growth of friendly colon bacteria, and protects the mucus membranes of the colon. Indian leaf senna, sweet fennel, indian jalap, and other herbs in this traditional formula support natural, healthy elimination. Chttps://www.mapi.com/products/herbal-supplements/detoxification/herbal-cleanse.htmlabbage rose cools the intestines, making it ideal for balancing Pitta dosha.
  • Aci-Balance to balance stomach acidity.
    This Pitta-pacifying formula soothes occasional acid indigestion and heartburn, helps maintain stomach acidity, and helps relieve occasional flatulence and sour belching. A rare form of white turpeth and the other synergistically blended herbs help rebalance and moderate the digestive fire for smooth comfort.
  • Herbal Di-Gest supports improved digestion and balanced appetite.
    By stimulating sluggish digestion, Herbal Di-Gest promotes absorption of nutrients, balances food cravings, and helps with gas, bloating, and discomfort. A blend of 12 Ayurvedic herbs and spices including pomegranate seeds, ginger, cumin seeds, and black pepper helps fine-tune your digestion to improve assimilation and elimination and helps you feel light and clear after meals. Effective in balancing Vata, Pitta, and Kapha doshas.
  • Liver Balance to balance, nurture, and support healthy liver function.
    As the filter between all the toxins and pollutants outside your body, your liver is essential to digestion and your health. This traditional Ayurvedic formula helps strengthen and cleanse the liver by supporting the elimination of impurities. This formula promotes good appetite and assimilation of nutrients, helps digestion and metabolism of fats, and supports healthy blood cells, bile, and nutritional fluids
  • Glucostat helps maintain healthy sugar metabolism.
    This potent herbal combination helps boost the body’s natural ability to digest and metabolize sugars, when combined with a healthy diet and exercise. Boerhavia, spreading hogweed, winter cherry, mineral pitch, neem, and arjuna myrobalans help to nourish both kidney cells and liver functions. This formula supports the healthy functioning of kidneys and liver, improves digestion, improves digestion and assimilation of carbohydrates, and cleanses and nourishes the pancreas.

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], August 20, 2020. Reprinted with permission.)