BY LINDA EGENES

Advanced Ayurveda

Advanced Ayurveda: Listening to Your Body’s Signals

When it comes to health, we each have our own unique story to tell. My personal health journey started at a young age when my parents taught me to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and whole wheat bread, a truly revolutionary idea in the 1960s, when Wonder Bread was king. I was rarely sick and only remember going to a doctor twice—once for a bad bout of poison ivy and another time when I stepped on barbed wire and needed a tetanus shot.

So it was a big surprise that as I entered my mid-twenties, I no longer felt so healthy. I suffered from congestion and blocked sinuses every spring, sometimes with a productive cough that would keep me at home for an entire month. For the first time in my life, I took antibiotics, but eventually the antibiotics didn’t work. Something was clearly out of balance, and I didn’t have a clue how to feel better. And there’s nothing worse than feeling bad and not knowing what’s wrong.

Fortunately, I was soon introduced to the practical science of Maharishi Ayurveda. I learned that spring is the Kapha time of year, when the heavy, cold, sticky qualities of Kapha dosha predominate. I found that if I cut back on dairy foods—and especially ice cream—I could avoid the build-up of ama, the sticky byproduct of undigested food that is the cause of most imbalances. It was incredibly helpful to learn how to adjust my diet with the seasons, and I was amazed at how one simple change solved such a big problem in my life.

From there I learned about my body type and the specific foods I needed to stay healthy (as opposed to a one-healthy-diet fits-all approach from my childhood). But more importantly, I also learned to respond directly to my body and its needs. For instance, if I started to feel congestion coming on when traveling or during times of stress, I immediately reverted to a lighter diet of warm, well-cooked veggies, and pulses (from the legume family) to let my digestion recover. I learned how to choose foods that would keep my digestion in balance all through the year, so ama wouldn’t accumulate in my body. As I learned more about the seasonal changes that affect us and my innate mind-body tendencies, it was like receiving essential clues to solve my personal health puzzles.

In other words, by understanding the underlying principles of my own mind-body type and the way emotional, social, and seasonal factors affected me, it became a springboard for my intuition. I learned to listen to my mind and body in a new way.

You could call this a more advanced approach to Ayurveda. It’s all about developing your inner compass, listening to your body’s signals, and learning how to use food, herbal supplements, and lifestyle choices to restore balance. That may sound difficult to master, but everyone has this innate ability.

The first step to creating a sustained state of balance is to pay attention to how you feel. Do you feel better the next morning after eating a light dinner or when you eat a big meal before bed? Do you feel happier the next day when you stay up late or when you go to bed earlier? That’s what finding balance is about—becoming more aware if a certain food or lifestyle choice is nourishing for YOU. Sharpening this kind of self-guidance skill is a powerful companion to following outer rules.

  1. The Ayurvedic guidelines—the seasonal tips, the Vata, Pitta, and Kapha dietary and lifestyle guidelines—provide helpful hints and, as in my case, provide insight into health imbalances. Yet there may be times when the dietary guidelines for different doshas can be confusing. For instance, we are all a mixture of doshas, and if you’re a Kapha-Vata, the dietary guidelines for Kapha are exactly opposite to the guidelines for Vata. That can be confusing unless you employ your own self-feedback mechanisms.

Plus our needs change as we experience different seasonal and life cycles. For instance, in my case, I am a Vata-Pitta, but following the Kapha guidelines in spring was the thing that helped me strengthen my upper respiratory system.

New circumstances are always coming up in our lives that don’t fit the outer rules. So we need to use the Ayurvedic recommendations to understand what is right for our unique physiology, to decide intuitively what is right for us. Ultimately real understanding comes from the inside. That’s why we’re calling it “Advanced Ayurveda.” It’s not about going by the rules—it’s about applying the rules to your specific mind-body needs. While using the vast body of Ayurvedic knowledge, you’re also going by the inner ruler—your intuition, your own body speaking to you, how you are feeling—and finding solutions. It is a subtle yet effective strategy.

Okay, you may think. This sounds good. But how do you develop your self-referral skills, your inner compass, your intuition? Like a TV screen that is disconnected from power, it’s hard to pick up signals if you’re disconnected from your inner self, or if mind-body coordination is switched off. Here are four simple steps to reconnect with your inner compass, sharpen your Advanced Ayurveda skills, and restore balance.

1. Establish Healthy Daily Habits. Following simple health habits can bring your mind-body system into balance and help you align with your own nature. Good sleep, fresh food according to your body type and the seasons, daily exercise, and stress reduction are pillars of Ayurveda. So in this way, the Ayurvedic path to staying in balance is somewhat the same for every person.

Yet the specifics differ according to your mind-body type, the season and climate where you live, and other emotional, social, and environmental influences. Ayurveda recognizes these differences and offers specific guidelines for the three main dosha types. And that is a major tenet of Ayurveda: There are different remedies for different people. So the daily routine and lifestyle, the type of exercise, the foods you eat—all are slightly different according to your mind-body type. Check out the Vata, Pitta and Kapha recommendations for helpful insights and tips.

2.Purify toxins. Toxins in the body, whether from the environment or from digestive impurities (ama), can make you feel sluggish, clouding perceptions and dulling intuition. Simple Ayurvedic habits such as daily abhyanga, regular exercise (even walking), seasonal purification procedures, such as drinking Organic Digest & Detox Tea can help clear the mind and body and put you more in touch with your inner resources. Check out this step-by-step detox routine for cleansing your body of toxins.

3. Practice Self-pulse Diagnosis. The most powerful and insightful way to determine what you need is pulse diagnosis, called nadi vigyan in ancient Ayurvedic texts. It’s a powerful diagnostic tool to assess the condition of your mind and body and what it requires to achieve a state of balance. It’s also a therapeutic remedy in itself. By putting your attention on your pulse in a quiet way, it allows your entire mind-body system to settle down and rebalance itself. It’s been called a window into the heart.

If you are interested in learning how to take your own pulse, check out this online course at Maharishi International University. Or learn from this free 14-lesson series on pulse diagnosis and global group meditation by Tony Nader, M.D., Ph.D.

4. Meditate Daily. I have found that my daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique helps me release stress and become more self-referral, intuitive, and aware. It helps me stay in tune with my feelings and needs. Plus when I transcend the surface level of thought and experience deep inner bliss, I find myself feeling joy in everything that I do. I find myself spontaneously choosing the foods and behaviors that bring me more happiness.

Whatever your choice of meditation or method, it’s important to find a way to tap into your inner resources. Then by natural desire, by natural inclination, you’ll make choices more in line with your own nature. And over time, as you become more attuned to what a balanced mind and body feels like, it becomes easier and easier to make the right choices, to choose the healthier options to stay in balance. Thus the Ayurvedic guidelines become easier to follow as you become more attuned to your inner nature. They also help verify that you are going in the right direction.

One of my favorite sections of the Ayurvedic texts gives a sweeping vision of what it means to be in balance.

“For those whose doshas are in balance, whose appetite is good, whose body tissues (dhatus) are functioning normally, whose elimination and other waste removal systems (malas) are in balance and whose body, mind and senses remain full of bliss, they are called a healthy person.” —Sushruta Sutrasthana 15, 41

So let’s remember that the main goal of Ayurveda is to feel balanced, to feel joy. If your intention is to feel bliss, if your intention is to feel good, you will naturally seek out the food and lifestyle choices that make you feel healthy.

With very best wishes for your health and happiness.

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], May 22, 2020. Reprinted with permission.) 

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BY LINDA EGENES

Discover Your Relaxation Lifestyle

Discover Your Relaxation Lifestyle

There’s a new phrase floating around—doom-scrolling—and anyone with a smartphone can figure out what that means. Then there are the parents who are valiantly caring for kids while simultaneously conducting meetings and teaching classes via Zoom. Under more pressure are our nation’s valiant essential workers, who venture out every day to work in hospitals, keep our grocery stores stocked with food, or run our nation’s transport systems, to name a few of their heroic contributions. And finally there are the rest of us, trying to stay sane while social distancing, self-quarantining, and wearing masks—now recommended inside your own home if a family member is working outside.

With the pandemic showing no sign of stopping, most of us are in need of mental, physical, and emotional relaxation. But you can’t just tell yourself, “Relax, mate, it’s all going to be OK,” and expect your blood pressure to return to normal.

We all need a little help, and that’s why I highly recommend taking a do-it-yourself spa day to pamper yourself with massage, aroma therapy, and relaxing herbal teas—all happening inside your own home, since that’s where it’s at these days.

And once you get the hang of it, you can incorporate these easy tips into your daily routine wherever you go. Why not make relaxation a daily habit? With the challenges the entire world is facing today, relaxation is a tool we all can use to bring our minds and hearts closer to our normal, joyful selves.

Here are five simple ways to kick off your at-home spa day to help you discover your relaxation lifestyle.

1.    Morning Self-Massage. Craving a relaxing massage but can’t risk it during the pandemic? It’s time to give yourself an Ayurvedic self-massage. Called abhyanga, Ayurvedic self-massage involves rubbing warm, fragrant, herbal oils into your skin in a specific pattern—long strokes over the long bones and circular strokes over your joints, abdomen, and head. Start with your scalp and don’t forget your feet. See detailed instructions here. Designed to release toxins, calm your nerves, and tone your muscles, abhyanga is a surprisingly effective way to start your day. Not to mention how your skin will glow.

Not sure which massage oils are best for you? Use this guide:

Moisturizing Massage Oil calms mind and body with a blend of organic sesame oil, fragrant lemongrass, calming ashwagandha, and other stress-reducing herbal extracts.

Soothing Massage Oil cools the body and emotions with an herbal blend of organic sesame oil, heartwood oil, sandalwood, waterlily, and six other cooling and nourishing herbal extracts.

Stimulating Massage Oil invigorates mind and body with a stimulating blend of organic sesame oil, java citronella, jatamansi, and four other herbal extracts. Or give yourself a treat with Youthful Skin Massage Oil, a truly luxurious oil for deep relaxation and even deeper sleep. It combines jojoba and sesame oil with two different formulas of artisan-crafted herbs for men or women.

If you prefer to add your own essential oils for a custom massage experience, Organic Sesame Oil for Massage is a cold-pressed, chemical-free oil suitable for most skin types.

2.    Bathing and Nasya. After your massage, take a warm bath to allow the toxins to flow out of your tissues and into your eliminahttps://www.mapi.com/products/massage-oils/organic-sesame-massage-oil.htmltion system, where they can easily leave your body. While bathing is recommended, you can shower instead if time doesn’t allow. (Tip to avoid clogged drains: Allow the oil to soak into your skin at least ten minutes before bathing. You can also wipe off excess oil with an absorbent paper towel. Also, you don’t need excessive amounts of oil for an effective massage.)

After your bath, take a moment for nasya, a simple but powerful Ayurvedic technique that involves sniffing pure herbal oil to cleanse and protect your sinuses. Because the nasal passages provide a path to the brain, nasya helps calm the mind, too. Organic Clear & Soothe nasal spray makes it easy—you just squeeze the bottle and inhale. Its mild mixture of organic sesame oil and heart-leaf sida protects against allergens and balances Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.

3.    Yoga and meditation. Now that you’re awake and squeaky clean, it’s the perfect time for your morning yoga and meditation. I personally have had amazing results with the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique, a simple, effortless way to set up your day with energy and clarity of thought. Because it’s so effective in releasing stress and creating profound balance in mind and body, TM is considered the foundation of Maharishi Ayurveda, and has been researched in studies sponsored by the NIH and published in peer-reviewed medical journals such as the AMA’s Hypertension.

Yoga asanas (postures) have also been found to create mind-balance and are the perfect way to relax your mind and body before you begin your meditation practice.

4.    Herbal Tea Ritual. Herbal teas, found in the ancient civilizations of China, Egypt, and India, have been cherished for their health benefits for thousands of years. The magical combination of herbs, warmth, and flavor soothes and relaxes. Of course, some people want their herbal tea to wake them up, while others want to calm down; so choose the tea to balance your particular needs for that time of day.

Morning: Raja’s Cup gives the satisfaction of a cup of coffee without the buzz. It’s actually a powerful antioxidant and a flavorful, gluten-free, herbal blend that balances all three doshas. Spicy and stimulating, Organic Stimulating Kapha Tea will chase away morning lethargy and is especially good during spring weather and for people with Kapha body types.

Afternoon: Organic Cooling Pitta Tea is perfect for summer afternoons, as it helps cool excess heat. It also helps with digestion. Afternoon is also a good time to slow down and destress with a cup of calming Worry Free Tea, which not only calms the mind but soothes frayed nerves and stabilizes your emotions—giving you that extra boost to finish your day’s tasks with ease.

Evening: A cup of calming Organic Calming Vata Tea early in the evening provides a great transition into your evening meditation session, helping to wash away the stress of work—and setting you up for a tranquil evening with your family or friends. And nothing beats Slumber Time Tea before bed for slowing down your mind and helping you enter a state of deep sleep with ease. Eat a light, nourishing evening meal, turn off your screens at 8:00 and listen to music, enjoy light conversation, or take an evening stroll instead. With all this relaxation going on, you’ll find yourself slipping into a deep night’s sleep before 10:00pm.

5.    Aroma Therapy for Balance Throughout the Day. Inhaling the fragrance of essential oils of flowers is an easy way to maintain balance all through the day. Experiment with Calming Vata aroma oil while you meditate, Cooling Pitta or Blissful Heart aroma oil if feeling frustrated or irritable, and Slumber Time to ease into a deep, restful sleep. Sniffle Free aroma oil helps clear the sinuses and enhance immunity, and Stimulating Kapha is great for getting your body moving on sleepy mornings.

For no-hassle aroma therapy, try this elegant bamboo diffuser. It’s not only a beautiful addition to the room, but it disperses the oils using a cool ultrasonic mist instead of heat, thus protecting the integrity of the delicate flower essences. This diffuser doubles as a humidifier, and shuts itself off when the water level goes low. Plus it’s quiet and doesn’t interfere with sleep, and contains an optional nightlight.

Pure sandalwood incense is another way to diffuse cooling sandalwood aroma into a room. It’s a traditional choice for creating a sacred space and refining the senses for meditation and yoga.

Experiment with your at-home spa day, and find out for yourself how great it feels. This is the first step to creating a lifestyle based on relaxation—and a great way to make the most of your expanded at-home time.

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], August 13, 2020. Reprinted with permission.) 

BY LINDA EGENES

Zoom Meetings- Are you Zoomed Out? How to Create Balance in the Age of ScreensI’m perfecting my yoga these days with a weekly class on Zoom. My professor husband spends hours teaching classes and attending department meetings in front of a screen. And for many people during the Covid-19 crisis, online video chatting has been a lifeline—a way to connect with family and friends.

If there’s one common denominator in the country right now, it’s our new dependence on screens. According to Clockwise, the creator of an online calendar assistant, employees are spending 29 percent more time in online group meetings and 24 percent more time in one-on-one meetings than before the lockdown. And whether you love it or hate it, it’s likely that this trend is not going to go away even after schools and gyms open up and we can travel to see family again.

I personally love it that my favorite yoga teacher now visits me in my living room, even if she’s only on the screen. One of my friends who attended her class reunion online thought it was the best one yet, since every person had a chance to share how they were doing. And one mom wrote that she was thrilled to meet her friends for a Zoom dinner party without having to dress up or hire a babysitter. These are new and creative uses of technology that have changed our lives for the better.

But for other people who spend all day in online meetings or virtual classrooms every day, there’s a curious new syndrome developing called Zoom Fatigue. It turns out that interacting with others on a screen for hours can wear you out.*

Scientists have identified a few reasons for Zoom Fatigue, such as the constant technology glitches. Freezing screens, that 1.2-second lag between people’s lips moving on the screen and hearing their voices, the fumbling with the mute button, the echoes and feedbacks, the unnatural pauses—each create anxiety that something is going wrong, and that tires out the mind and body.

It also requires more focus to conduct a video call, says Gianpiero Petriglieri, a researcher who explores sustainable learning in the workplace. Virtual conversations mimic real ones, but they’re not the same. When conversing with others on screens our minds have to work much harder to read facial cues, detect subtle changes in the tone and pitch of the voice, and observe body language (impossible to do when there’s only a talking head visible).

Then there’s the cognitive dissonance when we’re talking to a screen. “Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not,” explained Petriglieri in an interview with the BBC. “That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You can’t relax into the conversation naturally.”

Whether we love it or hate it, we need to find ways to stay fresh and alert while conducting our lives on screens. Here are five hacks to help you take advantage of the plus side of computer connectivity without the fatigue.

1. Turn off the self-view window so you’re not distracted by your own image throughout the call.

Get your lighting and look set before the meeting, take one last look in at your self-view window, then go to your settings and turn it off. Why? Most people can’t help but focus on their own image during a video call, and that is not only distracting but can be distressing when you’re hyper-critical about the way your mouth moves or your eyes shift. For me it’s similar to getting seated in a restaurant opposite a mirror—I can’t conduct a decent conversation when confronted with my own mirror image, so I always ask to be seated at a different chair. Bottom line: focusing on two frames at once divides your mind and attention, creating mental strain.

2. Take a virtual water-cooler break.

When you’re at the office, you naturally get up between meetings to get a drink of coffee or gather at the water cooler. You can achieve the same effect by scheduling a ten-minute break between calls or calling for a break half-way through a two-hour session. Take a quick walk around your home or apartment, get up for a drink of water, do a few stretches or salutes to the sun, or gaze out your window at the view to relax your eyes.

3. Make your Zoom spot comfortable and switch it up.

If you had to conduct back-to-back meetings in the same meeting room at your office, you’d soon ask for a change of scenery. You can achieve the same effect at home by switching to the couch for one meeting, sitting in your office chair at another. Make sure your background looks professional and uncluttered, and that you have a comfy chair that supports your back.

You can also switch to phone or audio to give yourself a break from staring at the screen. Not every call has to be a video call (after all, we used to conduct many one-on-one meetings on the phone). Giving your eyes a rest, and the choice to get out of the chair and stand up and stretch for a speaker-phone call can provide needed variety. Sitting all day can create a variety of health risks, so create ways to stand, stretch, and move about during the day to lower the risk of metabolic syndrome and pump oxygen to your brain.

4. Refresh your eyes.

Staring at the screen all day is hard on the eyes, which is why some people end up with bleary eyes and head pressure at the end of the day. If you’re stuck on a long call, take a mini-break by turning off your video and shifting your eyes to look through a window or anywhere away from the screen. Blink to replenish cleansing fluid to dry eyes. After the call, dampen a cotton ball with pure Organic Rose Water and place it over your closed eyes. Lean back and relax for ten minutes while the naturally cooling, calming essential rose water refreshes your tired eyes. End your mini-spa treatment with palming: place your palms lightly over your eyes and relax into the moment to soothe eye fatigue and release stress. Find instructions for palming and other eye exercises here.

5. Ease Performance Stress and Screen Strain.

Video calls can make you feel like you’re perpetually on, with all eyes on you even when you’re not the speaker. Take Worry Free to overcome anxious feelings, EMF exposure, or computer overstimulation. This remarkable herbal compound is my personal go-to for dissolving mental strain, as it not only calms my mind but emotions too—not to mention helping me sleep better. Powerful anti-stress herbs such as ashwagandha and jatamansi provide a natural solution to mental tension and worry—including the computer kind.

6. Give your brain a boost.

If you’re feeling the need to sharpen your memory to stay on top of the technology, Organic Brahmi (Bacopa) is a revered and ancient Ayurvedic brain tonic and neuro adaptogen. It boosts the brain and nervous system’s resistance to stress, supports the intellect, and rejuvenates memory function.

*The syndrome has been named after the popular video-conferencing software Zoom, but this discussion is about any video conferencing experience and is not meant to be an endorsement of any one program.

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], June 23, 2020. Reprinted with permission.)