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Jane, a 55-year-old bookkeeper, complains that her hands and fingers feel stiff and painful, especially when the weather turns dry and cool. Sometimes her joints make a cracking sound when she bends them. She consults an expert in Maharishi Ayurveda and finds out that Vata dosha is at the root of her problem, which is why it tends to flare up during Vata (late fall and winter) Season.

Jason, a 30-year-old writer, finds it hard to bend his knees at times. His legs and joints feel heavy and swollen, and ache when the weather was cool and rain, as in Kapha (spring) Season. After consulting an ayurvedic expert, he discovers that his problem is due to toxins (ama) collecting in the joints.

Joint problems like Jane and Jason’s affect 80 percent of the population over age 30. Fortunately, Maharishi Ayurveda offers natural solutions to help people like Jane and Jason improve joint mobility.

Vata-Related Joint Problem
According to Maharishi Ayurveda, joint problems such as Jane’s start when the Vata subdosha that governs the circulation and nerve impulses goes out of balance. Her circulation, metabolism, and ability to absorb food are weakened; as a result, the bone tissue does not receive enough nourishment and eventually starts to degenerate. This in turn causes a drying effect in the subdosha of Kapha that governs lubrication of the joints. When  the joints are not lubricated properly, this creates pain, a cracking sound, and diminished flexibility.

Foods and Lifestyle Habits to Pacify Vata
If you have joint problems such as Jane’s, follow a Vata-Pacifying diet and daily routine. Include all six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent and pungent) in your diet. Favor the sweet, sour and salty tastes, as these help pacify Vata dosha, and eat less of the bitter, astringent and pungent foods. Other healthy foods to include in the Vata-Pacifying diet are grains such as quinoa, rye and amaranth, cooked in water with a small amount of ghee; freshly cooked organic vegetables; split mung dhal soup; and sweet, organic, juicy fruits. It’s important to eat a diet rich in calcium, including high-quality organic milk and vegetables such as spinach, kale, asparagus, and root vegetables cooked with Vata Churna. Avoid caffeine and an acidic diet as these destroy the ability of the body to aborb calcium.

At the same time, follow a Vata-pacifying daily routine. Go to bed before ten o’clock at night, and rise before six a.m. Avoid too much stimulating activity at night, such as watching television right before bed. Eat your main meal at noon, and eat a light, nourishing dinner early in the evening. Engage in some mild exercise such as walking for half an hour a day. Practice Transcendental Meditation® on a regular basis to dissolve stress and calm your mind. One of the best things you can do for this type of joint problem is a daily ayurvedic oil massage to improve circulation and settle Vata dosha.

Herbs to Help Vata-Related Joint Problems
Osteo Relief, the herbal formula for this type of joint problem, has a special name in ayurveda, called santarpana, which means nurturing. Based on this nurturing theory of santarpana, Osteo Relief’s  precise combination of herbs nourishes and supports the bone tissue, the joints and enhances the lubricating fluid of the joints.

Calcium absorption is usually lacking in this type of joint problem. Take Calcium Support to provide nutritional support to the bones. This remarkable herbal formula supplies your body with 500 mg. of bioavailable calcium a day — and at the same time enhances your body’s ability to absorb calcium from calcium supplements and the foods you eat.

Ama-Related Joint Problems
Jason’s joint problem is associated with ama (digestive toxins) collecting in the joints, and is characterized by a heavy, stiff feeling. Sometimes a bout of cold, humid weather can trigger these symptoms. That is the first stage. If nothing is done to dissolve the ama and it sits in the joints for a long time, eventually the toxins become more irritating and reactive in nature, causing the joint to become inflamed, swollen, and painful. In this kind of environment, ama also mixes with the natural lubricating fluids in the joint governed by Shleshaka Kapha, forming an extremely sticky, toxic substance that restricts mobility and disturbs circulation in the joint.

If the ama, amavisha and Shleshma stay in the joints unattended to for a long time, eventually the structure of the joints and the bone itself becomes damaged. Once these morphological changes happen to the joint and bone, it becomes extremely difficult to correct.

Foods and Lifestyle Habits to Reduce Ama
Follow an ama-reducing diet consisting of warm, light, dryer foods that are easy to digest. Eat more nourishing soups and warm, freshly cooked grains and vegetables prepared with Kapha Churna and spices such as ginger, fennel, cumin, and peppercorn to stimulate digestion. It also helps to eat an apple cooked with prunes and figs each morning for breakfast. Avoid eating leftovers or processed foods.

To keep your digestion working properly, avoid day sleep, and go to bed early so you can rise before 6:00 a.m. Exercise for half an hour every day, and choose a type of exercise that you enjoy. A brisk walk is ideal for most people, along with yoga asana stretches, although if you have more Kapha dosha, you may need more vigorous exercise to stay in balance. You’ll feel lighter and more energetic just by making these simple changes in your routine.

Herbal Formulas to Help Prevent Ama-Related Joint Problems

While abhyanga is not recommended on top of swollen joints, it can help to gently apply Joint Soothe II, an ayurvedic oil designed to lubricate and strengthen the joints and liquefy impurities.

Once liquefied, amacan be internally eliminated by taking the Flexcel tablets. These two products work together to effectively penetrate, dissolve, and eliminate ama and to lubricate the joints to restore their natural balance. If there is a lot of ama, you could take Elim-Tox-0 with the Flexcel tablets.

Prevention is the key. It takes a great amount of effort to get rid of ama that has circulated throughout the body and settled in the joints. So once you start taking care of your joint problem by reducing ama, be careful not to accumulate ama in the future. Examine your tongue in the morning-it should not be coated. If you feel even a little stiffness or heaviness in your joints, start following the ama-reducing recommendations immediately. This is truly a case of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure.

A Powerful Way to Improve Circulation in the Joints

What: Abhyanga, daily ayurvedic oil massage

Why: Increases circulation, prevents impurities from building up, and lubricates the joints. It also tones the muscles, calms the mind, soothes the nerves, and promotes deeper sleep. It’s more powerful than a cup of coffee for waking up and energizing sleepy brain cells.

Who: Anyone can benefit, from babies to the elderly

Where: Choose a place that can be washed clean, such as the bathroom floor. Spread a towel and sit on it.

When: Traditionally done upon rising, before the morning shower or bath (the heat helps the impurities flow out and washes off the oil).

How: For most body types, start with Organic Sesame Oil. (For instructions in curing the oil, see here).  For a calming effect during Vata Season, use Relaxation Massage Oil mixed with Youthful Skin Massage Oil.

Warm the oil in a small plastic bottle. Dip your fingertips into the warm oil and apply it lightly to the entire body. start with the head first.

Using the open hand—palm and fingers—stroke the bones with long, straight, back-and-forth motions. Use circular, gentle motions on rounded areas such as joints and head.

Use lighter pressure for sensitive areas such as the abdomen or the heart. Use more oil and spend more time where nerve endings are concentrated, such as the soles of the feet, palms of the hands and along the base of the fingernails.

After you’re done, relax for a few minutes and let the oil do its magic. The longer the oil is on, the deeper it penetrates. During this time you can read something relaxing or uplifting, rest, or shave, cut nails, and get ready for the day. Dab excess oil off with paper towels if you like, then follow with a relaxing warm bath or shower. If your schedule doesn’t allow for a daily massage, try and squeeze it in at least three or four times a week. You’ll find it’s worth it!

BY LINDA EGENES

IMG_2333In the 2004 documentary Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock decided to eat a steady diet of fast food for 30 days to see how it would affect his health. Although he and his doctors expected some changes, they were shocked by how quickly his skin turned sallow, his cholesterol levels and blood pressure skyrocketed and his weight shot up 27 pounds. Worse, his mood changed from one of vibrancy to depression. Below are ten ayurvedic digestion secrets, but first let’s explore why a smooth digestion is central to health.

According to Maharishi Ayurveda, there is not only a direct connection between the food you eat and your health, but food affects your emotions, your happiness, as well. You could even say that health and happiness have a common source found in a single product of digestion called ojas.

“Ojas is the finest and most refined product of digestion and metabolism,” explains Mark Toomey, Ph.D., the director of Maharishi Ayurveda programs and health practitioner at The Raj Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center and Spa. “Ojas production depends directly on how we digest and metabolize our food.”

Another interesting point is that, according to ayurveda, we metabolize the experience of all five senses in our environment and our own thoughts. This is why we are so profoundly affected by stress and its effect upon our emotions. Emotions affect our ability to digest food properly, and the digestion of food affects our emotions. Both feed one another.

Ojas is the physical equivalent of both bliss and immunity. It is what causes the eyes to sparkle, the skin to look radiant and the immunity to be strong. And it’s directly related to digestion.

There is a lot written about ojas in the ayurvedic texts. Ojas is said to be slightly yellow in color, to reside in the heart and to also continually circulate throughout the body. It is cool, soft, sweet, stable, viscous, clear, and pure, and when lively in the body, these qualities can be felt in the pulse during an ayurvedic consultation.

“Ojas is also much related to strong Kapha dosha, called bal kapha,” says Dr. Toomey. “A person with good ojas has a solid build, enthusiasm, strength, knowledge and wisdom.”

Digestion in ayurveda is known as agni, which means fire, and that agni has to be operating perfectly in order to transform food into the most refined product, ojas. Ojas is responsible for all lively energy in our awareness and body.

So how do you keep your digestion running perfectly and your ojas at a high level?

“One of the main factors for strong immunity and ojas is to keep the srotas, the micro communication channels of our body, clear. With clear srotas, information can flow freely through the body,” says Dr. Toomey. “This is why it’s so important to keep the digestion running smoothly, to keep impurities from building up and blocking the srotas.”

Ten Ayurvedic Digestion Secrets from Maharishi Ayurveda

  1. Eat a balanced, well-cooked and wholesome diet in timely fashion.
  2. Eat one’s main meal at lunch.
  3. Eat a light breakfast and light dinner. (Doing so not only helps with better digestion, but results in deeper, more restful sleep.
  4. Go to bed by 10 p.m. each night and wake with the sunrise.
  5. Follow the ayurvedic daily and seasonal routines, in tune with the laws of nature, going to bed on time, and eating at the same time every day.
  6. Practice Transcendental Meditation® or the meditation technique of your choice daily to release stress.
  7. Take traditional ayurvedic herbal formulas that nourish the body and mind and develop higher states of consciousness.
  8. Practice behavioral rasayanas. These are the behavioral guidelines that help govern behavior and action in life:
    • Be truthful
    • Free from anger
    • Nonviolent
    • Not exerting to the point of exhaustion
    • Practice calmness
    • Be sweet-spoken
    • Aspire to be stable and steady
    • Practice meditation
    • Engage in cleanliness
    • Be perseverant
    • Observe charity
    • Practice spirituality or the religion of your choosing
    • Be devoted to love and compassion
    • Be balanced in sleep and wakefulness
    • Behave with propriety according to the time and place
    • Be humble in life’s activities
    • Keep the company of elders
    • Hold a positive outlook
    • Practice self-control
    • Do not indulge in alcohol or drugs
    • Be respectful toward teachers and elders
  9. Include foods in your diet that increase ojas. Well-cooked organic vegetables and fresh fruits taken according to one’s prakriti (dosha makeup) are always considered best. Whole organic milk, boiled and flavored with ghee or Organic Vata Tea, is a wonderful addition and supports ojas production.
  10. Certain activities may diminish the production of ojas. They are as follows:
  • Excessive physical exertion (to the point of exhaustion)
  • Rough or inadequate digestion
  • Excessive exposure to wind and sun
  • Staying up late (inadequate rest)
  • Physical or emotional trauma
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive loss of dhatu (blood, mucus or semen)
  • Intake of toxic substances (including exposure to environmental pollution)
  • Stress overloadBy cultivating a strong digestion, a balanced lifestyle and strong ojas, we can improve our health, happiness and immunity. It is never too late to start feeling good. Visit www.mapi.com for more tips on how to live a balanced lifestyle.Remember, it is all about balance…

 

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI], March 1,2014. Reprinted with permission.)