BY LINDA EGENES

Respiratory and ImmunityYou’ve read the warnings to wash your hands, avoid shaking hands with others, and cough into your sleeve during colder weather or when you are not feeling well.

Yet taking precautions can go much further. For instance, have you taken steps to boost your immunity? After all, a healthy immune system is your best defense.

“Strengthening and maintaining immunity is a vital part of any wellness program or approach,” says Chris Clark, M.D., former director of the Raj Ayurveda Health Center and author of Ayurvedic Healing. “You want to give yourself the best opportunity for health, and for that you want to optimize your immune system.”

According to Dr. Clark, immunity is weaker during the seasonal transition from winter to spring. As temperatures fluctuate, so does our gut health, causing toxins to overwhelm the digestive system. At the same time, sleep cycles and other biorhythms are disrupted in the days after Daylight Saving Time begins.

“So there are two factors happening at the same time: the change of seasons and the disruption of normal circadian rhythms due to Daylight Saving Time,” Dr. Clark says.

Fortunately, Maharishi Ayurveda offers a wealth of health tips to fortify immunity no matter what your age. Here are five simple ways to shore up your immune power.

1. Fire Up Your Digestive Strength
The first step to better immunity is restoring your gut health. Ayurvedic texts explain that immunity is directly linked to digestion. When your digestion is weak, a sticky, byproduct of undigested food, called ama, can spread to other parts of the body, impacting the efficiency of every aspect of our metabolic processes, from cell reproduction to the ability to convert foods into energy. In fact, it’s weak digestion and the accumulation of ama that increase susceptibility to seasonal imbalances.

Agni, the fire of digestion, burns away ama. Because agni is weaker in these spring months, when outdoor temperatures are fluctuating and your biorhythms are adjusting to a new season, it’s especially important to pay attention to gut health in spring.

“Anything that strengthens agni enhances immunity,” says Dr. Clark. “Anything that weakens agni decreases immunity. That’s why it’s important not to overeat, or to eat foods that are too heavy to digest, or to eat before the previous meal is digested, particularly when the seasons are changing.”

It is natural that during the winter when our bodies are working harder to stay warm, we may tend to eat more, and sometimes we can overeat. As we transition to spring, the need to eat may lessen, but we may maintain our normal food routine, thus overwhelming our digestion and leading to ama. Also there may be some ama accumulation from the winter months when we tend to eat more.

Eating light, warm, more digestible foods is the ticket. Season your food with spices such as fresh ginger, turmeric, cumin, coriander, fennel, and black pepper to perk up digestion. Try eating your main meal at lunchtime and eat lighter at night, as digestive strength wanes as the sun sets. Vegetable soup, lightly spiced rice and dhal (kitchari), and cooked veggies are good choices for light evening fare. Try to stay away from heavy sweets.

Because spring weather is cool, damp, and heavy, Ayurveda recommends drinking hot water throughout the day to keep digestive strength high. Avoid ice-cold drinks and foods, such as ice cream, as these can douse agni and make it hard for your gut to do its job. For some people, periodic fasting (such as eating warm, cooked, liquefied meals one day a week) can be helpful in maintaining a strong immune system.

Learn more about our easy home detox programs that are ideal for removing toxins and improving digestion during these transitional months.

2. Exercise daily.
Light daily exercise (or heavier if that is your routine) is a great way to keep your digestion toned and your elimination moving waste products out of your system. Walking 30 minutes a day at a brisk pace can stimulate digestion and improve your immunity. While walking is a good exercise to do directly after a meal, you’ll want to wait until your meal is completely digested before engaging in more vigorous exercise.

3. Get More Rest.
Sleep is a great healer, allowing your immune system to repair itself and detoxify. One interesting point from Ayurveda: it’s not only the amount of sleep that matters, but when. Sleeping late in the morning, especially in springtime, can slow your digestion and make you feel sluggish and dull. As recent research on body rhythms has shown, the Ayurvedic maxim of going to bed before ten at night and waking up at first light, around six, keeps your energy and immunity levels in top form. This routine translates into seven to eight hours of rest at the optimal time of night.

4. Tamp Down Stress. While you can’t do anything about nail-biting world events, you can do something about the way you handle life’s challenges. Managing stress is not a luxury item—it’s necessary to keep your immunity healthy. When you’re stressed, science has shown that your resistance to antigens is lower, making you more susceptible to infection.

Meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises can cut down on stress and help you stay positive and calm. The Transcendental Meditation technique, for instance, is widely known as an effective stress-reduction technique and has been associated with 50 percent lower hospital admissions for a wide range of diseases. It also is associated with a significant reduction in harmful stress coping strategies such as cigarette, alcohol, and drug usage, all of which can compromise immunity.

“Reducing stress is one of the key ways to improve immunity,” says Dr. Clark. “States of heightened stress are related to a heightened immune response.”

Social support is also important to immunity. “Engaging in activities that give you joy and happiness on a daily basis, such as spending time in nature, or with your family and friends, helps reduce stress,” says Dr. Clark.

5. Take Immune-Boosting Supplements
For those times when your immunity needs help, such as when you are traveling, feeling stressed, or for some reason can’t follow your normal diet and routine, Ayurveda recommends taking herbal supplements to shore up your digestion, remove toxins, and revitalize immunity.

Bio-Immune is a potent Ayurvedic formula that restores balance in two ways: It eliminates the intestinal toxins that challenge our immune system and restores healthy intestinal flora, the body’s first line of defense against imbalance. Bio-Immune also supports natural immunity and helps detoxify blood, supports liver health, and promotes cellular regeneration.

  • eliminates toxins that weaken the immune system
  • supports natural immunity
  • increases resistance to stress
  • promotes liver function
  • is formulated with ashwagandha, holy basil & gotu kola
  • takes over 6 months to prepare

Cold Weather Defense nourishes the body’s natural defense mechanisms, helps remove toxins, and is useful as an all-season safeguard.

  • removes toxins that weaken resistance
  • is formulated with indian elecampane, licorice & hyssop, and holy basil
  • helps regulate mucus in the lungs & sinuses
  • supports overall immunity
  • enhances digestion to minimize production of toxic food residues that can weaken resistance.

Read our reviews to learn what customers have to say about Bio-Immune and Cold Weather Defense.

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

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.) 

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.) 

BY LINDA EGENES

Spring Allergies and Ayurveda

Spring flowers, ragweed, dust, mold or pet dander can cause your immune system to overreact to harmless natural substances.

Instead of reserving its immune response for viruses and bacteria, your body sounds a false alarm when exposed to a certain food, pet dander, pollen, or even a blade of grass — and tells the immune system to attack. Sneezing, nasal congestion and itchy, watery eyes; indigestion; swelling; or skin rashes — these are some of the all-too-familiar results.

According to Maharishi Ayurveda, accumulated toxins (ama) prevent your immune system from functioning normally and cause the overreaction. Ayurveda suggests a multi-faceted approach — adjustments in lifestyle and diet and specific ayurvedic herbal supplements.

Spring Allergies and Ayurveda – Herbs for Spring Immunity

Ayurveda has deep regard for the intelligence of the immune system, and offers a sophisticated in-depth body of botanical knowledge and lifestyle tips, centuries old, supporting it. For example, certain ayurvedic herbs will help support your body’s natural immunity to allergens by helping to eliminate existing toxins and, at the same time, promote a healthy response to harmless allergens. The herbs also work to support the healthy functioning of your liver. As your body’s natural filtration system, your liver filters toxins and chemicals from the food you eat and the water you drink.

In this way these herbs offer a natural, long-term approach to allergens. The product containing these herbs is called Aller-Defense.

Uphold Immune Strength

Supporting the body’s immune system to combat allergens is exactly what Maharishi Ayurveda suggests as the long-term, effective solution to a healthy response to allergens. Herbs can play a helping role in this.

In the spring, impurities (called ama) that have been stored in tissues of the body, including your largest organ, the skin, tend to dissolve due to the rising temperature in the environment. These toxins can build up in the microchannels of the body (the shrotas), blocking them. When the microchannels are blocked, nutrients are not delivered properly to the cells, and the body’s immune system becomes weakened. Then, in the spring, as plants bloom, they fill the air with pollen (allergens) at the very same time the body’s defenses are being challenged with a flood of melting ama. This is the reason that, according to the ayurvedic model of health, our reaction to allergens spikes in the spring.

The Spring Flood of Ama

Traditional ayurvedic experts view the body’s overreaction to respiratory allergens as a problem occurring in a particular sub-dosha of Kapha, called Shleshaka Kapha. This sub-dosha is responsible for maintaining moisture in the upper respiratory tract.

As the digestive impurities (ama) in the body start dissolving, they combine with Shleshaka Kapha to form a thick, sticky toxin called shleshma, which starts to fill the respiratory tract and sinus cavities. The entire respiratory system, as a result, becomes a fertile breeding ground for bacteria and health imbalances. This is the reason why allergen sensitivity can become a sinus or respiratory issue. This is also why a Kapha-reducing diet of lighter foods that are easier to digest is recommended. These kinds of foods are easier on the body and help flush ama out.

Strengthening the Body’s Defense Systems

If one has to choose one product to remove ama from the system and support digestion and elimination (the underlying basis for all health…digestion), one should take Organic Digest Tone. It is an everyday detox that tones the digestive tract and eliminates ama. It also allows the system to metabolize foods and other herbals more effectively. It is the supercharger for good digestion and assimilation. One can eat the best foods available and take the best herbs to be found, but without strong digestion, they are being wasted.

The long-term solution is to delve into the root cause of allergen sensitivity and support the body’s immune system. The Aller-Defense herbal formulation from Maharishi Ayurveda helps remove toxins from the body and strengthen immunity. Aller-Defense helps block toxic reactions by improving digestion, and reduces sensitivity to allergens by nourishing and purifying the liver. This herbal formulation enhances the body’s overall capability to fight allergens.

What about diet?

Researchers have found that a diet that includes regular intake of certain spices can reduce vulnerability to plant allergens. These spices contain natural chemicals that include flavonoids and phenols. For example, turmeric is rich in curcumin, a compound that is known to support a healthy inflammatory response. Turmeric can also help improve digestion and balance the flow of bile. Sage, red pepper, cumin and coriander are some other spices that are known to help with allergen resistance. Sautéing a combination of ground turmeric, cumin and coriander in ghee and using the mixture to season vegetables is a way of incorporating some of these ayurvedic herbs/spices into your diet.

From the ayurvedic perspective, it is important to follow a Kapha-Pitta pacifying diet if one is prone to an allergen response. When the body mistakenly attacks harmless allergens, the body’s immune system releases various chemicals. So it is considered essential to pacify Pitta, because Pitta regulates chemical functions in the body. Drinking Organic Pitta Tea or using the Organic Cooling Pitta Spice Mix (food seasoning) is a convenient way of doing this. It is also important to pacify Kapha to counteract sluggish digestion and congestion. This is especially true in the Kapha season (spring). One of the most effective ways to pacify Kapha is to take Organic Digest Tone. It is an everyday detox that tones the digestive tract and eliminates ama.

Taking products that relieve allergen symptoms provides only temporary relief and does not address the root cause of allergen response — the body overreacting and mistaking harmless natural substances as dangerous.

Herbal Help in Spring

Sniffle Free — Cold weather can compromise your body’s ability to handle cold temperatures that can put out your digestive fire and weaken the body. Sniffle Free supports natural digestive fire, which is often compromised by colder weather. This formula also aids your resistance to the cold, helps lubricate the lungs and helps restore your body’s balance of moisture and mucus.

Elim-Tox — helps cleanse toxins and purify the body. It feels good to clean house and get rid of old junk in your life. It feels even better to clear old impurities from your body. Elim-Tox helps purify toxins from your whole body — down to the cells. You’ll feel healthy, clear and light. And let’s face it. Modern life is full of toxic input. There are chemicals and preservatives in your food supply, toxins in the air and water, and digestive impurities that build up due to poor eating habits, not to mention the toxic build-up that results from mental, physical and emotional stress.

In Maharishi Ayurveda, these impurities are called ama. They disturb digestion, overall metabolism, liver functioning and the healthy breakdown of fats, leading to weight and cholesterol problems. They interrupt circulation, leading to poor nutritional input to the cells. They block elimination, causing digestive disturbances. They interrupt the immune system, leading to allergen resistance issues and health problems. Do you feel groggy after eating? Are your joints feeling stiff? These are signs of toxic build-up. Other signs include an unpleasant body odor, a heavy feeling in your body, or a coated tongue in the morning. Toxins mask the sophisticated intelligence of your body, creating health issues and discomfort instead of health. Yet toxic build-up is virtually unavoidable in today’s fast-paced world. Stressful jobs, environmental pollution and fast-food diets contribute to toxic waste in the body. And no matter how pure the food you eat, if your digestion is out of balance, your own body will create digestive toxins.

Elim-Tox-O is a gentle formula that helps cleanse your body’s natural purification systems without forcing, making it the recommended choice for people who have a tendency towards acne, occasional heartburn, and excess stomach acid or who have a lot of “fire” in their physiology.

(I originally wrote this blog for the Maharishi Ayurveda Blog [MAPI],June 4,2014. Reprinted with permission.) 

 

BY LINDA EGENES

Maharishi AyurVeda with Dr Mark ToomeyToxins surround us. In our food, our water, our air.

Yet according to Maharishi AyurVeda—a comprehensive, prevention–oriented healthcare system based on ancient Vedic health science—these environmental toxins are only part of the toxic load your body builds up every day.

Digestive toxins are created when you don’t digest your food properly, or when you eat food that doesn’t agree with your mind-body system. They can sap your energy, cloud your mind, and color your emotions.

The bottom line—toxins of all kinds create stress and disease.

Fortunately, the science of Maharishi AyurVeda offers many practical ways to detoxify both environmental and digestive toxins. Some of these can be practiced at home as part of your daily routine. Others are offered at in-residence facilities.

Maharishi AyurVeda Purification Treatments

One of the most powerful ways to clear toxins from the body and maintain overall balance is through the Maharishi RejuvenationSM program, traditionally called panchakarma.

“You could define panchakarma as the ancient art of purification,” says Mark Toomey, Ph.D., director of Maharishi AyurVeda at The Raj health spa in Fairfield, Iowa. Acclaimed by the likes of CBS, Newsweek, and Town and Country as a top Maharishi AyurVeda health spa, The Raj attracts clients from all over the world to its charming and luxurious facility nestled in the peaceful Iowa countryside.

Maharishi AyurVeda“Maharishi AyurVeda techniques of purification help us to maintain a physiology that’s not only capable of experiencing its own finer states of awareness, but also maintains the connectedness of every part of the body to wholeness, or pure consciousness, within,” says Dr. Toomey.

When you come to The Raj and stay in-residence, a Maharishi AyurVeda expert first determines your individual treatment program, depending on the state of balance or imbalance of your mind-body system.

The purifying spa schedule might include Maharishi AyurVeda warm-oil massage (abhyanga), soothing oil treatments to calm the mind (shirodhara), steam therapies (swedana)—and purification of the nasal passages and the large and small intestines.

Maharishi Rejuvenation therapies are gentle yet powerful in their ability to flush out toxins. A study published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine in 2002 found that the Maharishi Rejuvenation program reduced 14 varieties of lipophilic (fat-soluable) toxins by about 50 percent. These include DDE (a by-product of DDT) and harmful PCBs, which have been known to remain in the body for up to 40 years.

“These are environmental toxins that stay in the fat cells, and it’s extremely hard to get rid of them,” says Dr. Toomey. “Yet the ancient purification therapies of Maharishi AyurVeda are remarkably effective in flushing them out of the body.”

A Restful Experience

Although deeply purifying, treatments offered at The Raj are also soothing, relaxing, and rejuvenating. “The general experience is that purification does not have to be unpleasant,” says Dr. Toomey. “In fact, it’s blissful.” Many people make it a habit to return to the Raj again and again to rest, reset, and purify.

One client said, “I have been to top health spas all over the world, and the one I keep going back to is The Raj. It is truly the most peaceful and rejuvenating. Whether you are looking for an increased sense of spiritual peace and grounding, or whether you just want to look really good when you get back home—The Raj helps you accomplish whatever goals you set for yourself.”

Benefits for Mind and Body

The Maharishi Rejuvenation program is known to have a wide range of health benefits. These include increased vitality and fertility, balanced digestion, enhanced luster of the skin and clear complexion, slowing of aging, increased physical strength, enhanced power of the sense organs, relief from joint aches and pains, and relief from chronic disorders.

Yet Maharishi AyurVeda purification is not just for the body—it has a powerful effect on the mind as well—improving memory, increasing calmness, and enhancing positive emotions.

“At the end of treatment people report feeling lighter, having more energy, and more clear, blissful experiences during meditation,” says Dr. Toomey. “When you purify the body of toxins, you open the path to deeper experiences in meditation.”

Thus the Maharishi Rejuvenation program supports the development of higher states of consciousness. “We know that the transcendental aspect of meditation means ‘to go beyond,’” explains Dr. Toomey. “In order to experience that refined, transcendental level of our own pure consciousness, we need a purified, balanced physiology to support that experience.”

The Maharishi Rejuvenation program supports the development of higher states of consciousnessAt the same time, the deep rest provided by the Transcendental Meditation technique helps the body to purify toxins. It is known, for instance, that the body naturally has the means to metabolize environmental toxins and impurities through the liver and other organs of purification. It’s also known through research studies that chronic stress affects the body’s ability to purify toxins, and the fact is that TM reduces chronic stress and wear and tear on the body (allostatic load).

Dr. Toomey points out that this effect of TM in helping the body to purify environmental toxins is important for the brain as well. “Many environmental toxins are neurotoxic, which means they affect the ability of the brain to function,” he says. “Believe it or not, in Europe they count the by-product of pollution in lost IQ points. Which means that neurotoxic pollution can cause impairment of your intellectual abilities. It also means that when your body is overwhelmed with toxins, the ability to transcend may be less.”

So on the one hand, the ability to transcend helps enliven the body to purify, and on the other hand, the purification of the body helps the mind transcend.

Scott Fuller visits The Raj twice a year with his wife, Lynn. “The focus is on the purification of the physiology,” he says. “In my personal experience, it results in a profound wholeness. I always come back from The Raj feeling more grounded and in contact with my Self—with a capital ‘S.’ It’s the kind of feeling that you have when you’re six or seven and you feel there is nothing wrong with the world.”

Five Ways to Let Go of Toxins

Here are five Maharishi AyurVeda lifestyle habits that you can use at home to support your body’s self-purification systems.

  1. Detox while you sleep.According to Maharishi AyurVeda (and recent research on sleep), the body detoxifies during the period between 10 pm and 6 am. If you sleep during that time, your body will have the opportunity to rest, rejuvenate, and cleanse toxins properly.
  2. Clean up your diet. Eat organic foods that have been grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and genetically modified seeds. In general, eat fresh, cooked, warm foods, as these are easier to digest. Avoid packaged, canned, or frozen foods as these often have additives and are not fresh.
  3. Reduce your stress. Practice the Transcendental Meditation technique to provide the deep rest and relief from stress the body’s self-purification systems need to purify harmful toxins naturally.
  4. Drink plenty of pure water.Water flushes water-soluble toxins from the body. Maharishi AyurVeda recommends warm water to aid digestion. Avoid ice-cold or carbonated water as these disturb digestion and cause digestive toxins to form.
  5. Use herbal supplements for a safe and effective home cleanse. See The Maharishi AyurVeda Detox Routine at Maharishi Ayurvedic Products International (MAPI) website (http://www.mapi.com).

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 20. Reprinted with permission.)

Five Top Heart Health Strategies According to Recent Research An Interview with Robert D. Brook, M.D.

BY LINDA EGENES

Robert Brook MDRobert D. Brook, M.D., is a cardiovascular medicine specialist and professor of medicine at the University of Michigan’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. He has authored over 150 peer-reviewed publications in the areas of vascular biology, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular imaging, hypertension, prevention, and hyperlipidemia. A pioneering researcher in the field of environmental cardiology, his research focuses on how air pollutants cause heart disease and trigger cardiovascular events.

Dr. Brook recently served as chair of “Beyond Medications and Diet—Alternative Approaches to Lowering Blood Pressure: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association (AHA),” which critically reviewed the evidence supporting the efficacy of alternative mechanisms to lower blood pressure.

The AHA report concluded that the Transcendental Meditation (TM®) technique lowers blood pressure and recommends that TM may be considered in clinical practice for the prevention and treatment of hypertension.

Here Dr. Brook discusses the TM technique and other ways to prevent heart disease.

Linda Egenes: Looking at the latest research, what are the five most important things we can do to protect our hearts?

Dr. Brook: First and foremost, start with a healthy diet and lifestyle. A number of research studies have been conducted on the Mediterranean diet, so it has the most scientific evidence as being protective to the heart.

Second, incorporate aerobic activity into your lifestyle. The usual recommendation is 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic activity a week. Both the Mediterranean diet and regular aerobic activity have been shown in numerous studies to be effective in both primary prevention (those without heart disease) and secondary prevention (those with established heart disease).

Third, control your cholesterol. While many people do this through diet and exercise, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that statins are extremely effective in the prevention of heart attacks, and they also reduce the risk of stroke. So I don’t want to downplay how important statins are—they are a central aspect of cardiovascular prevention.

Fourth, control your blood pressure with lifestyle approaches and/or medications. Unfortunately, there are close to 80 million people in the United States with hypertension, and with 40% of the global population suffering from high blood pressure, it is the leading cause of mortality in the world.

Fifth, never start smoking and quit smoking if you do. The interesting fact is that within six months to two years after a person stops smoking, we see a dramatic reduction in the risk of heart attacks, even in people who had a prior heart attack. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke as well.

Linda Egenes: What about air pollution?

Dr. Brook: In North America we are lucky to live with relatively low levels of air pollution. While it’s still a public health issue, there is good evidence that as air pollution levels have fallen following the Clean Air Act of the 1970s, there has been the expected reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease. Nevertheless, air pollution still poses a risk to cardiovascular health even at today’s lower levels.

Unfortunately, in much of the rest of the world, things have gotten worse. Developing nations such as China, India, and the Middle East have now inherited our problem of coal power plants. On top of that, they are burning biomass (wood and crop residues) for cooking and heating inside their homes, so their pollution levels are ten times the levels of North America and Western Europe.

Particulates from biomass-burning indoors is not just the cause of asthma, cancer, and chronic lung disease, but it’s a serious problem for the heart as well. With hypertension number one, the number two killer of people in the world is smoking, and number three is indoor air pollution, which includes secondhand smoke. Outdoor air pollution is the ninth leading cause of death globally.

Linda Egenes: How did you become involved in the AHA committee?

Dr. Brook: A number of academic physicians and scientists from the United States were invited to an AHA conference in Beijing to discuss the epidemic of hypertension in developing nations. At that meeting there was great interest in nonpharmacologic ways to control blood pressure, due to the expense of pharmaceuticals, the cost to society, and the lack of availability in some countries. So the question emerged: are there research studies to support the use of nonpharmacologic methods to reduce hypertension—beyond the well-known and well-proven successes of diet changes, weight loss, and salt reduction?

I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and volunteered to take a leadership role. Nonpharmacologic approaches to hypertension are also of great personal interest since every day in my clinical practice someone asks, “Is there a way I can control my blood pressure without medication?”

Yet up until this time there had never been a critical review or statement by the AHA of nonpharmacologic, non-dietary ways to improve blood pressure. At the same time, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. So I knew this review would not only address the worldwide public health issues discussed at our meeting in China, but would also be a helpful resource for clinicians, healthcare providers, and patients in the US as well.

Linda Egenes: I understand it took about two years for the committee to analyze over 1000 studies and come up with recommendations?

Dr. Brook: Yes. All this information was available before, and we sifted through the large number of studies and publications across many disciplines. We also critically analyzed each alternative approach to fit the algorithm, the grading criteria, that the AHA has developed to give global recommendations based upon research.

This is a formal process in the AHA and other societies, forming a writing committee that analyzes the research, writes the paper, and takes it through multiple stages of approval, including independent peer review and a final endorsement by the AHA. It took two years from start to finish, which is pretty standard for a writing committee of this kind.

Linda Egenes: Can you talk about the research on the TM technique and how it stood up under review?

Dr. Brook: We chose several broad categories of nonpharmacologic, alternative approaches to hypertension, including exercise, device-guided approaches such as slow breathing and biofeedback, and stress reduction approaches such as meditation.

In the stress reduction category, we focused on the more recent studies of TM and other types of meditation such as mindfulness, contemplative meditation, and focused attention. Separate meta-analyses and our review of the research on TM showed a fairly clear overall reduction in blood pressure, about 4 or 5 mmHg systolic. Using the AHA’s metrics, we graded TM rather high based on the evidence.

TM stood alone amongst all of the meditation techniques because of the great deal of research and corroborative evidence. There were far more studies in relation to blood pressure and hypertension on TM as compared to other meditation techniques. There also were three meta-analyses (a collection of many studies) that corroborated that TM was effective for lowering blood pressure.

And in some of the more recent studies done by scientists such as Robert Schneider, M.D., at Maharishi University of Management and collaborators at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and other universities, it was shown that TM not only lowered blood pressure but also reduced cardiovascular disease itself.

Linda Egenes: TM was the only meditation technique recommended in this report by the AHA, correct?

Dr. Brook: Right. I would say there is a lack of compelling evidence that other types of meditation and stress reduction techniques, including yoga, are as effective in reducing blood pressure.

This doesn’t mean that they don’t reduce blood pressure. It’s just that there is a lack of compelling or good evidence that they do. In comparison, there is good evidence that TM is effective in modestly lowering blood pressure. That is why it stood out and was selected amongst the meditation techniques. I say this with the caveat that as better trials are done, it may well be that some of the other techniques will be found to be effective as well.

There were very few, if any, head-to-head studies that would compare the effectiveness of one type of meditation technique vs. another. In the future we’d like to be able to compare TM to other techniques to see if there is really something unique about TM as compared to other meditation approaches or general stress reduction or slow breathing. And, could this be done on a larger scale for a longer term?

Linda Egenes: I’m curious. Are you a practitioner of the TM technique?

Dr. Brook: No. I am not an advocate; I am not an activist. I’m not coming from the inside at all. This is an external review by somebody who is somewhat of a skeptic. The studies show what they show and the publications are what they are. I didn’t come in knowing anything about the TM technique.

Linda Egenes: Sometimes studies on the TM technique are criticized when the people who are doing the studies are TM meditators.

Dr. Brook: That is a generic criticism. Anybody doing the research is, of course, an insider in that area. No area of research is not subject to that same potential bias, so I reject that criticism as long as the researchers are ethical, and we assume that they are. I know that Dr. Robert Schneider and his collaborators have displayed the highest scientific integrity in their research at Maharishi University of Management, the University of Iowa College of Medicine, the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, the Medical College of Wisconsin, and other research institutions.

Linda Egenes: Since doing this research, do you recommend TM to your patients?

Dr. Brook: Absolutely. A population-level reduction of 5 mmHg systolic is a profound 10-15% reduction in heart attacks, strokes, and cardiovascular disease. At the same time, I don’t want to overstate the effect of TM on blood pressure, which is modest but still helpful. It’s a good adjunct for people who have mild hypertension or upper-normal levels, what we call pre-hypertension. Or it can be helpful as a supplement for people who have intolerances to blood pressure medications, or who aren’t at goal on one or two medications and don’t want to add a third pill.

And I always tell Dr. Robert Schneider, “You can do TM for many other reasons, and if as an ancillary benefit it also helps to lower blood pressure, that’s a wonderful side effect.”

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 20. Reprinted with permission.)

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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

America has the most expensive healthcare system in the world. Researchers cite the increase in chronic disease as a major cause of escalating costs and predict a 42 percent rise in chronic disease by 2023, adding $4.2 trillion in treatment costs. The good news is that chronic disease is preventable, since many chronic conditions are linked to stress and unhealthy lifestyles.

Robert E. Herron, Ph.D., is an independent researcher, writer, speaker, and consultant in medical cost reduction and economic policy, and he is currently the director of the Center for Holistic Systems Analysis in Fairfield, Iowa. Dr. Herron’s new book, New Knowledge For New Results, presents a comprehensive strategy to reduce rising medical costs. While other researchers focus mainly on financial issues, Dr. Herron re-examines the underlying foundations of modern medicine.

Here Dr. Herron talks about our current healthcare crisis and how the Transcendental Meditation technique can help prevent chronic disease and lower costs.

Linda Egenes: As a nation, how can preventive measures help us to lower healthcare costs?

Dr. Robert Herron: To say it in one sentence, by providing preventive treatment modalities to the people who consistently incur the greatest expenses, we could leverage the greatest reductions in overall medical expenses and end up with the lowest treatment cost for everyone.

In most populations, a small fraction of people account for the majority of healthcare costs. In the U.S., for instance, the 10 percent of the population with the highest expenses incurred 60-70 percent of our total medical expenditures annually. In the Medicare population, the highest spending 5 percent incurred 43 percent of total Medicare costs, and 25 percent of seniors accounted for 85 percent of total expenses.

Research shows that high-cost people typically have chronic conditions, which are affected by excessive stress. As we know, stress degrades the immune system and other physiological systems, such as the cardiovascular system and contributes to a wide range of physical and mental disorders.

Prolonged stress also contributes to the unhealthy lifestyles that cause most chronic conditions—such as smoking, drinking, and abuse of drugs—which account for approximately 80 percent of national medical expenditures. Clearly, stress reduction will help reduce high medical costs.

Because chronic stress is a leading driver of high medical expenses, if health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid started covering the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique, the most effective stress-reduction method as shown by research, it would be possible to greatly reduce skyrocketing national healthcare expenditures without cutting benefits, increasing premiums, or raising taxes.

Linda Egenes: How does the Transcendental Meditation technique reduce stress?

Dr. Robert Herron: When you meditate, your body experiences a unique state of physical and mental rest that eliminates stress and helps to balance and normalize all your bodily systems. The TM technique also makes the mind and body more resilient so you don’t accumulate excessive stress in the future. This improves health and reduces costs.

In addition to stress release, however, there are other beneficial activities that occur during the TM technique. For instance, during TM sessions many researchers have found that brain functioning is enhanced, resulting in greater brain orderliness and coherence, which also increases intelligence and creativity.

Disease is a state of disorder or imbalance in both mind and body. Because the brain controls most systems in our physiology, if we make the brain more orderly, then the entire body also becomes more orderly and healthy, including the heart. That is why the research shows that when we improve health with the TM technique, there are corresponding declines in all disease categories and medical costs.

Linda Egenes: I understand that you’ve published a number of research studies on healthcare costs. Can you talk about your research?

Dr. Robert Herron: The most recent study was published in the American Journal of Health Promotion in 2011. The results indicated that people with consistently high doctors’ bills experienced a 28 percent cumulative decrease in physician fees after an average of five years of TM practice. Even after the first year of meditation, the TM group’s physicians’ bills declined by 11 percent.

What did these findings mean? First of all, the research demonstrated that the largest and quickest reductions in medical costs could be achieved by providing the TM program to people with consistently high healthcare costs—the very people who are driving up the costs of healthcare today.

Secondly, it showed that a nonmedical intervention, the Transcendental Meditation technique, resulted in a statistically significant decline in healthcare usage that persisted for five years. In other words, with the group that practiced TM, the number of times they visited the doctor was less at the end of the five-year study than it had been at the start of the study.

This kind of decline in healthcare usage had never been shown before. Prior to this research, health economists and leaders hoped that someday the best interventions might be able to, at best, slow down the rate of increase in medical expenses.

Thus leaders in the field of healthcare had never even imagined that a decline in healthcare usage would be possible for this group of chronically ill patients. Yet because the TM technique has such a powerful health-enhancing effect, the impossible has become the common experience of people who meditate regularly.

Linda Egenes: That’s an extraordinary finding. Are there any other studies that indicate the Transcendental Meditation technique can create a decrease in healthcare utilization over a long period of time?

Dr. Robert Herron: Yes, several other studies also suggest this. For instance, a study by Dr. David Orme-Johnson, published in Psychosomatic Medicine in 1987, examined five years of health insurance data to assess the medical usage of 2,000 TM practitioners compared with controls. When compared with norms (everyone else in the health insurance plan of the same age and gender) and other groups of similar profession, the TM subjects had 50 percent lower inpatient and outpatient medical visits. This trend held across all age groups and disease categories. According to the clinically significant findings, there was 87 percent less hospitalization than norms for heart disease, and 55 percent less hospitalization than norms for cancer.

This study and others demonstrating reduced healthcare utilization through the TM technique were published in peer-reviewed journals, and over 242 additional studies have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals showing that the TM technique improves a wide range of mental and physical health disorders. Many of these studies were randomized clinical trials and meta-analyses.

Several randomized clinical trials funded by the National Institutes of Health found that the TM technique decreases high blood pressure, improves heart function, reduces cardiovascular mortality, and decreases all-cause death rates.

The body of research is strong. To me, it implies that we should make policy changes at all levels of the healthcare system to make this life-saving methodology of the TM technique available to everyone. Then we could begin to halt the epidemic of stress-related diseases that are causing unnecessary suffering and driving healthcare costs higher.

Linda Egenes: I understand that the TM technique has also been shown to be a cost-effective way to treat mental disorders such as chronic anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Dr. Robert Herron: Yes. Three research studies that evaluated the impact of TM practice on veterans who suffer from PTSD found dramatic declines in negative tendencies, as well as increases in happiness, harmony, positive attitudes, and wholesome, productive lifestyles. The numerous testimonials from these veterans indicate that the TM technique completely changed their lives and, in many cases, saved them from suicide. These early studies are now being repeated in other settings with many more veterans by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense.

Linda Egenes: Based on your research and knowledge of the healthcare system, what would it take to get a preventive program such as the Transcendental Meditation technique widely adopted?

Dr. Robert Herron: For a preventive program such as the TM technique to become widely adopted, the federal and state governments and health insurance organizations simply need to examine the entire body of TM research that verifies its health benefits. Then, in the best interests of their constituents and consumers, they could provide full insurance coverage for starting the TM technique as soon as possible. Governments would save large amounts of money and would be able to balance their budgets more easily.

So the solution is simple: just add a TM benefit. If the TM technique were made available to the entire population, it could become a powerful means to prevent disease and enhance happiness and progress in all areas of life.

Linda Egenes is co-editor of Enlightenment: The Transcendental Meditation® Magazine. She is the author of five books, including Super Healthy Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Maharishi Ayurveda, co-authored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D.

(I originally wrote this interview for Enlightenment Magazine, Issue number 18. Reprinted with permission.)

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