The first and foremost strategy for digesting all the food you like to eat, as well as losing weight, is to simply change how you eat. While eating and drinking quickly, while walking or driving in the car, while standing up or while being distracted by your electronic devices or TV, may all seem benign and harmless, the microbiome that live inside of your gut cannot perform its duty correctly under these conditions. Poor digestion, anxiety, and weight gain are the results of these poor habits, which too many of us have adopted in recent years.
Relaxing, or simply sitting for 10-15 minutes, while you eat activates the “rest-and-digest” parasympathetic nervous system and is a key strategy for healthy digestion. During your meals, turn off technologies and other distractions: relax, chew slowly, and enjoy your meal.
Is this what your day looks like: breakfast – snack – lunch – snack – dinner – maybe another snack? If so, when will your body get a chance to process and complete a digestion cycle? When can it burn its own fat? Burning fat is a very slow process. With five, six meals a day, your body is being fed constantly. Why would it bother to metabolize its fat?
Three meals a day, including a light dinner, or two meals a day if you want to burn more fat, show significant improvements in energy, lower body weight, liver fat content reduction, decreased insulin resistance, and better pancreatic blood sugar regulation. Following this guideline and avoiding snacks in between meals, your body will be forced to burn fat during the day, and throughout the night, which is when the elimination part of the digestive process is happening.
Ayurveda teaches that the body is best able to digest a large amount of food during the middle of the day when the sun is the highest in the sky. Eating big at lunchtime will curb afternoon sugar cravings and reduce the risk of overeating at dinner. If you wish to lose weight, studies have showed that eating more calories at night will predispose the body to greater risk of obesity. Also, newly published circadian medicine research has now confirmed that our cell’s biological clocks are tuned to digest best at breakfast and lunch (not dinner!) and rejuvenate during the evening and night.
Another wholesome digestion strategy is to eat more fibre. Ancient humans ate five times as much fibre as we do! Fibre is crucial to escorting your bile, which carries bad fats and toxins, to the toilet. If you do not have enough fibre in your diet, most of the toxic bile and bad fats are reabsorbed back into the liver, entangling the body with unwanted toxic fat. Remember to add fibre to your meals, every day.
To help boost digestive strength, drink a large glass of lemon water 15-30 minutes before meals. If you have difficulty with wheat (gluten) and dairy, instead of tossing these food groups out the window, have a pinch of salt and ginger root about 10-15 minutes before a meal.
This last tip is an excellent way to not only get rid of ‘ama’ (food that hasn’t been digested by the fire element), while keeping your digestive system working optimally. Sip warm or room temperature water throughout the day, from the moment you wake up until late afternoon. If you spend a lot of sitting time at a desk, use your favourite cup and keep the water warm—it will make you get up once in a while to move a bit, and refill.
Note: Ama is a residual substance that remains in the system and can accumulate, ferment and eventually cause disease. There are numerous symptoms of too much ama. You may experience—poor appetite, indigestion and bowel problems, bloating; allergic reactions (asthma, hives, psoriasis and eczema); mental and physical fatigue, sleepiness and heaviness after eating; bad breath and body odor, lethargy and depression; low enthusiasm and motivation; waking up tired, even after a good night’s sleep; white/cream coating on the tongue, particularly noticeable in the morning; aches and pains; headaches and migraine; recurrent infections; congestion causing constipation.
On days you feel you need more support, prepare the following tridoshic herbal tea: Prepare ¾ of a teaspoon of an equal proportion of cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds. Steep in 1.5 litre of water, for 5 to 10 minutes, then remove the seeds, sip throughout the morning and/or afternoon, and enjoy!
The content of this article is part of the Ayurveda: From Theory to Daily Practice course I offer twice a year through the Semperviva College. The next course is October 1st to 5th. It is designed for all! You can also contact me directly to make an appointment for a private consultation (Vancouver, Sunshine Coast, or on Skype).
Deep Meditation brings a quality of rest that allows us to act from a state of harmony and fullness. It is like pressing a reset button, which allows us to reboot our inner computer. Each time we come back, we have the appropriate skills needed to perform and enjoy life more fully.
One of the teachings I received from my meditation instructor when I began my practice 25 years ago comes from the Bhagavad Gita, a 700-verse scripture in Sanskrit that is part of the epic Mahabharata. It takes the form of a dialogue between prince Arjuna, the great archer, and his guide and charioteer Lord Krishna, who represents the highest ideals. Driving their chariot into battle to fight their deceitful cousins, who had taken control of the kingdom through trickery, Arjuna pauses, suddenly conflicted about killing his cousins. He knows that if his cousins become rulers, the people will suffer for generations… he has to stop them for the greater good. But to do so, he must go into battle and kill his family, cousins he grew up playing as a child!
In chapter 2, verses 42-48 of the Gita, conflicted, Arjuna asked Krishna for advice. Krishna simply said, “Yogastah Kuru Karmani,” which means “First establish being in yourself and then, and only then, perform action.” My personal translation for this verse comes from the experience of my sitting practice: “Find peace within, inner silence, and from there – act; be the main character of your life story.”
What this means is that we cannot take action upon either our thoughts (ideas of right or wrong) or our feelings (judgments based on emotion). We must act from that place of being – deep silence and knowing – where there is no “this or that”, no “should or shouldn’t”.
Once we are able to remove ourselves from our mind and emotions and establish ourselves in being, we are able to act and perform the action without attachment. These actions ultimately bring balance back to our lives.
The regular practice of Deep Meditation I sit with and teach has given me this experience of inner calm. From this state naturally and spontaneously comes the ability to act clearly, without being distracted by thoughts and emotions. That doesn’t mean I am not emotional or that I am free of so-called ‘’negative’’ thoughts, it means that I can more easily follow my intuition and feel in harmony within myself and with the environment in which I live. I gain this harmony by making decisions that enhance the quality of my life. These decisions might have to do with maintaining and supporting health, material acquisitions, gaining knowledge, participating in my community, or almost anything. All these questions are investigated through the lens of inner harmony.
We all need rest, stillness, and an experience of calm and stability on a daily basis. My invitation to you, through this teaching, is to give yourself one or two short breaks per day to cultivate peacefulness, deep rest, to replenish with calm energy and then, only then, accomplish your tasks and realize all your projects and dreams.
One of the aspects of modern western medicine is that it targets therapy to a broad patient population with a “one drug fits all” approach. However, in earlier medical practice the importance of personalized medicine was well known and this term has been rising in usage in recent years.
Personalized medicine, or individualized medicine, is defined as medical care for each patient’s unique condition and has its roots in the understanding of diseases that date back to 1500 B.C. Ayurveda, the traditional system of Indian medicine, has a well-defined system of constitutional types used in prescribing medicine, bearing a resemblance to personalized medicine. A natural health care system, Ayurveda emphasizes the treatment of disease in a highly individualized manner, as it believes that every individual has a unique constitution. Ayurveda classifies all individuals into different prakriti types based on the theory of tridosha and each type has varying degree of predisposition to different diseases. The Sanskrit word prakriti refers to your individual constitution, at both physical and psychological levels. Tridosha theory is the central concept that health exists when there is a balance between the three fundamental bodily humors or doshas called Vata, Pitta and Kapha.
In the West, the tailoring of treatment to patients dates back at least to the time of Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, who once said “It is far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has”. He evaluated factors like person’s constitution, age, and physique in deciding what treatment to prescribe. One interesting fact is that, upon the discovery of the molecular basis of hereditary diseases beginning in the early 20th century, modern version of an ancient tradition have been revived. In the 21st century, personalized medicine is back in vogue in the West, and Ayurveda is also generating increasing interest.
Ayurveda not only offers personalized treatment but also personalized nutrition and lifestyle advice suited to an individual’s prakriti, making it a holistic science. These attributes of Ayurveda can play a major role in disease prevention and promotion of health, leading towards longevity with a better quality of life.
If you are interested to learn the basis of Ayurveda, discern and put to practise some of the most appropriate and effective health and wellness strategies for yourself, consider attending the Ayurveda: From Theory to Daily Practise course. After completion, you will be equipped to understand more fully your unique constitution and, perhaps, even start helping the ones around you.
The style of meditation I teach is a mantra-based meditation. A mantra is a sound, or a vibration. In Sanskrit ‘manas’ means mind, and ‘tra’ means instrument, or tool. Mantra translates to ‘instrument of thought’. A mantra is part of the technique used in Deep Meditation I have been teaching since 2005 on a one-on-one basis, or to small groups. This individual instruction provides students with independence within their practice. The practice is very portable and follows you anywhere you go; you do not need to belong to a group or any institution. Among its many benefits, mantra-based meditation helps those who practise it to be calm, cultivate well-being, and gradually become self-reliant.
I started my own daily practise of this traditional type of meditation more than 25 years ago. It was easy to learn, natural to practise, and brought me rewards right from the beginning. During a mantra-based meditation like Deep Meditation, the meditator uses a mantra in a simple act of repetitive silent speech to help exert calm, or mental quiescence, without the need for intense concentrative efforts. Today, I would like to share with you a recent study about the efficiency of mantra repetition and its calming effect on the brain.
In a study published in 2015 in the Brain and Behavior, a scientific journal, scientists observed that repetitive speech, even in untrained subjects, elicits widespread deactivation or reduction in cortical activity. These regions of the brain include the thought-related Default Mode Network (DMN), which relates to a variety of self-related processes, such as predicting and planning the future, mind wandering, and stimulus-independent thought. Also, these functions have been linked to emotional stress. This study suggests a neurophysiological explanation that accounts for the relaxing power of mantra recitation, and shows that repetitive speech has a readily observable functional MRI (fMRI) signature, hence a significant reduction in thought-related cognitive processes. It is with great joy that I read this article last week because it confirms what my teachers and many years of tradition have taught us. If you are interested in reading all the details about this study, here it is.
In Deep Meditation training you will receive a tool, a mantra, to help you meditate effortlessly. From your first meditation experience you will spontaneously experience calmness, inner silence, or stillness of the mind. It is natural for your mind to rest and mantra-based meditation is a technique that allows this to happen. Such experiences are also called ‘yoga’, another Sanskrit word that translates to union, or connection, or if you prefer a state of unity within. Mantra-based meditation is a tool to experience the calm within. It is simple, natural, non-religious, and available to you.
Once a month, or as needed, I offer an introduction to Deep Meditation that you can attend for free. In this session you can ask all your questions and learn more about all the benefits of this deep meditation practice.
À votre service!
According to Ayurveda, health issues develop when one part of the body forgets its role as part of the whole. When someone goes for an Ayurvedic consultation, the practitioner spends at least an hour with the patient in order to get to know her well. Then a plan is developed that treats the whole person, rather than only the specific problem. In my own practice I prefer to take about 90 minutes during the first consultation, and then 60 minutes for the follow-ups to really know the client.
In the West, the concept of treating the whole person is becoming more common, and there is a great need for more research into simpler ways of treating disease and problems that doesn’t involve expensive and sometimes radical diagnosis and treatment. Despite this, it is still true that a diagnosis using Western medicine is, so far, the most accurate in the world, as are the treatment plans often offered. For example, if you have heart disease, knowing exactly what is wrong with the heart can be life saving. Diagnosing an arthritic hip and replacing it can add quality years to one’s life. As a culture, we would be in trouble without this Western wisdom to diagnose problems with our parts and treat them. But Western medicine still has work to do regarding treating the whole person, rather than just the parts.
Ayurvedic medicine, on the other hand, offers help in placing our attention not only on the parts that may be causing us problems but also on the role that these parts play in the whole picture. Sometimes these parts have become isolated from the whole and have lost their ability to function properly. Healing the cause of the broken parts by addressing the whole is a major strategy used in Ayurveda. For example, we all know that stress affects our digestive system as well as our mind, our mood, and even our cognitive abilities. These individual parts can perform poorly due to systemic problems of the whole, such as failure to assimilate nutrients, or a failure to properly detoxify and remove of wastes, or by malfunctions in immune system. A dysfunction in any of these three areas can cause innumerable problems, concerns and disease. These are major areas that Ayurveda addresses.
To begin to strengthen your whole body, or to simply learn more about how Ayurveda can help you, I invite you to book a consultation. Another option is to enroll in my course called Ayurveda: From Theory to Daily Practise.
The counselling I offer examines both your daily diet and lifestyle. It can be done in the comfort of my home/office or by a Skype call. The approach is holistic and gradual. Depending on your needs, I will recommend a plan that will guide you towards achieving your goals, one step at a time and at your own rhythm.
The course is for those new to Ayurveda and is designed for everyone. It presents the history and philosophy as well as the fascinating principles of Ayurveda through the 5 elements, the cycles of life, and the 3 doshas. You will learn how to assess your own birth constitution as well as your imbalances. You will also start to integrate and become balanced by learning the best diet for your constitution. In addition, you will be introduced to other therapies like dinacharya, pranayama, asanas, and meditation, which form part of a daily routine.
Let me be part of the expansion of your life quality through the wisdom and such a holistic medicine.
À votre santé!
Now is a great time to consider doing a simple Ayurvedic Cleanse, one of the best ways to protect your health and your wellbeing for the coming months and beyond.
An Ayurvedic cleanse supports the elimination of toxins from the body, increases energy and vitality, supports healthy weight management, relaxes the nervous system and calms the mind, helps to reestablish one’s natural state of balance, and promotes optimal health and wellbeing.
When gentle spring breezes start to blow, it’s time for spring cleaning — not only for your house but for your body too. Toxins tend to accumulate all year round, due to improper digestion and high levels of stress. Not to mention the chemicals in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the foods we eat. According to Ayurveda, toxic build-up can eventually manifest as a health disorder. And as we grow older, the body’s mechanisms for eliminating impurities tend to be less efficient, making it even more important to cleanse regularly.
This is especially important in the months of March and April. Why? When warmer spring temperatures melt the snow, impurities within your body also start to liquefy, flooding the microcirculatory channels that carry nutrients to the cells and waste away from the cells. When these essential channels get clogged, it can leave you feeling tired, sluggish, and toxic. A spring detox may be just what you need to feel fresh and energetic again.
The type of cleanse that I favor both for myself and my clients, which I recommend strongly, involves three phases: preparation, active cleansing and reintroduction. This structure helps to ease the body both in and out of it and takes up to nine days. The diet consists primarily of kitcheri and vegetables and is supported by detoxifying herbs. During the first phase of the process ghee is part of the diet in order to help pull fat-soluble toxins out of the cells. The whole process is done with ease, even if you are working, and can also be complemented by practices like self-massage with oil, as well as gentle sweating through exercises to help release imbalances held in the tissues in order to get optimal results.
Doing a cleanse gives the physiology a chance to detox, repair, and rejuvenate the tissues while rekindling the digestive fire throughout the body. There are many options when it comes to cleansing. The good news is I can help you with a complete plan for cleansing at home. Join my upcoming training AYURVEDA: FROM THEORY TO DAILY PRACTICE WITH NATHALIE KEILLER APR 17 – 21 as the Ayurvedic cleanse is an important part of it, or simply contact me for a personal consultation and I will customize the process for you and guide you through it.
This winter in British Colombia resembles more like the rest of Canada. It is colder and dryer than usual, hence the importance of keeping yourself warm in order to enjoy it fully. Winter is actually the season when the digestive fire is strongest. The body requires more fuel to stay warm and healthy in the winter months, and the cold weather forces the fire principle deep into the core of the body—igniting the digestive capacity. Our bodies therefore crave a more substantial, nutritive diet at this time of year, and you will likely find yourself needing larger quantities of food.
In general, you’ll want to focus on eating warm, cooked, unctuous, slightly oily, and well spiced foods. Drink room temperature, warm, or hot beverages and avoid smoothies, or chilled drinks. You can increase heat and circulation while encouraging clean and clear respiratory passages (in case of flu or nasal congestion) by drinking a tea boiled for five minutes with ½ teaspoon each ginger root, cinnamon, and clove. Also, teas made with combinations of coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds encourage strong digestion and can be taken after meals. Hearty, heating vegetables like radishes, cooked spinach, onions, carrots, and other root vegetables are generally well received this time of year, as are hot spices like garlic, ginger, and black pepper. Cooked grains like oatmeal, barley, brown rice, or kitcheri make a perfect winter breakfast, and lunches and dinners of steamed vegetables, whole wheat breads, and mushy soups and stews are ideal. Legumes should be well cooked, well spiced, and garnished with a dollop of ghee so as not to aggravate vata. If you eat them, winter is also a great time to enjoy eggs (especially poached or hard-boiled) and meats like chicken, turkey, rabbit, and venison. And while dairy is best reduced in the winter months, a cup of warm/hot, spiced milk with a pinch of turmeric, nutmeg, and cardamom before bed can help to encourage sound sleep.
This article is an excerpt from the chapter on “Food as therapy, and improving your digestive fire (agni)” in my Ayurvedic Training: From Theory to Daily Practice. Visit this page for more info and to register to this course from April 17th to 21st 2017.
Here’s my favorite oatmeal recipe to start the day making Vata dosha happy.
Use organic steel cut oats for a nuttier taste; salt, ghee (optional), fruits, nuts and spices.
For 2 persons use 2/3 cup of oats for 2 cups of water
Boil the water, then add a pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon of ghee, and the oats. Add dried fruits: mangoes, raisins, apricots or figs to the mix and slow cook for 25 minutes. Do some yoga or meditate while it cooks.
*If you use fresh fruits (berries or other precooked fruits) add them after.
Just before serving add some almonds, coconut, sunflower seeds (or your favorite nuts), as well as cinnamon and cardamom to taste, and 1/8 of a teaspoon of turmeric powder.
Bon appétit and have a beautiful day!
In Ayurveda, the subtle forms of Vata, Pitta and Kapha have their corresponding subtle forms in the body and they influence our minds.
If you’re curious about Ayurveda you’ve probably heard that Vata, Pitta and Kapha are the three main doshas, or humors, in the body. The doshas are dynamic energies; they constantly change, like our moods, in response to our emotions, thoughts, actions, the food we eat, the seasons we’re in and other sensory inputs that feed our mind and body. Respectively, Prana, Tejas and Ojas are the more subtle forms of these three doshas, which have an influence in the mind. Similarly, the same things that disturb the doshas can also disturb these mental forms. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Prana is the mental form of Vata, our life force and the breath of life. It is the flow of intelligence at a cellular level, the communication between each cell that holds our organism together. Prana gives us inspiration and positivity; the will to live, grow and heal ourselves, and connects us with our inner self. When Prana is still, we experience pure blissful awareness.
For the body and mind to be in balance, we need just the right amount of Prana.
When there is too much Prana flowing in the body, one may suffer loss of mental control, and sensory and motor coordination; it may predispose us to learning and behavioral problems such as ADHD; as well as feeling ungrounded, stressed and alienated, affecting our sense of identity. When there is too little Prana, we may suffer lack of mental energy, enthusiasm and curiosity, and may feel that our receptivity and creativity are inhibited. Restricted Prana makes our mind and senses dull and heavy, there is lack of motivation, and attitudes that can become conservative and rigid.
Tejas is the mental form of Pitta, the fire of the mind. At the level of the cell it is cellular intelligence. It promotes intelligence, reason, passion to learn, focus, self-discipline, perception and mental clarity. When there is too much Tejas in the mind, we become overly critical and discriminating; we experience doubt, anger, irritability and enmity. One can be hard to please and prone to temper tantrums. When there is too little Tejas, it causes inability to enquire or discern, accepting things uncritically and losing the power to learn from experience. It can also cause us to be passive and impressionable, overly influenced by others; we may lack purpose and lose direction.
Ojas is the mental form of Kapha: the essential vital fluid of the body in subtle form in the mind. It promotes mental strength, stability, endurance, patience, calmness, good memory and sustained concentration, happiness, contentment and bliss. It connects our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being and is essentially our peace of mind. It is regenerated through meditation. Too little Ojas makes us fearful, weak, worry; we may suffer lack of confidence, difficulty concentrating, as well as poor memory. Nervous exhaustion can develop. Too much Ojas can cause heaviness and dullness in the mind; complacency and unwillingness to change or grow. High Ojas is much less a problem than excess Prana or Tejas, which are the main factors in mental disorders.
Prana, Tejas and Ojas control Vata, Pitta and Kapha in the body.
On the negative side, the use of drugs, whether they are medicinal or recreational, is a factor that causes imbalances of Prana, Tejas and Ojas. Excess exposure to mass-media, televisions or computers, overly strong sensations, and overly bright colors, loud noise, and stress can reduce these subtle qualities. Excess or pretended emotions also affect the balance of these three subtle forms.
On the positive side, factors that balance them include meditation, prayer, self-study, deep sleep and relaxation. Aromatherapy, the right use of colors, aromas, and gems are other strategies that Ayurveda uses to heal at the subtle levels. Pranayama (breathing exercises) is another great practise, but excess breathing can also aggravate Prana. The best way to balance Prana is by spending time in nature and commune with virtues such as: faith, love, receptivity, compassion and understanding.
I encourage you to take a few minutes in silence with yourself and reflect on this article. Choose one of the strategies mentioned above that resonates with you, then be creative and plan how you can apply it in your daily life. Feel free to share your experience, or comments in the space below.
This article is an excerpt from the chapter on “Pranayama, Asanas and Meditation” in my Ayurvedic Training: From Theory to Daily Practice. Visit this page for more info and to register to this course.
The art of eating in harmony with nature is one of many strategies to heal your body and mind with Ayurveda
In Western diet, foods are evaluated for proteins, calories, carbohydrates, vitamins, and other nutritional contents. However in Ayurveda, we look not only for vitamins, minerals, and chemical nutrient content, but first and foremost for the energetic properties in foods (and that includes herbs.)
Ayurveda evaluates our diet based on the tastes and its effect on the doshas, as well as the following energetic qualities of the food:
Temperature: cold or warm;
Weight: light or heavy; and
Moisture: dry or wet.
The ayurvedic approach treats what you are like right now, and takes it one day at a time, one season at a time. When you wish to bring balance into your digestion, look at what qualities and tastes dominate in your diet, and balance them with the opposite qualities.
The following six tastes are at the core of this practice:
- Sweet foods: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Examples: wheat, rice, milk, cheese, fruit, dates, etc. They reduce Vata and Pitta, but increase Kapha
- Sour foods: organic acids like yogurt, cheese, sour fruits, fermented foods, lemon, etc. They reduce Vata, but increase Pitta and Kapha
- Salty foods: minerals, natural salts, sea vegetables, etc. They reduce Vata, but increase Pitta and Kapha
- Pungent foods: onions, chilies, ginger, garlic, radish, etc. They reduce Kapha, but increase Vata and Pitta
- Bitter foods: dark leafy greens, turmeric, rhubarb, dandelion, etc. They reduce Pitta and Kapha, but increase Vata
- Astringent foods: legumes, raw fruits and vegetables, pomegranate, etc. They reduce Pitta and Kapha, but increase Vata
As an example, if you want to balance Vata dosha, which tends to be cold, light, and dry, prepare your food in a way that is warm, moist or oily (unctuous), and heavier. In terms of taste, favor sweet, sour and salty tastes and reduce astringent, bitter and pungent foods.
If you wish to balance Pitta dosha, which tends to be hot, light, and wet or oily, favor cooling, heavier and drier foods. In terms of taste favor sweet, bitter and astringent tastes and reduce pungent (spicy hot), sour, and salty foods.
Finally if you wish to balance Kapha dosha, which tends to be cold, heavy, wet, and congesting, eat foods that are light, warm and drying. The following tastes are best: pungent, bitter and astringent. Make sure you reduce heavy, oily, sweet and cold foods, sour and salty tastes.
Ayurveda helps us becoming whole through the process of developing our consciousness, through observation, knowledge and action. It implies changing or creating new habits, this may not be easy and may take some time. Observe the food you choose and eat, and start taking actions to enhance your quality of life.
This article is an excerpt from the chapter on “Food as therapy” in my Ayurvedic TT: From Theory to Daily Practice. Visit this page for more info and to register to this course.