I just spent 6 weeks in India. To co-teach in an Ayurvedic bodywork training, to visit Ayurvedic doctors (they are called vaidya's) and see their clinics/centers, to retreat and get treatments. It was a wonderful visit. After the initial overwhelm from the noise, smells, masses of people, I felt embraced. Everywhere I went I was welcomed very warmly and treated like a special guest. I was impressed with the caliber of doctors I met, with their clinics and the loving and caring therapists who do the treatments.
The vaidya is a doctor. He diagnoses, and then creates a treatment plan that includes internal medicine, and external oil and herb therapies. Depending on the strength of the patient, the treatment is either palliative - shamana - or deeply purifying - shodhana (this typically is panchakarma treatment). The vaidya does not do the therapies himself, but follows the progress of the patients and adjusts the course of treatment if needed. Treatment typically takes a long time, several weeks to over a month, and often needs follow-ups of similar length. The cure rates are very high. I was told of great success rates with different kinds of cancer, paralysis, Parkinson's, auto-immune disease, digestive disorders, menstrual disorders, joint disease, diabetes... Cured without taking any synthetic medication. Ayurveda's pharmacology is plant-based, with the addition of some alchemy, purified metals for their strong metabolic action. Ayurveda treats the whole person, and a vaidya knows how to access the heart and the spirit of the patient. The curative side of Ayurveda is not that developed yet here in the US. Ayurveda is complementary medicine, and is used mostly as a preventative, offering a lifestyle that can keep you well and healthy.
In India, an Ayurvedic doctor has been through medical school, having studied the ancient textbooks and methods, along with modern anatomy, physiology and pharmacology. Often they have a personal guru as well - a vaidya who has learned Ayurveda in the traditional way, not in medical school, but gurukula style, meaning directly from a teacher/guru, being in a lifelong apprenticeship. Only brahmins were allowed to become vaidyas back then, and they were trained from a very young age on. The vast text books were learnt by heart, so that the knowledge became ingrained, and always accessible. Their lifestyles, as brahmins, made them very sensitive and intuitive. From an early age they assisted with patients and witnessed their teachers, so they developed a deep holistic understanding of people and their disease patterns. This type of learning is slowly disappearing in India, but some of the modern-day vaidyas try hard to preserve this tradition.
One initiative of a group of visionary doctors, resulted in Vaidyagram, an Ayurvedic hospital in Tamil Nadu, South India, that has recreated the healing environment prescribed by Charaka, in the Ayurvedic medical textbook Charaka Samhita. At Vaidyagram the patients's food is organically grown, as are the plants for the medicine. The insects, birds and other creatures in the environment are allowed their share of the crops. The food is personalized and always freshly cooked. Treatments are done by loving therapists. The doctors are reassuringly accessible, and offer morning prayers, meditation, restorative yoga, cooking and many other classes and activities. Because of how Vaidyagram is set up, no waste is created. The patient blocks are made of sundried clay bricks. Ventilation through skylights, screened doors and windows allows for coolness without airconditioning. It's way out in the country, where the air is clean, and it is very quiet. This is a blueprint for a holistic hospital.
Ayurveda is very alive in India. More alive than it has been in many years. This has a lot to do with the growing interest from the West. We are catching on to the profound healing science and tradition Ayurveda is, and that way wake up India to its rich and wonderful heritage.
Through our classical western upbringings, we both have strong memories of the hydrogenated fat trend... grandmother's spreading “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” on rye, and in Holland the cooking in Becel margarine. We both didn't like it, loved the taste of butter much better, but came out with the idea that fat is a no no. Until we got educated on the latest nutritional research and began our studies of Ayurveda, we did not have a full understanding of the important role of dietary fat. In India, ghee is recognized as an essential part of a nourished life. Not only is it celebrated for its delicious rich flavor, it is also loaded with nutritional and medicinal qualities, and many psycho-spiritual qualities are attributed to it.
So what is ghee? Ghee is the essence of butter. It is the result of boiling cultured butter, and boiling off milk solids and water, leaving pure butter fat. This makes it a fine food for those who have trouble digesting lactose. Its predominance in saturated fatty acids makes it shelf stable, meaning that it does not need to be refrigerated. If kept clean, it won't go bad, it won't oxidize, oxidation being what makes a fat a threat to the health. Ghee is one of the best high temperature cooking oils because of its 485 degree fahrenheit flash point. Ghee also offers a long list of nutritional benefits. It is comprised of short, medium and long chain fatty acids, contains vitamins A, D, E and K and is the highest natural source of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). CLA has anti cancer fighting properties which have attributed to stopping tumor cell growth. Ghee also is a rich source of butyrate, which revives colon cells, supports healthy inflammatory response and has many more positive effects on our bodies. Ghee supports a strong and lean body, increases energy and sexual vitality, lowers cholesterol (even though we know now that it is not cholesterol that causes heart disease, but unhealthy inflammatory response), makes for a strong digestion, and brings calm to body and mind. Ofcourse the ghee is only as good as the milk that it comes from. Poorly nourished cows won't produce rich and nutrient-rich milk, let alone ghee. But it is also true that making ghee out of bad milk will concentrate whatever nutrients there are in this milk and cook off the bad components.
Many people complain about the taste of ghee. This is because its taste changes when it gets older, making it stronger and more pungent. This is not a problem, Ayurveda considers 100 year old ghee to be very medicinal. But it is definitely a taste that not everyone likes. So buy only fresh ghee, from free-range, grass-fed cows, or make it yourself. There are many videos on YouTube that show how to do it.
In India ghee is considered a sacred substance. The Rig Veda (a 3,500 year-old ancient Sanskrit scripture) says:
This is the secret name of ghee:
"Tongue of the gods", "navel of immortality."
We will proclaim the name of ghee;
We will sustain it in this sacrifice by bowing low.
These waves of ghee flow like gazelles before the hunter...
Streams of ghee caress the burning wood.
Agni, the fire, loves them and is satisfied.
It indicates that ghee is superb at nourishing the fires (agni) of digestion, and promotes longevity . Ghee has been used in the Hindu religion and yogic rituals as an offering to feed the Gods. Ayurveda says that ghee increases the memory and intellect, that it counteracts the drying and aging process of the body, reviving the rasa, or mucus membranes in the body. It nourishes the skin, as in a 100 times washed ghee, where the ghee is massaged with water a hundred times, leaving a white fatty substance that is used as a cream. And it is used to bathe the eyes, nourishing the optic nerve. Ayurveda uses it as a carrier for medicine, activating the lipid-soluble properties of the plants, and providing fast penetration through the lipid membranes of the cells, again providing more nourishing and soothing qualities.
Our local ghee company uses butter from Straus Organic Farm - Ancient Organics creates a sacred ritual around the process of making ghee. They play healing chants as the ghee is being made and settling into its jars, soaking up the vibrations of healing.
Finally we offer some beautiful, easy, and nourishing recipes:
Delicious ghee gravy
Place 4-6 ounces of ghee into a pan on medium heat
add in 4 cloves of minced garlic
1 tablespoon of fresh grated turmeric
1 tablespoon of fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup of organic tamari sauce
(simmer this combination until the ghee becomes richly flavored)
Then add your favorite combination of seasonal vegetables
This season, I love adding yams, kale and green beans
Pour this over a warm bed of quinoa
garnish with dried chili pepper flakes and fresh cilantro
(drizzle additional tamari over the top if you desire more flavor)
Anti-inflammatory, nourishing for the mucus membranes and a great support for a pregnant woman.
Boil 1 cup of whole (preferably raw) milk with 1/2 tsp. of turmeric, 1/2 tsp. of cardamom, a few strands of saffron, for 1 minute. Take off the source of heat, and melt 1 tbs. of ghee, and 1 tsp. of raw unfiltered honey into it.
If you have trouble digesting milk, then use almond milk, or oat milk.
With love, by Megan Fleming and Simone de Winter
Letting go is the sand crumbling into the sea as the tide rises and the waves crash upon the earth, ceasing things that once sat stable. Life is constantly changing and the ability to let go is just a part of it. Letting go is required in the smallest of incidences, for example, parting ways with your favorite sweater that has been well worn with holes. It is also required in some of the biggest events in our life such as making peace with those we love who leave our life.
From our earliest memories of childhood, we were challenged by the concept of sharing. Letting go of a toy we wanted to play with in order to include a sibling or a friend. The simple act of wanting to hold on to something we want and having to open our hands and release it was reason enough to create tension and tears. Though we move into adulthood with greater understanding and see the purpose of letting go, it can be tremendously difficult at times.
As I look out my window, in a moment of stillness, I reflect upon the deciduous trees this Fall letting go of their leaves. The rhythm of nature requires that all things let go in order to renew and give way for new growth. Do the trees ever grasp on to their leaves and beg them to stay? Or do they trust that Spring will bring renewal? What is it about human beings that makes the process of letting go so much more challenging? Why can’t we be like the trees that let go and renew and flow with the natural current of life?
The Dalai Lama said, “Most of our troubles are due to our passionate desire for and attachment to things we misapprehend for enduring entities.” By attaching our happiness to people, circumstances and things we live in fear. When the inevitable day comes when we lose something we hold dear, we are struck with grief. When you stop trying to control the world around you, you open the capacity to your fulfillment. The world has the ability to offer great fulfillment and it also has the ability to destroy you. It depends on whether you choose to live in fear and try to control things beyond control, or if you let go, live in the moment and recognize that your struggle does not change the outcome of your life, it only changes the momentary quality of your experiences.
It is certainly not an easy skill for most of us to learn, but the continuous practice of letting go will make room for more happiness in our lives. Here are some ways you can begin exercising your ability to let go:
Be Fully Present. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow has not yet happened. Live in the moment and enjoy it because it will eventually pass. Fighting that reality will only cause you pain. Be grateful for what you have now and trust that it is enough. When spending time with someone you love it may never feel like enough, so focus on the quality of your time with that person. Attach to the idea of living well and loving fully in each moment.
Be Conscious of Your Thinking. Identify your thoughts when you notice them trying to grasp at people, things, or circumstances. When you dwell on keeping, controlling, manipulating, or losing something instead of simply experiencing it. Our experience of the world is largely a result of how we internalize it. Instead of replaying dramatic stories of the past or preceptions of the future, challenge your emotions and focus on lessons learned.
Redefine Yourself. By defining yourself by your possessions, your roles, and relationships you are confining yourself to attachment because losing any one of these means losing not just what you have but what you are.
Save yourself the Added Pain. No matter how much you practice letting go, you will still lose things that matter to you and feel some level of pain. Save yourself the pain of worrying and trying to avoid the actual pain. Even when you feel yourself dwelling in anger, sadness and frustration choose to work through them and don’t dwell.
Write. Write in a journal to get your feelings out, even if they are never read by the person who inspired them. Writing can be tremendously clearing and a great way to be present with your feelings.
Embrace the Full Circle. Embrace your joy, love fully and be so passionate it’s contagious. If darker moments come, understand that it is there to teach you something. Everything is moving in a continuous circle, the darkness meets the light and vise versa. Let is be so.
You have the power and ability to choose how you experience things. Are you going to let fear and the desire to control your life fuel the present moment, or are you going to choose freedom, peace and love?
With Compassion and Faith in You,
Megan Fleming for Marin Ayurveda
Ayurvedic Health Educator
At the basis of optimal health, perfect digestion is the goal. Is it enough to incorporate a healing diet of wholesome foods, or is an additional element required in order to maximize our ability to digest food and use it appropriately?
I pride myself on using wholesome, local organic foods, cooking almost everything from scratch and being mindful of balancing my diet with the season. For as much focus as I offer to the ingredients I choose to nourish my body with, the simple fact is, digestion goes beyond just the “what.” Just as the subtle energies of emotion, mental activity and spirit engage with every aspect of life, our digestion is not exempt.
The goal of perfect digestion is to elimiate the by-product of poor digestion, ama. Ama is the toxic build up as a result of improper digestion which can eventually result in disease. Building up the ojas is a way of opening the energy channels for digestion. Creating balance within the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of yourself contributes to proper digestion, thus building a foundation for overall health.
Most nutritional philosophies are based on advising you what to eat, but leave out a very important component. How many diet plans require you to love yourself and others, and to appreciate the joy of each day? The “what” we eat is as important as the “how” we eat.
Eating healthy plays a tremendous role in benefiting your overall health, but it isn’t everything. Have you ever noticed the way your body digests a meal when you are feeling anxious, sad, angry or hurried? You are likely disconnected from your body and the energies which should be used for digestion are going towards healing your emotional or mental state.
If you’d like to maximize on the benefits of a good diet, take these steps daily:
-Follow your heart
-Laugh from your belly
-Spend time in nature
Pay attention to how you eat your meals. Are you standing up, reading the newspaper, watching TV, engaging in conversation, or simple feeding more than physical hunger? In addition to practicing the steps to optimizing digestion, try eating in silence with full attention on nourishing and awareness of when your body is satisfied and no longer hungry.
The next time you sit down to eat, think about what you’re putting into your body, how it will serve you, and how you are feeling when you eat. By bringing awareness to your eating habits, you will mindfully create better habits. I encourage you to dedicate this week to optimal digestion.
With Love and in regards to your optimal health,
Megan Fleming for Marin Ayurveda
The outside world hosts an environment full of wonder and beauty, but sometimes it challenges us to find connection and maintain our equilibrium. If you live in a big city or an area that is highly populated, the swarm of high energy can have an effect.
One of my favorite practices is that of creating sacred space that feeds the heart and soul. The inability to control what happens outside of ourselves creates the opportunity to build upon what happens within ourselves. Focusing on our health and happiness gives new eyes to our perspective when looking outward. Focusing on our personal space and environment offers a container for peace and well being.
The energetic relationship of color
Colors have a subtle effect on our emotions. Colors are energy interacting with our own energy. Sattvic colors such as green, sky blue, soft orange, gold, violet and white are calming and harmonizing.These colors increase consciousness and sooth the heart and spirit.Brown and Black are considered to be Tamasic colors that connect us with darker energies. They can be very grounding and increase strength. Some sects of monks use their black robes as symbol of separation from the material world and ordinary desires.When used properly, the color brown can counteract conditions of excess lightness and instability which is good for Vata.Yellow and Red are considered Rajasic colors that are stimulating and sometimes too aggressive for the already hot and energized qualities of Pitta.
The Fabric of our Lives
As our society moved forward on the idea that quantity and cost efficiency was a priority, the materials we use in everyday life began to change. Plastic became a substitute material for things that were once made of wood, leather, bone, clay, tin, copper etc. The use of artificial fabrics sudden allow for us to have more while paying less. Everything from the houses we live in, to the items it holds and the clothing we wear has become in large part a manufacturing of unnatural fabrics. It is important to remember that our own subtle energies interact with the energies around us. It is healing and beneficial to be connected to materials that link us to the natural world. Invite nature into your home. Also, a wonderful ritual to have if their are children in the home is a nature space. In our home, that means a table with fresh wildflowers, a bowl of stones from our local creek, a unique piece of driftwood, and a cosy wool blanket.
Organization and Cleanliness
One day while sitting at home, I looked around me. I realized I had been collecting things that I had either been given or had collected on my own. Many of them I carried with me for years without even questioning my need for them or my love of them. I felt compelled that day to let go of everything I owned which did not serve a purpose, whether that purpose by functional or just function for my own enjoyment. I made a dozen trips to the Goodwill. I literally cleared out everything that was of no use in my life. Let the question be, "Do I need you or do I love you?" Even if its a pile of old books your questioning, the question makes it very simple. Your personal space should always make you feel connected to yourself and be the world that you crave.
The sense of smell influences emotions, memories, desires and creativity. Aromas can provoke the production of hormones the control physical and psychological functions. Ayurveda understands that aromas can influence our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual states.
For Vata the following essential oils can be very healing: amber, anise, basil, bergamot, camphor, cardamom, chamomile, cinnamon, clary sage, coriander, frankincense, geranium, finer, jasmine, lavender, lemongrass, myrrh, neroli, patchouli, rose, sandalwood, sweet orange, tangerine, thyme, vanilla, vetiver and ylang ylang.
For Pitta: birch, brahmi, chamomile, champa, calry sage, corianger, fennel, geranium, jasmine, jatamansi, lavender, lemon, lime, madarin, myrtle, neroli, peppermint, rose, sandalwood, spearmint, tangerine, tea tree, vanilla, wintergreen, yarrow, and ylang ylang.
For Kapha: angelica, anise, basil, bay, bergamot, birch, camphor, cardamom, cedarwood, cinnamon, clary sage, clove, cypress, eucalyptus, fir, frankincense, geranium, ginger, grapefruit, hyssop, jasmine, juniper, lavender, lemon, lemongrass, lime, marjoram, neroli, myrrh, myrtle, petitgrain, peppermint, rose, rosemary, sage, sweet orange, tea tree, wintergreen, yarrow.
Fill your beautiful sacred space with only the colors that interact best with your energy, with the things you love and need, and with the fragrances that balance your constitution and inspire you!
Megan Fleming for Marin Ayurveda
Every season has its own rhythm, and when we tune into that rhythm, we expand on our opportunity to find balance. As we venture into the Fall season, it’s important to nourish, nurture and love ourselves. Perhaps you’ve heard this language before, but this time, what if you made a small commit to finding the healthiest version of you this fall? What if you took a few small habits and repeated them daily for just this season, as a testament that your commitment and dedication to your health will reward you greatly. I encourage you to challenge yourself and see what awaits you on the other side.
Ayurveda understands everything in terms of qualities: Hot or cold, heavy or light, moist or dry etc. During fall, our bodies will most appreciate a diet that is warming, fortifying and substantial. By understanding the qualities of food and how our diet affects the qualities of our body each season, we understand how to support our own health.
Fall cleansing is not meant to be a time for drastic fasting, but rather a time to support the system and strengthen the liver. During Fall the body needs to be rejuvenated, not left more vulnerable going into winter. The liver works year round to detoxify the body. Toxins from the foods we eat, the products we use on our bodies and chemicals from our environment can overload the liver which creates “ama.” Ama in Sanskrit means excess build up that weakens. So the question becomes how do we reduce ama and fortify the body specifically during fall?
Unlike Spring when our energies are moved by more sunlight, new life and an abundance of food, Fall is about slowing down and conserving energy. Multitasking and overloading the mind will overburden the nervous system and harm the liver instead of heal it. Its important to slow down, reduce your workload, and eat meals in peace. Allowing your mind to have single focus will allow you to tune into your own natural rhythm. Afterall, perfect health truly equates to being in relationship with yourself.
Here is a simple guide for nurturing, nourishing and loving yourself this fall season:
1.) Favor foods that are in season and warming to the body and avoid processed, packaged foods. Remember that this is a time for fortifying and nourishing the body with what it needs instead of striping the body. Cleansing, most importantly, is about paying attention to what the body needs each season. Stick with well-cooked, nourishing, heavier foods like lentil soups, roots and tubers, warm spiced milk, whole grain baked goods, and Kitcheree. Make sure you’re able to digest a heavier diet. Kitcharee is a beautifully balanced meal of mung beans and rice with the perfect ratio of protein and carbohydrates. It’s also tridoshic, meaning it is balancing for all constitutions. Use Ghee as a healthy and beneficial fat to lubricate digestion and help move toxins out of the body.
2.) Slow Down! Create rituals around meal time so that you can focus solely on the nourishment you are receiving. By simple eating slowly with gratitude you are giving your digestion the ability to do its job. Daily yoga and meditation will compliment your detoxification process. Look at nature for signs. Fall is a time for tilling the soil, planting new seeds and preparing for next year’s harvest. You are that soil, so tend to yourself in a way that provides new life.
3.) Love yourself! Ask yourself questions like “How am I creating my best life?” “What am I doing to contradict my healing?” Keep a journal in order to reflect upon your insights. Also make time to compliment yourself; use loving words to acknowledge yourself each day. A particularly beneficial practice is Abhyanga or self massage. Take an extra moment before bathing to massage yourself with warm sesame oil and give love to your toes, your knees, your tummy, your shoulders. All that yummy love will flow through you and nourish you just as much as the healthy foods you eat.
I hope you use this time to connect with yourself and grow deeper into the awareness only you have of your unique and perfect self.
With Love and In Best Regards to your Health!
Megan Fleming for Marin Ayurveda
Ayurvedic Health Educator