In ayurveda's ancient texbooks there may be no mention of the word cancer, but there are many references to the growth of masses, tumors, malignancy, with Sanskrit names like, apachi, gulma, granthi and arbuda. Cancer is a disease in which certain of our bodies' cells develop defects, caused by a mutation in their DNA. These mutant cells, dependent on several factors, like the strength of the immune system, and pathogens, sometimes duplicate at enormous speed, causing growths, tumors, that are adversarial to the body's tissues. Not all cancers produce tumors. Some - leukemia - cause rapid cell growth in the bone marrow or blood. In metastasis, cancer cells multiply and travel through blood and the lymph system to the rest of the body.
Conventional medicine treats cancer as a focal disease with local symptoms. Ayurveda sees the whole body-mind as a system, and recognizes that the malfunctioning of this system can lead to cancer. Ayurveda treats the whole individual.
According to ayurveda cancer involves all three doshas - vata, pitta and kapha, it is tridoshic disease. But the root of the cancer may be either in vata, pitta, or kapha, and consequently it is disease of vata, disease of pitta, or disease of kapha, and the treatment will be accordingly. Also the tissue in which the cancer is found, will ask for different herbal treatment, so there really is no one way to treat cancer in the ayurvedic system. Specific herbal formulations and therapies will be directed towards the cancer, but it doesn't stop there. The therapeutic approach is prophylactic, palliative, curative and supportive. Ayurveda offers a lifestyle of prevention; it can soothe symptoms through lifestyle, dietary and herbal adjustments; it can cure, especially when the cancer is in earlier stages, offering powerful internal and external herbal applications in conjunction with dietary and lifestyle adjustments; and it can support conventional medical treatment, and counteract its side effects.
Ayurveda sees the fundamental cause of tumor, or uncontrolled cell, growth to be a build-up of pathogens, toxins, in the organism. This then leads to deficiency in the immune system. If we consider the immune system our protection against external pathogens, we can see the weakened immunity as a "giving up or a giving in", since, as Dr. Robert Svoboda says so poignantly, "the hallmark of cancer is the rebellion of cells against the organism's self-identity", our body is allowing cellular mutiny to take over. The causes are poor lifestyle choices, wrong diet, stress and anxiety, poor sleep, mental/emotional incoherency, overuse of stimulants, intoxicants, chemical drugs, and nowadays, exposure to environmental toxins. Ayurveda uses the word ama for this toxic build-up in the organism. It is partly self-generated, by poorly digesting all that we ingest, and choosing industrial foods that are already full of ama, like pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, preservatives, and packaged in xeno-estrogenic plastics. But even the most beautiful organically grown, free-range, grass-fed foods can turn into ama if the digestive system cannot properly digest, absorb the nutrients and eliminate the waste products. It is this ama, that confuses the immune system, makes it overwork. Then it will tire and give into the fast-growing ama that is cancer.
The mental-emotional component of the weakening immunity is addressed nowadays by physicians like Dr. Lawrence LeShan, Christiane Northrup, Wayne Dyer and many more. The experience they have working with cancer patients is that they see that same "giving in or giving up", and they will encourage and guide their patients to use the cancer as a "Turning Point, to take charge of their lives and bodies and gently coax the cancer into remission.
Understanding the cancer as being either caused by excess vata, pitta or kapha, outlines a specific disease development, based on a person's inherent constitutional tendencies, and specific lifestyle and dietary choices. Vata, being composed of space and air, will bring a different etiology from kapha, being composed of water and earth, or pitta, made up of fire and water. They come with their own digestive disturbances, dietary preferences, behaviors and mental-emotional tendencies. All leading to the same manifestation of cancer, but with specific characteristics.
Strengthening of the immune system, healthy lifestyle, diet, appropriate exercise and as Deepak Chopra suggests, "access to the Divine consciousness within, through yogic and meditative disciplines, can correct the wrong information that triggers uncontrollable cell multiplication, and cure cancer from the quantum level of the body". Ayurveda, the medical system and "science of life", offers many internal and external herbal and metal-based medications to help remove cellular overgrowth.
by: Simone de Winter, MA, certified ayurvedic specialist
Our skin communicates of our internal health. The skin has many functions, but it so importantly holds everything together; literally, it is what protects our internal body from the external world. Each of the seven layers of skin have their own structure and function.
The skin beginning with the outermost layer reflects the quality of the rasa, expressing whether the body is properly hydrated. It also exposes a quality of the emotional state. The skin reflects the state of our inner aura. One could say if you want to change your appearance first change the way you think and feel, and eliminate habits that breed stress.
The skin expresses the quality of the blood. Any impurities in the blood can result in heightened sensitivity to sunlight. The skin also acts as a barrier to infection. It connects to the rest of the body and communicates its sensations. The skin constantly regenerates and heals damaged tissue while preserving firmness, balance and stability which becomes more challenging as the body ages.
Ayurveda attributes poor skin quality to a lack of understanding about your unique constitution. Each of the doshas experience different challenges with aging. Understanding your personal constitution is necessary if you want to maintain healthy beautiful skin.
Vata dominate constitutions tend to have thin, dry and dull skin. For vata, it is crucial to stay hydrated and nourished. Vata skin benefits tremendously from regular habits and rituals that slow down the mind and body. By simply sipping warm water throughout the day, oiling the skin before bathing and eating a nutrient rich diet, the vata prone skin will be revitalized.
Pittas have the most sensitive skin and are most prone to early signs of age. Pitta skin is most vulnerable to the sun and is most sensitive to products used on it. Pitta types need to protect their skin from the sun and use skincare products that are completely natural to avoid rashes and breakouts. Also maintaining a diet of rich nourishing foods, and eliminating hot and spicy foods will help the skin stay cool and supple.
The thick hearty skin of Kapha makes them less prone to wrinkles yet their low digestive agni causes them to accumulate more toxins. As a result, the kapha skin has reduced circulation which results in an oily, rough and dull looking complexion. To revitalize the skin, kapha should routinely detox the body internally through diet and use exfoliants. Regular exercise in combination with a lighter diet that is easier to digest will help counteract kapha tendencies and keep the skin looking most radiant.
Once you begin paying attention to your body’s constitutional needs and understand how to care for your skin from that vantage point, you can also begin to delve into the other arenas of your life that contribute to the quality of your skin. Stress creates imbalance with every constitution and greatly contributes to a decline in the quality of the skin.
In our modern world where advertising tries to convince us that we need some new product or thing to fulfill us and keep us youthful, we must recognize the very simply truth. Our health and everything that relates to our beauty and health is actually within us. Our aging skin is not something that happens to us, it is something that happens in accordance to our relationship with it. If we neglect to live in relationship with our constitution and nourish our whole self, we begin to feel and see it in our skin.
There is no magical cure for aging, but there is magic in aging gracefully. I find great beauty in the wrinkled face that lives well, exudes joy and expresses a strong life force. Our skin must be celebrated at every stage of life because it is a beautiful organ that functions to protect us. So the next time you look in the mirror, focus on the things you love about your skin, focus on what purpose it serves, be grateful for the health of your skin and develop a better relationship with it so that it can always be vibrant!
Honoring Vitality as a Way of Life!
Megan Fleming for Marin Ayurveda
Ayurvedic Health Educator
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