Blog Articles

Dosha Tests

 Vata (Air & Ether)

Vata (Air & Ether)

 PItta (Fire & Water)

PItta (Fire & Water)

 Kapha (Earth & Water)

Kapha (Earth & Water)

Dear friends!

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview over 30 students concerning their individual struggles in implementing Ayurveda into their lives. Again and again, the students revealed that they felt confused and unsure about their constitutions.  This was in spite of the fact that many had previously studied Ayurveda and/or taken online ‘guess your dosha’ tests.

It reminded me that I, too, had taken many online tests and struggled for years to determine who I was according to Ayurveda.  There were some questions whose answers jumped right out, things that I was certain about. Other areas, such as my digestion, elimination, weight and certain aspects of my personality, remained a mystery. When I finally had a personal ayurvedic assessment with my teacher, I vehemently disagreed when she informed me that I had more Pitta and less Kapha than my self diagnosis. Looking back, the intensity with which I disagreed with her assessment only validated the predominance of Pitta she spoke of.

Here are 5 problems with online dosha quizzes: 

1. Quizzes are reductionist. All three doshas exist in varying degrees in each individual.

2. They conflate symptoms ( vikruti) with your long term healthy patterns (Prakruti)

3. They provide a snapshot of whats going on for you right now, rather than your long term patterns.

4. They don’t take into account how your current diet, lifestyle, age and environment affect your dosha.

5. They play to our tendency to answer based on an idealized versions of ourselves, i.e., who we want to be rather than who we are.

Truth be told, online tests rarely reveal who we really are. I equate dosha tests with a daily online horoscope. There are 12 zodiac signs and 9 billion people. Your zodiac sun sign is a general way of describing you. It’s not accurate, it can’t be, as it simply doesn’t take into account your unique personality based on all the planetary alignments at the exact time you were born. If you’ve ever had your complete natal chart done, you provided the astrologer with all the information needed to precisely determine who you are. The same professional assessment, based on the necessary information, offers a deeper understanding of your dosha.

Online tests don’t provide a context that outlines the specific role the doshas perform.

Vata manages Air and Ether and is responsible for all our physiological functions, like thinking, moving, speaking, breathing, digesting, eliminating and more.  Pitta manages the elements of Fire and Water and is responsible for converting and metabolizing food, sunlight, visual impressions, thoughts, etc into a form our body can use.  Kapha manages the elements of Earth and Water and is responsible for our physical structure, such as skin, muscles, bones, organs and all fluids in the body. 

Your constitution (prakruti) defines your unique Psycho-physical makeup and functional habits. In other words, it describes your healthy long-term patterns.  The doshas, however have unlimited ways of expressing themselves, hence why we call Ayurveda an individualized system of classification. What works for one person may not work for someone else.

To truly get a sense of who you are requires an analysis of your physical, functional, mental,  emotional and spiritual layers. Far more than just your appearance, your regular long-term patterns of diet, lifestyle, relationships and the many ways you interact with your environment are assessed.

The goal of an Ayurvedic practitioner is to identify and treat the presenting pathology (vikruti) as well as the root cause of disease. Once the pathology has been balanced, your constitution will reveal itself. For example, if you frequently experience digestive symptoms of bloating and gas, this is an imbalanced aspect of Vata dosha. These symptoms, (vikruti)  mask your deeper, more permanent constitution( prakruti). The root cause of your symptom may be what you are eating, or it may be driven by other factors such as your emotions.

What we currently present, is what we mistakenly associate as our constitution, when in actual fact its the imbalances that are masking our constitution.  Simply put, what we currently present may not be who we truly are.

Think about it. How well do you truly know yourself? Its taken me ages to get a better understanding of who I am…and truth be told, even now, my husband, friends and mother see aspects of my personality that I am still unaware of.  I have concluded (reluctantly) that I may not always be the best qualified person to assess who I am.  This fact, combined with my deep respect for this modality, is why I have an ongoing relationship with a professional Ayurvedic practitioner.

Your dosha describes everything about you. I liken it to a road map to wellness and disease. It can reveal everything about you, including physical and psychological functions, psycho spiritual aspects,  personality, health challenges, exercise preferences, choice of friends and partners as well as how you dress, spend money, furnish your home, optimal career choices, preferred climate, physical environment and more.

Clearly, there is no way that a dosha test can determine those aspects of you. Its a wonderful fun way to play and get an idea, but its not complete, because you are a wonderful complex unique individual. Online quizzes are simply not the standard for dosha analysis, so don't be surprised if your practitioner tells you your dosha is different from the results of your self-test.

Call to action

Consider or revisit an online test you may have taken, what does it say about you. Were you able to use the assessment to make changes and improve your life? Have you ever consulted with an Ayurvedic practitioner and if so was their assessment different to yours? Let me know your experiences by leaving a comment on the blog. 

Let me know if you may be interested in my upcoming online course “Discovering your true Nature”  an in depth Ayurvedic assessment to understand your constitution coupled with individual coaching with an Ayurvedic Practitioner. …..

I hope that you find this blog interesting and that you’re curious to find out more.

Please leave a comment on the blog and share your challenges and successes when taking an online dosha test.

All my love and gratitude

Eleni

Please forward this email to friend who may be interested

Conscious Eating

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Welcome to Conscious Eating. What follows will not be a new dietary ideology, super food, or miracle cleanse. Rather, we will explore a life long, lifestyle approach to food based on the Ayurvedic Paradigm of Health.

Before we dive into the main course, however, here’s a few observations on food and health throughout the ages. Even if you are unfamiliar with the quotes, you may recognize some the names:

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."

Hippocrates

"The first wealth is health."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Each patient carries his own doctor inside him."

Norman Cousins

"No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means."

Maimonides

“There is no magic bullet. You gotta eat healthy and live healthy to be healthy. End of story." Morgan Spurlock

“Eating comfort food isn't a reward — it's a punishment."

Drew Carey

The Principle of Conscious Eating is about far more than WHAT we eat. Ultimately, our goal is to choose foods that support and sustain life, longevity and good health. In addition, what we eat should prevent us from experiencing illnesses and alleviate their symptoms, should they occur.

Are your current habits around food, which include not only WHAT, but WHEN and HOW you eat, working well for you. Can you say, without hesitation, that the your food habits are leading to abundant physical mental and emotional health?”

The word Conscious comes from the Latin word, scīre, meaning, “to know” or “to understand,” Conscious eating requires observation and attentiveness. We take on the role of observers or Ayurvedic detectives. This means paying attention to what, how and when you eat as well as your digestive experience.

According to Ayurveda, it’s not a question of whether any particular food is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Rather, you learn to observe how YOUR body process what you eat. The answer falls, roughly, into two categories, positive and negative digestive experiences. During and after a positive digestive experience, you feel satisfied, grateful and full of energy. The negative kind leads to what is technically referred to as ‘unhappy tummy’. Here, you may experience any or all of the following: bloating, gas, burning feeling, belching, lethargy and sleepiness.

Pretty big difference, huh?

Ayurveda sees the digestive tract as the “Master system” of the body. Food builds the physical body, mind and emotions. Just as every person is unique, all foods are not the same. Thus, generic diets, food plans, or cleanses WILL NEVER work for everyone. At best, these can only be effective for SOME of the people SOME of the time. This brings us to a simple truth, the definition of Conscious Eating: Continually Creating and Refining a Sustainable Eating Plan that Works for YOU.

This is a rich and, at times, complex practice. However, I will attempt to provide some basic Ayurvedic Principles and Guidelines in this article and the series of articles to follow. Are you ready?

THE BIG PICTURE

Conscious Eating, ultimately, is about our relationship with ourselves, our diet, and our environment. This includes: where we get our food, how it’s grown, the manner in which it is prepared, the amount and timing of our meals, the people with whom we eat as well as our own behavioral and emotional patterns, that is, our beliefs and feelings about ourselves and whatever we eat.

To eat consciously, we need to work from the inside out. We begin by going beneath our habitual relationship with food and getting to know the energetics of food and digestion.
It is our own digestive experience that determines whether what we eat is supporting our body’s metabolic processes or disrupting them. We have both the power and responsibility to create wellness and vitality. First, we must learn to read the subtle signs our body sends us. This includes our emotional states, as our diet directly affects our mood.

Conscious eating is when the individuals intake of food is supportive to health, vitality and wellbeing. My goal is that this becomes a lifestyle, a sustainable way of eating and living. Its our day to day habits over a long period of time that becomes our normal. If our habits are conscious, and moderate most of the time, then we steer ourselves on the path of health, because we take responsibility for our actions. With personal responsibility comes empowerment, which in turn leads to better understanding and choices. Its an upward spiral.

The Principals

1. Your health is your most valuable currency
Your body mind is your most valuable asset. If your are healthy and happy, then you can pursue your life’s purpose. However, if you are tired, low energy or frequently sick, then most of your time is focused on thinking, identifying with and the treatment of your particular malady. Your good health is your most valuable currency, everything starts with you!!!! Seems to me that investing in my health is the highest priority. Physical health is dependent on what you eat. Start by investing your time and attention on the foods that make your body come alive with vibrancy. Conscious eating is one of the three pillars that support health, the other two being sleep and energy.

2. Your Body/mind has to digest everything that comes in

Every day you consume food and drink in response to hunger and other external cues with little thought to how, your body converts it. When your metabolic process is working efficiently, your body should utilize 70-80% of all food eaten. However, when digestion is insufficient, the body is not able to break down or use the food properly. Faulty digestion is the beginnings of your body’s dis-ease.

Conscious eating is designed to educate and help you make connections with your digestive process.

3. Take responsibility for your consumption of food. This means the types and amounts of food consumed and the timing of meals. Im sure you have noticed from observing your family and friends that we all have different relationships and need of food. How much or little we eat, the frequency of meals, the types of foods etc. An important key too good health is to eat the appropriate amount and types of foods that maintain great health for you. Your body uses everything you put into it. Over time symptoms such as fatigue, lethargy and sluggishness become the norm and the immune system suffers.

4. The Burp is a practical exercise to rediscover your individual digestive capacity. Ayurvedic medicine states, that we should eat until we are not hungry. This is very different to eating until you are full.
“The stomach should be 1/2 filled by solid foods,

1/4 by water and 1/4 should be kept free for the movement of air”
The stomach naturally gives a burp when its three quarters 3/4 full.
Many of us have trained our stomachs to stretch by overeating or eating too frequently and this natural capacity has been overridden.

5. Eat real food
My greatest contribution to my health is that I love to prepare and cook my food.
I enjoy going to the farmers markets, searching for recipes and creating great food made with love.....nothing better. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine said
‘the forces within us are the true healers and food is the true medicine’
Eat a varied diet and buy the highest quality food you can. Mix it up and try a few vegetarian meals every week. Minimize meat and fish consumption. Try not to eat anything that comes in a box. Avoid or reduce all processed food, white sugar and trans fats. Instead create a diet based on plants, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and fruits. Get to know the foods that grow in your area and whats in season. When you eat seasonal, fresh, locally grown food, you deepen your connection with nature and your environment. As a result your body becomes revitalized.

6. Use spices to enhance digestive and metabolic capacity
Ayurveda recognizes that the foundation of good health rests on a healthy functioning digestive tract. Herbs and spices are used to enhance and support correct functioning of digestion and metabolism. Here we are using spices as medicine to correct, improve and regulate digestive fire. Spices can be used either before a meal to ignite the fire and increase digestion or after to facilitate the processing or metabolism of food.

In the next article I will discuss the burp and the three types of metabolic processes.

It's All About Perspective

Ayurveda makes a bold statement…“ You, the individual, have to digest everything that comes in”.

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Our bodies are amazing. Think about it for a minute, Your digestive tract has the ability to break down that veggie burger, salad, chocolate, xmas cookie or whatever food you ingest into a liquid to feed your body. Our diet builds the physical body, mind, emotions and spirit.  All aspects of human functioning are intelligent, in constant communication and operates much like a vast network. 

Your mind also has to digest everything that comes in through your senses. They are the portals or entry points through which we take in experiences. The mind downloads all sensory input. It then assigns it meaning, reference and emotions based on your family, friends and societal conditioning.

In a way, what we let in determines our view of reality.  What are you letting in?  How are you building your picture of the world?   Who is in charge of your attention? Do you control where you put your attention or are you at the beck and call of social media? Is your world view determined by outside forces? Oh, and what about your emotional state? Are you happy, optimistic, mentally flexible? What are your relationships like? Are you able to have conversations, or do you have a fixed, rigid perspective?

Time to take responsibility for your life and outlook. The goal of Yoga and Ayurveda is to create a healthy vibrant focused mind and body. Great emphasis is placed on the individuals power to choose what we let in. 
Our choice of where we put our attention, shapes our mental and emotional health. Positive input creates a happier mind. 

The word responsibility contains the word “respond” when we respond in the same way to a situation, we will get the same results.  But, when we take a different approach, then we create something new. Our mind becomes more adaptable and plastic…we create new things and in the course of taking new action we become empowered.  

The goal becomes one of moderating what you let in and what you keep out. Corporations, governments and some bloggers, make lots of money by pushing an agenda that shapes your view of the world. When our attention is outwardly focused, external events create our reality. We look to the outside world to determine if we are thin enough, rich enough, young enough and so on…However, when we learn to turn attention inwards and focus the mind, we become creators.

Bottom line you need a little bit of both, attention in and out. The path of Yoga and Ayurveda is one of moderation, enquiry and a cultivation of positive emotions…As the old saying goes. “a life unexamined is a life not lived” or something like that. 

So what do you do? Here are three things that work for me:

1. Start your day with a nurturing practice. Do something for you.
My morning rituals include, sitting in my garden, drinking my morning cup of coffee, whilst mentally giving thanks for the blessings in my life. I meditate for 30 minutes and then take Ruby my pooch on her morning walk. Then I’m ready to enter the world by reading emails and social media. I have found that limiting myself to 20 minutes of news per day works for me.  How you start your day determines your outlook for the rest of the day…what can you do that makes you feel great?
Pick one thing and practice it regularly for 30 days. 

2.  Surround yourself with positive happy people
Happiness is infectious. People who exude the traits you love, rub off on you. I have the good fortune of sharing my life for 13 years with my husband, Robert, who has a light and happy heart. Thankfully it has rubbed off on me!!!! Cultivating a happy optimistic perspective, means that I always expect things to turn out well.  It’s a practice that I cherish. 

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3. Count your blessings and bring meaning into your life “Every cloud has a silver lining”…yeah but when I’m in the thick of my stuff, I just can’t see it.

Everything I have read, and immerse myself in, suggests that happy positive people lead healthy, creative, abundant lives. This is my life’s journey. Every day, I give thanks for all the wonderful things that I have in my life. I go through a mental list and have consciously cultivated a happy, optimistic outlook on life. The current science and thinking states that we are both the observers and creators of our world………ready!!!!!!


in gratitude
Eleni
If you want to learn more please visit our website www.bellymindinstitute.com  for upcoming Ayurveda workshops and trainings.

Books that inspire me:
Dr. Joe Dispenza
Breaking the habit of being yourself OR
You are the placebo 

Pam Grout
E2
E3
Thank and Grow Rich
Living Big

Food as Meditation

Food as Meditation

Jerry Seinfeld once said, ‘Thank god for relationships. Without them, all we
would ever talk about is food. These days, wherever we look, we find a new
blog, book or ideology proclaiming the health benefits of a new superfood,
supplement or diet, guaranteed to give you, among other things, effortless
weight loss, boundless energy, mental clarity and eternal youth. So, of
course, you give it a try, and, voila, it works….. well, for a few weeks,
anyway. Then, unable to sustain this radical new way of eating, your back to
your old habits until…. the next fad diet promising, well, you know the same
results as the last one.

We have bought into a reductionist, cookie-cutter mentality, believing that
we can all eat the same thing and get the same results. Ayurveda, the
planet’s first nature-based medical system teaches that, although some
things are right for some people sometimes, nothing, no foods, fads or diets
are always right for everyone. This observation is based on the premise
that, each and every one of us, is completely different and totally unique.

With respect to food, the only universal truth is that we all need to eat.
Period. Beyond that, we each have various likes, dislikes, preferences
aversions and what we regard as the perfect meal. Every day, however, we
are faced with the same problem…having to choose. This dilemma brings
us to the topic of this blog...Food As Meditation.

First, let me explain a few concepts. Meditation is a tool for clarifying our
values and creating a calm and focused mind. It is a simple, yet profound practice which, eventually, transforms our perception and, ultimately, changes our behavior.

Classically, meditation is a three stage process requiring the abilities to:
1.Choose 2. Focus and 3. Sustain.

Choose - this is the most difficult step in meditation, as in order to choose to
eat certain foods, I must forgo a whole bunch of other food choices. Choice
comes from the inside. It implies taking in information from the outside,
filtering it through your individual experience and applying the parts that are
appropriate to you depending on your goals. This considered choice implies
reflection and commitment which leads to the second aspect of:

Focus. When I choose freely and willingly the foods that work for me then I
am more likely stay with these choices for a long time because it feels good
and its the right thing for me. With this as my foundation I am more likely to
stay the course and

Sustain my eating plan. Why because I am the one choosing based on
what feels right for my body. This is the ultimate meditation, someone who
takes their cues and changes their behavior based on what feels truly right
for them!

The Benefits of Sleep

The Benefits of Sleep

Sleep is one of the three pillars, that form the foundation of high level health. The other two, Proper Food, and Energy Expenditure will be discussed in further articles.

In this article, we will explore the benefits of sleep and how we can create routines to support ourselves in this area. Proper rest is essential for well being. The body utilizes sleep as an opportunity to heal and repair the damage done while we are awake.  The quantity, quality and regularity of sleep is important. Too much or too little sleep will negatively impact the quality of your daily energy.

Let’s face it most of us are sleep deprived due to the demands of modern living. Did you know that adults need 8 hours sleep nightly and that babies and teenagers need more? Inadequate sleep over a long period of time, reduces the body’s immune system and increases the inflammatory response. Oh, and let’s not forget, the constant fatigue and mental fog. The good news however, is that adequate sleep, about 8 hours nightly increases, IQ, reduces the inflammatory response, increases immunity, and makes you look and feel amazing.

In previous, articles, I said that each dosha comes with its own unique gifts and challenges. The goal of Ayurveda is to pacify and reduce the imbalances, bringing each of us closer to our healthy selves. This fundamental concept is profoundly empowering. What we do daily will either aggravate or reduce a condition.

Let’s look at how each dosha is affected.

Vata dosha tend to be light sleepers, who are sensitive to noise. They awaken easily, most often between the hours of 2-4am and have difficulty falling back to sleep. When they do its usually between 5-6am and then they tend to oversleep. They wake up tired and use coffee and energy drinks to keep them going throughout the day. Too little sleep increases the light, mobile qualities of Vata dosha. The effects can be, weaker tissues/body, an aggravated nervous system, and a lowered immunity.

Pitta types tend to be good sleepers unless they have too much on their minds and stay up late working on projects. They feel their most productive or get a second wind late into the evening and early morning. This tendency to stay up late causes them to burn out, becoming overly intense, grumpy, and possibly angry. When they do get to bed, they toss and turn, reviewing the things they haven’t done or need to do. This aggravates their already hot, light, mobile qualities.

Kapha dosha tends towards too much sleep. They have difficulty waking up and moving. If they didn’t need to get up early, they would likely sleep in until 9-10am. Upon waking, they may feel sluggish and reach for coffee to get going. Excess sleep increases their heavy, static qualities.

Creating routines conducive to sleep

  • Commit to a regular bedtime, meaning lights out between 10-11pm.
  • Wake early. Kapha by 6am. Vata and pitta by 7am.
  • Eat your dinner at least three hours before bedtime. The body does internal cleansing during sleep.
  • Disconnect from all electronic media (TV, computers, phone, iPad etc.) a few hours before bedtime.
  • Switch off the lights and burn some candles for a softer environment.
  • Burn essential oils like lavender or chamomile.
  • Drink a cup of chamomile tea or a cup of warm milk with 1/2 tsp of fresh nutmeg and honey.
  • Do Abhyanga followed by a warm bath. Pay special attention to oiling the feet and scalp.
  • Jump into bed with a good book.

Doesn’t that sound great? Sweet Dreams!

Ayurvedic Travel Tips 101

Ayurvedic Travel Tips 101

It's summer and most of us will take a trip. Travel whilst exciting, with its new places, people and things can be destabilizing and increase our Vata (the force of movement).

Go Have fun, but create some daily rituals that will give you stability and routine.

My travel tips:

1.Before you drive or fly indulge in a long oil massage or Abhyanga and let it soak in for at least 20-30 minutes.

2. Make sure to lubricate all openings in body, think, ears, nose, lips, belly button, and top of head. Oil is heavy and moist. It pacifies the nervous system and guards against the dryness of air travel.

3. Make sure to take a two-ounce bottle of oil on your carryon. Once the plane has taken off, oil your feet and wear socks. During a long flight reapply oil to face, ears, nose, top of head and feet

4. Your thermos (a girl’s best friend).  I usually bring some fresh shredded ginger in a plastic bag. Place the ginger in the thermos, give to the flight attendant to fill with hot water and sip throughout the flight. Ginger tea is warming and improves peripheral circulation.

5. Sleep: I use ‘Sleep Easy’ from Banyan Botanicals. I find 4-6 pills gives me 6 hours of deep sleep.

6. Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. 

7. Try to take only warm food. 

8. Make sure you stretch. I go to the back of the plane and do my stretches a couple of times during a trip.

9. When you arrive at your destination, stick to the local time. In the evening before bed, do a long abhyanga and take 1 tsp triphala with warm water. The abhyanga will ground you and the triphala will ensure regular bowel movements.

Enjoy your travels! Love, Eleni

The Right Foods for You: An Ayurvedic Perspective

The Right Foods for You: An Ayurvedic Perspective

Ayurveda recognizes that a vast majority of diseases are caused and/or exacerbated by improper digestion and metabolism.  Despite the fact that food is life-sustaining, many of us see cooking and eating as a chore. We choose dining out over lovingly preparing nutritious meals at home. Our understanding and relationship with food has been reduced to comfort, calories, and convenience. 

The Three Humors or Life Forces Vata, Pitta, and Kapha

The Three Humors or Life Forces Vata, Pitta, and Kapha

Ayurveda is a complete system of wellness, based in the natural world.

The Ayurvedic view of the world and the human system is richly metaphorical and scientifically precise.

 

Ayurveda views all matter as composed of five basic states, often called elements. These are the building blocks of everything that exists, including ourselves.  Previously, in the article What is Ayurveda, I laid out the cosmology upon which Ayurveda is based. In short, this ontology views the material world as a duality comprised of both spirit and matter. The body, mind and emotions are seen as part of the material world, constantly changing and subject to different rates of change.

What is Ayurveda?

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda, (Eye-Your-Veda), Yoga’s sister science is a 5000-year-old holistic health system based in nature. Its primary tools are food, herbs, oils, cleansing, lifestyle, and education, each adapted to an individual’s unique constitution or body type.  Ayurveda is classified as a ‘complementary health approach’ by the National Center for Complementary & Integrative Health (NCCIH).

Ayurveda's Definition of Health

Ayurveda's Definition of Health

Sama dosah samagnis ca sama dhatu mala kriyah prasannamendriya manah vastha ityabhidhiyate. Sushruta Samhita 15.38

 One who is established in self, who has balanced doshas, balanced agni, properly formed dhatus, proper elimination of malas, well functioning bodily processes and whose mind, soul and senses are happy is called a healthy person. 

This quote from the Sushruta Samhita, one of the classical Ayurvedic texts summarizes the Ayurvedic model of health. The definition is both philosophical and functional in its understanding of the individual constitution.