Massage has been used for centuries as a therapeutic tool for various ailments, injuries, and athletic recovery. Abhyanga, the Ayurvedic practice of self-massage is a self-care ritual that supports the healing of inner and outer ailments the body might express. When pain or inflammation arises, it is often a call from our body that we need relaxation and self-healing. Self-Massage moves energy through the body which helps to clear the lymph system, relax muscles, and alleviate trapped emotion initiating a deeper connection to self.
Some of the many health benefits of abhyanga massage include: an increase in muscle tone and circulation, an increase in bowel regularity, calming of the nervous system and improvement in quality of sleep. Below you will find a sequence to start your Abhyanga practice.
Start with the head: Pour a tablespoon of warm oil on your scalp. Using the flat of your hand, not the fingertips, massage the oil in vigorously all over. Cover your entire scalp with small circular strokes, as if you were shampooing, and adding a little oil as desired. It is not necessary to soak your hair with oil.
Move to your face and ears, massaging more gently: Gentle circles on the temples and backs of the ears is especially good for settling vata dosha. Circle temples, cheeks. Stroke across upper lip and chin. Stroke across forehead.
Apply a small amount of warm oil to your entire body and then proceed with the abhyanga to each area. This will allow the oil to have maximum amount of time in contact with your body.
Neck: Massage back and forth and up and down the front and back of your neck, including the upper part of the spine (be gentle over the windpipe).
Arms – Hands: Massage somewhat vigorously, using a circular motion at the shoulders and elbows and long, back and forth (or up/down) motions on the long muscles. Massage back and forth on the palm and back of your hand and gently pull each finger.
Chest – Abdomen: Make circles on the chest with both hands over pectoral muscles and gently sweep larger circles around the sides of breasts, and paddling towards nipples around them. A gentle oval or up/down motion over your breastbone feels soothing. Also use circles on your abdomen, following the bowel direction clockwise.
Back – Sides: Reach around without straining to massage your back and spine with up and down strokes or whatever you can do. Pull forward on sides. If your spouse or mother is there have them do several long sweeps on your back and circles over the shoulder blade area.
Legs: Start with full circles on your hip, then long strokes on the thigh. Circles on knee with both hands, alternating, and long strokes on calf.
Feet: Alternate (both hands) circles on ankle bone, one hand (fingers) up and down on achilles tendon down to heel. Do some thumb work on soles if you have time. Work toes pulling gently. Back and forth with palms on top and soles of feet, in an alternating pattern.
Do a couple full sweeps over the face, the arms when you finish there, legs and feet when you are done there.
Allow time for rest and oil to be absorbed after massage. Then follow with a warm bath, helps oil to penetrate deeper into the tissues.
In the spring season Kapha is at its highest point, making it common to experience Kapha type symptoms. The damn heavy atmosphere creates the perfect environment for thick congestion, sinus issues, and fatigue. There are a lot of simple remedies that combat these spring irritants, but today we want to talk about the simplicity of cinnamon, ginger, and licorice tea.
Cinnamon helps to clear mucous and encourages the circulation of Vata throughout the respiratory system. If you’re congestion is present because of a spring cold, try adding fresh ginger root to the mix for an extra boost of mucous clearing from the respiratory system. Licorice is a wonderful demulcent that will reduce inflation while soothing any irritation from coughing and helps to clear Kapha from the lungs.
Bring 1 quart of water to boil Add 1 1/2 ” of fresh Ginger, 2 Cinnamon sticks, and 2 licorice sticks or 2 teaspoons cut licorice root
Boil for 30 minutes or until 3 cups are left
Drink a cup after meals 3 times a day.
As the days of spring grow longer and the heat of the sun sets in, Kapha and Pitta collide. Spring may be the season of Kapha, with its cool damp tones bringing the earth back to life, but when the heat of the season starts to show it’s clear that pitta season is right around the corner. Many of us are encountering a sea of pollen while spending more time outdoors with the inviting weather, the thought of getting ready for summer is on your minds and for those of pitta constitution now is a time for noticing early signs of imbalance and preparing for our doshic season! With spring Allergies exemplifying the interface of the doshas and often creating sinus congestion, there are two simple medicines that can be found in the kitchen that can help us to adjust through this season and get ready for the next.
Cinnamon and ginger are two common yet powerful substances that can be used on their own or combined to help with spring allergies.
A few of the biggest symptoms we try to combat this season are sinus and chest congestion. It makes sense, the cool, damp, and cloudy qualities of kapha are hanging in the air. Combine this with the clouds of pollen blowing and makes it a hard job for our nasal passages to take in the spring air without irritation.
If you are suffering from sinus congestion you can use powdered ginger ( or even stronger powdered cinnamon) to open the sinus cavities and clear out excess mucus. Create a paste by adding a small amount of water to ginger powder, then generously apply it to your face around your sinuses mimicking glasses, but keep it clear from the delicate tissues right around the eyes. You can leave this on for ten minutes or until it dries and carefully wash it off. Be wary of the slight burning sensation but it is well worth it to breathe again. This is also helpful from those allergy related sinus headaches!
Chest congestion can be cleared by drinking a cinnamon / ginger / licorice tea (click for recipe). The cinnamon helps to clear mucous and encourages the circulation of Vata throughout the respiratory system. If you’re congestion is present because of a spring cold, try adding fresh ginger root to the mix for an extra boost of mucous clearing from the respiratory system.
The change of season from winter to spring can have a dampening effect on digestion, leaving many of us with sluggish digestion or manda agni. Cinnamon and ginger are wonderful additives to stoke the digestive fire! Licorice helps to lubricate the stomach and intestine and counter the heating effects of the previous two spices.
Adding cinnamon to a cup of warm ginger tea and drinking before meals will help heat things up! The licorice balances the combination by its sweet and cooling anti inflammatory nature.This combination will increase agni and the secretion of digestive enzymes. Cinnamon also helps to relieve gas and expel excess water that we may be holding onto this time of year. The licorice controls excess inflammation and is a boon for allergic reactions.
You may notice that even though the temperature are rising you are still experience cold extremities. Cinnamon helps to stimulate vyana vayu and opens up circulation to the joints. This helps the body to move heat to the extremities away from the digestive organs. Adding cinnamon to your tea or oatmeal can help to warm things up as your body adjusts.
Taking the time to adjust to the current environment will help your body transition to the next season. Clearing out excess kapha before it becomes stagnant will help you to feel lighter making the rising heats more bearable. Enjoy your Spring, breathe easier as you prepare for the excitement and joy of long summer days and outdoor activities with family and friends!
Establish Balance This Spring Through Pranayama
The Seasonal transition (in sanskrit Rutu Sandhi) offers many obstacles when it comes to maintaining balance within our bodies. Spring may be Characterized by Kapha dosha but as the weather patterns become variable and unpredictable there is a spike in Vata. In addition, the hot cold alternation and constant adjusting can aggravate Pitta. So what can we do to find equilibrium within our variable external environment?
Pranayama is a practice of breath control and awareness. Prana (as breath) is our vital life force. Pranayama involves various kinds of practices and works to balance the body, mind, and spirit in beneficial ways. During Pranayama we focus on the breath, working to strengthen one’s ability to maintain awareness and mental stability. Much like mindfulness meditation practice we keep our attention on the breath, bring the mind back to center and focus each time it wanders. It has proven benefits for mental/emotional conditions like depression and anxiety and has been shown to lower blood pressure, benefit respiratory disorders, alleviate pain among other numerous evidence-based benefits.
During each seasonal transition, it’s a good practice to add or modify pranayama in our daily routine. There are many different kinds of Pranayama but today we shall focus on Kapalabhati, Sheetali and Nadi Shodhana, which respectively balance Kapha, Pitta, and Vata doshas.
Kapalbhati (Skull Shining Breath)
Kapalabhati, also known as skull shining breath, is the practice of naturally allowing inhales and forcefully exhaling in shorts burst through your nostrils. This action is an energizing breath practice that clears the lungs, nasal passages, sinuses, and the mind. The exhale breath instigates rapid contraction and release of the upper abdomen while the inhalation is seemingly effortless and transparent.
Where Kapalabhati can be tridoshically balancing it is a wonderful way to bring balance to the rising Kapha of spring especially if we find ourselves with nasal congestion, brain fog and depression. The short bursts of air clean out sinus passages and strengthen the lungs by facilitating a flush of stagnant air and particles thus increasing respiratory resilience and natural immunity. As we contract and release in our abdomen we are building energy within our bodies and simulating a breathing cycle mimicking cardiovascular exercise with similar benefits. This energy facilitates movement helping to remove excess Kapha from its home sites in the stomach, lungs, mind, and sinuses.
Sheetali (Cooling Breath)
Sheetali, also known as cooling breath, is the practice of creating a cooling inhalation by curling the tongue into a straw shape and gently inhaling. Sheetali calms and soothes the mind, body, and spirit by delivering experientially cool energy to the deeper tissues of the body.
To perform it we first curl the tongue into a straw and breath in gently, allowing the breath to travel down and fill the abdomen experiencing the calming energy of this practice. Then, applying a slight contraction to the abdomen, pulling the belly button back into the spine, allowing the breath to slowly and gently leave the body through the nostrils with the mouth being clothed and the tongue relaxes or gently touching the soft palate.
Sheetali cools the body down and clears excess heat. It is very balancing to pitta and soothes excess digestive fire. As we transition from winter to spring the influx of heat can aggravate Pitta within our bodies and minds and instigate latent heat conditions like allergies, mental irritation, and eczema. Cooling breath is a wonderful way to stay cool and calm in the rising heat of spring and preventative care for the upcoming heat of our summers.
If you are unable to curl your tongue you can achieve the same effects through Sheetkari Pranayama, also known as hissing breath. To do this, gently press the top and lower teeth together, open the lips, and start inhaling. While breathing in a natural hissing sound should occur as the breath cools the sides of the tongue. After a full inhalation gently release the breath through the nose while relaxing the tongue or having it gently touching the soft palate.
Nadi Shodhana (Alternate nostril breathing)
Nadi Shodhana literally cleaning the channels of prana, but more commonly known as alternate nostril breathing, aims to purify the subtle channels of the body, harmonize the hemispheres of the brain while balancing the masculine and feminine aspects of our consciousness. It fosters mental clarity, calm alertness the mind, and brings balance to the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Numerous research has shown its beneficial effect in anxiety, depression, ADHD, amongst other mental-emotional conditions.
Nadi is a Sanskrit word meaning “channel” or “flow” and shodhana means “purification”. During this practice, we breathe in through our left nostril and out through our right. We then breathe in through our right nostril and back out through our left. We can then repeat the process many times until we clearly experience its benefits. The hand position or mudra is known as Vishnu mudra and is done by folding the tips of the index and middle fingers inward until they touch the palm. We can then alternate with the thumb and ring finger closing off each nostril as needed.
Nadi Shodhana brings balance to the body, mind, and spirit. It is said that this breath balances the masculine and feminine energies of the body. Alternate nostril breathing can also strengthen our chi or state of sattva by bringing balance to the Yin, Yang, Chi or Sattva, Rajas, Tamas trios. This practice can bring a balance to the body by calming vata and infusing the body with oxygen.
When should I do this practice?
The level of your practice and health will determine how many rounds of each breath you are able to do. However, starting out with 3 round of Kapalabhati and 8 rounds of Sheetali/Sheetkari and Nadi Shodhana is a great way to introduce these pranayamas into your daily practice. This practice can be done daily in the morning or even as needed throughout the day.
What constitutes one round?
One round of Kapalabhati is and 20-30 short burst exhalations with 2-3 deep inhalations and exhalations afterward. One round of Sheetali/ Sheetkari is one full inhalation through the tongue and one full exhalation out the nostrils. One full round of Nadi Shodhana is a full breath in through the left nostril and out through the right, followed by, one full inhalation in through the right nostril and out through the left.
This month’s self-care practice is Neti, an ayurvedic selfcare practices that focus on the nose, sense of smell and earth element. It is a great time to incorporate this practice into our daily routine, especially for those of us with sinus conditions. Both the usage of a neti pot and nasal drops (nasya) are preventative care for sinus congestion and irritation due to spring colds and allergies. A note of caution, this practice should not be combined with oil based nasal drops (nasya). Nasal drops are preferable when deep congestion prevents the usage of the neti pot.
Let’s take a look at how to use the Neti pot.
When to use it and how to make the liquid solution
The neti pot can be used daily,
either in the morning or evening before bathing. The neti pot is designed to
allow fluid to pass through your nasal passages clearing out any excess
congestion or unwanted particles, like dust or pollen. The fluid used is made up of a half cup of
water and a ½ teaspoon of salt. It’s best to purchase sterile saline salt and
distilled water. This mixture mimics our own saline body fluid and is gentle on
the sinus cavity. The water should be lukewarm and close to body temperature. This
will create minimal resistance of the nasal passages.
How to use it
To use the neti pot bend over a sink and tilt your head up to one side or the other. Place the opening of the neti pot against the nostril that is facing the celling. Then gently tilt the pot up and pour the fluid into your nostril. Sometimes it is helpful to create a small amount of suction to help the flow but be careful that you don’t suck in the water. The fluid will flow into your nostril, through your sinus cavity and flow out the bottom nostril into the sink. If some (or a lot) of the fluid flows into your mouth, don’t worry, it’s totally normal. Typically, you use half of the fluid in the first nostril then switch sides and pour the remaining fluid into your opposite nostril.
Finishing the process
After performing this process on each side bend over a sink near to 90 degrees and, blocking a nostril, forcefully exhale through the open nostril 10 times. Alternate nostrils and repeat the process 3 times to ensure the drying of the nasal passages and removal of excess salt water. The short burst of air help keeps the flow of air out of your nose and not into the ear canal. Avoid covering your nose with a tissue or towel and blowing your nose.
Now you can enjoy a freshly cleaned nasal passage and easeful breathing!
As the seasons change we too change with them. The
transition from winter to spring may be one of the most welcomed changes in
local climate, but it can be tough on the body. As the seasons battle for control
of the weather our systems become victim to fluctuating temperatures,
blistering winds, and rain.
This much fluctuation in the weather is exhausting for the
body and can create temporary issues. One of the first places our bodies
adjusts to deal with the changes is in the digestive system. This can affect
our Agni (digestive fire) and create issues with our ability to digest our food
property creating issues with elimination. As our bodies grow tired from the
fluctuation weather we become more susceptible to sinus congestion, colds and
CCF tea is a warm tea made from cumin, coriander, and
fennel. This tea can help to sooth and calm the digestive system, encouraging
proper digestion and help the body to fight off symptoms from the seasonal
change. The whole seeds are boiled and them steeped to create a sweet and
savory tea. I personally love the melody of flavors in this tea, but I’m also
known to dried berries or lemon balm to change things up.
What does CCF tea do?
CCF tea is a digestive (deepan), it burns toxins (Ama
pachan), is a mildl diuretic, anti-flatulent (gas relieving), decongestant,
anti-oxidant, anti- inflammatory, antacid, and antispasmodic. It has been shown
to be effective in reducing sinus congestion, controlling acid indigestion, and
soothing IBS symptoms, calming the mind, and improving elimination.
CCF Tea Recipe
This balanced and flavorful digestive tea is made from equal
proportions by volume of the seeds of Cumin, Coriander, and Fennel. It has many
subtleties of taste combining sweet, pungent, bitter and astringent flavors
which are directly balancing to all the doshas and especially the arising pitta
and congestive Kapha during Springtime.
1 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. Coriander seeds
1 tsp. Fennel seeds
3-4 cups of water
First, boil the seeds for 10 minutes. Then, let steep for another 15 minutes. Finally, strain out the seeds and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Enjoy CCF tea hot, warm or at room temp.
We recommended drinking ½ of a cup to 1 cup of tea before meals to increase appetite and aid digestion. You can also enjoy this same amount of tea after meals to aid digestion, absorption and assimilation.
It is important to use the whole seed and use high quality organic ingredient to make CCF tea. To save time and ensure your getting the best quality ingredients, we are now offering pre mixed bags of CCF tea for purchase. To order your CCF tea send us an email at [email protected] or give us a call at 828-484-2413 . Orders can be shipped to your door or you can pick them up in person at our West Asheville office.
inception article of our Blog and Newsletter, we will look at springtime and daily
practices for this transition. Because we live in the eastern part of the
United states and it is best to talk about what you know, we will have a
special focus on the climate of Asheville, NC and the temperate southeastern
This is the season of blooming
flowers, rains and sporadic warm days in the temperate and often moody southern
Appalachian Mountains. In the ancient texts of Ayurvedic medicine, the spring
tie was named Vasanta. This time of year is described at Kapha provoking and
Pitta accumulating. The persistent rain and cold weather alternating with the
warm sunny days bringing a mix of qualities such as wet, heavy, cloudy, and
mobile mobile alongside warm, bright, and clear. The Rutu sandhi (seasonal
transition) that is upon us in the mountains of western North Carolina becomes especially
moody during this time. According to Ayurveda, this transitional time lasts an
average of four weeks. Starting two or so weeks before spring and lasting two
or so weeks into spring. The Spring equinox is wonderful marker of the change
for us in North Carolina. It brings an opportunity to transition our routine
from the winter that lays behind us into the coming spring before us.
We each have our own unique rhythm
to our lives. When we sleep, what we eat, how we organize, is created through the
flow of our days. Naturally, our rhythm should be in harmony with the world
around us. Ayurveda sheds light on this by offering ways to tune in and listen
to the rhythms of nature. This wisdom is shared as the teaching of Dinacharya
(daily routine), which encourage a routine that supports optimal lifestyle and self-care
practices. Dinacharya balances our unique constitution to the daily rhythms of
nature and the changing seasons.
Every month we will be sharing
recipes, herbs and self-care practices that help facilitate awareness and
balance to the changing seasons. In our first two articles we will be
discussing Neti Pot usage and share
our recipe for the ayurvedic tea blend of Cumin,
Coriander, and Fennel(CCF Tea).
Later in the month we will release an article all about the herbal usage of