Pranayama & Curing Eczema

Recently, I’ve taken an interest in how yoga and pranayama can help with eczema. Having had no history of eczema until this year (could be the weather, stress, who knows?), and hearing a little about how some pranayama such as Sitali and Sitkari can lower body heat, I decided to do some research into how pranayama can help with Eczema!

For starters, a yogi, Swami Ramdev, suggests doing kapalbhati breathing for half an hour, and then anulom vilum for an hour, then bhastrika, ujjai and bhramari pranayamas. After a consistent practice of this together with some tweaks to our diet, we’ll supposedly have glowing skin! Time-commitment seems to be a bit of an issue here though, but we can try.

Anyway, how can pranayama specifically help to ease eczema?

Detoxifies the body

Pranayama detoxifies the nadis (energy channels in our bodies), which are usually clogged with impurities. Once these energy channels are purified, the blood circulated around the body is one that brings about greater energy, and this also helps to improve complexion. In addition, pranayama activates the body’s lymphatic system, which is responsible for the removal of waste. The lymph nodes produce white blood cells to fight infections. I can imagine that this could lead to greater inflammation in the short-term, but a solution in the long-term.

Helps to relieve stress

We all know that yoga as an activity in itself, even if just focused on physical asanas, does help to relieve anxiety and stress levels. Being placed in an environment which encourages you to focus on your breathing, your flow, your postures, your mat and leaving your stressors outside the door (at least for the hour or so) does wonders for the mind. You leave a yoga session feeling rejuvenated and at least a little more calm.

To zoom in specifically on pranayama, In a Vogue article, Yoga guru Mini Shastri talks about how the slowing, modulating and equalising of our breath triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes the master gland of the pituitary-thyroid-adrenal nexus to harmonise. This results in a balanced hormonal system. Hormone imbalance is a primary cause of many skin conditions, including eczema, which are triggered by stress. Thus, pranayama helps to tackle this by bringing greater relaxation to the body.

Also, Kapalbhati has been said to have a positive effect in clearing the mind, and thus helping with anxiety and depression, all which contribute to, and simultaneously stem from some forms of stress in life too.

Eczema can be seen from a yogic perspective to be a dysfunction of the Muladhara Chakra, Manipura Chakra and Vishudda Chakra. Thus, yoga will help these chakras spin more effectively to some extent.

What yoga taught me: mindful eating

Our modern society today runs at a fast pace and as a result of it, our breathing, sleeping, eating patterns have begun to suffer. Functioning at a fast pace all the time is definitely productive and good for the workplace, but it can cause harm to our bodies overtime.

This is particularly true when we eat. When we are stressed or upset when we eat, we can create imbalances in the body. Rushing through a meal or eating when stressed also restricts oxygen from entering our system and our bodies cannot digest the food we eat properly, much less absorb the nutrients from it. 

During these times when we are working from home, it’s easy to slip into a pattern where we continue ploughing through work while eating our lunch at the same time. I definitely did, and know firsthand that it’s not the best. No matter how healthy we are eating, be it a bowl of warm oats or a kale salad, feeling good doesn’t come unequivocally if we don’t slow down when we eat.

Here are four tips to be mindful about eating that helped me:

  1. Eat only when you are hungry. Check in with yourself and assess your appetite. It’s a natural process of your body to get hungry and only eat when it does. There’s no need to force yourself to eat breakfast if you don’t feel like it.
  2. Slow down, and stop what you are doing. Whether you’re working on a presentation or writing a piece of work, consciously take a break from it. Try and be present, sit down and be still as you eat.
  3. Take a few moments to breathe before you start eating. This can help your body take in more oxygen and also fuel up the digestive process.
  4. Eat slowly and take your time to chew and feel your food. Use all of your senses to experience and appreciate the food — its appearance, taste, texture, smell and flavours in its entirety.

I’ve also begun to be more conscious of eating more plant-based foods, trying out more vegan recipes that comprise more sattvic foods and generally practising ahimsa on food choices that do not harm animals or the planet. Besides, plant-based dishes are easier to prepare and cook so I would definitely recommend going veggies-only at least once a week!

Pranic Food

In yogic philosophy, Prana which is a Sanskrit word that has a number of interpretations in English, including “life force,” “energy” and “vital principle” is also known as Chi or Ki in other traditions. All living beings have the innate ability to absorb and utilize Prana to sustain life. Food or Eart is one of the 3 sources of Prana with Air and Sun.
In order to extend and improve our energy and therefore our health and wellness we can take a look at how food is categorized in yogic and ayurvedic principles and integrate it in our daily life.

In yogic and ayurvedic principle, the food is categorized as following:
1. Positive pranic food
2. Neutral pranic food
3. Negative pranic food

1. The positive pranic food
When positive pranic food is consumed it adds prana and therefore increase the pranic energy, vital energy into our system.
List: Ash Gourd (Winter melon), Lemon, Honey, Coconut, Nuts and seeds, Raw and dried fruits, Ripe vegetables, Sprouted grams, Legumes (peas, beans, lentils, etc.) and Cereals (rice, buckwheat, barley, millet, oats, teff, spelt etc.)

2. Neutral pranic food
When neutral or zero pranic food is consumed, it neither adds nor takes away pranic energy. It is only eaten for taste.
List: Potato and Tomato

3. Negative pranic food
When negative pranic food is consumed, it takes away prana from the system. It stimulates us on a nervous level but it takes away our vital energy.
List: Garlic, Onion, Asafoetida, Chili peppers, Eggplant, Vinegar, Cacao, Cocoa, Coffee, Tea, Alcohol, Tobacco and other stimulants and intoxicants

Some of the negative pranic foods have medicinal properties and they need to be used as a medicine and should not be part of our daily diet as it may result in health issues in the long term.

The optimum way to consume the food is opting for vegetarian food in its raw form ou sprouted. They are easy to digest and pass through our digestive system within 3-6 hours.
Some of the vegetarian food have to be cooked but nowaday we tend to over cook them killing all the digestive enzymes which make them hard to digest. It takes vegetarian cooked food between 18 to 24 hours to pass through our system. In addition we don’t feel comfortable.
Non-Vegetarian have no prana as it left the animal when it is killed. In addtion, non-vegetarian foods develop inertia in the body as it takes about 32 to 48 hours to pass through our system

Daily food choices are essential to support energy levels and ways of being. Considering all the above consciously helps promote holistic health.

Visuddha

While I was looking through my recipe ingredients list that I consumed daily and studying the 7 Chakra in deeper knowledge. I came to realise all this while I’ve consumed most of the food that related to the fifth Chakra – Visuddha. I am excited and hope I can share with you what are the food that I consumed and how it affected me so far.

 

Visuddha, the throat Chakra located at the throat area closed to the cervical spine. It refers to “especially pure”. The symbol for Visuddha is a blue triangle surrounded by 16 purple petals. It is also associated with the element of Ether. 

 

Ths chakra expresses our authentic voice and ability to speak our truth openly and purely but also our ability to understand our own needs and desires and being able to communicate them freely to others. 

 

The signs of underactivity: Inability to communicate, express creativity, feelings and emotions; procrastination, stagnation, flakiness and difficulty in being honest.  Physically, we might have problems with hearing, sore throat, and toothache.

Read More

Anahata

My Chakras

 

Today we practiced the technique of scanning our Chakras. It was out of my expectation that the heat actually stronger at my Heart Chakra in sanskrit terms is called Anahata. 

 

In Anahata the fourth chakra, Anahata chakra is located at the center of the chest closed to the heart. The corresponding element of this chakra is Air. Air represents freedom and expansion, this means this chakra is our consciousness that can expand to infinity.

 

In the symbolic of Anahata Chakra there is a Lotus with twelve petals. These represent the Divine qualities of the heart, such as bliss, peace, harmony, love, understanding, empathy, clarity, purity, unity, compassion, kindness and forgiveness. 

 

Our heart, the center of emotions and feelings. The emotion that frequently fluctuates according to external and internal impact. Our heart is so much difficult to handle and control by our mind, and often, our mind and our heart are always fighting over matter. It can be as simple as choosing a colour for our clothes, to as difficult as making the choice to let go of a relationship. 

 

So, that is the signs of underactivity/overactivity of one of my chakra, then what can I do to balance up my underactivity/overactivity? And so what is the balance in between? When our Anahata is balanced, we will feel ease with people, have great compassion for all the living creatures, are comfortable with our own company, exuding love and enjoyment.  

 

There are many ways that are able to help with balancing my heart chakra, like Asana, Pranayama, meditation, or incorporating breathing in meditation or in asana. I particularly prefer music and food. 

 

In sound/music, the heart chakra frequency is 341.3 Hz, this frequency associated with the element of Air, listening to the music attuned to this particular frequency brings balance to the heart of the chakra. Research also showed that The 528 Hz frequency which is also known as ‘love” frequency helps to open your heart chakra to unconditional love.

 

In nutrition, green and rose coloured foods full of phytochemicals resonate with the heart chakra; there are predominantly fruits and vegetables. Good nourishment of the fourth chakra is essential for supporting the cardiovascular system, thymus, and lungs. 

 

Some recipe to helps me with my daily diet:

 

Smoothie 

1 avocado

2 stalks of celery

2 large handful of kale

Pinch of salt 

1 tsp of plant milk 

→ blend all together, top with blueberries, cranberries, Kiwi 

→ pair with a cup of matcha or green tea

 

Salad

½ cups of quinoa

2 cups of vegetable stock

100g green bean

150g fresh garden peas

Some pine nuts

→ with dressing: 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 glove garlic and 1tbsp pomegranate molasses 

 

Dessert

Carrot cakes 

→ Pair with a cup of Matcha or Green Apple Juice 

Ayurveda and Your Dosha

Ayurveda means “the science of life” and is one of the great ancient tools to help you discover your physical and emotional tendencies. It is categorized into three Doshas or mind-body types: Vatta, Pitta and Kapha.
Each dosha is characterized by two of the 5 elements: earth, water, fire, air and space or ether. By identifying your dosha, you can create a yoga practice and lifestyle to support the nature of your mind-body type. The idea of following your dosha type is to add or balance out the missing or opposite elements to stay balanced.

 

The 3 Types of Dosha

Vata: Air and Ether or Space

A person with this dosha is usually of thin or light frame or slender features. They are creative, have active minds and high energy. Vatas loves excitement, embraces change and new experiences, they also have impulsive and moody personalities. When imbalanced, Vatas suffer from anxiety, fatigue and insomnia. When they feel overwhelmed or stressed, their thoughts and questions are: “What did I do wrong?”

How Vatas can stay balanced:

  • Follow the correct diet
  • Maintain a daily routine
  • Find time to exercise, and also find time to rest and relax
  • Stay warm and get enough sleep 
  • Have regular massages that are soothing and grounding
  • Avoid very cold and dry environments
  • Avoiding noisy and crowded places and environments with too much movement and talking.

Recommended food:

  • Protein: eggs
  • Dairy:  ghee, milk, butter
  • Grains: white & brown rice, wheat, corn, millet, barley and oats
  • Legumes:all except for lentils
  • Vegetables:sweet and bitter vegetables such as asparagus, cabbage, cucumber, cauliflower, celery, green beans, lettuce, peas, parsley, potatoes, zucchini, sprouts, cress, chicory, and mushrooms.
  • Nuts and seeds:  flaxseeds , pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
  • Fruits:  sweet fruits such as apples, figs, oranges, mangoes, plums, melons, pears; coconut and avocados
  • Herbs and spices: No spices except for turmeric, cardamom, fennel, cilantro, cinnamon and small amounts of black pepper.

Foods to reduce:

  • Best to avoid animal products and meat
  • Dried fruits
  • Food that is too spicy, salty or sour


Pitta: Fire & Water

A person with this dosha is usually of medium size & weight. They are intellectual, outspoken and have a strong focus & ability to concentrate. They can also be short-tempered and opinionated. When imbalanced, they suffer from ulcer and gastric problems, and excessive body heat.
Spending time in nature and near bodies of water will help nurture this dosha. A more cooling and heart-centred practice will also improve and balance this dosha.

How Pittas can stay balanced:

  • Follow the correct diet
  • Get in touch with nature and get plenty of fresh air
  • Stay physically and mentally cool, and do things in moderation
  • Staying patient and being considerate to other people
  • Avoid hot and humid spaces
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Avoiding conflicting situations and arguments

Recommended food:

  • Protein: eggs
  • Dairy: ghee, milk, butter
  • Grains: white & brown rice, wheat, corn, millet, barley and oats
  • Legumes: all except for lentils
  • Vegetables: sweet and bitter vegetables such as asparagus, cabbage, cucumber, cauliflower, celery, green beans, lettuce, peas, parsley, potatoes, zucchini, sprouts, cress, chicory, and mushrooms.
  • Nuts and seeds: flaxseeds , pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
  • Fruits: sweet fruits such as apples, figs, oranges, mangoes, plums, melons, pears; coconut and avocados
  • Herbs and spices: No spices except for turmeric, cardamom, fennel, cilantro, cinnamon and small amounts of black pepper.

Foods to reduce:

  • Best to avoid animal products and meat
  • Dried fruits
  • Food that is too spicy, salty or sour


Kapha: Earth & Water

A person with this dosha has a heavier and earthier body type compared to the other doshas. Kaphas are naturally calm and grounded, patient and understanding. Their speech is slow and melodic, they enjoy routine and regularity and have a positive attitude. When imbalanced, Kaphas tend to get attached and hold on to things, jobs and relationships even after moving on. They become stubborn and resist change, tend to overeat and avoid exercising.

How Kaphas can stay balanced:

  • Follow the correct diet
  • Waking up early
  • Exercise the body & mind regularly
  • Stay warm and dry
  • Break from routine and allow new challenges and excitements in your life
  • Don’t stay stagnant and learn new things
  • Avoid taking long naps and sleeping during the day

Recommended food:

  • Protein: eggs and white meat
  • Dairy: Low fat or reduced-fat milk, soy milk, cheeses with less fat content
  • Grains: quinoa, millet, buckwheat, couscous, barley and oats in small quantities
  • Legumes: all except for white beans and lentils
  • Vegetables: spicy and bitter vegetables such as celery, red beets, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, garlic, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, parsley, peas, radish, spinach, sprouts, fennel, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Nuts and seeds: flaxseeds , pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
  • Fruits: berries, cherries, mangos, peaches, pears, and raisins , Dried figs and plum.
  • Herbs and spices: all spices


Foods to reduce:

  • Hot cereals and steamed grains
  • Cheese with high fat content
  • Very salty foods
  • Sugary sweet foods of with refined sugar content
  • Sour foods


If you are not sure what your dosha is, there are a lot of quizzes online to discover your dosha! I have shared some links below to explore your dosha type. Some people may have a mix of the 2 doshas equally depending on the percentage they get. The dominant dosha is the reason why a person may not be able to tolerate heat or humidity or spicy and oily foods while another person may have no reaction to them.
I personally tried out all of them, and I my results came out as predominantly Vata.

Try them out and see which type you are! 🙂

 

Tests: What’s your Dosha?


https://kripalu.org/content/whats-your-dosha
https://www.euroved.com/en/ayurveda/test/
https://yogainternational.com/article/view/dosha-quiz

 

A Brief Introduction to Ayurvedic Doshas

I came to know about these 3 Dosha body types when we were studying yoga philosophy. Master Paolo and Master Sree were giving each of us their evaluation of what our body types were. As someone who jumps at the opportunity to take any kind of personality quiz, it intrigued me to want to research deeper.

To give a rough overview, Ayurveda is an Indian system of traditional medicine. Translated literally it means “the science of life” – Ayur means “life” and Veda means “science”. This system of traditional medicine has been around for about 5000 years, and it claims to have a set guide to determining ones’ balance and health. (Similar to how the Chinese have their own ‘system’ of TCM!)

In Ayurveda, there are three types of doshas, each made up of a different combination of the five elements; air, space, fire, earth, and water. The Vata dosha is a combination of air and space, the Pitta dosha is a combination of fire and water, and the Kapha dosha is a combination of water and earth. These combinations of the different elements represent a unique blend of physical, emotional, and mental characteristics (or qualities), essentially, describing who we are.

Everyone has a different balance of the three doshas, usually with one or two doshas predominating and rarely, with a balance of all three. It should be said that there is no such thing as an ideal body model. The key is to understand your dosha type to give you further insight into what your own personal state of balance should be.

By getting to know our Doshas and their qualities, we can make the effort to stay balanced – healthy. This is important because if we were to push ourselves off balance by adopting habits that are not suited to us, we will experience negative symptoms that signal that our mind-body is ‘off’ – such as bloating, rashes, gassiness, bad temper, tiredness, and many more – if left unchecked, it could even lead to diseases. Fret not, there are solutions (or “medicine”) for us to bring ourselves back into balance by drawing on food and drink. herbs and spices, colors, textures, aromas, environments, and lifestyle choices. The key is to choose solutions that have the opposite qualities or characteristics to the symptoms we’re experiencing, to create equilibrium. For example, for pitta doshas, one already has lots of warmth in their bodies thus cooler weather is preferred or cooler foods like salads help, if one continues to eat too much spicy food or is under the sun for prolonged periods of time with no protection, they’ll be prone to overheating, sweating and skin redness.

To conclude, there’s just so much information available for each of the Dosha types – the dos, don’ts, appetite/diet, what to avoid, learning styles, sleep cycles, mental qualities, preferred nature elements/seasons, best yoga styles, general physical appearances/body shape, etc. I hope that by reading this you guys will be as excited as I am to want to find out more about Ayurvedic doshas and your dosha types!

Vata-Pitta Dosha

My dosha is combination of Vata and Pitta according to Ayurveda. Ayuverda defined as “The Science of Life”, also known as “Mother of All Healing”. It originated from India and contains deep history and knowledge. Moreover, it emphasis on creating balance of the physical, mental and spiritual.

What is Vata?
Vata is composed of air and space. Subtle energy associated with movement such as breathing, blinking, muscle and tissue movement, and all movements in the cytoplasm and cell membranes. When it is on balance, it promotes creativity and flexibility. On the other hand, it produces anxiety and fear when unbalance.

What is Pitta?
Pitta is composed of fire and water, and represented as the body’s metabolic system. It is in charge for digestion, absorption, assimilation, nutrition, metabolism and body temperature. When it is balance, it promotes understanding and intelligence. On the other hand, it arouses anger, hatred and jealousy when unbalance.

The 3 Gunas
Guna is translated as “the three fundamental qualities or attitudes” of the manifest energy. Philosophically, the theory of the guns explains what this universe is made of and how it came to manifest itself as mind and matter. As yoga practitioners, awareness of the gunas allows us to recognise whether we are genuinely moving forward in life (sattva), running in places (rajas), or losing our way (tamas).
The 3 Gunas and Diet

1) Sattvic foods promote purity of mind, peace intelligence, and clear decision making. Some examples of food for Vata-Pitta are well ripened and sweet fruits (pomegranate, figs and avocadoes), cooked vegetables (pumpkin, okra and potato) and grains (corn, quinoa and oats). They should be eaten in as natural form as possible in state of raw, steamed or lightly cooked. Vata-Pitta should avoid foods such as dried fruits, coffee and dairy products.

2) Rajasic foods over stimulate the body and mind, creating restless, excited mind. Vegetables cooked in excess butter, with spicy and strong flavouring agents, are typical example of rajasic preparation.

3) Tamasic foods that lower our immune system, cloud the mind, and promote negative emotions. Examples are foods alcohol, tobacco and soft drinks.

How can I apply the 3 Gunas on a daily basis to bring balance on Vata-Pitta dosha?
Breakfast:
Greek yoghurt with fresh cut fruits such as cantaloupe, ripe bananas and peaches. It is optional to add grains such as sunflower seeds and small amount of pistachios. Also, hot mint herbal tea as beverage.

Lunch:
Basmati rice with cooked vegetables (Stir-fry pumpkin, kale, mushrooms and beans), with chicken breast.

Snacks:
Chamomile tea with a handful of activated almond nuts.

Dinner:
Veggie wrap (sauté your favourite vegetables), add in salmon or chicken and cottage cheese.

Know Your Ayurvedic Dosha

In Ayurveda tradition, the three basic types of dosha are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Ayurveda in Sanskrit means “The Science of Life”. Dosha is the energy present in the body, governing physical, mental and emotional characteristics. Since birth, each person has the original body type with unchanged attributes, while lifestyle, diet, climate, environment etc can often shift you out of balance with compromised immunity and health. Each person has a dominant dosha or combination of doshas. No one dosha is better than any other.

Pitta contains the properties of the fire element, and a small amount of the water element. Having Pitta as dominant dosha, they are of medium height and build, and their hands and feet are usually warm. Pitta people generally have a strong metabolism and strong appetite, and a lower tolerances for heat. Mentally, Pitta people have good memory and organisation skills with tendency to be perfectionists. But after prolonged heavy workload, they might have difficult time relaxing and sleep disorders can occur.

Exercise is good for Pitta people, especially activities with moderate exertion to let off the energy and strong emotion. Similarly, the food should calm the fire associated with Pitta. It should not be too pungent, salty, sour or spicy. All food with sweet, bitter, astringent and cool flavours can reduce the Pitta fire. Barley, oat, rice, wheat, all leafy green vegetables and sweet fruits are recommended. Sour fruits should be avoided, except for lime to be used sparingly. Eggs should be taken in moderation, other meat products should be avoided. Sweet dairy products are good for Pitta, with sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds occasionally. However, hot and pungent spices shall be avoided. Corriander, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom, fennel and cumin can be added sparingly.

Pitta dosha

Pitta – Vata Dosha

After doing the Ayurveda Dosha Quiz, I found out that I was a Pitta – Vata and I need to eat a cooling diet to neutralise the fiery and intense pitta dosha. As the Pitta is the dominant dosha I should follow this diet and will do well with raw fruit and vegetables but should stay away from most spices as they are heating in nature.

My diet should consist of sweet fruit like sweet apples, figs, melons, pears, plums, grapes and mango and sweet and bitter vegetables like asparagus, leafy greens, cucumber and green beans. The grains recommended are oats (cooked), white rice, quinoa and whole wheat. All beans except lentils are allowed and dairy should be organic milk and unsalted butter. Recommended meats are the white meat from chicken and turkey.

When comparing the pitta dosha foods with the sattvic, rajasic and tamasic foods it looks very similar to the sattvic diet  with the exemption of meat. As I eat meat occasionally and then prefer chicken to red meat so I could easily follow the pitta diet with the exception of adding a little bit of rajasic foods in a daily coffee occasional beer or wine. 

Nathalie Rimmer 200hr YTT Weekend July 2020

References:

https://www.banyanbotanicals.com/info/ayurvedic-living/learning-ayurveda/understanding-your-constitution/pitta-vata/

https://www.nithyananda.org/Nithyananda-eNcyclopedia/Sattvic%20Rajasic%20Tamsic%20Food.html