Category

Ayurveda

Pregnancy & Ayurveda Practices

By Ayurveda, Prenatal YogaNo Comments



Pregnancy, when viewed through the scope of Ayurveda, is a natural state of being for a woman’s body. Inclusions of simple Ayurvedic practices can make pregnancy more comfortable, healthier, and more enjoyable for a mother-to-be. The application of Ayurvedic wisdom can balance, nourish, and support an expectant mother physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Pregnancy, when experienced from this balanced state, may be the healthiest, happiest, and most fulfilling season of a woman’s life.

Apana vayu is the subtle downward movement of energy within the body, and the key to maintaining a pregnancy to full term. Certain therapies, exercises, and herbs may disturb apana vayu. Therefore, the intent of this article is Ayurvedic insight, rather than a treatment protocol. Due to the complexities of pregnancy, it is wise to leave treatments in the hands of experienced Ayurvedic practitioners.

All three doshas are naturally empathized during pregnancy. Pregnancy is a process of change, expansion, and creation, which are qualities of Vata. In pregnancy, the metabolism increases, bringing warmth to the body, which are qualities of Pitta. Kapha is the most dominate dosha during pregnancy, signified by the increase of body weight and size. The succession of changes during pregnancy interplays with an expectant mother’s constitution, her baby’s constitution, and the environment around her.

A woman’s nutritional needs are increased during pregnancy in both quality and quantity. She needs more calories, more calcium, more protein, and more iron. Eating intuitively, according to her body’s current condition, is preferable to choosing food based on constitution alone. On a subtle level, the baby’s needs may be sensed by the mother and expressed in her food preferences. She should eat sattvic foods, those that are pure and fresh. The most sattvic foods are those that are organically grown and offer the best source of vitamins and minerals. She should avoid tamastic foods, foods that are processed or left over. Food cravings should be satisfied by appealing to the basic tastes prescribed by an Ayurvedic diet, avoiding refined sugars, very spicy foods, cold or frozen foods, or those high in additives.

Eating has a direct effect on the doshas. The common side effects of pregnancy are the result of eating foods that promote imbalance, or eating foods that are not nutritionally optimal. Morning sickness and mood swings are connected to low blood sugar. Backaches, hypertension, and severe pain during childbirth are linked to insufficient calcium. Varicose veins, hemorrhoids, constipation, and skin discolorations are evidence of a lack of nutrients. Pre-eclampsia, pregnancy induced high-blood pressure, is a severe pregnancy complication, and a form of acute malnourishment. Herbal tonics can improve general health by helping to balance the doshas. In Ayurveda, special herbal tonics have been used in childbirth for thousands years, and are considered to be relatively safe. Many references are available as to which tonics are appropriate for specific needs, as is professional consultation.

In Ayurveda, the process of digestion is of equal importance to eating. Ayurveda suggests eating only when the previous meal has been digested, avoiding foods where there are known difficulties with digestion, and not drinking too much liquid with meals, especially cold drinks. Generally, cooked, moist, soft and warm foods are easier to digest than raw, cold foods. Signs of poor digestion include gas, belching, stomachaches, and intestinal discomforts. Adding digestive herbs to food will aid the process of digestion. Some digestive herbs that are safe for pregnancy include mints, tarragon, cardamom, jasmine, cumin, cinnamon, and basil. Papaya contains digestive enzymes, but may increase Pitta if used frequently.

And while bodily nutrition is essential, the heart-and-soul nourishment of the mother and baby is just as vital. By increasing her sentiments of deep love, the mother creates a more sattvic womb for her baby to grow and develop in. She should surround her self with people who are supportive and uplifting. Further, she should avoid disturbing images and forms of violent entertainment. The mother’s home should be beautiful and peaceful, with fresh clean air and natural light.

In her Ayurvedic essays, Terra Richardson of Cambridge University explains that a baby is physically conscious of his or her gestational development through the mother’s sense organs. Ancient Ayurveda acknowledges the development of the fetus’s sense organs through ceremonial rites preformed during different stages of pregnancy. According to Richardson, a modern-day pregnant woman can feed her baby’s senses by increasing the quality of her sensory input. She should “see beautiful and loving things, listen to loving and melodious sounds, touch pleasing things, and be touched in loving ways, taste wholesome tastes, and smell fragrant odors.” In other words, by surrounding herself in a beautiful, supportive, and loving environment, a mother’s womb becomes an equally safe, nourishing, and peaceful space for her baby’s consciousness to develop in.

During the eighth month of pregnancy the mother’s ojas, vital fluids, move from her to her baby. This is a time to eat ojas producing foods like ghee, dates, milk, and apricots. Staying at home and resting will conserve the vitality of the mother and her baby. She should avoid energy wasting activities in favor of letting her focus go inward. The final weeks of pregnancy lend themselves effortlessly to reflection, meditation, and deep, soulful contemplation. It is important that she avoids anger, does not overwork herself, does not experience hunger, and abstains from drugs, devitalized foods, and excessive intercourse.

Though it is best to consult with qualified health care practitioners, simple day-to-day Ayurvedic applications can make the season of pregnancy more enjoyable. Many common side effects of pregnancy can be avoided with preventative care and holistic treatments. Well-balanced nutrition, appropriate exercise, and relaxation techniques can combine to create strong, confident mothers and healthy babies. Physical and emotional balance, fortified with love and support builds and sustains the vitality of both the mother and her baby. From this sattvic state, a woman can deepen the connection between her and her baby, her and her mate, and enhance her awareness of self.



Holly Beck is an experienced, advanced yoga instructor with nearly twenty years of teaching and mentoring experience. Classically trained in the tradition of the Sri Vidya lineage, Holly’s class promises an authentic yoga experience for practitioners of all levels with steady pacing, a continuous meditation on breath, and masterful sequencing. While she enjoys all levels of yoga, Holly’s true gift is working with pregnant women. Holly’s specialized prenatal yoga practice, The Yoga Of Birth, has prepared hundreds of women for empowered birthing experiences. Holly holds degrees in English and the Science of Health and Wellness from the University of California, Berkeley. Her work has been featured in the journal of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, and she is recognized by the Doula Association of Southern California as a leader in prenatal education. Holly is currently developing a sustainable, rural retreat center for conscientious living in Costa Rica. For more information, please visit www.seedsofloveproject.org.

An Ayurveda Primer

By AyurvedaNo Comments


Ayurveda has made its way into popular Western culture, though by and large, it is still a mystery to most. For those of us who have not been raised a culture where Ayurvedic philosophy is at the core of our perceptions and practices, it can take a lifetime to comprehend. Typically, in Western societies, Ayurvedic practitioners take a two-year certification course. In Eastern traditions, though Ayurveda is part of the collective consciousness, most practitioners have been trained at doctorate levels, or have studied with masters through classic oral traditions of unbroken lineage. To really know and embody Ayurveda, we would have to travel to the East and spend incalculable amounts of time in deep study with the masters of ancient traditions, which is scarcely the reality for many of us.

Outside of renouncing our Western lives for a medical school-length period of time with the masters of yore, how can we both learn Ayurvedic principles and inculcate them within our lives? Take an online quiz to determine our dosha (body constitution)? Self diagnose and treat perceived imbalances with herbs from our local health food store? Invest hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars on Ayurvedic treatments from a certified practitioner, only to find that such remedies are subtle, and require months, if not years of implementation to soothe our ailments?

Perhaps the most prudent course of action is to expand our perception to include a new vantage, a new point of view. Let’s compare the science of Ayurveda to the color spectrum. Just as there are three primary colors that combine to create all colors visible to our eyes, so to are there three primary aspects to Ayurveda. The three basic elements of Ayurveda are the prakruti, our original state of being, the vikruti, our current state of being, and the gunas, the elemental qualities of being. These states, though separate and integral, come into flux with one another in the creation of our body constitution and senses.

The prakruti is the essence of our being in balance, determined upon conception. The prakruti is the balance of the three doshas (vata, pitta, and kapha), along with the fixation of our unique psychology and physiology. The prakruti is our inherent tendencies towards certain attributes, such as our body type, emotional proclivity, and our intellect. These attributes generally remain consistent throughout our lifetimes, with each of the three doshas present in varying degrees. Our body constitutions are as unique as a fingerprint, and are defined by the ratio of the three doshas in relation to one another.

An interaction between the environment and ourselves occurs from moment we are conceived. This is the interaction with all manifestation, both within the womb and out, including, but not limited to: nutrition, seasonality, day-to-day weather, social interactions, contagions, and exposures. Health and wellness depends on maintaining the ideal ratio of the three doshas in relation these factors. If one or more of the doshas become vitiated, imbalanced, symptoms of disease can present themselves. This dis-ease may be subtle, displaying itself within the intellectual or emotional body, or gross, manifesting in sickness of the physical body. The variance away from the prakruti is known as the vikruti, meaning “after creation” in Sanskrit. The main work of the Ayurvedic practitioner is to establish the display of the vikruti, the variance of the doshas, in relation to the prakruti. In ideal health, the prakruti and the vikruti are equal.

The basis of Ayurvedic practice is to identify environmental disturbances within lifestyle practices, and derive a treatment that balances the current state of the doshas. Qualities of being, known as the gunas, range from gross to subtle. Just as there are three distinct doshas, there are three specific gunas: tamas, rajas, and sattva. Tamas is most gross, and is associated with kapha (earth and water). Its qualities are dull, inert, and heavy. Rajas, the intermediary guna, is associated with pitta (fire and water). Rajas is the quality of transformation, heat, and activation. Sattva, the subtlest quality, is associated with vata (air and ether). It is the quality of illumination, purity, and clarity. The display of the gunas indicates the vikruti. For example, a kapha constitution in a tamastic state may be overweight, sluggish, and have difficulty remembering. Before moving to a sattvic state, the kapha constitution must first apply rajastic practices, such as yoga asana, waking up earlier, or eating spicy foods. A kapha constitution, having moved through a rajastic state, may display sattvic qualities, such as stability of character, physical stamina, and maternal or paternal love. It is important to note that the gunas should not be associated with moral constructs like positive or negative, rather, they should be assessed as independent qualities that are expressed throughout creation.

The science of Ayurveda is vast and complex. It is difficult to assess our own prakruti or vikruti at a glance, or with a quiz from a magazine or website. Ayurvedic assessment is best left to the knowledgeable insight of an experienced practitioner. However, once the dosha has been established, lifestyle changes can be implemented to maintain optimal health and wellness. By gauging the guna of a food, for example, you can make positive changes to your diet. For comparison’s sake, a bag of Cheetos is tamastic, whereas fresh lettuce is more sattvic. Then, go deeper. What is the guna of conventional lettuce from the grocery store compared to that of the homegrown, organic lettuce from your garden? Through this perspective, you can begin to apply Ayurvedic principles to your life without the need of herbal supplements and on-going treatments from a practitioner. While it may take a lifetime to comprehend Ayurvedic philosophy, viewing your environment from an Ayurvedic vantage may bring your dosha into a more balanced state of being naturally.



Holly Beck is an experienced, advanced yoga instructor with nearly twenty years of teaching and mentoring experience. Classically trained in the tradition of the Sri Vidya lineage, Holly’s class promises an authentic yoga experience for practitioners of all levels with steady pacing, a continuous meditation on breath, and masterful sequencing. While she enjoys all levels of yoga, Holly’s true gift is working with pregnant women. Holly’s specialized prenatal yoga practice, The Yoga Of Birth, has prepared hundreds of women for empowered birthing experiences. Holly holds degrees in English and the Science of Health and Wellness from the University of California, Berkeley. Her work has been featured in the journal of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, and she is recognized by the Doula Association of Southern California as a leader in prenatal education. Holly is currently developing a sustainable, rural retreat center for conscientious living in Costa Rica. For more information, please visit www.seedsofloveproject.org.