There are a million lenses through which to view wellness. Ayurveda is one of them, but isn’t a philosophy we’ve delved into deeply enough on TCM. Whenever we encounter ayurvedic principles – whether at a spa, in a book, or through a beauty pro like Shrankhla Holecek below – we’re always deeply impressed with the layers of meaning and balanced approach to care for mind and body.
Shrankhla is the creator of Uma Oils, a small line of highly functional, super-sexy beauty and wellness oils based in the ayurvedic tradition. We stumbled across her products at the Detox Market here in L.A and were so impressed with Shrankhla’s wisdom and the quality of these sustainable oils that we asked her to share a series of stories with us on ayurveda as it addresses a few common life issues.
We’ve talked about ayurvedic solutions for anxiety and depression, next Shrankhla is speaking to ayurveda for energy and fatigue….
To beat fatigue, we’re going to draw upon a comprehensive approach, rooted in Ayurveda wisdom, and focusing on lifestyle habits, diet, meditation and natural remedies in its recommendations.
Within Ayurveda, Energy is a function of the Kapha1 principle and lack of energy, lethargy and listlessness can be attributed to an imbalance in the body’s Kapha. As we delve into understanding Kapha imbalance and how to counter it, it would be interesting to note that the Kapha principle also governs the anabolism function of the body (anabolism is defined as constructive metabolism, in which larger, more complex molecules are formed from smaller ones). Excess Kapha leads to increased anabolism. It should come as no surprise that poor energy and sluggishness is often accompanied by another symptom of the Kapha imbalance – you guessed it – weight gain!
I’ve shared Ayurveda-recommended lifestyle habits in previous articles, and they are recommended as much for Kapha imbalance as any other type of principle imbalance. In this article, I’d like to talk about your emotional lifestyle. Within Ayurveda, we are encouraged to observe emotions and allow them to dissipate. Repressing emotion will cause mental imbalance which invariably manifests itself into imbalances of a physical nature, causing discomfort and disease. The Kapha principle naturally tends to create traits of attachment, possessiveness, greed and envy. So is the recommendation to exhibit these traits in full force as they arise? Not quite, and the distinction from repression is subtle, though very powerful. When we experience these often ‘socially-unacceptable’ feelings, instead of going with our knee-jerk reaction of hiding them away in the darkest parts of memory, we must allow ourselves to “observe and release”. Let’s say you’re feeling greed come on: allow yourself to become aware of it, watch the greed unfold, learn about it, watch it reach its natural peak, and then release it. Once you stop judging your emotions, you will find it easier to not repress them, and eventually to release them fully. Naturally, your Kapha will become balanced (or, in the case of other feelings, vata- and pitta- imbalances will similarly heal) and you will find yourself delightfully energized.
Avoid foods that increase Kapha. Ice cream, Cheese, Yogurt are culprits, as are sweet & sour fruits like grapes, oranges, plums and grapefruits. Sweet potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes and zucchini are also not recommended, and within meat, pork and beef should especially be avoided. Apples, apricots, pomegranates, pears, peaches and persimmons are good for you, as are asparagus, beets, eggplant, garlic, leafy greens, cabbage, lettuce and mushroom. Oils are to be consumed sparingly, and preferably use almond, or sunflower oil when you do. While regular dairy and dairy products increase Kapha, Goat’s milk and derived products help reduce Kapha. At mealtime, try to observe the following discipline: your stomach should be filled roughly a third with food, another third with water, and the final third with air. Ayurveda encourages sipping water during meals (though fruit juice with your meal is to be avoided).
Yoga and Pranayama for energy
Yoga and Pranayama, rather expectedly, can have a profound impact on improving energy levels and fighting fatigue. Starting the day with Surya Namaskar, or Sun Salution, not only creates a healthy circadian rhythm and helps the body capitalize on the energy of the sun, but also unlocks energy reserves in the body to support an even energy flow and healthy metabolism throughout the day! In addition, focusing on asanas that create focus and blood flow in the stomach, head and chest invigorate a healthy Kapha, as do strengthening and stretching motions (bonus benefit: fat loss and toned muscle!). Try spinal twists and back bends (camel, bow, boat) to release spinal energy and lion, palm tree and half-wheels to gracefully harness your new-found energy flow!
Kapalabhati Pranayama or “Cleaning Breath” is a powerful breathing technique to stimulate energy. Start by sitting in a comfortable position and taking in a deep inhale. Exhale rapidly in quick, short powerful breaths (some inhalation after each exhale is to be expected and normal). Perform for 5-6 minutes, alternating one minute of breathing exercise with one minute of rest. This exercise is also believed to help tremendously in fat metabolism.
Natural Remedies for fatigue
Alfalfa (try it in a tea!) and Aloe Vera are excellent natural remedies for balancing an aggravated Kapha. Cinnamon is a detoxifying herb that also strengthens and energizes tissue. A decoction of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and clove is a powerful Kapha balancer. Essential oils have a long history of providing great support to improving your energy levels, and in fighting fatigue. Peppermint, Rosemary and Eucalyptus can help naturally unlock healthy energy reserves that will last you through the day. Uma’s Pure Energy blend harnesses the powerful effects of these and six other carefully selected essential oils formulated in expert traditions to provide all day health energy, all naturally.
As noted in previous articles in the series, Kapha is one of the three main principles that govern the human constitution. Within the practice of Ayurveda, all matter is believed to be made up of five elements: Prithvi (Earth), Agni (Fire), Jal (Water), Vayu (Air) and Aakash (Ether). They manifest in the human body as three basic principles: Vata (Ether and Air), Pitta (Fire and Water) and Kapha (Earth and Water). These three principles – vata-pitta-kapha – govern all the biological, psychological and physiopathological functions of body and mind. Disease and bodily discomfort is considered to be created from an imbalance in these principles.