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What Constitutes health in Ayurveda To be Established in Oneself

February 11th, 2021

Sama dosha sama agnischa sama dhatu mala kriyaaha |
Prasanna atma indriya manaha swastha iti abhidheeyate ||
—Sushruta Samhita

Being "established in oneself" in Ayurveda is the definition of health. That, in essence, means being balanced in one’s prakruti, or original nature. Any sickness, negative emotional state, or disease state is seen ayurvedically as an imbalance, or vikruti, a shift away from one’s innate nature. Your prakruti is the combination of elements in you at your birth. A modern translation might be termed your genome expression. This combination is also known as your dosha - which is a unique combination of space, air, fire, water, and/or earth. Important to note is that we are the microcosm of nature, which is the macrocosm, and these elements make up everything else in nature as well. These 5 elements are combined into 3 doshas which are vata (air and space), pitta (fire and some water), and kapha (water and earth). Essential to health is knowing your prakruti (a.k.a. your doshas) and living, as much as possible, in that balanced state.

In addition, being "established in oneself" (i.e. healthy) also means having balanced agni, or digestion and assimilation of nutrients and experiences, which leads to healthy tissues, or dhatus, and has an end result of healthy ojas, or vigor, vitality and contentment.
Health also includes healthy excretory functions -- urination, defecation, and sweat production all working in perfect order.
And, finally, "established in oneself", or health, includes a pleasant and contented state of mind, senses and emotions.

Seems like a tall order to create all of this in our fast-paced, stressful and hectic world. But, luckily, Ayurveda has time-tested diet, lifestyle, purification treatments and pacification therapeutics to create all of the above. If you're interested in holistic health, you've probably already heard of many of these techniques or practices, as almost any holistic health modality will find its roots in Ayurveda. But, the wonderful part about Ayurveda is this concept of health meaning "established in oneself". Not all health practices fit everyone. Each is tailored to the individual - to their doshas, dhatu, malas, their strength, their age, their mental state, and to the strength of the disease.

One way to start on this path to health is to determine your prakruti, or doshas. You can do that through pulse diagnosis and also through dosha questionnaires. You can find a lot of these online, and it's good to take a couple to cross check your results. One that I especially like is the Banyan Botanical's dosha quiz: They also have a lot of information and great teaching materials on what balance means for each dosha.

Health in Ayurvedic Medicine Means Established in Oneself

February 3rd, 2021

Health in Ayurvedic Medicine Means Established in Oneself

Many of my designs are about Yoga and Ayurveda. Most people know quite a bit about yoga, but I thought I'd share more about Ayurveda for those who haven't heard of it. Ayurveda means “Science of Life” and teaches us the art of balanced, healthy living. Although it’s only been practiced in the U.S. for about forty years, it is a 5000-year-old science and has been practiced throughout the world for those 5000 years. With yoga as its sister, it includes time-tested principles for health and wellbeing. Fundamental to Ayurveda is harmony in body, mind and spirit and between oneself and the natural world. Practically every holistic health modality and even many traditional practices, such as surgery and diagnostic testing, will find their roots in Ayurveda.

Ayurveda is a complete system of health and well-being. It's simple, practical diet and lifestyle guidelines seem almost too simple, but they are effective and provide helpful ways to create balance and well-being in any area of life. I find it's also really helpful in creating an art practice that works for the individual and in creating habits that stick. However, Ayurveda is not a one size fits all science. Ayurveda wellness plans are tailored to the individual and each person’s unique body, mind, life challenges, stresses, personal strengths, weaknesses, emotions, and mental and spiritual health. The Ayurvedic definition of health is different than the modern or western medical definition. Ayurveda calls health “swathsa”, which translates to “established in oneself.” Knowing one’s unique, original nature and what brings one back to that state of well-being in mind, body and spirit is the first step toward creating health and balance. And, it's different for everyone.

Ayurveda also says health and wellbeing are not static. There is an ebb and flow to health as there is to everything in life. And, that's normal. Creating health and well-being in one’s life, like creating an art practice, is always a balancing act. The stages of life, emotional ups and downs, and the hectic pace of life today all create distinct challenges. Ayurveda and yoga make this process conscious. Learning how to create health and wellbeing can be challenging at first, but it is also empowering and can become an enjoyable part of a fulfilling self-care routine. Next week I'll share more about what Ayurveda constitutes as "established in oneself".

The Future is the Present Moment

January 17th, 2021

In addition to making art, I’m also an Ayurveda specialist and yoga teacher, so many of my designs are about concepts I learned in my studies. I made this one when thinking about how vital it is to be present and how it actually takes a little work to stay present (a lot of work when the world seems to be falling down around us). Have you ever gotten so distracted this past year by the news that your whole day went by and you didn’t really do anything you’d planned on? Or have you convinced yourself that multitasking works and find yourself with 16 unfinished tasks at the end of day. I have, for sure! Or, how about those experiences of being with others who were so distracted you weren’t even sure they knew you were sitting right in front of them? Or when you’re the one distracted, how disconnected you feel afterwards? Presence is important not only for relations but also for the health of our own minds, spirits and even our bodies. Your physiology benefits when you dial down into the task at hand. When eating a meal, be present to the tastes and textures and be there in your mind. And if you are with others, be present to them without disengaging from the act of eating. This is something to try no matter what you’re doing but especially impactful when eating so you aren’t asking your physiology to do too many things at once. When we’re eating while multitasking or on the go, it can disrupt digestion. Of course at times we can’t avoid this but if done repeatedly it can cause health problems (Ayurveda believes all imbalances begin in the digestive system). It’s also why getting to bed by 10 or no later than 11 is important. During the pitta time of day (10-2), your body’s digestive fire is strongest. That’s why lunch should be your biggest meal and why getting to bed by 10-11 is so vital. If you’re in bed by 10 you’re letting your body focus on the task at hand - metabolizing the food and all the experiences you took in for the day. It seems too simple to be effective but try it for a week and see what happens. Aligning with nature’s rhythms in this way and being present to the now (and when necessary, shielding yourself from the negativity by turning the TV off) can bring balance, even contentment and, in the end, more productivity as well. And, here’s a quote I love by Eckart Tolle:

“Just look and just listen. No more is needed. Being still, looking, and listening activates the non-conceptual intelligence within you. Let stillness direct your words and actions.”

Scandinavian Holiday Foods

November 18th, 2020

Scandinavian Holiday Foods

The holidays are fast approaching, and I'm getting excited for holiday foods. My family is of Norweigan, English and Swedish descent, so we eat a lot of Scandinavian foods at the holidays. Two of my favorites are lefse and pickled herring. I made these designs as conversation pieces, so they might elicit a question, and give you a chance to explain these yummy foods. (Lefse Lover and I heart pickled herring). After moving to California, I found out a lot of people have never heard of lefse or pickled herring. What!? So here's a little about both: Lefse is a soft flatbread made from potatoes, flour, butter, milk or cream. I can't speak much to this, because I'm embarrassed to say I've never made it. I just eat it a lot. Some people like their lefse with butter and brown sugar, but butter alone is my choice. Slap on the butter and roll it up. Easy meal. I found out there's a name for the rolling; it's called "lefse-klenning". It tastes sort of like a tortilla but a little sweeter. Both lefse and pickled herring are usually served as appetizers before the main meal.

Pickled herring is a bit of a refined taste. I know some folks who don't like it which is mind boggling. I like to eat pickled herring on saltine crackers. I don't think there's any better way. To make pickled herrring, the herring is cured by soaking it in salt to extract the water and then it's brined in vinegar, salt, sugar, onions and sometimes with other spices or flavorings, like sherry, bay leaves, dill and/or peppercorns. It usually has a bit of a mustardy taste to it as well. so I'm wondering if some mustard seeds are thrown in there. I'm embarrassed to say I haven't made this either. I have to go to Ikea to buy mine :-) Maybe this will be a good year to try making both of these delicacies. I hope you get a chance to taste them this year if you haven't tried them before.