A Big Fat Update and the joy & grief of the season

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Wow, I am so happy to be finally sitting down to WRITE. It's not that I haven't wanted to, not that I haven't been inspired to. As happens to so many of us, I've simply had only so many hours in a day, so many hours to do, and so many hours to be quality company with my family and with those that are dear to me. Writing to you all is dear to me too, so here I sit.

A note about this time of year... 

We are in a time called Yama Damstra in the Vedic calendar. In Ayurveda, the junctions between seasons are very important to take care of our health and clear accumulating doshas and āma (toxins). This particular junction between fall and winter is especially important. It’s a time to really take care and to turn inward, to see the inner light. Yama is the lord of death, and it is said that in this junction, the souls of all those who will not be strong enough to make it through the winter are collected. So it’s a time of re-affirming self-care and strengthening of resolve and practices - toward those which affirm life and health, and away from unconscious tendencies, ill health and ultimately death.  This is a great time to strengthen our own inward practices of breathwork and meditation, of various sorts. As this is also a time of celebrating winter holidays, usually with rich food and drink, it will be a time to ask oneself "is this wise action right now?" If you ask me, moderation would be wise. Do enjoy though, being light of heart is good medicine.
I see this also as a time of tending to our loved ones and those in need. Maybe they need us to help them get strong as this is not their time to go, and maybe some need our support to help them make that ultimate transition. Pull your community close, lend your support and ask for help for yourself if it's you that needs it.
Last year at this time, a dear co-madre left this world during this very time. She was pregnant, her death a complication of her pregnancy. I think of her so often, as she was also an Ayurvedist, midwife and a force of compassion and light in our community. She continues to inspire me, whispering in my ear "isn't life just beautiful? Don't take it for granted for one single moment!"

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A couple weeks ago, on the dark moon, I went to my daughter's school in the evening to watch the children carry paper maché lanterns they'd made themselves (these are pre-schoolers, so sweet) and sing songs about their lanterns reflecting the light of the stars above. It was so beautiful and such a perfect meditation for this time of year.

So can I share with you what's happened since I last wrote? Well, at least what seems most pertinent here, because I mean, lots has happened that probably won't interest you.

Co-founder Kerry Meath had a new baby and moved on to new work. I'm flying solo over here, other than my excellent collaborators that jump in from time to time, such as Karina Mirsky who contributed some beautiful content for the Ayurveda for Women course. I love being on my own in many ways, but will continue to bring in dynamic people who have beauty to share with us.

I'm pregnant! when Mama Ayurveda co-founder Kerry Meath was pregnant, we blogged weekly about what she was experiencing. I had hoped to share about my experiences more, but time gets away and now I'm 28 weeks pregnant, entering the 3rd trimester. This is my second pregnancy and I experienced a lot more discomfort in the first trimester than I did with my first. I have a whole new level of compassion for women who are very sick in pregnancy. I had several weeks there, where I could do almost nothing, and where I had to be on top of calories, protein, remedies constantly in order to ride the wave of illness and not let it overtake me. I totally get it. And that experience is really informing my support of pregnant women.
Finally, at about 16 weeks, I really started to feel like myself again. Phew! I'm once again planning a home birth and really looking forward to being more empowered than ever to enjoy the process of this birth. Because, I mean, what an amazing opportunity to birth a baby?! As a student midwife, I have seen more than 20 babies come into this world since I had my own last birth experience. And I've studied much about all things birth. I can't imagine not being able to take my new perspective and try it out on another birth. Mainly, I plan to welcome what comes, breathe a lot, try the birth tub this time, stay vertical as much as possible, and enjoy the experience of bringing forth life - because again, what an amazing opportunity it is!

As far as taking care, there's a lot to remember to do in terms of self care - but it's so worth it. Now that I'm into the 3rd trimester, staying off my feet more, getting gentle exercise, taking time at home to rest and rejuvenate often, staying on top of hydration & protein needs, and regular oil massage are just a few of the things I'm working on. For postpartum, I'm looking forward to trying a simpler menu and care plan, having learned from making things a bit too complicated the last time.

The Ayurveda for Women course was launched. This is the pilot year of this 8 module 16-week course. I was gifted with an exceptional group of women and am forever grateful to them for taking this journey with me. We are into our last month of the course and I've learned so much, as I always do from teaching. I teach, in large part, to learn more and this course has been no exception. This was a tall order: solid overview of Ayurvedic Foundation, plus women's health, pre-conception, pregnancy, and post partum. And creating the curriculum for it has been much like growing and birthing a child - and it's been a marathon birth. But I have enjoyed every bit of it, and continue to.

What's next? 

  1. Ayurveda for Women graduates are being offered a mentorship option to take their studies to the next level while prioritizing the areas of study most interesting to them. 
  2. In the next few months, I'll be releasing a series of mini courses on pre-conception, pregnancy and post-partum. These will be directed at moms-to-be and will be very affordable. If you know someone that would love to have a guide for the childbearing year, based on Ayurvedic principles, please let them know about this. 
  3. Ayurveda for Women 2016! Early registration will open in May and will include a discount, with the main registration opening in June at the regular tuition rate. I will be limiting the number of participants, so it's a good time to begin pondering whether this is the course for you. This course will take place over 4.5 months, with two 1-week breaks for digestion and holiday time. This course is designed for beginning to intermediate students of Ayurveda and women's health. In terms of Ayurveda, we start at the very beginning and go deep into Ayurvedic theory, the art & the science of this ancient system of medicine. And in terms of women's health, we work every week on practices to enrich our own health, and learn, what for most, is an entirely new way of looking at our health. Seasoned Ayurvedic students may be offered the option of taking the women's health portion of the course on its own. 
  4. Down the road, I'll be offering online birthing classes and a baby's first year class for parents, with Rebeka Rose, LM, CPM (midwife). Though we share a last name we aren't sisters by blood (though we are sisters to be sure!)

Do let me know if there's anything in this list you're just itching to see happen right away. While I can't just snap my fingers and have it be done, I'd love to hear what you're looking forward to.

In health and LOVE, Sunny

A Great Little Fertility Guide

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It's no secret that Kerry Meath and I have been hard at work on our post partum book. I had hoped for a release date of now-ish, but as these things tend to go, I'm updating the release date to June.Following that release, I'll be working on a pre-conception / fertility book, which means a guide to preparing for pregnancy for couples, and then a pregnancy book.

So here's the news - I came across this great little guide put out by Banyan Botanicals, one of my favorite Ayurvedic product companies. It was compiled by Dr. Vrinda Devani, an OB/GYN who was a student at the Ayurvedic Institute and graduated last year. I had the pleasure of being one of her supervisors in the student clinic. Anyway, she's done a beautiful job putting this together, and while I work on my book, which will be much more detailed, this guide will be a great help to many. Enjoy! 

In health and love, Sunny

My Pregnancy Week 6 1/2: Morning Sickness Begins

The morning sickness is starting:( Major bummer, I was hoping I would be able to avoid it this time around, but NOT the case. My nausea isn't too intense, but it is still really annoying and certainly affecting what I want to eat and when. What is Morning Sickness and How Do We View It In Ayurveda? Morning sickness is the general term used to describe nausea and vomiting that occurs during the early stages of pregnancy. While it can occur in the morning, it can also occur at any time in the day. It was actually the worst at night for me. In Ayurveda, we believe that it is caused by aggravated Pitta, or too much heat in the system. This means it is often more common in people who have a Pitta constitution. According to Dr. Lad, it gets worse during the early stages because, "the higher estrogen levels in the blood triggers pitta in the stomach and increases acid secretions, so that the stomach becomes more acidic." You might also notice that certain odors can trigger nausea and vomiting. It is very normal for our sense of smell to increase during pregnancy, and I certainly know that mine is. This is making it almost impossible to cook, which is a sucks, because I love cooking. Luckily, for me making dietary changes really helped curb my nausea.

What Can We Do to Help?

1) Eat every 2 hours (esp before bed and upon waking), specifically protein For those Ayurvedic buffs out there, even Dr. Lad recommends six small meals a day to help with morning sickness. This is contrary to what is normally recommended in Ayurveda, which is to eat 3 meals a day with minimal snacking. Since I'm having trouble cooking, I am trying to find healthy quick foods to eat. Snacks like an ojas date shake (see my video for instructions on that one—actually filmed during week 5 of my pregnancy), organic crackers with good quality hard cheese or cottage cheese, sprouted spelt toast with cream cheese, and peanut butter and crackers are proving helpful. While not ideal, they are what I can manage to eat and digest. I am also starting to incorporate LOTS of fruit infused water because regular water has been hard to drink, more homemade nut milk or non-homogenized cow’s.

2) A Morning sickness remedy from Dr. Lad  1 tsp raw sugar (sucanat, rapadura, coconut sugar) w/ 2 drops sandalwood oil

3) Chew a piece of fresh ginger root or lemon peel If the nausea is severe, up to 250 mg of ginger can be taken in capsule form up to 3 times per day. *Larger amounts of ginger can be emmenagogue (stimulate blood flow to the uterus and bring on miscarriage). I tried a little ginger, it was okay, not amazing for me.

4) Shatavari Kalpa A sautéed blend of shatavari, sugar and spices, can be really helpful, or just plain shatavari. I tried plain Shatavari, since I was honestly too tired to make the kalpa, and it did help me. 

5) Homeopathy Excellent homeopathic remedies such as ipecacuanha and nux vomica are available for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. We usually recommend a 30C potency. See your local homeopath or midwife to find the right one for you. Homeopathy is something we highly recommend to treat pregnancy ailments as it's safe, effective, and there are no side effects or drug interactions.

I personally finding that eating protein every 2 hours with occasional shatavari powder in milk or ginger tea to be the most effective.

As always would love to hear what is working for you!

With Love, Kerry

 

 

An Ayurvedic Overview: Beginnings of Pregnancy

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So! To accompany Kerry's posts about her own pregnancy, we are offering this, the first of several "overviews" of what's happening during pregnancy from an Ayurvedic perspective, as well as nutritional and lifestyle advice. What is Happening with Your Baby We wanted to provide a brief overview how Ayurveda views pregnancy and provide some simple and safe recommendations during this precious time.

The great rishis believed that the a fetus is formed by a combination of factors: 1) the mother’s ovum, 2) the father’s sperm, 3) the state of the womb, 4) the timing of conception 5) the diet of the mother, and 6) the accompanying soul which enters into the fetus. In understanding these factors, we learn that it is important to take care of ourselves before (both partners) and during pregnancy, but that a soul brings its own factors as well. This means that it is important to nourish ourselves as much as we can during pregnancy (without driving yourself crazy about it - stress is not helpful).

According to Dr. Lad, Sage Ka?yapa & others, the vital organs begin to form about 5 weeks after conception. By 6 weeks a threadlike spinal cord and spider-like nerves begin to form. The eyes, nose, mouth and ears start forming. Arms & legs start developing and sex organs start to appear. Your baby will grow up to 1" long and weigh about 1/13th oz. This is why it’s so important to start taking care, in a relaxed way, as soon as we find out we are pregnant.

What is Happening in Your Body So much! Too much to list everything here, but many of the things you feel right now, are due to the huge increase in hormones such as Progesterone (which will increase 10-fold), Estrogen (which will increase 1000-fold, "what?!") and hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin). At this point in pregnancy, hormones are increasing quickly while blood volume has not yet increased much. Therefore, the concentration of hormones is high which contributes to feelings of general malaise, nausea and fatigue. You may also already notice breast tenderness and an increased urge to urinate. As the uterus grows, it begins to rise into the abdomen and the increased urge to urinate may (temporarily) ease. Also as blood volume (rasa and rakta dhatu) increases, hormones are diluted some and that sick feeling often subsides.

Ayurvedic Basics We will provide some basic western nutrition guidelines below, but you will see that Ayurveda provides a great more depth about nutrition and lifestyle during pregnancy. We learn what types of foods to eat during each trimesters, and even what types of flavors to emphasize in keeping our body balanced. As always, Ayurveda recognizes that we are all unique. By understanding our unique selves we can flow and adapt in all stages of life, especially pregnancy.

First Trimester Suggestions for Almost Everyone During the first trimester Ayurveda places a strong emphasis on nourishing rasa and rakta dhatu, aka the blood and blood plasma. This means lots of liquid nourishment from foods such as juicy fruits, coconut water, herbal infusions (raspberry leaf, nettle, oatstraw) and sipping good quality organic cow’s milk and rice milk. Sweet, cooling foods should generally be emphasized, and ghee should be included. Ayurveda also suggests to steer clear of anything that could be too agitating (such as spicy or fried food) and too depleting to the system (too much of the bitter and astringent tastes). We would also emphasize the importance of fresh, organic, local foods as much as possible. We won’t go into detail here, but it's easy to find plenty of research to support the importance of eating chemical free foods.

General Ayurvedic Changes During Pregnancy & How this Impacts Diet

From a doshic or elemental perspective a woman’s body undergoes many changes during pregnancy. The more we understand our constitution, the more we can use diet and lifestyle to bring balance. We are providing a brief overview of the doshic changes below, but if the word dosha is new to you, we strongly recommend getting our booklet to learn more about where you fit.

VATA Vata dosha is responsible for the expansion and intense transformation happening inside. This can also mean excess Vata dosha (too much of the dry, light, mobile, cool, or clear qualities), which may lead to constipation, dry skin, nervousness/anxiety, absent mindedness, or difficulty sleeping.

PITTA The changes in metabolism and increased bodily heat are due to Pitta dosha (hot, sharp, light, penetrating, or oily qualities), which may also lead to irritability, anemia, morning sickness, nausea, heartburn, indigestion, bleeding tendencies, or trouble falling asleep.

KAPHA Finally, the increase in bulk (especially later in pregnancy) is due to, and can lead to excess Kapha (slow, heavy, dull, sluggish, cloudy, cool, and oily qualities), this may contribute to excess weight gain, fluid retention, excess congestion, yeast infections, or excess sleep.

This information helps us to understand, at least briefly, what we may be experiencing at a given time, and how to begin finding balance. Yes, food can help us alleviate some of the annoying pregnancy ailments. For those who want more detail about doshic diets during pregnancy, we strongly recommend checking out the pregnancy booklet, which we will make available within a few weeks.

Other Ayurvedic Lifestyle Tips

  • Avoid hard, uncomfortable seats; suppressing your natural urges; too much or too intense exercise; lengthy trips (long periods in the car on an airplane without movement); loud sounds; massage, and sex until the 5th month
  • REST REST REST

Western Nutrition Basics During Pregnancy Western science emphasizes that eating well during pregnancy is important, while not as robust as what ayurveda offers, some can find it reassuring to at least understand the basics. Research shows that poor maternal nutrition contributes to poor infant metabolic health (Aaltonen et al., 2010), a diet high in fat, salt and sugar can lead to obesity in offspring (Bavol et al., 2008), and that eating frequently helps to balance the hormones (Barger, 2010)...we could go on forever. The World Health Organization put together the following good, but also very basic general pregnancy recommendations.

Three meals a day and two snacks to avoid prolonged periods of fasting
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables (five per day) and monounsaturated fats with adequate protein. WHO recommends 5 portions
Fiber-rich carbohydrates and limit carbohydrates with a high glycemic index (e.g., fruit juices and sodas). WHO recommends 6-11 portions
At least two servings of omega-3 rich fish (with low mercury level) a week or use omega-3 supplements. WHO recommends 2 portions of protein
WHO recommends 3 portions of dairy per day.
WHO recommends using sugar, salt, margarine, oils, butter sparingly
+Avoid food born illnesses that can cause maternal or fetal disease by eating:
Well-cooked meat, poultry (including eggs), and fish, only pasteurized dairy & fruit, avoid soft cheeses, processed meat, raw sprouts
*Berger, 2010 & WHO

And finally, we'd like to provide you with one of our most nourishing and balancing (and delicious!) recipes. You can use this throughout your pregnancy: A Nourishing Pregnancy Shake: Ojas Date Shake

Almond Date Greens Shake

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The Almond date shake is a well-known ojas (that which is responsible for deep immunity & vitality) and energy promoting drink. The Almond Date Greens shake is a twist on this classic recipe, incorporating one of my favorite supplements: a green superfood  mix.Green superfood mixes are not traditionally '?yurvedic', but for modern women they provide an iron-rich, oxygen-rich, protein-rich source of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. Since green mixes can provoke v?ta, and be difficult to digest, it is important to consume them in a simple, grounding drink. The properties of soaked almonds, and dates blended with water give the greens a perfect compliment.  While this drink is beneficial for everyone, it is especially powerful during the childbearing years and for kids (my daughter loves it!).  Give it a try and let us know what you think!

Recipe:

  • 15 raw, organic almonds - soaked overnight or blanched, then peeled
  • 4 organic medjool dates, soaked 15-60 minutes (if time permits), and pitted
  • 1 heaping Tbsp of your favorite greens superfood mix (my favorites are Pure Synergy, and Vitamineral Green)
  • 8-10 oz. filtered, room temp water

Blend up the almonds and dates on high speed in your blender. Then on low speed, add the greens. Voilà! Enjoy :-)

An Ayurvedic Practice that Will Change Your Life: Abhyanga

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The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age. - Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89

One of the easiest and most powerful traditional Ayurvedic practices we can do on our own is Abhyanga (warm oil massage). Our teacher, Dr. Lad says that “a dry body, like a dry stick, breaks easily.” When we apply oil, the body becomes more flexible, and able to bend with the challenges of life. We feel nourished, grounded and supple. This is an amazing practice for women before pregnancy, during pregnancy with modifications (see below), and especially important postpartum!

Benefits Of Abhayanga

  • Enhances health of the skin, makes it strong, soft & lustrous
  • Produces softness, strength and color in the body
  • Decreases the effects of aging & increases longevity
  • Bestows good vision
  • Promotes healthy appetite & strong digestion
  • Nourishes the body by removing toxins & providing nutrients to tissues
  • Supports restful sleep patterns
  • Strengthens the immunity, energy & vitality
  • Imparts a firmness to the limbs
  • Imparts tone and vigor to the dhatus (tissues) of the body
  • Maintains optimal body chemistry, including hormones & neurotransmitters
  • Calms the nervous system & sense organs
  • Reduces pain
  • Stimulates the internal organs of the body, including circulation
  • Balances elimination processes
  • Reduces coarseness, stiffness, roughness, fatigue and numbness
  • Nurtures & supports positive feelings & emotions
  • Benefits local veins & ligaments
  • Helps sciatica
  • Oiling the face removes facial wrinkles
  • Oiling the scalp causes hair to grow luxuriantly, thick, soft and glossy

 Abhyanga for Vata Sesame is considered to be the best choice of oil for vata because it is inherently warming (get it here). Almond Oil and mustard oil are also good choices because they are also warming. Vata massage oil (oil infused with special herbs) is especially good if vata is high in your Vikruti (get it here). Vata massage oil can be used alone or added to sesame, almond or mustard oils. *For increasing strength and stamina try Ashwagandha/Bala oil, get it here. *If you're pregnant, we recommend sesame or almond oil.

Abhyanga for Pitta Applying Bhringaraj Oil or Brahmi Oil to the scalp and soles of feet at bedtime may reduce pitta and encourage sound sleep. Herbal/Medicated “Pitta Massage Oil” from Banyan Botanicals is our choice, get it here. Sunflower and coconut oil are also good choices for pitta. If you spend a lot of time in the sun, you may want to add some Neem Oil to whatever your basic abhyanga oil is, because it is said to reduce pitta in the skin (get it here). *If you're pregnant, we recommend sunflower or coconut oil.

Abhyanga for Kapha Sesame, corn and mustard oils are all helpful for kapha because they are warming, but herbal oils are an even better choice for Kapha, as they add more Kapha pacifying properties to the oil. Banyan's “Kapha Massage Oil” is a great choice, get it here. *If you're pregnant, we recommend sesame oil.

Abhyanga in 2nd and 3rd trimesters of Pregnancy

  • Follow the directions below, only DO NOT massage the oil in, simply spread it over your skin.
  • Allow the oil to soak in, and follow with a warm shower.
  • Do not do if there is any sign that the pregnancy is threatened in any way
  • Not recommended for the first trimester

Abhyanga Routine

  • Put about ½ cup oil in an 8 oz. glass bottle. Make sure the oil smells fresh and isn't rancid.
  • Place the bottle of oil in a pan of hot water until the oil is warm.
  • Sit or stand in a warm room, on an older towel (one you don't mind ruining with oil accumulation). Make sure you're protected from drafts.
  • Apply the oil to your entire body, and use a generous amount - 1/4-1/2 cup.
  • Massage the oil into your entire body, beginning at the extremities and working toward the middle of the body. Use long strokes on the limbs and circular strokes on the joints. Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise, circular motions. On the abdomen, follow the path of the large intestine; moving up on the right side of the abdomen, then across, then down on the left side. Massage the body for 5-20 minutes, with love and patience. Don't rush this process.
  • Give a little extra time and attention to massaging the oil into your scalp, ears and feet, at least once a week.
  • Apply oil to the crown of your head and work slowly out from there in circular strokes. Put a couple drops of warm oil on the tip of your little finger and apply to the opening of the ear canal. (If there is any current or chronic discomfort in the ears don't do this without the recommendation of your health care practitioner).
  • When you massage your feet, be sure to wash them first when you shower, so you don't slip.
  • Enjoy a warm/hot bath or shower. You can use a mild soap on the "strategic" areas, but it's best not to soap the oil off your skin. Enough will soak in and then rinse off that you shouldn't need to use soap.
  • When you get out of the bath, towel dry. Keep a special towel for drying off after your Abhyanga because it can eventually get ruined, due to the accumulation of oil.
  • Put on a pair of cotton socks to protect your floors/carpets from the residual oil on your feet.
  • If you like, apply a dosha-appropriate essential oil to your wrists and neck.

Clean-up and Maintenance Oil can accumulate in your tub and drain over time. A couple of times each month, pour approx. ¼ cup dish soap into the drain, then pour 2-3 cups of boiling water into the drain. Let sit for 15 min. Run hot water down the drain for a couple of minutes to flush out the residue. For laundering oily towels, add ¼ cup grease-cutting dish soap along with your regular laundry detergent. Let sit in very hot water for at least 30 minutes, then wash. You may need to repeat this. Experiment as needed. Caution: do not dry oily towels in a hot dryer as they are easily combustible and may catch fire. Oil towels stored together can build up internal heat in warm environments to the point of catching fire. Be sure to store them in well-ventilated, cool areas. Never store them in your vehicle trunk.

Contraindications for Abhyanga:

  • After eating and if there's indigestion
  • Acute conditions such as fever, chills, common cold, diarrhea, flu
  • Chronic high systemic ama. This can show as a heavily coated tongue.
  • Immediately after taking emetics or purgatives
  • Under a doctor’s care for medical condition
  • During pregnancy without consulting health care practitioner or in threatened miscarriage
  • During menstrual cycle
  • Infected or open lesions
  • Edema (swelling)
  • Blood clots or bleeding disorders
  • Hangover
  • Extreme emotions
  • Acute hypoglycemia
  • Insulin-dependent diabetes
  • Dehydration
  • During chemo therapy

References: Welch, Dr. Claudia. (2009). http://www.banyanbotanicals.com/ayurveda/abhyanga.html Lad, Vasant. (2005) “Abhyanga: Ayurvedic Oil Massage”

 

 

Balance your Hormones, Balance your Life

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A great book from one of our teachers and colleagues

Tired? Overworked? Stressed? Out of balance? Welcome to the twenty-first century, where women's stress levels have reached unprecedented heights. Between myriad responsibilities, women burn through even the energy gained from sufficient sleep and a healthy diet. The result? Hormonal havoc.

In clear, accessible language, internationally renowned doctor Claudia Welch explains hormones from A to Z, specifically how they relate to each other, how and why they become imbalanced, and how women can restore that balance. Welch includes simple diet tips, stress-management techniques, and natural sleep secrets. Using the principles of Ayurveda (popularized in the West by Deepak Chopra) and the holistic sensibility of Dr. Christiane Northrup, Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life gives women the essential tools to achieve the perfect balance between their yin (sex hormones) and yang (stress hormones), and between the body and the mind.