Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Seven Keys to Unlock Your Brainpower!

Ayurveda, the ancient system of healing from India, describes three aspects to mental performance: "dhi" - learning and comprehension, "dhriti" - retention of knowledge, and "smriti" - memory or recall.

"For the best mental performance and realization of the fullest mental potential, each of these three factors individually needs to be at its peak, and, more important, the co-ordination among the three factors also needs to be optimal," says Rama Kant Mishra, Ayurvedic expert. Ayurveda recommends paying attention to the three fundamental pillars of good health - diet, sleep and lifestyle - to achieve this state of mental balance. Here are some tips from Mishra to help boost brainpower:

Eat Pure, "Intelligent" Foods

"According to Ayurveda, it is very important to eat foods that are natural and pure for their full benefit to be absorbed by the body," says Mishra. When foods are as close to their state in nature as possible, that's when they deliver the most potent nutrition. Foods that have been genetically altered, processed or refined have much of their natural intelligence stripped from them, and Mishra contends that they disturb the intellect and the co-ordination between the three aspects of mental prowess - comprehension, retention and recall. Also taboo are foods that are canned or preserved with artificial additives and preservatives, or foods with artificial colors and flavors. "Cooking with fresh, organic ingredients can take a little more time and effort," agrees Mishra. "But your brain, and indeed your entire system will thank you for it and repay the effort with accelerated performance."

Maintain a Supply of Balanced Nutrition

The recommended Ayurvedic diet is vegetarian. "Grains, beans and legumes provide nutrients for the brain," says Mishra. "Be sure to include plenty of cooked leafy greens. Several helpings of fruit and vegetables are recommended. Sweet juicy fruits are excellent cleansers; they help flush toxins out of the body. Don't count fat out entirely, fat performs some essential functions in the body, including the brain." Mishra suggests cutting down on "empty" junk foods and sugared drinks that interfere with the absorption of nutrients by the body. According to Ayurveda, good eating habits are as important as what you eat. Sitting down to eat, focusing on the food rather than on work or other activities, and savoring the meal are important. Ice-cold drinks disrupt digestion and impair the assimilation of nutrients by the body, and should therefore be avoided.

Harness the Power of Antioxidants

The brain is especially susceptible to damage by free radicals, reactive oxygen-based chemicals that thrive on stress, pollution and chemicals in your food. Free radicals have been widely linked to disease and aging. Antioxidants are therefore crucial for effective functioning of the brain. Recent research showed that blueberries are powerful brain food, primarily because of their antioxidant value. Ayurvedic antioxidant supplements contain Amalaki, the Indian gooseberry, considered the richest natural source of vitamin C, along with other herbs. Look for an antioxidant that works both inside and outside cell walls for full-spectrum protection from free radical damage.

Use Herbs and Aromas to Enhance Mental Potential

Ayurveda talks about a special class of herbs called "Medhya" herbs - herbs especially useful for the mind. "These herbs individually enhance learning, retention and recall as well as the co-ordination among the three factors," says Mishra. "They provide powerful nourishment for the brain." Shankhapushpi or Aloeweed, the authentic Brahmi or Herpestis monniera and Indian Pennywort or Centella asiatica, also known as Gotu Kola, are some well-known Ayurvedic herbs known to promote the health and functioning of the mind. "Synergistic formulas that contain not only these herbs but other supporting and balancing herbs such as Ashwagandha (Winter Cherry) to help boost resistance to stress are ideal," suggests Mishra, "especially for individuals in high-stress job environments who need to be at the peak of their mental potential on a consistent basis." Some essential oils are excellent aromatherapy for the mind. Try rosemary for mental clarity and alertness or basil oil to help dispel mental fatigue and enhance your mind's innate ability to focus. Peppermint oil and lemon oil are also effective pick-me-ups for the mind.

Manage Stress Levels

Stress and anxiety, whether caused by time pressure or difficult work relationships, can have a significant negative impact on mental performance. A calm mind, serene and centered in its equilibrium, is unquestionably superior in terms of focus, attention span, retention of knowledge and problem-solving ability. "It is important to manage stress before it becomes a severe problem," says Mishra, "because stress has been known to damage or destroy brain cells and many prescription pills for anxiety can have side-effects that can further erode mental performance." Planning tasks ahead and managing timelines, taking occasional short (even five minutes) breaks during periods of intense mental activity, and maintaining a healthy balance between work and relaxation can all help. The Transcendental Meditation technique, or other relaxation techniques are also useful in managing stress. Listening to relaxing music, diffusing aromas that help relax you, such as sandalwood or lavender, or a quiet evening stroll, alone or with a nurturing companion, can all help balance the mind and emotions.

Get Adequate, Quality Sleep

Related to stress is the other plague of modern society - lack of deep, restful sleep. "With diet and lifestyle, sleep is a fundamental pillar of Ayurveda," says Mishra. "Optimal physical and mental performance is impossible if all three of these factors are not addressed." Getting eight hours of sleep is less important than striving for quality sleep, which, according to Ayurveda, occurs when the mind is totally disconnected from the senses. Quality sleep recharges and rejuvenates the mind, improving both short-term and long-term mental prowess. Mishra advises a daily warm oil full-body massage to increase stamina during the day and promote quality sleep at night. Cutting down on stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine; making work-related materials taboo in the bedroom and winding down the evening with calming activities, instead of stimulating ones, to help prepare the mind for restful sleep; are key to getting your zzzs. Aromatherapy can also help - try a blend of lavender, chamomile, jasmine and sweet orange, or just plain lavender.

Use it or Lose it!

No matter what your age or your occupation; your brain needs to be constantly challenged to be at its peak in terms of performance. "Whether it's doing logic puzzles, memorizing lines from Shakespeare, or learning a new skill, keep your brain busy," advises Mishra, "if you don't want it to rust away like a car in a junkyard." Asking questions to clarify things in your mind, visualization techniques and associative memory games can keep the brain nimble.

Indian Board of Alternative Medicine
80, Chowringhee Road
Calcutta - 700002

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Yoga and Memory

Mans quest to have an excellent memory is well known from time immemorial. Some people may be born with an excellent memory but not everyone is so lucky! The key question is - is it possible to improve one's memory?

We hear of people with amazing abilities performing ten tasks at a time "(dasavadhanis)" and even a hundred "(atavadhanams)" . It is said that Swami Vivekananda had a photographic memory. He could repeat with great precision the meaning and explanations of very long words from the Encyclopedia Britannica. How could this be possible? are such abilities gifts, or can they be developed?

Of course, we may also ask whether it is necessary at all. Particularly when we have range of computers, calculators and other memory devices to assist us. A good memory may have been needed in an age when such aids were not available. However it is interesting to note that even those who use these aids extensively appreciate those with a good memory and wistfully wish theirs was as good! Everyone is convinced that memory plays a vital role in achieving success in life - both in the conventional sense as well as for personal growth and spiritual development.

The ability to remember and forget is one of the most complex and fascinating functions of the brain. It is well known that memory lapses are extremely selective; we remember some things and forget others. In some cases easy explanations for these facts can be found - a phone number which we use regularly activates a particular circuit in the brain, information flows very quickly along this well trod path, and remembering occurs. Sometimes, however, we are able effortlessly to recall information which we rarely use. Tulving a present day psychologist, has said that remembering an even depends upon i) the memory trace, i.e., the memory laid down in the brain, and ii) something in the immediate situation which acts as a retrieval cue, or prompt, to 'jog' the memory or activate the memory trace. For example, reading about wild life may help us to vividly recall an earlier visit to a game sanctuary and sometimes, surprisingly all the other details as well!.


Sthiti: Dandasana

• Inhale, raise both the arms sideways at shoulder level parallel to the ground.
• Turn the palms facing upwards.
• Continue to inhale and raise the arms further up vertically biceps touching the ears and stretch the trunk from the coccyx region. Now turn the palm forward.
• Exhale, bend the trunk forwards from the lower back. Stretch the arms, Hands parallel to the ground.
• Exhale completely, form hooks of index fingers and catch hold of the big toes. Bend the back further forward from the lumbar sacral region so that the trunk is stretched along the things and the face rests on the knee. Bend the hands at the elbow and relax the abdomen muscles.
• Maintain the position for about a minute with normal breathing.
• Return to sthiti reversing the steps and the breathing.
• Relax in Sthiti Dandasana.

Do not allow the knees to bend.

Gives flexibility to the back bone. Stimulates the spinal nerves and back muscles. Improves digestion, Energizes the whole body. Removes constipation.

People with heart ailments, back problems and spondylitis should avoid this posture.

Indian Board of Alternative Medicine
80, Chowringhee Road
Calcutta - 700002

Friday, June 18, 2010

Keeping Well When Monsoon Dwells

First showers of monsoon are heartily welcomed by everyone after experiencing the scorching heat of summer. But monsoons reduce the immunity of our body and make us susceptible to many diseases which are commonly associated with this season. It is time for us to keep our body resistant against diseases by boosting our immunity and taking precautions against these diseases.

The diseases associated with monsoon are malaria, jaundice, gastro intestinal infections like typhoid and cholera. Apart from these, viral infections like cold and cough also make their presence felt.

Puddles of water formed due to rain become breeding grounds for mosquitoes which spread diseases like malaria and dengue fever. As a precautionary measure against mosquito bite born diseases one can use mosquito net around the bed which is better choice to mosquito repellants like mats and coils. A mosquito repellant cream is the best choice when you are away from home. Fumigating the house with smoke of dried Neem leaves in evenings for 1-2 minutes is an excellent Ayurvedic method to keep mosquitoes away.

Pollution of drinking water during monsoon is very common. It is very necessary to drink clean and pure water when water borne monsoon diseases like diarrhea and gastro intestinal infections threaten us. Drinking boiled water at home is strongly recommended to tap water. Prefer mineral water of government certified companies when you are away from home.

Walking in dirty water during rainy season leads to numerous fungal infections which affect toes and nails. Diabetic patients have to take a special care about their feet. Always keep your feet dry and clean. Avoid walking in dirty water. Keep your shoes, socks and raincoats dry and clean. Drying clothes with fumes of Loban and dry Neem leaves is recommended in Ayurvedic texts.

Precautions have to be taken to prevent dampness and growth of fungus (mold) on and around the house where asthmatic patients live. Avoid fumigation in case of asthmatic patients.

Ayurvedic Tips to Increase Body Immunity and Preventing Diseases of Monsoon

The digestive system gets weakened due to dehydration in summer. This leads to low digestive power. This is further weakened by vitiation of doshas and dhatus due to monsoon. Hence following diets which increase power of digestion and strengthen the digestive system would be beneficial in rainy season.

• Light foods prepared out of old barley, rice and wheat.
• Sour and salted soups of vegetables.
• Drinking boiled and cooled water mixed with little honey.
• Consuming little quantity of wine prepared out of grapes.
• Adding ginger and green gram in daily diet.
• Eating warm food.

Avoid the following

• Sleeping in daytime.
• Over physical exertion.
• Over exposure to sun.

Additional Precautions

• Always keep the surrounding dry and clean.
• Do not allow water to get accumulated around.
• Keep your body warm as viruses attack immediately when body temperature goes down.
• Do not enter air conditioned room with wet hair and damp cloths.
• Dry your feet and webs with soft dry cloth whenever they are wet.
• Wash vegetables with clean water and steam them well to kill germs.
• Avoid eating uncooked foods and salads.
• Drink plenty of water and keep your body well hydrated.
• Do not allow kids to play in stagnant polluted water filled puddles.

Ayurvedic Home Remedies for Monsoon Diseases

Apply castor oil or sesame oil for cracked feet and skin. A freshly prepared paste of turmeric, neem and sesame seeds is recommended in Ayurveda for fungal infection between toes.

Drink a glass of warm water mixed with a tea spoon of honey in empty stomach. This flushes out accumulated toxins. Freshly prepared radish juice is the best remedy for cold. A pinch each of long pepper powder and rock salt mixed in warm water reduces cough.

The following home recipes can be used as home remedies for digestive disorders of monsoon

In Indigestion

Rice-1/2 cup
Water -4 cups
Long pepper- 2or 3
Ginger -1

Method of preparation
Cook rice with recommended quantity of water with crushed ginger and salt. Powder long pepper and fry it in a spoon of cow's ghee and add it to gruel. Consume this when it hot. This is very light to digest and relieves colic pain.

In Diarrhea


Rice -1/2 cup
Water - 4 cups
Ginger paste - 1/2 spoon
Salt to taste
Pomegranate juice: 1 cup

Method of preparation
Cook rice with recommended quantity of water with ginger paste and salt
Add pomegranate juice when the gruel is warm. This gruel rehydrates body and supply energy . This soothes inflamed walls of intestine and controls bowel movements.

In Flatulence

1 cup of rice
4 cups of water
Haritaki (Terminalia chebula) - powder-1/2 spoon
Roots of pippali or long pepper
Ginger paste -1/2 spoon salt to taste

Method of preparation
Cook Rice, haritaki powder , roots of pippali and water together. Add salt to it.Consume this when it is warm. This relieves flatulence and regularizes the bowel movement

Thus precautions coupled with care really help you to enjoy monsoon. Have a healthy and safe monsoon.

Indian Board of Alternative Medicine
80, Chowringhee Road
Calcutta - 700002

Saturday, June 12, 2010

5 Ways To Introduce Ayurvedic Principles Into Your Daily Diet

You are what you eat." Right, but only 50% right, according to the ancient healing tradition of Ayurveda. The combination of what you eat and what your body does with what you eat is what actually shapes health and well-being.

According to Ayurveda, you are unique, and your dietary needs are unique too, determined by your body constitution, age, the season, your environment and your needs for balance at any given time. But there are some diet and digestion principles that are universally applicable. Here we present five that you can begin any time - the quick and-simple way to incorporate the Ayurvedic way of eating into your daily diet. Once you start seeing results, you can delve more deeply into doshas - Ayurvedic body types - and tailor a diet and digestion routine that' best for you.

1. Add some Zest to Your Life with Lemon!

Add the freshly squeezed juice of half a lemon to a large cup of really warm water and drink first thing in the morning. Fresh lemon juice in moderation is good for all doshas. Lemon is a wonderful aid to internal cleansing. Antibacterial and antiseptic, lemon retards the presence of disease-causing bacteria in the digestive tract. It is also a digestion enhancer and helps reduce bloating and flatulence. It kindles a lethargic appetite, getting the digestive juices flowing. And it aids elimination, so your digestive tract is naturally flushed clear every morning. As an antioxidant, lemon helps fight disease-causing free radicals in the body. It helps keep your skin clear and your eyes sparkling.

More ways to use fresh lemon:

Add lemon zest to your herbal tea.

Squeeze some fresh lemon juice over your lentils.

Skip the fatty prepared dressing and opt for a squeeze of fresh lemon and a dash of extra-virgin olive oil over your salad.

2. Say "No Ice, Please!"

According to Ayurveda, iced beverages, especially with or right after a meal, can really slow down digestion. Imagine pouring cold water over burning coals set up to cook your food. That's effectively what you do to your digestive fires when you gulp down iced beverages with your meal. Instead, opt for digestion-enhancing drinks. Warm water infused with fragrant fennel helps enhance digestion, prevents bloating, and freshens your breath naturally. Cumin tea, or ginger-mint tea made with fresh ginger root slices and fresh mint leaves are great alternatives.

Warm herb/spice teas stimulate the digestion, help your body assimilate the nutrients from the foods you eat and help flush toxins from the system.

To make herb or spice teas, bring water to a boil, add the fresh herbs or spices, turn off the heat, and cover. Let steep for 5-7 minutes, strain and enjoy.

3. Invite All your Senses to the Table

Digestion begins much before the first morsel of food goes down your throat. When food is prepared properly and presented beautifully, and your body and mind are receptive, all of your senses can aid digestion. When you eat mindfully, colors, flavors, aromas and textures blend to make the process of eating a delightful and productive experience.

Create an inviting, pleasant environment to aid in the enjoyment of a meal:
• Keep the dining table free of clutter. Only your food should grace the table at mealtimes.
• Diffuse appetizing aromas 30 minutes before your meal - lemon, orange and coriander are wonderful for getting those digestive juices flowing.
• Eat in a silent, serene atmosphere. Keeping your mind free of clutter while you eat will help your body and mind make the best use of what you're ingesting.

4. Take a Lunch Break!

How many times a week do you grab a quick bite for lunch, use lunch as an excuse for getting business accomplished or skip lunch altogether?

According to Ayurvedic healers, lunch should be THE most important meal of the day. It's the time of day when your digestion is naturally at its peak, and your body best able to complete the digest-absorb-assimilate cycle.

Yet most of us eat the biggest meal of the day at night, often not long before we go to bed, and the body has to rev up and work hard to digest the food at a time when it should be trying to get into rest mode. Unless you're among the lucky few with a workhorse for a digestive system, eating heavy at night tends to result in undigested food clogging up your insides. You'll find it harder to fall asleep, your skin might break out, you'll gain weight easily, and you'll not feel as energetic as you should during the day.

So take that lunch break, and eat your most substantial meal of the day around noon. Heavier foods and yogurt should be eaten at lunch rather than dinner for the same reasons.

And when you have five to ten precious extra minutes, take the time to just sit quietly after the meal, savoring the experience, before you resume activity. This will direct your body's energy towards digestion before you draw it to other activities.

5. Drink to Good Health!

Water, the Ayurvedic beverage of choice, is crucial for digestion and absorption and to help flush toxins out of the body. It helps prevent bloating and constipation, and helps transport nutrients to the cells and tissues. It helps support the metabolism of fat.

Drink room temperature water or warm water through the day. Water spiked with digestion enhancing spices and herbs is even better. Light, clear vegetable broths, prepared fresh each day, are good detoxifiers and offer soothing comfort on cold winter days.

Indian Board of Alternative Medicine
80, Chowringhee Road
Calcutta - 700002

Monday, June 7, 2010

Yoga in the Office: A quick and effective stretch

It's great when we can escape to a full hour of yoga, be it in a class or at home in front of a video, but let's face it, that's not always possible. Enter Yoga in the Office, a series of simple but effective suggested positions to help stretch the wrists, neck, shoulders, back and legs.

Neutral Posture: Neutral posture is probably the most important position to understand and practice, for it is the position in which the spine is most stable and properly aligned. Whether standing or sitting, it means placing the feet hip-distance apart and facing forward. Look down at your feet: do they look like this | | or this \ / ? They should look like that first shape: parallel, with no outward rotation. If you're sitting in a chair, your heels should sit right underneath your knees, so that your knees and hips are bent at right angles. Sit near the edge of your chair, and sit tall. Lift your ribcage, and roll your shoulders back to open the chest. Feel a slight arch to your low back, and keep your chin level. Draw your belly button inward lightly, but not so much that your ribcage contracts downward. Breathe smoothly; hold this position for a minimum of 1-2 minutes, all the while concentrating on relaxing your shoulders.

Abdominal Breathing: As simple as it seems, a few minutes of proper abdominal breathing can do much to interrupt your stress levels and help you relax. Sit up in neutral posture and place your hands on your abdomen. As you inhale, feel your abdomen expand like a balloon, then slowly contract your abdomen by "sucking" in your belly button as you exhale. Relax your shoulders. Keep going: inhale with an expanding abdomen, and exhale while contracting your abdominal muscles. If possible, inhale through your nostrils, and exhale through pursed lips (think of the shape of your mouth when you're about to pronounce the letter "P"). Stop the exercise immediately if you feel at all light-headed (proper abdominal breathing should not cause this). When you inhale, try not to lift your shoulders; let the breath "move" into your stomach.

Neck Stretches: With hands resting on your waist, gently lower your chin to relax the back of your neck. Be sure the rest of your body is still sitting or standing tall in neutral posture; the only area that is bent is your neck. After holding through 2-3 breaths, return upright to neutral posture, then lower your right ear down towards your right shoulder. Hold through at least 2-3 breaths, and relax the left side of your neck thoroughly. Return upright and repeat on the other side. Finally, rotate your neck as far around towards the right as it feels comfortable, hold for 2-3 breaths, then return to center and repeat on the left side.

Shoulder Shrugs: With your hands at your sides, lift your shoulders up towards your ears as you inhale, then release the shoulders back down as you exhale. Repeat: lift and tense the muscles of the shoulders and neck as you inhale, then relax them completely as you exhale. Repeat at least 4-6 times.

Wrist Stretches: Hold up one hand in front of you like you would when saying "stop." Interlace your fingers with your other hand and pull your fingers back gently to provide a stretch to your wrist. Relax your shoulders, and hold through at least four breaths. Now, change the position of your hand so that your fingers point downward, and the back of your hand faces away from you. Take hold of the back of your hand with your other hand and pull gently toward you to stretch the back of your wrist. Hold through at least four breaths, then perform both stretches on the other hand.

Chest Stretch: Place your hands behind your back, holding a scarf, belt, or necktie in between them. Stand up tall in neutral posture, and gently squeeze your shoulder blades towards the center of your back as though trying to squeeze a pencil. Each time you exhale, raise your arms slowly behind you, going as high as feels comfortable, but not so high that your neck or shoulder posture is compromised. Try to relax your neck, shoulders, and chest as you perform this. Repeat at least 4-6 times.

Lateral Side Stretch: If you have pre-existing back problems, check with your doctor before performing this position. Stand tall with your feet hip-distance apart. Raise one arm overhead, and as you exhale, begin a gentle lean to the other side. Be sure your chest continues to face forward, and that your arm remains all the way up; don't drop your arm in front of your face or let your upper body twist downward. Try to keep your top arm fully stretched; avoid bending the elbow. Relax your shoulders and waist. Hold through two breaths, come up and repeat on the other side. Then start over; work up to a total of 4-8 repetitions.

Standing Spinal Twist: Stand with your right foot in front of your left foot. Place your right arm straight out in front of you, with your left thumb on top of your head. Keep your spine aligned; that is, do not lean forward or back. Gently rotate your right arm and upper body as far around as you can, keeping your focus over your right hand. Make sure your weight remains evenly distributed on both feet; do not raise either heel. Hold the position through three breaths as you consciously try to relax your shoulders and lightly contract your abdomen. Return back around and switch legs to perform the other side.

Seated Hip Stretch: If you have concerns regarding your knee, check with your doctor before attempting this position. Sitting in a chair, cross your right leg on top of your left leg so that your right ankle is just above your left knee. Point your right leg as far out to the side as possible. Place your right hand on your right knee, and your left hand on your right foot. Gently, sink your chest forward over your right lower leg; go as far forward as you comfortably can, and hold the position through at least four breaths. Relax your low back, shoulders, and hip muscles. Slowly return upright and repeat on the other side.

Indian Board of Alternative Medicine
80, Chowringhee Road
Calcutta - 700002

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Philosophy Of Natural Healing

The factors that create our health are part of our environment. They form an inward moving spiral in which we occupy the center. At the periphery is our environment in nature, which is composed of solar and other forms of energy, air, water, soil, and other living things. Within this is our more immediate environment, including the climatic and geographic region in which we live, our living place, for example, whether city or country, our work and social environment, and our home. It is within this environment that we think and act each day. Our thinking and actions are the product of the above plus daily food, which is the concentrated form of the environment that we internalize several times a day. Our daily thoughts and actions, which can be termed "lifestyle," determine our choice of food.

Food in turn affects our thoughts and actions. Environment, lifestyle (including our day-to-day thoughts), and food all combine to create our present state of health. If these factors are in balance, or in other words, if our daily life and diet is harmonious with our environment in nature, we experience health. If, on the other hand, they become extreme or one-sided, we lose harmony with our environment and experience sickness. Natural healing is based on the principles of change and balance. Change is the basic law of life. It is the order of the universe. Yet, as manifestations of the universe, we have the ability to cause or initiate change. Everyone has the power to change direction from sickness to health. The first step in healing is to realize that change is possible, and to act upon that realization.

Let us take daily diet as an example. Daily food and drink are the direct source of our physical makeup. Our blood, cells, organs, tissues, and glands are a transformation of the minerals, proteins, lipids, enzymes, water, and other nutrients that we ingest daily. Therefore, any consideration of physical health must of necessity begin with daily food. Many of today's health problems are caused by the repeated consumption of meat, eggs, cheese, poultry, and other foods of animal origin. These health concerns, including cancer and heart disease, are the result of problems of quantity and quality. In terms of quantity, people eat much more animal food than they did several generations ago, far beyond what is necessary or reasonable. Animal foods are essentially the centerpiece of the modern diet. In terms of quality, modern artificially inseminated, hormone and antibiotic-fed livestock bear little resemblance to their natural ancestors. The appearance of "Mad Cow" disease and the European Community's refusal to accept hormone-fed American beef underscores just how serious these issues have become.

Modern chicken is especially problematic; all the more so because many people believe it to be a "healthy" alternative to meat. John Robbins, in his classic expose' of the food industry Diet for a New America, gives a detailed description of how chickens are confined indoors in small cages. They are so weak and susceptible to infection that they require regular doses of antibiotics to keep them alive. They are also fed synthetic growth hormones to speed their development. One result of these practices, according to Robbins, is that as many as 95 percent of the chickens going to market have some form of cancer!

Clearly, modern chicken is not a health food. Now, suppose someone is facing a health crisis caused by over-reliance on animal food. How can he or she change their situation into its opposite, or in other words, change their direction toward health? The first step would be to change from an animal-based to a plant-based diet.

Meat, eggs, cheese, chicken, and other animal products are generally contractive. Plant foods have the opposite quality. However, some plant foods are extremely expansive, while others are moderately so. The comprehensive factor that determines whether plant foods are moderate or extreme is their climate of origin. Foods such as sugar, chocolate, spices, tropical fruits, nightshade vegetables, and coffee come from tropical zones. The heat of the tropics produces lush and expanded growth. Moreover, the greater speed of the earth's rotation at the equator creates strong expansive force. Foods that come from the tropics are generally extreme.

On the other hand, plant foods that grow in the temperate zones are exposed to colder temperatures that cause them to be relatively contractive. Within the overall spectrum of foods, they are centrally balanced. Whole grains, beans, local vegetables and fruits are from the temperate regions and are generally balanced. When we eat in the middle our food becomes our medicine. (The word "medicine" is from the Latin root, "to walk in the middle." ) Our food enhances, rather than inhibits, healing and regeneration. Daily diet is the central issue in our lifestyle as a whole. It is a reflection of our priorities and way of looking at society, nature, and the universe. Dietary change, combined with an understanding of balance, can serve as the focus for a change in lifestyle. Unhealthy lifestyle patterns and environmental influences can be reviewed and changed into their opposites, so that they can be brought into alignment with natural harmony. Changing diet sets in motion a spiral that affects all aspects of life. The whole direction of your life will change from sickness to health.

Indian Board of Alternative Medicine
80, Chowringhee Road
Calcutta - 700002

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Trataka – A Meditation Practice for Everyone

Trataka is a wonderful practice for everyone and especially for the aspirant of meditation. It is actually classified as a cleansing practice in Yoga.

What it is?

To put it briefly, Trataka - also called Yogic gazing - is a practice where the gaze is fixed on an object for some time and then that object is visualized clearly with the eyes closed, as an inner image at the eyebrow center.


Trataka has several benefits which would be helpful to every one and not only mediation aspirants:
• Trataka is believed to have a helpful effect in treating and even resolving several eye disorders such as weak eyesight. It improves the internal and external optic function.
• It improves concentrative powers and mental resolve.
• It helps in disconnecting with the noise and distractions of the external world. This is deeply relaxing.
• In yoga, it is said to also develop the "third" eye - the seat of intuition or that associated with "psychic" powers.

How it Works?

At the physical level it is said to strengthen the eye muscles by exercising them to focus upon a point. Practicing Trataka on an object such as the candle flame is said to provide a unique 'balming' effect to the eyes which help in eye health and in the alleviation of certain eye disorders.

At the pre-meditative level, it is necessary to stall eyeball movement for great benefits and experiences. As we are aware, eyeballs are constantly in motion even while sleeping in the form of REM (Rapid Eye Movement). The aim is to minimize and eventually stall even this minutest of movement. Trataka is a wonderful practice in Yoga to achieve this, as it helps in overcoming this by focusing on a point and then visualizing its after-image with the eyes closed.

Many of the hurdles in our personal lives and even on the path to meditation have to do with our inability to disconnect with the external world at will. In yogic terminology, this would mean the inability to withdraw our senses from the sense objects. Trataka, through the focus on one object, helps to make this disconnect more easily and prepares us to do so at will. This is relevant to almost everyone, but specifically vital for the meditation aspirant.

How it is done?

Trataka can be practiced on several objects, but the most popular and effective is trataka on a flame. This is because a flame (such as a candle flame) produces the best after-image that helps in easier visualization of the flame even when eyes are closed. This is the desired effect of Trataka - wherein you can visualize and concentrate on the image even when the eyes are closed.

You should first be seated in a comfortable meditative posture or a squatting position with spine erect. If you have trouble squatting on the mat, you may raise the seating by a few notches.

A candle is placed in a Trataka Stand and the height of the stand is adjusted so that the wick of the flame is at horizontal eye level. The stand is placed at an arm's length. Trataka is to be practiced with spectacles removed, so people with spectacles may have to adjust the distance between the stand and themselves, so that they observe a clear image of the candle wick without blur.

The focus should on the top end of the wick, as the candle burns. Keep your eyes relaxed while fixing the gaze on the wick. Try not to blink as blinking will interfere in the formation of a clear inner image.

This gaze is kept constant for some time and then eyes closed. With the eyes closed, you should try to observe the inner image of the flame at the eye brow center.
If you don't see it, don't be disappointed - you should start seeing it with practice. Keep the eyes closed for as long as you see the inner image. Then re-start.
It can be safely said that the practice of Trataka is a powerful practice especially relevant in today's stressful times and a necessary one for the sincere yoga aspirant.

Indian Board of Alternative Medicine
80, Chowringhee Road
Calcutta - 700002

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Hair Loss Prevention through Ayurveda

Hair loss is experienced by all of us at one or the other time. To know the causes of hair fall, it is very essential to know the structure of hair and its normal growth cycle.

Structure of Hair

The hair on our scalp can be divided into two parts, the root and shaft. The root part of hair is in the skin (epidermis) of scalp. The hair root is surrounded by a pouch like structure called follicle. The base of hair root is in the shape of a bulb. This bulb is indented by capillaries and nerve fibers. The cells in the center of bulb divide. The newly divided hair cells push the previous cells up. The cells which move upwards die slowly forming hard hair shaft.

The hair shaft has three layers the cuticle, medulla and cortex. Cuticle is the outer layers and protects the inner layers. It is transparent. Healthy cuticle gives a shiny appearance for hair and unhealthy cuticle gives lifeless look.
Medulla is the innermost layer composed of large cells.

Cortex is the layer between cuticle and medulla. This contains pigment and keratin. Cortex determines the bulk and strength of hair.

The hair follicle contains oil secreting glands which make the hair shiny. Stress and illness diminish secretion of oil and pigments causing graying of hair. According to Ayurveda the hair is considered as a tissue which uses the same nutrients of bone and considered as a tissue which is formed as bi-product of bone tissue.

Normal Cycle of Hair Growth

About 10 % of the hair on the scalp is in a resting phase at any given time. The resting hair falls after 2 to 3 months and new hair starts growing in its place. The growing phase continues for 2.25 to 6 yrs. During this phase each hair grows approximately 1 cm per month. At any given time about 90% of the hair on scalp will be in growing phase.

Few strands of hair fall as the part of normal hair growth cycle. But some people may experience excessive hair fall which is more than normal cycle. Excessive hair loss can affect men, women and children.

Causes of Hair Loss

1. Hormonal imbalance in men and women: In men high concentration of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in hair follicles causes hair fall. In women hormonal imbalances during pregnancy and after delivery cause hair fall.
2. High amount of sebum in scalp clogs pores of scalp and prevent nutrition to hair follicle.
3. Inadequate nutrition causes hair fall.
4. Stress, worry, lack of sleep, worry and anxiety cause hair fall
5. Long standing diseases like typhoid, viral infections, anemia, surgery etc cause general debility which lead to hair fall
6. Some medicines used for gout, chemo therapy of cancer, birth control pills, antidepressants etc cause hair fall
7. Diseases like lupus, diabetes cause hair fall.
8. Tying hair tightly pulls the hair from follicles and cause traction alopecia.
9. Heredity also causes hair fall.
10. Dandruff or Fungal infection of scalp.
11. Accumulation of dirt on scalp causes blocking of pores and weakens hair roots. This leads to hair fall.

According to Ayurveda the causes of hair loss are described as follows

1. Too much exposure to dust, sunlight, water and other pollutants.
2. Too much of sweating.
3. Irregular sleeping pattern.
4. Anxiety, depression, insomnia.
5. Unhygienic way of living
6. Diseases
7. Alcohol consumption.

Hair Loss Remedies

1. Liberal intake of vitamins.
2. High protein and iron rich diet.
3. Consumption of raw vegetables, fresh fruits, salads, green leafy vegetables regularly.
4. Washing hair regularly (twice weekly) with suitable shampoo.
5. Using relaxing techniques to overcome stress, anxiety and sleeplessness.
6. Preventing fungal infections of scalp.
7. Preventing hairstyles which pull hair.

Due to these causes the tridoshas get vitiated and cause hair loss. The vitiated doshas affect the scalp skin and cause hair fall occurs. Medicated oil with the herbs Bhringaraja (Eclipta Alba), Amalaki (Embelica officinalis), Haritaki (Terminalia chebula) and Vibhitaki (Terminalia bellirica) is a best remedy for hair fall.

Indian Board of Alternative Medicine
80, Chowringhee Road
Calcutta - 700002