Rejuvenating Spring Rituals

All winter long, kapha builds up in our bodies, and in the spring time it manifests. Because kapha is housed in lungs, conditions of the lungs ensue if kapha is not balanced. The elements behind kapha are water and earth, so think mucous and congestion when kapha is out of balance.

Luckily, there are rejuvenative practices we can follow in the spring to keep these elements in check. First, we can favor foods that are bitter, pungent and astringent in their tastes and heating in their thermal properties. For example, ginger, pippali, and black pepper are spices that can be taken with foods to add a heating quality and which are also pungent and astringent toward our tissues. Neem and gentian are bitter herbs that we can take at this time of year. Simply drinking hot water with lemon at this time is helpful to cut through mucous.

Essential oils that balance kapha include rosemary, eucalyptus, and camphor. Practicing the shatkarma (6 actions) is done as a ritucharya (seasonal ritual) and includes dhauti (stomach cleansing), nauli (abdominal churning), neti (nasal rinsing), basti (auto-enema) kapalabhati (shining skull breath), and tratak (candle gazing). While some of these are advanced, there are a few that can be done at home. In tratak, a candle is lit and the gaze is kept at the candle without blinking. Allowing tears to well up in the eyes is cleansing to the eyes. After about a minute of gazing and tearing, close the eyes and focus on the negative image of the flame in your mind's eye. This brings awareness to the mind. Kapalabhati is a pranayama (breathing technique) where the breath is forcefully exhaled through the nose by pumping from the diaphragm and abdomen. It generates pressure that ascends toward the mind and thus promotes awareness, while also cleansing the lungs of stale air. In nauli, and abdominal organs are churned by contracting the abdominal muscles.

Other ways to cleanse the abdominal organs are through yoga postures that twist the torso, including seated spinal twist and rotated triangle. Sun salutations are helpful at this time to build up heat in the body, and may be repeated in a sequence.

Dinacharya are the daily rituals that can be done, and include self care practices like abhyanga (self massage), ubtan (dry brushing), and pinda swedana (steam therapy). In abhyanga, favor a massage oil that is formulated for kapha, such as Kapha Om Oil made with juniper, grapefruit and helichrysum in a base of sunflower oil with a few drops of mustard seed oil. Taking time to massage oil into the skin protects and strengthens the skin, and paying extra attention to the elbows, knees, shoulders, hips, feet and hands helps to lubricate the joints. In abhyanga, ama (accumulated toxins) are dispersed through the body, making it easier for them to be removed. Pinda swedana is similar to western herbalism's idea of fomentation. A cotton cloth is dipped into an infusion of balancing herbs in water (like a tea) then placed over the body. This helps to draw out ama. Ubtan in a dry skin brushing using herbs. Botanic Beauty Scrub features ayurvedic herbs that balance the skin plus rhassoul clay that helps to draw out impurities. When mixed with liquid, such as Helichrysum Flower Water, or an astringent fruit juice, it can be left on the skin as mask before rinsing.

Mention on GoBreck Blog

Excerpt from Article Entitled Wellness & Health in Breckenridge by Leigh Girvin

Ambika Herbals include salves, tinctures, and elixirs.
Using native plants found in the Breckenridge area, local practitioner Erica Ragusa of Ambika Herbals creates tinctures, salves, elixirs and “mock-tails” to create healing modalities. She infuses wild rose into an elixir with honey and brandy to aid with digestion and cramping. For massage, the non-psychoactive ingredient in cannabis is made into a salve for pain relief and to reduce inflammation. Erica creates a spray from a locally abundant wildflower, Fireweed, which is effective on hot, itchy skin conditions. (For more on our local wildflowers and where to find them, see Leigh's article here.) Erica also teaches classes on herbals at the Breckenridge Arts District.


Understanding Doshas for Health

The doshas are the mind-body types as understood in Ayurveda. Ayurveda looks at a person holistically to determine their unique composition. Keeping the doshas balanced is the key to health.

"In the practice of Ayuveda we try to bring people back into balance and at the same time let their true nature shine through. The two processes are really the same."-Deepak Chopra.

Ayurvedic practitioners look at each client as a unique composition of the doshas, which are distinct mind-body types. In Ayurveda, there is no separation between the two. The first dosha is vata, and it is usually the first to become imbalanced and over time will take the others with it. It is governed by air and ether and is linked to the intestines, circulation, and the heart. Characteristics of vata are coolness, movement, speed, dryness, and roughness. The second dosha is pitta. It is governed by fire and water and is linked to digestion, metabolism, and perspiration. Characteristics of pitta are heat, sweat, sharpness, and sour odors. The third dosha is kapha. It is governed by water and earth and is linked to the mucous membranes. Characteristics of kapha are heaviness, sweetness, steadiness, softness, and slowness.

Everyone is a combination of the three doshas, and at the time of our birth, we are composed of a harmonious balance of all three-not necessarily an equal balance, but a combination that forms our perfect mental and physical constitution, our prakriti. Over the course of one's life, we will shift from our prakriti, our harmonious balance of the doshas, into a disharmonious vikriti, which literally means a deviation from nature. Our doshas become imbalanced over a period of time due to some lifestyle choices: eating the wrong foods, not getting enough rest, harboring negative emotions, and enduring physical and mental strain. On the other hand, our doshas can be balanced through diet, exercise, daily routine, and seasonal routine. The Ayurvedic bliss therapies that I practice are rituals that are intended to balance a person's vikriti and to restore harmony among the doshas.

Daily habits are the best way to keep the doshas balanced. Eating properly and getting adequate rest are good habits to maintain. When we go for long periods of time without practicing good physical, mental, and emotional habits, we accumulate toxic residue in the body that Ayurvedic practitioners call ama. The Ayurvedic bliss therapies are designed to remove the body of ama and restore the healthy flow of energy throughout the body. Abhyanga is a full-body massage done with herbalized oil according to one's dosha that helps to flush out toxins through the lymphatic system and is good for all mind-body types. Swedana is a steam treatment that encourages the body to sweat and is good for vata-types. Shirodhara is a warm oil treatment that calms the nervous system and is good for pitta-types. Udvartana is a dry herbal scrub that stimulates circulation and is good for kapha-types. All of these treatments are used to encourage the body's own healing process by moving toxins out through natural channels of elimination.

Health and happiness lie within balanced doshas that represent our natural mind-body state, our prakriti. It is up to us to keep our doshas balanced through our daily habits. Signs of vata imbalance include worry, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, arthritis, chapped skin, muscle spasms, IBS, menstrual pain, and lower back pain. To balance vata dosha, keep regular habits, cover up to keep your body warm, seek quiet environments, eat regular meals, get ample rest, and do a self-massage or receive abhyanga to ward off dryness. Signs of pitta imbalance include anger, hostility, irritability, criticism of yourself or others, argumentative behavior, skin inflammations and rashes, acne, heartburn, ulcers, hot flashes, and excessive thirst. To balance pitta, practice eating and drinking in moderation, seek coolness (apply cool compresses to forehead, or drink cool but not iced water), pay attention to leisure and downtime, seek exposure to natural beauty (it is traditionally recommended that pittas watch the sunset, look at the full moon, and walk beside lakes and running water-easy to do here in Summit County), decrease your intake of caffeine, and receive shirodhara with cooling coconut oil to promote relaxation. Signs of kapha imbalance include mental dullness, over-attachment, depression, physical weariness, procrastination, inability to accept change, possessiveness, oversleeping, excess mucous or phlegm, allergies, asthma, aching joints, bloating, sinus congestion, cysts and other growths. To balance kapha, seek stimulation, seek variety in life, reduce sweet foods, stay warm, avoid damp weather, exercise daily, drink warm fluids during the day, and perform a dry skin brushing (garshana) or receive udvartana to promote circulation.

Our Soul's Purpose

According to Ayurveda, were created by the coming together of two primary forces. These forces help us understand our soul's purpose in life.

In Sankhya philosophy, we came from Purusha and Prakriti. We are the manifestation of pure consciousness and pure potential. Purusha and Prakriti are the origins of the universe and are potential energies. Purusha, the potential for consciousness, merged itself with Prakriti, the potential for form or matter because Purusha desired to know itself and to have form.

The aspect of existence that is eternal is Purusha, pure consciousness. This is what our individual soul, or Atman, is trying to achieve.

The aspects of existence that are transient are the manifestations of individual consciousness. There are five elements that exist as the foundation of the physical structure in the world. These are the Maha Bhutus, ether, air, fire, water and earth. In order to experience them, we have the senses, called the Tanmatras. They are sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell. Finally, in order for the sensory experiences to be perceived, we have sense organs. They are the Pancha Jnanedriyani or Buddhi. In order to process the experience, we have the limited mind, the Manas. These are are transient and lead to our ignorance.

When Purusha merged with Prakriti, the universe as we know it was formed. Physical matter was created which pushed the need for a sense of separation. The sense of separation is what lead to a sense of self, or Ahamkara, and is needed to have individual experience. This is the aspect of creation that is responsible for our ignorance; when we perceive ourselves through the individual ego we lose knowledge of who we are, which is God.

July Herbal Wellness Share

Here's what's brewing in our July Wellness Share. Pickup on Wednesday, July 13th from 4-7pm.

Symphytum officinale
Comfrey is a perennial in the borage family. Its leaves and aerial parts are are high in allantoin. Comfrey is called “knitbone” for its ability for quick and profuse cell proliferation. A handy salve for your medicine cabinet. Use over dry or peeling skin but not over deep wounds—it can heal the wound rapidly, potentially trapping in microbes.

Picea spp.
Evergreen trees are all around us; in the spring and early summer look for the tips of branches for new growth. These tender buds of needles are tasty and filled with vitamin C and of course chlorophyll. This syrup can be handy for sore throats or simply mixed into hot water or carbonated water for a refreshing beverage. A little juniper berry has been added for a complementary flavor.

Levisticum officinale
A perennial herb in the umbel family, related to dill, celery and caraway. The mildly warming, spicy quality acts as a carminative that eases indigestion. Take a couple of drops of tincture with a meal as a cordial to ward off indigestion.

Artemisia tridentata
A member of the mugwort genus, this plant grows on rocky slopes and in semi-arid conditions. High in volatile oils including terpenoids and camphor. Used by Native Americans as a smudge to cleanse negative energy, modern research shows that these volatile oils have a strong anti-microbial effect. Spray over body or environs—try under your arms!

Valeriana spp.
This tall, aromatic plant can be found along mountain streams and moist gulches. Makes a relaxing tea at bedtime. Use caution, this could be a strong relaxant for some. Mixed with locally grown peppermint and catmint for a complementary flavor.

A word of caution…
Herbs interact with people in unique ways. Begin slowly to ensure you are responding the way you intend. Those who are pregnant or breastfeeding are usually advised not to consume most herbs.

Massage Magazine

Recently, we were featured in an educational article in Massage Magazine. The article details the benefits of pomegranate, which can be used as a massage oil. Although we do not blend our oils with pomegranate, it is similar to ones we do use, including rosehip seed and evening primrose oil. All of these oils are bioactive and have anti-inflammatory and regenerating effects. Botanical massage oils present benefits to the user via topical application on the skin. We always use our handmade massage oils during a treatment in our massage office--a benefit that is not overlooked.

Access the full article here:

Craniosacral Therapy & TMJD

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder often causes severe pain or discomfort.  Because TMJ is often linked to a myriad of causes, it is often difficult to treat. Craniosacral Therapy is an effective, noninvasive treatment for TMJD as it seeks to address the underlying causes of the disorder.

TMJD occurs when there is dysfunction in the temporomandibular joint, the joint that is responsible for opening and closing the mouth.  Dysfunction can manifest as pain or tenderness in the muscles of the jaw; radiating facial, jaw or neck pain; limited movement or locking of the jaw; migraine headaches; and/or painful clicking or popping of the jaw.  The most common causes of this disorder include trauma or injury to the teeth or jaw; stress; misalignment of the jaw; poor posture; grinding of the teeth; disease; and arthritis.

Craniosacral Therapy seeks to alleviate the painful symptoms of TMJD through a gentle, noninvasive, but highly effective approach.  The craniosacral system includes the sacrum, spinal column, brain, and the cerebral spinal fluid that both protects and nourishes the brain and spinal cord. During craniosacral therapy, the practitioner gently holds the cranium and the sacrum, feeling the subtle rhythm of the cerebrospinal fluid. The intention of the treatment is to bring the nervous system back into balance and is especially helpful at modulating discomforts of the head and neck.

Clients feel deep relaxation, often falling asleep or into a meditative state. Energetic sensations are released and an integration is felt throughout the body. Schedule yours today & feel the benefits!