The Introduction to Ayurveda
Have you ever wondered what Ayurveda means? Its roots lie in the Sanskrit language, where 'Ayu' means the lifespan and 'Veda' means wisdom or philosophy. It's a holistic system of healing that includes natural supplements, therapies, medical oils, massages, yoga, special diets to achieve wellbeing. Ayurveda is the science of life incorporated in 8 components or branches of study.
How can Ayurveda help you?
Ayurveda is one of the oldest forms of an established health system that advanced during the 'Vedic Period' in history. The science is five millennia old, with existential evidence of it dating to the Indus Valley civilization. Ayurvedic traditions from the Himalayas have existed from prehistoric times. The medicine traditionally revolves around the imbalance of the three doshas or bio-energies and unraveling wellbeing. Ayurveda emphasizes on prevention of imbalances and protection of health.
Scholars like Caraka and Sushruta, one of the earliest practitioners, organized this knowledge into textbooks Caraka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita, respectively. From the time of its origin, five thousand years ago, Ayurveda has stood the test of time and has proven to be one of the safest systems of health and longevity. Currently, Ayurveda is seen as a sister science of Yoga with a rich source of health information for individualized health care.
Ayurveda is a life of excitement and peace; some are driven by wanting to achieve everything in a single lifetime, whereas others enjoy the offerings as they tread through life.
Introduction to the orators
Vaidya Jayagopal Parla is the Founder and Director of Athreya Ayurvedic Integrative Health Center and the Co-Founder and Vice President of Athreya Herbs. He is an internationally known speaker, educator, and Ayurvedic and Yogic practitioner.
Vaidya Jay completed his bachelor's from Bangalore University, India, and master's from Rajiv Gandhi University, India, and Southern California University of Health Sciences. With years of extensive clinical, teaching, and research experience, he worked as a Professor at American universities of Alternate and Complementary medicine and as a visiting faculty at the Japanese School of Ayurveda.
R.A Leslie - R. A. is the founder at Seeuatnoon.com. She's an International life coach who has authored multiple books, a public speaker, and ultimately a mother of three. Fascinated about what makes people truly happy and curious to explore more, she spent the last thirty years transforming distressed lives and restricting beliefs into lives filled with purpose.
Are we breathing correctly? Today our speakers will explain how today's fast-paced society affects one's breathing and how we may include a few breathing techniques into our daily lives.
Introduction to the Podcast
At Athreya, it is our priority to bring Ayurveda to global awareness. Today Vaidya Jay is in conversation with R. A Leslie regarding the significance of breathing techniques in one’s life.
Excerpt from the podcast
“We lose control of our breath as a result of sensory disturbances. When we are disconnected from our mind-body and spiritual selves, we have auto-set breathing. As a result, we gradually become shallow breathers as we get caught up in the momentary excitement created by our senses. This is a significant disadvantage because the mind never settles down with shallow breathing.”
Namaste everyone, welcome back to the Athreya Ayurveda podcast. This is a special series, and we have a special guest who is now a member of the Athreya family. R. A is a participant, friend, and Ayurvedic enthusiast, who has been talking to us about her journey in Ayurveda. She has been phenomenal in providing how to take a personalized Ayurvedic experience and carve out a routine in one's day-to-day life through Ayurveda. What are the difficulties, and how can we overcome those difficulties? So far, the podcasts have been fascinating, and I'm looking forward to this one. For those who don't know me or R. A is, I'll just give you a brief intro. My name is Vaidya Jay, an Ayurvedic practitioner practicing in Southern California. Ayurveda is my passion, and I try to help people live a healthy and productive life of 100 years; that’s the inspiration of Ayurveda. R. A is a New York-based intuitive life coach, author, and speaker who specializes in personalized life coaching. She's the founder of Seeuatnoon, a collective coach. She can give people the ability to release their creativity through journaling and deeply inspire people to shift their perspectives about life and change their habits. Namaste R. A, welcome to podcast number five.
R.A - Namaste, thank you for such a warm welcome. I love being here.
Vaidya - Last time, we talked about why routine is important and taking supplements is not a routine. We emphasized that routine is a commitment. Routine slowly makes you a follower of Ayurveda, which is needed for a long healthy life. This time we want to talk about breathing. Ayurveda emphasizes breathing because Ayurveda and Yoga are sister sciences and exchange a lot of information between them. So we will talk about breathing because it is part of the routine. After talking about Abhyanga, a self herbal oil massage, we will pick up another routine and talk about it. Are you excited about this, R. A?
R.A - I'm always excited to talk about Ayurveda.
Vaidya - How much of our lives go without noticing we are breathing correctly?
R.A - I would say most of it, and that’s why I'm passionate about bringing this to people's attention. There are so many distractions that we have to remind ourselves to slow down our breathing because shallow breathing is a part of our fast-paced society. Would you agree?
Vaidya - Exactly. We lose control of our breath as a result of sensory disturbances. We have auto-set breathing when we are detached from our mind-body and spiritual selves, and when we get caught up in the momentary excitement caused by our senses, we gradually become shallow breathers. This is a significant disadvantage because the mind never settles down with shallow breathing. That's a point that our listeners have to think about and then incorporate a checkpoint every so often. We have to remind ourselves to think about where my breathing is, and I am shallow breathing. Shallow breathing is said to bring pain. The interesting thing is that Pain is related to shallow breathing. When somebody is hurt, they have shallow or quick breaths. The same thing happens when we are distracted. Yoga and Ayurveda are about preventing this type of shallow breathing. Shallow breathing occurs when we are anxious, stressed, agitated, or angry. These things will take up a different pathway in the anatomical and physiological sense than the regular nervous system and respiratory system pathways. It will take the adrenal hypothalamic path, where the adrenal glands constantly stimulate breathing and heart rate. Breathing and heart rate are closely connected. This is something fascinating, and our audience has to understand this slowly. I don't want to use too many scientific terms to get lost in the scientific explanation of what's happening. In a nutshell, the adrenal output of our performance makes us shallow breathers. Isn’t it Fascinating?
R.A - It is fascinating. This is not difficult once you train yourself to think about your life’s different aspects, all these different aspects of your life critically think about your life’s different aspects, all these different aspects of your life. I like to set myself up in the morning before getting out of bed to ensure my thinking is correct and positive. The first thing in the morning is to do stretching. Even if you do it before you get out of bed, you're placing a subconscious intention that you're going to think, breathe, eat and do things better the whole day.
Vaidya - You stole my word, intention. Intention is a powerful part of our awareness. I'll tell you some things I do to bring back my breath into my healthy state. When I become conscious of my breath while walking, I start to breathe in a specific fashion. I take two steps to inhale and then four steps to exhale. It's a practice. I know it's difficult, but I have slowly incorporated that. Whenever I start walking, I make sure that my inhalation is two steps and exhalation is four steps. When you start exhaling a little longer than your inhalation, extra information in your brain expels, and you feel that your brain is getting cleaner as you walk. It may be a little difficult in the beginning. You can do three exhalations and two inhalations, but extend your exhalation to get greater benefits.
R.A - If people do this, they'll start breathing better and won't be looking at their phones when they're walking. I see it all the time in New York City: everyone walks and looks at their phones. So I don't know how there aren't more accidents.
Vaidya -Until they practice, they will not know how profound is the effect of breathing on our being; it brings the mind and the consciousness of the soul together. That's the key factor of breathing. That's one of the things that I do. The second thing that I do is every time before eating, I change my breath, and I bring it purposefully, unconsciously into my abdomen. I’LL START BREATHING INTO MY ABDOMEN when talking to my family before breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I take in deep inhalation, and my abdomen becomes a balloon; it swells out. Most of us have reverse breathing. I see it in my practice, and when I try to teach people about abdominal breathing, it's exactly the opposite. When they exhale, the belly becomes prominent, and when they inhale, the belly becomes small. Most people are reverse breathers, so it has to be corrected. The best way of initiating this abdominal breathing is to place your dominant hand on your belly button and spread it out, then breathe out and press your navel button towards your spine, then breathe in and allow the navel button to come out or project outwards. The belly button comes out as you inhale, and as you exhale, it goes back and is pushed towards the spine
R.A - Breathing out, we're putting our hand on our navel, and we're pushing the air out, then pushing the abdomen in towards the spine when we exhale?
Vaidya - Correct, and when we inhale, we allow the belly to expand and come out freely. We are encouraging diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is like a piston and a cylinder. When you use the diaphragm and inhale, the belly bulges out, or the belly button comes out. You're pushing the abdominal organs, the coil for the intestines, the gallbladder, the pancreas, the colon, the stomach, all these organs get compressed.
R.A - That helps with digestion, right?
Vaidya - Absolutely. You squeeze out all the stale limb, blood, and secretions in the gut, and then there is an opportunity for the new blood to come in so that the gut is prepared to harvest the nutrition you're eating as part of your meal. This is abdominal breathing, and you don't have to do it for long; I usually do it for three minutes when talking to my family or starting my meal. I just take this breath of awareness and bring it to my abdomen before I sit and eat. This is one routine that our listeners can incorporate. The other thing that I do is that whenever I have a stressful situation, which we all go through daily, I imagine the stress constricting my breath. So I automatically breathe longer, like sighing. I breathe out, stretching my exhalation as long as possible, taking all my breath out. Whenever I feel stressed, I stretch my breath. That is a way of confirming that anything negative coming from my stressful situation doesn't stay with me. The negative emotions will not stay with me, and I quickly turn to a positive state by taking a strong, long inhalation. These are the three things we'll start with. I want to talk about alternate nostril breathing, which we call Nadi Shodhana, which you’re fascinated about. I want to listen to you about what is making a significant difference in your routine.
R.A - First, what you said about your breathing in a stressful situation. What I see happening is that when people do what you're suggesting, they won't react to the negative situation, whether it's an email, text message, or a person or wherever they're going, which would help them. It helps them not to overreact and calm themselves down. That's a wonderful suggestion for everybody. The nostril breathing calms me so fast. It just seems to be so immediate. I've tried many different techniques, and this would be the one that I go to all the time. I feel better. It's something that you have to try a few times, and then it becomes a part of a natural routine where you're not even thinking about it. Your body reminds you something isn't feeling right; you can go to the alternate nostril breathing, and everything lines up.
Vaidya - True. Another thing that all our listeners have to wrap their minds around is that there is no specific breathing, you have to practice a few of them as part of your routine, and one of them will click for you. That's what R.A is talking about. You have to try out several breathing techniques, from simple ones to the most complex ones. I would highly recommend that you start with the simplest ones, like abdominal breathing, and then you will come across something that resonates with you. R. A is now talking about the alternate nostril breathing and how that has become personalized breathing for her. The alternate nostril breathing brings a perfect balance between our thinking and action or the mind’s creativity and productivity. The left side breathing balanced out with the right side breathing is a way of life that we call in most philosophies the Hatha, the Yin and Yang, and the Shiva and Shakti. These are our expressions of existence. When they get balanced, we feel serenity in our minds and emotions. The interesting fact is that all the meditations and spiritual practices are initiated by Alternate nostril breathing. Nadi Shodhana is the word that the yogic textbooks use. Nadi means the channels. The vital channels breath gets cleansed when you churn the right and left nostril breathing. When you do that, the mind, which is so important for us, gets into a balanced state of balanced emotions. What else happens? I want to hear from you.
R.A - This is interesting. The Ayurveda journey starts slowly, and then you begin to implement other things, which we were talking about in the first podcast. I would love everybody to know that we do have the time for all of this. The slower you go, without the momentary excitement of getting it all done in one day, you will start to become aligned with your body and add things progressively at the right time, so you're not overwhelmed. As far as the breathing goes, the interesting thing is that when you start to do the breathing, whether it's the alternate nostril breathing or the two-steps and four-step breathing, you begin to realize that your nasal passages aren't clean. Then you start to think about implementing the oil for your nose, which I began to do. You see how things link up, and it’s not overwhelming because you start to organize your life; all of your relationships, you might have a few relationships that you need to give less time to, which will take more time for your practice. The thing that I wanted to add was the oil.
Vaidya - I completely agree with R. A. The purpose of this podcast is to encourage people not to overwhelm themselves. It becomes natural with the Ayurvedic routine, and you don't stress about it. You just do what you can and continue to take one step at a time slowly and make sure that it becomes part of your routine. The point we want to talk about today is the nasal aspect of the routine. In yoga, there is a cleansing of the nasal passages by using the neti pot that has become so famous nowadays. The neti pot is using a little bit of saline water to wash your nasal passages. That may be difficult for some people because if the nasal passages are completely clogged, you have no way to use the saline water to clean up. For that, we have a great solution here. The solution is what R. A was talking about. It's called nasal drops, and in Ayurveda, it is referred to as Nasya. In Sanskrit, Nasa means nose, and Nasya means anything that is administered through the nose. Nasya is the procedure that one can do as a part of the morning routine. It can also be done in the evening, but it is preferable to do it in the morning. You can use nasal drops made from herbal-infused oil. We have many herbal oils out there, but the best one is Anu Thailam. Anu means the atomic oil that can enter the sinuses. It can enter into minute spaces; that’s why the name Anu. Anu means minute or subtle. We lie down with a pillow under the shoulders with a head slightly tilted towards the back and then put two drops of this oil into each nostril and then sniff it in as if you are inhaling deep into your nose. After doing this, you lie down for a couple of minutes, then get up and go to the shower. When you're in the shower, a lot of mucus comes out. This nasal drop has been recorded to be used in a classic textbook of Ayurveda for about 3500 years. People have been doing this, especially the Himalayan masters who have recommended this for about three and a half millennia. People may say I'm putting something into my nose; is it safe? It's safe Because it's been in human use for so long. I will discuss applying oil into the nostrils before sleep, which is a second part of the routine. You use these drops first thing in the morning. The oil has Herbs capable of reducing the swelling, taking away the inflammation, clearing the mucus so that you can breathe better. When you go to the shower, all the mucus comes out, and then before meditation, you will do the alternate nostril breathing. By then, your nasal passages are completely clean, and you have a fresh breath of air. That's the routine we're introducing. Is that right, R. A? You're doing it already, correct?
R.A - Yes. People think about the oil, but they can't appreciate the gift of breathing until they've felt what we're experiencing; only then will all of this make sense. So it’s encouraging for listeners to try this. Once they realize the importance of what good breathing does for their body, they'll want to make that a habit, especially before taking any kind of medication, because they'll realize that many health issues can be remedied with these healthy habits.
Vaidya - Absolutely. We should not forget that diet plays a very important role in keeping your nasal passages clean and healthy. Your immune system also needs to be properly tuned in; otherwise, people will have congestion allergies from time to time. It is another topic altogether, and we don't want to bring it here. We may discuss immunity another time for all our listeners. We want to make sure that we have a diet that is light to digest at nighttime if you are prone to congestion. This routine is helpful; as R. A said, this can be remedying or helping people to become more healthy breathers, which is seldom. People don't address or think about how their breathing is clogged or blocked.
R.A - Yes. Can we talk about the dairy’s contribution to mucus at some point?
Vaidya - Dairy, sugar, wheat, and all the icy drinks significantly narrow down or block nasal passages. Before we finish this podcast, we want to also give a couple of other nasal routines to all our listeners. Inhalation of steam is a routine that I recommend; it can be done before or after the nasal drops. You can even make tea out of this. You put the turmeric, clove, and cinnamon into hot water. Clove is a bud, and it has a penetrating and refreshing aroma. Clove powder is available in any grocery store. Turmeric is a versatile spice that anybody can get anywhere. Put each one of them a quarter teaspoon in a cup of boiling water, and then inhale. Take deep inhalations before taking the steam. I make this and then drink and smell it at the same time. Those who belong to the Pitta (fiery) type may not drink this every day. If you are a Kapha or Vata type, we have a lot of information about body types on our website. Please visit that section of our educational videos to learn about which body types have which characteristics. People with Pitta body types are hot types and tend to get irritated with anything hard and sharp. They should be a little careful not to drink it too much. Otherwise, I drink it at least once or twice a week. It helps me to stimulate my metabolism as well. This inhalation can open the nasal passages, and the aroma or the penetrating qualities of the volatile oils that are present in it help stimulate the mind and the brain. The last routine that we want to talk about is the nighttime application of a little bit of coconut oil, or ghee, either herbal or plain ghee, into the nostrils, smearing it, and then sleeping with it. You only need a tiny bit onto your pinky and then apply it into the nostrils and go to sleep with it. What does it do? The drier the breath is, the drier your thoughts are. If your breath is moist, then your thoughts are cohesive, constructive, and positive. This type of moistening of the breath seems to be a good way of going to sleep with positive thoughts and waking up with a constructive mind rather than a distracted mind. These things will be helpful, don't you think, R. A?
R.A - Yes, Vaidya Jay. Was it both the coconut oil and the ghee or just one of them?
Vaidya - Just one. Vegans can use coconut oil. You only need the tip of your pinky and not a lot.
R.A - That's good information. To conclude this discussion, I'd like to remind everyone that the more you learn about Ayurveda and its practices, the less you'll feel obligated to follow the regimen every day because that will put too much pressure on you. Once you've established a routine, if you can't do something in the morning, you can do it at night. If you had a hectic morning and a hectic day, find something in the evening that will bring you back to the center and yourself as a reminder that this is your practice and way of life. I've found that to be one of the most consistent ways to keep myself consistent in all of this.
Vaidya - Yes, I could not have agreed more. Our listeners have to get motivated, and the constant awareness that we are trying to promote here is not a momentary excitement but like your being. You embrace Ayurveda in such a way that this motherly science is yours, and you enjoy a long, healthy life.
R.A -I agree with that.
Vaidya - It’s wonderful to talk to you again. I love talking to you, our discussions are so in-depth, and I hope our listeners will benefit from this. We look forward to having you again in the next podcast. Thank you and Namaste.
R.A - Thank you very much. Namaste.
Ayurveda emphasizes that a routine is necessary to change the body, mind, and soul. It helps to balance the three doshas. But does the Ayurvedic diet benefit the Ayurvedic lifestyle?
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