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Ayurveda and martial arts; Kalaripayattu

By Syama Mehta

Ask anyone to name a martial art and almost no one will mention Kalaripayat (or, Kalaripayattu) even though it is one of the oldest martial arts and probably the originator of every other style in the world. Kalripayat was first mentioned in Dhanurveda which is an upaveda of Yajur veda. Kalaripayat developed into it’s present form in the 11th century. In 1804, the British colonial government banned kalaripayat and it’s practice was limited to rural areas in southern India. Around the 1920s, it began to see a resurgence as the people stood up against the British oppression. Traditionally, children, both boys and girls were initiated in the art of kalarippayattu at the age of 7. In modern times, it is practiced mainly in the south Indian state of Kerala though it has been slowly rising in popularity within and outside of India. In Malayalam, the language spoken in Kerala, “kalari” means training ground or battlefield and “payattu” means training in the art of combat.

Kalaripayat is steeped in tradition and rituals. Every practitioner must perform certain rituals to be accepted as a student by the guru. Before each session, practitioners pray to the gods and touch their guru’s feet for blessings. In fact even before they step into the kalari which is the space where they train, they touch the floor with reverence. Kalaripayat is not just a physical and mental discipline but also a spiritual practice. Students are taught to respect others, show compassion and to use their skills only when absolutely necessary.

This is a fighting style that trains the body and mind for agility and precision. While it is a fighting martial art with a focus on learning about the sensitive points on the body to inflict pain, it takes this knowledge of the body and applies it to heal the body too. These areas are called marma points which in Sanskrit means hidden or secret. There are a total of 107 marma points on the human body of which 64 are considered to be deadly points since piercing them can cause severe injury and even death. An expert kalarippayattu practitioner can use these vital points to hurt or to heal. Kalarippayattu teachers also massage their students with hot medicated oils to make their muscles supple. In fact in some schools before they can start their training, every practitioner undergoes 2 to 4 weeks of hot oil massage to prepare their body for the training.

Kalaripayat and Ayurveda are closely related. Both are rooted in the vedas; Kalaripayat comes from Yajur veda and Ayurveda from Atharva veda. Practicing kalarippayattu makes the body healthy, the mind clear and the spirit reverent which is also the aim of Ayurveda.

Kalarippayattu gained the knowledge of marma points from Ayurveda. Kalarippayattu’s hot oil massage is similar to ayurveda’s abhyanga. Many kalaripayattu teachers are also healers in their community.

Ms Mehta is a Taekwondo teacher Brushy Creek, Texas. She is studying to be an Ayurveda Counselor.

Vastu origin story

What is Vastu (indian feng shui)- Part 1

People call Vastu the feng shui of India. However, Vastu is the vedic art of architecture, design and engineering that got condensed into what became Vastu today. I am talking about Vastu, Vastu Purusha- the entity that dwells in our house. His origin story from Siva, and, Vishvakarma-the divine architect and engineer. This podcast is an excerpt from a class at Narayana Ayurveda on Vastu principles. (I even talk about Thor and asgard--did the moviemakers look up Vastu for this city?)

Diet, Rituals and Bhagavad Gita

Bhagavad Gita series Podcast #2

Listen to Pandit Atul and Manjulali discuss Chapter 17 of Bhagavad Gita, the three modes of Nature (Trigunas:Sattva, Tamas and Rajas), and how it relates to Wicca, Magic, Rituals, Goddess worship, Divine worship, and different diets.

We talk about lactovegetarian diet, six tastes, and what is considered fresh food?

Yoga Philosophy in Bhagavat Gita

Conversation with Pandit Atul Krishna about why is Bhagavat Gita a text for yoga?

Who is a yogi and other interesting gems about Yoga philosophy.

Why do we chant invocation mantras(chants)?

In my book, Ayurveda and the Feminine I have devoted an entire chapter to the actual invocation and the invocation mantras. My students and Ayurveda clients ask me all the time, hence it was time to talk about it. So, what are invocation chants? They are called mangalacaranam- literally translated as auspicious step or beginnings. So, I am talking about what are invocation chants, why and how we do it.

And, I demonstrate chanting of three different chants in this short and sweet podcast.

The script of this podcast is at this link.
https://www.ayurveda-wellness-center.com/post/invocation-chants

Episode art by my student Amy Eisenhower-Omholt.

Enjoy.

Monica B Groover

What is Ayurveda and Yoga Connection?

Ayurveda and Yoga

by Anuradha Rao (Counselor student)

Ayurveda and Yoga have been long used as multi-modality spiritual tools in India from ancient times. Though they may appear similar due to their underlying origin in Samkhya philosophy, they have both grown into 2 different philosophies over a period of time, with Yoga being a separate form of philosophy in the Sad darshanas (6 school of philosophies).


Origin

Ayurveda has its roots in Atharva veda, the book of herbs, spells and healing techniques. Whereas Yoga was first mentioned in Rig veda, the book of songs, mantras and rituals. Though they both have been inspired by Samkhya philosophy, Ayurveda applies Samkhya all throughout its teachings and Yoga has slowly evolved into a philosophy of its own with various texts such as Patanjali's Yoga Sutras bringing in the theme of Ashtanga Yoga etc.

Lineage
Legend says that Ayurveda has its mythological roots in Lord Brahma, who is the creator it and spread its teachings to the world as per the request of Lord Vishnu. Yoga is said to have been created and taught by Lord Shiva, who was referred to as Adiyogi - the first ever yogi. Lord Shiva is also known as Dakshineshwar - as he first taught the techniques of yoga to Saptarishis (the seven sages) by facing the South direction (Dakshina) on a Purnima (full moon day) and thus came to be known and worshipped as Adiguru (the first ever Guru) as well. Thus, both Ayurveda and Yoga have their origin in the Holy Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara/Shiva).

Purpose
Ayurveda's main goals are the Purusharthas, namely, Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha. And if we consider Patanjali's yoga sutras, the main goal there is Samadhi, which is the 8th limb of Ashtanga Yoga. But ultimately both of these philosophies aim on attaining Moksha, the liberation from Samsara - the cyclical loop of birth, life, death and rebirth.

Similarities
The philosophies of India are usually divided into 2 types: Tattva chintana (intellectual philosophy) and Tattva darshana (applied philosophy). Both Ayurveda and Yoga can be considered as Tattva darshanas - where more prominence is placed in the application of the principles and techniques of the philosophies than any mind or intellectual thinking upon them.

Both of these ancient philosophies work on inculcating holistic changes in a person and work on removing the root causes of ailments or obstacles (kleshas). They both consider an individual beyond his/her physical body and mind (unlike western medicine which looks at what is immediately apparent - like symptoms appearing from mind or body). They both consider an individual to be a 5-layered Self (Pancha koshas) with an eternal or sanatana atman - which is ever-existing, without birth or death. Both Ayurveda and Yoga place importance to a person's karmashaya, the pool of karmas of current life (prarabhda karma), and karma from previous lives (sanchita karma).

Both Ayurveda and Yoga work on changing a person's lifestyle through techniques such as Yama, Niyama, Pratyahara (in Ashtanga Yoga) and Dinacharya, Ratricharya, Ritucharya (in Ayurveda). All these techniques can even complement each other when used and applied together.
They both place importance on breathing techniques, chanting and meditation as a way of connecting and calming the mind.

Dissimilarities
While looking at an individual's karmashaya, the main goal of Yoga philosophy is to dissolve them and not create any more karma. While doing this, the Yoga guru/teacher or even the individual may not place focus on Samana or pacification of current issues like how exclusively Ayurveda does with the help of herbs, therapies like panchakarma, marma therapy, massage, counselling etc. Without Samana, the individual may not consistently stick to the holistic path of healing which can otherwise be quite challenging.

The sutras of Ayurveda mention extensively on how to diagnose ailments and also has extensive encyclopedic knowledge on the anatomy and physiology of the body. And also places importance on tridoshas of the body - Vata, Pitta and Kapha (along with mind doshas - Rajas, Tamas, Sattva). Whereas sutras of Yoga and related scriptures mention mostly the trigunas of the mind and how to work through them, with little or no knowledge about the physical body.

It is even believed that the path of traditional Yoga speeds up the appearance of karmas, in order to empty the karmashaya quicker. This can sometimes throw imbalance in a person's life due to the faster appearances of Kleshas (Adhyatmika, Adhibhautika and Adhidaivika). It doesn't place significant importance in living in the society, community etc. Whereas Ayurveda takes a slow and steady approach including social aspects of living.

The link between Ayurveda and Yoga
The present Ayurveda and Yoga practices consistently exchange the techniques and tools mentioned in them for their purposes such as herbs and therapies from Ayurveda (incorporated in Yoga) and asana, pranayama and meditation (incorporated into Ayurveda). Yoga blew into being practiced almost throughout the world in the first half of the 20th century, but the main focus was placed on asana, the physical aspect of yoga than all 8 limbs. They are slowly evolving with more and more people working on raising their awareness of incorporating the entire path rather than just a part of it.

In the hundreds or thousands of years in the future, Ayurveda and Yoga may even merge into one whole philosophy with deepest access to the physical self to the deepest access to the spiritual self.

Anuradha is a yoga teacher in Bangalore, India and has a background in Science and Engineering.

The protein myth

By R Mason
G Robinson
(Ayurveda Counselor Students)

My friend, it's time to give up the meat. I know you've heard negative things about red meat in the media, and I also know that you grew up in the same pro-meat culture I did, but let's take a serious look at what these messages mean.

The only pro-red-meat argument is cultural. There's not a scientist or doctor I know of today who is actively advocating the consumption of red meat, so let's first take Western science into consideration. Doctors have officially acknowledged that red meat leads to more health problems than health solutions, especially in modern animal agriculture, so let's make that easy decision to eliminate all the extra fats, cholesterol, and hormones from our diet to get out ahead of diabetes.

But let's also examine meat as a source of protein in general. The only reason meat gets a "pass" socially is that we've conditioned ourselves to believe that meat is the only good source of protein, but that belief is designed to sell you more meat rather than make you healthier. According to nutrition experts, the human body needs .36 grams of protein per pound of mass daily. This comes to 56 grams per day for the average man and 46 grams per day for the average woman, and this requirement is met in a single meal that includes meat. This protein intake should be spread out throughout the day, and too much protein gets stored in the body as excess fat. To ward off diabetes, you need to make protein choices that are more beneficial for the body and reduce meat proteins.

Besides being simply too much protein, let's examine the energetics of meat-based protein. Energy affects us all--we've all been in a room in which the energy changes with the addition of a single person--and food is no different. Plant-based proteins come from positive, "growth" energy in nature and are sattvic to the consumer. Animal-based proteins carry all the negative energy of the process by which they arrive on our plate, from the inhumane treatment of the animals in their agricultural environment to their inhumane slaughter and subsequent dismemberment and delivery. When we consume meat, we consume all that negative energy and deplete our prana, thereby making it harder for our bodies to heal and find balance.

So let's beat this diabetes threat and find a food plan that meets your protein requirements in a way that promotes the natural healing your body is capable of.

In Ayurveda we believe food has the power to heal. Food can be medicine. There is a life giving energy that flows through you and throughout the rest of creation that connects us to the Divine, and that same Supreme Intelligence also manifests through Mother Nature and all her bounty. By living in communion and harmony with your soul and nature, God provides everything you need to live a balanced, satisfying and healthy life. It is your choice to make whether who want to live in sync with the natural flow or in opposition to it, but if you have some faith and determination, a higher power will offer further clarity and also help grace your efforts. I can attest from personal and shared experience, you can live and function and do so quite well without eating meat.

If you do not want to give it up entirely, I assure you that you do not need to eat it everyday and if you do this, you will also feel better overall. It may take some time and experience to fully realize for yourself that the need to eat meat regularly for sustenance is a lie perpetrated collectively, in large unconsciously, by the society in which we live and sustained by a pattern you have followed your entire life, but there is another way, and if it means furthering your life rather than diminishing it, I hope you are willing to try something fresh.

You are what you eat and also how well you are able to digest it. Food that is life giving and full of the nutrients you need comes straight out of the earth. When you consume meat, you are attempting to gather all those nutrients but through a dead animal that already digested and assimilated a plant’s vitality, so your body is really doing a lot of extra work for scraps. Meat also takes a lot longer to digest than plant based food and the longer food sits in your GI tract, the more prone you make yourself to sickness and the more sluggish you’ll be feeling overall, because energy you could be using to live you life is tied up in extracting nutrients from dead flesh. Think about it.

What feeds your craving to eat more meat is that you’re eating too much meat, and now you have become prediabetic. If you can taper the meat, you will not have to crave it in the same way. Give your mind and body something new to expect, it is possible, and with that some of the sentiments you hold onto tightly will dissipate as well.

So if we can start preparing more plant based food that is rich in prana, the life giving energy I’ve been alluding to, we can try to correct the digestive impairments in your body that have surely arisen from over consumption of meat and processed foods causing toxins to accumulate and making you prone to chronic illness. In essence, you are not a meat eater, you are not a sick person, but you are a divine soul in an organic vessel, and nature’s whole ingredients have the power to heal your body.

Ayurveda and the Feminine- Book

Ayurveda and the Feminine book has been published both in printed and ebook format via Kindle in April 2020.

A practical guide to ancient rituals and practices of Ayurveda, Vastu, mantras, meditation and creation of altars to invite healing and balance to a woman's life. Written by Monica B Groover, director of Narayana Ayurveda and Yoga Academy in Austin, Texas, who has been helping women as an Ayurveda Practitioner for over a decade.

Would you like to read a preview of my book Ayurveda and the Feminine for Free? Here's a link. #ayurvedafeminine

https://read.amazon.com/kp/embed?linkCode=kpe&ref_=cm_sw_r_kb_dp_nzyTEbV...

Creation of Ayurveda Formulas (Bhashajya Kalpana)

By Dr. Mithun Baliga
(Ayurveda Practitioner Student)

Bhaishaja Kalpana, Creation of Ayurveda Formulas is the art of processing of different therapeutic compounds together as a formulations. It is one of the most important aspects of Ayurveda. Ayurvedic dravya and “herb” as in western herbology are very different things although the general public think the word herb encompasses all non-allopathic/ CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) compounds.

Dravya includes not just plant-derived herbs but also animal derived substances like honey, milk, horn etc and inanimate products like metal ashes, mineral products like Shilajit etc. Not just the source as seen above but the journey that the dravya undergoes from its source until it enters the client’s body is very different in ayurvedic terms compared to western herbology.

Let’s look at the western perspective first. The focus is on extracting the active compound from a herb. This was mainly a way to preserve the degradable flowers and leaves. Either alcohol or oils were used for this as needed. This progressed on to specifically extracting the compound responsible for the therapeutic action, from the herb. The extracted ingredient could then be standardized and marketed and made accessible easily (due to standardization). Eg: turmeric. The active compound cucurmin can be extracted and purified, and standardized and sold. On the surface, this makes perfect sense. If cucurmin is the ingredient that gives turmeric its demonstrable benefit, then let us take that ingredient, concentrate it and ingest it for maximum benefit.

In contrast, Ayurveda takes a very different view. Ayurveda believes that the effects of a herb does not come from any one single ingredient that it contains but rather from the many different substances that are present in the herb. Some cause the main effects, some others potentiate it, others help in its absorption, yet others work synergistically with the body by helping in related conditions etc etc. So, Ayurveda will try to transform the entire turmeric root (the whole herb) into a product that can be consumed. This is the fundamental difference between Ayurveda and western herbology and all further differences stem from this in one way or another.

One of the results of this difference is that it is extremely difficult to prove the effectiveness of Ayurvedic herbs/preparation in clinical trials and studies. The inability to accurately list and quantify all the active ingredients and their individual and interactive actions (both good and bad) has been and still is a stumbling block when it comes to publishing studies. This lack of robust studies in Ayurveda will always be a problem when we try to compare it to western herbology. It is far easier to study/prove/publish about a single extract in in vitro, in vivo and human studies than it is to study/prove/publish about a whole herb product that might have many known and as yet unknown ingredients responsible for the herb’s overall effect.

Another big difference is that Ayurvedic herbs and kalpanas do not stand alone by themselves like a “one size fits all” solution. The very science of Ayurveda takes into account the individual’s dosha, state of agni, dhatus and srotas and the gunas and karmas of the dravya before picking the right dravya for the client. The concept of the 5 mahabhuta makeup of all things, the 10 opposing gunas of things play a very important role in matching dravya to client. Along the same lines, the delivery of the dravya using what is called an anupana is another key aspect of therapy. This again is not included in western herbology. Eg: Turmeric capsule has no specific instruction on how to take it whereas the turmeric recommended by an Ayurvedic practitioner will include instructions to take it in milk or to add it in the hot oil while cooking.

Bhaishaja Kalpana can be used as extensively as one’s practice allows. We should start by from the very first step. Proper sourcing of the dravyas, which is again an aspect of Bhaishaja Kalpana should be used by us all. Even though we are not personally collecting the herbs, checking and making sure that the companies we recommend do their sourcing according to recommendations of the scriptures is our first step. The production of the individual kalpanas have to be according to the “recipes” recommended in the appropriate texts. This is our job as the practitioner to check. We can extend the use of Bhaishaja Kalpana in our practice by making for ourselves some of the simpler products according to the proper guidelines. With enough knowledge and experience, by using Bhaishaja Kalpana, we can recommend the right anupanas and combinations to match our individual client’s prakruti and needs

Art of creating Ayurvedic Formulations

By Leah Cruz
(Ayurveda Practitioner Student)

Bhehsaja Kalpana is the formulation of plant and animal-based substances to create medicines that can have a therapeutic or medicinal effect.

This has come from an ancient Ayurvedic practice that has been practices and used for hundreds of years.

Creating these complex formulation is more technical then just combining a few herbs that have similar healing properties to help cure a illness or disease. This is because each dravya contains several properties that can determine the effects the dravya has in and on our bodies.

These are the rasa, virya, vipaka, gunas, and prabhava of the dravya. Depending on the classification of each property listed above will affect the outcome it will have once inside the body. These unique properties also determine the effects the herbs will have on the doshas, dhatus, srotas, and manas. Because each herb is so complex is why when one starts to combine more then one herb together there must be meditative intention behind it. There is a fine line between a dravya or kalpana becoming a poison or a remedy, the determination being the dosage and how it is administered.

Changes that have occurred in bhesajha kalpana and Ayurvedic practices in the modernization of them. In today’s modern practice of Ayurveda and bhesajha kalpana certain herbs and dravyas are becoming harder to obtain from limited scoring or scarcity of botanical species.

Because of this rareity of some dravyas, ancient formulation are being compromised by substitution of more available herbs. This can be problematic when determining if the kalpana effectiveness is a potent as the classical formulation. Another area that has been altered is that unintended chemicals and additives are being put into the kalpanas in order to prolong shelf life, make more palatable for the consumer, and cost effective for the manufacturer. These foreign ingredients could have negative impacts on the efficiency of the kalpanas and how they react in our bodies. With the demand in modern times for natural healing substances, kalpanas are becoming more popular to the masses. Because of this demand some manufacturers are taking short cuts in the growing, harvesting and manufacturing of these kalpanas.

The ancient texts believed that a drayva purity is only as good as the optimal and auspicious environment it is grown and stored in. When one of these aspects are changed the potency and auspiciousness of the dravya is compromised. The manufactured need to be conscious and aware of the integrity of the whole herb. Modernization has also tried to extract the medicinal compound from the plant. But the ancient viadyas believe that the whole plant is necessary because there are other compounds in the plant that help deliver the herb more compatibly into our tissues.

When the compounds are extracted this benefit is lost from the dravya.

I feel that in other countries besides India Ayurveda and bheshaja kalpana is still a new practice. We try to modernize there ancient methods to make it more easily available for the consumer. But we have to realize that there are several aspects and intentions that go into the plant in order to allow for the medicinal qualities to be produces and for a specific medicinal outcome of occur. Plants are a living things that contains energy and karma that can change or be altered depending on this external environment, just like us. This can’t be overlooked as a small thing, because these factors can change the medicinal qualities of the plant and herb.
Another point mentioned in the articles that has diminished from bhesajha kalpana is the energetic intentions that the grower, manufacturer, and customer have with the kalpana.

In ancient times yanga (rituals) and mantras (chanting) you go along with the growing, harvesting, preparing, and delivering to the client. This would ensure that auspiciousness energy would be delivered onto the plant and herbs to be carried into the client to ensure healing. This ancient ritual seems to be becoming lost in the modern need to produce kalpanas in shorter time spans for the customer. In the modernization and standardization shelf life and palatability for the customer has become increasing important. In order to make these two concerns possible some ancient methods have been altered or forgotten.

The use of anupanas to help deliver the dravya or kalpanas into the tissues of the body for efficiently are being used less and less. Vati or gutikas are more desirable to the customer because one can take the kalpanas quickly and without tasting them. This can affect the outcome of the dravya, because rasa and anupana are essential and necessary aspects that the body needs to ensure that the body is responding to the karma effects of the herbs.

Another downfall of modern Ayurvedic Formulations is that the dosage is being standardized to a uniform or general recommendation. But Ayurveda believes that when determining the dosage, it is unique to each person. The disease, dosha, quality of health, age, and agni must all be considered before determining the correct dosage, in order to give the desired medicinal effect. All these points are essential and important when using dravyas as healing products.

It is an amazing thing that the need for more all-natural approaches to health and healing illness has become an essential need in society. Plus with the availability of knowledge and accessibility of products Ayurveda and kalpanas can be made available to people all over the world. But we need not to overlook or forget the ancient practices and methods for creating herbal formulation.

Because these are time proven methods that can shown to result in auspicious healing results. We need to focus our intentions of carrying on the ancient methods while making it more accessible to the consumer. With the consciousness of the people becoming a individual priority I believe that this need for natural healing will grow as well.

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