Allergy Relief with Ayurveda: Neti & Nasya

5.12.2014

 

If seasonal allergies are plaguing you this time of year, Ayurvedic wisdom provides some simple, time-tested practices to offer relief.

 

Neti and nasya are two practices that are used in conjunction with one another to alleviate sinus congestion and allergies. Neti has received a lot of press throughout recent years but perhaps you’re not as familiar with the practice of nasya – oleation of the nostrils. I’ll discuss these two practices as well as another simple tip to help alleviate allergies.

 

Neti is the process of cleansing the nasal passages with a solution of warm water and salt. Simply put, neti helps to clear the toxic build-up and allergens that get stuck in your nasal passages. In order to practice neti, you will need a neti pot, which can be easily purchased in your local health food store or online. Use a solution of warm (not hot!) purified or distilled water and 1/8 tsp of salt (rock salt or sea salt) per 1 cup of water. Leaning over the sink, tilt your head to one side while pouring the water into the opposite nostril. Be sure to keep your jaw relaxed and the mouth slightly open. The water should flow out through the other nostril. After using one cup of water on one side, switch and do the other side. Be sure the head is tilted forward so that the water passes out through the opposite nostril and does not flow into the throat. Once you’re done, you can blow your nose to remove any excess water or mucous that was dislodged.

 

If you’re too congested and cannot pass water through your nostrils, first try practicing some warming, clearing pranayam, such as bhastrika pranayam (bellows breath) to clear heavier congestion. Then retry neti.

 

Nasya is the practice of oleating the nasal passages, often using an herbalized oil. There are many different forms of nasya, but for the relief of allergies, it is ideal to use neti and nasya in conjunction with one another. If doing neti regularly, it is very important to oleate so as to not dry out the nasal passages.

 

Here is a basic nasya practice. Following neti, use a warm sesame oil (unrefined, non-toasted) nasya. Lie on the bed or any other raised surface that will allow you to tilt your head back. Close one nostril and using a dropper, place two to three drops of oil in the opposite nostril. Inhale forcefully several times to draw the oil upward toward the third eye. Repeat on the opposite side and lie in this position for a few minutes. You can also massage the outside of the nose with strokes that move up toward the space between the eyebrows. For those dealing with chronic allergies or other issues from the neck up, I strongly suggest asking your practitioner to recommend or create an herbalized oil for you. Nasya is a very effective and powerful practice, especially when adding herbs to the mix.

 

Diet and digestive strength are also crucial for alleviating allergies. It’s important for us to always keep in mind that as with most imbalances in Ayurveda, there is a digestive component to allergies. Working to strengthen your agni(digestive fire) in conjunction with reducing foods that tax digestion will be critical to managing seasonal allergies. Cold, heavy and damp foods such as cheese, ice cream, cold drinks and fried foods can be major triggers for allergies. For some people, all dairy products cause allergic congestion and should be avoided.

 

We’ve come to accept many health issues as “the norm” in our modern world, but allergies are not something that must be suffered through. They can be alleviated. Ayurveda has the wisdom to help you manage and heal this issue so that you can happily embrace (rather than dread) the blossoming of springtime!

 

Categories: Ayurveda & Nutrition/Diet, Treating Common Health Issues with Ayurveda
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Optimizing Health During Pitta Season

7.30.2013

 

We’ve entered Pitta season – summertime! There’s no better time of the year to do some sun worshipping. No, not sun worshipping in the traditional, not-so-healthy sense, but literally honoring this incredible ball of energy that makes life on earth possible. Every moment of daylight is being energized (for free!) by this magnificent entity. It allows the plants to grow so that we may be fed, it keeps us warm and lifts our spirits, among many other things. The power of the sun cannot be denied and as with any enormous, burning ball of fire, balance is always needed so that we may harness its energies without getting too burned in the process.

 

Those of us living in the San Francisco Bay Area may feel the heat of Pitta a little later in the season, but the main principles of maintaining balance still apply. Pitta is the fire element, so our main focus is on tempering heat through our daily routines and diet. Pitta predominant people and those dealing with excess Pitta may find that their symptoms aggravate the most during this time of year and should take special care to stay cool and calm as heat accumulates in our environments and constitutions. Here are a few pointers for maintaining health and balance during Pitta season:

 

1) Water is your friend.

One of the most important elements for balancing fire is the water element. Being cool and soft, water inherently balances those hot, sharp qualities of the fire element. Soaking in water and drinking plenty of room temperature or cool water (not iced or cold) can go far in keeping the Pitta heat at bay. (Limit your liquid intake during meals to no more than 1/2 cup as too much liquid with meals can hamper digestion).

 

2) Emphasize Pitta reducing foods and limit pungent, sour and salty foods that aggravate the fire element. 

You may notice that during the summer you naturally gravitate toward lighter, cooling foods such as grains, sweet fruit, leafy greens and raw veggies. This happens because these specific tastes (sweet, bitter and astringent) reduce the fire element in the body.

 

Emphasize the sweet, bitter and astringent tastes. The sweet taste includes grains, fruit, dairy and sweeteners. Enjoy ripe fruit that is sweet (rather than sour), such as watermelon, mangoes, coconut (water, milk and flesh), melon, dates, and avocados. Grains such as white basmati rice, oats and wheat are best. Milk, ghee and cottage cheese are ideal dairy products as well as dairy substitutes like coconut, almond or oat milk. Maple syrup is an optimal natural sweetener.

 

The bitter taste includes most leafy greens such as spinach, kale, dandelion greens, chard, cilantro and lettuce. Aloe vera juice is also a wonderfully cooling and moisturizing drink for summertime.

 

The astringent taste includes legumes as well as raw and cooked veggies, such asparagus, cucumber, cauliflower and broccoli.

Limit the pungent, sour and salty tastes. Avoid foods that are high in the fire element, such as hot, spicy dishes that include spices such as cayenne, jalapeño, garlic, raw onion, etc. Fried foods can greatly aggravate Pitta, as can fermented, sour foods (such as vinegar and alcohol) and salty foods.

 

3) Take a vacation.

This advice goes out especially to Pitta types, who can become overly focused on work, productivity and ambition. A vacation is one of the best remedies for softening the intensity of Pitta focus and preventing the accumulation of more heat in mind and body. Mental and physical rest also prevent “burn-out” – a classic Pitta symptom in which the excess fire of Pitta literally begins to burn up the essential vitality of the body and mind.

 

4) Avoid excessive sun exposure between 10am-2pm, peak Pitta daytime hours.

The doshic influence changes every 4 hours. Being the primary source of Pitta/fire element, when the sun peaks, so does Pitta dosha. Noon is the critical time to take cover on especially hot days, and is the best time to eat lunch, the largest meal of the day. After lunch be sure to take a little rest and relaxation.

 

5) Use cooling, calming essential oils such as rose, lavender and sandalwood.

Make use of these oils in your diffuser or spritzer regularly, or place a drop or two of lavender on the edge of your pillow at night to help calm and cool the mind and induce sleep. Spritzing yourself with Rose Petal Water throughout the day is a lovely and simple way to bring calm and cooling to body, mind and spirt.

 

6) Do a self-massage (abhyanga) with coconut oil before showering.

Massaging the body (including scalp and soles of feet) with coconut oil daily before showering can help to disperse and calm the excess accumulated heat in the body and mind.

 

One of the strengths of Ayurveda is its emphasis on recognizing the qualities of each season and using these energies accordingly to create harmony in body, mind and spirit. Moving with the rhythms of nature supports your body’s innate healing intelligence. Disregarding the rhythms of nature creates obstacles to healing. May you use the wisdom of Ayurveda and harness the gifts of nature during this Pitta season to cultivate optimal health and wellness. 

 

Categories: Ayurveda & Massage/Bodywork, Ayurveda & Nutrition/Diet, Treating Common Health Issues with Ayurveda
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