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January 26, 2009

How to be a cool cat...

Ayurveda, as a science of health, encompasses more than just the physical, material aspects of health. Rejuvination, one of the categories in Ayurveda for which modern science offers no equivilant, includes food, herbal and physical therapies. It also offers a more ethereal, spiritual sort of rejuvination that comes from qualities like good thoughts, good speech and a moderate, quiet mind.

The yogi's well know that one of the most important factors for longevity is keeping a cool body temperature. This coolness is most important in the head, which is why Ayurveda always protects the head during hot treatments such as baths and saunas. This cool headedness also relates to our attitude to life. Firey, passionate thoughts are considered hot, and therefore burn up ojas- the essential glue that holds our spirit in our body. Compassion, respect and devotion are all mental qualities we can cultivate in order to live a healthier, and therefore longer life.

In our daily routine we usually allow time for external cleaning, like brushing our teeth and having a shower, and most of us allow for cleaning the channels of waste like going to the toilet or clearing our sinuses. Less of us give time for cleansing our minds of mental toxins, which is considered very important in Ayurveda. To cleanse you mind you can put aside some time every day, preferably early in the morning after cleaning the physical body and it's channels, for prayer, meditation or mantra chanting to gently and subtly rejuvinate your mind and cleanse it of ama.

This mental cleansing benefits your ojas and lifespan, and also gives a more peaceful, tolerant, detached view of life. Try it out, in whichever way works for you. I meditate for an hour every morning, but a friend of mine does 15 minutes of mantra chanting. Or you could simply take some time to give thanks for all the good things in your life, or even pray for a cool head!

January 18, 2009

Mental Constitution Chart

I'm kind of doing this in backwards order, since I haven't really explained the three guna yet, but I want to share a "Mental Constitution Chart" written by Dr David Frawley (slightly shortened from his book Ayurveda and the Mind). I really like this chart because it doesn't just lock you into a box, it invites you to make changes in you life. It also gives a good idea of what each guna involves, so I guess, in a way, I am explaining them!

DIET a) Vegetarian b) Some meat c)Lots of meat
DRUGS, ALCOHOL a) Never b) Occasionally c) Frequently
NEED FOR SLEEP a) Low b) Moderate c) High
SEXUAL ACTIVITY a) Low b) Moderate c) High
SPEECH a) Calm and peaceful b) Agitated c) Dull
CLEANLINESS a) High b) Moderate c) Low
WORK a) Selfless b) Personal goals c) Lazy
ANGER a) Rarely b) Sometimes c) Frequently
FEAR a) Rarely b) Sometimes c) Frequently
DESIRE a) Little b) Some c) A lot
PRIDE a) Modest b) Some ego c) Vain
DEPRESSIONa) Never b) Sometimes c) Frequently
LOVE a) Universal b) Personal c) Lacking
VIOLENCE a) Never b) Sometimes c) Frequently
CONTENTMENT a) Always b) Sometimes c) Never
FORGIVENESS a) Easily b) With effort c) Holds grudges
CONCENTRATION a) Good b) Moderate c) Poor
MEMORY a) Good b) Moderate c) Poor
WILL POWER a) Strong b) Variable c) Weak
CREATIVITY a) High b) Moderate c) Low
SPIRITUAL STUDY a) Daily b) Occasionally c) Never
MANTRA. PRAYER a) Daily b) Occasionally c) Never
MEDITATION a) Daily b) Occasionally c) Never
SERVICE a) Daily b) Occasionally c) Never

  • a) SATTVA:
  • b) RAJA:
  • c) TAMAS:
No cheating, only enlightened beings are pure sattva, the rest of us will have to settle for Rajas moving towards Sattva, which is far preferable to tamas. If you want to build sattva, look at the a) list and see what can be improved in your day to day life. At it's essence Sattva is a peaceful mind, so don't develop rajas in the mind in you ambition to be a clean freak or super creative. Just do works for you.

January 12, 2009

Diet for pregnancy

Pregnancy is such a special and important time in a woman's life. Ayurveda offers so much detailed advice on how to support your gowing baby, as well as stay strong mentally and physically yourself. Here is just a very brief overview.

Diet is, of course, of upmost importance during pregnancy. If you know a pregnant woman cook for her! She deserves to be treated like a queen at this stage. Pregnant women will need plenty of moisture; like soups, stews and teas. Iron rich foods and good quality organic fats (read: ghee) are vital. Meals should be small and regular, maybe six times a day. Vata can be kept in check with minimal travelling, high fluid intake and a good routine.

Cravings in pregnant woman are the desires of their baby. Unless they are detrimental to the health of the mother these cravings should be satisfied, so that the baby is happy!

Here are a few of the lesser known things women should avoid whilst pregnant:
  • Honey (use iron rich jaggary instead)
  • Asafoetida
  • Nutmeg
  • Fenugreek ( but excellent for lactation post partum)
  • Vata aggravating foods (dry, cold, raw)
Your baby will also feed of your mental disposition whilst you are pregnant, so if you want a peaceful baby meditate and spend plenty of time in beautiful, natural places like walking by the river or sitting on the grass.

January 04, 2009

A story-sattva, tamas and rajas

I haven't really written about sattva, tamas and rajas, which are integral concepts to Ayurveda. They are mental qualities, which are acquired by the ego, personality, attachment, desire, imagination etc. Whilst the soul is immortal, the personality displays these different qualities, called guna. All three qualities are needed for life, but on the spiritual path we should develop sattva.

In England Babaji gave a talk explaining sattva, rajas and tamas very simply by relating the guna of characters in the Mahabhrata.


"Those who are selfish, wicked, enjoy harming people, prone to greed, anger, jealousy, robbing others, full of false-pride are described as tamasic ... the wicked character Duryodhana would fit into this description - always acting on his own selfish imaginations, supported by his father the king."


"The second type of ego, rajasic, is mainly concerned with personal glory, even though it might be in a noble way. Again in the epic, the characters of Bhishma who was noble and valiant, and Drona who taught all the princes the science of archery, could be described as rajasic. Even though they had many noble qualities, when it came to the famous scene when Princess Draupadi was threatened with public disrobing, they didn't protect her. They used excuses such as " I must always support the king", and comments like this. But they didn't simply do the right thing and stand up for a woman's honour in this situation, because they were more interested in their personal glory.

"...They knew what was right and what was wrong, but they didn't try to simply protect her when she was in trouble like this. Draupadi asked for Bhishma's help - he was respected by all in the court. Though he knew that this was wrong ... he didn't protect her, saying, "Without the king's order, I cannot protect you." This is rajas - acting for personal glory."


"This is how Lord Krishna worked - not for personal glory, but for the larger cause. Just like when the war in the story of the Mahabharata was going to start, Krishna announced that each side could have either Him, or His army - whichever they chose. But if they chose Him, He would not actively fight for that side. Arjuna was noble and devoted to Krishna, so he asked Krishna to be on his side and steer his chariot - even if He didn't fight. Hearing this the wicked Duryodhana said, 'Arjuna is an idiot. Now I have Krishna's whole army fighting on my side, while he has chosen to have only Krishna on his side - and Krishna will not be fighting for him at all.'

"Krishna's satvic nature meant He was concerned with the larger cause. Thus at one point in the battle, He picked a wheel to use as a weapon to kill Duryodhana, simply for the sake of dharma (Righteousness). Seeing Krishna doing this, Arjuna told him, 'You said you wouldn't fight in this battle.' But Krishna replied, ' It is no problem. If I do this and kill Duryodhana, only my personal name and reputation will be damaged, but all the people of the kingdom will be benefited.' That is how a satvic ego behaves - for the larger cause.

Visit Babaji's website for more of his teachings.I'll write some more about the three gunas and how to develop sattva a little later.