Saturday, September 25, 2021

Ayurveda For Obesity Part 3; Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy


            Yoga and Ayurveda are sister sciences of Self Realization derived from the Vedas, the oldest literature to exist. Yoga, stemming from the Sanskrit syllable “yug”, means to “yoke” or to unite. Yoga is the union of our limiting adjuncts (body, mind, and senses with the True Immortal Self, or the soul. Ayurveda literally translates to Life (Ayur) Knowledge beyond ordinary perception (Veda), where Life is defined as the “integration of the four parts of life--body, senses, mind and soul. Therefore, we understand Yoga and Ayurveda to be one in the same, both the means and the end to Self-discovery through integration.

            Through purification of the body, mind, and senses, all pain, suffering, and disease, of both the body and mind, are removed and the Truth of “Who am I?” is revealed. Ayurveda specifically defines this purification as being: “doshas balanced, dhatus (tissues) well formed, malas (waste products) excreting properly, and has a bright shining soul.” The purification process through Yoga integrates the four paths of Yoga into our daily life to harmonize the four aspects of our personality with the nature of the soul. The four paths are: Karma Yoga (the purification of action), Bhakti Yoga (the purification of emotion into Absolute Devotion), Jnana Yoga (the purification of intellect into Intuition), and Raja Yoga (the purification of personal will into Divine will through meditation).

            In the West, however, Yoga is mainly centered around the asanas, or poses. The asanas fall under Hatha Yoga, also known as Ashtanga Yoga, translating to 8-limbs Yoga. This is the physical practice of Yoga resulting in “chitta, vritti, nirodha”, removal of the fluctuations of the mind, according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Alongside the other three paths of yoga, Raja Yoga, or the royal yoga, occurs as we move through Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi, which are essential to purify the body, mind, and senses. The 8 limbs of Patanjali's Raja Yoga include:

1.      Yamas -- external restraints

2.      Niyamas -- internal observances

3.      Asanas -- poses

4.      Pranayama -- breathing exercises

5.      Pratyahara -- withdraw of senses

6.      Dharana -- mental concentration

7.      Dhyana -- meditation or unbroken mental focus

8.      Samadhi -- Super conscious state of Oneness  

While there are thousands of asanas, pranayama exercises, and methods for mental concentration and meditation, Ayurveda tailors every healing modality and physical yoga practice to harmonize the imbalances of each specific individual. This individual tailoring is designed to balance the doshas and resonate with the individual to bring radiant health to the body and mind. The doshas, as explained in part one of this series, are the elements and constitutional nature that make-up and govern the biological functions and structure of every human being and all of nature. Kapha-imbalanced individuals are more likely to develop obesity due to their tendencies to overeat, oversleep, and feel slow, stagnant, lazy, depressed, sleepy, and so on and have a larger structure and slower metabolism. Therefore, it is suitable for the practitioner to practice certain asanas, pranayama exercises, and types of meditation and in ways that target Kapha imbalances.

To decrease kapha, the asanas are to be held longer with awareness brought to the physical body, the earth, and the props used, mixed with more active and stimulating movements. Standing poses, inversions, backward bending poses, and vinyasa flows with stimulating music are all great for decreasing kapha. Sun Salutation is a highly beneficial asana series to reverse kapha imbalances. It increases heat in the body, thereby stimulating agni, the digestive fire and metabolism and relieves mental sluggishness and lethargy, energizing the whole body. It stimulates the thyroid gland, which plays a prominent role in growth, nutrition, and metabolism.  Every asana is designed to reap plentiful benefits to all bodily systems. Therefore, regular practice of asanas rejuvenates and renews the body, and naturally decreases obesity.

Pranayama is the most beneficial aspect of Raja yoga for individuals with obesity to practice. The breath is the connecting link between the mind and body, through the nervous system. A few benefits of pranayama include increased energy, circulation, improved health and mental clarity…basically creating a great environment for us to continue healthy living. Prana is the vital life force in all living things and “yama” means control. Our thoughts are also made up of subtle prana, so when we control prana in the breath, we also control the clutter in the mind. When the flow of prana is imbalanced in the body, toxins accumulate. The first step in Ayuredic Yoga therapy for kapha is to detox, or to reduce by removing excess toxins through the use of Brhamana practices and a focus on inhalation and holding after inhalation, which increases heat and energy, stimulating metabolism and reducing or removing those excess toxins. Through regular practice of pranayama, we increase the uptake, storage, and regulation of prana, creating harmony between the mind and body. Bhastrika Pranayama is a wonderful pranayama exercise for kapha imbalances. This breathing exercise is categorized by pumping of the belly for strong inhalation with arm movements and can be stronger with the addition of breath retention after inhalation. Some benefits to Bhastrika include cleansed nasal passage, lungs, and entire respiratory system, elimination of excess mucus, increased richness of blood, improved digestion, and increased feelings of alertness and energy.

Those kapha-type individuals need that alertness in their meditation practices. Due to their personal tendencies, kapha-imbalanced individuals tend to avoid meditation, limiting them to the physical plane and making it difficult to move out of the imbalance. Therefore, guided meditations, sound meditation, and mantra meditation with loud chanting and movement should be practiced regularly.

Ayurvedic Yoga therapy outlines specific mudras (hand gestures), mantras (cosmic energy encased in sound), and affirmations (positive statements that restructure thoughts) to practice for each specific doshic imbalance. Sleepiness, for example, is a common indicator of kapha-imbalance. To overcome this imbalance, the individual should practice Jnana Mudra by connecting the thumb and pointer finger to increase inner perception, practice Tadasana or mountain pose, chant the mantra “Om Jaagarat Namaha,” and repeat the affirmation, “I am awake to the ever new and exciting journey of life.”

Ayurvedic science also incorporates various subtle healing modalities into the practice of Yoga. These include color therapy, crystals, aromatherapy, and mantras. Individuals with kapha-imbalances would benefit, for example, by using red, orange, yellow, or gold color therapy, cinnamon or sage aromatherapy, and the mantras “HUM,” “OM,” and “AIM.” These subtle modalities increase and maintain health of the body and mind. Ayurveda outlines three important keys to life as well. These are food, sleep, and sexual energy. Food and diet will be discussed in detail in the next blog in this series, however, poor sleep has similar effects as poor diet, weight gain, lethargy, and laziness. Control of sexual energy, called Brahmacharya, balances the mind and allows the individual to gain True Knowledge of the Self. As we control the senses in all their aspects, we can live a much healthier balanced life. Detaching from the pleasures of the senses and withdrawing the senses inward (pratyahara) to realize the Divinity of the soul, allows us to stop abusing the senses. For example, it becomes natural to eat only when hungry, not just because you know the chocolate cake tastes good and will make you feel good temporarily.

Although it takes purification of the body, mind, and senses to reach the goal of Yoga and Ayurveda, by realizing our true nature, once the goal is attained, the purification, health, and balance of the entire person is easily maintained. Our suffering, imbalances, and diseases of the mind and body stem from our own ignorance of who we are. Thus, realizing Truth, through Yoga and Ayurveda, aligns us with that Truth and brings clarity and harmony to every aspect of our being. 

Resources taken from The ChayaVeda Ayurveda and Yoga Immersion Course Manual, Chaya~Sharon Heller.

To learn more consider our Ayurveda & Yoga Immersion or personal Ayurvedic Yoga Therapy Session. Contact us with your interest.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Ayurveda for Obesity -- Part II: Shirodhara


In order to treat a disorder properly and effectively, it is essential for us to understand the components attributing to that disorder. Obesity, a common issue for much of the population, is categorized as an excess amount of body fat, but there are a number of factors contributing to that excess. The obvious and “direct” contributing factors include unhealthy eating habits, hormone imbalances, and sedentarism. The less obvious, or indirect, factors however, constitute a much longer list. Udhvartana, discussed in part one of this blog series, is a direct approach in which herbs and oils are rubbed on the skin to metabolize and liquify those excess fat cells. While Udhvartana treats obesity directly, there are a number of Ayurvedic modalities that indirectly treat obesity by remedying the indirect or more subtle causes.

Shirodhara (similar to a relaxing 7 day getaway in about 45 minutes) directly relieves a number of disorders such as headaches, migraines, insomnia, jet lag, PTSD, memory loss, anxiety, hypertension, diabetes, auto-immune conditions, and the main attraction of this blog... depression! I know, not the most uplifting topic, yet it is necessary to understand, because when depression no longer depletes our mental energy, obesity is also likely to be cured. A survey revealed that 43 percent of adults with depression were also obese. Over-all, adults with depression are more likely to be obese than those without depression. So, what is the connecting link between the two? Individuals who suffer from depression are likely to overeat, make poor food choices, and live a more sedentary lifestyle. Additionally, weight gain is a common side effect in many depression medications.

  The clear link between depression and obesity aids in the understanding of Shirodhara as a treatment for obesity. Now let’s explore what Shirodhara actually is. “Shiro” means head and “dhara” is the pouring of a substance onto points on the body. This treatment is categorized by pouring substances, most often herbal oils over the forehead in order to reduce stress, treat depression, anxiety, mental fatigue, and awaken to the essence of who we are. Shirodhara soothes and nourishes the brain cells and peripheral nerves through the skin, resulting in a tranquilized and stabilized mind. There are various types of Shirodhara based on the liquids used. These can include, but are not limited to, oils, milk, herb decoctions, ghee, buttermilk or coconut water, chosen according to the constitution and condition of the client. One session lasts for about 45-60 minutes, including a head, neck and face massage. For maximum benefits and it is recommended to receive Shirodhara every day for 7 days to a maximum of four weeks. 

      From start to finish, the procedure is relaxing and rejuvenating. Shirodhara begins with a five to ten minute head, neck and shoulder massage, and sometimes a full body massage if needed, based on the individuals’ condition and concerns. The client lies on their back on the Shirodhara/massage table. A small pillow or cloth is placed under the neck and a covering placed over the eyes for comfort and support. The Shirodhara pot is then positioned 4-6 inches above the client so that the oil falls onto the forehead in a steady stream. The Ayurvedic therapist then puts the oil into the pot and starts pouring onto the individual’s forehead. This is a continuous pouring from one side of the forehead to the other. Meanwhile, the individual receiving treatment enjoys the relaxation that naturally comes with the sensations. The oils are recollected, reheated, and re-administered, the oil is wiped off from the forehead and the individual rests on the table for a few minutes. The time of the treatment and the rest period are adjusted according to the person, the longer the treatment, the longer the rest period.

    Shirodhara is good for brain health and nourishment, and soothing and calming the nervous system, by synchronizing brain waves, stilling the mind, enhancing blood circulation to the brain, nourishing the hair and scalp and aiding in the release of stress and tension, it is energizing yet relaxing.  

            Although Shirodhara soothes the mind from the sensations, there is a scientific process that induces the benefits. The back and forth motion of pouring the oil synchronizes brain waves, enhancing blood circulation to the brain that nourishes the brain, and is soothing and calming the nervous system. Complimentary to this relaxation, stress is also reduced as a result of the serotonin secretion in the head. As the sensations in the head pass through the nerves and calm the brain, serotonin levels in the brain increase even more, decreasing mental stress and depression. Additionally, by opening the pathways in the brain, the body is able to deliver nutrients more effectively, aligning the body and mind resulting in our experience of ourselves at our source and with the nature of the soul, feeling calm, healthy, and peaceful. Over-all, Shirodhara positively affects our mood. And when we feel good mentally, we are more likely to feel less stressed, and make healthier choices for the body, including healthy weight loss. 

To learn more about our Shirodhara courses visit ChayaVeda School of Massage or our personal wellness services. 

Shirodhara Massage Treatment, Procedure, Oils & Benefits (
Depression: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and More (

Friday, September 10, 2021

Ayurveda for Obesity -- Part I: Urdhvartana Powder Massage

Obesity is a pressing and increasing concern for the health and well being of all. Defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation, obesity ranks as the fifth leading risk for global deaths. According to OSHA, 2.8 million people die from obesity or obesity related conditions each year. Unfortunately, obesity is one of the very few conditions in which there is no magical cure or quick-fix pill for. Thankfully, however, Ayurvedic healing provides us with multiple modalities to actually treat obesity... naturally! In this blog, we will explore the Ayurvedic modality called Udhvartana -- what it is, how the treatment is performed, and how exactly it remedies obesity.   

Unlike Western medicinal and therapeutic practices, Ayurvedic remedies are tailored to meet the needs of the unique qualities of each individual. So, in order to fully understand the science behind Udhvartana, we first must understand the type of individual the treatment is designed for. In the universe there are three life forces, called doshas, which intermix to create the characteristics of each unique human being. The doshas are Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Udhvartana contains healing properties specifically for Kapha type individuals, who are more prone to develop obesity. This is because the Kapha dosha becomes prominent when earth and water elements meet and elevate vitiate beyond a healthy amount and condition, creating a heavy, slow, sluggish, cold, damp and dense combination of qualities. Therefore, overeating, insufficient exercise, excessive sleep, slow metabolism, and water retention are common tendencies for the out of balance kapha type person. 

Udhvartana addresses the accumulated or vitiated Kapha properties, by the alleviation of excess water, and Shoshana properties, absorption. The treatment consists of a full body massage with the use of dry herbal powder and sometimes with the addition of flour and oils. The massage therapist lightly massages the body in an upward direction and opposite the direction of the hair with each body part placed in their respective positions. Thirty to forty five minutes is all it takes for this treatment to work its magic! The massage is followed by either a steam bath or hot shower. Benefits to Udhvartana include: stimulation of fat cell metabolism, decreasing subcutaneous fat by inducing heat and excessive sweating, that also tones the skin and underlying muscle, and gives a good sturdy figure. The specific techniques used in Udhvartana to target and remedy kapha type qualities creates a more effective remedy for weight loss than attempted remedies in the West. 

We now have an understanding of what Udhvartana is and the benefits it reaps, but how exactly does it work? Store Jiva explains, “When the herbal powders and oils are rubbed on the skin with a specific action it opens the pores, removes blockages in the vessels, increases heat in the tissues, and stimulates fat metabolism.” As the pores open, the herbal oil percolates deep into the skin and liquefies the fat. Unlike any “weight loss pill” at a drug store which you have no idea what it’s doing to your body, Ayurvedic treatments leave you feeling comfortable and confident about the science behind the treatment and what is actually happening within your body.     

In a case study, the results of a therapeutic program that includes Urdhvartana prove its steady effectiveness. A 36 year old woman, overweight, was experiencing laziness, fluid retention, high blood pressure, food cravings, anxiety, breathlessness walking up stairs, and dizziness. After one round of treatment of Udhvartana she lost 5 kg (11 lbs) and after a year of treatments she lost a total of 10 kg (22 pounds.) Her body fat percentage dropped from 40.68% to 38.64% after one treatment and after one year continued dropping to 36.47%. Her, along with many other’s body composition statistics clearly shows how beneficial Ayurveda, particularly Urdhvartana, is for treating obesity. 

To learn more about your dosha use our dosha questionnaire and schedule an Ayurvedic Consultation with Chaya. To learn more about Udhvartana and our Ayurvedic Massage & Bodywork courses visit ChayaVeda School of Massage.


Ayurveda-Test (kostenlos) | euroved

Udvartana (Ayurveda Powder Massage): A Review Article | Request PDF (

Udvartana Therapy - Lose weight and control diabetes (