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Ayurvedic Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

Ayurvedic Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

Why sleep is so important

Sleep plays a very important role in our health along with eating healthy and exercising regularly. It influences very much how emotionally stable, mentally clear and physical fit we are. A good night’s sleep gives our body the possibility to begin its night-shift work. During sleep our body can heal damaged cells, strengthen our immune system and recharge our heart, cardiovascular and nervous system for the next day. Deep and sufficient sleep is one of the keys to long-term health and the basis for a functioning immune system. 

Ayurveda and sleep

Ayurveda or Ayurvedic medicine, contains a lot of wisdom for a life in balance, including restful sleep.

Ayurveda is about harmony and balance, especially the balance between the three doshas Vata, Pitta and Kapha. They also play an important role in our sleep. At what time we go to bed, what we do before and after bedtime, and of course what and when we eat. This all influences our bioenergies, and thus contributes to a healthy sleep. 

The role of the Doshas in your sleep rhythm

From an Ayurvedic point of view, sleep is the most important regeneration phase of the day. Between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. our Pitta energy wants to clean the body, picking up the dirt from the furthest corners. Then between 2 and 6 a.m. our Vata energy is very active, transporting the dirt and toxins to the excreting organs. The most important prerequisite for this cleansing process is that the digestion of the last meal is finished before 10pm.

That’s why it is important to have an early light dinner, at least three hours before you to bed. If this is not the case, the body sets the priorities differently and focuses on digestion. As a result, our whole system powers up instead of shutting it down for sleep and cleansing. Consequently, we don’t get tired so quickly, we fall asleep more difficult and may wake up at night and get up in the morning exhausted. 

Apart from the last meal, our general lifestyle also has an impact on our sleep. Every sleep problem arises from the fact that there is too much movement, too much Vata, in our internal system. Consequently the body does not find its way deep enough into the relaxation mode. An overactive sympathetic nervous system means too much movement or Vata that is caused by stress, lack of time and an unsteady lifestyle. If we snack between dishes, do everything differently today than yesterday, don’t get enough sleep, travel a lot and eat foods that elevate Vata, we may not fall asleep and, above all, not sleep through the night.

When we take a look at the different Doshas, we see a Vata imbalance tending to sleep irregular and light. They often wake up between 2 – 6am, but when very exhausted can profoundly sleep. Whereas Pittas sleep can be disturbed by vivid and active dreams or nightmares and difficulties to fall asleep as their mind is too busy. When Pittas wake up, they normally go back to sleep easily. However, Kapha types are generally good sleepers but when out of balance, they sleep too long which makes them sluggish and heavy.

Do you want a better and more aligned life to achieve deeply desired results? A life with more energy, a peaceful mind, and habits that go toward lifelong health and wellness? Discover my health and lifestyle program Embody to Thrive

How can the Ayurvedic way of life be beneficial for our sleep?

The most important keys points are a steady rhythm, diet and stress reduction. The optimal rhythm from an Ayurvedic point of view is three meals at similar times on most days, with the main meal at lunch and a light, early dinner. Of course, it is incredibly valuable to adjust the diet so that we can find a balance based on our constitution. It is also recommended that you go to bed and get up at similar times each day.

But we should also adjust our daily work and stress levels. Stress, regardless of what caused it, lets our nervous system run in a mode that is actually only intended to protect us in dangerous situations. But if we often feel tense, agitated and rushed, we prevent the part of our nervous system that is responsible for regeneration, metabolism and sleep from doing its job.

As a result, we may have permanent elevated cortisol levels, our stress hormone, that can lead to anxiety, hormonal imbalances, increased appetite, obesity and other issues. That is why in Ayurveda we not only focus on nutrition and lifestyle, but also on meditation, yoga and other methods of stress reduction. Therefore the Ayurveda approach is holistic and matched with ones unique constitution.

ayurvedic food for sleep

How diet affects your sleep

The most important tip is to move the main meal to noon and eat it lightly and early in the evening. From an Ayurvedic point of view, early and light means before 7 p.m. and with little fat and protein and not too complex in the composition. Raw vegetables should also be eaten at lunchtime. This is very contrary to some modern-day opinions, but it works. Soups, stews or vegetables, perhaps with a little grain, are ideal for the evening. Especially one-pot meals are easy for our metabolism.

In order to have an early and light evening meal, of course we need to have a good lunch, otherwise we are too hungry. Since the body has the strongest digestive fire at lunchtime – also from a conventional medical point of view – we can digest it well at that time. From an Ayurvedic point of view, our lunch should not consist of a small salad or a sandwich on hand, but of a healthy and rich meal in which we satisfy our fat and protein needs. Interestingly, after such a meal, we are hardly hungry in the evening and can easily get through the night with a small supper until breakfast in the morning. And the body thanks us with a deep and restful sleep.

What helps if we have difficulty falling asleep?

The easiest way for the body to fall asleep is when it is relaxed and not struggling with a heavy meal. Ayurveda recommends establishing an evening routine that automates this process. Everything that prevents falling asleep needs to be reduced: Screen time or very exciting books, an extremely high pace during the day, in the worst case until late in the evening, keep us awake. The thoughts are circling in our head and our energy is moving too much. After an early light dinner it is ideal to enjoy the time with loved ones, to go for a walk or to take a bath. But any other non-digital hobby like writing a diary, drawing, perform handicraft works, is great too.

An important factor is the time we go to bed. Kapha energy is dominant until 10 p.m. The energy of Kapha helps us to wind down and to notice the first signs of end-of-the-day fatigue. Its energy is heavy, steady and calm and perfect for preparing ourselves for better quality rest and a peaceful min. From 10 p.m. the Pitta energy takes over the lead. This energy rises and makes us active and mental busy. Ayurveda therefore recommends going to sleep during the Kapha time, this means before 10 p.m. It makes a big difference for our quality and quantity of sleep.

In addition, the following tools are extremely valuable to help us to come to rest: Gentle yoga exercises that ground and bring our energy down such as Yin Yoga, slow pranayamas such as alternate nostril breathing or meditation. Otherwise, it is recommended to massage the feet with warm sesame oil and an essential oil like Lavender. This also help to descend the energy in our body. And finally, the golden milk or turmeric milk (also made with plant milk) should be mentioned, which make it easier for us to fall asleep.

Are there specific sleeping tips for the individual Doshas?

In addition to the tips for Vata and Pitta that are already mentioned, the duration of sleep is also crucial. Vata needs the most sleep of all. They are not doing well without the mandatory eight hours. With a lot of stress, maybe even more. The eight hours are perfect for pitta, even if they usually don’t like it because they have so much to do.

Less sleep is recommended for Kapha only. Kapha usually has no problems falling asleep and sleeps well through the night. However, they find it difficult to get up. So it is important for them to get up before 6 a.m. As mentioned, the Vata movement principle is dominant between 2 and 6 o’clock in the morning. This movement gets us up more easily. But from 6 a.m. Kapha takes over again. And this energy makes it very difficult for us to get out of bed. With Kapha there is also the fact that a maximum of 7 to 7.5 hours of sleep is better and more relaxing than a longer sleep. This makes them too heavy and sluggish.

Do you want to learn more about your unique constitution, your Dosha? Take the quiz here

BONUS: Yoga and meditation videos for better sleep

Yoga Nidra Tibetan Singing Bowls Sound Bath for Anxiety Relief & Relaxation

Yoga For Bedtime – YUMMY sleepy time yoga with Adriene

A guided meditation for sleep from Deepak Chopra

What´s your type of self-sabotage? And how to overcome it.

What´s your type of self-sabotage? And how to overcome it.

Tantric concepts speak about 3 different flavours of self-sabotage we can experience. Before getting to that concept and looking at solutions of how to defeat them, let’s take a look at how self-sabotage can show up in our daily life.

Self-sabotage: When you’re your worst enemy

Self-sabotage is the tendency to make life difficult for yourself by setting limits and creating complications that prevent you from achieving your goals. This can happen consciously or subconsciously.

If you think back of your past, you will probably remember some situations where you could not achieve your goal without understanding why you failed. One possible explanation for this is self-sabotage. In the short term, it can protect you from failure. In the long run, however, it will also prevent you from having more success and developing yourself further. Consequently, people who sabotage themselves create obstacles because their subconscious is convinced that they cannot do what the situation requires.

Some sneaky signs that you do self-sabotage:

  • Lack of commitment and consistency.
  • You feel quite frustrated about your job. But are you actively trying to change it?
  • Your relationship has no basis anymore – nevertheless you continue it.
  • The course does not match your expectations and talents. But you still continue.
  • You don’t feel comfortable in the place you live in. However, you are not looking for other options and solutions.
  • You put on weight and don’t feel good about it. But are you doing more exercise and following a healthier diet?

Other typical variants of self-harming behaviour, as psychologists call it, are:

  • Postponing things that should really be done;
  • Not being able to say NO, even though we are feeling more and more stressed;
  • Putting other people’s interests first and thus increasingly suffer from your own unmatched needs;
  • Boycotting yourself by constantly reconsidering your own shortcomings and weaknesses or by convincing yourself. Typical sentences in this context are, for example: “It doesn’t work at all!”, “I can’t do it anyway.”, “Why should anyone care?”;
  • Distrusting others and tending to see the negative in people and accusing them of bad intentions;

The fear of success

When we get more successful, we may at the same time as well attract more attention and usually rise in reputation and hierarchy. For many it is a wonderful idea. But others, however, feel under pressure, insecure or even scared: with every triumph, their own demands on themselves and expectations from the outside increase.

Questions could rise up such as: Are there any shadow sides coming to light now? What was previously sufficient in terms of know-how may no longer be enough. Old, loved habits have to be abandoned, new ones have to be implemented. Moreover, you may wonder: Will there be still enough time for private life, for the family, for fun?

These worries and fears can all be part of the self-sabotage process. Let’s look now at the 3 different types of self-sabotage and how to overcome them.

What are the 3 different types of self-sabotage?

For understanding better which patterns of self-sabotage we might have, let’s take a teaching of tantric yoga. That will help to understand what happens in our body and mind when we start sinking our own ship and standing in our way. Often we tend towards one type predominantly but can experience a mix of them as well. There is always a lack of integrity that goes with it. We start to question ourselves or another person and to have doubts.

1. Mayiya Mala: contraction of the third eye

Mala is a Sanskrit word meaning amongst others impurity. The forehead chakra, often referred to as the third eye, is the sixth main chakra in the middle of the head, between the eyebrows and slightly above them. If this chakra is in harmony, we have a clear vision for our life path, follow our intuition and find it easy to express our deepest desires.

But if imbalanced, this type tends to measure and compare themselves and others. Often we can see wrinkles on the forehead. There is a huge tendency to judge and value oneself and others with the motivation to be the best or most successful person in something. This leads to a feeling of separation from the environment. The mind dominates and gets disconnected from the heart. As a result, this can lead to a feeling of inferiority or superiority. They are thriving for constant perfection and can get quite frustrated when not matching their own expectations. 

Emotions may arise such as feeling:
  • inferior or superior to others
  • tense esp. in the neck (e.g. headaches and migraines)
  • frustrated and defeated
  • lost
  • confused about what to do in life
  • overwhelmed
  • overcritical
The cure for this state:
  • The need to develop more self-love.
  • Organise your projects differently. Doing little steps towards your goals instead of wanting to do too much in a short time. You need to set realistic goals.
  • Develop more empathy and put yourself in other people’s shoes instead of judging them.
  • Start one new project or thing at a time and finish it.
  • Spend time in nature to deeply nourish yourself and to connect to yourself.
  • Meditate to connect with your own wisdom.
  • Give your critical mind a break and recognise how you separate and disconnect yourself from others. You have much more in common with others then you might think.

This flavour of self-sabotage is often seen at Pitta dosha types. You don´t know your dosha? Then take the test here.

2. Avana Mala: contraction of the heart chakra

The heart chakra is located in the middle of the chest at the height of the heart. If in balance, we can easily trust ourselves and others, give and receive love, feel devotion and are able to forgive and grieve. However, when our heart centre contracts, we will start feeling isolated, alone and misunderstood. We don’t reach out for help and hide our true feelings from others. As a result we can feel emotionally aloof, indifferent, hardened and have difficulties or refuse to allow real closeness in relationships.

Emotions may arise such as feeling:
  • unsupported
  • isolated
  • alone
  • unsafe
  • insecure
  • self-pitying
  • misunderstood

And these are exactly the things that we miss out on in our life. This can lead so far that we experience the world as an unsafe place to live in and do not want to trust anybody. 

The cure for this state:
  • Connect and reach out to others to lift yourself out of self isolation. Telling others how you really feel and with what you need help with.
  • Show our vulnerability and get seen. You will be surprised about how much closeness and connection you will experience when letting others see your true self.
  • Get the help you need in a specific thing e.g. creating a new habit to drink less alcohol, finding a new job, ending an unhealthy relationship, etc. 

People love to help and support each other but they need to see and feel that we are in trouble.

Vata doshas often tend to have contractions of the heart chakra.

3. Karma Mala: contraction of the solar plexus area

The word Karma is describing the result of a person’s actions, the cycle of cause and effect. As per the theory of karma, a person experiences what they caused by their actions. The third chakra, the solar plexus, spins around the area above the belly button up to the lower part of the chest, the sternum. If in balance we have will-power, self-confidence, drive, take responsibility and set limits. Having said this, we can easily detect when being contracted in the solar plexus area. As a result we will start procrastinating things that need to be done and hesitate to take action to get where we want to be. We might have the impression not to advance at all in our life but do not take action.

Emotions may arise such as feeling:
  • disorganised
  • apathetic
  • unable to act
  • passive
  • lethargic
  • frozen
  • disconnected
The cure for this state:
  • Stop procrastinating things.
  • Take action and get an accountability partner.
  • Do something! And if it is just a tiny baby-step.

Kapha doshas have a tendency towards Karma Mala.

Name your type of self-sabotage and write down how it shows up in your life. Tell someone about it and talk about your difficulties. Bringing light into the shadow helps to overcome the obstacles.

Eye Problems: Natural Remedies and Diet Tips from Chinese Medicine

Eye Problems: Natural Remedies and Diet Tips from Chinese Medicine

Understanding eye problems through TCM and Ayurveda

Eye problems can make day-to-day life harder and impact well-being and life quality. The most common eye disorders are: red, itchy, burning, dry and bloodshot eyes, as well as a yellowish tinge in the whites or sensitivity to light. Once you know which factors can trigger and aggravate these symptoms, you can start finding ways to reduce or even eliminate them. Moreover, there are natural remedies and diet tips you can apply to help heal eye imbalances.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine there is a saying: “The liver opens into the eyes.” That is why, we always treat the liver as well when seeing eye problems. When stress, overwork, feelings of anger and frustration and poor nutrition take over, the liver qi is no longer flowing harmoniously in the body. Therefore, the energy rises up and generates heat. As a result, it can manifest in forms of migraine-like headaches and eye problems. 

In Ayurvedic medicine we commonly see a Pitta imbalance at the root of eye problems. Meaning, that excess pitta in the form of heat is circulating in the system. Especially in summer, the season of pitta, we see more people suffering from itching, red and painful eyes when temperatures are rising. Whereas, dry and watery eyes are mainly caused by a Vata imbalance and often get worse in late autumn into early winter, the seasons of Vata.

Let´s look at the most common eye problems.

Healing your eyes with Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine wisdom

Red and itchy eyes

Redness and itchiness are signs of heat. Even if your eyes burn frequently, it can show an excess heat in the system. Consequently, we need to cool the liver and avoid things that produce heat.

The best foods to cool the liver are:

  • Green vegetables esp. broccoli, celery and courgette
  • Bitter salad
  • Artichoke
  • Cucumber
  • Watermelon
  • Turmeric and saffron
  • Dandelion
  • Peppermint and jasmine tea

While the following foods and drinks are best to avoid: alcohol, coffee, sausage, fried and grilled meat, leek, sugar and strong spices like chilli, pimento, cinnamon, ginger and pepper. Overconsumption of meat, shellfish and cacao can also lead to excess liver heat.

Also herbal infusions can help to reduce heat in the eyes. The best medicinal plants are:

  • Gentian root
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Chrysanthemum flowers

The following tea recipe from Chinese medicine helps to build up liver blood and to reduce heat in the eyes:

Take 1 tbsp chrysanthemum flowers and 1.5 tbsp goji berries. Steep into 500ml of boiling water for at least 10 minutes. Then drink over the day, ideally for a duration of around 2 weeks.

Chrysanthemum flowers are also recommended for conjunctivitis and high blood pressure. Because of their strong heat-clearing properties, it´s important to add goji berries to balance this strong effect. Another possibility is to prepare chrysanthemum flower tea, letting it cool off and to do an eye-wash.

Note: Never drink pure chrysanthemum flowers tea if suffering from low blood pressure. 

Ayurveda recommends washing the eyes with high-quality rose water. This will help soothe and hydrate the tired, red and itchy eyes and give them a refreshed look.

Very dry and / or watery eyes

These are both signs of liver blood deficiency in Chinese medicine. The liver stores the blood and if it gets deficient, the eyes are not enough moistened and get dry. Whereas, watery eyes, indicate that liver wind has risen up to the eyes due to the lack of blood. Furthermore, this can lead to sensitivity of pollen, light, wind or air conditioning. Simply, because the eyes are not able anymore to create a natural barrier to defend themselves from these external factors.

The following foods can help to rebuild liver blood if eaten regularly:

  • Broccoli
  • Cherry
  • Dark berries
  • Molasses or black treacle
  • Lamb´s lettuce
  • Date
  • Egg yolk
  • Carrot, parsnip and other root veggies
  • Lentil
  • Parsley
  • Pine nut
  • Beetroot
  • Black sesame paste

Especially the following things can cause dry and watery eyes: smoking, too much black tea and coffee, spicy foods, red wine, poor nutrition and long hours in front of a computer screen.

Ayurveda suggests drinking licorice tea and putting a drop of Triphala Ghee in the eyes. Also regular consumption of Triphala Ghee in your food preparation can support the healing process.

Yellow eyes

According to TCM, a yellowish tinge in the whites of the eyes is due to too much dampness and heat in the liver. Other signs can be grittiness that feels like sand in the eyes or sticky eyelids in the morning.

That´s why it´s important to avoid everything that produces more dampness like: sugar, white flour, wheat, cow’s milk, fried or oily and too much raw food. Foods that are especially good to reduce excess dampness are: apple, millet, miso, seaweed, radish, olive, kidney bean, mushroom and shiitake. See above for the diet recommendations for reducing excess heat.

A great herbal tea to reduce dampness and heat from the eyes is dandelion tea. Take 2 tbsp of dandelion roots and leaves. Then steep it for at least 15 minutes in 500ml cold water, bring to a boil and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. After that remove the herbs and drink at room temperature. Note: If you suffer from soft bowels or diarrhea, you should combine it with other herbs to counterbalance the strong cooling effect.

Amalaki, a famous ayurvedic plant, helps to reduce heat and strengthens the digestive fire to help reduce dampness in the body. Furthermore, it´s boosting immunity and supports healthy metabolism.

Are you looking for natural ways to improve and protect your eye sight and heal eye problems? Treatment options can vary widely and depend on the underlying conditions causing it. Get in touch with me for a personal  consultation. I am looking forward to hearing from you!

Foods, Herbs & Plants to Boost Natural Collagen Production

Foods, Herbs & Plants to Boost Natural Collagen Production

Collagen the Fountain of Youth

Who needs botox when there is collagen? One of the main organic components of the skin (80%) is collagen.

Collagen makes your skin elastic and is responsible for how tight or how flaccid and wrinkled it is. Besides being beneficial for a firm, smooth and glowing skin, it has other benefits on our health:

  • Supports bone health
  • Promotes vascular health
  • Keeps nails strong
  • Prevents hair loss
  • Supports eye health
  • Boosts immune system
  • Promotes joint and cartilage health
  • Supports gut health

Collagen – the inner corset of the body

Did you know that collagen is the most important fiber component of skin, bones, tendons, blood vessels, cartilage and teeth?

In the human body we find it mainly in the connective tissue. Collagen is the most important structural protein of the skin and works like an internal scaffold that holds our body together.

Collagen contains the three amino acids glycine, proline and hydroxyproline, which the body needs to produce its own collagen. A well-functioning collagen formation is essential for the health of our skin.

Our body independently forms the natural building substance daily with the help of certain cells, so-called fibroblasts. These store moisture and promote skin regeneration.

But unfortunately it doesn’t stay that way forever.

With aging the collagen breaks down faster than it is formed. As a result new collagen forms, but more slowly until the collagen renewal lags behind the breakdown.

The result: our skin becomes dull, lacklustre and wrinkles form.

So what to do to keep the skin firm and beautiful for a long time?

Collagen-boosting foods, plants and herbs

There are several foods, plants and herbs that help to boost collagen and promote a more youthful looking and radiant skin. Feed your skin beauty from the inside-out.

Foods rich in Collagen

Bone broth, chicken fricassee, fish, shell fish, egg white and gelatine.

TIP: Vitamin C is important for collagen synthesis. The body needs a sufficient supply to produce collagen. To get the most out of your collagen intake, always pair it with vitamin C. Find a list of vitamin C rich foods here.

Aloe vera

Rich in vitamin A and C, antioxidants and highly anti-inflammatory it is a great remedy for the skin. It can be applied topically or taken orally. It has been used for healing wounds, burns and cuts for ages. Find here my recipe for “Skin Boost Smoothie.

Holy basil

An Indian herb used in Ayurvedic medicine. Due to its antioxidant actions it helps with irritations such as acne, eczema and cleans pores and treats successful blemishes. It contains ursolic acid which help protect the skin and has as well anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. Furthermore, it increases the elasticity and, as a result reduces wrinkles.

Pearl powder (Zhen Zhu)

One of the most used Chinese herbs for a glowing complexion and can be found in pills, tooth pastes and face masks. It´s rich in many trace minerals, amino acids, boosts antioxidants and fibroblasts in the body.

Huang Qi

It´s commonly used in beauty formulas as it increases the blood flow to the skin. As a result it flushes out toxins and fights free radicals and acts as a great immune system booster. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial actions help the skin to maintain its firmness and elasticity.

Schizandra (Wu Wei Zi)

Another Chinese herb that is considered to be a great anti-aging herb. It is said to protect fibroblasts from UV radiation and to eliminate stress-related signs of fatigue. Furthermore, it detoxifies and protects the liver.

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM herbs.

Chinese medicine offers as well Gua Sha for the face, a specific type of facial massage with a scraping tool to encourage circulation, lymph flow and to smooth wrinkles. Learn more about it and save your spot at my next online live workshop.

Gua Sha Face Massage – Get rid of Wrinkles and Pimples Naturally

 

Online Facial Gua Sha Course

Pamper your skin with the treatment once reserved for Chinese royalty. This course will provide you with the Gua Sha techniques to use as part of your home beauty regime.

Encourage your collagen where you want to, tighten facial muscles, move your lymphs and remove puffiness for a younger and brighter looking face.