So, welcome to The heat is on (2). I talked yesterday about the 5 step approach that Ayurveda takes to balancing the doshas and maintaining good health and wellbeing. As it is Summer I will be focusing on the Pitta Dosha over the next number of posts, looking at how to identify excess heat in the body and practices that help to pacify it applying the 5 step Ayurvedic approach.
So the first step of course is being able to identify or recognise excess heat in the body, or even better rising heat in the body so that you can address it with Pitta pacifying practices and diet.
HOW TO IDENTIFY EXCESS HEAT IN THE BODY
Pitta as I mentioned yesterday in The heat is on is comprised of fire and water, predominantly fire right? Its primary function is transformation. It is the force of metabolic activity in the body. Irrespective of your own individual constitution, any bodily functions that require heat are Pitta functions. Like what? Well, like production of hormones or digestive enzymes, the regulation of body temperature and visual perception. Any organs that are involved in these functions are pitta organs, such as your liver, pancreas, gall bladder and duodenum.
Heat is a necessary element for proper functioning of bodily processes and when your Pitta is balanced all works perfectly. The problems arise when we have too much heat, if we cannot eliminate that excess through our sweat, urine or stools, it causes problems, just like an engine when it over-heats. It makes sense therefore that Summer time aggravates Pitta as it is generally the hottest time of the year, fanning those Pitta flames in all of us.
This excess heat manifests physically in some of the following ways:
fevers, profuse sweating, burning sensations generally like heartburn or stinging eyes or a burning sensation when you pee. Headaches and migraines. Redness and irritation such as spot breakouts, acne, and rashes. Acidity generally such as indigestion. Increased salivation, sore throat, inflammation generally, excessive appetite, diarrhoea or watery stools, going to the toilet more frequently whether to pee or poo.
Excess Pitta can also manifest as an alteration in our mental and emotional state, as anger, frustration, quick temper and impatience, (like the road rage example I gave yesterday). It can also manifest as irritability, jealousy, weakness of the senses, restlessness, violent emotions, loss of sleep, dizziness and fainting.
Have you witnessed this excess heat in others or yourself lately? Have you noticed your friends complaining about spot break outs or headaches? Have you felt more irritable, ratty or impatient? Now that I have mentioned it, you will probably start to notice it more and more. Never fear however, Ayurveda is here to help bring you back to balance.
THE 5 STEP APPROACH
As previously discussed Ayurveda takes a 5 step approach comprising:
- Lifestyle and daily routine
- Yoga -meditation, pranayama and asana practices
- Manual Treatments such as massage
Today we are going to look at a yoga meditation practice that has many benefits and as such can be practiced at any time whether Summer or not, whether you are experiencing a Pitta imbalance or not, however it is also a very effective Pitta pacifying practice.
Meditation is a word that is bandied about a lot these days. Many people have no idea what it is. Others think they are meditating when really they are not. Meditation starts with concentration, but it is not concentration. Unless you are able to concentrate or focus the mind however, you cannot meditate. Some of us don’t know where to start with meditation even if we have the desire. The practice we will look at today is called Trakata, literally candle gazing. It is a tool to help develop concentration and as such this is also a very good practice to prepare you for meditation. It is one of the cleansing techniques in yoga.
THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE
The great thing about Trakata to my mind is that it takes just 5 minutes and who doesn’t have 5 minutes? Of course you can do it for longer but as with all yoga practices the important thing is to do some form of it consistently, rather than do nothing for months and binge on it with lengthy practices for a week and then forget all about it again. Trakata can easily be fit into your day and is something you can even do together with your family.
I was first introduced to it at a Yoga Retreat in Nepal at The Himalayan International Yoga Academy. A truly wonderful place which I cannot recommend enough, here is the link if you are interested –(http://www.yogainnepal.com/index.html)
Whilst it is said that the best time of the day to do any form of meditation is dawn or dusk on an empty stomach, we used to do it after dinner at this retreat because it worked perfectly in our schedule at that time. It prepared us for sleep. So whilst the are always optimal times to do things, it is better to do them perhaps not at the optimal time, but to do them, rather than not do them at all. If you are using this practice as a Pitta pacifying practice it would be a good one to do before bed as excess Pitta can lead to loss of sleep and this may help you to nod off more easily.
So without further ado……
TRAKATA – THE PRACTICE
Place a lit candle on a table exactly at eye height about 2-3 feet in front of you.
Sit in a comfortable position with your spine upright and your arms and shoulders relaxed.
Close your eyes and take a few moments to still your mind.
Open your eyes and gaze at the flame, without blinking. Try to avoid any kind of movement through the practice
If thoughts come up in your mind, be aware of them but don’t get attached, just let them float by like clouds in the sky
Do this until your eyes start to water and you can no longer keep them open, then slowly close them and try to retain the image of the flame at the point of your ajna chakra, your third eye, the space between your eyebrows at the centre of your forehead.
The depth and level of your concentration will determine how clear the after-image is.
When you start to lose the image, try to hold on to it that little bit longer.
When you lose it, bring your awareness back to your breath for 5 or 10 breaths then open your eyes and repeat the process.
Do this three or four times and at the end rub both palms together to build heat and then gently place them over the closed eyes, breathe in slowly to release stress. After a few breaths open the eyes
In the beginning you may find that your eyes begin to water after only a few minutes, however with practice your eyes will be able to continue the gaze for longer periods and you can practice Trakata for up to 20 minutes.
TRAKATA – THE BENEFITS
I really love this practice and to my mind one of the most wonderful things about it is that it is perhaps easier to incorporate into your day than other forms of meditation. You can do it as a family together at the table before serving dinner, or after dinner if that is more convenient. Not only will consistent practice help you still the mind, or come to a non-dreaming mind, at least for 5 minutes a day but it has lots of additional benefits, not least of which is that it is a very good Pitta pacifying practice and in addition it:
- improves eyesight and vision
- improves concentration, intelligence and memory
- excellent preparation for mantra meditation
- enhances self-confidence, patience and willpower
- develops greater work efficiency and productivity
- calms the mind and provides inner peace and silence
- brings greater clarity in the mind and improves decision making ability
- helps to overcome mental, behavioural and emotional ailments
- provides stress relief and deep relaxation
- deepens the sleep and cures sleep related disorders such as headache, insomnia, nightmares etc
- promotes clairvoyance or perception of subtle manifestations
Now that is a helluva lot of health benefits for just 5 minutes of your time in a day!!!!
If you try it, especially with the family I would love to hear how you got on with it. Were the kids receptive to it? They often find it easier to concentrate than the adults, and can retain the after image clearer for longer.
That’s it for today, stay tuned over the coming week for more information tips and guidelines to help you pacify that excess heat in the body with diet, yoga practice, lifestyle and massage, so that you can enjoy the sunshine without ‘boiling over’!!
Now if you will excuse me, I gotta go gaze at a candle!!
Until next time beautiful souls
Please note if you have low blood pressure or epilepsy do not use a candle flame but rather something that is completely static, you can for example use a black dot on a white piece of paper.