Ayurveda & Karma: Conscious Actions For Better Results In Life & Health

For every action, there is a reaction….

In this blog, you’ll understand how our actions have a direct impact on our wellbeing, and how over time, our everyday habits can build up to create an internal environment that either encourages health or disease within us. Dive in, and perhaps contemplate the reflective questions too.

One of the wonderful things Ayurveda teaches us, is how to make more conscious decisions. By learning from the wisdom of this ancient ‘science of life’, we can shine a light on previously unconscious, unhelpful habits, and by bringing them into the light of awareness, make a decision as to whether we want to continue with them, or make a change. Living more seasonally, being aware of our individual prakriti (your original ‘dosha’ or ‘original nature’), and how each season may affect us, can all help us navigate life in a more present and engaged manner. 

Every action has a reaction

None of our actions are done in isolation or within a vacuum. A lot of what we experience in terms of happiness, sadness, illness, discomfort, wellbeing, weight gain, weight loss, pain and pleasure, are an accumulation and result of our actions. The law of karma reasons that every action has a reaction, and when we observe how we’ve been living over the past several months or years, this can give us a clue as to why we might be feeing the way we feel right now. Indeed, this very moment is a result of every one of your past actions!

Ayurveda understands that even the foods we eat give an accumulative result. It can take around a month for all the dhatus (tissues) of the body to be nourished; from the first layer of the rasa dhatu, or ‘plasma’, to the deepest layer of the shukra dhatu, the reproductive system. Building nourishing Ojas energy (vital essence related to fertility and restoration of the nervous system) requires all layers of the body to be penetrated with good fats, good thoughts, and loving care for at least a month, for example. What we do today will impact tomorrow, and if we want real change to occur, consistency is the key. In the very same way, if we want to remove something from our system physically, mentally or energetically, what we do today will help to gradually clear the space over the coming days, weeks, months and years.  

We can feel the results of our actions most profoundly after consuming too many hot spices, after too much alcohol, too little sleep, or through too much or too little physical activity. Whilst these more obvious sensations can be noticed more easily, recognising the smaller imbalances and preventing issues from occurring in the first place is a more beneficial way to maintain health and wellbeing. The transition from one season to another is a perfect time to reflect upon how you’ve been living for the past season, what you may need to clear from your body, what you may need to bring in, and anything you may want to change. At the end of Winter and beginning of Spring, we will have accumulated more heavy Kapha energy (in the form of cool, heavy, stable, mucus-y qualities), which needs to be ‘cleansed’ from the systems before we enter into Spring (which is already a season abundant in Kapha energy). If we can re-set the body between each season, we’ll be able to prevent issues like seasonal colds and flu, feeling too heavy or too scattered, feeling too hot or inflamed, and will be able to prevent dry skin and digestive issues too. 

All it takes is more attention given to what we’re doing. So try reflecting this week:

  1. How do I feel? What are the qualities I’m noticing in myself at the moment? Heat, coldness, heaviness, lightness?
  2. What have I been doing recently that may have contributed to these feelings? Have I been eating too much hot and spicy food? Have I been moving enough, or too much? Have I spent a lot of time on screens? 
  3. What simple changes can I adopt to clear away what I no longer need in my body and mind?
  4. What qualities or practices do I want and need to bring into my life right now?

Another Note on Karma

A traditional viewpoint within Ayurveda, is the concept of Karma as it is thought of in the Hindu religion. This way of viewing Karma tells us that we are each born with karmic influences ‘attached’ to us from past lives, and also from our parents, and our culture. These karmic imprints within us influence our dosha, and the types of issues we are predisposed to. For example; if you are born with a Pitta dominant mind-body type, it is likely that you’re more predisposed to a job where you have an aspect of power, or a job that is linked to high-pressure, stressful situations that require straight-forward and logical problem-solving. You may also be predisposed to issues such as anger, inflammation, and find yourself stuck in a cycle of stress and burnout throughout your life. Feeling ‘addicted’ to intense exercise and spicy foods, but suffering from their effects later, is also a common occurrence with those naturally high in Pitta energy. 

Whichever dosha you are, and whatever issues seem to manifest in your life, these are said to be products of Karma, and exist because they are lessons we need to learn from in order to overcome, grow, learn and evolve spiritually. Addictions, anxieties, eating disorders and depression may even run through families or entire cultures, if the lessons are not fully learned and ‘digested’. It’s important to consider this aspect of Karma, as it can give us an insight into the deeper meaning behind the workings of our mind and body. Do you feel there’s perhaps a lesson to be learned from your stress or anxiety? Do you feel you need to learn something from an illness that continually causes you discomfort in life? These questions are all part of Ayurveda’s deeper healing methods. 

Healthy Red Velvet Cake

Yes, you really can have cake for breakfast! Completely gluten free, free of flour and refined sugar, and full of healthy ingredients. Whip this up for luxurious yet totally healthy dessert, or keep it in the fridge to slice and devour throughout the week. If you don’t consume eggs, try using 2 tbsp apple puree per egg, or make ‘flax’ eggs by mixing 2 tbsp flax with 4 tbsp water per egg.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium – to – large beetroot
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • Small amount of water
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 squares dark chocolate, melted
  • 4 tbsp ground almonds
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil + a little more for greasing
  • 4 tbsp cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda 
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup

FILLING & FROSTING INGREDIENTS

  • 5 tbsp Greek yoghurt or coconut yoghurt
  • 2 tsp beetroot powder (optional)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup, or 2 tsp stevia

METHOD

  1. Chop the beetroot into chunks and add to a pan
  2. Add just enough water to almost cover the beetroot, and steam for 10 minutes until soft
  3. Take off the heat and leave to cool for a couple of minutes and pre-heat the oven to 175C
  4. Add the bananas, beetroot and beetroot water to a blender and whizz to create a puree
  5. In a large mixing bowl, combine the puree and all other ingredients and mix briefly to form a cake-batter consistency
  6. Grease 2 20cm cake tins with coconut oil and divide the mixture evenly between them
  7. Place on the bottom shelf of the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the two halves are springy when gently pressed
  8. Remove from the oven and leave for a couple of minutes, then remove from the cake tins and leave to cool completely

For the filling & frosting

  1. Mix all frosting ingredients together in a large bowl
  2. Scoop half the mixture onto the bottom layer of cake and use a spatula or knife to spread gently, all the way to the edge
  3. Place the next layer of cake on top, then smooth over the second scoop of frosting
  4. Decorate with a sprinkle of cocoa, cacao nibs or goji berries if you have them
  5. Enjoy! 

Coconut Oil-Pulling Pops

If your 2021 new year’s resolution was to look after your health and wellbeing a little more, this is a simple way to care for your mouth, digestive tract, and essentially your entire body! Especially for those who identify as ‘Pitta’ types, these oil pulling pops are a daily self-care tool that can help you feel cooler and more balanced. To find out your Dosha type, click HERE.

Oil pulling is an ancient technique that remains highly relevant and effective today. Before the invention of plastic toothbrushes, cleaning the mouth was a longer (and possibly more effective) process of using oils, herbal sticks, and medicated mouth washes. Today, oil pulling has become a popular practice amongst those studying holistic health practices, with the most commonly used oil being coconut. Oil pulling can be effective for preventing tooth decay, cleansing the digestive tract and sinuses, more deeply cleaning the mouth, strengthening the gums and teeth and providing a gentle daily detox. Although swishing coconut oil around the mouth is indeed beneficial, there are actually many different oils and techniques that can be utilised depending upon each person’s unique needs, the season, their age, and any imbalances they may currently be experiencing.

The classical Ayurvedic text Charaka Samhita describes the benefits of oil pulling:
“It is beneficial for strength of jaws, depth of voice, flabbiness of face, improving gustatory sensation and good taste for food. One used to this practice never gets dryness of throat, nor do his lips ever get cracked; his teeth will never be carious and will be deep rooted; he will not have any toothache nor will his teeth set on edge by sour intake; his teeth can chew even the hardest eatables.
– Charaka Samhita Ch V. 78 to 80.

To help more people benefit from ancient Ayurvedic wisdom, I love coming up with ways to make these practices more accessible and easier to do. This recipe creates small pieces of coconut oil you can simply ‘pop’ into your mouth, making the practice very convenient and something that slips seamlessly into your morning routine when you have time. Coconut oil is considered the most appropriate oil to use for Pitta types, any Pitta imbalances (such as mouth ulcers, acid reflux, or excessive heat in the body, and during Summer). To practice, simply pop one of the coconut oil pieces into your mouth, and ‘swish’ it around. The coconut oil will melt, so you can continue swishing for anything from 5 to 20 minutes. Spit the used oil into the bin, and clean your teeth afterwards.

INGREDIENTS

(makes roughly 10 tbsp size pieces, depending upon the size of your moulds or ice cube tray)

  • 1⁄4 cup melted coconut oil
  • OPTIONAL: 2 drops edible, therapeutic-grade peppermint essential oil

METHOD

  1. Gently melt the coconut oil, and pour into your moulds (you could use an ice cube tray, or mouldsyou may use for making small chocolates with)
  2. Add the essential oils if using. These must be edible, high-grade oils if you’re going to put them inyour mouth, otherwise the oil is more than beneficial enough without them.
  3. Place in the fridge and leave to set for 2 hours or overnight
  4. Once set, transfer the coconut oil pieces to a jar and keep in the bathroom. Store in the fridgeduring hot months, as the oil will melt as temperatures rise.

Enjoy! Use daily or when you notice an increase of physical or emotional ‘heat’ or irritability.

Tulsi Latte Recipe

When it comes to dealing with day-to-day stress, what we eat and drink can play a huge role. Adaptogens are natural herbs and remedies that literally help the body and mind ‘adapt’ to stress. They reduce excess cortisol, help balance hormone levels, improve attention and endurance, and help nourish the adrenals. To read more on methods to nourish your adrenal glands and help your mind and body relax, read my recent YogaMatters blog HERE.

Tulsi is one of Ayurveda’s favourite adaptogens, as it helps reduce stress and blood pressure, promotes clarity, is great for respiratory health, and aids in reducing inflammation. 

As well as my Turmeric Chai and Cosy Chai recipes, this is a great tonic to drink a couple of times a week to help balance your mind and body. This particular recipe also helps maintain healthy digestion and joint health. Give it a try!

INGREDIENTS 

(Serves 2)

  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom 
  • 2 tsp tulsi powder (organic)
  • 2 tsp coconut oil or ghee
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup milk (organic dairy or plant-based)

METHOD

  1. Add all ingredients other than the milk to a pan and bring to a simmer.
  2. Simmer for 10 mins, then add the milk 
  3. Use a whisk or fork to froth the liquid, latte style
  4. Strain into 2 mugs and add honey to sweeten if you like 

Enjoy!

Cosy Chai Recipe

When the day is grey, cold, damp and blustery, we benefit from bringing in the opposite qualities, such as warth, stillness, cosiness, and even herbs and spices that are slightly drying. These aspects can all help to balance the Vata and Kapha doshas, which are more likely to become excessive during Winter. Towards the end of Winter especially, the heavy, sluggish and cold nature of Kapha means it’s time to add a generous amount of spice to foods and drinks! Try this classic chai recipe, which is great to sip from your favourite mug, or keep it topped up in a flask throughout the day, so you’re getting a nice big dose of warmth into your body. If you’re not sure what the ‘doshas’ are, click HERE.

INGREDIENTS

Serves 2

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 5 cloves 
  • Pinch of black pepper 
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 2 tsp honey

METHOD

  1. Add all the spices and water to a large pot, and simmer gently for 20 minutes, or until the water has reduced by half.
  2. Turn off the heat and add 2 black teabags to the pot. Cover and steep for 5 minutes (or longer if you want a stronger brew).
  3. Strain into 2 mugs, pour in the milk and stir in honey

Enjoy!

Nourishing Comfrey, Calendula & Shea Butter Balm

During colder months, especially when the air is drier and we’re more exposed to windy, changeable weather, our bodies and minds can accumulate a Vata imbalance. Vata is one of the Ayurvedic doshas made up of the air and ether (or ‘space’) elements, and is characterised by qualities of lightness, irregularity, dryness, coldness, brittleness, roughness, and an energy that causes movement. When we have a good amount of Vata energy within us, we generally feel open to change, adventurous, creative, talkative, imaginative, and energetic. Too much Vata energy however (known as having a Vata imbalance) can feel like anxiety, feeling ‘ungrounded’, fearful, fragile, weak, and with physical issues related to the air and ether elements like dry and cracking joints, dry skin, bloating and gas, and cold hands and feet.

As of writing this blog, the UK is currently in another ‘lockdown’ situation, in the middle of January. The combination of these two factors (one being cold weather and dry air, the other being the unpredictability of when restrictions will be lifted, and mounting fear in the air) means most of us are susceptible to having a Vata imbalance right now. If you feel more anxious than usual, scattered, ungrounded, or if you’re suffering from aching joints and dry skin, you may have excessive Vata energy within you. Check out THIS blog on recognising a Vata imbalance, THIS blog on managing it, and THIS recipe to help you feel warm and grounded.

Another important factor in calming Vata energy is to massage the feet regularly, and to prevent them from becoming dry. This recipe uses comfrey oil – known for strengthening and healing bones and ligaments, moisturising shea butter, calendula flowers – known for helping reduce dry skin issues and calming any irritation, and sesame oil, which is particularly nourishing and thought of as the best oil for Vata Dosha. Rub this on your feet before or after heading out for a walk, and before you go to bed (pull on some warm socks after massaging in the balm to help it soak in).

INGREDIENTS

Makes roughly 1 cup or 1 jam jar’s worth

  • 4 tbsp cup comfrey oil
  • 1 handful calendula petals
  • Just under 3/4 cup shea butter
  • 4 tbsp sesame oil
  • Frankincense essential oil (optional – beneficial for joints)

METHOD

  1. In a heavy-bottomed pan, add the sesame and comfrey oil, and calendula petals
  2. Heat the mixture very gently, only until it seems like it’s about to simmer (do not let it simmer) then turn off the heat. Leave the mixture for 20 minutes in the warm oil, and repeat this process 4 more times. (Choose a day when you’re going to be at home for a few hours!)
  3. After you’ve done this 4 times, the calendula and oils will have infused. Add the shea butter, and heat gently one more time to melt.
  4. Once everything is combined, turn off the heat and leave for another 20 minutes so you get the most out of this infusion. You can even leave the mixture overnight and re-heat the next day if you want it to be stronger.
  5. Strain the oil and butter through a sieve or cheesecloth into your jar to remove the petals, and add 8 drops frankincense oil if using.
  6. Discard the petals (or add a few for decoration)
  7. Place the mixture in a cool place for a few hours until set

Enjoy! I like to keep this on my bedside table to remind me to use it often.

The 3 Ayurvedic Mind-Body Types

CLICK HERE to skip straight to the blog.

As many of us have spent more time at home and in our own company over the past several months, perhaps this has encouraged more self-reflection. Have you been prioritising self-care? Do you feel ‘balanced’ and ‘harmonised’ in life? How do you feel from season-to-season, and at different times of day?

Ayurveda teaches us that we’re intimately connected to nature and the qualities and elements around us. Although we’re all made up of the elements earth, water, fire, air and ether, some of us may be more ‘earthy’, whilst others have more ‘fire’ energy in them. Whichever of the elements are most dominant within your body and mind make up your unique ‘dosha’, which refers to your Ayurvedic mind-body type. When you know which dosha you relate to most, you’ll know the best daily habits, foods and herbs to help keep you in balance.

I’ve recently collaborated with the Healthy Living Store to provide an insight into Ayurveda, and in return, I’m able to provide you all with discount at their eco-friendly, ethical and beautiful online shop. Read the blog HERE and use the code EMMA5 for 5% off your order.

Miracle Mask For Dry Winter Skin

This is such a simple yet effective DIY face mask, and can transform dry, irritated skin to smooth, moisturised loveliness in just 15 minutes! The ingredients in this recipe are all nourishing, rejuvenating, hydrating and gentle. You’ll have enough in this recipe to use a few times, or to share with someone who also needs a helping hand with dry Winter skin!

I N G R E D I E N T S

  • 1/4 cup oats
  • 2 tsp honey (raw and organic if possible)
  • 2 tbsp milk (again, the quality is important. We use raw and organic milk from a local farm, but if you’re able to get whole milk – not semi-skimmed or non-fat! -, that’ll work well too. The fats are very nourishing and an important part of the rejuvenating properties of milk itself).
  • Optional: 1 tbsp calendula petals

M E T H O D

  1. Add the oats and calendula (if using) to a blender, and whizz until they’re finely ground
  2. Now add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well to create a thick paste
  3. Spread the mixture over your face, focussing on particularly dry areas, and leave on for 15 minutes
  4. Wash off with warm water, using your hands to gently exfoliate your skin with the oats in a circular motion
  5. Once clean, splash with cold water to refresh your face, and pat dry. Apply a good quality moisturiser afterwards. I love Urban Veda’s Radiance Day Cream to keep skin soft during the Winter months. Use the code emma10 for 10% off your order!

Black Bean Brownie Recipe

Honestly, if you didn’t know there were high-protein, high-fibre and entirely healthy black beans in this recipe, you’d never guess! We love a healthy dessert in our house, especially if it involves chocolate, and this recipe is satisfyingly chocolatey. If you can’t get your hands on black beans, try cannellini or butter beans instead, as they work just as well. Prep this at the weekend, and you’ll have something delicious, filling and sweet (without being sugary) on-hand all week. You could definitely eat this for breakfast too…

INGREDIENTS 

  • 1 can black beans
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 scoop protein powder (optional) – I use Love Life Supplements protein powder, use the code EMMAN-LLS10 for 10% off!
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar or 2 tsp stevia
  • 1 small handful blueberries 
  • 2 tbsp chopped cashews 
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 3 – 4 tbsp milk of choice (I used oat milk)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

METHOD 

  1. Add all ingredients other than the blueberries and cashews to a blender
  2. Pulse until the mixture is smoothish 
  3. Pour into a baking tin and stir in the nuts and berries
  4. Bake at 175c for about 20 minutes 

Enjoy! 

Nourishing Almond & Rose Milk

When you’re in need – or simply in the mood – to make yourself something nourishing and truly lovely for yourself, try this easy, milky, non-dairy drink. Inspired by a traditional Ayurvedic drink of blended almonds consumed first thing in the morning, this is a great recipe to help boost your ojas (a word referring to ‘vital essence’, and what I like to call your ‘juiciness’, the stuff that supports your body, your mood and your hormones).

Soak the almonds overnight, then pop them out of their shells before blending to make them more easily digestible. Enjoy warm in winter to reduce the vata dosha (you’ll know you have a lot of this energy in you if you’re feeling scattered, anxious, cold, achy, and ungrounded) or cool in Summer to reduce the pitta dosha (which if excessive, can resent as irritability, inflammation, frustration, acne or rashes, and acid reflux. 

This recipe is from the upcoming Ayurveda Inspired e-recipe book, available soon!

I N G R E D I E N T S

Serves 1

  • 5 almonds (soaked and peeled)
  • 1 tsp food-grade dried rose petals
  • Crushed seeds from 1 cardamom pod
  • Pinch of good quality salt
  • 1 date (stone removed!)
  • Optional – pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 cup filtered water

M E T H O D

  1. Add everything to a blender and whizz 
  2. Pour into a pan to warm up, or straight into your favourite mug and enjoy.