Ayurveda, “the sience of life” magazine
Welcoming the arrival of a new life is of paramount importance to all communities. The way communities usher a new life varies from one to another. Ayurveda is one unique way.
Ayurveda is a traditional Hindu system of medicine practiced in India since the first century A.D. It is interesting to note that ‘ayur’ means ‘life’ and ‘veda’ means ‘knowledge’.
According to Ayurveda, people are classified into three elemental constitutions. Namely, Vatta (wind), Pitta (fire) and Kapha (water). (Please refer to the constitution chart at the end of this article) A well-adjusted healthy body is achieved by following an appropriate and balanced natural diet based on one’s unique constitution. This principle is similar to the Chinese practice of Yin and Yang. Other Asian cultures also share such principle.
Ayurveda teaches that there are seven biological tissues in the body, which must be cleansed thoroughly for new life to begin. These biological tissues are namely rasa (plasma), rakta (blood tissue), mamsa (muscle tissue), meda (adipose tissue or fat tissue), asthi (bone tissue, including cartilage), majja (bone marrow and nerve tissues) and the highly developed reproductive tissues called shukra and artava.
Ayurveda’s approach to pregnancy and infant care is spiritual. Man and woman, as parents of the future generation, have to plan for proper pregnancy and proper parenting. First of all, there is an absolute need to understand one’s unique constitution (prakruti).
Having done so, prospective parents may then embark on a purification or cleansing program. For this purpose, there are five important cleansing methods- vaman, virechan, basti, nasya and rakta moksha, collectively known as panchakarma.
Vaman is vomiting therapy or cleansing of kapha from the stomach, the mucous membrane, the lymphatics and the connective tissues of the lungs. Excessive kapha in the system must be eliminated in order to minimize problems for the newborn baby. This kapha-type of cleansing is necessary for the kapha-type parents. Vaman is done with licorice tea, vomiting nut tea, salt water or bitter herbs.
The second important cleansing is virechan, which is cleansing of pitta through purgation; senna, aloe vera powder, psyllium husk or certain herbal combination are used to cleanse pitta from the intestine, gall bladder and liver. Virechan is necessary for pitta parents.
The next important cleansing is basti. Basti means medicated enema. Ayurveda uses different herbal teas, concoctions, medicated oils and ghee in basti. Basti acts on the colon, an important site of vata dosha. These herbal concoctions and medicated oils used in basti eliminate vata dosha from the deep connective tissues through the colon. Basti treatment is very important for the vata-type parents.
So before pregnancy, it is very important to use vaman in a kapha person, virechan in a pitta person, and basti in a vata person.
Nasya is the administration of certain herbal powders, herbals teas, concoctions, fresh juice or herbal ghee into the nose. The nose is the ‘door’ to the brain, the consciousness as well as prana (wisdom). Putting a few drops of herbal concoctions or medicated oils into the nose will cleanse the upper part of the body; the brain, the sinuses, the throat, the thymus and the thyroid. This will bring clarity of consciousness and purity of prana.
The last method of purification for the blood is done through rakta moksha, which includes blood letting. Leeches were used in ancient times to remove impure blood from the skin or superficial fascia. Ayurdeva suggests certain herbal methods, concoctions, and preparations for blood purification since blood letting is not practised in our modern times. After purifying the blood, the entire system and every organ in the body is now ready for conception.
Next, one has to choose the right season (to conceive) according to one’s constitution. Ayurveda interprets conception and pregnancy as spiritually sowing the seed and cultivating the crop. The right season has to be chosen for particular seeds. Summer is the season when pitta is dominant in the body, vata is predominant in the fall, kapha in the winter and spring is a time for kapha and pitta as well. Naturally, a vata man should avoid impregnating his wife during fall, because the male seed carries significant vatagenic qualities. Similarly, a pitta person is to avoid sowing his seed during summer, and a kapha person should avoid doing so during winter and spring. Likewise, a vata person can plan to conceive during summer or spring, a pitta person during spring or winter, and a kapha person in the fall. The proper choice of season is important so that the predominant dosha of the parents will not be aggravated in the fetus.
Right season also includes the ‘fertile’ period of a woman’s menstrual cycle, which is between the 5th to 15th days when she is ‘in heat’. During this period, her heart is filled with love and compassion and is the most ideal time to conceive.
In planning for a baby, it is most important to take into consideration the constitutions of both parents. For instance, if both are Kapha, which is heavy, oily, cold and liquid, these qualities will manifest in the fetus and subsequently, baby born of kapha parents will be chuddy and will have more mucous problems. The same goes for pitta. Pitta is hot, sharp, penetrating, and sour, and when both parents are pitta, these qualities will be manifested through their seeds into the fetus. The baby born will have juvenile pitta disorders such as jaundice.
Ayurveda explains the woman’s menstruation spiritually as a cleansing process and therefore not an auspicious period for relationships. During menstruation, the egg for the next potential conception begins to mature in the ovary and is particularly susceptible to influences from the mother’s activities. When the egg waits in vain for the sperm to arrive, the womb ‘weeps’; thus menstruation is an emotional as well as physical cleansing ritual.
Planning for pregnancy involves a good balance of one’s lifestyle and diet with special considerations to one’s constitution. A vata woman should avoid eating vatagenic food (such as black beans, pinto beans, aduki beans, garbanzo beans, potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant or dried fruits) during menstruation or ovulation. Similarly, a pitta woman should avoid pittagenic food (such as jalapeno peppers and hot food). In the same way, a kapha woman should avoid eating dairy products, ice cream, candy, chocolate and cookies. Whatever she eats or does during this period will have an effect on her egg, and the same goes for the man. He should also follow the same diet and the same natural laws to create a good balance of his own constitution.
Ayurveda places great importance to love making. Sex should be sacred and pure. It is the meeting of two consciousness, two bodies and two polarities; and the couple should be totally immersed in love, compassion and care. Ayurveda says that the best time to have sex is between 9:00 and 11:00PM. Daytime sex weakens the kidneys, midnight sex weakens the liver and sex during dawn weakens the colon.
One is also advised to take rejuvenating herbs (rasayanta) to rejuvenate the tissues as part of the pregnancy plan. A vata woman can take ashwagandha, a pitta woman can take shatavari, and a kapha woman takes punarnava.
During intercourse, the man and woman should meditate and visualize the child. If one desires to have a child like Jesus Christ, Krishna, Buddha or a realized soul, one should have pictures of those great saints in the bedroom. Look at those pictures, meditate upon them and send that message to the sperm and ovum.
The woman and man, while making love, are totally one. In that oneness, great compassion and love take place. There is a little secret here. If the man breathes more through the right nostril and if the woman breathes more through the left nostril, then a male child will be conceived. If the man breathes more through the left nostril and the woman breathes more through the right nostril, a female child will be conceived. But if both the man and woman breathe evenly through both nostrils at the same time, the conceived fetus cannot survive. It may be aborted by miscarriage or some type of congenial deformity may develop.
Furthermore, if the sperm and egg meet when the moon is full, the baby conceived would be very intelligent. The mother may adjust her reproductive cycle naturally to coincide with the lunar cycle by inviting a female friend who has a different menstrual rhythm to stay over for a couple of days. Woman living together are known to influence each’s menstrual rhythms.
Having conceived, the larger part of the responsibility falls on the mother to maintain a proper diet and general wellness. The mother has to follow a proper diet according to her constitution. For example, a vata mother should avoid vata-producing food and vata-producing exercises (such as jogging and jumping). During pregnancy, a woman should take calcium, magnesium, folic acid and certain mineral and vitamin supplements. She should not smoke, drink alcohol, watch violent movies and has to avoid excessive exposure to the sun.
The father is responsible for creating happiness and joy and supporting his wife throughout the pregnancy. During pregnancy, a woman feels more insecure. She has fear about the future, of what will happen, of whether or not she will deliver the child normally. Hence it is important to maintain harmony in the couple’s relationship.
During pregnancy, Ayurveda says that the fetus is undergoing developmental changes. The heart is formed during the third and fourth months of pregnancy. That is a crucial and important period. During the formation of the fetal heart, the mother has to take care of her emotions and the father should not criticize or condemn her. There is absolute need for emotional balance. One of the causes of congenital heart diseases is conflicts and emotional chaos in parental relationships during the third and fourth months of pregnancy. Ayurveda says that emotional imbalance may affect the formation of the heart, causing the baby to be born with a hole in the septum, atrial septum defect, ventricle septum defect or prolapsed mitral valve. All these deformities are due to deep-seated fear, anxiety, insecurity, grief, sadness, and conflicts between husband and wife.
After the fourth month, the mother has two hearts – her own heart and the baby’s. The baby expresses her desires and emotions through the mother. Some women become very emotional and crave for certain foods. Ayurdeva advises that the mother gets whatever she wants, because now it is the baby’s desires she is expressing and we should satisfy them. Interestingly, we can predict the gender of the child from these expressions. If the fetus has a desire for sweet savories, the conceived fetus is male. If the baby expresses through the mother’s desire to eat sour and hot spicy food, the conceived fetus may be female. If the pregnant woman, while walking, uses her right foot more, the conceived fetus is male; if her left foot is dominant while walking, the fetus is female.
There is also a pulse on the medial side of the little finger. During pregnancy, that pulse becomes prominent. If the pulse is more prominent on the medial side of the right little finger, the conceived fetus is male. The opposite side is female. (See illustration).
When the baby is due for delivery, the husband should be present to give his wife moral support and allay any fear. The presence of midwife or doctor and her husband will give the mother confidence and she will deliver normally without much problem.
When the baby emerges, the midwife or doctor will clean the eyes, nose and throat and help the baby to take its first breath. The umbilical cord is held to feel for the pulsation. The baby is still attached to be mother’s womb through the placenta. When the pulsation in the umbilical cord ceases, ojas, it is a sign that life from the mother’s body has passed onto the fetal body. At that point, the umbilical cord is severed. The remaining part of the umbilical cord should be carefully tended to until it dries up and drops off; which commonly takes seven to eight days.
It is important for the child to sleep near the mother, because the child and mother share an affectionate karmic relationship. Breast-feeding is best for the child. Newly born babies should receive a warm bath daily. Ayurdeva says that baby should be gently massaged with warm sesame oil on the soles of the feet and the back. (One has to learn this massaging skill from an experienced teacher.) The anterior fontanel, which is constantly pulsating through a gap in the skull, should be well lubricated with warm sesame oil. Take about one teaspoon of warm oil and pour it on the anterior fontanel and do a gentle massage. Also put a little oil into the baby’s ears.
Following the oil massage, apply chickpea flour paste to the skin to remove excess oil. Give a warm bath and then wrap the baby with a warm towel. The baby will sleep soundly after that
Breastfeeding allows the mother to build special bond with her child. The mother should be mindful of this activity and not be distracted by watching TV programs or discussing matters with her husband.
The father should also sleep near the baby and share in the caring. Babies communicate through crying in different ways. The cry of hunger is dry. When the baby cries and starts licking its lips, it is hungry. The baby cries when it is wet and feels uncomfortable. Babies cry when they are bored. When the baby cries and pulls the legs towards the belly and twisting the belly at the same time, it has tummy discomfort; there are gases in the belly. Apply a warm pad of castor oil to the baby’s belly to relieve the gases and intestinal colic.
Sometimes, babies become restless and refuse to sleep. A gentle oil massage to the soles of the feet and to the scalp will do the trick. Gentle music also helps to induce sleep.
There are other important considerations. A child should not be exposed to cold wind and should be well protected. There should not be loud noises to irritate the baby. Care should be taken when showing the baby to other people outside the family because of the risks of bacterial and / or viral infections. Smokers should not kiss the baby, because their bodies carry the smell of nicotine, which is not good for the baby.
A nursing mother should not eat red meat, because red meat will make her milk viscous and very difficult to digest. If a mother continues eating cheese, ice cream, red meat and hamburger, her milk will be viscous and will cause indigestion and tummy cramps in her baby. The mother should not eat overnight or leftover food, because such food is dry and vatagenic, which may create colicky pain in baby’s belly. The best food for the mother is basmati rice, mung dal, lentil soup, vegetable soup and steamed vegetables. Raw vegetables are heavy to digest and may make her milk viscous.
According to Ayurveda, breast milk has three characteristics. Kapha-type milk is heavy, thick or viscous, sweet and takes time to digest. Pitta-type milk has a slightly sour taste and is thin and hot. Vata-type milk is dry and slightly astringent. When the milk is Kapha-type, the breasts are full with lactation. Sometimes lactation takes place and the milk starts flowing as soon as the mother hears her baby cries. Kapha milk produces congestion. Pitta milk creates diarrhea. One has to note the quality/texture of her milk and then make necessary correction to the mother’s diet accordingly to ensure that her baby can easily digest her food. The best herb during lactation is shatavari. A good vegetable is steamed asparagus. Or you can give vegetable soup or warm cow’s milk. Herbal teas and digestive herbs such as cumin, coriander, fennel and ginger will help digestion. After each meal, the mother should take half a teaspoon of roasted cumin and fennel seeds. Giving the right quality of milk will ensure that the baby will not have indigestion, constipation, diarrhea or vomiting.
If the mother and father both have high pitta and the baby has high pitta, and the baby is born in the summer season, high pitta-genic blood in the fetus may produce certain toxins. On the third or fourth day, the baby may become jaundiced. That baby should be bathed in the blue light. Ayurveda says that blue light will stop the discoloration of the pigmentation cells so that the baby’s liver can improve its function. The jaundiced baby should also be fed vitamin C to improve the function of the liver.
Babies born at night sleep during the daytime and are awake at night; and this can be quite troublesome. The mother should drink chamomile, comfrey, angelica and jatamamsi tea. The essence of this tea will go into her milk, which is fed to the baby. The baby will go to sleep. In addition, do a little oil massage on the soles and the scalp at night
Babies are very sensitive to their surroundings. For their protection, put four amethyst crystals on the four corners of the bed. On the thirteenth day, give a proper (according to astrological sign) name to the baby. Every name is a mantra and contains energy.
For many, parenting is part and parcel of living a full and complete life; a basic human instinct. Timeless practice from ancient wisdom helps one lead a balanced lifestyle, and eventually towards ultimate liberation.