Removing Deep Ama
The original Sanskrit texts of ayurveda make a powerful, wonderful point. It is a secret of health. The texts state that one should:
Chikitsatam vyadhikaram pathyam sadharanam aushadam prayshitam prakritisthapanprashanam itaman.
Translated, it says we should "eliminate that which is not wholeness, that which is disrupting, by that which is suitable for the self, using procedures and preparations to restore the self, to re-establish prakriti (wholeness — our essential nature) and pacify by that which is conducive to health."
This is a potent understanding and a template for understanding how Maharishi Ayurveda works. It is a pivotal insight and a key to understanding the mechanics of how you can maintain your health at a high level.
The Concept of Ama
The concept of ama is unique to ayurveda. In the classic texts of ayurveda, ama is described as the underlying cause of many health issues. In the Western medical approach, the focus is on the manifest state of illness or the sequence of events that leads to the creation of an illness. Ayurveda focuses on handling imbalances while they are in their infancy, and eliminating them with mild but effective non-obtrusive methods.
Three Types of Ama
Maharishi Ayurveda recognizes three types of ama. First, there is the ama that is heavy and sticky; it is formed through poor dietary habits and low digestive fire. Over time ama tends to accumulate in the system and block the channels of the body, causing a variety of conditions. The second type of ama, which is more toxic, is called amavisha. This type of ama mixes with the doshas or tissues or waste products of the body and causes more chronic problems. A third type of ama is called garvisha; this is associated with bioaccumulation of environmental toxins. The human body has hundreds of different cell types and 50 to 75 trillion cells. Each one of your cells knows who you are and where it has to be in order for it to be part of you and to be able to communicate that to all the other cells. This is what is called inner intelligence. In the world of cells information must flow, and ama blocks the flow of this information.
Each type of ama can lead to chronic illness if not addressed. Since the ayurvedic texts were written down 5,000 years ago, pollution has become more of a concern. These days our body and mind are assaulted by all types of environmental toxins that have been associated with a wide variety of health imbalances. Removing this ama has become more of a priority over the years.
How Ama Forms
The main cause begins with what is called Pragya aparadh, the mistake of the intellect, which leads to misuse of the mind, the senses and time. Mistakes of the intellect begin when one sees that which is harmful as useful, or not eating according to one's level of hunger or digestive power. The mistake of the senses can lead to being overshadowed by sensory desire, often seen in overeating, and mistakes in time relate to not eating according to the seasons or not varying one's diet according to the seasons. These mistakes lead to poor diet, wrong eating habits, overeating, unnecessary cravings and wrong routine. This in turn leads to aggravation of Vata, Pitta and Kapha; imbalance within the shrotas or channels of the body; and weak or dull digestive fire (agni), which creates ama.
Signs and Symptoms of Ama
It is said in the texts that the signs and symptoms of ama are seen as blocked channels, such as plaque building up in the arteries, lack of strength, or feeling heavy or sluggish. It's like you have not changed the oil in the car for too long and the engine is not running very well. Vata may feel disturbed, like things are not flowing properly. One can feel lazy, disinterested, with no enthusiasm. There may be signs of indigestion such as gas, bloating, constipation or diarrhea. One may have more mucus than usual, a lack of taste, and mental and physical tiredness.
When the Vaidya (ayurvedic physician) takes the pulse, he feels as if the inner intelligence is covered; there is a lack of clarity, and it is hard to get information. The pulse is dull, lacking in vitality; it feels heavy, weak and sticky. Almost always the digestion (agni) and metabolism are weak.
It is when the Vaidya sees, via the correct assessment of the unique nature of the individual, their prakriti, as well as the nature of their imbalance, vikriti, that they can then be confident in the approach to the best way to restore balance. Only through skilled assessment and full knowledge can the strength of the Vaidya's recommendations and the sequence that is required to restore and maintain health be ascertained. It is essential to not create a new imbalance or set of symptoms; intelligent and natural purification should balance all areas of the body. The nature of the detoxification procedure is to support the natural ability of the body to purify itself.
Five Steps to Lowering Ama
The first stage in eliminating ama is always Nidan Parivarjanan — reduce the causes of ama. Below, ten things that cause ama:
- Eating before the previous meal is digested.
- Not making lunch the main meal; eating large meals at night.
- Ice drinks and cold-food meals.
- Food that isn't fresh, pure and organic. Old food, stale food, packaged foods.
- Eating without full attention on the meal; watching TV or reading. Eating too quickly.
- Eating while emotionally upset.
- Not taking the heaviest parts of the meal first when the agni (digestive fire) is strongest.
- Not practicing the Transcendental Meditation® technique regularly.
- Not engaging in light, enjoyable exercise daily whenever possible, or a few times a week.
The next step is to digest the ama, a process known as Ama Pachan, through the use of digestive substances. This can be as simple as sipping hot water, or using specific spices or herbal preparations, many of which are listed below.
Then comes Lekhan, or cleansing of the digestive tract. Lekhan means "to scrape." Again, this can be as simple as taking a drink such as hot water and lemon in the morning, and may also include the use of specific spices such as ginger and black pepper or specific herbal preparations. But this depends on the prakriti of the individual, as certain spices may be too heating. When in doubt, consult with a Maharishi Ayurveda health expert.
The next step is to increase the digestive fire. This is known as Agni Dipan, or kindling the digestive fire through light diet. This may consist of a strict regimen beginning with liquid meals, progressing gradually to semi-liquid meals, then to thicker soups and gradually to more solid food over a period of time. One can always have a liquid diet once a week, particularly if overweight or more Kapha. The use of specific spices in the food, and herbal preparations taken at specific times of the meals and during the day, is helpful. Again, this is judged according to the agni of the individual and their nature.
Finally comes Shodhan, which is the elimination of ama. This can be done with specific ayurvedic herbal formulas or, for a more intensive ama reduction, through Panchakarma. Panchakarma is a specific supervised in-house cleansing program. These programs are available at The Raj in Fairfield, Iowa.
Herbs to Reduce Ama
Do you have ama? It's a fairly easy condition to assess. Take this quiz and see how you score. The herbal formulations listed below will help reduce your ama load immediately.
Blissful Sleep — Research conducted at the University of California at San Diego* indicates that Blissful Sleep helps people fall asleep more quickly. The herbs in the Blissful Sleep formula produce a calming, balancing effect on the body, mind and emotions.
Elim-Tox helps detoxify the colon and digestive tract. But it doesn't stop there — it also helps cleanse the liver, the sweat glands, the nutritive fluid, the blood and the fat tissue. This blend of 18 ayurvedic herbs helps clear the microchannels of the body, allowing waste to be removed and vital nutrients to reach the cells.
Elim-Tox-O helps cleanse your body's natural purification systems using fewer Pitta-stimulating herbs, making it the recommended choice for people who have a tendency towards acne, heartburn, and excess stomach acid or who have a lot of "fire" in their physiology.
Herbal Di-Gest — Proper digestion and metabolism, on the other hand, result in the conversion of the foods you eat into healthy body tissues. Herbal Di-Gest is a blend of 10 ayurvedic herbs and spices that promotes healthy assimilation and elimination, so you won't feel dull and heavy after meals.
Herbal Cleanse — This is a gentle yet effective herbal supplement for cleansing the bowel. Herbal Cleanse contains rare forms of Senna Leaf and Turpeth Root (Indian Jalap) along with five other herbs to aid natural elimination, enhance cellular purification and improve assimilation of nutrients.
Organic Genitrac — Helps flush out ama from the genitourinary tract. It targets the genitourinary channels to help eliminate toxins through the urine.
Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus) — A mild laxative, it purifies so gently that when used over a long period of time, it allows even the deepest tissues and organs of the body to release toxins. It supports food absorption and promotes ojas, the finest product of digestion, which rejuvenates vital energy.
* Published in "Complementary Therapies in Medicine," Vol. 11, pp. 223-225, 2003.
A Special Self-Massage to Lower Ama: Garshana
Garshana (pronounced gar-shan) is a specific ayurvedic massage that helps remove ama. As explained by Vaidya Manohar, garshana in Sanskrit means "friction by rubbing." The massage is done wearing moderately-textured raw silk noil gloves on the hands. According to the ayurvedic texts, a garshana massage stimulates blood flow, stimulates the lymphatic system, removes blockages in the physiology, nourishes the mind and nervous system, removes ama and helps enliven alertness. The massage should be done on dry, clean skin, after showering, using medium-firm pressure and vigorous motion. Garshana massage is usually recommended for people with a Kapha imbalance or with symptoms of ama. The symptoms of imbalanced Kapha include being overweight, water retention, lymphatic slowness, dullness physically or mentally, slow circulation or blockages in circulation. The garshana massage can be followed by a light oil massage, to soothe the skin. This massage has a different effect than abhyanga, the traditional ayurvedic herbalized sesame oil massage. While abhyanga also helps lower ama, it is calming, while garshana is stimulating, which is especially good for Kapha.
The dry brushing of garshana massage also exfoliates the skin and stimulates the blood flow to deeper tissue cells by increasing the circulation. According to ayurveda this kind of massage helps remove lymphatic blockages and promotes healthy lymphatic circulation. Garshana also removes ama in the microchannels and is said to help alkalize the blood, helping to eliminate stagnant impurities. In addition garshana helps detoxify the liver, and helps create negative ions (which are the good ones!).
This kind of traditional ayurvedic massage also opens the skin pores so herbal massage oil can penetrate and nourish the skin deeply. It can be done in conjunction with ayurvedic oil massage (abhyanga).
How to do garshana massage:
Proper garshana procedure involves two types of movements. The nature of the movements should be vigorous, to stimulate the skin:
- Circular movements in joint areas.
- Back and forth on long bones.
Please note: garshana should not be done over the heart or on the breasts.
The result of garshana massage is that one should feel lighter, with more energy, vitality, better digestion and enlivened metabolism. There is lightness in the body, clarity of mind, more happiness and satisfaction in life. This is due to the removal of ama. In Maharishi Ayurveda, we hold that the perfect treatment doesn't balance one part of the body at the risk of unbalancing another part. This is the strength of this system. In following this principle, these detoxification methods flush out the toxins gently without disturbing the body's own natural functioning.
My Vedic Kitchen: Ama-Reducing Recipes
Recipes by Chef Mosa, The Raj, Fairfield, Iowa
These delicious recipes help dissolve and digest the ama — the toxins — in the heart and elsewhere, opening the shrotas — the microcirculatory channels located throughout the body. Using select foods, flavors and eating times to help the body detox is one of the special skills of authentic Maharishi Ayurveda. When undigested toxins accumulate, they tend to do so in the heart. Here are three delicious ama-reducing recipes. They come to us from the premier Maharishi Ayurveda Panchakarma clinic in the United States — The Raj in Fairfield, Iowa.
The first recipe is a classic. It comes to us from Raj Vaidya Siju, formerly the ayurvedic expert-in-residence at The Raj. He recommends this delicious digestive lassi for the heart.
The next two recipes come to us from Chef Mosa Scalzer. The first of these features organic poached pears. Chef Mosa calls it a real crowd-pleasing dessert dish that will not disappoint.
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.