The Bringer of Balance, The Golden Elixir
I used to think sesame oil was for cooking — until I met Doctor Kulreet Chaudhary, the Maharishi Ayurveda expert and neurologist who has remade my relationship with the aromatic liquid. “There’s nowhere we won’t put oil!” she once said, and as her patient, I attest. Parts of me previously unexplored can personally validate this.
My skin, for one. Also my mouth and nasal passages. Plus the colon. And I don’t mean from eating the oil, though I do still cook with it. More on that later.
I’ve seen Doctor Chaudhary for a few years now, and she’s one of the most enriching people in my life. I look forward to our appointments as if I were having tea with a dear friend. Every time I walk into her warmly-hued office, we start with a simple prescription: a hug. She asks how I’m doing and truly listens. By the time I leave, no matter my state of health, I’m usually laughing and I feel all is well with the world. I’ve come to believe healing is transferred this way with a true vaidya, or ayurvedic physician. Each visit, she cradles my left wrist to feel my pulse. “It’s Vata,” she’ll say in a hushed tone, as if matching the delicate nature of my constitution. In late autumn, I got a “Vata, Vata, Vata!”
Not too surprising, considering fall and winter are the seasons of Vata. This dosha, or mind-body type, is characterized by air and space elements. Like winter’s flurry and fall’s gusts, Vata runs cold and dry. Many of us need extra care between October and February — especially those of us with a Vata constitution — but even fiery Pitta and earthy Kapha can be swept in by the brisk season.
“In the U.S., 75% of people have a Vata imbalance because of our lifestyle,” said Kulreet Chaudhary, M.D., at a public talk I attended.
We move frenetically in our western culture, ambushed by stimuli and swift-moving bits of information. I recently had to search for a neighborhood gas station that didn’t blast loud televisions from their pumping stations. All this aggravates Vata dosha, which can become restless, spacey, fatigued — and occasionally constipated, which brings me back to the colon…
“I’d like you to start doing sesame oil enemas once a week,” Dr. Chaudhary informed me one crisp autumn day. My response was along the lines of “You want me to put what where?” But I’d been experiencing life-altering fatigue, achy joints, brain fog and delicate sleep. I was courting my vitality with gusto, and I’d fallen in love with Maharishi Ayurveda’s nature-inspired wisdom.
Sesame was to be the oil of choice. The Sanskrit word for oil is “sneha” and, as Sanskrit words do, it has layers of meaning. Besides oil: love. It nourishes, lubricates and soothes. I was about to find out just how much. With a jasmine candle, I converted my loo into a flickering spa to ease the jitters. After gently heating the oil, I moseyed back to the bathroom with a tattered pile of towels and my warm sesame oil. To my great surprise, this meeting filled me with comfort, as if discharging a field of static cling.
It felt like eons of waste, or ama, left my body over the next several days. My joints and mind became more at ease; body pain dissipated like salt in a soup. My belly flattened for the first time in a long time! I became so comfortable with my enemas, or bastis, that I began buying vpk® by Maharishi Ayurveda Organic Sesame Oil by the quart! I fantasized that if asked on an unwanted date, I’d have an unbeatable excuse that rendered “I have to wash my hair” a lightweight. Even when I uttered "basti" to family and friends, they hushed right up.
And there’s more! I luxuriate in my unctuous rituals including abhyanga, or warm full-body oil massage, before bathing. Ah, to glide the amber elixir over my skin — long strokes for my limbs and circular motions around my organs and joints, sluicing the oil over my scalp and between my toes. I love the way my skin glistens, and how my body feels, when I finally enter a steaming shower or tub of water. I even gargle with sesame oil, a practice known as oil pulling, and spray Organic Clear & Soothe Nasal Spray, an herbalized sesame mixture, into the dry channels of my nose to moisturize and shield them from germs during the dry winter months. My beloved ayurvedic doctor wasn’t kidding about dousing oil just about everywhere (including you know where).
Here are other favorite Vata-pacifying strategies I’m enjoying this blustery season:
- Eating cooked ginger with meals, or raw ginger if I need more digestive fire.
- Taking Herbal Di-Gest with food to improve digestion.
- Cooking warm, unctuous foods. (Go for ghee!)
- Daily use of Organic Digest Tone (Triphala Plus).
- Spritzing around my personal space with Pranamist, a fragrant blend of rose geranium, sweet orange, holy basil and other essential oils that pacify Vata.
- Sinking into stillness and silence as often as possible in this often-feverish season.
- Transcendental Meditation® and restorative yoga poses.
- Keeping a regular schedule, with lunch my main meal and a lighter dinner at least three hours before bed.
- Turning in to bed by 10 PM.
In winter, we watch nature, with her darker nights and hibernating bears. We too are part of the same cycle, comprised of the same five elements: space, air, earth, fire and water. The sages who brought us ayurveda some 5,000 years ago lived at one with a natural world in which we’ve become estranged. Maharishi Ayurveda and Doctor Chaudhary guide me back. Depending on your state of health, climate and innate constitution, you may not want or need all these remedies. Admittedly, declining late night invitations and parties in lieu of bastis doesn’t seem like the most glamorous lifestyle! It’s about finding equilibrium for ourselves. For me, ayurveda has become a beacon, a bringer of balance, pleasure and self-empowerment, thanks in no small part to that medicinal liquid that has, as Doctor Chaudhary predicted, truly saturated my life.
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.