Brimhana & Langhana
Ayurveda categorizes its treatments into two primary categories: brimhana which means ‘to make heavy’ and langhana which means ‘to make light.’
Brimhana makes the body heavier because it is nutritive and rejuvenative. Brimhana essentially gives replenishment to the body and makes it strong. The brimhana applications include nutritive massage treatments, rejuvenative herbs, and sweet foods (grains, sweet vegetables, fats, nuts).
Langhana makes the body lighter because it depletes and detoxifies the body. Langhana therapies include fasting, vigorous exercise, heating spices, and detoxifying herbs.
As ayurvedic practitioners, we use these categories to help determine which type of panchakarma treatments and lifestyle practices would be best. In general, vata types benefit from utilizing brimhana while kapha types benefit from langhana therapies.
Essentially, brimhana therapies increase ojas in the body. Ojas is the healthy byproduct of kapha dosha. Ojas is our immunity, essence, sap, vitality, endurance, and strength. Ojas gives us contentment and joy. It makes our joints supple and our skin radiant.
When ojas is depleted our immunity is negatively impacted. We get colds and flu. We feel tired and weak. We may be depressed or have a negative outlook.
Symptoms Of Excess Vata
The greatest enemy of ojas is vata dosha. When vata grows into excess it depletes ojas. Symptoms of excess vata dosha include: worry, anxiety, insomnia, hyperactivity, and disorganization. Dry skin, dry hair, and dry nails. Brittle bones, weakness, emaciation. Lack of appetite, digestive imbalance, tendency toward constipation, vacillation between diarrhea and constipation.
To protect our body against the growing force of vata dosha we need to utilize brimhana therapies. These 10-practices can be utilized by everyone who needs to rejuvenate and replenish the body.
10-Practices For Rejuvenation
1. Pichu (warm oil over the forehead)
Pichu is part of ayurvedic massage therapy. A cloth is dipped into hot medicated oils, called thailams, and laid onto various parts of the body for 30-minutes. To use pichu to reduce anxiety or restless in the mind: dip a piece of flannel or cloth into thailams such as neelbrigandi, brahmi, or amla, and lay the cloth over your forehead. If these are not available, use plain sesame or coconut oil. You can add a few drops of essential oil for the mind such as sandalwood, vetivier, or spikenard.
Lay comfortably on your back and lay the towel over your forehead for 30-minutes. Re-dip the towel if it gets to cool. I find that keeping an oil warmer near me while I do pichu works best.
2. Self-Massage With Medicated Oils
The meaning of the Sanskrit word sneha conveys stupendous love and immense tenderness, the essential spirit imbued in human nature. Snehana therapy is meant to invoke these deeply imbedded codes of our nature and reawaken our cognitive memories.” ~Maya Tiwari from Ayurveda Secrets of Healing
Sneha refers to the ingestion and application of oils which we use both internally and externally in ayurveda. The external application of oil through various massage applications helps keep the body and immune system strong and vital.
As a simple at home practice, apply traditional thailams (you can purchase at www.hamsaapothecary.com) or doshic specific oils after a shower on a daily basis in place of a moisturizer or lotion.
3. Nasya Oil (oil application to the sinuses)
Ayurveda has a branch of medicines called nasya. Nasya is the application of oils, meat stocks, herbal powders or herbal smoke to the sinus area. The most popular form of nasya used is a brimhana oil called ‘anu thailam’ which there are numerous variations.
The application of oil to the sinuses helps to keep the sinus area hydrated. In the fall and winter, oiling the sinuses helps protect against cold and flu, and reduce the discomfort of dry sinuses. In the spring, regularly oiling the sinuses helps protect against allergies. To practice nasya, simply sniff up 1-2 drops of oil per nostril before bed or as needed. We like our nasya oil available at www.hamsaapothecary.com but plain sesame oil can be used. To learn more about how to apply nasya read my article on it here.
4. Ghee (clarified butter)
Ghee is clarified butter made from pasture fed dairy cow butter. Therapeutic grade ghee, called desi in ayurveda, is made from raw milk that has been soured in an earthen vessel to make dahi (fermented milk) which is then churned to obtain makkhan (butter), and very gently simmered over low heat until all the water has evaporated. It has been used in India for numerous health related reasons, and to enhance flavor and the nutritive benefits of ingredients used in cooking.
Ghee used in cooking helps the body absorb the nutritive value of the spices, herbs, and foods it was cooked in. It also keeps the small intestine and digestive tract healthy. It is a natural anti-inflammatory and heals the epithelial layer. To learn more about ghee read my article on it here.
Use ghee as a cooking fat in place of coconut or olive oil. Top your dishes with a bit of ghee to enhance a savory influence. Use ghee on pancakes or even on toast. To learn how to make ghee watch my youtube video here.
5. Meditation (The Ultimate Rejuvenator)
The single most rejuvenating practice that can prevent depletion and help treat it, is meditation. Meditation is the practice of stilling the mind so that we can cultivate our connection and experience of internal peace. There are numerous ways to meditate. In general, I advise some gentle movement followed by pranayama (conscious breathing) and mantra (sacred sound).
6. Pranayama (Consciously Directing Prana)
Prana is the vital energy needed by our physical and subtle layers, without which the body would perish. It is what keeps us alive. Pranayama is the practice of consciously directing the way prana moves through the body via the breath. Many of the pranayama practices are nutritive. To learn a pranayama practice for reducing vata follow this link.
7. Mantra (Sacred Sound)
Mantras are sacred sounds or vibrations embedded in the universe and within the human physiology. By chanting mantra we can attune our frequency, shift conscious and unconscious attitudes and desires. We can also use them to heal our physical body, influence the subtle movement of prana, and release what no longer serves us.
Mantras become empowered by the energy of the practitioner. When mantras are given to us by a teacher/guru they are already empowered by the guru. We can also empower a mantra through our use. The key is consistency in our use of mantra.
Along with ghee, honey is one of the four most sattvic increasing foods according to ayurveda. The other two are milk and water. Sattva in this context refers to a tendency of mind that imparts clarity, kindness, illumination, and clear-seeing. Honey is used externally and internally in ayurveda for a variety of reasons. It is a natural anti-biotic. Spread over wounds it inhibits colonization of pathogenic bacteria. Taken internally it is rejuvenative and gives strength. Ayurveda strongly cautions against cooking honey which destroys its benefits and actually renders them toxic. Mix honey (1/2 tsp) with powdered turmeric (1/4 tsp) to help build the immune system, and consume 3 times a day. Spread honey over toast. Add honey to warm tea (not hot) as a sweetener). Take honey on its own off the spoon for a sweet treat.
9. Lay in Savasana (corpse pose)
Typically used at the end of an asana practice, savasana (corpse pose) is the ultimate rejuvenative. Simply lay on the back with palms up to receive complete relaxation. Different then sleeping or tuning out, savasana allows the nervous system to come to a place of total rest. It allows the brain to process its experiences so that they do not become embedded in the subconscious mind. If you are ever to fatigued to meditate, engage in savasana for at least 10-minutes. Lay on the floor or on a yoga mat. Do not do savasana in bed or you will probably fall asleep.
10. Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting generally refers to the gentler methods of fasting. Fasting is the refraining from specific foods and eating a lower calorie diet for specific periods of time. There a many different ways to fast including water fasts, juice fasts, soup fasts, and kichadi fasts. Fasting cleanses the body of unwanted chemicals and harmful substances. It also regulates digestion, boosts immunity, and is one of the most natural anti-aging medicines that we have.
When done in a specific way, fasting can also be powerfully rejuvenative. Kichadi or cleansing soups aid the fasting process for vata types or those with vata excess. By eating pureed soups with cooked fruits (apples and pears) with ghee, the digestion is able to rest and repair itself.
A Rejuvenative Fast for Building Ojas and Reducing Vata (3 or more days)
- After brushing your teeth and washing your face, prepare your meditation area.
- Heat one cup of hot water and add 1 tsp of ghee and drink it.
- Heat your medicated thailam
- Apply your thailam all over your body and engage in a meditation practice for your constitution.
- Take a hot shower.
- For breakfast eat baked apples, or a cooked grain cereal with ghee.
- For lunch and dinner eat kichadi, or a pureed vegetable soup.
- Avoid snacks and eat at regular times.
- Get to sleep by 9:30PM and rise with the sun.