When I first heard about Dr. Claudia Welch’s Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life, Ihappy to read a book that marries the practices of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda. The book was an excellent source of knowledge for the newcomer to any form of Eastern medicine, TCM or Ayurveda. Dr. Welch begins by explaining the most important concept of yin and yang, which is the foundational principal of TCM. With this basic knowledge, the rest of the book uses the principals of yin and yang to describe hormonal balance (and imbalances) within the body. She then continues going through specific hormonal problems that affect women throughout their lifetime, such as osteoporosis and heart disease. Throughout the book, stress is identified as being the #1 cause of most hormonal imbalances. While Dr. Welch does not specifically recommend to “stop stressing out”, she does give an overview on a holistic lifestyle that will help to balance hormones and allow us to cope with stress more effectively. This holistic lifestyle is what I found to be most fascinating and wanted to share it as “food for thought”.
The following is an example of a daily routine recommended by Dr. Welch:
- Wake early, at the same time every day
- Wash your face, teeth and mouth
- Drink a glass of warm water (to aid with elimination)
- Have a bowel movement
- Apply a cooling salve or water to the eyes
- Gargle with salt water and use a neti pot to open the nasal cavity
- Meditate for 15-60 minutes
- Massage warm oil on the skin (known as Abhyanga)for about 15 minutes
- Bathe and dress for the day
- Take a brisk, 30 minute walk followed by 5-10 minutes of gentle yoga
- Do 5-15 minutes of alternate-nostril breathing or other exercises designed to move qi smoothly
- Cook breakfast (lunch and dinner also, if there is no more time in the day)
In addition to the above routine, Dr. Welch also recommends eating each meal at the same time every day, going to bed at the same time each day and breathing deeply throughout the day.
My impression of these recommendations was that there is no way “normal” people can incorporate such practices into their daily lives. It is already hard enough for people to shower, dress and eat breakfast before getting to work on time! Then, upon further consideration, I realized there were elements of this daily routine that can be simple for most people to perform on a regular basis. Namely the practice of alternate-nostril breathing (known as Nadi Shodhana) and oil massage. Taking time to perform deep breathing exercises or self-massage requires making an effort for some quiet, alone time. Too often we are running off to the next appointment, running errands, cleaning the house, taking care of others, etc. that we completely forget to take care of ourselves. However, as we become more self-aware and understand how our lifestyle impacts our health, it becomes imperative to have a few self-care practices to keep us centered and our nervous systems balanced.
To perform Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana):
- Be seated comfortably
- Using your right hand, place your index and middle finger at your third eye (between your eyebrows)
- Place your thumb on your right nostril; your ring finger on your left nostril
- Use your thumb to close off your right nostril as you exhale fully out of the left nostril
- Inhale through the left nostril. Hold the breath and close the nostril
- Open your right nostril and exhale
- Inhale through your right nostril. Hold the breath and close the nostril
- Open the left nostril and exhale.
To Perform Oil Massage (Abhyanga):
- Put about ½ cup of oil (sesame or coconut is great)in a glass container. (A measuring cup or a small glass dish works great) Place the glass container into a pan of hot water until the oil is sufficiently warm.
- Sit or stand comfortably in the shower or tub.
- Apply the oil over the entire body, beginning at the extremities and working toward the middle of the body.
- Use long strokes on the limbs and circular strokes on joints. Massage the abdomen and chest in broad, clockwise, circular motions. Make sure to follow the path of the large intestine on the abdomen—beginning on the lower right side, moving upwards, then across the abdomen and down on the left side. Massage the body for 5-20 minutes with patience.
- Take a cool to warm bath or shower afterwards. Use water to rinse or a little soap if you find the oil to be too thick.
- Towel off by gently patting the skin dry. Make sure to keep a special towel for abhyanga because it will eventually get ruined due to the accumulation of oil.
- Make sure to put on a pair of cotton socks afterwards to protect the carpet or flooring from residual oil on the feet.