As Sun Season wanes, Coffee Season waxes…
I live in the Pacific Northwest, the Coffee Capital of the country. I am amazed at the lines at the drive-up coffee stands – yes we have drive-up coffee stands – at every stoplight! Little A-frame kiosks just big enough for an espresso machine and a cute girl inside. And they are always open, always caffinating.
As the intense pace of summer starts to slow down, routines are coming back into focus, kids go back to school, and our lives start to resemble normalcy, we barely get our feet on the ground and begin to settle into Vata season – and then we add insult to Adrenal Injury – grabbing that second and third cup of coffee.
Why? Do we need stimulation? Why can’t we just R E L A X?
Many of us are unaware of the damage we inflict on our bodies and minds on a daily basis. The constant worries and stress of dealing with life’s challenges can rob us of our life force. Often we develop bad habits in response to stress, which further implicate us. This is most evident in our society’s use of caffeine in all of its forms. Millions of people are addicted to caffeine, whether it is in the form of coffee, black teas, chocolate or even the seemingly benign bottle of soda pop. The average daily intake of caffeine in the US is approximately 200mg per day. This is equal to about two cups of mild coffee, although for the average coffee and tea drinker the amount is much higher. One 12 oz. cup of Starbucks coffee contains 375mg of caffeine. Even very young children are consuming significant amounts of caffeine.
What does this mean for our Adrenal System? For our capacity to REST AND DIGEST?
To understand this one must have a basic understanding of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are two triangular shaped organs located on top of the kidneys. These glands serve several functions. The first is the production of cortisone and adrenaline. Adrenalin is produced when the body is under stress of some sort. It is nature’s way of allowing the body’s metabolism to speed up in response to a stressful situation. This increase in metabolism can result in increased blood flow from the heart to the muscles of the body as well as the brain. Generally, respiration also increases and the system can metabolize protein, fats and carbohydrates at a quicker rate thus giving the entire system more energy. These chemicals unnaturally force the adrenal gland to produce adrenaline. This adrenaline dumping into the blood stream is what causes the sensation of the so called “pick me up’’ from having that cup of coffee or tea in the morning. This is known as the “Fight or Flight” response, or Sympathetic Nervous System response.
Adrenal Fatigue: Drinking coffee, tea and pop all day forces the adrenal glands to work in a way Mother Nature never intended. At what cost? According to Ayurveda, natures demands balance. Without balance you will experience disease. The disease associated with chronic overuse of the adrenals is what we see throughout American society: fatigue, insomnia, swelling of the joints, depression, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), irregular menstruation, and a deep sense of hopelessness can often accompany this imbalance. Ayurvedically, this is a depletion of rasa or ojas.
Here are some tips for drinking your coffee, the Ayurvedic way.
- I won’t tell you to stop drinking coffee. I would be unfriended by many of you if I did! Maybe you could take a little break though, see how your body responds.
- Take a brisk walk instead. Have Sex! How else can you stimulate healthy hormone releases?
- Don’t drink coffee on an empty stomach, whatever you do! It’s way too acidic. Drink a full glass of water with lemon in the morning to stoke the digestive system, then eat your breakfast, THEN have your coffee.
- Don’t drink an entire pot of coffee – why? Why are you drinking so much coffee? Have you even had any water?
- Drink coffee in the form of a few ounces, like an espresso shot, after you’ve finished a meal. This will actually aid digestion, rather than impede it.
- Be mindful. Many of us just guzzle it down. Make a ceremony, treat it like a gift, instead of a crutch to your system. You will be amazed at the change in effect. Savor the very few sips you are now allowing yourself.
Returning from last week’s list:
- Restorative Yoga – please please please do more Restorative Yoga! For the good of the community, take time to rest and restore you adrenals and nervous system, and everything else for that matter!
- Yoga Nidra – this is the magical ‘Yoga of Sleep’ meditation. If you’re not sure what this is, check out my page on Yoga Nidra, and maybe even try Yoga Nidra for Balancing Vata.
- Meditation Folks. I don’t need to list the gazillion studies that have come out on how meditation, AKA sitting still, affects our chemistry, biology and genealogy. My favorite go-to when I feel intimidated about starting a meditation practice is Elena Brower’s Art of Attention Meditation Course. It’s simply and beautifully done, you will thank me.
Make conscious choices to deal with the lack of summer-like sunshine, prepare your body for winter by taking care of your adrenals NOW!