Ama is the <a href="/health/ayurveda">Ayurvedic term for any accumulation of toxin, undigested food, or waste material in the body. Ama translates as "undigested food toxin" and is described as a sticky and cloying substance capable of clogging the channels of circulation. The translation also reveals that much of our toxicity has its origins in our foods and the digestive tract, especially in those who suffer from constipation and bowel irregularity. Under these conditions, partially digested food materials and impurities gain entry into the body, form ama, combine with one or more of the three doshas (kapha, vata, and pitta), then migrate throughout the body creating symptoms such as constipation, indigestion, heavy tongue-coating, bad breath, heaviness, lethargy, painful joints, loss of clarity, and depression.
Obviously, ama can have a drastic effect upon the quality of your yoga
practice too. Rather than enjoying the fruits of the yoga, you feel limited as you confront the heavy qualities of ama as well as the process of its detoxification. Fortunately, there is an Ayurvedic herbal formula, called triphala, which can be used by all body and dosha types to perform a gentle and effective cleanse. Triphala is neither a harsh purgative nor a lubricating laxative; side effects and dependency are rare. What makes triphala special is both its nutritive and cleansing properties. Triphala gently stimulates the cleansing of ama from all tissues of the body, reduces cholesterol and high blood pressure, improves circulation, and regulates elimination; plus it's safe to use for up to six months.
Triphala is composed of three carefully chosen herbs: haritaki, amalaki, and bibhitaki, each balancing to vata, pitta, and kapha, respectively. Thus, the formula is said to be "tridoshic," meaning it cannot create any further imbalance and can only help to restore balance in whoever consumes it. Haritaki is referred to as "the king of medicines" in Tibetan Medicine. Itsastringent and salty taste is balancing and rejuvenating for vatas. Ayurvedic texts describe many of haritaki's properties: It is healing to all the tissues of the body and supports the digestive, excretory, and nervous systems; it is also a nutritive, tonic, and laxative, is calming, and corrects constipation and loose stools.
Amalaki is the highest known source of vitamin C in nature. It is cooling, highly nutritious and is a tonic, astringent, and mild laxative. Amalaki has a sour flavor but soothes heat and inflammatory conditions of the stomach and intestines, and is especially balancing and rejuvenating for pittas.
Bibhitaki has strong laxative qualities yet is astringent, thus cleansing the intestines and increasing their tone at the same time. It is heating and sweet and targets kapha accumulations in the digestive, respiratory, and urinary systems, such as loose stools, parasites, mucus, bronchitis, and kidney stones.
You usually take three capsules of triphala at bedtime for general cleansing maintenance, but consult an Ayurvedic practitioner if you experience any moderate to severe bowel irregularities.
James Bailey, L.Ac., M.P.H., Herbalist AHG, practices Ayurveda, Oriental Medicine, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and vinyasa yoga in Santa Monica, California.